Thirty One Days -Part 1
"I am in such a rock and hard place. I love the book Thirty-One Days. I get it. It is raw and honest. It is brilliant. Actually, it is one of the most interesting books I have read. My problem is our most open-minded editor is truly uncomfortable. The book is great, but can it pass our censors? No. It can't. So I have something I think is fantastic, but I can't print it as written."*
This is certainly not the best part of the big city. Sitting in the parking lot across the street from my destination, I see nothing but dull, worn, dirty brick. The street level windows are covered in metal caging. Graffiti is sprayed here and there. The building I am interested in is two stories high and at least a hundred years old. The ground level started life as a small manufacturer, with offices and living quarters on the floor above.
The entire neighborhood is made up of similar structures, interspersed with garbage strewn, potholed, parking lots. At one time, serious retailing in mom and pop stores occurred here. Butcher shops. Small engine repair. Leather goods. Shoe repair. Convenience goods and dry goods. At one time, serious alcohol production and bootlegging occurred here. On this exact block. Little Al Cabrezzi and Johnny Polenta. Today, it is pawn shops, massage parlors, payday loans and seedy bars. This neighborhood is stuck in no man's land. It is both years away from rejuvenation, and decades past its prime.
The date is January the first, the beginning of the New Year, and the time on my dashboard clock says ten p.m. Everything is closed tonight, except for the place across the street. Apparently, this place never closes. I am into my second can of beer since arriving. I feel apprehensive about the next few hours of my life, but a little buzzed at the same time. New things have always made me anxious. This thing, what I am doing here tonight, is really, really new. Life altering new.
Curiosity will probably be the death of me.
I have ventured nearly three hours from my small town. I sure as hell don't want to stumble upon anybody I know. Not where I am going. How would I explain? I couldn't. So it wasn't going to happen. Three hours driving distance should be a safe buffer zone.
I look around. Vehicular traffic is almost non-existent. I have seen only a dozen cars in the past hour. The first car was a cop, and the next eleven were lone men cruising for hookers. The men were searching for the shivering ladies of the night who had been moved away from the near street corner. I did a hooker once. Actually, twice. Nasty business, but way in the past.
Everything I was seems to be in the past.
The pedestrian traffic is also pretty thin. A few folks have entered the building I am watching, though I don't imagine this place will be busy tonight. There is no reason to be out and about. The temperature is five degrees below the freezing mark, and after all, it is New Year's Day. Last night's parties and consumption will have laid most of the citizenry to waste. They will be taking advantage of this annual day of recovery. For me, this makes it a good night to begin the big experiment. If I can call it an experiment.
I shake my head.
I don't want to dwell on it.
Because this is crazy.
I finish the second beer and pinch myself on the cheek. Yes, there is a tiny bit of numbness. I haven't consumed a drop of alcohol in six months. At least I will be a cheap date. As I mull over what I think goes on in the place across the street, I don't yet feel ready to venture forth. I figured two beers would be enough to get me going. I have finished two Buds, and I am still firmly planted in the driver's seat. With no intention of moving.
When I took this new challenge on, I didn't think it would be such a big deal. I now understand my miscalculation. Two cans of beer, and not ready to budge. This should tell me one thing. My internal sensors are correct. My internal sensors should be obeyed. I don't need to do this. This is not right for me. Put the last four beers in the trunk and drive this car home.
For god sakes, go.
What would change though?
I would still be in the same boat as I was yesterday, and last week and last month and six months ago. Even eight months ago, and a year ago. Yes. One full year. One full year of frustration. Of confusion. Of second guessing. Of depression. Of self-loathing.
One full year of nothing.
I take a deep breath. Let it out slowly.
A yellow taxi stops in front of the building, breaking my thought pattern. An old guy climbs out; he is probably fifty years of age. The old guy pays his fare and walks toward the entrance door. My signal to rip open beer can number three.
The music is playing on my stereo, a 'number one hits' station. My car's engine is idling and the heater is set on low. I drive a fuel efficient Toyota Camry. I am not worried about burning a little gas to stay warm.
I am not aware when a car pulls in beside me. The driver gets out and looks around. I slide down in my seat, not wanting to make eye contact. The guy is five years older than me, maybe thirty-two or thirty-three. He looks to be strong and athletic, about ten pounds past his prime. He is looking down at the ground as he scurries across the street.
I laugh to myself.
Father of small children?
