Private Magazine

Tag: Niagara falls

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.”

Murrays

“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.”

READER SURVEY: WHEN ARE MEN IN SKINNY JEANS OKAY? FACTORYGIRL1987@GMAIL.COM

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.

Facebook Fucks

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In the early light of dawn, vampires return to their coffins after a night of lecherous bloodsucking.

I scroll through the Facebook feed in a bleary-eyed stupor, in the space between waking and sleep.   An ex-fling from last year – one that barely registered on the FWB Richter Scale – has become engaged. To someone who looks like Miley Cyrus – The Hannah Montana version.  I vomit everywhere.  C’est la vie. A werewolf howls at the moon.

———————————

greenfaces

The February chill whips around my coupe as I speed across the bridge. Fluorescent lights glow in the distance, on a hill, like the Great and Powerful Oz.  I somehow got invited to a “press opening” at the casino, for their nightclub.  I’m psyched!  I plan on schmoozing with whatever “industry insiders” are there.

I get lost and park my car in an extremely far location by accident. Row 578 Section 46, something like that, in the parking garage. I hop into the descending elevator.

“Are you here for the press party, too?” I ask an elderly couple in patriotic sweatshirts.

The elevator dings! and I’m released into the wild. I follow the fist-pumping beats to the nightclub area. A judgemental-looking woman with a clipboard makes sure I’m on the list, hands me a gift bag, and I go into the party. The crowd appears to me an intimidating hoard of old guys in suits. Some middle-aged couples sit around the periphery. Where’s all the writers? I know a writer when I see one. A skinny, bespeckled chap is sitting at the bar. I reach over him and grab a chocolate-covered strawberry.

“Hello!” I say, “So you’re here for the press party? Who do you write for?”

His girlfriend appears.

“Oh, we both write for Lacrosse Monthly,” she says.

A short, awkward conversation begins, until I get the hint and leave. That’s when I spot a devastatingly handsome guy smack in the middle of the room. He seems about my age, with thick brown hair, medium height, wearing a dress shirt and tie. He has the sullen, brooding romantic expression that I adore. The furrowed eyebrows…. definitely the sexiest person here.

I walk up to him in my Professional/Erotic Stilettos and introduce myself.

“Hey, I’m AJ,” he says. “And this is my dad Francis.” An older guy with a goatee and a Nikon comes out of the shadows. “He’s a photographer.”

We chit-chat; AJ tells me that he sells ads for a newspaper. A cocktail waitress appears brandishing a tray of glowing, technicolor shots.

“All right, ok!” AJ takes two shots from the tray. I am trying to sip the same glass of wine the entire duration of this open bar event and be on my best behavior… but my willpower is slipping. I pluck a shot off the tray and take a sip.

“Bleh, I don’t like it,” and set it back down. I must maintain control.

AJ runs off to the bar after asking what I want to drink. He returns with an armful of beverages.

“We have to make this open bar count, we only have two hours,” he says.

AJ and I grow increasingly inebriated together. Between trips to the open bar, cocktail waitresses revolve through the crowd, offering “samples.” Then, AJ points out a towering ice sculpture. Behind it, martinis are being shaken.

“Martini sculpture!”

We drunkenly navigate our way to the shimmering sculpture, staring at one another, drunk and drooling. This AJ fellow is a serious casanova. Selecting a martini glass,  he holds it beneath the ice-cold stream of booze and extends it my way. With a raised eyebrow, he says – “Let’s go to the slot machines.” He makes it sound like a romantic invitation.

We stagger out of the sanctioned soiree. AJ sits down and whips out a pack of Seneca Menthols.

“This machine isn’t taking my money,” I slur, trying to shove a limp one-dollar bill in the slot.

“Here, I got it,” AJ valiantly says, putting a five in.

We puff away on a few Senecas and talk. AJ asks me about my life, my ambitions, and seems interested in everything I tell him.  His green-blue eyes are large and expectant.

