Private Magazine

Submitted For Your Approval

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Inside a house far back from the street dwells a man with a cross to bear. He’s an even-tempered man, albeit a very reclusive man, who may or may not dose himself with MDMA, psychotherapy-style. If we could see through his curtains, which are perpetually closed, we would see him reading by the fire.  In fact, he’s reading this very blog, on an iPad, with his slippers propped on a mid century table.

His living room has a distinct Twilight Zone feel; it’s as if we went back in time. But we haven’t gone back in time. We have entered a parallel dimension.

I met Teddy on okCupid four years ago.  He messaged to tell me he “consumes” my writing, and likes it. Nothing ever happened with him back then, though, because he fell off the face of the planet. Until, just recently…

Do you experiment with molly? is the text Teddy sends me. Hm, Teddy, what ever happened to you? goes through my mind as I type a reply. I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing the interior of Teddy’s meticulously mid century abode.

I drive to Teddy’s house expecting a chill evening. As soon as I pass the Audi dealership, I know I’m far from home. Snow falls from the sky in heavy clumps.

“Good evening,” I say into my phone, walking the long, snowy path towards Teddy’s garage. “I’m here.”

I see Teddy’s diminutive figure emerge through a square window in the door, which he unlocks and holds open.

Teddy is fortysomething, with hair both thick and spliced with gray.

“I was just making rosemary chicken,” he says. “Come in.”

Teddy leads the way into his kitchen, where the walls are clementine orange. Coordinating pans hang above the stove, along with all the homey trappings of a 1950’s kitchen – containers excavated from estate sales, their contents labelled on the outside, and a really-old looking coffeemaker.

“Interesting place,” I say.  “Why don’t you give me a tour?”

Behind his black frames, Teddy looks serious. In fact, he looks exactly like Dr. Thredson from American Horror Story. He calmly leads our way to the living room.

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Vodka and gin are stashed on a bar cart, along with various shakers and glassware. Schwing! Three old typewriters are displayed on a shelf. The walls feature framed movie posters from Bye Bye Birdie, Psycho, and the like. All the furniture is mid century modern and pristine. The room is a page torn from a catalog.

“I had this sofa reupholstered,” he says as I walk down the hall.

“Is this a bathroom?” I turn a doorknob slowly.

“No,” Teddy approaches from the right. “You can’t go in there.”

“I’m curious now. What’s in there?”

“Nothing,” he says. “It’s just, nobody can go in there.”

“Ok, all right,” I say. “Is it a sex dungeon?”

Teddy is quiet.

“I’ve been building one in my basement for a while now,” he says. “But if I take you down there, you must submit.”

“I knew it,” I say. “I knew you had a dungeon.”

“I’m a man who needs control,” Teddy says, coming closer.

I go back to the living room and sit on the couch. Teddy leaves for a minute, and eventually returns with a bottle of wine and two glasses.

“I don’t usually have this around,” he says, “but I went and bought some pinot grigio.”

“You’re the best,” I say. “How did you know that’s my favorite?”

“I had a feeling,” he says.

Teddy places another log in the fireplace, and it cracks and flickers and pops, before he sits on the other end of the couch. He’s wearing a cashmere cardigan and Hermes cologne. Ancient Christmas music emanates from the stereo.  I start to ask questions.

“So what do you do for Christmas?” I say. “Any family traditions?”

“No,” he says.

“What about your mom?” I say. “Where does she live?”

“I haven’t spoken to my mother…” Teddy trails off. “My mother and I don’t talk.”

“Why?”

Teddy stares at me in silence from the other end of the couch.

“Ok, sorry…” I say. “I’m sorry.”

Teddy pours the wine.

“So, since this is my inaugural Writer’s Seance,” I say, “What kinds of things do you write about?”

“See those six boxes under the TV?” I look at the shelf , and sure enough, there’s a bunch of boxes there, from typewriter paper or something. Handwritten labels are taped to the side of each one. “Those are my manuscripts,” he says.

“Oh, cool,” I say. “Can I read them?”

“No.”

“Do you want to read some to me?” I drink my wine. “Even just a sentence or two?”

“No one has ever read any part of them.”

“Do you think I can, someday?”

