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  • Kim Idol

Leslie and the Glory Hole

They turned off the machines today and my friend died. I did not want to commiserate with others and so I left before the word spread. Unable to tolerate my reactions, I headed towards my favorite drowning pool, a sex club on the east side of town. I always shuck my skin when I walk inside. I never use my real name and my real life becomes a collage of closed rooms and locked doors once I cross the threshold; my boyfriend is away and my friends don’t swing so the girl I become inside these rooms is a free agent. But today my life bullies its way in. A timeline begins to construct in my head running from childhood to now and I need to stop it from building. So I focus on the details in front of me.

“We called her, Lilly,” Leslie says. A Little Kiddle in a saran wrap dress, Leslie would blow away in a fierce wind. She stubs out her cigarette after taking a few puffs and tosses the remains into the trash.

Leslie and her husband own the club. He looks like an evil circus barker, keeps the books and mans the front desk and I can not remember his name.

Leslie runs the bar and manages the bouncers who are either ex-Marines or recovering thugs. Each room sprouts a black stocky form replete with ear buds. I never knew they were there unless I needed them. In-house protocol prohibits drugs, drinks and pros and this policy is strictly enforced. The club endures within city limits because Leslie attends to all the legalities and keeps all her permits to date. Management watches over me when I visit because I am a business staple. Single women do not regularly attend. Leslie and I are friendly, but we are not friends; I am poorly versed in the rules of friendship. Some relationships are illusions that only hold true in a certain light. Some are built of a substance that anchors me to another soul for as long as I breathe whether contact continues or not and I am often surprised by the form my relationships take, how deep and shallow they run and I constantly forget what losing them costs me.

I am early. Business does not start to rock until after ten, but tonight I can’t wait. A broken connection reminds me of other lost lines of communication. I try to block the burgeoning crowd of memories but they won’t be stopped. So I am here, talking to Leslie while I gauge the gathering crowd and wait for the games to begin.

“Insurance made me have it,” Leslie says. “Wouldn’t cover the abortion even though they knew it wasn’t gonna live.” I lean against the bar. On stage a Freddy Mercury failure is doing a pole dance in his socks. His clothes lay scattered across the floor. A bouncer piles them in a chair. Faded jeans, a rhinestone belt, a flannel shirt and a cheap watch.

“Why not,” I ask. Two dorks with undershot jaws slouch in seats in front of Freddy. Newcomers. The kind that stand by the shallow end and watch everyone else swim.

“It was missing parts.” She says “parts” the way I would say “oil change,” not because she does not care, but because the fact that she does is none of my business. “It lived nine minutes.”

“That’s awful. Did people tell you, you could have another,” I ask. Other people’s pain is as good a diversion as any. Leslie does not respond. I see that she has moved down the counter to counsel a couple holding a pamphlet. I wait for her to finish her story. The music on the jukebox is playing Foreigner. Freddy twirls too fast and slips. A desperate grab for the pole keeps him from spilling to the floor. I remember two little girls and I think it is because the song is a sentimental favorite, then I realize that it’s the dancer who prods my memory. A Freddy-look-alike leads to Bohemian rhapsody, leads to two sisters dancing to the tune in a dark room, lest someone see them. I suddenly miss my sister who I haven’t seen for a long time. She was an expert at analyzing loss. Fuck, get out of my head. “Leslie,” I ask.

“What,” she replies.

“Did people tell you, you could have another?” The couple have acquired an escort to guide them through the rooms and explain the action. Like squirrels crossing the fast lane, they can not decide how best to behave.

She nods. “Made ‘em feel better.”

“Did it help?”

“Nothing helps. But nothing hurts forever either.” She notices Freddy and smiles. As little as I know her I suspect Leslie does not take much time to feel things if she can help it. My sister, Sara was a premature birth, a baby who needed plastic hips and a back brace and I was a jealous child. I remember gripping the bars of the crib wondering how to dump the baby onto the floor or reach its neck. Probably wouldn’t have hurt her if I could, but I was thinking about it.

We are in a two story building. Lava lamps and beaded booths set the tone downstairs. Brass studs and black leather booths conceal the shy players who remind me of mongeese scanning the horizon for lions. Pool tables for the losers who can not backstroke. The bar stools are nailed to the floor. Through one portal, you enter a hallway that leads to the couples’ booths and the orgy floor, rooms you can only enter if you are a participant. Through another, you can access the hot tubs, open showers and black mats on platforms. Every room has a window and anyone can watch. A museum of natural history for unbalanced animals. When someone asks me how I can have sex in public I say I don’t notice the difference; it’s all in your head anyway. The watchers are shadows with less substance than early morning mist. You don’t see them so they don’t exist.