Well known in town?
A pillar of society?
Which one buddy?
This guy clearly does not want to be seen going in. I don't blame him. He quickly enters the building I have been watching.
Whew. He made it.
I am still here.
In my car.
I am not even close to being ready.
I tip the third beer can to my mouth and guzzle the contents down my throat. I turn the music up louder.
Four young guys, they appear to be college kids, are sauntering down the street. They pause in front of the building. They are hoofing on marijuana joints. Four joints, four guys. They toss the roaches in unison and enter the building. These guys aren't hiding or scurrying. They are out and open. They are a different breed than I, a different breed than the guy who parked beside me. These college boys have bought into the program. I have not. I hoped I never would. I will definitely be a scurrier. In fact, I am seriously entertaining the thought of leaving.
Beer number four is in my hand, the tab is ripped open, and I drink. I slap at my face. Quickly, my face has gone from tiny numbness to nearly full out numbness. I crack my face once more, hard enough to leave a red mark. With the interior lights switched on, I see the red mark when I look in the rear view mirror. My face is beginning to feel stupid, similar to the aftermath of my one and only dental visit. I am not feeling drunk, but I do feel buzzed. Finally.
The music is cranked again and the bass beat is thumping. I chuckle to myself. Starting to feel a little better about all of this. I check the dashboard clock. Eleven twenty-four p.m. Where did the hour and a half go?
I look at the last two beer cans, lonely in their plastic rings. I am thinking of taking the two cans in for backup. I feel okay to go, but I don't know what is lurking behind the entrance door. I down the last half of beer can number four.
It is now or never time.
I take forty bucks out of my wallet and tuck the cash in my front jeans pocket. The wallet goes under the driver's seat. I turn off the radio and pull the keys from the ignition. What the hell. I grab the last two beers and tear them from their plastic holders. I gather up the empty cans, take a deep breath and get out. Shut the car door; take a quick look both ways and behind me.
I step to the back of the car, fob the trunk and dump the empty cans in. I tuck one full can down the front of my pants and the other goes in my jacket pocket. My jacket is long enough to provide cover for the two can bulges. I close the trunk and look around again. No cars and no pedestrians. I tug my baseball cap down low over my eyes and move quickly across the street. I am scurrying, similar in movement to the guy who parked beside me. Scurrying as a rat would. Guilty. Embarrassed. Ashamed.
This was the second warning regarding the great experiment. If you have to scurry to get where you are going, you must be doing something wrong.
I already knew this, didn't I?
I sure did.
Desperation makes you do desperate things.
I am less than thirty feet from the entrance to the brick building, moving smartly. A guy comes out of nowhere, perhaps from between the buildings, sort of cutting in front of me.
What the hell?
He is taller than me, at least six foot four, slim to scrawny, and young with shaggy cut blonde hair. He is wearing tight black leather pants and black stomping boots. A white baggy tee shirt completes his look. He must be freezing.
Good timing, idiot. I veer off and head down the street, a little discomfited. The young guy heads into my building as I pretend to window shop. I am looking at grimy, wire covered windows with nothing on display. I must look the fool.
Okay fool. Turn around, go back, and go inside.
I peek back. It is all clear.
I turn around.
Approaching the front door I look up and see a small sign.
The sign says, 'House of God'.
House of God? Seriously? A little bit of blasphemy, no?
Yes, I would say, a lot of blasphemy.
Below the 'House of God' is another sign.
Not good. This may be all for naught.
My foot catches on a heave in the sidewalk and I nearly do a face plant. I am able to right myself, but I am staggering. I am drunker than I thought. I have consumed only four beers, but the six month layoff has become a factor. My body and brain are probably counting twelve beers. This is beginning to approach the fun zone for the old me.
I take another deep breath, tug my Brewers cap lower over my eyes, and yank the door handle. I step into the brick building.
A dark, narrow hallway leads me to a caged booth. A flat counter with a pass slot juts out from the booth. Behind the caging, the booth is covered with smoked glass. I can't see into it. I read another sign.
'Membership Fee $20'.
I dig a twenty out of my pocket and slide it across the counter.
Why is it so dark in here? How are you supposed to conduct business?
A hand reaches out from the slot to take my money, and hesitates. I feel eyes upon me, scrutinizing.
'Are you sure you want to join this club?'
It was an older voice, belonging to somebody my father's age. Gross.
