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She blows a bubble until it pops.
Her tits move this way and that to Sarah McLachlan the same way they always do. This is our song in a way, although I suppose it could be anyone's song for twenty dollars. I loosen my silk tie and unbutton the top button. She turns around and the scars on her legs reflect a rainbow of red, green, and yellow from the array of disco lights that surround us. The reflections blind me for a moment as an electrical shock runs through my crotch.
I know her from somewhere.
I keep coming back to Siren's, maybe jog my memory, but it refuses to lace up a pair of sneakers and cooperate. The memory of her, it's stuck in my brain just behind my eyes.
But it's nothing more than a slightly retarded vision.
A déjà vu minus the vu.
She rubs her G-string against my erection and leans her head back, against my right shoulder, "I like the feel of your hard cock against my ass." I put my hands up, ready to reach around to grab hold of her tits, but she pushes them aside and reminds me, "No touching, sweetheart."
I feign as though I forgot the cardinal sin of lap dances, "Oh, yeah."
She stands, whirls around, and presses her breasts together. Her nipples pop out like pinkish beady eyes as she pushes them in front of my face to hypnotize me. "You like my tits, don't you, stud?" but before I can assure her that I agree with her assessment, she shoves my nose deep into her cleavage and gives my face a sensuous hug.
Our sweat mixes and I stick my tongue out. We taste the way air does after a match is lit, all sulfur and red phosphorous, mingled with hints of salt and nickel. I'm so horny I could come. Her perfume caresses my nostrils in soft blankets of vanilla, brown sugar, and musk. My cock throbs and my face covets the softness of her skin.
She pulls away from me and my eyes refuse to blink—I stare at the neat rows of scars and scratches carved into her thighs and forearms. Like marshaled ranks of toy soldiers unwrapped on Christmas morning, each line identical in length, the gaps between each not more than a centimeter. The troops of self-mutilation hold their position at the edges of a white bandage.
A spot of crimson seeps through.
Nurse Betty, so theatrical how she plays out the dichotomy between nurse and patient. The Everyman's Fantasy. Especially when she drops her costume to the floor, leaving her in nothing but white stilettos, white see-through lace panties, and nurse's cap.
Complete with red cross, of course.
She says, "Here's a little bonus for my newest regular."
Her scarred and bandaged forearm moves like a robot in the strobe light as her hand creeps inside my pants. All those little toy soldiers marching off to war. Her delicate fingers wrap around my hard cock and I hold my breath so I don't prematurely ejaculate into her hand when she gives me one stroke, then two. But then her lips, painted fuck-me red, curve into a smile, and I nearly do.
I shake my head and remind myself as to why I'm here…again. "You probably hear this all the time, but I swear I know you from somewhere."
Our song ends and her soldiers retreat. She stands up straight, "Two dances. That's forty dollars."
I dig into my pocket, rub my erection, then grab my money and hand her two twenties. After a moment's thought, I give her a third and say, "Tip."
She leans in and I expect a nice peck kiss or a simple thank you, but instead she whispers into my ear, "Want to get together later?"
Her breath tickles my earlobe. The hair on the back of my neck becomes as rigid as my dick. I try to act nonchalant about it, "Sure, why not?"
A tap on my shoulder says, "Keep it moving, pal."
After the bouncer disappears into the crowd, I ask Nurse Betty, "When?"
She looks left, then right, "After work."
"What time do you get off?"
"I'll be outta here around four ante meridiem."
She smiles, "AM. Four AM." She bends over and picks up her costume.
I wait for her to put her outfit on then ask, "Should I pick you up?"
"Technically, I'm picking you up." She buttons up and adds, "Meet me at the Shari's on Seventy-Second… around four-twenty. I'll be there, guaranteed."
"Cool. I'll go kill some time at Tempest's."
"Have fun at the fag bar." She blows a bubble until it pops and walks away, her eyes already darting around the club, looking for a new patient, someone else for her soldiers to attack.
The fantasy of search.
The reality of destroy.
I leave the flashing lights and loud music of Sirens behind, but my brain can't leave Nurse Betty or her scars behind. They remain in the forefront of my mind where I hope they'll stay awhile. If I'm lucky, they'll bump into the frozen and forgotten memory of where I'd seen her before.
The frigid air pushes me across the parking lot and into The Beast, my 1972 Ford Ltd convertible. He used to wear a brown trench coat but now he's all about paisleys made of rust. The engine turns over and rumbles to life. While I wait for The Beast to warm up, I dig my film canister and pipe out of my pocket. Inside the little black canister, a single large bud of marijuana looks up at me, and weeps out of loneliness. I need to be thrifty so I split it in two, drop half back into the container, and load a bowl with the other half. I slip the canister back into my pocket and pull out my lighter. After a few hits, The Beast's shaking and rumbling begins to settle down. He's almost ready to go, so I roll a cigarette. By the time I lick the paper, The Beast mellows to a slight murmur. I put him in gear and drive to Tempest's.
The engine gives one last death shudder as I take a final hit off my pipe and knock the ashes into the ashtray. The Fairly OddParents' theme calls from my jacket so I pull out my cell phone and look at it. The caller ID reads MOM so I flip it open and ask, "Hey, ma. What's up?"