“I just can’t believe you don’t have a boyfriend,” AJ says. “Here’s my number.” He hands me his business card. “Let me put it in your phone!” He puts his number in my phone.

I stub out the Seneca in an ashtray and lean over to AJ, who is leaning over at me, and we smooch. Sparks fly; an orchestra of slot machines create the soundtrack. Beneath the white dress shirt, his body is bangin, I can tell.  AJ pulls back, and loosens his tie.

We saunter back to the party. Francis is dancing front row center with a martini in each hand. He grabs me by the arms and starts gyrating to the floor. I am 50 Shades of Blitzed.

The open bar has been over for an hour and a half. AJ continues buying liquor for all of us. Towards midnight, he squints at a receipt in horror. “My God.” He looks at the floor in befuddled silence.

Francis, AJ, and I all put on our coats and head to the entrance.

“Well, bye!” AJ waves and leaves suddenly.

“Goodbye!” Francis, with a wobbly zigzagging strut,  exits after him.

TAbloid

I’m standing in the lobby alone. Great, I’m up a creek, drank a creek, without a paddle…now what am I gonna do? The prominent Hotel Check-In desk is to my right. Maybe I can score a sweet room for the night, with a bathtub and mini bar…Could be posh. I picture some hangover room service in my drunken mind. My God maybe there’s a continental breakfast.

One should never make the assumption that just because a lad gets you wasted,  that he’ll also take care of your drunk ass and make sure you get home. That’s a common misconception.

“Hello, hi…” I mumble to the poker-face desk girl. “How much for a room? I think I’ll just crash.”

“The last room we have available is $475 dollars.”

“WHAT?!” I’m shocked. That’s more than my rent.  “It can’t be!  One night? There’s not a closet or anything?” I’m backing away, back up right into a sitting area and plop down upon an ottoman.

I call my FWB D.D.

“Daniel….Dan, please…I’ve had too many martinonis and I’m stranded at the casino and there’s no room for me…Was falling in love, but he left…Hello?! Hello!”

But Danny-Boy doesn’t answer. I get a large, black coffee and wander the barracks of the hotel until dawn. This place is open 24 hours, after all.

————————————————-

“If a guy totally ignores your Facebook Friend Request and doesn’t call you, ever, does it mean he never wants to see you again?” I ask a  random co-worker.  She doesn’t know what to say.

“But you don’t understand,” I bite into a carrot stick. “It was magical.”

I get home from work as pissed as ever. It’s been two weeks, and  AJ was clearly Wild for the Night Fuck Being Polite. What the fuck! No one does that!

In a fit of curiosity, I find AJ’s Facebook profile, with my request sitting there stagnant, suspended in time. Clearly there is SOMETHING that I am not intended to see.

I see a recent status of his posted on the side. “Feeling Blessed – At Molly’s Tavern.” Why would you be feeling blessed at Molly’s Tavern? There’s nine people tagged, all family given the last name, except one girl. I click on her name. A giant picture of her and AJ is her main photo, with captions like “beautiful couple!” and “congratulations!”

Wow, that was way too easy,” I think to myself. “He’s lucky I’m not a psycho bitch.”

I close my laptop and go outside,  with a renewed sense of clarity.

truckers

Naughty Secretary Wishes and Caviar Dreams

Ladiesroom

The office wall clock strikes 8 a.m. I’m at my desk, polishing up an article about the Alden Senior Citizens Gospel Choir, with the working title “Never too old for Jesus, Christ.”  My editor just might like it. The draft left him speechless. Rubbing my bloodshot eyes, I consider making a fourth trip to the coffee pot.

Five days ago, I got dumped.  Upside-down Polaroids litter my desk. I lay my head in my nicotine-stained hands, letting myself sink onto the keyboard.  I”m an overdramatic age 23; post-work self-medicating with NyQuil and Mike-a-Rita’s seemed like a logical breakup strategy.

I feel like absolute shit.  There’s shouting in the hall.

“James, James! You said you were going to help decorate my Christmas tree with Grandpa – why can’t you now?”