I simply nod. I did not want to speak aloud. I thought someone might hear me and recognize my voice. How ridiculous. How paranoid. Three hours from home.
'You know what kind of club this is?'
What is with the fifty questions? Open the stupid door, and let me in.
I nod again.
This is going to require a verbal answer, I deduce.
'Yes,' I respond.
'Have you been drinking tonight?'
Seriously? Are you kidding?
I knew this was the 'House of God', or whatever they called it, but come on. It was no church in there, behind door number one.
'Yes,' I answer. 'Two beers.'
The almighty wizard must have ruled in my favor. His hand took my money and then slid out a sheet of paper, with a pen. I looked at the paper. Barely legible in the darkness.
'Requirements for Membership'.
No way was I going to do this.
The mind reader behind the smoked glass window saved the day.
'Make something up. Tax rules and all. We are a private club.'
I quickly filled in 'Dave Watson' and an equally bullshit address, phone number and Email. I pushed the pen and paper back. A pause. The paper was returned to me.
'Read the last paragraph and sign below it.'
I picked up the paper and read. Tried to anyway. It was dark, and the four beers were playing with my vision. I narrowed my eyes.
'I absolve the club and any of its members from..blah, blah, blah'.
Eight lines of waivers. Blurring as my brain swam in the four beers.
I signed 'Dave Watson' and return the paper.
I heard a buzzing sound. An inside door had been unlocked. The door was on my right hand side. I could barely see the outline of the door frame in the dark hallway. I felt for and found the knob, turned and pushed on in.
I was immediately overwhelmed by the heat, humidity and sickly sweet odor. The guy who took my money passed me a key and a towel. He smiled at me, a welcome of some sort, I suppose. The guy was thin, gaunt and ugly, had a wispy pony tail, and was older than my dad. Grandpa comes to mind.
'Rooms are at the back, rookie,' he says.
Rookie. Right. As if this is a locker room full of athletes. More likely, a room full of assholes. I grab my key and towel, nod and walk on, passing a long bar. The bar is empty, save the bartender. There are guys sitting at small tables, drinking. Some of the guys are fully clothed; some of them are wearing towels. Seeing the towel men is not a happy development.
A couple of ninety inch flat panels are playing a basketball game. Lakers versus somebody. These guys obviously enjoy watching sports. Which I find a little weird. Because I enjoy watching sports. Drinking beer and watching sports with my buddies. No different to what is going on in here. Also, I could see a pool table, a Foosball table, shuffleboard, a dart board, vintage pinball games and sit-down PAC man tables.
The place reminded me of the old Colony Bar at home. It was where I took my first drink. The Colony divided the men and women into separate rooms. The place was always packed. The 'Men Only' room meant no women to fight over, no jealousies, none of the competition bullshit. It was men and sports, and men and drink. Simple, peaceful, quiet. A relic of the past.
I put my head back down and keep walking, coming to an open doorway at the end of the barroom. I look at my room key and am able to see the number, one twenty-nine. I exit the bar and enter a series of hallways. Immediately, thumping dance music fills the air. The hallways are dimly lit with red L.E.D. lighting. Some sort of attempt at ambiance. This part of the club resembles a hotel. Plenty of doors with numbers.
I follow the numbers down a corridor, make a left, then a right and head deeper into the building. I keep moving, scanning the doors. Some of the doors are cracked open. Some of the doors are wide open. There are single men in these open door rooms. Sitting on small cots or lying down flat. Some of the guys are ass down. Some are ass up. Most all of these guys are completely naked, the small white towels cast aside. Not the same civilized scene as the guys drinking beer and watching the basketball out front.
As I move further in, there is man traffic in the hallways. I have to squeeze by two forty year old guys, having a serious close chat. An ancient guy drifts out of a doorway, gawking at me, smiling as I pass. How disgusting. Other males drift into and out of the rooms, using the hallway to get around some sort of maze. Finally I see my number on a door. I am at the dead end of a hallway, middle door, with a room on each side of me. The doors on these other rooms read one twenty-eight and one thirty. I quickly key my door and step in. I close the door behind me.
Well, I made it. So far so good. Kind of nasty though, so far.
My eyes accustom to the small room. The room is about seven feet long and five feet wide. The entire room is mirrored. All of the walls and the back of the door are covered. As is the ceiling. Mirror, mirror on the wall, I bet you have truly seen it all. I bet.