"I think somebody's here," she whispers.
"What? Who?" I reach for the keys and turn the ignition over. "Call the police. I'll be there in ten minutes."
"Son?" It's my father's voice. "Bub? You there?"
"I just got home from work."
"Mom said someone was there. Is everything okay?"
He sighs, "Yeah, everything's fine. It was just me walking through the door. Don't worry about it, bub."
"Um, okay." A little confused, I slip my pipe into my pocket. "You sure you don't need me?"
"Yeah. Your mother's fine. She didn't know it was me. I just got home."
"Okay." A moment passes, "I'll stop by, after work tomorrow."
We hang up and I admit, mom's phone call feels like a bad omen. But dad is with her, so I kill the engine, climb out of The Beast, and cross the street to Tempest's. The cold December air cuts through my black trench coat so I pick up the pace. As I put my phone back in my jacket pocket, I hear a weird chirping noise that sounds like a small animal. I whirl around to investigate the sound but a patch of black ice distracts me. I catch the wall and steady myself. Against my palm, the cold brick vibrates from the thudding bass indoors and feels like a good omen.
I straighten up, say, "Flame on," and walk into Tempest's.
The thump-thump-thumpity-thump and echo from the dance floor seduces me into thinking it's filled with sweaty shirtless men gyrating beneath an electric rainbow of disco lights and strobes. I turn right, hoping for somebody cute to catch my eye, some random guy I could take home for a quickie before hooking up with Nurse Betty.
The fantasy of being understood.
The reality of being bisexual.
But whirling in slow motion, the disco ball reflects flashes and beams of light to an empty room. Despite the light show and aural onslaught of deep, trance-inducing bass rhythms, the dance floor is as dead as an office full of debt collectors on Christmas morning.
I turn and walk to the other end of the club, through a vestibule, past the bathrooms, and enter the lounge. I breathe in a thick cloud of smoke hanging just inside the entryway. Among the chatter and hard rock music from the jukebox, the smack of billiard balls in the distance, and clinking glasses, a cute guy sits alone. The smoke clears and my eyes adjust to the dim light. Like a digital camera, I zoom in and focus.
Well, he's cuter than cute, really. Tall and big boned, boyish but not too twinkish. Dressed up but in a blue collar, casual sort of way. It's as though he had showered and shaved specifically to go out. Even from this distance, I see sincerity in his eyes. Or hope. Maybe a bit of both. Either way, he looks like he's waiting for someone.
He looks like he's waiting for someone like me.
I walk up to his table, "What are you drinking?"
"Washington Apple." He looks at me, maybe senses my lewd intentions, and waves me away, "I don't do one night stands, breeder."
"That's too bad. It'd be the best night of your life." I smile to show him I'm joking-not-joking but he doesn't laugh. I figure he missed the punch line so I put out my right hand, "My name's Chase."
His green eyes take me in. He blinks once, twice, sighs, then reluctantly takes my hand, "Jared."
Without letting go, I say, "Another Washington Apple?"
"Okay, but just one. I've already had a little too much and I'm trying to keep Lenny in the closet tonight."
Despite the calluses, his hand is soft. I can't help myself from stroking it lightly with the tips of my fingers. I want to stroke him the way Nurse Betty stroked my cock earlier at Siren’s. "You work with your hands?"
He smiles, "I'm a bit of a handyman."
"I bet you are." I tug on his hand and ease him up, out of his chair. We walk, hand in hand, to the bar, "So, who's Lenny? A friend of yours?"
Hello hot threesome, good-bye stripper.
He shakes his head, "Lenny's my drunken, flaming, alter ego." He adds, "You should get one. They're fun."
"Oh, I see."
Good-bye threesome, hello hot stripper.
I let go of Jared's hand and hold up two fingers, "Two Washington Apples, please."
"And a Georgia Peach." Jared's soft, callused hand, all alone with nothing to hold on to, drops to find some company. His strong hand cups my ass and gives it a squeeze, which sends a charge through my cock, and urges my wallet to the surface.
"Make that two." I pay for our drinks and we carry them back to his table. "This alter ego you speak of?"
"You realize this is a gay bar?"
"By the way, I'm bi." I say and Jared's immediate response is to roll his eyes, so I add, "You called me a breeder."
Then he smiles, says, "My brother says it only hurts once."
"My first time was a little uncomfortable but I wouldn't say it was painful. You get used it."
He shakes his head, "I'm not talking about sex, silly. The fence. It only hurts the first time you fall off the fence. But keep climbing. You'll fall, eventually."
"I'm like a cat. I never fall, but if I do, I always land on my feet."
"Yeah, whatever." He looks me in the eye, "Anyway, I know the owner."
"No shit? Does she know you're gay?"
"Honey, I'm not the one in the closet. I broke down that door a long time ago."
To say you know Tempest Falls means nothing because Tempest has a habit of circulating her nightclub and thanking her customers for giving her their business. In a way, everyone knows Tempest Falls. But the way Jared looks at me, all serious and replete with confidence, it says he knows her like a stripper might know her regulars.
