With the last rays of the dying sun painting everything red, the city becomes, if not beautiful, at least tolerable. The oil slicks in the river shine bright crimson, the shadows in the street lengthen more and more, the noise of traffic dims as the few citizens still around hurry to get home before curfew. At night, when darkness envelops the buildings, the city looks even better. If only the night never ended, Juan thinks, at least he wouldn’t have to see how ugly the place is.
Juan never liked this city, not even a little. He feels he ought to, because being born and raised here has to count for something, but a lifetime in the city has only given him a lifetime of bad memories. A man like him has no need for sentimentality. Sometimes he’s tempted to pack his things and leave, to take his gang with him if they will follow him, and find another place to live. Another city that’s less ugly, less smelly, less noisy, less deadly. Tempting as that thought is, Juan always ends up staying, always will, even though if anyone asked he wouldn’t be able to explain why. Maybe because he knows that no matter where he goes, the whole world is rotten to the core, rotten like the mounds of garbage filling the streets.
On the night everything ends and everything starts, Juan is sitting at his favorite corner table at Charley’s, halfway through a glass of something that’s less tequila and more like something you’d use to clean an engine. He knows that something’s wrong the moment he sees Amira making her way through the dance floor. The place is packed as usual, but one look at her crimson headband and everyone hurries out of the way. Juan stares at her and tips back the last of the tequila. He has a feeling he will need it.