Sunday, July 20, 2008

Breakfast with Epiphany.

West Hollywood. So gay they have more Rainbow flags than American flags. I was there with some friends for a single evening last spring, staying at a hotel in the heart of it all. The Abbey was just a block away; Fiesta Cantina was on our front porch. As we turned off the lights, you could still hear the slightest glimmer of Madonna playing off in the distance.

Problem was, my friend's boyfriend snored. Loudly. So obscenely loud that I could not fall asleep. It was like a tortured and dying elephant lay in the room and this was his last plea for mercy. I couldn't get a second of slumber in. So I left the hotel room and found a couch right outside by the elevators. What may have seemed like a pragmatic decision turned out to be more kitsch than ingenuitive: I plopped myself down on the couch, snuggled up with a pillow and immediately fell fast asleep.

It wasn't very long until someone walked by and noticed a guy sprawled out on the communal couch. The man who noticed me was tall, thin and beautiful. He had eyes that sparked an immediate interest in me. He was Hispanic with dark skin and short, spikey hair. He walked past me in the direction of the elevator, but then stopped for a moment to observe me. He watched, perplexed, as he tried to piece together the show he was witnessing.

He raised an eyebrow and he asked me, "Why are you on the couch?", a reasonable question. I looked back at him and responded, "My friend's boyfriend is snoring so loud. I can't sleep."
"So you went out here?"
"That's silly."
"I know."

And then he just stared at me. I wouldn't say it was awkward--he actually was so stunning I was flattered--but I couldn't tell if he was at a loss for words due to a limited command of the English language, or simply because he was too drunk and just liked looking at me. Usually this would be the time that you say goodbye to somebody and let them get on the elevator.

However, as you all know too well, I've never been acclaimed for my wisdom in meeting boys, so I asked , "What are you doing here?"
"You're not staying at the hotel?"

He walked over to the couch and sat next to me, rather close. He looked me in the eye and said, "I'm Antonio," with an accent so redolent of the Mexican Border I wondered whether he was legal or not. The two of us began talking, and he eventually invited me to find some food. As is all too common at 4:30 in the morning, my rationality had been thrown out of the window hours ago and going along with him seemed like the polite and reasonable thing to do.

We stumbled through the streets of West Hollywood and eventually found a nearby IHOP. We found a corner table and sat down amongst the other drunks who recently had left the bars. For such a late hour the place was hopping, with clanging plates and cooks yelling obscenities at the servers.

Within minutes of sitting down, I had found out some interesting things about my new found Mexican friend: he had been arrested seven times, was in countless fights, and even had been stabbed--he showed me the large gaping wound to prove it!

Naturally, I was feeling slightly awkward. It was approaching five in the morning and I sat across from someone who had spent enough time in Police custody to actually know the officers by name. But as we were talking, I noticed something beyond my expectations--he was, without question, smart. That I did not expect. He would observe the people around him and point out their actions as if he were a licensed psychologist. He observed this one drunken girl yelling at her boyfriend, claiming he was beating her and stealing all of her money...but the correct analysis, as he stated, was that she just wanted to get fucked. Five minutes later they walked out together holding hands and giggling.

I asked Antonio if he had a job and he said no. I asked him what he liked to do and he said he liked to get into trouble. I asked him where he lived and he said with his mother. Clearly this kid was not the kind I'd want to be involved with, in ANY fashion, but I still found it enlightening to talk to him. He truthfully had a brilliant mind, but it was sad to see him throw it away as he did.

When the bill came he paid for both of us, something I hadn't expected. He pulled out a huge wad of twenty's, an amount of cash that even as a tip-earning server I rarely accumulated. And when I saw the wad of cash and added all of the clues along the way, an epiphany came to me: who leaves a hotel they aren't staying at 4:30 in the morning? Who has no official job but has tons of money? Who can read human nature better than a psychologist, especially in sexual circumstances? The answer was bafflingly obvious. Across from me sat a prostitute.