“No,” he says, heading towards the kitchen. “If I ever catch you looking at them,” Teddy’s head pokes from behind the wall, “I will have to remove you. Physically.” I follow Teddy into the kitchen. He’s chopping mini potatoes.

“Do you have any sparkling water?” I ask, opening the fridge. There’s nothing inside but dozens of cans of Vernors.

“Actually, yeah, here’s some water,” Teddy pours water from a pitcher on the counter, lemon slices floating inside, and hands it to me. “There’s only a small amount of roofies in it.”

“Gee, thanks,” I say, walking around the kitchen.  It’s a kitchen that makes one think robotic Stepford blowup dolls will emerge from a closet at any minute to sweep the floor like an LSD-influenced Fantasia sequence. “Does it ever get lonely out here?”

“I stick to myself,” Teddy says, arranging the potato slices in a pan.

“Aw,” I say, and give him a hug. Teddy’s head snaps to the side to look at me quickly, his spatula raised. He taps it on my nose.

“Ha ha,” I say, and go back to the living room.

“Dinner will be served in twenty minutes,” Teddy says, following me to the couch.

“I really appreciate you making me dinner,” I say.

Twenty minutes later, Teddy brings out the rosemary chicken, the roasted potatoes, some silverware and cloth napkins. I unfold a napkin across my lap. Teddy devours everything in five minutes.

“Wow, Teddy, you have an animalistic appetite,” I say.

A white, artificial Christmas tree glimmers in the corner as we eat and talk, talk and drink, and I get the strong sense I’m being psychoanalyzed. Hours pass while watch movies. Teddy’s decor is having an opiating effect on my mind.

“Let’s open another bottle of wine,” he says, standing up.

“Um, only if I can sleep on your couch.”

“My couch?” Teddy says. “What about my bed?”

“I don’t really know you that well, so…”

Outside, snow continues to fall in clumps and I know I won’t be making it home tonight.

A little while later, I’m tucked in on the reupholstered couch and everything’s dark. It’s the middle of the night. All I hear is the ticking of a clock. I sink into a deep slumber. My body and mind go in separate directions. I dream about plastic wrap, prescription drugs, and nuclear warfare.

Odorless vapor drifts around the living room. I open one eye. Teddy’s in the armchair with his e Cig in hand, staring straight ahead at the wall, and his mouth is totally flatlined.

“Teddy?” I rub my eyes. The clock on the wall tells me it’s 7:30. “Do you sleep? Or just stare at the wall?”

“What the hell kind of question is that?” Teddy gets up and starts making coffee.

I get my stuff together while Teddy stays in the kitchen with his back turned.

“Well, I’m going to go brush off my car,” I say. “Teddy?” Teddy doesn’t react. “Well, bye.” I stand there as Teddy walks into the living room without giving me any response.

Kathy Bates, Norman Bates, and now this fucking dude, I’m thinking as I drive past the Audi dealership on my way home. When I’m safely in my bedroom, I call my friend Eleanor despite the fact it’s 8 a.m.

“Eleanor, hey…” I say. “I think I’ve met someone…”

READER SURVEY: DO YOU ENGAGE IN BDSM? FACTORYGIRL1987@GMAIL.COM

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Filthy Confessions

“What’s your fanta-ta-ta-sy?” -Ludacris

The first adult film I ever watched was called “Naughty Fantasies,” or something like that, from Baby Doll Productions. I found it in a CD case for Now That’s What I Call Music: Volume 18 that my college roommate left lying around. She was out of town when I made the discovery, so I invited all of my little college dorm friends over for a viewing party. Since then, I’ve become well-versed in adult film genres: gonzo, amateur, POV, MILF, transsexual, fetish, and “special interest,” which is basically an all-encompassing term used to describe anything and everything outside the status quo. (Trust me, if you can dream it, it’s out there. It exists).

I recently had the question posed to me: Do you have any taboo fantasies? I don’t really consider anything that taboo anymore, so I had no clue how to respond. I mean, define taboo. Go ahead:

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I took the wind out of this guy’s sails when I didn’t answer his question.  I’m pretty sure he wanted to tie me up like a Christmas goose and spank me with a spatula. In fact, this blog, and therefore my LIFE, cannot be accessed at any Erie County public libraries anymore because it’s been deemed unacceptable for children under 18! It’s been banned. Found to be “suspicious.”

