It’s been a grueling week in which I’ve had to engage in endless duties that require me to operate outside what feels right and normal for me.
I decided to counteract this madness by posting a story excerpt near to my heart.
I sincerely hope those who read will enjoy and share thoughts.
The Lexus was silent, save for some unintelligible ramblings coming from the talk radio station the man was tuned to, volume too low to hear anything more than a handful of consonants.
“So, we going to your place?” Drew asked, partly to break the uncomfortable quiet, partly because he felt like knowing.
“Ahh,” the man responded, clearing his throat, “no, we ahhh…are going to just find a place.”
“OK, man.” said Drew, watching as the man dropped his left hand from the steering wheel. There was no ring on that hand – he’d already checked – but the guy was trying to hide a ring finger that carried the indentation of a freshly removed wedding band. He was slightly younger than an average hawk, probably in his mid-thirties or so, thinning brown hair, spare tire bulging through his burgundy golf shirt, and he was only still married because his wife obviously hadn’t figured out yet that her husband was into boys. Drew quietly hated guys like him more than he did the others he serviced; he first hated their blatant dishonesty with themselves, and for reasons he wasn’t even sure about, he hated that they, after plunging themselves fully into the madness of casual sex with strange bodies, went home and slept beside their purely untainted women, pretending that the wife and the children and all the family fantasy was really what turned them on. This guy was a poser. Drew despised him.
“So how does this work?” asked the man.
Good Lord, is it possible this is really his first time? Drew thought.
“Seriously?” said Drew, doing little to conceal his disdain. He glared at the man a moment, who kept his eyes fixed forward on the road, perhaps too embarrassed to make eye contact. They were still driving north on Polk, away from the Tenderloin, away from any reasonable destination for doing the thing they were going to be doing.
“Just turn up here.” Drew said. “There is a place off Broadway we can go.”
Lexus guy made the turn, and Drew began to think more and more that this really was the hawk’s first encounter with a Polk Street boy. Based on his suburban appearance, it made some sense. He’d probably fooled around some in high school and college, maybe even paid for it once or twice in the past, but always figured it was just a passing fetish and that he would really be able to settle into a normal, straight life when the time came to do so. Now he was married with a few kids and still empty and unfulfilled, so he probably started hitting some gay bars after work, hoping he might find some satisfaction with a fellow “part-timer”, as Drew had come to label such men. When he couldn’t find any action at the nicer bars because he was too ugly and shy, he probably worked his way further and further west until he found himself in the Polk Street neighborhood, maybe even at Hot Dave’s bar.
Drew opened his mouth to ask the guy if he’d ever been to Hot Dave’s, but stopped his own words when he caught sight of something peculiar out the window. They were driving up some side street toward Broadway, and there was a frumpy, filth-covered homeless guy standing on the sidewalk just a few yards ahead. The man sported a frayed out excuse for a stocking cap on his head and bits of food waste were all stuck in his beard; he was hunched over beneath the weight of what had to be four or five coats – as if the man had decided it was too much effort to take a coat off when it wore out, so he just kept piling one worn out coat atop another. His appearance was not uncommon for the part of San Francisco they were in, but it was what the man was doing that caused Drew to pause and to grow uneasy as the Lexus carried him closer.
The homeless guy was staring straight at him – right into his eyes – and it felt so much like he was saying something without actually speaking with his mouth, like he was shooting a message from his drunken, gritty eyes right from the sidewalk and through the luxury car’s tempered passenger window and embedding into Drew’s mind –
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!
“What the hell?” Drew said, halfway under his breath, and then they were past the man, but Drew felt without looking, that the guy was still staring at him through the back of the car, and there was still that sensation of the accusation, sent out like a verbal dart.
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!
It was the same feeling when he’d shot up in the pay-as-you-go toilet the day before, like people could see through the door, like they could creep into his brain and know exactly the undignified things he was doing and intending to do over and over, and the worst thing wasn’t the idea that everybody knew – that was easy for anybody to figure out – the thing that made Drew uneasy, that now had him squirming in his leather seat, was the idea that all these strangers knew and cared enough to stare him down and mock and judge.
“Who do they think they are?!” Drew blurted out loud.
“What?” said Lexus, obviously startled by his unanticipated outburst.
“Nothi…” Drew couldn’t even finish a response before he was hit with more verbal darts from more eyes on the sidewalk; a strip club bouncer, a guy walking his poodle, a bar worker taking out the trash, a couple prostitutes – all gawking at him, boring into his mind with their miserable, condescending words. He sunk into his seat, looked straight ahead so he wouldn’t have to see all those accusing people. Now he just wanted to get this over with, get paid so he could go and get loaded to make the whole experience go away.
“It’s nothing…The motel is up here on the corner. Park wherever you can.”
Lexus found a spot just behind the motel building, and Drew quickly got out, anxious to get inside before any more sidewalk strangers happened along. He half jogged to the lobby door before glancing back to see his client rifling through things in his car, probably trying to make sure nothing valuable was left out in the open. The man finally emerged and slowly made his way toward the motel, looking back at his car on the sidewalk, perhaps reluctant to leave the thing on such a crappy street.
“What’d you expect, guy?” Drew laughed. “We coulda gone to the Hilton, but I figured you’d rather not risk being, you know…seen.”
