the calm before

My apartment has a small patio which is a convenient place to drag a chair from my from kitchen and sit outside and read. It was a nice Saturday morning that didn’t start with a hangover but gently warmed up to a pot of coffee and a crisp fall sun. I had thrown on a pair of college sweats and a hoodie and taken my pot of coffee with me outside. I subscribe to the New York Times via my Kindle and was enjoying the early hours catching up on news and sipping java when Ike came skating up on a fancy Arbor board.

I was feeling a combination of surprise and annoyance at seeing him skate my way. For starters, it was far too early for him to be up and about and secondly, I wanted the morning for myself. He looked like a man on a mission as he glided across the asphalt toward me.

“Yo my brother!”

“Ike, what the hell are you doing up so early?”

“I wake when the day beckons me to do so.”

He often waxes poetic, especially when he’s inspired by something.

“You want coffee?”

“Absolutely.”

I went inside to fetch a cup and returned to find him sipping from mine.

“Why don’t you keep that cup and I’ll just pour a new one.”

He grinned at me  – a stupid, sheepish grin over the steam still coming from the cup. “Sounds like a plan.”

For a few brief moments we sat across from each other just drinking coffee. He was looking around the street, taking in the early stirrings of my neighbor heading out to surf and the girl across the street taking her dog for a walk. He was calmly absorbing the sleepy morning but I, on the other hand, began to swell with an ominous uncertainty as to why he was coming to my place so early in the day. Let’s face it, the kid was not a morning person but he was a highly motivated individual when he happened to stumble across something that struck his fancy the way another Ike might strike Tina. He had the look on his face of once again finding a mission for us to complete.

“Ok, give.”

He blinked at me a couple of times and feigned a complete ignorance. “Give what?”

“Stop fucking around and tell me why you came to my place, by skateboard no less, and what it is that you want.”

He continued to try to poker face me for a few seconds before breaking into a laugh. “Dude, you don’t trust me at all.”

“It’s not that I don’t trust you but simply I just know you. You wouldn’t be up and around so early if you didn’t have something you wanted to discuss or plan…so, give.”

“Fine, fine. I have three tickets for the Texas-OU game in Dallas, good seats, and I think we should go. My only question is who else should we bring?”

The Texas-OU Game, known in the college football world as The Red River Shootout, is one of the most exciting things in college sports. It’s two legendary rivals meeting on a field midway between their respective campuses and playing a game that launches a weekend of debauchery and ridiculousness. I have been before and it’s just one big party that also happens to have a football game.

“I have to think about it. I mean there are flights, which I’m sure are expensive now, and the hotel. It’s a lot.”

‘I already booked us on flights and paid for a hotel. All you have to do is buy a few rounds once we’re there and the entire weekend is paid for.”

He said it casually as he looked off into the distance. This was one of those schemes for which I didn’t have an option. I was in before I even knew I was in. The decision had been made. That’s often how things worked with Ike. He just made the plans and you went along.

I sipped my coffee and looked off into that same distant distance. I was just dragging out the inevitable. Of course I wanted to go to Dallas, Texas and spend a weekend drunk off my ass but I at least had to maintain the facade of being a responsible person who couldn’t just fly off on a whim and get entirely dismantled under a flood of beer and whiskey.

I looked up at him. He was still maintaining his unconcerned air even though he suspected I would try to say no. Fuck it, my recent Vegas trip had been enough to drill home I still liked to get rowdy from time to time.

Who else would we bring?”

“I was thinking we bring Alex.”

“Xander?”

Ike looked at me somewhat quizzically and grinned, “The very same.”

I let these thoughts ruminate, or perhaps fester, in my brain. Ike, Xander and myself hopping aboard a plane and leaving the state to take our traveling shitshow to the great state of Texas. This had every indication of being a great time while simultaneously being a very, very bad idea.

About that time, my surfing neighbor pulled out of his driveway with his board on top of his classic Woody. He rolled down the passenger side window and leaned across the console.

“You have any interest in paddling out today?”

“Not today – I’m going to rest. Going to need my energy.”

Nothing I ever say affects my neighbor Jason one way or the other. I could have just told him I was going to stay home and suck off a horse and he wouldn’t have changed his demeanor. He just nodded to me, rolled up the window and drove off toward Malibu.

Ike on the other hand reacts to everything and he was already popping out of his seat like a Mexican jumping bean. “So you’re in?!?”

“Yeah, I’m in.”

Like I said, even before I was in, I knew I was in. I just hoped we would manage to avoid our typical smorgasbord of trouble. Texas executes guys like Ike just for fun.

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you don’t meet nice girls in strip clubs

We weren’t in an exceptional hurry to get away from the pool. Young ladies in their twenties with unspeakably perfect bodies and no tan lines had begun filling up the empty chairs and Rick had sat down on the chair to my left so there was no compulsion to make a hasty exit. We had another round coming and we were more than capable of making small talk until it became apparent we had to move on to the next event.

Rick was far more amusing than he had ever let on. He was in his mid-forties with a mid-forties spare tire comfortably wrapped around his midsection and a head that was losing two hairs for every pound his gut gained. He liked to laugh though and he loved breasts. Often times, conversation amongst people who do business together stays within the confines of safe and acceptable but Rick threw around the word ‘tits’ as carelessly as a college freshman. Here’s something to remember – married men, especially those married more than ten years, are the most dangerous guys to go out with. They don’t often get a hall pass and when they do they max it out and all the more so when they are in Vegas. Rick was going to be dangerous.

In the normal world, drinks turn to shots at a slow pace, but in Las Vegas the ratio of drinks to pure alcohol easily exceeds 4X of anywhere else in the States. Again, it’s the full gamut of choices that are laid out and are always there but in Vegas you feel more inclined to choose unwisely. It’s a Vegas placebo.

So, while we began with just drinks suddenly we’re ordering shots. Our compatriots of industry are busily hacking away in their prisons of Microsoft office and we were waist deep in a gorgeous pool doing shots with twenty-one year old girls. Parker looked at me and his face said it all – brilliant Nevada spring day, unending amounts of booze and enormous bar tabs completely justified due to the presence of Rick. Suddenly Christmas was like my ex-girlfriend and came twice a year.