Now I have no choice but to put this up:

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Last night, I wanted to make sure I still had the ability to vocalize my fantasies. When I was driving with Mick in his car, I let everything out.

“The cop who just drove by, omigod, he looked pretty sexy,” I said while eyeing a police SUV cruising down Allen St.

“Like I care,” Mick said, totally pissed and smoking a cig. I’m pretty sure Mick considers the two of us in a relationship, but I fail to grasp this and continuously try to date other men. I’m not super satisfied with monogamy, what can I say?

“That’s definitely one of my fantasies,”  I said, oblivious and smoking weed in a nonchalant manner. “For a hot police officer to arrest me and beat me into submission.”

“Great…” Mick said.

“But not in the holding center,” I said. “I heard it’s pretty smelly in there.”

“Whatever,” Mick said. “We’re here.”

Mick brought me to a Christmas party in a dark Allentown mansion. I love going to mansion parties – they are excellent networking opportunities. In the middle of the party, when a bunch of people found themselves on pink striped chaise lounges listening to an elderly art dealer play the trumpet, I embarked on another taboo discussion with two people I thought were a couple.

“….Swingers parties,” I heard the guy next to me say. My ears perked up, full-on SONAR, and his female accomplice noticed.

“Sorry,” I said. “It’s just, I attempted to infiltrate the swingers scene here before. I’m a writer.”

“I’ve never gone to any swingers parties before,” the woman said. She was pretty and tan. “But he has.”

“It’s pretty wild out in Calabasas,” he said. “Have you seen Eyes Wide Shut?”

“Yes, and honestly, I don’t think it gets that steamy around here,” I said. “At least, everything I went to just had a bunch of people sitting around eating mozzarella sticks.”

“Really?” the woman said.

“Yeah, apparently there’s some Bad Kitty Club that meets down in Dunkirk,” I continued. “We should go! What are you two doing after this? We’re going to Mother’s. Want to come? Hey, Mick -”

Mick stormed off and left me sitting on the couch to talk about the swingers lifestyle on my own.

“Are you guys dating?” the woman asked me.

“Um, not really,” I said. “At least, I don’t think we are.”

“We’re not a couple either,” she laughed and swirled her chardonnay.

“I’ll go find Mick,” I said. “He probably had to go to the bathroom. One sec.”

I found Mick slouched in front of the kitchen sink.

“Um, what?” I said.

“Look, I don’t want to hear you talking about threesomes and inviting random strangers into our romantic night alone -”

“I didn’t know we were having a romantic night alone,” I said. “You have to be honest about your needs and wants. Now that I know, we can have one.”

“If you are into these things, threesomes, group sex, blah blah blah, ” Mick continued to rave like Steve Aoki in Vegas,  “Then we are just not compatible. I want a normal life, marriage…”

“That’s not what I’m into!” I clutched Mick by the shoulders. “That’s not my real life!”

Later on in the evening, after meeting tons of interesting people at the party, I went into one of the many bathrooms to think.

“STOP TELLING WELL-CONNECTED MIDDLE-AGED MEN THAT YOU WORK AT THE ADULT STORE,” I paced around the bathroom. “EVERYONE IS GOING TO THINK YOU ARE COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY INSANE.”

“But I’m a writer,” the other side of me said, and whether it was the angel or devil on my shoulder I’m still not sure. “Anything goes if you are a writer with talent.”

“EVERYONE AT THE PARTY THINKS YOU ARE A TOTAL NUT,” the voices in my head continued. “AND IT’S BECAUSE YOU ARE!”

“Ok, shut up and stay positive,” I said to myself. “You are indeed crazy and talking to yourself but it works for you.”

Mick and I left a little while later. We went off to continue our supposedly romantic evening, but in my estimation, it really wasn’t. He kept criticizing my life choices the entire time, mainly because Mick is from an older and more traditional generation.

“Your generation, all you want to do is cohabitate and share living expenses and fuck each other,” Mick said while driving me home, furiously puffing on cigarette after cigarette.

