Private Magazine

Category: Niagara falls

Cupid, Cuckolds, and the Cherry on Top

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A Valentine’s Special

It’s a cold winter Saturday, the time of night when fog creeps into this part of downtown and hangs over the cobblestone streets. It seems haunted, eerie, like something from the days of Jack the Ripper.  Smoke clouds emanate from a factory on the horizon.   I’m wandering the casino with Louis and my Cousin Phil.  Rows of slot machines glitter into the distance.

I’m sitting at the Playboy machine with Louis, who’s just put in $20.00  I look into his eyes. They’re blue, like mine.  A cherry pops up in one, then a dollar sign in the other. I’ve hit the jackpot as far as online dates are concerned.  Who knew finding a boyfriend would be this easy? We’ve been seeing each other for about a month now.

 

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For our first date, Louis and I met up at an art show.  As he came through the door, I admired his beard and chubby physique. Via message, Louis confided that he has a foot fetish – but what’s so weird about that, compared to all the other stuff out there? What’s a simple, normal foot fetish, in the grand scheme?

We sat down at the little bar area in Revolution Gallery. He bought drink after drink. Throughout the night, he held my hand.  Louis’s body is encapsulated in tattoos, yet he has a sad puppy-dog face.   At the end of the night, while walking down the street, Louis revealed he bought me the painting I liked while I was in the bathroom.

“Louis!” I was shocked, because I knew it was $300, but Louis had the receipt and everything to prove it wasn’t stolen. “You really didn’t have to, though. It was expensive.”

“You don’t like it then?”

“I do,”  I said. “Of course I do. Thank you, Louis.”

From that night on, I’ve spent every weekend with Louis.  He lives 45 minutes away, in a small rusty town.

Tonight, I thought I would introduce Louis to my Cousin Phil, who is up from Tampa and already tipsy, because he has been here at the casino drinking way before we even arrived. We are all going to see Dave Attell at Helium together, and I just know the two of them will get along.

“Lou,” Cousin Phil puts his arm across his shoulders. “You know, I like you already. What do you do, anyway?”

“I do signage, commercial signage.” Louis pulls out his phone to show Phil some pictures. “I carve stuff out of wood. And metal, sheet metal mostly -”

“Excuse me, sir,” says a security guard coming towards us. “You’ll have to check that knife.”  I look at Louis’s crotch, and notice the folded-up blade against his hip.  This security guard is a petite lady, and she doesn’t seem pissed or anything.

“Sir?”

Louis looks up from the musty carpet.

“Oh, my knife?”  he says. “Sorry.” He walks off with her towards the security desk.

“That’s hot, right?” I say to Cousin Phil. “The fact he has to go check his knife?” Cousin Phil leaves to buy some drinks.

“You’re manly,” I say to Louis upon his return.  He stares at me with an unflinching stare.

“Um, sorry” I say, leaning into him. “Daddy,” I whisper.

Last week, Louis said that he doesn’t want me to call him “Louis” anymore, I am to call him “Daddy” and nothing else, and frequently too. Louis sucks on his lithium-powered vape, and exhales strawberry-flavored smoke.

“What do you want to drink, Doll?” he says.

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Louis owns many knives and guns, as well as a Harley.  He seems  like the kind of guy who could kill a bear with his own hands.  In fact, he can make and shoot bow-and-arrows, which seems like a totally romantic thing to do, very Cupid-esque.

But I’m noticing that behind closed doors, Louis is rather intense.

“Fuck,” Louis gets up from his couch and heads towards the kitchen,  naked as a shucked clam, which is customary because Louis is a self-proclaimed nudist. “His numbers are still good.” He’s talking about the Donald Trump “news” on TV  that he found after 10 minutes of trying to find news on Hulu. “They’re still good, fuck what they say.”

The elephant in the room. Louis stomps off with the empty pizza box.

“Get the fuck out of here, dog,” Louis yells at his dog, Bruce, who’s sitting straight up and staring at the wall.  Louis rescued Bruce from a shelter, but I feel really bad for Bruce’s current situation, because Louis keeps him cooped up in his stupid apartment all day and yells at him all the time.

“Aw,” I hug Bruce. “He’s not doing anything.”

—-

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“You know what would be hot to do while I’m out of town, Doll?” Louis texts.

“What, Daddy?” I reply.

“Send me some photos of you fucking another dude,” he says.

Yikes! Why is Louis so into this idea? Honestly he’s brought it up before, but I’ve been stalling for time by saying that I will eventually, later on, after we date a while.  After I figure out if he’s worth it.  Because honestly, this whole time, I’ve been fantasizing about having sex once again with my ex,  “S.,” but I’m scared about releasing S. into my current dating situation.

Comparing Louis and S. below the waist is to compare an acorn with a log, respectively – a log any beaver would thirst for.  Sex with Louis sucks.  He seems depressed about his own manhood. It’s true what they say, that men with small packages compensate with cocky personas.  Louis struts around like a cockatiel, whereas S. is quiet and shy.

The more Louis pushes this idea on me, the more I have sexual fantasies about S. Since I’m sexually frustrated and about to blow,  I decide to send him an email.

In the subject line, I type the word “Orgy.”