So far I had only seen itinerant couples drifting across the checkered floor. Swimmers who refused to risk dipping their toes. Some were swingers who preferred pre-arranged meetings and detested surprises and some were paired visitors who assembled in the galleries and were of no use at all. I knew there were also two men soaking in the tubs, a regular and a newcomer. They carried lube and rubbers in fanny packs and avoided group scenes, but said that they wouldn’t mind stacking rides. I was the only single woman in the club just now and so they were waiting for me to decide. If business didn’t pick up soon, I would join them, but there would be no surprises with them and so I was procrastinating.

“Any action upstairs,” I ask. A bouncer drops a butterscotch candy in my hand and shakes his head. The jukebox lights flicker in the corner. Freddy is sporting a hard-on that is never going to connect. Like Leslie, I try not to laugh. The people here are doing their best except for the ones who are just being gross; the difference being intentions more than actions. Some people here would hurt you, given the chance.

I don’t know the timeline for anyone else, but when I was eight I discovered that I would come if I straddled the big limb of the tree in our front yard and raised myself to a certain angle. A bit later I learned about spigots in hot tubs, brush handles and lipstick tubes. At first I always used an object because I was embarrassed and could discard it when I was done. Then came boys and relationships and those were messy. Little boys are controlling and heartfelt and can’t keep their mouths shut. My father’s friends kept secrets, but they’d get scared that I would tell and never understood when I only wanted them once. Single men are a little better and lesbians think they are introducing you to the best sex ever. Women do not know better than men, what women want. And long lacquered fingernails jab you in the wrong places when they are working tender parts. Strangers are better than friends because friends confuse sex with feelings, but street-side fucks and boffing on dance floors in dives risks disease and other disasters. I thought I was weird for a long while. I still think I’m weird, but I no longer feel perverse.

“Caught a guy button holing the corner of a couch in the main lounge.” Jeff, another bouncer reaches across the bar for the antiseptic.

Leslie peels a towel off a stack and gives it to him. “Did you tell him?”

“Why we don’t have glory holes? Yes.” Jeff is annoyed. They like to keep the club clean and “glory holes” can’t be sanitized. I mark his passage because I like the way he swings his hips. He eyes me on his way out. Staff can’t fuck on-shift and we have yet to hook up.

“Jeff.” The boss points at the uniforms stepping through the door. Cops seeking drugs and prostitutes. They rest their hands on their belts and take longer than necessary to scan the room. Jeff wags a finger at two other men. These guys introduce themselves. The cops will be allowed easy access, but they will go nowhere unescorted unless they insist. They inspect the rooms regularly and don’t expect to find trouble, but hope that they will.

I am hesitating for some reason. Time to dive in or leave.

“Get.” Leslie palms my car keys for safekeeping.

I stow my clothes in a metal locker and join the men in the pool room. You cannot have sex in the spa, sign says so, but there are mats strewn across the floor. The room is a white tile haven. A row of high class porn decorates the walls and a line of plastic chairs is backed against the walls for those who want to watch or jack off. Soft men with hairy legs and flat feet pump themselves and you can hear plastic scratch the floors and see the chairs flex while the men spasm. Hand towels cost five bucks and laundry bins are as numerous as cowards, ashtrays, Kleenex boxes and rubber dispensers. The chairs wear out about every six weeks and every so often someone knocks a picture off the wall. Plastic plants stand in corners. The air is not hot enough and the water is too hot.

I lie on the tile and hang my legs in the tub. The guys massage my feet and calves. We try to fuck on the mats but they are slick and we keep slipping to the hard floor, so we decide to find an empty room. I lead the way and trail a line of men as I walk to a room that needs a key. This row of guys clusters while a maid unlocks the door. They will observe. Briefly, I sympathize for those who cannot step up and I realize that I can not keep my mind on my tasks tonight. As I crawl onto the mattress I catch a mirrored image of me on all fours, the view reminds me of hiding kittens underneath my little sister’s bed and trying to make her believe that they were robots so that she wouldn’t tell Mom. The room has a low ceiling, lying back reminds me of bunk beds, eating Oreos and watching Get Smart through the beams of half built bedrooms. The regular member slathers me with KY gel and I feel my mother’s hands rubbing Vick’s on my chest and the smell of hot camphor fills my mind. Memories mix without context. The man presses down on me, and I remember that close up my ex-husband has ape feet. The man comes, then crawls off. Then is friend steps forward and I see for the first time ever, a penis too small for fucking. He tries, but I can’t feel him. I turn onto my stomach so he can enter from behind. This works for him, but does nothing for me and he forces me so hard against the mat that the skin on my big toe rubs off. A whirl of thoughts that I should have left at the curb won’t leave me be, it’s possible I won’t come tonight no matter how many times I try. Eventually I pretend to come so he will stop pumping and then I leave the room quickly. The men will return to the tubs. It is a good bet that newbies will first try soaking naked in the pools. Walking through the club nude takes nerve unless you have it in spades.