“So what?” I said. “My generation, we don’t need someone else to make us happy. We find strength within ourselves.”

“Whatever.”

I went to sleep knowing I’m insane. And when I woke up, I didn’t care.

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Doomed Chemistry

Ever have a crush on someone from afar? Someone you only know a little bit, but they seem like your “type”? Well, I did.

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It’s 10 pm and I’m driving to Murray’s house. Porch lights flick on as I drive down his street. I pull to the curb. It’s still open-window weather, and I overhear men talking in the driveway next to me.

“Donde estan las setas?”

“En mi patio…”

I’ve been here before, once, a while back.  But where the heck is Murray’s house?

“Hey,” I say into my phone. “I’m, like, here I think.” I take a new coconut-scented tree out of my glove compartment and hang it on the mirror.

“Be right out,” Murray says. I hang up the phone.

Fuck! How did I end up on an actual date with Murray? I think, and smile. Soundgarden is on the radio. And this is, like, the perfect song!

Murray is suddenly at my passenger door. I press the unlock button. He climbs in, leans over towards me, and with booze-soaked breath, says, “Hi.”

“Hey, Murray,” I say. “What’s up?”

“Sorry it took me forever,” he says. “Had to shave, you know how that goes.”

“For sure,” I say, eyeing Murray’s pomaded coif. “I mean, kind of.”

“I hope this club is fiery,” he says.

“I’m sure it will be,” I say, cruising down Fillmore towards Kaisertown/Lovejoy. “Of course it will be! Trust me on this one.”

We get to The Body Shop just in time to catch the action: a scrawny mid-age parking attendant in a yellow vest, idly smoking with a girl wearing fishnet thigh-highs and a North Face. I pull into a spot alongside them.

“This isn’t a spot,” the parking attendant says, coming closer. “This is NOT a spot.”

“Um, ok,” I say, putting my key back into the ignition. “I just figured it was, you know, in the middle of the parking lot…”

“You have to move your car.”

“Fine, fine.” I do a U-turn into an empty space in front of an abandoned freight train.

We walk into the club through a carpeted hallway. Murray is G-ed up for the evening: pomaded coif; sawed-off black tee;  jean jacket I would probably rip if I put it on and did a “Size Six in a Little Coat” routine based on Chris Farley;  pins and buttons adorn his lapel;  black jeans that bring to mind the Ginuwine song “In Those Jeans”; and some slick, gentlemanly monk straps. As for me,  I just wore my Playboy tee shirt.

“Next coming to the stage is Cinnamon,” emanates through the illuminated hallway as we enter the club. The interior has a disco vibe. There’s white shag on the floor. Strobe lights flicker around the room. Murray orders some drinks, and we sit on a saggy leather couch. We’re against the back wall, away from everybody else.

“Murray!” I slurp pinot grigio. “Last time I was here, they only played 60’s rock, I swear.” That was Murray’s main reason for coming. As you probably already know, coming here was my idea.

“Yeah, the music selection doesn’t match their brand image,” he says. Murray may have been on the club’s website all afternoon.

“This is Cinnamon’s last song, everybody, so put a dollar in her thong,” says the DJ, who’s standing behind a laptop on the other side of the room. Kid Rock starts blaring through the club, “Bong with the bong and bang ba bang ditty and the shooby and the doody and the nudie and the roodie-

“This is the worst song EVER,” I say, clutching my head. “The DJ last time was better.”  I bust out laughing, scream with delirium, actually, and watch a girl in a Rancid hoodie and G-string walk in and out of the VIP room.

“Are you going to get a lap dance, Murray?” I say. “Wait – where’d all the dancers go?”

Kid Rock’s song ends. I flop backwards on the couch. A waitress arrives; we get another round. A girl with short blonde hair walks onstage. As soon as the Red Hot Chili Peppers start, she removes her mermaid-inspired outfit and starts shimmying around.

“Let’s go smoke,” Murray says. We down what’s left in our glasses and head outside. Murray lights up in front of the handicap-accessible entrance to the right. A bunch of other smokers, including customers, the parking attendant and several dancers, surround us.

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“You can’t smoke over there,” the parking attendant says from the other side of the railing.