Shots blend together quickly and you find yourself, between rounds, thinking of something diabolically fantastic for your next order, which only quickens the pace. Needless to say, booze was flowing and our old-man game was entertaining but not threatening to the young women who gladly let us buy them drinks but never considered returning any favors. Eventually it was time for the corporate mixer and we were shit-faced and oblivious. My drunk super-power is not giving a flying fuck and I shared it with my comrades so we could all ride the train of ‘who fucking cares’ together.

Finally, after several memorable and yet still forgotten hours, Rick suggested we break away from the pool to our respective rooms, clean up and reconvene for a pre-titty dinner. Rick was the customer and the customer is most often right and so we made that our plan and I went up to my room.

I travel more than most people and spend the majority of my time in hotel rooms. I am comfortable there and have acclimated to the point I sometimes feel lost amongst my own things in my own place. I take solace in the generic and yet accommodating creature comforts of casinos and hotels. The Wynn is an exceptional place to stay and my room begged me to go out into the night and bring home a young lady to share it with. I had no desire to argue with my room nor with the shots that were making the case for the bedworthiness of every woman I passed in the hallway. I accepted the fact as I went to meet the boys that the only thing that would keep me from banging a fat girl was unconsciousness. Fortune favors the bold, but tequila favors the big.

I met up with Rick and Parker in the bar in the lobby and they each had a drink in their hand with another waiting for me on the bar. We had moved on to a fine scotch that was well beyond my knowledge of spirits but went down like a whore after hours. I had ordered another before ever noticing I had finished the first. My autopilot light was already on and judging by the glassiness of my comrades’ eyes, so was theirs. Some nights it’s best to take the keys and hand them to your Id and hope that little fucker gets you home in one piece with all your vital organs in tact.

We made our way out to dinner. Debauchery makes fast friends of men. Already, our day had been filled by the supple flesh of twenty-something year old girls and now we were headed to Mario Batali’s Carnevino to partake of bloody red steaks and deep red wine. I had been salivating since I was poolside where a young college girl named Mely asked me to shoot tequila from her navel. Now I was gastronomically erect for a last supper kind of meal – the dinner I’d share with Lucifer himself to celebrate the arrival of Ossama bin Laden. I assure you, there wouldn’t be any virgins left for him after that dinner.

We dined in an excess only William Blake could fully appreciate. The kind in which you knew your next round on the toilet would have you shitting pure butter. The vacancy signs were hanging on each of our foreheads as we hopped another taxi and headed to the Spearmint Rhino. We would wash down the rare steaks with a few lap dances and hope that the endless rain of money would convince one of those big breasted girls to marry us and carry our abortions.

With that kind of introduction to the second half of the evening, you’re probably surprised to hear me say I was impressed with how fucked up things actually got.

who’s your daddy…wait, who’s that?

Growing up naturally means a loss of childhood and with that loss comes the accompanying loss of the magic of things like Christmas morning. I remember waking up at the crack of dawn, bursting out of my head with excitement over the toys I hoped to find under the tree. I would be so giddy on Christmas eve, my mother could barely get me to sleep at all. That’s pretty much how I felt sitting in Q’s, playing pool with Jenny, Harley and Ike. Any time a guy thinks he going to get laid he gets pretty damn happy but it becomes exponentially greater when he thinks he’s going to get it on with two girls he just met. That was me, there on the bar stool, with my own personal Merry Christmas taking shape right in front of me in the visage of two nice young ladies who worked at Hooters.

We played a game of pool, me and Jenny against Ike and Harley, and the flirting between me and Jenny began to increase. I’ve mentioned it before, but I do have a mostly dormant conscience that will rear its head from time to time, generally cherry-picking the most inopportune moments to impregnate the situation with moral consideration. I could see in Jenny’s eyes she was infatuated with the young Dr. Christian Reynolds. He had all of my charm with the added bonus of his medical school pedigree and the ability to turn any woman into a doctor’s wife. The problem was he obviously didn’t exist and this usurper of his identity was a far cry from the stable, career-oriented man she was expecting. This usurper was me, a mostly degenerate but affable fellow with a healthy vocabulary and a predilection for dive bars, tequila and easy women.

This dormant fucking conscience of mine looks up and see’s Jenny’s shimmering green eyes and her intentional mix of girl you take home tonight and girl you take home to mom and starts to grouse about it. Jenny was infatuated with a fabrication. So, while watching her walk around the table and lean over to take her shot, realizing a part of the pose she is striking is for my benefit, I was feeling a slight pang of guilt. At the same time, my mostly devious inner-monologue was making the case that she was infatuated more with the Dr. part and less with me, the actual part. That seemed somewhat superficial to my devious inner-monologue and really constituted a wash as far as matters of conscience should go.

All of these thoughts were interrupted by Harley who came and leaned into me, whispering into my ear, “How’s it going?”

I looked at Harley. Harley didn’t have the look of a woman who was out to marry a doctor. The look she was throwing my way was the same I would get from any woman who wasn’t under the false notion that I was a physician. She had a smile that was telling me she and I could have a lot of fun together and the way she winked at me hinted she probably had undressed me with her eyes at some point. Harley was a force to be reckoned with.

“I don’t know Harley. It’s hard to say. I think Jenny has greater ambitions beyond a night of carnal bliss.”

“Yeah, I was kind of afraid of that. She can kind of be that way. At least you and I can still get it on though.”

She laughed an all too knowing laugh and waltzed over to the table to take her shot. Harley was a sex bomb with the way she moved and the way she conducted herself and she was a thrill to watch. Unfortunately, while I was watching her, Jenny was watching me. She got a little jealous and came back to my bar stool with a slight air of petulance. She didn’t say anything to me but she stuck her tongue out at me as she walked my way and then positioned herself between me and Harley. She was making her point pretty clear.

