Club Paradise

"If you want sex you need to go find someone else. Or if you want to fuck yourself right here, I'll go for a walk." Holly rolls away from me and hooks an arm around her pillow.

This is what living in a motel room has done to our relationship. I don't think it will get better. She will probably always associate me with this summer, the lowest point in her life.

So I pack my aching, slobbering cunt into my last clean pair of jeans and cover my tingling nipples with my tightest t-shirt. It's still cool morning when the greyhound bus drops me off downtown.

This is something people do, I tell myself. Even shy young lesbians go into the city looking to get laid. I should have done something with my hair. The wind is going to make it scruffy.

The first place I find is the library. I write down the addresses for the three downtown gay bars I find on line. Then I email an old friend and tell her where I am, what kind of mission I'm on today. It's pathetic to be so horny. I feel like a penniless junkie hitting the streets to find a fix.

The first bar looks like a neighborhood pub except that it's surrounded by shops and office buildings. All the couples in there are straight. The second place isn't open yet but I peek in the back door. It's all done up in leopard print and brass, mostly dance floor. Probably mostly men.

The third bar, called Club Paradise, is open but it's still empty. It has a tacky tropical theme and a poster advertising an all girl band. This will be the place.

I enjoy walking around for the rest of the afternoon imagining that I am single, rich, on vacation, nothing to do but browse and watch people. I go into an adult video store, just to see. There's an inflated doll in a plexi-glass case. I imagine feeding body parts into it and losing them, wonder how it's supposed to work. There are curtained movie stalls in the back. I wonder whether girls ever go in and watch those movies.

I'm standing outside a guitar shop when it occurs to me that I'm about to miss the last bus home. If I miss it I'll have to wait until the first bus at four in the morning and then I'll just make it to work on time at eight.

I pace the sidewalk between the guitar shop and the bus station. The safe, responsible thing would be to go home. I don't have money to spend on an adventure like this. I'm not dressed right -- no one would take me for the type to go home with a stranger. It's too much, lying next to Holly in that motel bed every night.

While the last bus is pulling into traffic I'm sitting in the guitar shop playing, "Corrina Corrina, Where'd you stay last night?" I miss my guitar. Had to sell it to pay rent on an apartment we lost anyway.

I want the girl I go home with tonight to be plain but pretty, like Holly. Holly's beauty was subtle at first but I kept noticing it here and there until her every aspect seemed exotic.

At Club Paradise that night, three men are talking to me and around me at the same time. They're trying to hint that I'm in the wrong bar. I tell them, "Don't worry, I'm not straight." One of them says, "This place is your best bet." I'm pleased because not only does he understand what I came here for, he thinks I can accomplish it. This is something people do. He probably sees it all the time.

The first woman I talk to scolds me for not finishing my education, buys me shots, and somehow gets me to admit that my girlfriend has a drug problem. I get annoyed with this woman who knows all there is to know about drug addicts. She's talking about Holly like she's a textbook case. I'm not going to take advice from someone who sits in a bar all night dumping one shot after the last one down her throat.

Nothing I tell Holly the next day surprises her. A couple of swingers tried to pick me up and I didn't even know what they were until a girl named Stella decided to rescue me. Stella tried to teach me to dance but she said I flapped my arms too much. A 76 year old man who had been a regular since long before it was a gay bar kept yelling, "You're all a bunch of rednecks!" Stella cried and left when the DJ invited me into her booth. I was not the only girl she invited but I was the only girl who got two turns.

The DJ's girlfriend came to pick her up when the bar closed and I went to IHOP with them and the bartenders so I wouldn't have to wait at the bus station for two hours. At the restaurant the DJ, two years younger than I was, dribbled ranch dressing from her mouth onto her salad. I was the only one who didn't laugh.

I noticed then that she had rotting teeth and dirt under her fingernails. She and her girlfriend had matching leather jackets and identical giggles. The girlfriend asked me how I liked the city and I said, "I feel like I'm not really here."

Talking to Holly, I make fun of the way the DJ backed me into an aluminum shelf, gripped both my breasts, and tried to bite halfway through my neck. My neck is still sore but Holly says there are no marks.

I'm smiling, trying to turn it into a joke for Holly, but I remember the way the way I went numb inside as my body automatically followed the DJ's lead.

About the author:

Amy Silver lives in a camper with her boyfriend and several cats. In 2002 she hitchhiked to Maine and returned in an unreliable old van. She is working on a collection of stories about women who love their cars.