“I suppose this letter may come as a surprise, I write.  “I have a new boyfriend. He’s soooo romantic. Plus, turns out, he is very open about wanting to watch me have sex with another man. Someone to be a “sex slave,” so to speak… 

You came to my mind as a potential sex slave for this orgy because you wanted sex without any emotional involvement or attachment, said you never want a relationship, ever, and seem okay with a straight up friends with benefits scenario.”

What the hell am I doing? Talk about a can of worms.  I hit Send and do not expect any response at all.

___

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“I just want you to be happy, so I’ll do that for you,” S. says over the phone a mere five minutes later. “Just tell me one thing.”

“What?”

You can tell S. is driving because I hear the whoosh of the open window since he’s probably smoking a cigarette with me on speakerphone.

“How’s the sex?”

What?”

“The sex,” S. exhales. “ I mean, I’m asking because clearly there must be a reason you thought of me.”

I’m not telling S. that sex with Louis sucks.  That would only feed his ego, and have me eating from the palm of his hand. No, this time I’m going to be the one in control.  

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“The last girl I dated didn’t work,” Louis tells me over brisket at his town’s BBQ pit.  “I took care of her.”

“Oh, really?” I say.  Louis insisted on paying for this meal, and these drinks, again, even though I was the only one carrying cash. He never lets me pay for anything. That’s why   I decided to buy him a gift, some Viktor & Rolf SpiceBomb cologne, to show my appreciation.  The bottle is shaped like a grenade, perfect for Louis’s heavily-armored self.  I hope he likes it.

“If we ever lived together,” Louis says, staring at the bar TV screen with a diamond ad projecting from it, “I would want to pick out what you wear when you’re at home.”

“Um, really?”  I haven’t touched my Bloody Mary. “I am very particular about my wardrobe.”

Louis stares at me with his penetrating stare.

“I have something I want to give you,” I say, to change the topic as Louis pays the bill.

“What is it?”

“Just something small,” I hand Louis a tiny gift bag with the cologne inside.  “What’s wrong?”

“I really wish you wouldn’t have,” Louis stands up and puts his hands in his pockets, starts walking towards the door to the back parking lot. “I won’t accept it.”

“What? Why?” I walk faster to catch up with Louis, who’s standing in the shadow of his giant truck. “I wanted to show my appreciation.”

“The way to show your appreciation for me is to call me daddy, and let me play with your feet, “ he says. “For future reference, I don’t like surprises and never accept gifts.”

I climb into the passenger side of the truck, and don’t bother saying “Sorry, Daddy” this time.

After all, what did I really know about this dude?

 

Murray’s Return

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I have a bad habit of “boyfriend recycling.”  As soon as one romance fades away, his predecessor twice-removed comes out of the woodwork. That’s exactly what happened with Murray. He slid into my emails, asked me to go to a “strip club in PA,” and of course, I couldn’t say no.

Murray’s living room

It’s sunny inside Murray’s living room, for once. Probably because it’s mid-July, the perfect moment of the year when one’s perpetual drunkenness is enough to make time stand still.  I study Murray’s coffee table like a map.  What cards does tonight hold?  There’s a bottle of Fisheye Pinot Grigio, a bottle of Evan Williams Green Label, copies of Playboy that I unearthed from Murray’s bathroom, and an ashtray of smouldering Senecas – some of them  lipstick-stained.

“We should probably head out soon,”  Murray says, squinting like an old man. He’s wearing those dangerously-skinny jeans again, but he’s not  exactly “thick.”  I guess skinny jeans for a skinny man are okay.

The Echo Club

In the backseat of a black Nissan – why are all rideshares so generic? – Murray and I gaze out the window. We’re buzzed. Smoke stacks reeking pollution pass us by, and that’s not even counting what lies beneath the surface of Niagara Falls.

The Nissan pulls to the curb of Burt’s house, which sits among shot-up bodegas.  At one, you can score stolen appliances, hookers, and some bomb-ass pizza.  But you didn’t hear it from me.

“So are ya ready for a funky-ass night?” says Burt, who’s wearing lobster-print shorts. He and Murray record music together. Last weekend, they wound up at the Echo.  Since Murray and I have been hanging out regularly again, he invited me there.  We all joined together on this shadowy, Saturday night.

“Do you really think it will be open?” Burt asks,  popping open a Michelob.

“It’s gotta be,” says Murray, sauntering around in his worn oxfords.

We pile into Burt’s van and search for the Echo along the pitch-black road.  I’ve got a blunt danglin’ from my mouth; Murray’s on his twelfth Seneca. Finally, I perceive a dim yellow light.

“There it is!” I squeal.  “The Echo.”

We walk onto the Echo Park Mansion’s giant wraparound porch. A cat scampers off.  It’s got a William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” vibe.  It’s a relic of a more prosperous time, when the grandeur of this stately mansion wasn’t overshadowed by run-down wreckage surrounding it.   Rumor has it the owner kept debtors in a basement jail cell.  We climb the steps, and peer through the bars of a steel storm door.  There’s a sign flickering inside – “Karaoke.”

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“Hello?” Murray walks in, and I follow, and so do Burt and his finacé, Noelle.