Jenny was definitely being noticeably aloof toward Harley and Harley was the kind of girl who would only then be inspired to agitate and antagonize her friend. In between shots, Harley started putting a full-court press on me, walking up and slinging her arm around me or standing mere inches away from me, giving me a playful poke and lots of come hither smiles. The two girls, the two friends – the two women I had hoped would become the tandem for my menage-a-trois – were at odds with each other.

Ike noticed the budding rivalry for my, or Dr. Christian’s, affections. As with most mild dilemmas I create for myself, Ike took great joy in watching it play out, so much in fact, that he managed to add to the awkwardness building around us. Thankfully his date, Jane, showed up and, after introductions and a quick drink, whisked him off to another bar, leaving me with Jenny and Harley vying for my attention.

Since there were now only three of us, we decided to play a game of cutthroat, which was quite apropos for how things were starting to pan out. With Ike gone, there was even more time for the flirting and maneuvering between shots. Harley had made the decision that the threesome was no longer possible but felt that the night would be salvaged by the two of us slinking off somewhere and getting sweaty naked. Jenny continued her course of saying enticing things while looking very pretty doing it and hinting that we should make plans for a later date – a proper date. I have to say it again, Jenny would make a beautiful wife some day for some guy who was looking for someone like her. I just wasn’t that guy.

Was I more attracted to Harley because she represented more of an immediate gratification? I would be a liar if I said that didn’t factor in but there was more than that. Harley was sexy and fun – she loved to laugh and looked damn fine doing it. She liked the fact that I was a pretend doctor but it was obvious she didn’t care about it the way that Jenny did. Harley was interested in undressing the man, not the job. She took her shot and turned to me, finding me gazing longingly at how incredible her ass looked in her jeans. Her blond and black streaked bangs were hanging over her left eyes and with a quick toss of the head she flung them from her face. While Jenny was setting up her shot, ignoring us for the time being, Harley walked over to my bar stool, splitting my legs and putting her body up against mine and kissed me – not a peck or a friendly hello but a soft-lipped, tongue filled ‘let’s ditch this place‘ kind of kiss. Once again, I was making out in a bar.

When the kiss ended, the gig was up. Jenny stood at the table looking as if she had just been stabbed. There was an anger welling with hurt in her eyes and she would have ripped Harley’s head off if she could. Harley was still facing me, still pressed against me.

“Is she looking at us?”

I nodded and Harley laughed again.

“Looks like it’s just going to be you and me but I think I can keep you entertained.”

It was my shot and it might have eased the tension had I stood up and walked over to the table, but Harley’s kiss and that damn devilish laugh had me so turned on, my cock was at complete and full attention. So, I’m sitting there with the lovely Harley pressed against me and my erection pressed against her. I didn’t feel like modeling my stiffy for the pool playing crowd so I grabbed Harley and started making out with her again. When we finished our second kiss I looked at her and suggested we make a hasty exit, thinking I could use her to help shield my boner. While we had been lip locked, Jenny apparently had enough and left without saying good-bye.

So ended any chance of two lovely ladies in the sack with me, but…

We hopped a cab and were back at my place within minutes. We didn’t stop making out the entire time and Harley was feeling me up like I was an altar boy. We exited the cab, my little member still at full attention, and stumbled to my door. I pressed her against the door and she started removing my shirt before we ever got it unlocked. I fumbled with my key while deeply involved with Harley’s lips and managed to open the door and fall inside just as my shirt was ripped over my head and my pants were undone.

We navigated my living room while never breaking lips and fell onto the bed, commencing with the rest of the disrobing. She asked for music and so I grabbed the remote to the radio while she plied my neck with kisses. There was a Debussy CD already loaded and that would have to do because there was no goddamn way I was stopping to pull out my iPod.

I won’t bore you with a lot of carnal details but our little tryst turned into a flesh filled fantasy of porntastic proportions. Harley may have been one of the sexiest women I have ever met, from the way she walked, to the way she kissed to the way she fucked me senseless. I will say that, deep in the throes of round two, our sweaty bodies fulfilled with each other once already, she got on top of me and began to ride me in a way only my most secret fantasies could have hoped for, my supine body being pulled into hers as she rocked back, bending her torso back over my knees and with an undulating thrust bringing herself back upright. The intensity in her thrusts continued until a low moan began rumbling inside of her and then she started to yell.

“Fuck me Christian! Fuck me Christian!”

Here’s the deal, somewhere in the progress of the night I had forgotten about the false identity. There I was in the midst of having one of the best sexual experiences of my life and this beautiful girl starts yelling some stranger’s name. I had a moment of shock until I remembered how we got to that point and then a lingering cognitive dissonance as the woman I was fucking was yelling someone else’s name. Then suddenly…I was ok with it.

Harley was having a good time. Dr. Christian Reynolds was having a good time and me, I was having a really good time as well. Thus all was good with the world. Harley stayed the night and when she left the next morning I briefly pondered what might happen if I told her the truth but then decided to let it go. Truth would only complicate things at this point.

Shortly thereafter I quit practicing medicine and went into fields less likely to get me laid. I’m sure somewhere my imaginary mother was very disappointed.

one for me and one for me

I’m not going to wax overly philosophical but living is like surfing. There are moments in which you’re just in the line-up, enjoying the scene and then the water starts to move. You paddle for that swell as a wave begins to crest and you take it as far as you can. That’s the general thought behind this particular day. It started just like any Friday in which I have to pour myself into the office but a set came in and suddenly I’m headed off with two friendly girls and one of them has suggested we have a threesome. I had every intention of riding that wave as long as I could.

Jenny and Harley wrapped up their shifts right about the time my world started taking on the unmistakable tenor of just-past-tipsy. Enough beer had gone from pitcher to gullet to drown the most rational of thoughts and we were in the easy slide of inebriation – some more than others. It became apparent we were losing Cliff pretty quickly. He really was nothing at that point beyond a goofy smile with eyes popping wheelies inside his head. He was just about done by six but he had started a little earlier and he drinks a little faster than I do. Ike was his usual self. It’s not exactly easy to tell the difference between drunk Ike and sober Ike. Some people become heaps of worthlessness but I’ve never seen ike regress into a drooling lump of mush.