“Oh, this is fine!” said the man, nodding his head, failing to hide his nervousness. He gazed backward at his car while he walked, stumbling over the curb, barely catching himself from falling. Drew wondered if it was more than just leaving the car that was bothering the man. Maybe it was everything. This whole thing they were doing. The guy was still new to this, that was more than obvious now, and he still carried a level of trepidation, embarrassment. In a strange way, the pudgy pervert almost looked innocent as he shuffled toward the shabby motel where he was prepared to engage in an unmentionable act.
Drew didn’t feel sorry for his embarrassment; it was more annoying than anything, but he did feel a little jealous. That was him once, not so long ago, but longer than he could remember, and now he felt a tinge of longing for home. Even better than home, he was longing for something he thought he had long ago, but never really did. It was something he couldn’t put his finger on.
“Scuse us kid.” said a quavering voice from his left. The sickly aroma of liquor pierced the air, and Drew turned to see a drunk guy on the arm of a hooker, trying to enter the motel. He stepped aside, and the drunk opened the door, bowing and gesturing his date into the lobby in some mock form of chivalry. The paper-thin prostitute, clad in tight jeans and impossible heels, shuffled to the door, peering back at Drew before entering. She glared, mocking and stabbing with her eyes.
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!
“Shut up!” he said out loud.
“Huh?” Lexus was beside him now.
“Nothing. Let’s go.”
They walked to the desk and waited behind the drunk who was involved in an insane negotiation with the attendant over an hourly price for a room. The lobby stunk and was made worse by the fact that the trollish desk guy had the heat cranked, so he was effectively baking every funky smelling material and sticky fluid that coated the corners of the place up into the air, which gave Drew the feeling that all that stink was being absorbed into his crevices without touching a thing. Were it not for the fact that Hot Dave was still pissed at him for the mess in his office, Drew would have found the bar basement far preferable to this hole. No matter. He’d certainly done business in worse places.
Sweat, a fine layer, was forming on his forehead as he tried to keep his eyes down, away from the prostitute who was leaning next to the counter, waiting for her client to lay down money for a room. A pair of torn up, lime green vinyl chairs occupied the corner of the lobby next to a round coffee table with outdated magazines fanned on the top – a laughable display. It amused Drew that someone still thought to portray the impression that the motel was hospitable to anybody not sold out to flesh dealing or trading or buying, or who wasn’t there for more than a day or two before their government checks ran out. He reached over, picked up a two year old copy of “People” and pretended to glance it over as he waited.
The drunk guy was becoming agitated with the night clerk. Turns out he had an issue with the motel’s one hour minimum charge and kept repeating that he would only need the room for ten minutes. For his part, the clerk kept mumbling that it wasn’t his place and there was a perfectly good alleyway in back if the rates didn’t suit him.
Drew glanced up from his magazine, immediately catching eyes from the paper thin prostitute. She bore an annoying sneer beneath caked on makeup, and she was scratching one forearm in a way that was all too familiar to him. Rather than look away, as was his inclination, he decided to glare back at her defiantly, feeling that this girl, of all people in the city, had no grounds to look down upon him for what he was doing. She was no different than he – although a little older, but nobody could tell him that what she did with her men was really any worse than what Drew did with his, and it was all for the same reasons; she had the track marks to prove it, but then it was this very thought – the realization that he was the same, the same as an aging, sneering prostitute, and yes she was older than he by at least five years, so that he could assume he would be in this same rotten motel in five years with another chubby hawk, or worse; he could find himself alone and eating out of dumpsters by then because boys in his trade were only just that – boys; the thought of being the same, or worse than the same, began to poke violently at the back of his brain as he continued to stare back at the sneering prostitute. He could sense it coming in advance just before he heard her stare turn into silent words.
I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING!
Drew mentally shot words back, Same as you, you dumb whore!
Her expression, the sneer that made her look like she was on the edge of a laugh, remained unchanged. Drew figured his psychic message failed to make it through or maybe…maybe it wasn’t her, or anybody else on the street for that matter, sending the messages.
“Come on! We’ll just use my car!” he heard the drunken man slur before grabbing his prostitute by the wrist and storming toward the door. She stumbled along in her giant heels while the man dragged her, and just before she disappeared out the door, she looked back at Drew and laughed hysterically. He could hear whooping her way down the sidewalk. By the time he looked back, the hawk was already with the front desk guy, sheepishly asking for a room.
“How long you need?” the clerk asked. The man nervously peered back at Drew.
Geez, am I really going to have to hold his hand all night? he thought.
“An hour should be fine.” Drew said to Lexus man, who was becoming quite sweaty thanks to the stifling heat of the lobby and probably from his nervousness. Drew was streaming perspiration himself now, from the heat, from frustration, from just because. He had the sensation of tiny pin pricks against his skin, common when it’s too hot in a room and the place reeks like body odor and the idiot checking you in is taking way too long –
WHEN THE STREETS ARE CRAWLING WITH TEN THOUSAND X-RAY EYES,
spying on every misdeed performed inside the sweat box motel, and somehow he could still hear the hysterical laughter of the sneering prostitute, though she had to be blocks away by now. Drew couldn’t have been more anxious to escape that lobby and to get Lexus satisfied so he could be finished for the night.
“Are we ready?” Drew said in a hurried voice, wiping a damp forehead with his sleeve. His question was answered when Lexus turned to him with a room key in hand. Drew immediately left the lobby and started down the hall, knowing the hawk would follow. He decided in advance that he wouldn’t discuss price until after. Not with this dude. He’d find out later how expensive this date was going to be.