“Because, Natalie, I have to go out of town.”

“You’re seeing that slut-bag in Lockport,” Natalie accuses, her voice echoing in the corridor.

Natalie, who covers the South Buffalo edition, has had web content editor James Pirazski ensnared in her high-maintenance lair for far too long. I feel bad for Pirazski. He’s not bad looking.  In fact, he looks a lot like Ethan Hawke circa ‘95, and he definitely doesn’t know it. Natalie makes him wear sweaters that she picks out. Between her unrelenting demands and un-sexy loafers,  I have no idea why Pirazski sticks around. She definitely doesn’t put out. It’s tragic.

I rummage through my paper clip drawer, looking for loose change. Opening the door of the Editorial Department., I head out for some Pop Tarts. Actually, the Pop Tarts are a cover; I want to engage in my routine flirtations with Pirazski.

“Hey, Pirazski,” I whisper in a low, phone sex operator tone. “Good morning.”

“Ugh! Don’t you dare pay attention to anything she has to say!” Natalie shrieks. A button pops off of her embroidered snowman cardigan, and flies across the room. I bend over and get my Pop Tarts out of the vending machine.

alize

————————————————

“Listen, you should really come to the party tonight. You owe it to yourself.”

I swivel around in my desk chair. Stella, the North Tonawanda reporter, has a sympathetic face behind her glasses.

“Yeah, I really haven’t done anything fun in two weeks. I’ve been depressed.”

“Well, it’s Jill’s husband’s birthday,” Stella says. Jill is the Lockport editor. “They want everyone in the department to come.”

Propping my high heels on my desk, I stroke my chin. “Hmm, you’ve got a point there. Yes, I think a party is just what this girl needs.”

“What do you think, plant? Should I go to the party?” The plant on my desk doesn’t say anything.

So after the workday is done, I start getting presentable for the Editorial Department Soiree. Getting Presentable means that I’m blazing in my garage, fantasizing about the fact that Pirazski will be there, along with Jill’s 35-year-old brother-in-law, who I’m pretty sure has the hots for me.

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I park my dilapidated, rinky-dink Chrysler on top of a curb. Jill  lives on the East Side/Cheektowaga border with her husband, Mitchell. It’s his 32nd birthday. His brother, Harry, has been pursuing me heavily. We went out once; he’s a 35 year-old Chippewa DJ going through a midlife crisis. I don’t know why I’m so mean to him, though. That’s no way to treat someone who takes you to Mother’s.

I’ve been writing a blog for the newspaper’s website about my dating life, and wrote one about Harry.  It said, and I quote, “My date drove a really flashy sports car with techno music blaring out of it … He stood without a coat in the snow, hair gelled into an intergalactic nightmare. I could smell his vanilla incense-meets-motor oil cologne from 25 yards away.”

Harry called me and said he was flattered that I wrote about him.

When I walk into Jill and Mitchell’s kitchen with a Cookie Monster birthday balloon, Harry is hyperactively waiting for me.

“Let me make you a drink, huh?!” He starts shake shake shaking away with a cocktail shaker, in True Religion jeans.

I mutter an unenthusiastic “sure” and go into the living room in search of Pirazski. He’s lying on the couch, strumming a guitar, singing along to “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.”

“Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage…..Yow!”

I jump up on the couch, and join in, horribly off-key.

Now I’m naked, nothing but an animal, but can you fake it, for just one more show?  Woo! Don’t you just love Billy Corgan, Pirazski? I always had a crush on Billy Corgan.”

“Oh, yes, I could see that…” Pirazski drunkenly stares into my eyes, then off into the distance.

The liquor cabinet is cracked open. There’s Bacardi Melon and Bacardi Raz and some Svetka. We pour shots into glow in the dark glasses and bitch about our boss. We toss streamers and balloons around the room, munching on Cheeto’s. Between the booze, I smoke Harry’s Marb 72’s. Suddenly, Natalie calls out an insidious idea.

“Should we play Truth or Dare?!”

