Story by Brian K. Jones
Photography by Adam Chapman
Why the fuck am I here? Why do I these things?
At times in my life I have seemingly sought despair out of boredom. There’s something mundane about happiness, when I find myself happy invariably I find myself segregated from reality; in a bubble of phony smiles and contemporary wall paper that makes me feel like I can’t feel anything.
An interruption to my self-loathing and lament of life made her way to my table dressed in a teal bikini bottom with her perky breasts exposed. She sat with a thud, I was instantly over whelmed and aroused by her thick coating of perfume.
“Hi sweetheart.” My mind could barely compute her words as it was mostly engaged by my visual reception of her walnut colored hair. Her lips had a pout that I could only imagine reveled in whispers and long slow kisses but only if you had the proper denomination of currency.
I thought long and hard about what to say to her while also trying to maintain an heir of tranquility, all I could muster was a meek “Hey.”
“What’s your name?” She picked up my gin and tonic and sipped from the straw while crossing her legs. Blood rushed to my loins.
I gave my standard alias for when I was in such a place, “Zack.”
We sat in silence for a moment and I noticed a beauty mark on her forehead. I imagined another life; one in which I woke up in the morning and looked at her slight imperfection and longed to kiss it but didn’t out of concern that I might wake the slumbering beauty.
I stared at the dancer on the stage, gyrating her hips to some shitty metal song and I wondered again to myself, “Why the fuck am I here?”
“So what brings you here? You don’t look like a regular.” Her eyes shifted to a portly man in his fifties sipping on a domestic pilsner with a wide smile on his face.
“I’m…confused.” I looked off the old pervert and stared down at my hands which were slightly shaking.
She took another suck at my drink which was apparently now hers’ “Confused about what?”
I took another long look at the dancer on the stage and wondered about her family while she pulled her thong aside to show her everything to everyone. “Life, I guess.”
She scooted her chair closer to me and whispered softly in my ear, “I think you’re supposed to forget about that shit here.” She ran her fingers up and down my thigh as she spoke and I stopped her just short of reaching it’s destination.
“Yeah well, like you said. I’m not a regular. I never caught your name.”
She giggled and sat back in her chair, again with the consumption of my drink. “Star.”
I pulled the drink from her mouth and took a long swig, “Sounds phony.”
“Does it Zack!?!? You’re quite the detective!” She let out a boisterous laugh.
I thought to myself “you’re quite the whore” but quickly remembered that I had chosen to come here. It wasn’t Star’s fault that I hated life, it was my own and it certainly wasn’t her fault that I had a genuine distrust for anyone with two legs that wasn’t a child or retarded.
She ran her hands through her hair and played with it for a bit, a nod to her being self-aware of her power of men . “So you want a private dance?”
Of course I did, but I resented that she knew she was attractive. Her coy hubris lit a fire in the stove of my resentment for all things human and I brushed her off. “Maybe later.”
She blew a kiss at me and got up and walked toward the old pervert and sat at his table. I watched her ass as she left and felt my stomach pang in hunger. I’d have her all day if I could but certainly not under these transactional circumstances. I thought briefly of saving her and building a two story house surrounded by a picket fence built with my bare hands so that she could leave this shitty place. I imagined her reading shitty romance novels and making meat loaf while I was off at work. Then, I remembered that I was no god-damned carpenter and that I’d grow to resent her in a hot minute, so I just looked at her as she started up the sales pitch with the horny old bastard. She saw me looking at her and winked, I looked down and sighed.
I gulped down the last of my gin and tonic and walked outside to have a smoke. The fat bouncer gave me a dirty look as I walked past him. I lit my smoke and breathed in the cancer fumes, the filthy exhale proof that I was still breathing.
I looked around at the shit bags smoking and realized quickly that I didn’t belong here or at least that I didn’t want to.
“Who the fuck am I? What do I want?” The thoughts recirculated through my mind over and over again. Not this. I pulled at my smoke and walked toward my car resigned to the fact that I would return to my hotel room and fall asleep while dreaming of Star and wondering what it would feel like to love and be loved, to be accepted by someone completely. Fleetingly, I would imagine that life was OK.
I lumbered into my car and started north towards the Holiday Inn. I passed through some seedy neighborhoods and dreamed of release as I saw the drug dealers and the hookers on the corners plying their trade. The commerce of misery was, still is, and always shall be strong. I pulled over without thought to the corner where a drug dealer was standing. He hopped in the passenger seat without invitation.
“What the fuck you doing here honkey?” He pulled a tooth pick from his mouth.
Fear penetrated through the mountain of depression that had formed atop my psychological person and it began to hit me true and sincere. “What the fuck am I doing here?” I thought.
“I’m not really sure.”
My new passenger looked around at the streets and pulled up his shirt to show a pistol kept beneath his waistline before returning his glassy red eyes to my face. “You see all this mother fucker? You see the liquor store? You see the ho just down the road, the junkie in that alley, the pushers on the end of the block, the street lights that hover above us? Do you see that shit honkey?”
I watched, looked upon the things that he pointed out, “Yes I do.”
He paused and stared at me, “Good. This my fuckin’ hood honkey, and you know what? All of them mother fuckers belong here. They live here, I watch they asses every day. I know they cousins and they moms. I don’t fuck wit em’ lest they need to be fucked with. That’s respect for my own. I respect the mothafuckas that belong here.” He paused, “Do you know what don’t belong here?”
I sat paralyzed, I wasn’t sure what the nature of my need was. I didn’t even know why I stopped aside from the fact that it seemed instinctively wrong and so I wanted very much to do it. In truth, I didn’t even like drugs. “Me.”
Toothpick back in his mouth my new friend smiled wryly and revealed the top of his teeth covered in gold. “You know what? You a smart fuckin’ honkey, yo know that? I know what you’re lookin’ for but you aint gonna find it here, you aint gonna find shit down here man.” He smiled and looked at me, pulling his shirt up again and putting his hand on the pistol. “You only gonna find that you just don belong.”
I pulled out my wallet and took out all of the cash I had. I handed it to him and he looked at me and smiled again. He opened the door and started to get out. “You stay safe my man, this aint no place for you.” With that he got out and slammed the door shut. Walking with a swagger he looked back at me and tipped his ballcap, I let out a sigh and started up the engine.
I pulled out in the street and kept north. My hands finally stopped shaking as I pulled into the parking lot of the Hotel.
Entering the hotel room I flipped the TV on and turned off all the lights before collapsing on the bed. I laid above the covers with my clothes and shoes still on; flipping through 63 channels of nothing for about a half an hour while I tried to process the evening. Finally I turned on my side and thought of Star and a house with a picket fence. As I began to drift off I could hear the rain gently pelting the window of my hotel room while the wind whipped at the trees.