I intended the following to be a light, atmospheric vignette in Eloisa. As sometimes happens, you start writing and the ideas flow. I started Sunday afternoon, soon had a few pages and ended with a chapter by evening. I really like this ending – I always cliff-hang chapters, if I can – but plenty of things can happen next. A lot can go wrong for Jim, our protagonist. Trouble seems to find him whenever he has a date with Eloisa.
Since this is chapter 15, readers already know the descriptions and basic back story of our characters, including Darisma. After several meetings in El Norte, Jim traveled to Mexico City to meet the singer on her own home turf. Much is planned, but the first day includes Eloisa’s choice of touristy fun, including an eventful visit to a tianguis and now, a limo ride.
CHAPTER 15 – LUCHA
“Where are we going?”
Eloisa smiled and leaned against me. Instead of answering, she opened the limo’s wet bar and pulled out two bottles of Sol. As we passed a Lebanese restaurant and an Office Depot, I found the bottle opener, popped the caps and we toasted, “Salud.”
Not once did anyone use a turn signal on our route, though three SUVs and a taxi ran stop signs. Possession of roadway seemed to be nine-tenths of the law. After an agonizing pace through Friday night’s always honking traffic, our motorcade stopped near the front of a five-story yellow office building up tight against the street. It could pass for an ordinary home of Mexican bureaucrats except for the simple, small white marquee with red letters “LUCHA LIBRE” and the giant Corona icon affixed to the façade above.
Eloisa grinned and asked, “¿Te gusta Lucha Libre?”
That translated as ‘free fight’, probably wrestling. I peered out the window at the mess of people jay-walking toward the entrance. “Uh, I hope so.”
The street was named Calle Dr. Lavista, perhaps it was fitting the wrestling arena sat on a street named for a physician. Groups of people swarmed the entrance, some ringing little bells and rattles.
We stopped where cars weren’t welcome, in front of a “Prohibido Aparcar” sign. Eloisa laughed and said, “Vamos!” A photographer caught her as we clambered out. Our four bodyguards kept the increasing number of fans at bay. Eloisa yanked out her Sharpie and signed whatever they pushed her way for a minute, but then it was time to move.
It was 8:25, the show would start in five minutes. A banner proclaimed it was the biggest event in Lucha Libre history, but the weathered sign suggested many previous nights were also the sport’s biggest.
As we cut past a gaggle of scalpers, Eloisa nestled her shoulder against my upper arm. She said, “Got us best seats, each 300 pesos.”
I said, “What about the rest of the crowd?” I nearly knocked over a stationary man selling questionable tacos from a hot plate held over his head.
Eloisa spoke up to be heard over the din. “Fifty pesos for cheap seats.” About four dollars for nosebleeds. Looking at some of the ruffians, noses surely would bleed.
A playbill in a window showed beautiful women in sexy wrestling costumes. I shouted to ask, “What are luchadoras? Women wrestlers?”
Eloisa laughed. “Be good date. Maybe me wear luchadora costume later.” We walked through a cloud of tobacco smoke. A little boy stood in front of the front door, begging for a peso. I stuck one in his hand.
Eloisa’s bodyguards accompanied us inside, pushed along by the throng. Heavy metal music pulsed through overhead speakers. The air was thick with the unpleasant smell of perspiration, though the match hadn’t started.
“Thees way!” said Eloisa, as we turned into a tunnel off the main corridor. I smelled cerveza on the breath of middle-aged men around us. Some appeared to be American tourists. Why mess with Aztec pyramids or Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul when you could spend your time in Mexico watching wrestling? Just ask me.
I was amazed at the high proportion of women and children in the thicket of people. The gaping mouths of awed children showed the Arena México was worth staying up past bedtime.
Where the tunnel opened to the arena, a boy leaned against our aisle’s metal railing, holding a comic book with the illustrative quality of a DC comic and the title “Lucha Libre: Los Luchadores Cinco.” A hundred Klieg lights hung from the rafters, bright like stars in the night sky.
We paused to get our bearings. A four-year old in the aisle was dressed in an elaborate red mask with vertical yellow flames and holes for eyes, mouth and nose. He wore white face paint under the mask and a red cape with matching yellow sparks.
I pointed him out to Eloisa and asked, “What’s that?”
“Hees hero ees a top luchador named HombreInfierno.”