Against a side wall is a cot, about three feet across. There is a small locker bolted to the end wall above a night table. I toggle a light switch on the wall. The light rises up to a screaming intensity. I can see a plastic bowl full of colored condoms and mini lube sticks. Christ. Lovely, isn't it?
The light is blasting off every mirror surface, seemingly intensifying. It must be like this inside a microwave oven. I toggle the light back down, dropping the wattage lower and lower, setting the mood.
What the hell am I talking about, setting the mood?
I think I need way more alcohol than these first four beers.
I toggle the lights off. Pull the two beers out of my clothing. Set them on the night table. Take my jacket off and toss it on the night table as well. Pop the top off one of the cans and begin to sip. I relax back on the cot with my head against the wall. I notice a red light on the ceiling, directly above me. It must be a smoke detector. No way would there be cameras in here. Cameras would be illegal. A serious, nasty breach of privacy. I think some amendment covers this.
A few minutes pass and I hear the door next to mine open, and then close. A patron has entered. The light is turned on because I see bright laser beams of white poring through the wall into my room. I can see perfect circles cut in the wall. The circles are at various heights and range from peephole size to three inches in diameter. Holy shit. Peepholes and glory holes.
Quietly, I shift on the bed, slipping my eye to the nearest peephole. I carefully run my finger against the edge of the nearest three inch hole. It is smooth and polished. No jagged edges. I can see into the next room. A hulk of a man is undressing. His shirt comes off first. The guy is about five foot six in height, and easily, two hundred pounds of steroid enhanced muscle. The guy is a tank. A pit bull. Shaved head, massive gold stretcher rings in each ear. His upper back is heavily inked. As is his lower back. Great. A guy with a tramp stamp.
I sip more beer and continue watching. The guy drops his jeans, and then peels off his gitch. Gross. Completely naked. He grabs a towel and wraps it around his waist. Then he reaches for something out of view. When his hand comes back he is grasping what appears to be a dog leash. The leash is a black leather strap with a loop handle at one end, and a metal clasp at the other. He wraps the leash around his wrist and exits the room. Before the door closes, he snaps off the light. The bright white laser beams die.
For a second I am blind, as my room is back to near full dark. When my eyes accustom, I notice a leash and a collar are hanging on the end wall beside my locker. What the hell are these things for? Does every room have them? I slide empty beer can number five into the locker and pop number six. Might as well go for the soda. I take a big gulp from can number six and set it down on the end table.
My fingers run off and begin to touch the collar. I lift it off the hook and bring it close. The collar is black, heavy leather, about an inch in diameter, and covered with pyramid shaped metal studs. I finger the leash. It is of the same heavy material as the collar. Weird stuff, for sure. I let go of the leash. Stand up in front of the mirror, loosen my shirt and wrap the collar around my neck.
I cinch the collar. I hear it click.
Feels good too.
Makes me a gambler.
Or an idiot.
I am not wearing this thing. No chance. Too fruity.
I try to unsnap the collar. Nothing happens. I twist the collar around on my neck, bringing the back to the front. I toggle up the light and look at the mirror, trying to decipher the hasp and lock system. I tug and twist and pinch at the collar but it won't open. I stand as close to the mirror as I can. My stupid eyesight is blurry; the beers are catching up with me. I can see a slot on the collar hasp. A key of some sort will be required to open the damn thing. Shit sakes.
I have my first souvenir from the House of God.
My descent into this squalid, underground world was the inadvertent outcome of a seed planted thirteen months ago. Actually, thirteen months and one week ago. It was me and my best buddies at the Double Eagle Bar and Grill. The last week of November. Chilling, drinking beer, eating nachos, onion rings and pizza. Talking about chicks and shit. Eyeballing the different sports on the TV screens. One of the boys had read on the net about a guy in California who had banged thirty different chicks in thirty nights. A world record the guy claimed. Wow. We were all impressed. Because we thought we were all that, and more. We were. Good looking, well built, young, with decent jobs and our own places.
What's not to love, right ladies?
We were all players. We usually had girlfriends, but we would still bang anything we desired. The local chicks knew this, and went out of their way to offer themselves up when one of us was dating. Got to love the girls and their support for one another.
I was the king of our group. Always, with one more chick or one more score than the next guy. I held our own private record, the legendary six chicks in one night. Granted, it had been a pretty wild house party, but with this kind of accomplishment already in the books, what could I do next?