“What is this, fifth grade?” I declare. “Oh wait…actually, that’s a great idea.”

All of us drunken professional colleagues are in agreement- Truth or Dare it is. Harry adjusts himself in his True Religion jeans. Stella is doe-eyed and innocent, sipping the same cocktail as earlier. Natalie has had three drinks, and is therefore drunk.

“Now Pirazski, truth,” I slur. “When was the last time you and Natalie got it in?”

“I’ll take a Dare,” Pirazski says, looking down at the floor.

“Well I dare you to…I dare you to, um…”

“If you can’t think of anything, you have to take the Dare!” shouts Mitchell from a bean bag chair. His pants are on his head. “Three….Two…One…”

“I dare you to – kiss Natalie!” It is Pirazski who makes this proclamation.

Without a moment to waste, I have already taken hold of Natalie’s chubby face and am kissing her with a generous amount of effort. Flash bulbs from at least three different phone cameras go off. I’m not sure how long the moment lasts, but I’m fairly certain that Natalie is kissing me back.

fuck

———————————————–

The following Monday in the Editorial Department, Natalie and I are trying not to look at one another. This is hard, since our desks face each other. Suddenly, our boss, our editor, emerges from his office.

“Ok, team, what was going on with last week’s edition?” My editor clutches his bald, perspiring skull. “There were misspellings in the Sound The Horn section, and a photo of a flower garden next to an article about a Tonawanda house fire. They are going to ask me about this at today’s Quality Control meeting and I’m not going to know what the heck to say.”

Jill’s collection of porcelain clowns stare at me from her desk. Natalie has set her knitting project aside. We all sit in silence.

“What do you have to say for yourself, plant?” The plant on my desk doesn’t say anything.

“Ok team, I”ll be back after Quality Control,” my editor declares, shutting his office door behind him. Then, sticking his bald head out again, he adds, “Nice piece on the Alden Senior Citizens Gospel Choir.”

——————————-

Six months have passed, and both Natalie and Pirazski no longer work at the newspaper. Natalie got fired, and Pirazski left to start his own web design company. I hear through Jill that they’ve broken up.

Pirazski sends me a LinkedIn message one day out of the blue. It says, “You should really have your own website or blog. I can help you if you’d like.” We make plans to meet up at Cole’s to discuss business.

I find long-lost Pirazski sitting alone in the corner of Cole’s, looking  mellowed-out in a thermal. We have a few pints of Guinness; a friend of his materializes and buys us a round of Jack Daniels shots. I’m feeling buzzed as Pirazski carries on about domain names and ad space. Is this a date? Could be; Pirazski picks up the tab. We head towards the door, and Pirazski walks me home. The names of our exes are never uttered, and we don’t talk about the newspaper. It has turned out to be a pleasant evening.

I go to sleep, wake up, check my phone. A monsoon of texts, one carrying Media Content, awakens me.

The first thing I see when I open the first message is a dick pic. Then, I scroll through texts from Pirazski. “Whenever you were at the coffee machine, I’d check out your ass from my office.” His office was a stone’s throw from the coffee. “I thought about you many times while I played with myself. Do you like fishnet stockings? Your ass always looked so good in those tight pants. Do you think I’m fuckable? Do you like to role-play? You can be the naughty secretary.”

This is me we’re talking about. Dick pics and sexts are not a turn-off. What immediately offended me was Pirazski’s assumptions, and completely premature behavior. Why didn’t he just tell me these things at Cole’s? Oh wait, he was trying to be “professional.” But obviously, he has zero intention of helping me build a website. That was his ‘in,” his card to play, to see if I’d give him a blow job before things even got started.

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If I had a dollar for every time a man in the Buffalo newspaper business came after my ass instead of my talent, I’d be a goddamn millionaire.

I stare hard at my face in the bathroom mirror. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I should write for porno mags like Playboy and Hustler.

Things never did get off the ground with Pirazski, after I ignored his unsolicited dick pic. I wonder where he is now….Probably married to that slut-bag from Lockport.

Beware