I never could talk to my mother about sex.

“Ask me anything you want,” she would say, and I never could think of a thing to ask that I wanted my mother to explain. I never wanted to be told, never wanted to be prepared for what it might be like, never wanted the experience to be shadowed by what someone else thought. Sex was the measureless frontier, something that could be free if you insisted in a constantly untamed state. This meant never discussing it with friends or family. I slipped once when I was fifteen. I drunk dialed a girlfriend and told her about a time I had been paid for sex. The friend appeared at my bedroom window the next day tromping through the oleanders and brandishing a thermos.

“Stacey,” I said. I let her in just to stop the sound of fingernails tapping on glass. They were laying tar on the street. A sickening whiff of asphalt which hadn’t disgusted me the day before rolled in after her. I flashed on an image of roads rolling on forever and shut the window as quickly as I had opened it.

“Eat this,” she said. The next time I opened my eyes was after she had gone to the kitchen and returned. Dry toast cowering on a big plate and tomato juice served in my mother’s favorite coffee mug.

“I’d rather swallow my own pee,” I replied. A bad choice of words which conjured nausea and a swirling sensation.

“Aren’t you going to school,” she asked.

I looked at my clock and saw she had arrived early enough to dog me to the bus. It took me years to realize what kind of friend would do that for you. A rugged view of what I might have said the night before dropped like cracked rock, into a mental pile. Pieces of statuary I would never fully fit together.

“I won’t tell,” she said. She put the food on the ground. I didn’t have tables or bed stands in my room.

“Why not?”

“Who would I tell?”

We stopped being friends soon after because the possibilities nagged at me and whatever I’d done, I never should have burdened her with the facts. I have never been the same age as my peers. What made them shudder excited me, and I think Stacey was as relieved as I was when I killed the friendship. If I was confused I can’t imagine how she felt.

The upstairs bartender offers me a soda water. I take a break and face the rows of bar glasses so I don’t have to avoid begging glances. Men float in the background drifting near in case I look up. Some sit in the chairs just behind me. A guy with a pony tail tries to pretend he’s reading the magazine. If there were a better ratio of women to men here maybe I wouldn’t feel so hunted. But this is also the feeling I pay for. It’s like walking through a cage of tigers where the beasts are chained. A land of limited surprises where I won’t get hurt but it’s also becoming too settled in here. I know that eventually I will need a less controlled atmosphere in order to get the same kick. The fact that I am beginning to recognize faces is also giving this place substance that I can’t allow.

I don’t have a lot of rules, but I don’t like being bothered at the bar.

“Move off,” the bartender tells an interloper. This bartender is tubby. She looks too young to work here. Her face is smeared with pancake and her hair is much too stiff. Her breasts bobble free in her dress and her skirt rides up because her ass is huge. While I pretend to listen she describes her black boyfriend that her mother won’t address and tells me about her kids who live with her husband. She’s really dumb but very nice, and I use the conversation like a shield to keep the trollers offshore. Then a man sits next to me and starts to talk. He seems harmless so I let him stay.

“First time I’ve been here.” He cups his glass with both hands and stares at the bar.

“Have fun then.” I leave before he starts to tell me about his mother. I feel a bit like a sand box bully who is walking away with the only bucket, but this boy wants to build castles. I just want to make the sand fly.

I head toward a room in the back that I like; the Red Room. It’s pitch black and illuminated with a weird light that makes white items glow. For some reason men will pull their pants down in here but won’t take their socks off. (Sometimes I do laugh at that). I lie down in a corner cushion in the darkest corner and one, then two, then many climb on, stick a dick on my hand, or reach around to fondle my breasts. Then it’s just body parts and sensation and time just flows and I drift on this very pleasant tide until my legs start to shake.

As far as anyone knew my sisters had reputations and I was the prude. I never wanted to slip up and reveal the things I knew I should not know, so I blushed and stammered when the subject was raised. I did not date until I left home and never had conversations with my friends about their boyfriends. I didn’t know how to describe myself and was worried in case I got the words wrong. So I fell silent and became multi-faced and separate. Sometimes it seems to me that I am dozens of kinds of people hiding underneath one costume. An astronaut team visible to, but never in contact with the crowds below. And as I age my needs become more complex. Not just sex with strangers, but dangerous acts as well. I worry about the consequences, but only sometimes.