It transcends patronage.
He looks past me so I turn around to see who stole his attention. Standing on the threshold of the lounge is Tempest Falls. She looks around the room for a moment, then steps toward the bar. Even though she was born a white man, her face is painted to look like that of a geisha's. Her entire outfit matches, from her ankle-length, emerald green kimono to the traditional folding fan she's holding. Splashes of red ripple throughout the kimono's shiny green fabric like trickles of blood floating on the Green River. The streams flow underneath, into, and past the purple and gold sash wrapped tightly around her waist. The tributaries of blood pool at the hem, just above her traditional wooden sandals.
With a dramatic flutter of her eyelids and a flick of her wrist, the folding fan flips open with a loud pop, and reveals a Japanese black and white landscape of a mountain covered in mist. She lifts the fan to her face, hides demurely, and makes her rounds.
When she stops at our table, she asks, accuses, "Jared?"
"Barely," he slurs through a half-grin.
She looks to me, "You're cute." Back to Jared, "Is this man molesting you, honey?" A pause, "And if not, why not?"
Jared takes up his shot of Georgia Peach, "This is my new friend, Chase. Chase says he's bisexual."
"Oh dear," Tempest feigns genuine shock. Then she looks at me as though she were letting me in on a little known secret, "Honey, there's no such thing. It's a myth, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. But not the Long Neck Monster—he's out there,” she looks longingly upward, toward a memory no one but she could see. “I've seen him," she finally whispers. Then she takes a breath, inhale, exhale, looks back to me and says, "Just pick a side, breeder."
I reach out to touch her kimono but with the lightning quick reflexes of a highly trained samurai, the fan snaps shut, and she slaps my hand away. "Never touch the couture, kitten."
Behind my eyes, a deliberate and neglected memory of a golden crucifix. I rub my stinging hand, "Jesus Christ on a stick! I just wanted to know if it was silk or satin."
"Silk. Always silk."
"Nice." I lift my shot glass and tap Jared's, "To silk…And new friends."
"To new friends."
"No, no, no, my dears." Tempest winks and offers grandly, "To family." We down our shots and she says, "Well kittens, I'm off. Enjoy your evening, if not each other's cocks!"
She sashays away and in my peripheral, I catch Jared looking at me. His green eyes disappear within a slow-motion blink as he runs a hand through his short brown hair. He picks up his Washington Apple and takes a gulp. I want to take him and Lenny home to show them both a good time but I can't. Lenny isn't a real person, he's just another reality-lost-to-fantasy.
"Have you ever had a Georgia Peach before?"
"No. First time."
"There's a first time for everything, I suppose."
"Isn't that the truth?" I take a sip from my Washington Apple. "Hey, this is pretty good, too."
"Never had one of those, either?" his voice is hollow, already bored and unimpressed with my presence. I shake my head and he adds, "Two firsts in one night. Go figure."
"Go figure." Another sip, then I pull out my pouch of tobacco, and start to roll a cigarette.
"I roll my own."
"My God, just have one of mine. They're not that expensive." He pulls out a pack of Kamel Reds from his shirt pocket and offers me one.
"I'm not poor. I can afford to smoke machine rolled cigarettes. I just choose not to."
"Not if you wanna be with me."
Another jolt of electricity shoots through my cock and it rises. I run my tongue across the paper, "And you are?"
"Lenny wants out honey, but he's staying safe inside tonight."
"Can't blame a girl for trying," I joke, smiling. I put the finished cigarette to my lips but he jiggles the open pack in front of me. "Fine," and I grab one of his Kamel Reds.
He lights it for me and waits for me to exhale, "Now isn't that better?"
"Not bad." I offer him my freshly rolled cigarette, "Trade?"
"I'll never smoke it." He pauses to take a drink but I jiggle the hand-rolled cigarette in front of him. "Fine." He takes it and slides it into his pack of Kamel Reds, then he lights his own cigarette. "If it makes you feel better, I'll hang onto it forever."
"I can think of a dozen other things that you could hang onto."
I lean over the table and put my mouth on his and though my lips are pressing against Jared's, I get the feeling it's Lenny who's wanting to reciprocate. I close my eyes but can't seem to get Nurse Betty or her tits out of my head. Jared's mouth opens as I put my hand on the back of his neck and suck his tongue into my mouth. I savor the taste of his red delicious drink, the burnt paprika of his cigarette, his thick saliva. His cologne, sweet and inviting, comfortable and warm, calls me closer, but I force myself to pull away slowly to look into his drooping, drunken eyes.
He smiles slowly, "You're a good kisser."
"So are you."
I look at my watch, "One more?"
"I don't do one night stands, Chase. Stop trying to get me drunk."
"Just a drink. I have somewhere else I gotta be, anyways."
"But in exchange for that one drink, I was thinking maybe—"
"Your number, just your digits."
"You don't have to buy me a drink for my phone number but since you're offering—just give me your cell phone. I'll put my number in your speed dial. In the meantime, go get us another round."
I hand Jared my cell phone and while Lenny punches in the ten digits, I get another round of Washington Apples and Georgia Peaches.