The wood floor is buffed and polished. At first there’s not a soul.  But then, a middle-aged brunette rises from behind the bar. She’s got a Scrunchie on her wrist and a gray tee shirt on.

“Hey,” Murray says, already taking a seat on the vinyl barstool.  “Dina, right?”

“We were here last week,” says Burt, standing behind him.

I sit next to Murray, who’s got his denim shirt half-unsnapped.

“She’s going to have a pinot grigio,” Murray says to Dina, ordering my drink of choice.

“I’ve got some right here,” Dina says, stooping down. “Wait – what happened to the pinot? It was right here.  The other girl must’ve put it somewhere.”  She leaves.

“Spooky,” Murray says.

“Look what I brought in,” I whisper in his ear, and look down so that he notices the clutch purse open on my lap.    “Kinky Liqueur.”  I pull out the tiny bottle of neon pink liquid, and take a sip while looking him dead in the eye.

“Hmmm….” says Murray. “Let’s go on a tour of the place.”

I agree, even though this punctuates the seductive moment.  The four of us walk through a dark, dusty banquet room with black-and-white portraits on the wall. Murray leads the way – since he’d been here with Burt – and takes us on a tour through the mansion’s three floors, via a peeling “Yellow Wallpaper” staircase, past end tables of porcelain dolls and hand-painted china, up to a diseased-looking bedroom with wedding dresses hanging all around.

“We could be up here later, Burt,” Murray says, pulling a curtain aside to gaze at the moon.  “To watch the sunrise.”

This captures my attention. How come Murray didn’t invite me to watch the sunrise? I look to Noelle, but she’s off in another room, apparently. We return to the bar and Murray continues to buy me drinks and bum me cigs and do all the things I like men to do for me (that pretty much covers it) and then a whole bunch of Murray and Burt’s pals start to show up.  So I call my girl, Trixey, who’s often driving around The Falls for no apparent reason.

“You guys seem really cute,” Trixey tells me at the bar while Murray does a rendition of Brian WIlson’s “Good Vibrations.”  We’re the only group in the place, besides Dina, the ghosts, and a karaoke facilitator/DJ. “I can tell he’s into you.”

“Really?” I say. “I’m really into him, too.  Although, if I continue hanging with him I’ll get cirrhosis of the liver.”

“Do you want a Valium?” asks Trixey.

“Yeah, sure” I say.  “I’m knock knock knockin’ on Heaven’s door and I really don’t give a fuck.”

After that, I decide to sing “My Own Prison” by Creed as my karaoke debut.  Court is in session, the verdict is in. Then we all go on the porch to smoke. Shoulda been dead on a Sunday morning banging my head. Murray and I are seated on the concrete ledge, overlooking the front lawn.

“I only take people I trust to the Echo,” he says, inhaling his final drag.

“You trust me, Murray?” I say, hoping this will become one of my more memorable functioning blackouts.

“Whoa…WHOA!” Murray falls sideways and takes me down with him; we fall completely off the porch and into a patch of bushes underneath.

“Are you guys okay?” Trixey calls down.  “I’ll drive you back to Burt’s.”

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On the way back to Burt’s, Murray’s not the only one who’s passed out in the car this time around.

“Hey, hey,” Trixey is shaking me awake.  “We’re at Burt’s.”

I head upstairs to brush my teeth, then crawl into Burt’s guest bed and wait for Murray.  I’m wearing a fishnet outfit  from the porn store.  I’m sure our makeout will happen any moment now…

…………..ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ……….

Before I know it, sun is streaming through the open window.  It’s morning.  I’m on top of the covers in the same position as when I got here. There’s no trace of Murray.  I get dressed and go downstairs.

Murray and Burt are slouched on the couch alongside an almost-gone bottle of whiskey.

“Oh, hey,” I say, nonchalant. “Good morning.”  I sit in a chair on the other side of the room.

So wait….we really didn’t make out? 

“You guys drank all that whiskey last night?” I say. “When?”

“We just went to bed two hours ago,” Murray says, scratching his chest.

“Oh.”

I look from Murray, to Burt, from Burt, back to Murray.  They are two peas in a pod. I guess this is how sexual frustration feels.

“You don’t remember?” Burt sits up.  “You came downstairs, took the whiskey bottle from Murray, went up and were cuddling with it.”

“What?” I say. “I was sleepwalking?!”

“You really don’t remember?” Murray says.  “You were cuddling with the whiskey bottle.”

Probably because that was the closest thing to a make out as I was gonna get….I drag my weary body out the back door and sit on Burt’s dock, overlooking the river.  After a few minutes, Murray comes out, still in his dirty, all-black clothes from yesterday, and lights a cigarette.  I look at him, but don’t say a word.

“I’m not boyfriend material,” says Murray, exhaling a smoke plume.  He’s pale, sweaty, and totally unhealthy in every way.  And we didn’t even make out.

“You know what, Murray,” I finally say, “You say that all the time, but I think it’s just an act.”

“No,” he says. “It’s the truth. I’m honest about that part.”

“Well then, let’s just get an Uber back to town,” I say. “I have some weed I need to be smoking.”

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Romantic Retardation*

*In the clinical sense of the word

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Another Memorial Day, another drama. That’s my life. For the past two months, I was seeing this guy “Billy,” an electrician with peroxided hair. I thought that I knew the real him.