“Why not?” Murray says.

“That is the employee-only smoking section.”

“Oh, all right, let’s just go smoke by my car,” I say.

Murray and I walk off towards the abandoned freight train.

“I’m having a really good time,” Murray says. “Are you hungry? Maybe we should go.”

“Yeah, I’m starved,” I say. We zoom off into the night, as it is still young, and decide to go back to Murray’s house.

“I’ll make you a sandwich,” Murray says. I turn down the radio. He’s murmuring out the window. “Sausages…Italian sausage…Peppers…I do this thing with mayonnaise…Sausages from the deli…” Next time I look over, Murray is slumped over, bent-in half pretty much, passed out.

“Murray?” I say. “Um…where do you live?”

I’m driving down Murray’s narrow one-way street again but never figured out where he lives.

“Oh. My. God,” I say. “What am I going to do with Murray, literally?”

I drive around the block a couple times. Murray is still slumped over.

“Um…Murray?”

I turn up the radio a little bit – it’s “Come to My Window” by Melissa Etheridge – and suddenly Murray snaps awake.

“Hot sauce,” he says. “Do you like hot sauce?”

“Oh, wow,” I say. “Do you live at 199?”

“No, 109,” he says. “This is my house right here.”

“I thought you were dead.”

“Sorry, I’m just a little tired,” Murray says. “I’m good now. Come in.”

“Ok.”

Murray exits my car without any difficulty. Once inside his place, Murray puts the aforementioned sausages in a pan, pours two stiff drinks, and lights a cig. We sit at the bar in the middle of his living room, surrounded by ashtrays and vinyl records. Murray swirls his tumbler, takes a hearty sip, swallows, coughs.

“I’m not boyfriend material,” he says.

“Why d’you say that?”

“I’m not over my ex,” he says. “I will never be over her.”

Murray and his ex broke up two years ago.

“Well there’s more than one person for everybody. You’re really gonna throw in the proverbial towel?”

“I won’t ever be through. It fucked me up inside.”

Murray walks across the room and plucks a record from a crate, removes it from the sleeve, and sets it on the record player. Totally obscure sixties rock drifts around the room like a ghost.

“We bought the record together, and I said I hated her for finding this and not me.” Murray sits on the floor and stares at the wall. His dog comes out of nowhere and licks his face. He gulps his drink, inhales his cigarette.

“Gee, um…” I say. The bear trap around my heart tightens; I look left, and then right.

“That girl was my only chance for love,” Murray says. “Now I’m doomed.” He repositions the needle on the record and the song starts over. I sit in silence for a few seconds, then take one last bite of my sandwich.

“That was a really great sandwich,” I say. “But I really should be going.”

The sixties song, the ghost of the girlfriend from the past, still drifts around the room as I pick up my purse and walk towards the door. Murray walks with me outside to my car. At this point, his pomaded coif is totally fucked up.  Another cig dangles from his mouth.

“I had a nice time tonight,” he says.

“Me too, Murray.”

During the drive home, I realize Murray’s behavior, which many might consider unbecoming, proved one thing. He’s definitely my type.

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The Pain. The Torture. The Foreplay.

A Halloween Retrospective

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Halloween’s ghosts are gone. The vamps went back to their coffins.  Headless Horsemen rode off into the woods, since they weren’t getting any. Zombies looking for tacos had to settle for poutine, or perhaps they fed on their own puke. Who knows? Who’s to say? Spirits of Allentown shut their doors a while back, but their sign still looms ominously in the sky.

Eddie and I wander out of Nietzsche’s and into Holly Farms. We’re ghouls on the prowl. It’s Halloween and a little past five p.m. Not only is it the magic hour when everything looks pretty and not as fucked up, but it’s also Eddie’s birthday.

“I’m treating myself to a pack of good cigs,” he says to the clerk. “Camel Lights.”

“Here, I got you,” I press $25 into Eddie’s grip and start to walk outside.

“Do you really think this hat looks hot?” I say, turning back.  I’m wearing a navy cap reminiscent of a cop. Vintage. The antique dude across the street offered a fair price.

“Of course. Definitely.”