My posse and I were intrigued at this new world chick fuck record. If it was even true. There was a lot of bullshit on the internet.
Didn't matter if it was true or not, our interest had been piqued. Damn, if one of us or all of us weren't going to make this happen. We clink beer bottles together as the Four Amigos decide to take on the challenge. The first day of December was going to be the start date for our record attempt. It was to be on the honor system, as we couldn't figure out how to get video documentation of so many conquests without being caught by some angry bird. An angry bird combined with today's social media could quickly spell the end of our little adventure. No, the honor system and juicy details would suffice to document the journey.
Danny, the youngest of our gang at twenty-three, crapped out on night one. His girlfriend of two weeks was on the rags and would not put out. His pre-planned, easy, first night mark proved to be his downfall. Was he ever pissed. He dumped the poor girl the next day. Or tried to. Long story there. Long, ugly story.
Rico, the oldest of our gang at twenty-seven, fell next, on night number two. He actually got to bang his current girlfriend on night one, the easy bang Danny missed. Rico was forced to work a double shift at the General Motors plant on night two. Because Rico's second shift ended at eleven p.m., and it was a Sunday, he was screwed. Twenty minutes to shower and change, thirty minutes to drive home, leaving him ten minutes to score. It was the fat waitress at the pizza joint in the back room at one minute to midnight, or it was nothing. Rico reluctantly chose nothing. Rico was loud, Latino and proud. He was not going to lower his standards. His girlfriend was gorgeous, probably a nine out of ten. He was used to soaring as an eagle. No way was he going to muddle around in the hen house. After all, there were no prizes up for grabs, no money and no trophies to be won. The drive to succeed on this mission rested solely with the desire of each individual participant.
Donny was the next member of the gang to fall. Donny actually made it to week two. Seven days of week one, plus one day of week two. Eight different chicks in eight days. Pretty impressive. Incredibly impressive, actually.
Banging eight chicks on eight consecutive weekends was impressive for most guys. Out of reach, for most guys. I could screw at this rate for ten years straight without blinking. Twenty years. Hell, probably for the rest of my life.
However, eight different girls in eight straight twenty-four hour time segments was something else entirely. Unless you dropped your standards into the toilet, or you lived on a commune. We know why those bastards ran the communes. Everyone I had seen in the news had a leader who fucked like a bunny. Naive, silly girls looking for pure love or dirt farming communism. Finding an old man's dick waiting for them.
Poor stupid girls.
Poor little bunny rabbits, being tainted with the questionable reputation of fuck bandits.
As a young stud, I had commitments taking time, energy and resources from my day. There were full time job commitments, buddy commitments, family commitments, eating and sleeping commitments, wasting time by playing video game commitments. Grocery store, gym and workout commitments. Sports on TV, banking, shopping at the mall and all kinds of other commitments. Life commitments, you could say. As I would find out over the course of those thirty-one days, the consistency required to break this world chick fuck record would become an enormous draw on my life skills.
With Donny falling after night eight, I had to go it alone.
Alone I went, on my journey to fun, fame and fucking.
And something far worse.
This place I was now in.
I adjust my shirt to cover the collar and sit back down on the cot. The music is thumping away nonstop. The music is loud enough to mask any sound made in this room. By the way, why exactly do they call this place the House of God? I've got to find somebody and ask. The curious thing, again. I should have checked this place out a little more carefully on the internet. I pick up the beer can, but it is empty. I don't remember finishing it. I do the face check. Yes, nice and numb. It is time to explore.
Before I can get going, someone enters the room on the other side of me. The light switches on and is immediately toggled down. In the brief instance the light was on, I could see a similar set of holes neatly set in the mirrored wall. Holes to my left, holes to my right. Fabulous. I can hear a bustling tight up against the wall, but can't see anything. Somebody is doing something in there. I shouldn't be staring, but I am. Something black is being pushed up against a three inch diameter hole, at crotch level.
I stare harder. Black pants. Somebody is dry humping the hole in the wall. Great. The freak show has begun. I can see a metal zipper. Pressing into the hole. A long finger caresses the zipper, finding the metal tab. Slowly, as if in a strip tease act, the finger begins to tug the zipper down. The zipper slides back up and the finger disappears. The black bulge remains at the hole.
Time for me to go. For sure, I am not yet ready for prime time.