We plopped Cliff into a taxi and he didn’t put up much of a fight. He started to protest but then had a ‘fuck me, I’m drunk‘ moment and decided to pull the rip chord. The plan was to head over to Q’s, grab a table and some beers and play pool for a while. With Cliff’s exist, that left what would have been a neat four-pack of two girls and two boys, but one of the girls had made her intentions known to me that we were going to attempt the elusive menage-a-trois later that evening. That left Ike as a fourth wheel, which only makes sense in the world of menage-a-trois. I had no real desire to see Ike naked. I have no real desire to see any man naked and when it comes to threesomes, I’m an advocate of the one boat and two rivers versus the two boats and one river variety.

Here’s where I’ll pull back the curtain just a little bit: guy code. It exists but in an entirely fluid fashion and it’s passed along as are many ancient tribal doctrines, via an oral tradition. Some guys tend to ignore it all together and then wonder why so many other guys think they’re douchebags. There is nothing noble about it but it makes our interactions easier and roughly 99% of it deals with cockblocking, or rather how to avoid doing it. It’s applicable in this story because there are two boys and two girls but one of the boys has a shot at scoring with both of the females. This actually is the royal flush of provisions and pretty much trumps any other scenario. Guy code dictated I had position and Ike had to stand down.

When the girls went to go change out of their Hooters uniforms, I broached the subject with Ike.

“Ok Ike, here’s the deal – Harley thinks she and I can talk Jenny into a three-way with us.”

“What?!? No fucking way! Really?”

“Yeah, she just mentioned it to me. Technically she mentioned it to Dr. Christian.”

“Wow, Dr. Christian has a lot more game than you do.”

I have to admit, he was right and that realization was slightly depressing at the time, but only in passing. I had a shot at the Everest of male sexual fantasies. Frankly, I had never been close before and so, even though at 2/3 of the way there we still had the treacherous 1/3 left to go, the near tangibility of it was titillating. I had never consciously aspired to have a threesome but if it looked like it might fall into my lap then I was going to make sure my lap was accommodating.

“Yes, Dr. Christian has game for sure. Thank god I’m his only beneficiary.”

“Ha! Well said, sport. So do you need me to leave?”

“No, I think that would be a little too transparent. I kind of need you here for a little bit.”

“Say no more, sport. Here’s what we’ll do. I will head out to Q’s with you guys and will shoot a text message over to Jane. She mentioned wanting to meet up with us and so it will work perfectly. We can transition to the new spot and get you situated and then I will have the perfect excuse to make a timely exit. Work?”

Guy code – that’s the kind of magic it can work. I had no idea who Jane was but now we had a plan.

“Perfect.”

Harley and Jenny returned shortly, looking far less Hooterish. It was interesting that before when both were decked out in matching orange shorts and white tank tops, Jenny looked prettier but now that they were wearing street clothes Harley seemed more attractive. Both girls changed into jeans and flip-flops, pretty much the fashion de rigeur for west coast beach cities, but Harley’s ensemble with a white blousey thing and her slightly punk hair worked a little better. She gave me another knowing wink when she walked up.

We all jumped into a cab and headed down the street to Q’s. Now Q’s sets itself up as a billiard bar and there are indeed a lot of pool tables to be found there, but the place is better known as a college crowd, or near college crowd, meat market. It’s the kind of place a guy recently graduated from USC might roll into with a polo shirt with the collar up and work some of his douchebag magic and convince a young lady to hop into the BMW he got for graduation and roll back to the apartment he shares with two other guys. I know this because I have been there and done that, minus the raised collar, USC, the roommates and the BMW. However, since Harley suggested we play pool and the options are somewhat limited it would have to work.

Luckily, we waltzed in before the mad rush of Friday evening had started and we were able to procure a table while the girls went to fetch a round of beers. I am a lousy pool player and all the more lousy once I have been imbibing. As I mentioned earlier, we had moved beyond tipsy during our day of drinking but the brief respite while waiting for the girls and then cabbing over to Q’s cleared my head some. A man should have his wits about him if he’s going to try to get naked with two women. That much I was sure of.

Harley and Jenny each were carrying two beers. I felt a little guilty that they had been bringing us beer all day and were still doing it but that feeling of social consciousness was also fleeting. Jenny made her way over to me and handed me a cold mug of suds. I didn’t ask what I was drinking, but merely thanked her and clinked glasses with her in a toast. She never broke eye contact as she toasted and drank. She had beautiful greenish eyes that seemed to shimmer beneath her long eyelashes. Her eyes were playfully dancing around my gaze. She then raised her right eyebrow.

“Sooo…Harley tells me you kind of like me.”

Aha! Already the crafty little minx was whispering like Iago in Jenny’s ear and filling her full of inspiration. I did like Jenny. She was pretty in an all American kind of way. She was the cute girl at your office or the cute girl in your building. She would make a very cute wife for a man much different from me some day. She would probably marry a man like Dr. Christian, which was why she was smiling so sweetly at that very moment.

“Yes, well, Harley is right. I do like you.”

“Good. Maybe I like you too.”

We toasted again, this time our eyes playfully dancing more Lambada than Foxtrot. Then Harley and Ike wandered over and joined us. Harley wrapped her arm around Jenny’s shoulders.

“So what are you two sexy people talking about?”

She winked at me again. I looked at Ike and he winked at me two. It now seemed like everyone was in on the conspiracy except for Jenny, the most crucial person of all but she seemed at the very least amenable to such a suggestion. Harley then handed me the cue ball.

“You wanna break, doc? I was thinking you and Jen against us…unless you want me and Jen against you.”

Jenny giggled. Harley winked at me again and Ike was just smiling.