In the threshold of Holly Farms there’s a bunch of quarter machines filled with jewelry. One contains plastic grenades and dollar signs, which are definitely not Eddie’s style, so I put some change into the one with happier-looking charms. A necklace, featuring a lime green ice cream cone on a string, comes out.

Eddie’s already outside smoking a Camel. I hand him the plastic ball from the quarter machine.

“Wow, thanks,” Eddie says, putting the necklace on.

“I want to hear some music,” I say, taking a drag from Eddie’s cig. “And I’m feeling like a watered-down tequila sunrise wouldn’t totally suck.”

Several men are coughing on the bench outside The Old Pink, looking like run-down versions of The Village People, or maybe it’s the cast of Oklahoma. Who knows? Who’s to say? Maybe these guys aren’t even in costume. Eddie and I climb the steps and push the door open.

Everyday is like Sunday…Morrissey croons. Everyday is silent and gray…

Darkness folds around us. The ceiling drips. We sit at the very, very end of the bar, alone.

“Are you sure you don’t have to get back home?” I say, slurping my sunrise. “What if she’s planning a surprise party?”

“She’s not.”

“Are you sure she’s not waiting for you nude and covered in sushi?”

“She definitely isn’t doing that.”

“I just want you to have a good birthday,”  I say, and take Eddie’s hand. “I don’t want to ruin it.”

“Hillary. Rodham. Clinton,” shouts a man at the opposite end of the bar while slapping his palm on the pine. “HILLARY. RODHAM. CLINTON.”

“Ruin my birthday?” Eddie scoffs. “You’re totally making my birthday.”

Eddie has been sipping Guinness and scotch. We order one more round. The aroma of pot starts to permeate The Pink.  Eddie’s staring at me and I can’t remember the last time he blinked.

“Rejection is one thing,” Morrissey croons. “But rejection from a fool… is cruel.”

“We haven’t had drinks together in years,” I say. “Why?”

“I don’t trust myself to behave around you,” Eddie says. “I don’t want to lose control.”

“Control is overrated.”

“If we ever got back together, you would just break up with me after six months again.”

“Timing wasn’t right with us, Eddie,” I say.  “Sometimes I wish it had been.”

“I rushed things,” he says. “I should’ve put things in perspective.”

Three 8-year-olds in Halloween costumes arrive and sit next to us. They place their bags of candy on the bar, which I notice is completely slanted to one side.

“They must have had a long day,” I say. Eddie still hasn’t blinked. “Eddie?” He puts both of his hands on top of my thighs, zooms his face up close to mine, and emits a werewolf growl.

“I want to kiss you,” he says. “On the cheek.”

“Fine,” I say.

Eddie kisses my cheek, lingering for a few seconds before snapping back to reality.

“My girlfriend asked me if I would be open to sleeping with other people,” Eddie sips his pint. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ She just said, ‘Ok,’ and never brought it up again.”

“That sucks,” I say. “If you bring a gun into Act One, it better go off in Act Three.”

“Chekov said that, pretty sure.”

“Well, I think you should revisit the topic. Polyamory is trending nowadays – everybody’s doing it.

“Trying to find everything you need and want in one person is the source of our universal frustration,” Eddie says.

“That’s why I think I’m better off alone,” I say.

We finish what remains of our second round.

“We should go,” I say.

“I know. We should. I’ve been gone all day.”

“Yeah, it’s getting late. You probably have lots of messages to listen to, calls to return…”

Eddie zooms in close to my face again and emits the werewolf growl. He puts his hand behind my head, and we make out for the first time in years.

“Break up the family,”  Morrissey croons. “And let’s begin to live our lives…”

Eddie snaps back.

“We should go,” he says. “That’s just the right amount of infidelity for this evening.” He wanders outside.

“Yes, we need to go,” I rummage in my pockets, give $20 to the bartender and go outside too. Eddie’s smoking a cigarette under a gnarled tree.

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“Allentown is haunted,” he says. “They dug up a cemetery.”

“I know.”

It’s dark now, but unseasonably warm.  Eddie and I make out again under the tree, for a while it seems, until he suddenly snaps back again.

“I want you,” he says.

“I want you too,” I say. “But I’m through being the other woman.” I kick the tree trunk. “Done with being a side chick.”

