That one night, I was with Tall Christophe. Tall Christophe was just as tall as Michael Jordan only he was white. Tall Christophe was a former French pro basketball player and was now working for some news organization covering the NBA. While Jordan was playing and winning titles, Tall Christophe had to come a lot in Chicago.
I am French also but, if I was living in Chicago, I was working construction and trying to pay the rent. I was then – thanks to a Callahan dick! – living in a small first floor apartment on 17th place, sorry part of town coined in between Mexican Pilsen and the Interstate.
Tall Christophe was a good drinking buddy of mine from way back so he’d always come to see me when in Chicago. We’d plan it somewhat and he would show up some day during playoffs. We’d talk, drink beers, would go out to eat something, and these days would go as a charm.
Bulls’ games were at night, mostly, and Tall Christophe had to be there for work. Me, I watched the games on TV. Sometimes, we would later meet together downtown, on his news organization’s expense. In fact, I don’t remember Tall Christophe ever working, I mean writing or something. But together we could drink and I’d show him my side of downtown and we’d have a good time. Shit, I was there when the Bears won in 1985, with MacMahon saying ‘Go to hell’ to the NFL commissioner. So, yes, I knew of a few places in Chicago where to have a drink and I knew that, French accent and all, Tall Christophe would always be a big hit in there. Drinking and everything was for free and I don’t remember a bad night.
Anyway, that one night, the Bulls were not playing so we had the whole day to hang together. I had taken the day off and I went downtown to pick him up at his hotel, around noon. It’s funny, once you’ve seen a chain hotel room, you’ve seen them all. Didn’t matter which floor he was on this time, all rooms smelled of sadness and rancid sperm and rancid hopes. And this was downtown!
Anyhow, with Tall Christophe, whatever the hotel room, we’d always beat loneliness with a few joints and a little coke and beer. And that day there was no game so Tall Christophe and I went later to eat spicy chicken wings in Wicker Park.
After which, we ended up at my place, in Mexican Pilsen. We had plenty of beer, smokes, a bit of coke and many stories to tell and we were not hurried in any way. So we drank there on my porch and it was nice. If the Bulls were in the Finals, it meant it was spring and the weather was not for once a punition, and Tall Christophe and I were happy just to be alive.
Night came and we hadn’t been bored a minute, even when saying nothing. What did I know really of Tall Christophe’s shit in Paris with his news organization? ‘How did they, back in France, deal with a drunk like Tall Christophe?’ was what I was actually thinking. And what did Tall Christophe knew about working construction in Chicago in 100 or 0° weather? He couldn’t imagine, that’s for sure.
Anyway, we got hungry again so I told him we’d go eat something in a local joint, a Mexican joint. It was within walking distance from my shack so that’s where, coming home from work, I was eating just about every evening. I didn’t care for cooking, I had more important troubles. Thus I’d go every night in this local Mexican joint where, other than beer and sorrow, I’d put food into my body.
This ‘eatery’ was on Halsted, between the railroad’s tracks and 18th street. There was no sign outside of a sorry framed building, no neon, no name, and one wouldn’t know, save for the locals, that there were lights and a kitchen and a bar in there.
I was local so I knew that, there, I could eat three good tacos for three dollars only. Let’s say I was on budget. And those were good tacos, homemade. So, every day, I’d go there and order a beef taco, a chicken taco and a pastor taco, with everything on it: hot sauce, salad, tomato. I’d sit by the counter, near the entrance, order my tacos and beers, ate and drank and didn’t bother anyone. I knew that with my three homemade tacos a day, I wouldn’t go on starving.
In the tiny kitchen, there was an old lady and her daughter, maybe 19 years old, or 16 or 22, I don’t know. The daughter’s name was Eva – so she said – and she looked quite pretty, with long black hair and tits and ass and the work. Eva was beautiful and she just knew it and her mother too.
Eva got used to my coming every night and eventually smiled to me, anticipating my three tacos order. The old mama was a bitch and never trusted me a bit and her eyes were dashing at me like would those of a snake.
Ok my Spanish was poor and I hardly said anything but I was thinking: shit, you old bitch, can’t you tell I’m working and earning my living and being careful with my money, eating every night only three dollars’ worth of tacos and yet taking care of my health, especially when the tacos are prepared right in from of my eyes, with some sort of kind affection, by your very own daughter Eva? I thought that I was the good guy and maybe offering a life the mother hadn’t even imagined for her daughter. Eva atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Why not?
Still, the old bitch didn’t like me a bit and it didn’t matter how I was sweet talking Eva in English. Even with my French accent, for Christ’s sake, I wasn’t going to get lucky if the Mama had a say to it. Eva smiled at me and was preparing for me the best tacos I ever ate, better every night.
Behind the bar, old daddy hadn’t made up his mind about me yet. He was a tall, big, fat, older Mexican man, with a huge white hat and a huge belly and a big greasy face and a sweaty body and he was the one pouring the drinks and ruling the place. The kitchen was right at the entrance, for easy carry out, but there was a long bar behind the kitchen and a pool table and tables and a dance floor and that’s where the old man was boss.
He didn’t know what to think about me. I’m sure he cared for Eva but, as strong as he was, he minded the old bitch. Goddamn, how could that be?