So far, I was a pretty big fan of Pioneer Day.

the doctor was in

Harley brought out the first pitcher and round of wings, carefully navigating the treacheries our fucking cowboy hats posed for her to reach down and put things on our table. It was Pioneer Day somewhere in the world and we were eating buffalo wings, drinking pitchers of Stella and flirting in girls wearing clothes at least one size too small. I’m sure our pioneer ancestors would have approved.

Harley would tend to her other tables, though there weren’t many, but she would linger with us. Ike filled her in on Pioneer Day and she plucked the hat from my head and it put it on her own. There is something about a woman in a cowboy hat that cuts through my breastbone and straight into my heart. I can’t really put my finger on it but it definitely sparks a charge. The same can be said for woman in a dress. Take that beautiful creature and put her in a dress with cowgirl boots and a hat and I’m tempted to drop down on my knee and pledge my undying love. Tempted – I said.

So we have the lovely Harley now playing along with our holiday festivities and, as Hooters was a little slow that particular Friday, another waitress named Jenny started coming over and joining our revelries. Jenny reddish wavy hair and ample curves to fill out her little tank top. Her curves were the natural variety that softly defined her womanhood. She was a little pale for a beach gal and smattered with freckles. She also apparently felt about doctors the way I felt about gals in cowboy hats. I honestly never fully understood the impact two letters, MD, could have on people until that day. I had given many prevaricated occupations before but all in the service of amusing myself. However, telling a couple of ambitious and attractive young ladies in LA that I was a doctor had the unanticipated effect of industrial grade panty solvent. Both girls ongoing insistence of calling me Dr. Christian was further proof that the doctor part of my false identity was of equal importance as the rest. Your job may not define you but sometimes it does define your penis.

Harley, Jenny and I had a few more exchanges about my choice in medicine. They began to get a little more playful and started softly tossing me questions about female hygiene. It was about 20% test and 80% conversation fodder on their part but like most things, if you think it about for a moment you can play your bluff without getting called. I had an ace up my sleeve in that I lived with a girl for two years who was in med school and some of what she was learning rubbed off on me in an osmosis kind of way. However, casual conversation in a bar, even if it involves medical expertise, isn’t all that challenging especially if two of the participants have a vested interest in believing everything being said is true. Thus, Dr. Christian was more than capable of keeping up the charade of actually being Dr. Christian and specializing in gynecology.

As things tend to do with me, Cliff and Ike – the pitchers flowed and the laughs increased. Really, the wings at Hooters don’t get enough credit. They’re tasty. That fact gets lost in all the other hype. It’s fairly well established that men in any kind of an aroused sexual state really struggle with the finer points of discernment, whether it be sound decision making or appreciating something good to eat. This is the reason topeless bars are such a brilliant money making idea. You fill a place with a bunch of guys with semi’s and chub but no real means of finishing the job and you charge them $40 a pop to have a girl come over and keep them in their engorged state and they become ATM’s, dishing out money with reckless abandon.

But, I digress. The good times were rolling and picking up speed. Jenny and Harley were the day shift and getting off work around 6. There was already talk of the small group of us relocating at that time to another venue, after the girls changed of course. A friendly rivalry was growing between Jenny and Harley for the attention of Dr. Christian. Both of them seemed to have greater plans for the post-Hooters soiree that was brewing and from my perspective it was really a no-lose situation. Harley, with her blond hair and black highlights and hints of tattoos peaking out from beneath her shirt, was more randy and open about our impending future together perhaps lasting no more than a night but Jenny started coming on strong with big doe eyes dreaming of something a little less carnal and tad more substantial.

Whatever complaints I may have had about Ike, he was by no means a cockblocker, even if there were two girls involved and it looked like they were both holding out for me. Cliff was sinking down a little further into each new mug of beer. He was more of a friendly drunk with no real agenda beyond the moment. So the boys fell in, towing the wingman lines and aiding and abetting the fictional Dr. Christian Reynolds.

Harley came back our way with a fresh pitcher of Stella she said was on the house and set it on the table and sat herself on my lap. We had already spent a few hours in the restaurant drinking, eating and getting to know the girls and Harley was itching to finish her shift and head out for some entertainment.

“I got a proposal for you, doc.”

“And what would that be?”

“I think you and your friends should come play pool with Jenny and me.”

“Sure, I kind of thought that was the plan.”

“It is but I need your help with something.”

I liked the tone in her voice when she said that – it was full of promise.

“Harley, you know I’d do just about anything for you. How may I be of assistance?”

“You see, Jenny really likes you and I kinda like you too but I am also a little hot for Jenny.”

See? I told you – promise.

“So what exactly are you proposing?”

She leaned in right next to me, so close I could feel the whisper coming out of her mouth.

“I wanna fuck Jenny. Jenny wants to fuck you and you want to fuck both of us. How about it?”

Another law in the annals of Jackson Panic: When an attractive woman invites you to a three-way, you always say yes.

she never even called me by name

One thing I came to regret early on in my friendship with Ike was telling him where I worked. You can’t really not tell your friends what you do for a living but I had a naive hope that he wouldn’t be interested in the physical location of my office. I was completely wrong about that and most of my fears were justified the first time he stopped by unannounced. I’ll touch on that another time as there are some details that still have to be suppressed until the next court date.

Being friends with Ike meant that I became aware of all kinds of little holidays and celebratory events that the majority of humanity seemed to ignore. Any obscure festive occasion from around the world was on Ike’s radar. He believed life itself was a celebration and these little holidays merely set the tone for what to what wear and what to drink. One day last summer he showed up at my office in the middle of the day with two straw cowboy hats, one atop his head and the other clutched in his right hand. His shaggy blond hair was sticking out from underneath the hat and he had it pulled down low over his eyes so that you mostly just saw his perpetual shit-eating grin glaring out at you.