“I understand.” Eddie’s staring into my eyes and apparently still hasn’t blinked.

“We’re better than that, Eddie.”

“I know.”

“So now what are you gonna do?” We walk past Spirits of Allentown and around the corner, back to where I parked so I can drive Eddie home.

“I’m supposed to make tacos,” he says.

“Make tacos? On your birthday?”

“I’m going to walk in the house with a boner and it’s all your fault.”

“Just say it’s that time of the month,” I say. “When you have more erections than usual.”  Eddie gets in my passenger seat. I start the engine and cruise out of Allentown.

“Can I smoke in your car?” he says.

“Smoke away, smoke away,” I say. “It’s your day.”

I drive up to Eddie’s house and put on my turn signal, but decide to pull into the 7-11 next door instead. I put the car in park, and turn to Eddie.

“So, um, let me know how everything goes,” I say. “Let me know if there was a surprise party.”

“Doubt it,” he says. “And you know how it’s gonna go.”

“What?”

“I’m going to make tacos, then have sex with my girlfriend while thinking about you,” Eddie shuts the passenger side door. “I’ll see you later.”

“You just haven’t earned it yet, baby…” Morrissey croons from my stereo as I drive away. My night is young, and off to a good start.

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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…

READER SURVEY: WHAT SONG WAS PLAYING WHILE YOU LOST YOUR VIRGINITY? FACTORYGIRL1987@GMAIL.COM

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.

WTF R U TALKING ABOUT: VOL. 1

 

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Thank you to all the men who send me messages on Facebook. Please don’t stop! Whether it’s to discuss their relationships, sex lives, or secretive forays into bisexuality, I had no idea my blog would resonate so well with men. I’m blessed to learn what I have about the male mind, which is… that they don’t know what the FUCK women want! That’s no fault of their own. Women don’t know much about men either, it seems.  Or rather, they do, but many don’t care. Women are the new men. Either way, there are serious, stage-five miscommunications going on.

Honestly, I’m blessed as fuck to know the things that I know. It’s a writer thing. Which leaves me… just as hard up as all of you guys. Knowledge is power until it all goes sour. I don’t have love, romance, or even so much as a recent dick pic to speak of. Ok, that’s a lie. I received a dick pic yesterday. But it wasn’t the dick that I wanted a pic of. So typical. Sad emoji. C’est la vie. The best I can do is watch August Alsina music videos, because apparently that’s what aspirational true love looks like in this day and age.

I’ve noticed communication gaps between men and women around here, and I’d like to talk about them. Let’s not allow technological fuck-ups to ruin our love lives.

Any romance queries can be directed to factorygirl1987@gmail.com and our panel of experts will reply shortly.

DICK PICS

A source for building sexual energy between two people, the Dick Pic is my favorite relationship enhancer, besides wine. While I called this section “Dick Pic,” I’m intending this to mean any “sexts” between two people including X-rated pictures and/or text messages. For two consenting adults over 18 who have filed a privacy protection contract through their respective attorneys to hold them accountable should said Dick Pic wind up on the Internet, (wouldn’t that be a good idea?) the Dick Pic is a faster, cheaper sex tape. I grew up admiring Pam Anderson and Tommy Lee and their brazen exhibitionism. You’ve seen how far that’s gotten me. But it’s okay to love one’s body so much that you want to share it with the world. That’s the Kim Kardashian Wave of Feminism, and it’s taking over Instagram. If you are in a relationship (or just hooking up) with someone and the Federal Government hasn’t tapped your phone due to a pending felony, there’s no harm in shooting off a sext. Just make sure the recipient is the one you intended.

Here’s some practical tips on making your sexts look great. 1) Take them when you aren’t sober. They come out better, for some scientifically-undetermined reason. 2) Don’t use a filter. You are going for Terry Richardson/American Apparel ad/I-woke-up-like this, in-the-heat-of-the moment aesthetic. 3) For a great picture of your own butt, you are going to need a mirror that’s either full length, or a wide mirror like you’d find in a public bathroom. There’s nothing better than shameless sexts from a public location. 4) A long-distance relationship without regular sexting isn’t a relationship. 5) There’s money to be made by sending pics of your feet to weirdos from Craigslist. 6) A sex tape won’t turn you into a superstar anymore. The best you can hope for is Stassi from Vanderpump Rules level (If you’re asking, Who? I rest my case).