I stand up from the bed, ready to exit my room. As I move past the hole in the wall, for some stupid reason, my fingers run over the mirror surface. I try to stop, but my fingers keep going. Heading towards the three inch circle and the black bulge. My fingers arrive. Hesitate. Technically, the bulge is in my space, my room. I can do anything I want to it. Smash it, slice it, or kick it.
Instead, I press my fingers against the bulge. A chill thrill runs though me. The material covering the bulge isn't jeans, or cords. It is something else. Vinyl, or leather. With packed heat behind it. How wrong. This reminds me of stealing a pack of baseball cards from the corner store as a kid. You know you shouldn't do it, but what the heck, you do it anyway. You don't need the cards or want the cards; you do it for the thrill.
Will you get caught? Or are you clever enough to pull it off?
I am clever enough to pull it off. I remove my fingers.
The door closes behind me, leaving some anonymous Romeo wanting. I shiver.
What exactly was underneath the black leather bulge?
My mind is spinning as I digest the last three seconds of my life.
Besides the thumping, new age dance music assaulting my ears, I smell incense and marijuana and chemicals I can't identify. I am trying to find my way back to the bar. I will start there. Or, walk right out the front door, get in the car and drive home. Certainly what I should do. I know I have problems, but can this be the answer?
Of course I make a couple of wrong turns, this place is truly a maze. I run into a few dead ends. Single men are drifting around, aimlessly looking for what? Companionship?
I am a little wobbly on my feet. Physically, I feel somewhat drunk. Mentally, I don't. Not at all. Because of what I have seen thus far. Old men. Men in towels. Men with tramp stamps. Leashes and collars. Zippers being pulled down.
At the end of a main hallway, I find a wide set of stairs going up. A sign on the wall says 'Bath Attire Only Beyond This Point'. Beside the sign is a cartoon picture of a naked dude wrapped in a bath towel. There is a similar set of stairs going down but it is roped off. An 'Employees Only' sign is hanging on the rope.
I will hit the bar first, before I try the second floor.
My head is down, especially when passing towel clad males coming towards me. I am still in fear of running into someone I know. Pretty lame, dude. Nobody I know would frequent this type of place. Nobody. I need to relax and go with the flow.
Finally, I find the bar.
I put a twenty on the flat surface and ask the tender how much vodka my note will buy. He holds up five fingers, which he strangely turns into a fist, and does a silly upwards pumping motion. Okay, I say to myself, whatever dude. Give me the damn juice. The bartender lays a paper circle on the counter in front of me. Sets down a large glass. Pumps five shots into the glass from the vodka bottle. Uses a metal scoop to drop in ice cubes. Holds up an orange juice carton. I nod; he pours the juice until the ice cubes are floating even with the rim of the glass. Drops in a straw, stirs and scoops up my twenty. He is standing there, as if the transaction is not quite finished.
I have not tipped the guy. Oops. I have money out in the car, but not another red cent in my pocket. If I leave now to retrieve the cash from my car, I will never come back. I will lose out on my twenty dollar drink, my twenty dollar entrance fee, and whatever else was coming my way.
I don't give a crap if I tip the bartender or not. He isn't my buddy and I don't plan on being a repeat customer. No, I sure as hell don't.
The guy is standing there. Waiting. Or thinking. Actually, to me it seems as if he is plotting.
What? Who knows? Is he somewhat pissed?
The bartender picks up a set of silver tongs and grasps a fresh orange slice. He dips the slice into a bowl of white powder he has brought up from under the bar. The powder looks to be sugar, or faux sugar. He drops the slice into the top of my drink, then uses the tongs to push it carefully below the ice cubes. The booze does not overflow the rim. I feel a little sheepish. The guy is obviously an excellent bartender.
Finally, the barkeep slides away and I can tell he is a tad miffed. Cheap prick, he is probably thinking. Cheap rookie prick. Oh well. Move on with your life.
The drink tastes good. No, the drink tastes excellent. I pick up my glass and leave the bar. Probably better not to be in the 'no tip' bartender's face. I grab a seat at an empty table beneath one of the flat screens. It is the Lakers. Awesome. Against the Clippers. More awesome. Bryant and Nash and Gasol and Superman teaming up against the kid, Blake Griffin. This flat screen is amazing. I have never seen one this big. The players are life size. It would almost be worth coming here to simply watch the TV.
