She doesn’t even bother with a tease. Her bra simply falls off to reveal scars jagged like hand-drawn lightning bolts.
“Gentleman, let’s hear it for Cherry.”
I clap politely like a proud parent at a Spelling Bee while the others cup their hands around their mouths to amplify their hoots and hollers.
She has some difficulty bending down to pick up wadded dollar bills and business cards. The men don’t care about her struggle. In the blackened mirror behind her, I watch them: their desire, creeping like a bramble, a venomous triffid, taking root into that lurch of a loathsome look.
I turn back to my drunk friends panting like cartoon dogs, tongues rolling out like red carpets. Someone shouts, “Franken-tits!” Her smile falls off her face. Her eyes shut for a beat. Then she drops down hard into the splits, and her arms go up into a Hallelujah, as though she is surprised to have landed it. The men cheer, some whistle. She needs help getting back up.
On the floor, another stripper, keeps bothering me for a private dance until finally I shout out I’m gay! It’s the first time I say it out loud to anyone and this makes me laugh. But she’s not amused. She points her many-ringed finger towards the exit and spits “Sugar, I’m gonna have a bouncer escort you out. We don’t like your kind here.”
Before she can find a bouncer, I chug the rest of my Bud, for it costs ten bucks and I’m not letting that go to waste. Without even saying goodbye to my friends, I head towards the exit. They won’t even notice me gone.
Outside, the moonlight fights with the neon; the stars don’t stand a chance and must submit.
“You can’t go back inside now. Once you’re out, you’re out.” A bouncer instructs.
“I don’t want to go back inside.”
“Spend all your money, huh?”
“Yeah. On beer. One beer.”
He offers me a cigarette from his smashed pack of Winston’s. I take it. He lights
it for me. We watch a miller moth caught under a streetlamp, floating down like a feather onto red yucca—its stiff sword leaves rise from its base like a curved back.
“You alone?” He asks. I can barely see him; it’s a shadow of a face beneath his pulled down baseball cap. When he turns to look up at the sky, I can see a bloom of blue roses, a bruise of a bouquet tattooed on his neck.
“No. I’m here for a bachelor party. Friend’s getting married tomorrow.”
He nods at nothing, looks off out at the distance: a blur of neon and halos of streetlamps. “Yeah, we get a lot of those.”
“Nice tattoo. Blue roses. You like Tennessee Williams?” I immediately regret the question. A literary reference to a bouncer? I should have stopped at “nice tattoo.”
He looks at me for the first time. His eyes study me. I don’t look away, and this moment feels like a test to see who will look away first. I want to pass the test.
“Blue is wrong for roses.” He takes one last drag off his Winston, drops it to the ground, and makes sure it is out with a light stomp of his checkered Vans. As he exhales, the smoke obscuring his face, he nods—a nod that says follow me. I do, without hesitation.
Behind the club, we remain hidden in a cluster of broom-rape, against a wall, the climbing vetch, vinous purple, swelling. I close my eyes and inhale their candied breath. His breath is heavy, almost asthmatic against my neck. His hat falls off as his body presses even closer to mine. His scent reminds me of an old leather jacket, a mix of petrol and sweat. He spits into his hand, forces it into my waistband, and begins to jerk me off. I put my hand under his jeans to feel his ass, and he pulls back and laughs.
“I don’t know if I want your hand down there, if you know what I’m saying.”
“I just want to touch you.” I say the most earnest way that I feel my cheeks redden from embarrassment.
He finally kisses me, and his mouth tastes as I imagined it would: like an ashtray full of copper pennies.
I don’t know how long we’d been kissing and grinding before I hear someone whistle out and then repeatedly shout out “Parker! Parker, where the fuck are you?”
Parker pulls away fast, so fast, he doesn’t even take a second to look at me one last time. He reaches down to pick up his hat, and says, “I’m sorry. My break’s over.” He says this as he buttons up his shirt, his chest a palm tree of hair. He pulls down the rim on his baseball cap so tight I can barely tell if he’s even upset or if he’s even interested in maybe seeing me later after work or something. He walks away without saying anything else.
In the distance, I see a group of men wearing all black beneath the red of neon. Parker is one of the men. They’re smoking and talking. The door opens once in awhile to let out a man, or two, sometimes a group. The men in black continue to smoke, to talk, to check their phones. I’m not sure how long I stand out there watching. From time to time, I imagine Parker, looking over, to see me, still remain hidden, now in the shadow of yucca, hidden behind a crown of massive white flower clusters.
At some point, Parker leaves. I don’t even notice when it happens. I wait. Until my friends finally leave the club, and then I rejoin them under the red of neon. No one even notices I’ve been gone. We stand and smoke and check our phones until someone says, “How about Frankentits?” And everyone laughs, including me.
Kristian O’Hare is a San Francisco-based writer and educator. His plays have been produced or developed in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Omaha, LA, NYC, and San Francisco/Bay Area. His writings have appeared in numerous publications, including Third Coast Magazine, Fourteen Hills, Foglifter, Mud Season Review, Synaesthesia Magazine, and South 85 Journal. He currently teaches First-Year Writing and Creative Writing at San Jose State University.