She smiled. Several spectators stood as we passed, pointing, clapping and two tried to start a chant of “Eloisa!” But most people focused on lobbing profanities at more important business below. I could hear whistles of the cheap plastic variety and horns from the upper deck crowd. It was a cacophony of disparate noise overwhelming our footfalls on the walkway down.
A vendor got in my face and waved his store of pork rinds, luchador photos and cerveza. I shook my head. Eloisa nodded hers and reached for my front pocket where I stored my wallet. We soon owned three identical prints of Señor Apocalipsis.
We were in time for the challenger’s grand entrance. He wore a mask and flaunted his arms over his tiny brain. His muscles were not quite as large as the chest of the bikini babe who escorted him. Gazing at his escort, I accidentally brushed against an elderly woman whose left hand firmly gripped a granddaughter’s hand. The woman’s right hand shook over her head as she shouted her objection to the wrestler, “¡Eres fraude, el Maestro de Caos!”
“¡Delante!” Eloisa said, indicating we should move past the idle crowd for the front row. Scanning the arena, I saw the flapping arms of hundreds dressed in T-shirts and costumes mimicking their favorite luchadores. In their wild abandon, someone dropped their water bottle on the row in front of them. An unauthorized wrestling match broke out so security moved in.
TV cameras rolled near the action. I already figured out show business in Mexico involved unusually pale beauties dressed for the pool; Lucha Libre proved no exception.
Eloisa gently smacked my face, “No look, they no pretty like me! And their music ees bad!”
Five smiling models with bare mid-riffs took to the ring. They danced to “Get On The Bus” by Destiny’s Child, but one’s platinum blonde hair looked out-of-place bouncing over her bronzed body. Hair color had to be good business in Mexico. They looked like NFL cheerleaders, only younger. The girls were clothed in tight vinyl bottoms and white sport bras, each garment emblazoned with the name of a local bus company. I doubted a random bus ride would find one of them sitting in the driver’s seat.
Elevated horizontal steel beams framed the stage. Each side had a set of three ropes that gently bowed as they traversed away from the turnbuckles that attached them to the four steel ring posts. The ring was raised three feet above the floor with a skirt full of advertising.
Ringside, the challenger pulled off his black cape with a skull above the words “Maestro de Caos.” He pranced like he had Mexican jumping beans in his black tights. The luchador taunted a section of the crowd, raising his arms and laughing at lame put-downs uttered by a well-dressed guy in the fifth row.
The champion sat in his Green Hornet-like shiny mask in his corner, above the fray. While a beauty fondled his dark hair, she fed him his water bottle like an infant and I wondered if we’d see a bared breast or not.
A bodyguard sat on either side of us. Mere steps in front, a TV camera and reporter interviewed a man in a sharp suit and tie but with a horned devil matte mask over his face. No one seemed fazed by the incongruity. The reporter’s mic was in the face of the man I took to be the Lucha Libre equivalent of a grizzled veteran like Magic Johnson or Joe Montana.
The lights dimmed and spotlights focused on the ring. The announcer used a hyped voice to introduce two special audience guests, a soccer star from Guadalajara and “¡Y ahora, la estrella de la música, Eloisa!”
My companion stood, waved and smiled. “¡Gracias! ¡Gracias!”
All that separated our front row from the ring were three thin horizontal ropes with a gap where two steel steps led past a few security guards. I could hear the bodies slap during each somersault and headlock.
One didn’t need to be fluent in Spanish to understand the plotline: “técnicos” – high-skill good guys– versus “rudos”- brute force bad guys. The crowd pulled for the rudo every time. A transvestite made a brief appearance, his fighting method to hug the other wrestler. The roar and taunts of the crowd showed the deep-seated homophobia underlying Mexican culture.
With the echo, I could hardly understand the Spanish of the announcer. The cadence of this utterance suggested he described the scene the way a real sports announcer would. Fans all around cheered or shouted their objections.
The Green Hornet-like character, who called himself El Avispón Mexicano, tumbled after his head escaped a pinion. Still on his back but free, he screamed and grabbed his shoulder. I saw something red dripping from his cranium.
“That’s not real blood, is it?” I yelled at Eloisa.
“Sí, real blood.” I felt worse, the Arena Mexico was inhumane. A grandmother behind me inadvertently smacked my left shoulder-blade as she waved her arms in glee.