My dead friend was just like me once. We shared stories, but not adventures and when he got sick I stayed with him as often as I could. When you watch a loved one die you realize that the body is just a machine we inhabit until someone flicks the switch. When that’s certain to come, you see that living safely is just a waste of machinery. His disease ate him whole, beached him on a bloody shore and let the crows take his flesh until all that was left was a soul shining powerfully out of eyes that never left me when I visited. What the sickness couldn’t take, the doctors did, and he became the essence of several machines hooked together all working to keep his eyes open. In my memory we held long conversations at the end though that must have been impossible. I told him everything, always. To everyone else he seemed less himself as the machines and the tumors took him away, to me he became more concentrated, not less. Then today they made me go in order to change his vent. and when I returned, all the machines were stopped and I swear that I felt his presence more powerfully still. His friends would say he should have lived smarter, I say live your life like a wasted sailor on leave. My friend’s end does not scare me, it motivates me. I don’t want comfort. I want contact and agitation. Spin me until I can’t find the pole and drop off the stage.

Like the guy at the bar, some men here ignore the facts and share their stories.

“I’ve never been to a club.”

“I just come to watch.”

“It’s my first time in Vegas.”

They’ve never slept with anyone but their wives or girlfriends. They are on leave. They are taking a work break. They have to hurry.

“Can we do it fast?”

“Why can’t I fuck you in the ass?”

One man insists we’ve become a couple.

“Not even for the length of one night, fella.” A bouncer moves him along while he mumbles something about feeling used. He carries his wallet and his underwear in a Ziploc bag and is completely hairless. Once he goes I see that he has dropped a business card by my hand. I leave it be, maybe someone needs a good plumber in L.A.

If I settle too long I will remember who I am, I am on a break from all that. It’s not that I don’t like my life, but I can’t be myself all the time. I like no one so well that I want their company constantly. Therefore, it’s necessary to shape shift, take the dark paths that lead nowhere. Constant sex creates a spreading sensation and I feel unidentifiable within its flow. All I know is what I feel and not what I think and I think I think too much and too often so this place can be bliss for the girl who can’t shut down. There are other women here, but I rarely watch them and very few will join a scene in progress. The women here are not friendly. They like control. I just want the next guy to move in before the one in me leaves. No breath of air for me.

Afterwards I part the sea and stand. Those who weren’t fast enough stand back but mark which way I go. On a hexagon platform a man is fastening clips to his the lips of his girl’s vagina. She’s pretending that it turns her on. She sees me and nods. He doesn’t notice that she’s miles away. Without speaking she and I understand each other thoroughly. I wander through the rooms looking for something new. There’s a show behind beaded curtains on a round bed. A man wants to see his wife with other men. He’s full figured with a head shaped like the Cinerama dome in Hollywood. I have no idea what he could have that she needs. She’s pretty and perfect and she has a number of rules. No one can touch her but she can touch anything. The men line up, and her husband is proud to posses such a prize. When she’s ready she selects her the first contestant. Her husband comes eventually, but his wife and her partners have to fuck slow and resist their orgasms because he takes a while. I know this pair. They’re from Ohio. They travel the circuit from coast to coast. There are lots of us who keep in touch in our underground manner because it would blow regular minds to know our numbers.

One man presses against me when I stop to watch. “What do you want,” he whispers into my ear. He’s a fat man in a towel. I push him down into a chair and climb into his lap. We kiss and rub but he won’t remove the towel. Some are embarrassed to be seen by other men. I suggest the steam room which is open but has mist. When he gets hard I start to suck. “No, I don’t want to come,” he says and takes a moment to control his feelings. He closes his eyes. “I’ll get you off though.” He shifts and starts to insert himself. The heat is high and the smoke has made the tiles slick and I can’t help but think of snakes having sex. Intertwining stalks. God damn the nature channel.

“Rubber,” I say just before he enters.

“Don't have one.” And he pushes me down.

Red light flashes in my head. “Get one.” I push him back and he slips down a step. There are too many witnesses. He doesn’t want to, but he will obey. When he doesn’t return, a guy leaves a pile of black clothes in a chair in the hallway and takes his place. And by now I find that the orgasms are coming like rolling waves and I can’t stop them and anyone who wants climbs on while I close my eyes and forget even to check for rubbers while they press me into the tile.

“You know what your problem is,” Sara once said.

“I’m not an only child like I’d hoped.” I was looking in the mirror and despairing of the way God had burdened me. Sara was standing next to me dolling up for a club night. As a teenager I was too shy to dance and was bad at small talk.

“You’re a mess,” she said.