Sometimes, when the old mama wasn’t there, I would order a Burrito, if only because it took Eva longer to prepare it and me longer to eat it. Then I could chat with Eva and try to convince her she and I deserved to get lucky, that we deserved better. Those times, I’d stay longer and would drink more beers and the old man would bring them to me and don’t mind a bit my talking to his daughter.
Maybe he was just wishing I’d grow balls and show up in his place one day on a white horse, grab Eva and elope with her. He probably figured Eva would have liked that.
I knew the old man was alright because, more often than not, out of despair I guess, I would go to his funky place on Saturday nights and, after eating Eva’s tacos, I’d move to the bar and start to drink just so I would forget I had nowhere to go nor anyone to get lucky with, much less an Eva or whatever her name was. So I’d order drinks – Tequila and beer – and the old man would pour them and there was no question asked and that suited me fine.
On Saturday nights, I’d see Mexican workers, right off the boat and living in the neighborhood, coming to this place. They’d show up with their big hat, boots they had just shined and fancy shirts they had ironed by themselves. They would eat tacos – it was Eva’s busy night under her mother’s watchful eyes – and then they’d go get drunk at the bar.
Later, after speaking much too loud around the pool table, they would dare dance with the few local Mexican whores, tired and fat, but god given to the peasants that were us all. Sometimes, one of these ladies, probably amused by my accent, would come and get Tequila from me. I’d just sit there at the bar, having beer to chase Tequila and Tequila to chase pain. I was thankful to the Mexican whores but I couldn’t do anything on account of Eva and her fiery mother’s spite.
The old man never fucked with me and I never fucked with him. I could tell gang bangers hanged in there but they were usually not interested in me and I didn’t care for them. Anyway, I had the whores on my side – they loved my accent – and I kept an eye on Eva working hard. So gang bangers didn’t fuck with me neither and neither did I with them. Anyhow, when Saturday was over, more often than not, I would walk home alone, somewhat happy I didn’t have to drive.
Anyway, that night, I told Tall Christophe: “Let’s go have the best tacos in town.” And they were. It was a Saturday and it was spring and it was a beautiful night and the Bulls were again, in a few days, going to win another championship. So we ate Eva’s tacos and ended up at the bar chasing Tequila with beer and pretending there was no tomorrow.
Some Mexican wetback punks I had never seen before were at the pool table. Around the place, the same old whores and the same old faithfuls were drinking, resting assured tomorrow was a Sunday. Eva and her mama were churning tacos and burritos, the old man was pouring the booze, the Mexican hoopla music was on the juke and Tall Christophe and I were drinking and speaking French and Eva was looking at us with big eyes, pleading eyes, and her mother was wondering how to poison me. that’s when this punk at the pool table got excited.
He figured we were foreigners and an easy kill to impress his sorry posse and the locals. He probably thought he was Scarface or something. He never wondered how and why we were there in the first place. All he saw was Tall Christophe, half drunk and easy, and me, a chipmunk. He didn’t care for the chipmunk but he cared for Tall Christophe. What’s more impressive in the eyes of the help than beating the shit out of a tall man?
Fact is, most tall men are meek and hunch through life. There’s no fight there. So this Mexican punk asshole knew he was taking no chance with Tall Christophe and became arrogant, his gang with him. Then one of these fucks closed the door, then stood in front of it making a great display of the gun he was holding in his belt. Around the pool table, the croonies were licking their lips.
So the head shit stain punk felt strong and came to hassle Tall Christophe, not realizing of course that this guy was supposed to interview Michael Jordan the next day. Had he known, head shit stain would have paid for the drinks. Anyway, it got nasty.
Eva was looking at me, evidently expecting I was some sort of Zorro and would save the day. Her mother’s eyes were saying: “you asshole, this is all your fault.” The juke was still playing Mexican happy ‘dancing with whores’ songs but, other than that, there was just silence and fearful expectations.
Then the old man of the house, all sweating and puffing, made his move and loudly brought a shotgun from underneath and slammed it on the bar and made it clear that anyone who fucked in his joint would have to fuck with him and that these two French fucks were not to be bothered and now who wants his head blown off?
The old man hadn’t said but a few words. Still, everybody knew he was not kidding and Eva was proud of her papa and the old bitch was fuming. The punks relented. Soon, the front door was open again, the whores were dancing again and wetbacks were proud of their shiny boots and Tall Christophe and I ordered more Tequila, with the worm, and beer to chase it. The old man put the artillery away, his old bitch pissed because I wasn’t the cause of a Pilsen massacre which would have justified her hatred toward me.
Eventually, Michael Jordan won another title.
One day, I saw Eva was pregnant. That didn’t keep her from churning tacos and burritos but she was knocked up alright and when she saw I had realized Eva was knocked up, the old bitch stared at me every day with an air of mean victory. I knew Eva had been knocked up by one of the gang bangers assholes hanging in the neighborhood or, worse yet, by another wetback, weak and sorry but whom the mother liked.
I knew, although he never said a word, that rather than any of these motherfuckers, the old man would have rather had me as a son-in-law. But that wasn’t to be. The old bitch won. Eva didn’t get lucky. Me neither.
Every day, I saw pregnant Eva going to shit under the defiant and triumphal eyes of her mother. There was no more joy in Eva, no more smiles, no more hope. It was as if she had caught a disease. It was sickening.
Then I moved out of Pilsen.
And that was that.