BLOCK PARTY

It’s never been easier to meet people. With online dating, I can easily Skype (and sext) with a beau who lives in Hong Kong and works for a Fortune 500 company. Hell yes! However, this works both ways. Technology has made it easier to cut ties and theoretically erase ex-lovers from our lives. I’m jaded and have no patience, so I’ll admit I’ve felt a surge of contentment after blocking a guy that I was just on a date with five minutes before.  One guy made me pay for my own chicken parmesan, so I blocked him. Another man flaked on a date the morning of, so I blocked him. That’s not to say the legitimately psychopathic ex-con I had to block didn’t deserve it. But damn, he was sexy! And that’s not to say, there are some men who have me blocked. Yes, lil ol’ innocent moi. Besides, I’ve seen the blockers and blockees in person since. We’ve gotten along courteously enough. It was eerie. It was as if the Internet world was a completely separate reality.

Recently, I ran into the previously-mentioned flake at Gypsy Parlor. I was out with a new man. It was cordial between all of us. So that little hit of satisfaction over clicking “Block” is a passing high. It feels like you are getting back at the person, since they probably will notice that you’ve blocked them. But I doubt they’ll lose sleep. Plus, you will run into them soon enough around town, anyway, and just act like nothing happened. So, out of experience I’d recommend not blocking someone unless it comes down to personal safety. You look immature. It’s more enjoyable to let your jilted lovers see all the fun you are having.

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DRUNK DIALS

We all have our Achilles heel. Mine is the Drunk Dial. Back when I was having an affair with a married man, I’d LOVE to get boozed up at the club and call him late at night. It was on my top five favorite things to do, right between watching Steve Wilkos and drinking pickle juice straight from the jar.  The man was a lush himself, so we’d have some seriously heartfelt late-night chats (if I remember correctly).

But not everyone is keen on receiving Drunk Dials. Those are the people I tend to avoid, and they avoid me right back. Drunk Dials are a polarizing subject. For the most part, the men I’ve discussed them with enjoy being on the receiving end of a genuinely heartfelt Drunk Dial. It means, ‘Wow, she got drunk and had me on her mind. Flattering!’ I used to have a Friends With Benefits who would Drunk Dial me semi-regularly. He worked at a bar and would get out of work at 5 a.m. (He appears on the blog as “Dan” in The Sex Drive).  The best Drunk Dial I ever received was from “Dan” at about 2 a.m.  I was asleep in my loft downtown when my phone rang and Dan told me that he was outside. Literally the dude took a cab from Cheektowaga to Gates Circle to apologize for something he did a month before. A little belated, but I accepted his apology but made him sleep on the floor. There was something endearing about Dan’s stupid Drunk Dials. Of course, now that I think of it, he got stuck in FWB territory, and wasn’t exactly known as boyfriend material. Which leads me to…

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

It’s 2016. All the single ladies and all the single men seem to be ships passing in the night. We are all obsessed with ourselves and if the other person doesn’t like it, we tell them to go away forever. It’s all or nothing nowadays. We don’t compromise. We don’t exchange pleasantries. We don’t make sacrifices. I’m convinced that sometimes our soulmate is right in front of us, but we are too preoccupied with looking at our own image on social media to notice them across the room.

I walk down the street every day and always say ‘Hi’ to strangers, and only get a “hi” back maybe 50 percent of the time. Hipster men with glasses and beards are the hardest to talk to. They really have a wall up. I think I’m known around town as the doped-up girl with the vacant stare always saying hi to strangers, but that’s better than being known as a raging asshole.

Perhaps the best part of dating and the Internet is being able to save articles related to ex-flames’ arrests and police reports. I have a whole folder saved on my Web browser – DWIs, weapons charges, even a date rapist I met at The Bend! This technological age of dating allows us to get to know the object of our infatuation faster. But is this always a good thing? If my mom got to know everything about my dad the first month of dating him, would I ever have been born? The question remains as to whether ignorance is bliss. But typically, yeah, it is.

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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.