The other luchador, El Patriota, whose mask was a neon take on the Mexican flag, moved to pin Avispón down. The grandmother behind me shouted “¡Quitar la mascara!”, meaning remove his mask. Patriota knelt and adjusted his position to splay open Avispón’s legs. The crowd whipped up its intensity and women rained down the foulest sexual epithets. El Patriota had Avispón spread eagle and simulated an intimate act.
Then he reached for Avispón’s mask. The reaction of the crowd betrayed unmasking was even more abhorrent than the symbolic rape moments before. The green hornet mask stayed on as Avispón slumped and allowed his back flat on the canvas mat for three seconds, losing the match before Patriota could unmask him.
The crowd laughed at every smack, blood or not. They even booed when a guy in a Captain America mask pinned down his Transformer-masked opponent. They wanted more pain before the win. I wondered if the crowd understood every movement surely was choreographed.
Soon Eloisa was nearly hoarse from laughing and shouting. It was louder than her concerts, the noise a constant roar that crested and ebbed like tides following the pace of action in the ring.
I asked Eloisa, “Has Darisma seen Lucha Libre?”
“Sí, she love thees. She ees here now.” Eloisa passed along someone’s fistful of pesos and I handed them over our bodyguard to a vendor in the aisle.
My face scrunched in befuddlement. “Here? Now?” I pushed a box of popcorn from the vendor to Eloisa and she passed it along toward its buyer three seats down.
“My mama take her. No seet weeth me. For her privacy. Mama ees here weeth her.”
I scanned the crowd but the 16,500 seat arena was at 75% capacity. I contemplated Darisma somewhere in the crowd.
The main event seemed to be the fourth match, which pitted a tag team of Señor Apocalipsis and El Maestro de Caos versus Asesino Laredo and HombreInfierno. The four welterweights paced and lurched for a few minutes. Fans screamed displeasure at the slow pace.
During a lull of spectator shouting, Eloisa shouted “¡La Guillotina!” The old lady behind us agreed and shouted it, too. El Maestro turned his head toward us and showed one thumb up.
A drunkard hooted and yelled “¡Guillotina!” Maestro flipped his body toward Asesino Laredo, who was double-teaming Señor Apocalipsis. Eloisa’s roar of approval to the Maestro’s leg drop told me that was the guillotina move.
HombreInfierno landed two hands and lifted El Maestro de Caos up over his head. He was like an Eagle Scout, twisting the Maestro into complicated knots. While Señor Apocalipsis landed a tope, a head-butt, on Asesino Laredo, the Hombre tossed Maestro to the canvas. The Maestro got up and rushed him, pushing him backwards to the ropes.
Leaning against her, I felt Eloisa’s body tensing and looked back at the ring. HombreInfierno had kicked the Maestro de Caos, causing him to tumble down the steps off the stage.
HombreInfierno jumped down from the ring, taking the fight beyond the ropes. The crowd was estastic. Maestro de Caos saw the other luchador chasing him so he dropped and rolled like a fire evasive move.
Maestro’s roll stopped right in front of us. He jumped up. I saw wild abandon in his eyes as he shouted for help, “¡Isocorro!” His breath was as foul as his deeds.
Caos grunted and extended his arms for my shoulders. In a split second, his sweaty, hairy arms were under my armpits.
Eloisa gasped as El Maestro lifted me out of my seat and placed me on my feet. He tagged my head and shouted, “¡Estás en gringo!” He pushed me toward HombreInfierno and took my seat next to Eloisa.
No one told me I was in the script.
What happens next? As long as Eloisa and Jim, the protagonist, are alive, I am open-minded. It would behoove Jim not to get injured since he will need all his physical faculties for the trials in the days ahead. Then again, an injury might make the forthcoming events more interesting.
What do you want to happen next? Is this just a joke- part of the Lucha plot? Or is Jim really tagged? Doe he run up on the stage and fight? Does security intervene? Do the other luchadores ignore him and go after the now sitting Caos? Does Caos kiss or otherwise try for Eloisa? If Jim fights, what happens? Or does Jim run and hide? In Chapter 3, we saw Jim was handy with an improvised weapon, is there something he can use to fight the luchadores? What happens when its over? Is Jim in the hospital? Or is he famous? Is he about to crush all the luchadores and win a medal and a future in Mexican wrestling?
What other thoughts and feedback do you have? Likes? Dislikes?
Pictures from Wikipedia Commons.