Addicted to Love

Romance resides at the bottom of a bottle in local cantinas

When it came to educating these women, Gutierrez is still unsure whether she made a difference. "Younger girls who were born in the AIDS era, they know about condoms," she says. As for the rest, they usually threw away the rubbers the minute she handed them over. And even for the ones who did know about condoms, when they took on a lover, a sugar daddy of sorts, he usually wanted to keep it pure, so to speak.

"They become the man's pleaser," she says.

A few days later, Rita calls Mauricio's house, although he's not there to answer the phone. He calls the cantina the next day and asks the bartender what she wanted.

"Her ponies," the bartender replies.

Three weeks go by and he still doesn't talk to Rita.

"This past weekend, I went Friday and Saturday, but I wasn't with her," he says. "I was with that other young lady."

He's begun seeing Maria. "She seems a lot more serious," he says. "She even gave me her cell phone number. I called her up and I didn't think it was going to be her actual number -- you know, sometimes they just fool you -- but it was hers, and I was pretty glad of that."

Maria understands him, he says.

"I had, like, $100 of tens, all tens, and I told her, 'Whenever you need a beer, just tell me.' "

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