Chongo the Pimp
January 2, 2012
Over the period of time that I knew Chongo he pulled a great many stunts. His greatest failures were usually my biggest source for laughter. At one point, he was wandering around Phoenix wearing all white clothing, painting these crazy hieroglyph-type graffiti symbols on his face. He called it “Angelic Freedom Writing.” I once asked him what they meant and he told me “they come to me in my dreams — they are messages from ‘The Black and White Lady.’” I had heard him talk about this “lady,” usually late at night when we were high and he would be sitting on my couch bouncing the back of his head off of the wall in time with whatever music I had put on to listen to. He would describe how if he tilted his head a certain way he could see her floating above him, and he said she really liked Nirvana a lot.
Chongo was always singing Nirvana songs, which was kind of a weird thing for a Mexican kid in Phoenix to do — but he loved that shit. He loved DJ Quik and Terence Trent D’Arby as well, and would always tell me that my main goal in life should be to somehow “get you two bitches in a tub, just like DJ Quik.”
Around the time downtown Phoenix started having its little makeover session, what with them getting a Major League Baseball team and a brand new stadium, Chongo had himself an idea.
“I’m going to build a fleet of rickshaws.”
“Mmm-hmm. Gonna build four or five rickshaws, hire some dudes who want to get into good shape and drag rich white baseball fans all over downtown.”
“Where are you going to get the money to buy all the materials to build rickshaws, Chongo?”
“Oh. I’ll just sell a bunch of weed. It’s easy.”
And that’s exactly what Chongo did — he sold so much weed he not only had the money to buy the materials to build himself a couple of rickshaws, he also had enough money to sign a lease on an abandoned-looking storefront off of a shitty thoroughfare close to downtown, to build and house them within. What Chongo didn’t know until he decided to move into the storefront was that the space was already being used in the middle of the night.
Roosevelt Avenue, where the storefront was located, was the main drag for transsexual prostitutes in Phoenix during that time period. One night, Chongo decided to go out for a run because he couldn’t sleep and when he came back to the storefront he found two Navajo transsexual prostitutes inside, huffing paint and lazing around on the floor. Chongo being Chongo, he didn’t even bat an eye — he asked the ladies if they were comfortable, and if they would like to smoke some weed with him.
Chongo relayed that part of the story to me one morning when I had come by the storefront to see how things were going and happened upon three of the prostitutes sleeping on the floor in the back part of the space. He seemed pleased with himself, and mentioned to me that he wasn’t necessarily their pimp, but that he had been looking out for them the last couple of weeks and that they seemed quite appreciative.
“So, you’re basically letting them crash here?”
“They really don’t have anywhere else to go. It’s either they stay here, or they sleep in the deck park where they get robbed. Nobody is going to rob them here.”
“Are they giving you any money to stay here?”
“No. Not money.”
“Chongo — you aren’t sleeping with them, are you?”
“Shut up, man. Are you going to help me build these rickshaws or what?”
After about an hour of Chongo and I trying to assemble a rickshaw out of appropriated materials — wood stolen from construction sites, steel harvested from shopping carts, other parts five-fingered from random hardware stores — the ladies of the night started to stir a little. One of them stood in the bathroom with the door open, urinating into the toilet and humming a pop song while playing with her hair. She must have caught me looking at her from the reflection in the piece of polished sheet metal Chongo had hung up as a makeshift mirror.
“Who is this tattooed cutie, Michael?”
“Oh. This is my friend, Sean. Sean, this is Little Mary.”
Little Mary was almost my height. When she came out of the bathroom I could see that she had a semi in her gym shorts. She put out her hand to shake mine, but she hadn’t washed her hands and I immediately felt weird. I still extended my hand to her. When she took my hand she gave it a soft but firm squeeze and then leaned in and kissed me on my sweaty cheek.
“Oh, I like my men salty, Sean. Very nice to meet you. Any friend of Michael’s is a friend of mine.”
Little Mary smelled like wine and sweat. Her scent stayed in my nose the rest of the day.
Later that afternoon, Chongo and I were sitting in a small Japanese restaurant eating a late lunch after smoking a joint in the park, and as I was sitting there trying to eat my lunch Little Mary’s scent was tormenting me. Chongo must have noticed something about me was off, because he stopped eating and put his chopsticks on the top of his bowl and folded his hands on the table in front of him.
“You okay, Sean? You seem a little weird.”
“I think I’m just really high.”
“You think I’m being stupid with these hookers, don’t you?”
“Depends on your definition of stupid. Do I think you’re putting yourself in yet another Chongo-style situation? Yes. Does it matter what I think?”
“Not really. I like having them around and they feel good knowing they have a place to go. We drink wine, smoke weed and listen to Stevie Wonder and have sing-a-longs. I don’t see anything wrong with that.”