I knocked her elbow and she brushed a swath of burnt ember across her nose and cheek. Then she took the Kleenex I offered, used it and threw it at me. She had to wet the next one to get any distance.

“You keep hiding in corners and pretty soon they’ll be the only places where you can be yourself.” She was always the last to get ready. The crowd of kids, all of whom only knew me through her, was splayed across the living room talking to my parents who fancied themselves as hip.

“You think I keep secrets,” I asked. The bathroom had two doors. We always jammed the one our brothers used so that they had to circle the hallways to use the toilet or shower. I had my back to it when I felt someone jiggle the handle and give up. Sara finished her make-up and inspected the result. My sister didn’t need make-up. She was born gorgeous. The men she loved never forgot her.

“I don’t know a thing,” she said. “But, I bet when you leave home, we’ll never see you again.”

“That bother you,” I asked

“That's the way it is and I don’t go to parties when I’m not invited, but maybe I’ll miss the sister I dream of having.” I don’t know why this memory lays next to the one of us dancing to Bohemian Rhapsody, the two sites are years apart.

I google her name sometimes when I can’t sleep. She rushed from the dinner table in the middle of a fight and left before her family realized her intentions.

She sent a batch e-mail afterwards.

“I’m gone. Don’t even bother.”

Then she changed her name and fell down a hole. When we asked social security to find her, they would only confirm her existence and send letters on, they would not give us her information. For a while my mother bought birthday gifts, in case Sara ever returned. Then one day she stopped and donated the swag to Goodwill. I still have talks with Sara in my head. Now she only says what I want to hear. And like she once said, I do miss the sister I wished she might have been. But it also seems to me that regret is an ever flowing stream and if you get used to the sight of it and acknowledge the way it ices up your insides, then it ceases to have any power. I should have talked to my friend more often. It should have helped that I held his hand while he died. The sun should have dropped from the sky when he died.

Life seems like a slipstream to me and the biggest lie is the one where we promise to remain friends. If you count all the ways we fail to connect, you’d reach infinity, a number I can not imagine. I don’t make promises, so I don’t break any. The times I look for Sara on the net are fairytale moments. Even if I could locate the new girl she decided to be I would never interfere with her privacy. I like to think that I understand exactly what she did and why. One needs more than one name in order to thrive. There have to be corners in you no one discovers.

I have told my boyfriend that I no longer do these things. I don’t believe that this is any of his concern. This is my business and the girl he’s dating, she loves him. The girl I am here isn’t his and I don’t see why I have to kill her just to keep the relationship alive. But I’m not an idiot and I know that living in a crazy place only insists sadness. Sara would be on my side if she were here.

A rising pressure reminds me that I have been standing in place for too long. The lady is still servicing her husband by proxy and the circle of guys stroking themselves is layering thickly from the bed to the walls. The men stand near enough that if she wanted she could touch them but they respect the boundaries she has set. I’m thinking too much. I’m like a weight lifter who can’t find anything that’s really heavy anymore and all the effort I am spending here seems like choring. The guy with the towel comes everyday. The guy in the spa usually comes later in the evening. There’s a trio of guys I now duck and a big man I recognize always stands at the edge of all my scenes holding a tall glass in one hand and his dick in the other.

“Leaving already?” Leslie looks at the clock. By three a.m. I am dressed and ready to leave.

“Place doesn’t drop me on my ass like it used to,” I said. I’d reach across for the keys that I can plainly see but touching the wrong side of the bar is forbidden. No one has ever said so, but I know it.

Leslie was filling glasses in a row with a spigot. “You’re bored,” she said. There’s a picture behind the bar. Leslie and her husband when he was stationed in the Philippines. They threw parties for the soldiers and when the time came to come home they built this place. Leslie’s baby reminds me of mine who didn’t make it either. I don’t like that I can connect her to any of my stories or any of my outside stories to this place.

“What if you wanted more than this? Something that just shut your mind down,” I ask. Leslie ignores me until she’s been paid for the drinks.

“Private parties.” She slams the cash drawer shut.

“How’s it better?”

“Stuff you can do in private they don’t allow here.”

“Like what?”

“It’s another scene.” She stopped talking when Jeff walked by and did not continue until he’d left.

“Not for civilians. Activities are negotiated in private, beforehand and everyone accepts the risks. Sometimes pros are invited. You don’t leave until the party is over.”

“Gimme,” I say. She hands me a card with a name and a number then returns my car keys. My next step. And I wonder whether I’ll regret it. But I have to try it out. Already this place seems like home. It no longer confuses me and I can see the steady trails left behind by men I have begun to know and scenes I have already acted out and it’s not enough. My friend would approve.

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