Our passionate connection made me feel like we were sheltered under the sunny boardwalks of Venice Beach in 1994 with nothing to kill our buzz.  I was wrapped up in his bubble. Billy skateboards all the time, and lives out in the country actually. He was kind of like an obscure record I discovered in a beat-up barn out in Cambria.

We met in a strange twist of fate and turns out, we both read Hustler for the articles. Our romance was meant to be. Billy took me out to eat and to the park all the time, brought pinot grigio and PBR for us, held my hand and gazed into my eyes… He was just so romantic.

But then the record totally scratched. Billy flipped the script. Everything changed.

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The masks we wear

One week ago, Billy told me that he was too broke to take me out to eat anymore.

“I’ve been saving for a house,” Billy texted me. “I can’t spend any money.”

“But it’s impossible not to spend money when there’s a woman in your life,” I said.

Honestly, I was hurt. Why would Billy take me out on dates for two months straight and then suddenly say he can’t anymore?  I figured it meant he wanted to do his own thing, and that I should break up with him as soon as possible, before I’m the one left in the dust.

“Look, Billy…” I said. “If you’re trying to be rude and passive aggressive, than just leave me alone.”

“What are you talking about?” He texted me about five hours later. “I’m not mad about anything.”

So I’m a crazy bitch then, apparently. It was all in my head. Ugh!!

 

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But the situation didn’t go away. For the entirety of this past week, Billy turned into a withdrawn and depressed goon who didn’t want to do anything, despite the fact I told him I would be an emotional support and wear a schoolgirl outfit to his house.

“I don’t want to bring you down when I’m in a depressed mood,” Billy said.

“It’s okay to be in a depressed mood,” I said. “Everyone gets in depressed moods, you don’t have to totally ignore me because you’re in a depressed mood.”

But that’s basically what Billy did. His personality changed. Emotionally, he disappeared. He hid away in an emotionless purgatory, and he didn’t care how I felt about it. I suppose you could say he left me high and dry, feeling abandoned, vulnerable enough to join the Church of Scientology…I mean, right when I thought that I met someone honest, it turned out to be an act.

“I actually don’t even like going out to dinner,” Billy said. “I hate going out to eat. I hate going out downtown.”

“What?” I said. “You could have fooled me.”

“I don’t know how to show my emotions,” Billy continued.

“You are a sociopath, I think,” I told him. “American Psycho!”  I hung up the phone, and then I went out for the night.

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Saturday night, Allentown was pop, lock, and droppin’ from Wadsworth to Main. I decided to forego stilettos and wear pointy ankle boots which said “Girl’s Night – Not Trying to Talk to or Be With Any Men.”  Except that is, the men who were in Q. and supplying me with dollars to pick out songs by Nicki Minaj and Demi Lovato, (what can I say, I’m a great DJ at Q. late at night, when the THC and pinot grigio and Adderall are coursing through my veins and I think that 1:30 a.m. is still early and that I should call a bunch of people right away).

“Eddie!” Eddie is my somewhat nocturnal ex-bf/BFF who is definitely an emotional support.  I thought maybe, just maybe, he might be awake. “I’m tipsy and I can’t get home!” But did I really have any intentions of going home?

“I’ll be right there, where you at?”

By the time Eddie’s olive-green Honda pulled to the curb, I had already twisted my ankle while crossing the street. Damn ankle boots…I muttered, flicking the ash of a cigarette whose origins were unknown. Stupid little Billy boy…I paced the corner of Allen and Delaware amidst taxi beeps. If only he could see me now! 

“Eddie!” I hopped in the passenger side of his olive-green Honda. “Hi!’’

“So, you, like, needed a ride home?”

“Meh, I guess. But I don’t really feel like going home yet!”

Eddie drove around to a quieter street, and we sat in the car and talked awhile. I hadn’t seen Eddie for several months; but it doesn’t really matter, because we’ve known each other a super long time and there just aren’t certain pretenses between us. Except now, Eddie has a girlfriend who would chase me away with a broom if I were to ever show up at his place.

“It’s just all gone to shit,” a tear rolled down my cheek under the glow of a crescent moon. “This dork Billy, I never should have given my heart away. He’s too busy saving for a house, apparently…”

“He’s an electrician, he should already have a house,” Eddie lit another cig. “They make good money.”

“Yeah, you’re right.”

“What an asshole,” Eddie said, and I realized he was wearing finely-striped silky pajama pants the whole time.

“I like your pants,” I said.

“Thanks,” Eddie said, and I leaned over to give him a kiss.

 

 

It Started With A Syringe

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I was at work the other day and ended up having a conversation about losing your virginity. Believe it or not, I wasn’t the one who brought it up.

“I was thirteen,” my co-worker, Ginnifer with the Blue Mani, said.

“I was fifteen,” said Shelby with the Mauve Lip Liner.  “And I’ve been on birth control ever since.”

“I was…seventeen, um, eighteen,” I said. “But honestly it took me that long to hit puberty.”  

We ended up trading stories about the loss of our virginities, about how, like Madonna and Britney Spears and Cyndi Lauper, we all became “touched for the very first time” and “hit one more time” and “time after time” after that.  