“They fucking love them some Stevie Wonder, man. You should see them — their eyes light up and they dance around like little kids.”
“So — how many of them are living there with you?”
“Three. Little Mary you met. Then there is Big Mary, who is actually smaller than Little Mary but I guess she has a bigger cock? Big Mary is the one who likes to smoke crack, but she knows she has to go outside to do that. Then there is Penelope. Penelope is very special.”
“Why is Penelope special?”
“Because she only has one leg.”
“Wait — what? A tranny hooker with only one leg? Your life is something else, Chongo. I’m telling you.”
Chongo laughs his crazy laugh, which sounds exactly like Fran Drescher from “The Nanny.” All of the suits in the restaurant swing their heads around to look at the two grimy guys eating their food at a table in the corner. His laugh makes me feel somehow higher than the joint did. Sipping on my green tea I can still smell Little Mary.
My phone is ringing. I am asleep on my couch and my phone is ringing and it startles me and I knock all sorts of things off of the coffee table reaching for it.
“Hey, Sean? I think I need you to come down here. Can you come down here?”
“Chongo? What the fuck, man?”
“I don’t want to talk about it over the phone. I’m at a payphone down the street. Just — can you come down here, I really need your help?”
“Yeah, yeah. Hold tight. I’ll be there in ten minutes.”
I put the phone on the coffee table and go into the bathroom to wash my face. As soon as I turn the water on, the phone starts ringing again. I let it ring.
As I pull into the dirt lot in front of the abandoned strip mall, I can already see that there is something really wrong going on. The front window to Chongo’s storefront is smashed and there are pieces of wood and scrap metal strewn about. I see Little Mary pacing back and forth inside of the window. I hear someone yelling. As I am turning off my truck and getting out, I feel a hand grab me by the arm forcefully. It’s Chongo.
“Do you have your gun with you? Please tell me you have your gun with you!”
“What? Why would I bring a gun with me, Chongo? I don’t even own a gun anymore. The fuck is going on here?”
“Remember when you asked me if I was their pimp?”
“Their pimp is inside trashing everything. He’s really fucking pissed. Thinks I stole his girls.”
“You kind of did, dumbass. Does he have a gun?”
“He says he does, but I haven’t seen it yet. He just keeps on hitting them and spitting on them. He came at me with an aluminum bat. I was drinking wine with Penelope and he snuck in the room and hit me in the back. I think he broke my shoulder.”
“Fuck. Alright. Reach behind the seat — there is a blackjack back there. Give it to me, then you go inside first and try to distract him, and then I‘ll rush him and take out his knees or something.”
“Wait — before we go in there, I need to tell you something.”
“I’ve been fucking Penelope. He knows. She told him she didn’t work for him anymore and she was in love with me. That’s why he came here. What do I do?”
“Fuck, dude. Really? Goddamn it, Chongo. What do you want to do — you want to set her free or some shit?”
“I think so.”
Chongo broke into a sprint and ran through the front door, yelling some nonsense at the angry pimp. I followed through the doorway and immediately saw the guy — he couldn’t have been taller than five-eight, wearing a jogging suit and sandals, a Dodgers cap, and had what looked like a child’s aluminum baseball bat in his hands. As I walked toward him Chongo and Big Mary were standing in front of him, trying to get him to stop trying to hit Penelope with the bat. He was swinging it wildly when I cracked him across the backs of his knees with the blackjack, sending him to the floor in a heap and a yelp. I kicked the bat away from him and then I stood over him and held the blackjack out in front of his face, so he could see I was serious about using it again. I didn’t speak.
“Who the fuck is this motherfucker? Who just hit me from behind — you want to die, is that your fucking problem?”
I took a step back and tried not to laugh at him. I could see that I had fucked him up pretty bad because he couldn’t even move his legs underneath him to get enough leverage to try and get up. I turned to say something to Chongo but then I heard the scream and the sound and jumped back.
Penelope was bashing him in the face with her plastic leg. Not just hitting him, but taking the leg and smashing him in the teeth with the foot, crunching bone and breaking skin. The bottom half of the plastic leg was covered in blood, and she was not stopping — each swing bringing more anger and gore.
Instead of trying to stop her, the rest of us went outside. It was evident that something had snapped inside of her, and there was no sense in trying to get her to let up.
Little Mary asked me if she could come home with me, but I told her no. She gave me a really cold look and then walked off down the street. Chongo was standing there with Big Mary, who was sobbing, holding her head in her big hands. I looked at them and started walking toward my truck.
“Sean — where are you going, man?”
“Home, Chongo. I’m going home. You should, too.”
Sean H. Doyle lives in Brooklyn, NY. He works hard every day to be a better person.