I had a decent vantage out the window from my desk and so I knew he was coming before he actually entered the building. The kid needed his own theme music to follow him around all the time. He couldn’t just open the goddamn door but had to burst through it, strutting forward with the kind of confidence that made lesser men uneasy. He was blissfully unaware of terms such as ‘inside voice’ and so he bellowed out greetings that shook the eardrums of anyone around. He was inexorably linked to me and was viewed as mine, almost like a pet but often viewed as my mess or my curse. However, a lot of people in my office loved him. He was unique. Cindy, the gal who ran our front desk, was nuts for the guy. She lit up like a Christmas morning being shared by a family that actually loved one another every time Ike came bounding through the door. That day was no different. She would have given up anything, including her job, to have had the chance to go out with Ike and I didn’t have the heart to tell her I had strictly forbidden him from making a play on any woman in the office. He was enough of a disaster in the making at any given moment that I had to draw lines and contain him somehow, minimizing his impact on my life.

Yeah, it sounds kind of harsh and like I have suddenly decided to become an old fuddy duddy but really – Ike’s capacity to fully fuck things up was enormous. Even in my messed up world, I had to make rules. He still loved to chat Cindy up though. He was at her desk in his cowboy hat, charming the skirt off of her while I waited to find out exactly what was going on. It wasn’t hard for me to gather that the other cowboy hat was likely meant for me. He had a fondness for cowboy hats but I was guessing these hats had a specific purpose. I thought of googling ‘cowboy holidays’ before he made his way over, just so I would have an idea of what he had in mind, but decided to let it go. Whatever the reason for the hats, I would know as soon as he got Cindy all nice and juicy and then realized he’d better stop the flirting unless he wanted to piss me off. I’m not a violent man but I did slug Ike once, sending him sprawling to the ground, and we’re both well aware of the fact that I would do it again.

He made two more stops before finding me at my desk.

“Greetings sport – guess what today is?”

“It’s Friday Ike – beyond that I’m guessing somewhere in the world it’s straw hat day.”

“Ha, no sport – that would be a stupid fucking holiday. Today is Pioneer Day in Utah. Actually, it’s tomorrow but they celebrate today so I got us a few hats and Cliff is waiting in the car. Let’s go celebrate the pioneering spirit of those brave Americans who crossed the continent in search of a better way of life.”

My mind starts doing the math – it’s a Friday in the middle of the summer. Half of my office is out which means there is more work to do but they won’t notice if I get it done today or tomorrow. A cold beer was sounding good, even if I had to wear a lame ass hat. Don’t kid yourself, Ike wasn’t uptight about too many things but he was a stickler for holiday details. If it’s Pioneer Day, you damned sure better be wearing the appropriate attire. I was actually lucky he stopped at the hat and wasn’t requiring a full get up. For St. Paddy’s day we were dressed like leprechauns, with fake beards and green knickers. Ike claims he was excommunicated for his Easter outfit a few years back. Despite his hyperbole, I can see how some people might get miffed at seeing a drunk and bloody Jesus stumbling from bar to bar.

I do one more quick look around the office. Most of the people who can see me from their desk are gone, either for vacation or taking a long lunch. It’s decided – we’re a go!

“Ok, I’m in. Give me the fucking hat. You talked Cliff into this as well?”

“Yup and he’s wearing a hat. He might also already be a little tipsy as I bribed him with a with small Macallan 12.”

“Even still – getting him to wear a hat. Impressive.”

“And…I also told him we would start at Hooters.”

Is it contradictory that I will go out of my way to watch Hooter’s waitresses ride a mechanical bull but have a slight aversion to eating at their establishment? Yes, and I own up to it. Look, there are beautiful women who make the decision to walk around scantily clad in rather bad outfits and serve buffalo wings and in theory that’s pretty fantastic but the actual place feels kind of pathetic. I would rather be at a strip club, which I also try to avoid by the way, paying too much for drinks and being molested by women who wear perfume that smells like cookies and dressed like extras in a Motley Crue video. However, I would never say that aloud to either Cliff or Ike, else we’d be at Silver Reign, assuming they didn’t still have a security photo of Cliff on the wall due to the time he sprinted out the door, leaving a $700 tab and a very angry stripper in his wake.

Cliff loves strip clubs and places like Hooters. He knows there is no way in hell he will ever take one of these girls home with him or even get a phone number but that doesn’t stop him from emptying out his wallet every time. Actually, of all the people to go to Hooter’s with, Cliff would be my first choice since he is so truly happy there. It’s beautiful to see a person who is genuinely happy.

“Okay, then Hooter’s it is.”

Ike had his Cayenne parked behind my office. He was a trust fund kid but he lived a pretty bohemian existence except for his ride. That was the area in which he chose to go all in. It was a nice ride and he fearlessly parked it in some of the seediest parts of town as he went about his adventures. Cliff was sitting in the front seat and waved a little 50ml bottle of Macallan at me that had been drained. Ike wasn’t kidding about ‘small.’ Cliff had his hat in his lap but it matched both mine and Ike’s. We were headed out to celebrate Pioneer Day. As usual, I had no idea how this outing would end up.

It’s a short drive from my office to the third street promenade where we could find the closest Hooters. The place was a giant outdoor mall / tourist trap bedazzled with street performers and places to get ice cream, soft pretzels and cotton candy while milling about the overpriced stores. There are a few good restaurants and bars around and as far as I know this is the only Hooters on the west side of LA.

It’s kind of a small space with a big oval bar in the middle set up to serve both sides and with an awkward patio wedged against the street. Cliff guided us to a table just inside the door. I felt like the thing to do was remove my hat but that would defeat the purpose. Pioneers didn’t have time for social propriety. Our waitress came over, a dishwater blond with streaks of black highlights and a little too much make-up. Even from beneath the weird color of her nylons her legs displayed the rocking credentials of a twenty-something who likes to exercise and maybe gets in some kettle bell sessions on the beach. She was attractive but a little trashy – and that is sort of the Hooters mantra. She introduced herself as Harley.

There was a quick exchange of looks around the table when she introduced herself. I wasn’t entirely convinced it was her name and neither was Ike apparently. Cliff was still looking at her legs and so the exchange was just between me and Ike. He immediately pounced on the moment to introduce us as well.

“Harley – that’s a beautiful name. As in the bike?”

“Motorcycle, like the motorcycle.”