I take another sip of my super screwdriver. Wow. Powerful stuff. Fresh tasting, what with the quality orange juice and the sugared up slice. I calculate in my mind. Five shots. Times one and a half ounces. Equals seven and a half ounces of alcohol. Plus six cans of beer. Makes an awful lot of alcohol for someone who hasn't had a drop in six months. It's a good thing I booked a cheap motel eight blocks over. I am certainly going to need to lay low tonight. No driving for this dude.
The third quarter of the game has ended. After four small sips I feel brave enough to look around. The numbing in my face is spreading to my brain. I am beginning to relax. There are at least twenty guys in the room. More than I counted when I passed through the first time. At least half of them are wearing towels. Only towels. Most of them are watching the game or shooting the shit. A couple of them look to be flirting. No, let's be honest. They are fondling each other under the table.
For Christ sake.
Stupid towel men.
I find a clock on the wall. It is midnight. Wow, time is flying by. When you are having fun. Well, the game is good. In fact, the game is excellent. Especially on this magnificent giant screen. Especially when you are feeling this hammered. Yes, it almost seems as if I am seventeen again, back home at the Colony, watching the Brewers or Hawks on those small TV's. The place appears to be a normal bar full of normal dudes doing normal dude stuff.
Except for the flirters and the fondlers. In their towels.
I give my head a shake. This bar is far from normal.
The chair beside me is whisked out and a guy sits down. I am startled. I didn't see anyone coming. I didn't want company. At least not yet. Not until the experiment started. If it ever would. There is not much chance this experiment will get off the ground. Much less chance than there was an hour ago, anyway. The chances were weakening by the moment; despite the fact the booze was doing its job. Because it was awfully disgusting, the truth of this place.
The newcomer is young. He is tall. Shit, it's the guy who came out from between the buildings. He must be eighteen or nineteen. Perhaps another college kid. His appearance, his build, everything about him screams 'fag'. What screams 'fag' the most are his thick girly lips and fine features. His lips were almost glittering.
Was he wearing some kind of gloss?
The kid is easily six four. He can't weigh any more than a hundred and forty pounds. His legs look long, but the thick heels on his boots were amplifying things. The boots are Nazi storm trooper wear, the kind of boots skinheads stomp fags with. His hair is thick and shaggy, falling down over his face. He is wearing a dirty white tee shirt, making him appear skinnier, if possible. The sprayed on, tight leather pants also scream 'faggot'. The pants look custom molded to the guy, as if he wore them every day and everywhere.
Wait a minute.
Was this the guy who was dry humping my wall? Leather pants Romeo?
I hope not.
'What's the score?' he pipes up.
Girl's voice. Kind of. Though, he is only a kid.
Was he talking to me?
I guess he was. No one else was at the table.
'Clippers by six,' I answer. 'Fourth quarter starting.'
There. I talked to one of them. Now buzz off.
He didn't budge. Didn't appear as if he was going anywhere.
I thought, not so bad, was it? Despite the fact he looked different and...never mind.
The guy was staring at my neck. What was he looking at?
Shit. My hand went to the collar I forgot I had put on. What an idiot I was. A look of incredulity formed on the kid's face. I felt it had something to do with the stupid collar. I adjusted my shirt to cover the damn thing and picked up my drink. A nice long pull.
'What's your story?' the fag asks.
Christ. Is he talking to me again?
'What's my story?' I respond. 'What do you mean?'
'Well, it's quite obvious you aren't gay. My Straight-Dar is flashing, big time. Are you married and not getting laid? Or dating and not getting laid? Did you lose a bet? Do you think you can waltz into this kind of place and get an anonymous blowjob because your old lady is on the rags? Are you tired of jerking off solo? What's your story?'
What was with the fifty questions in this place? First at the door, now here.
''I'm having a drink. Taking it easy. Didn't know it was against the law.'
The fag is eyeballing me. Sizing me up for something? The same look the bartender had.
'Well, be careful. I bet you don't have a clue what goes on in this House.'
The fag pauses.
He sticks out his hand.
Since I am well on my way to drunken land, I stick out my hand. It's a bar after all.
'Der.David,' I correct myself.
No need to spit out my real name in this place.
We shake hands.
'Nice to meet you, David.'
The fag is smiling. He can see through my charade.
'Don't worry. Nobody uses their real name in this place. Because this place is not real. If you stick around long enough, you will find out. Shit, be careful though.'