It all started in college. When I got to my room in Alumni dorm, I unpacked my Smiths CDs, issues of Nylon and Woody Allen movies to go out and party right away. It wasn’t long before I had a crush on a hipster I saw buying photo paper and film at the bookstore.

“He had glasses and a plaid button-up shirt – unbuttoned halfway,” I gushed to my BFF/roommate Tara as we ate mysterious dining hall casseroles. “I want to know his name.”

The very next day in the dorm,  I was listening to Belle & Sebastian and writing in my diary when our landline phone rang.

“He’s in my logic class,” Tara said. “My philosophy class. The guy with the glasses.”

“No effin way.”

I shadowed Tara’s next logic class for the purpose of learning this guy’s name. He turned out to be a senior named Tommy who said many intellectual things. I was swooning.

A couple days later, I was in our dorm searching for my clove cigarettes. The phone rang at 3:00,  about the time logic got out.

“Tommy wants to know if we can find him a syringe,” Tara said.

“My brother’s diabetic, so probably. For what?”

“His ‘Drug Life’ photo project.”

“I’ll go to LoGrasso. Have him come to our room.”

I walked to the health center, and believe it or not, there must not have been an opiate epidemic in 2005 or something, because I was given a syringe right away, no questions asked. Sweet!  I ran back to the room, and pretended to be working on something at my computer. The door swung open. Tara entered; Tommy was behind her.

“David LaChapelle, David LaChapelle,” Tommy was saying, wearing jeans completely frayed at the bottom with a giant hole exposing one thigh, Doc Marten boots, long wool overcoat and those glasses I had a thing for.

“I really appreciate you doing this for me,” he said while snooping through my bookshelf. He picked up my Annie Hall DVD. “When are we going to get married?” Turns out, Tommy was a huge Woody Allen fan.

“I have to find a few more things for the shoot,” he said. “Want to come along? I’ll grab you guys some wine afterwards.”

Oh yeah, Tommy was 21. It was all music to my ears.

“I saw The Dandy Warhols in London,” he said. We were squished in the backseat of our other friend Valerie’s broken-down Cutlass. She was the only one with a car.

We drove to Wal Mart, the only store in town, to find a “drug dealer-esqe” gold chain, Shower-to-Shower bath powder (“the only kind that really looks like coke,” according to Tommy), and a fake nail (“even though we could probably score one from a theater major,” he said). After Tommy purchased all this stuff, and a box of Franzia, we dropped him off at his place.

“Call me later and we’ll drink wine,” he said.

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Tommy and I started hanging out after that – walking around campus, smoking cigarettes, that kind of thing. One night he invited me to his house – off-campus.

“Sorry, we don’t have heat,” he said, opening the door and wearing a coat.

“Oh, okay, that’s cool,” I said.

We went up to the drafty second floor. Someone with a tie-dye tapestry over their door was blaring Grateful Dead. Tommy took me into his room and closed the door. There were stacks of books everywhere, photos tacked to the walls, an electric keyboard, bong, pack of Ecstasy herbal cigs, Velvet Underground & Nico poster, and a carpet that seemed to double as an ashtray.

“Wow. Your room is so cool,” I said.

We sat on the floor. Tommy rolled a joint, took out his iPod, and put the Brian Jonestown Massacre on. We smoked, and I got super high and paranoid because I was innocent and had no tolerance for weed back then. Tommy’s face kept getting closer to mine, somehow. He was about to kiss me when suddenly a dreadlocked girl barged into the room.

“Do either of you have a cigarette?” she yelled.

I looked at Tommy. He looked at me and said, “She’s trying to quit.”

“Um..uh, here,” I extended a Marb Light her way, my hand shaking. She retreated into the hall, shutting the door.

“Damn,” Tommy said. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s okay,”  I said. “So, where were we?”

This blog never gives an explicit play-by-play because it’s better to leave things to the imagination, in my opinion. It’s classier. But when I left Tommy’s house that night I wasn’t as innocent as when I entered.

“Tara,” I said, turning the light on and waking her up. “It happened.”

“Oh. My. God!” She sat up in bed and hugged me. “I’m so proud of you!”

The next morning, we were celebrating over DIY omelettes in the dining hall when I felt nauseous.

“BLEEEEGHHHHHH,” I puked for a good five minutes in the bathroom then came out, pale and sweating. “Tara…I’m so sick.”

I was in bed for the next 36 hours, perspiring, worried I was pregnant, watching The Virgin Suicides.

“Baby girl…You can’t be pregnant,” Tara said. “It’s got to be the flu.”

Sure enough, it was the flu. The only “clean” glass I could find at Tommy’s was totally cloudy and under the bathroom sink, but I was desperate.

The following semester, Tommy left to study abroad in the UK. I thought I’d never see him again. But junior year, Tara and I took the school van down to Pittsburgh, where Tommy was in law school…

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Waking up on Wednesday

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It’s a schitzo kind of morning in a hotel room on the outskirts of town. Despite how thick the blinds are, the sun manages to shoot across the unmade bed. Beside me lies a snoozing male companion. Um, what’s his name? No, seriously…what was his name?