I smiled to myself. I knew where this was going. Both Ike and I have a habit of making up random shit when meeting people we think we will never run into again. It backfires from time to time but for the most part we just have fun with it. Ike pointed to Cliff and began the introductions.

“Harley, this is Emmet. He just flew in from NYC and we want to show our old friend a good time. My name is Derrick and I live around here and, you may already know this, but this other handsome fellow is Dr. Christian Reynolds, physician extraordinaire.”

Cliff spits his way into a laugh and puts his head down on his arms that are folded on the the table for a brief second. Harley doesn’t notice as she stopped doing anything other than look at me once Ike used the word ‘Dr.’

“So what are you a doctor of, Doctor Christian?”

“Please, just call me Christian. I practice…”

Suddenly Cliff pops his head up and blurts out “He’s an OB Gyn!”

That wasn’t the direction I was headed and Harley seemed a little taken back by Cliff’s interruption but I decided to run with it. You see, This kind of game was our own little form of improv and required you to think quickly on your feet and be creative.

“Well, Emmet is getting a little ahead of all of us. I am in residency here at UCLA and so I am not yet a fully practicing OB Gyn but I am working toward that goal.”

“And what made you want to practice that? Are you just obsessed with women?”

The look on her face told me she was in flux somewhere between interested and alarmed, but leaning towards interested.

“Actually, my mentor at med school – that was his specialty. I guess I was somewhat inspired by him. You don’t see as many men entering this branch of medicine any more but ever since his first lecture I was inspired. I suppose you could say that a passion for a subject matter is as contagious as any virus and so here I am years later. Of course I like women, but I chose my career based on the passion I have for the subject.”

My retort seemed to placate her more natural suspicions. As I mentioned with the South Africa tale, people tend to believe what they want.

“Very interesting Dr. Christian. You’re going to have to tell me more. Like, what’s up with the hat, doc?”

I noticed immediately she wasn’t giving up the doctor portion. Amazing how a word can affect someone.

“I will gladly tell you everything you want to know but maybe we can order a pitcher and a few dozen wings first. Then we can talk about my hat and whatever else you would like.”

She smiled a very flirtatious smile at me. Christ, doctors get a lot of pussy, especially in LA. Being an OB Gyn was going to be a little awkward but I was up for it. Harley made it seem like the challenge in getting to know her was essentially halfway home just by the way she let ‘Dr.’ affectionately fall off her tongue. She took our order and turned to walk away but stopped and turned back to me.

“I would have never pegged you for a doctor.”

Then she winked at me and I knew immediately I was well beyond halfway home.

the first morning after a really long night

After downing Biondetta’s cocktail the world went black. The next thing I knew I was clutching the porcelain toilet, giving to the sewers everything I had taken in and there was a black cat purring near my leg. Whatever it was Biondetta gave me sent me spiraling into the abyss and I came out of it on a bathroom floor.

The man outside the stall calling me señor had walked off and returned with another man, who wasn’t quite as pleasant as he had been.

“Sir, you need to get out of the stall.”

“Okay, one minute.”

“Sir, you need to stand up and leave now.”

“Fine. Fuck! Hang on.”

The guy kept knocking on the door until I stood up and opened the stall. There was an older Latino man standing next to a guy about my age, dressed in slacks and a polo shirt with a scowl on his face.

“Sir, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

His eyes narrowed in on me.

“How did you get in here?”

The black cat that had been keeping me company hissed at the man in khaki slacks and a red polo shirt. I assumed he was the manager since he was dressed in that distinctly dipshit middle manager kind of way. Neither the cat nor I liked him and his khaki pants very much.

“I came in with a girl. We’re leaving now.”

The manager guy moved to cut me off.

“What girl? And where did that cat come from?”

“Jesus man – let me by. There is a girl outside waiting for me and we’ll be leaving now. I have no fucking idea where this cat came from but I’m pretty sure having a cat is not up to code. I’m sorry I got sick in your bathroom but I’m leaving now.”

“Sir, there is no girl outside. The place is empty and that’s not our cat. We are just now opening. How did you get in here? Did you sleep here last night?”

I had no idea what he was talking about. I hadn’t slept since the nap I took on Captain Alvaro’s boat after banging Desi. I needed sleep and water badly and I didn’t need to deal with some self-important manager in bad khaki pants who was standing between me and getting some rest.

“Look guy – I have no idea what’s going on. I just want to leave.”

He looked me over closely for a few more seconds and then he stepped aside and let me pass. When I opened the bathroom door, the morning light that came pouring in gave me a moments pause. Shit, did I sleep in the men’s room? I didn’t even know where I was. By the looks of the decor and the tables I was in some kind of Mexican cantina. I was hoping I was still on the island and not across the border in some crime-ridden town. Where was Biondetta and how the hell did it get to be morning? Those were the first two questions in a long list my feeble brain was compiling.

I staggered out of the cantina and onto the even brighter street that seemed overly ready to embrace a new day. The cantina was just off the makeshift beach on the island. The sun was coming up and people were already dressed and wandering around. People who, unlike me didn’t smell of piss and vomit and whose clothes looked fresh and clean. I started walking toward the dock, hoping I could catch a water taxi and get back to our boat.

As I was walking over to where I had seen the water taxi before I bumped into Ike and the rodent boys.

“There he is! There’s our sport! Told you we’d find him boys!”

Ike came over to me with his standard bigger than life smile and gave me a solid hug.

“We were worried about you sport. You kind of went AWOL on us. No big deal but let us know where you’re headed next time.”

“Sorry about that brother. I ran into Biondetta and she whisked me away and I woke up this morning in a cantina on the men’s room floor.”

Ike started laughing and the rodent boys joined in from behind.

“Who is Biondetta sport? Did you pick up some girl while you were wandering the island last night.”

“Biondetta – the one I should have made a move on instead of sleeping with Desi.”

“Whoa! You got laid last night? How did that happen? You were a complete mess!”

Ike was feigning surprise but he seemed very genuine. I was too tired for his games and wanted a cold drink of water, a cup of coffee and some sleep.