Unexpectedly, a third member joins our party.
What is this, the social table?
It is the guy who pulled into the parking lot beside me. The scurrier. He plops down into a chair. I look at him. He is wearing two things. A towel around his waist, and a collar around his neck. Great. The third guy at this table with a collar on. Because Stevie, or whatever his name is, is also wearing a collar.
The collar gang.
The new guy looks totally messed up. Drug messed up. He wasn't messed up when he walked across the street. When he scurried across the street.
'Who's the newbie?' he slurs to Stevie Leather Pants.
'This is Dave. Dave, this is Mentor.'
What was this idiot's name? Mentor?
I didn't want to shake hands with the towel man, but not to be rude, I did anyway. Mentor. What a stupid name. Since it was a fake name, why not go for it? I was already thinking of changing my fake name to something else. Mentor sounded better than Dave. Or Stevie. Stevie Nicks? Why not. He was almost a girl, with the features and hair and pants and high heeled boots. Whatever.
I looked hard at this Mentor dude. He had the bobble head thing going on. His pupils were dilated. Yes, he was stoned on something good. Or bad. Only the night would tell for Mentor Man.
I sipped some more on my drink. Thinking.
'What did you mean by me being careful?' I ask Leather Pants Stevie Nicks.
I saw his eyes perk up, spying something behind me.
Suddenly, the huge, tattooed pit bull of a man from the room next to mine, blustered into the bar area. He was heading straight for our table. A man on a mission. His heavy feet fell as he stepped smartly. He stopped behind Mentor's chair and snapped a leash around the stoned one's neck. Yanked the idiot to his feet. Pit Bull growled something incomprehensible into Mentor's ear, and began dragging him back towards the hallway maze.
WTF was that all about!
Nobody else in the room batted an eye. Only me. The rookie.
Did.â?¦? Was I seeing.â?¦?
I wasn't in Kansas anymore. No, I sure as hell wasn't.
'What I meant about being careful. The little collar you are wearing. It means you are available to be leashed.'
What did he mean? Leashed?
'If you get leashed in this place, you're at the mercy of your master. Not a position you want to be in as a rookie.'
Stevie seemed to be thinking.
'Actually, not a position you want to be in, regardless of your experience. Some of the nut jobs who come in here are pretty sick.'
Jesus. No kidding.
The Pit Bull was easily yanking the Mentor Man, rag-dolling him. Mentor Man was bigger than me.
Were there bigger Leash Men around than Pit Bull?
What was going to happen to Mentor Man, back there in the maze?
Was he on his way to see God?
I look at my drink. It is empty, save the ice cubes and the orange slice. Using the straw, I twirl the orange slice around in my glass.
'Are you going to eat your slice?' Leather Pants Stevie asks.
Yes, I think I will. Since I paid for it. With no tip, of course. I fish the orange slice out and suck back the meaty fruit. I drop the perfect circle of cleaned peel back into the glass. Immediately, my tongue feels numb. Novocain numb.
The game is over on the big screen. The lights in the bar have dimmed. I didn't notice it happening. I look around the room. It's mostly empty. The guys have headed back into the maze. They are ready to shed their 'normal sports guys' skins, for something entirely different. The smart ones are heading for the highway, knowing the Pit Bull is on the prowl.
There are two guys necking on the big screen. Shit. They are life size, as were the basketball players. I got it. The game is over, it is late, and it is time for porn. Both guys on the screen are young and strapping, and shirtless. Bad actors. Disgusting behavior. My face is an open book.
Stevie has been watching my reaction to the porn.
'I don't think you belong here,' he interrupts.
I look at him. He is looking at his watch. As if timing something. Or letting time pass for something to happen. What, I had no clue.
'Why don't you head back to your room. I will meet you there and help you with the collar. You need a key to remove it. The thing will beep if you try to wear it out of here, and then you will really be the center of attention.'
Made sense to me. I stand up to go. I am shaky on my feet. Six cans of beer and seven point five ounces of vodka. After a six month layoff. My tongue, my lips and my throat are tingling as well. From the orange slice.
'By the way,' I ask, 'What is this House of God all about?'
Stevie the fag is looking at me, contemplating the question.
'You know what? If you ever decide to come back to this place, I will tell you all about it. For now, it's starting to heat up in here. You should get the hell out while you can. You're in room one two niner, right? See you there in ten minutes.'
To be continued....â?¦
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