Friday, February 13, 2009
It's been our ritual for years, these two friends and me. When faced with big life changes we conspire to make it happen and this time was no different and in fact it's somehow the biggest change so far. I'm leaving them this time and there were no excuses to be had. My life will be so far away from this I can't help but say yes.
So we hopped on a plane to Vegas.
I rarely drink bloody marys but in Vegas it's all I am thirsty for. We arrived at dusk as we watched the sun set and the moon rise from 30,000 feet. It was spectacular and for a moment rational thought settled in. Then my friend handed me another bloody mary.
When together we are so ridiculous and so silly that we spend most of our time doubled over, this motley crew of gender and race, we three race from taxi to hotel to casino, hurling our bags in the overpriced room one of them sprung for. We have to. It's our last night. We spend the next several hours gambling and laughing and ordering drink after drink. We have a minor run at the poker table, thankfully one of us is a professional and simply told the others what to do. Bet, hold, pass, shut up already. All of a sudden it's 3am and two of us are fading fast but one of us, he can never let a night end. He looks at us and jumps up and down. We have to, he says. In fact it would mean a lot to me. It's not the first time he's asked us to do this, in fact he asks us every single time and we always laugh and ignore him but it's one of the reasons we love him, he never gives up and is always earnest even when he's wrong. But tonight feels more final somehow. So we look into his soulful brown eyes dancing with gin and look at each other and nod, fueled by a night of cocktails and our judgment is impaired. We are going to a gentleman's club.
I barely remember the taxi ride, our hilarity is so over the top. The club like all the other clubs is as bright as sunrise. We tumble out of the cab as groups of men stream past. We females look at each other and shake our heads. I can't fucking believe we are fucking doing this she says and laughs.
The beefy guy at the front tells us how much it costs to get in and I turn to leave thinking there's absolutely no way in hell anything inside that room is worth this price. As I'm turning I notice my friend pulling out his wallet. He pays for all of us and the velvet ropes part. We step over the line and I want to grab my friend's hand but it's time to cowboy up and this is no place for sissies. We walk inside.
This is where I should pretend like I'm sophisticated and worldly and that my jaw didn't drop on the floor. That I wasn't caught speechless by the dozens of drop dead ridiculously gorgeous women all walking around in every fantasy possible. Now I really want to grab my friend's hand but when I look over at her I realize she's got a woman pulling her towards a table. We sit down and three or four women descend immediately. One of them starts petting my friend's hair and she looks at me in desperation. Now who wants to hold whose hand I think with a grin.
Our reason for being there is for the first time all night playing it cool. He settles in his chair and looks at us expectantly. So whaddya think? I start to tell him exactly what I think but all of a sudden he's got a woman next to him. She's not doing much but she's beyond sexy. They all are. There's no denying this simple fact as much as I'd like to posture about how terrible I think all of this is, how baseless and demoralizing and....but I am suddenly captivated by a woman onstage dancing with a pole. I've never seen this sort of thing in real life and now all of a sudden it's everywhere, it's dripping out of every pore and oozing from the floor. I turn to see if my girlfriend is watching and I catch her eye. We cock an eyebrow at each other for a moment in shock and awe. I can't believe some people can actually move like that in real life. Girls come and go, a steady stream of them artfully and professionally ascertaining exactly how much money they can get out of us and fairly shortly they settle on the boy in the group, no surprise there. Even the five or so minutes of constant attention was so unsettling that I am happy it's over and they've focused their efforts elsewhere. We sit and watch for awhile longer, I'm sipping a final bloody mary like it's water and I've been in the desert for weeks.
We talk quietly between us, mostly whispering things like look at her oh my god look at her how does she do that mother of god look over there when a woman sidles up to us and starts petting my arm. Do you like what you see baby she says to me in exactly the way she's supposed to and I say sister you are smoking but can I ask you something and she nods I'm asking in all honesty and with no disrespect do you like this because I can't imagine this is fun for you and she looks at me and laughs. She plops down next to me and says fuck no, this is just the shit I do because men are dumb enough to want to pay for it. We start talking about this like I'm a freshman and she lays it all out, all the ins and outs and nightmares in between. She grabs my drink and finishes it off but for some reason I don't mind.
Another girl comes up and joins in and we talk some more. It's the obvious things, the cash, the tips, the hours, and surprisingly, the medical benefits that make them choose this. We might as well be shoe shopping as they points out girls who glide by fake, real, what do you think, she's everyone's favorite, she's really nice, that guy is here every night that one's a nightmare and on it goes. She's nice, this woman. She goes on to explain how the private rooms work and my eyebrows shoot up again at the price. I want to ask what exactly comes with a cost like that but it strikes me that I might sound like I really am the most naive person in the room. So our conversation runs its course and I like her and I also want to cry.
Sensing there's nowhere else to go she gets up and leaves. My friend and I look at each other, we are exhausted now, this whole place is so tragic and unreal and stimulating and wrong. We look at my friend and he sees our faces What? You guys want to go? And his face falls a bit, it's one of the reasons I love him, he's always earnest even when he's wrong.
It's just really sad here I say and my friend nods and says honestly what did you think we would think. I just can't believe you can really enjoy this and he shakes his head. Well if you want to talk about reality then I guess it's ruined and he laughs and stands up to go. We stumble past the rest of the scene and I can't help but see it all, the fake and the pretty, the desperate and the glitter and heat. We go outside and fall into a cab. I smell like them now my friend says and she does, it's cloying and sparkly and sweat and silicone. We ride into the predawn, silent now for the first time all night. That was really weird doing that with you he says and we punch him in the arm, one on either side. What did you expect, you jackass. And he laughs and reframes himself. I just wanted to do that with you guys and even though it should be weird it's not because he's earnest even when he's wrong and somehow it even makes sense.