I jump out of bed and tiptoe across the carpet, following an adult-Hansel and Gretel trail of various items: a leather slip-on loafer in mens size nine; crushed pack of Kools; plumping lip gloss in the shade “Inflamed Desire”; a clear green lighter; hotel-sized Neutrogena lotion, squeezed; a pink, lace thong by Jessica Simpson brand; one 50 ml bottle of Acqua di Gio; and a Trojan, still wrapped.  I open the door to the bathroom, examine my face in the mirror then splash water on it, leaning over the sink.

What’s-His-Name walks in the bathroom. He’s 5’ 9’’ and has a Matt Damon in Rounders vibe, or maybe it’s Christian Slater in Heathers. Either way, he’s got chest hair and clear blue eyes, and something tells me he’s not totally innocent. Something about What’s-His-Name and I sparked last night. It wasn’t just those Kools we smoked in front of the hotel at 5 a.m. If only I could remember…

When What’s-His-Name gets out of the shower, I’m face down on the couch.

“I’m a mess,” he says, buttoning a wrinkled dress shirt.

“So?” I sob, gasping for air. “What’s the point? I can’t believe I slept with a total stranger.” I blow my nose dramatically in a paper towel, and take a good look at What’s-His-Name. He’s cute.

“No offense,” I say.

“None taken,” he says. “I need to stop drinking. I need to take a break.”

We check out of the hotel and call a taxi. What’s-His-Name’s company paid for the room. He’s the boss and sells mortgages, from what I recall. But right now, we need to get back to our cars, back to his Cadillac and my Pontiac, abandoned last night outside the Batavia casino.

“Hey, how do you spell your name?” I say in the backseat of the cab. “So I can put it in my phone.”

“You already have it,” he says.

“Oh,”  I say, noticing a missed call from a (585) area code. It’s saved under the name Lawrence Jacobi.

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The cab grinds to a stop in front of the downtown bus station. Three skinny smokers are congealed in the threshold. Our driver is an old Italian guy in a leather newsboy cap. “$16.85,” he says.

“Thanks,” says Lawrence, handing him a twenty.

I push through a revolving glass door into the white noise of the bus station. Lawrence follows me, overflowing gym bag on his arm. A big group of Amish people are waiting at one of the gates. I scurry into the stainless steel bathroom to douse myself with Strawberries & Champagne body spray and pop a couple Excedrins.

“Gold chains, gold chains,” says a hyper black man outside the bathroom door in a camo print bucket hat with chains draped elegantly over his forearm.

I walk past him, towards Lawrence, who’s easy to spot since we’re the only non-Amish patrons in the bus station. We walk side-by-side up to the Greyhound counter with our sunglasses on.

“Two tickets to Batavia,” Lawrence says. He removes his Polo shades, squinting in the fluorescent light.  The woman at the counter is wearing dangly earrings with big gold triangles on them.

“The next bus leaves at 2:04,” she says. “$18.”

Lawrence pays for the tickets. We walk outside into the hot sun. It’s only 11:45.

“I guess we have some time to waste,” I say.

We sit on a bench on North Division. I drape my legs across Lawrence’s lap. He lights a cigarette.

“Change, change,” chants a woman with a shopping cart who looks like Whitney Houston.

“Let’s get out of here,” I say, giving Lawrence a seductive glance.

We walk down Ellicott Street towards a daytime watering hole. I hear Seabar is open this time of day. When we get there, we sit at the bar. Businessmen on lunch breaks eye my attire: black shorts, huge Rage Against the Machine tee, snakeskin strappy heels. Lawrence seems to be in the same boat: wrinkled dress shirt, leather slip-on loafers, and sunglasses totally askew. I have a dirty thong and half-smoked joint in my overpacked tote, and Lawrence reeks of Tanguaray. This is what an extended walk of shame looks like. This is what it looks like to be approaching age 30. Or in Lawrence’s case, age 35, from what I recall.

“So, Lawrence,” I take a dainty sip of Bloody Mary. ”You live in Batavia?”

“Yes,” he says, drawing a straight line in the condensation of his Corona. “That’s where I’m  from.”

“You don’t look like any country boy I’ve ever met.”

He grabs my hand under the bar, and gives it a squeeze. The businessmen are watching us, since we’re obviously more interesting than the news on TV.

“To the couple at the end of the bar,” slurs a drunken white collar-type, raising his tumbler of scotch in the air. His tie is loosened, and it’s just past noon.

“Thanks, guy,” says Lawrence, with a twinkle in his eye.

“A shot!” says the white collar-type. “Let me buy you two a shot. What are we having?”

“How about Patron,” I say.

The unfazed bartender pours three Patrons, with limes on the side.

“Cheers!” we all say.

Before I know it, my cell phone says it’s 1:45 and we need to go back to the bus station.

“Ciao,” I say to the white collar-type, taking Lawrence’s hand as we make our tipsy exit from Seabar, which I’m sure won’t be our last.

Outside, the sun is hot, hotter than before. Lawrence lights two Kools. We reach the bus station, dripping with sweat. The bus to Batavia is boarding. The Amish are nowhere to be found. We sit in the back of the bus. Lawrence gives me the window seat. We lean against each other, and take a nap.