“Whatever Ike. Did you stay with Cindy last night?”

“Cindy? Ok, do you know something I don’t?”

I was growing exasperated.

“Cindy! The girl we followed and the girl you hooked up with on Alvaro’s boat? Cindy! Christ dude – I am too tired for this right now.”

Ike broke into peals of laughter and then he slapped me on the back.

“Man, I don’t know what party you ended up at but I should be pissed you didn’t drag me along. It sounds like it was a blast.”

He stood in front of me, smiling and looking me in the eye but gave nothing away. He was waiting for me to say something else. Now my confidence was waning. Yesterday had been a long day and the clouds hadn’t completely cleared out of my brain. I needed some kind of reality check because a weird panic was creeping up on me.

“What did we do last night Ike?”

“Ha, sport you were a trip last night! I have never seen you let loose like that before – like a mad man. We talked to those girls on the boat next to us – that crazy chick in the white and she suggested the bar we went to last night, the one with the suit of armor. Ring a bell?”

Bell no, but maybe a chime.

“Okay, Cindy – that’s her. Then we all went to that party and then the bar? Am I forgetting something? I feel like I blacked out at some point.”

Ike furrowed his brow and kind of chuckled but there was a slight look of concern in his face.

“You, me and the boys went, Jax. That girl wasn’t all that great and we moved on to more fertile soil. Do you remember the round of shots you ordered at the bar? We started with tequila and just kept going. You don’t look good, sport. You feeling alright?”

I didn’t remember shots at the bar. I didn’t remember a suit of armor and I didn’t remember hanging out with the rodent boys. What I did remember was Desi, Biondetta, Cindy and Captain Alvaro and champagne and magic brownies. I remembered crazy, drugged up sex and lots music and dancing. I remembered the captain’s cigarettes, Biondetta’s legs and Desi’s lips. I remembered bowls of grass and glasses of white wine and eating mussels. I remembered littering – there was a lot of littering.

I stood in front of Ike waiting for him to crack. I was waiting for a punchline. The punchline never came. Finally he spoke up again.

“Hey man – let’s get you back to the boat and get you some fluids and some rest.”

We walked over to our dinghy and headed back out into the harbor toward our boat. I began replaying as much as I could remember in my head. Was Ike just fucking with me? Was it some hallucination from residual bits of memory floating around in the sea of narcotics and booze I had ingested? It couldn’t be – it was far too elaborate. I didn’t say anything else until we got back to our boat. While the boys started tying up the dinghy and raising the anchor, I walked toward the cabin and went below. I wanted to change shirts and find some Gatorade. My head was pounding as was my pulse.

I pulled a clean shirt from my bag and took off my soaked one. As I did I felt a flash of pain in my shoulder. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. It was a bite mark – Desi’s bite mark. I raced up the steps and onto the deck to show Ike.

“Ike! See – look. This is from Desi, Cindy’s friend. She bit me while we were having sex.”

Ike started laughing again and walked toward me.

“Yep, that’s a bite. You should clean that thing. You definitely had a better time than we did. Tell us next time you find such a great party, bastard.”

He then walked away and to the rear of the boat to help the hamster with the anchor. We were about to set off. It didn’t make any sense why Ike would insist he didn’t remember the day before or how he could possibly be as together as he was at this point. I was in shambles. I rubbed my shoulder to confirm it was there and the pain tingled again in my flesh. Desi had definitely bitten me. I was sure this was some kind of elaborate prank the boys were pulling and we would meet up with Alavaro and his crew again somewhere either on the way or back in Marina del Rey.

We didn’t. We sailed all the way home without anyone mentioning The Melmoth or what happened on it. They talked about a couple of bars, none of which I remembered but no one said anything about stuff I recalled . I went below and napped for 30 minutes and when I woke up we were pulling back into the Marina.

We docked, cleaned out the boat, returned the keys to the rental center and then we all went our separate ways. I walked into my apartment and threw my bag down on the floor and I crashed on the sofa. I ordered a pepperoni and sausage pizza from Dagwood’s and sat around, mired in my hangover. Around 8pm I decided to take a shower. I walked to my bathroom and started the water and then took off my shirt. I immediately looked at my shoulder in the mirror.

Yep, still there – a bite mark from Desi. I stared at it for a long time and then I removed my board shorts. I felt something in the pocket and so I unzipped it and pulled out a business card. It was a white card made of nice material with raised black ink on it. It merely read Captain Alvaro, Man of Leisure and there was an image of a little black cat next to his name.

I flipped the card over and in very elegant handwriting was a short note:

Jackson, we will meet again very soon.

-A

I stood in my bathroom staring at the card, flipping it over and over for a few minutes. No one was talking about Alvaro and the girls. No one mentioned him. If the boys were pulling a fast one then they were doing a damn good job of not giving anything away. I walked back to my living room and picked up the phone and dialed Ike.

“Yo!”

“Ike – level with me now because this shit is getting out of hand. What happened yesterday?”

“Sport – I told you everything. We partied on the boat and then went ashore and went barhopping. That was it. Man, you got really twisted huh?”

“So no Cindy, Desi or Alvaro?”

“Dude…no.”

“And no Biondetta.”

I mostly muttered that last bit to myself. I hung up the phone and went back to the bathroom to look at my shoulder again. I then stood there staring at the card. I had no clue what had happened but somewhere along the way my reality broke away from Ike’s. I believed him that this wasn’t a prank but that only left open alternatives that crossed way over the line of the fantastic or believable. Something happened and I had a scar and a card to prove it, or at least support the idea.

The card still sits on my dresser. I think I saw Biondetta again not too long ago but I can’t be certain. I scan the faces in crowds at times, looking for…well, just looking. The one thing that is certain, when I do encounter those people again, and I believe I will, there is going to be some explaining on their part. Who the hell are they and what the hell happened and why am I the only one who seems to remember anything? Those are the first things coming out of my mouth. Oh, and another thing, next time I am going for Biondetta with forceAlvaro and Desi be damned.