Memories of Last Weekend

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I’m a nymphomaniac courtesan at Motel 6 on Niagara Falls Boulevard making predictions about love. There’s no better place to write about romance than a seedy motel. It’s where you can spark up some pcp, listen to the night’s heavy breathing, dip into the ink and sink into your thoughts. My adventures in the name of love are hot, but extinguish rapidly. It’s a tough gig, being a romance columnist, but I’m opening my diary to you.

My weekend began with a call from Mick, my jealous friend/sugar daddy. We went to Mickey Rats, the watering hole for the overtan and over-50.  I picked him up, since his car’s AC is broken, but I didn’t mind. I spread my NY Times and Lacoste towels on the sand. Mick returned with a pinot grigio in one hand and what turned out to be his fourth scotch in the other.

“I can’t listen to you go on about Jerome,” Mick said. “You have been talking about him all day.”

“We went out for drinks,” I said. “What’s the ordeal?”

Mick’s face turned red. He said he was moving on with another woman. Ok fine, I said. What did I care? I’ve told him numerous times that this wasn’t going anywhere.

“I need someone who is serious,” he said.

I started crying, then whacked Mick over the head with an empty Styrofoam container from Hot Mama’s Canteen. He charged at me like the tragic lead in a Shakespearean play.  I splashed my entire pinot grigio across his face and power-walked away.

“Leave me alone,” I said. “Leave me alone!”

“I can get home on my own,” Mick’s voice echoed behind me. “I don’t need you. Go blow Jerome!”

I left Mick on the beach. He had to pay $200 for a cab back to Lancaster. When I got home, I sought refuge in the form of an older man’s sympathetic ear. Call it what you will, daddy issues maybe, but I called “Esquire” – a married, way-too-old for me man. I was baked from the beach, in more ways than one.

“Meet me at Bennigan’s in 30 minutes,” he said. “I’m not in driving form.”

Even though Esquire is by most accounts a professional man, whenever I hang with him he’s drunk and kind of smelly. I can’t really explain my desire. Is there ever an explanation for matters of the heart? I found Esquire lurking outside Bennigan’s in a deteriorating flannel.

“Bennigan’’s is closed. It’s closed, man,” he said.

“Hmm. I know a place.”

We drove a half mile to a dive on my side of the tracks, which means patrons knock each other over the head with pool cues and play “Stan”-era Eminem. We had one drink then got cozy in my car.

“My dick doesn’t work,” Esquire said dismally.

“Can’t you score Viagra at Chophouse?”

“That’s not the point. I’m married. And old. How old are you, anyway?”

“28.”

“And I’m married,” Esquire continued. “But I…love you. I do.”

What happens in my Pontiac stays in my Pontiac, where Esquire and I are concerned.  I dropped him off at the corner of his street.

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The next day I found NY Times and Lacoste towels folded neatly on my porch. I had all these emails from Mick, since I blocked his number.  But I had zero time to deal with him. That day, I was to have a “normal” date with a hopefully “normal” man. Actually, JJ was probably just my thirtysomething flavor of the week. Even though all he talked about was baby mama drama and the diamonds he’s got on layaway, I thought maybe – just maybe – he was worth a shot.

I met him last summer, when I was office assistant at an auto garage. My job was to literally buy Busch Light at the gas station on Military. JJ does body work. I liked his glasses.

The plan was to hit the beach – a different beach. I drove, since JJ’s license was revoked. Fist pumping techno boomed from the beach club.

“If we go in there, I’d come out in handcuffs,” JJ said as we walked by. “I hate guido fucking douchebags.”

“We can, um, avoid that,” I said.

We settled beneath an umbrella at Cabana Jims. I slurped a marg on the rocks. JJ threw back ten shots of “Jamo”.  After this booze smorgasbord, our food arrived. The waitress placed my cobb salad and JJ’s dinner of choice – a $15 girlie drink served in a giant coconut – on the table.

“Damn,” I said, eyeing the coconut, which bore some kind of tiki smile face expression.

After the beach, as the sun went down, we walked around the Japanese Garden. I decided I’d make out with JJ, then call it quits. We weren’t a match. He seemed like a hot mess.

“Why don’t we make out on this log?” I said, taking JJ’s hand.

“Make out?” JJ drawled in a drunken stupor. “That reminds me of fourth grade.”

I stared at JJ through the leaves. He was wearing patriotic shorts. Ugh.

“Look, look, I’ll just walk home,” JJ said, wandering away. “There’s like, moms and kids over there.”

“What?” I said. “So?” I guess JJ wasn’t an exhibitionist like me.

“I’m going to go blow some lines,” he said. “Peace out.”

I went back to the Pontiac, cackling like a witch, relieved to be rid of JJ. The truth is that a writer sleeps alone.

Working the Corner in Niagara Falls

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It’s 11:40 a.m. and four old men are collected, like a clump of fungus, in the parking lot of the corner 7-11. They hold 40 oz. Ballentine’s Ales in dirty, gloved grips and discuss an impending “disability check.” When I walk by, coughs and groans bubble from their raspy throats. It’s been a long time since these men have uttered sounds of passion – for life or for anything which life has to offer. Theirs is the blissed-out fog of the forgotten.

It’s 12:01 p.m. and Jennifer and I are opening the Niagara Falls watering hole to the morning crowd. Come to find out, there is a “morning crowd” and by all appearances, they are ready to get their groove on. A flanneled gentleman known as “Skip” drags his body through the entrance in clunky, steel-toe boots. Clomp. Clomp. Clomp. His lips open slightly into a preposterous grin. I notice one of his front teeth is missing. Gone. This is my third day working here, at this landfill of a bar known only as “The Third Hole.” Skip’s been here every single time. I’m sure all the times that I haven’t been here, Skip has been here, and he will be here in the days after I’m gone.

It’s 12:30 p.m  and every bar stool is occupied by a member of the male gender. Coolers are stocked with domestic bottles plus cans of Schmidt’s and Stroh’s. First in line down the L-shaped bar is Ricky, a walking type-2 diabetes, high-blood pressure situation. Despite being a ticking time bomb, Ricky requires three ever-present beverages in front of him – double well vodka and water; tumbler of Mohawk blackberry brandy; and a plastic cup of ice. If any of these get low, you will endure wails of exasperation. Next to him sits Canadian Stu in a half-unbuttoned dress shirt. The level of his Molson doesn’t currently require attention. Then there’s Chester, the most elderly of the bunch, slurpin’ a Schmidt’s along with what’s apparently known as a “Polish Bloody Mary” – a shot of vodka with tomato juice on the side.

“Does anyone want a shot of Patron?” I ask. “Does anyone want to try something new?”

Nothing new is ever on the menu inside “The Third Hole.” Everyone here sticks to a daily routine. Ricky grunts, scratches his stomach. This city, and many of its inhabitants, appear to be lost in the sauce.  An angry-looking fortysomething in a baseball hat glares at me from the end of the bar.

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“Can I get you another?” I say, removing his empty bottle. “Bud Light?”

I bring a fresh beer to this bozo but he’s still glaring and not saying a word.

“$2.25,” I say. His eyes pierce through mine. “I said, $2.25!” An utterly-futile staring contest continues for a few seconds, until I’ve had enough.

“The dude at the end of the bar is giving me a hard time,” I say to Jennifer. “He won’t give me the damn $2.25!”

“Oh, he has a tab,” she says. “He didn’t tell you?”

I run to the side of the bar featuring Canadian Stu, who is pretty chill. He’s been knocking back shots of Old Grandad. A biker with glasses declares he wants to buy everyone a round. I place plastic shot cups in front of every man – currency for their next libation. All the drunks are stacked up with shot cups, guaranteeing many rounds to come.

Sometime around 1 p.m., two younger guys walk in. They are probably around 30 and look tired. Sliding onto bar stools, they casually look around and wave to Jennifer. She already knows what they want – a couple Heinekens.

“I haven’t seen you before,” I say to the one with brown, spiky hair who looks like a cross between Shia LeBoeuf and John Belushi. “What do you guys do?”

“We work at the casino,” he says.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Scotty.”

“What do you guys do at the casino?”

“We’re pit bosses,” Scotty says. “We sit at the card games and make sure nobody cheats.”

“That’s hot,” I say. “Really hot. Like Rounders starring Matt Damon. You are Edward Norton.”

He doesn’t seem amused. Scotty and his homeboy take their beers to a corner table and start dealing out cards.

“I thought we’d have a shot of Patron?” I say as they’re walking away. Ricky, et. al. start hollering for beer while I’m staring into space.

“Hey, we’re waiting here,” he bellows. A rough-looking Falls chick in a Luke Bryan tee is also vowing for my attention.

“God, thank you,” she says sarcastically. I hand her a basic bottle of Budweiser.

A handsome professional is in the seat where Scotty was. His hair is black with a few grays. He’s mellowing out and doesn’t seem in a rush.

“How about that shot of Patron?” he says.

“I thought you’d never ask,” I say.

The mysterious professional and I stare into one another’s eyes. We sip Patron until he gives me $5 and continues on his way. Ricky, et. al. start hollering for beer again.

“Hey!” Scotty shouts. “Over here!”

“I’m almost done with my shift,” I say. “I’ll come hang with you in a bit, Scotty.”

“No, we need beer,” he says.

The afternoon drags on….

“Barmaid, barmaid,” shouts Chester while rattling his empty Schmidt’s.

Around 6 p.m, Scotty’s girlfriend shows up. Great, I’m thinking. Just what I need. She starts giving me the stink eye. I didn’t realize this place would bring more enemies than friends. It can be hostile when you’re not a Falls chick. If I’m ever found in a barrel at the foot of the Falls, now you know why.

I pop open bottles with a flick of the wrist. I’m not talking as much, lest the drunks get annoyed I take too long delivering their fix. Led Zeppelin drifts around the smelly bar like a missing cat. A sliver of sun manages to cut through the grimy windows. It’s a depressing scene.

These are the men who have washed ashore. The ones society forgot.  Sweat-soaked alcoholics and veterans and lonely widowers, the incapacitated and disabled, the racists and homophobes and misogynists, all paying for beer with plastic cups and loose change. An empty beer with a shot cup over it signifies that person wants another. It’s a secret language spoken by the braindead and the downtrodden. I decide to ride the wave back home, back to Erie County, forever.