The universe is efficient

24 Dec

Ruthlessly, maddeningly efficient, giving you what you need only when you absolutely, positively need it and not a second before or after.

I’m not sure how the dancers in Washington, D.C. make their real money, though fortunately the same hasn’t been true for me. (Even with the holidays and my ad hitting at the last minute, it’s as good a market as it was during the early Devon days. Finally I’m offsetting some of this road trip’s financial hemmorhaging.)

At the bars I went to in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, they had backrooms. Not so Tony’s Corner Pocket in Houston, but there’s a Best Western next door. Come to think of it, there are several hotels near the place I’ve been hanging out, and there’s a park nearby where one of the patrons said he’s heard dancers and patrons sometimes go in the summer. And I imagine some of the dancers just work for tips.

Whatever the case, in I go with my fedora and an I-know-that-ho sticker on my chest and they work their usual magic. Somehow they facilitate honest connections and spark exactly the conversations I need, if not always the ones I have in mind. (They’re not all friendly ones, either; a close friend back in Houston and I had a row by text and phone and he declared, not for the first time since I left the paper, that he was “done” with me, which was what an ex always used to say until I called his bluff. But I was wearing my fedora and sticker, and sure enough the truth came out.)

There was the devastatingly sexy barback, for example, who overheard me explaining to a customer that believe it or not — no, really — there are enough guys who aren’t into anal sex that I can make a living without it, or at least I could back in the day. His ice-water blue eyes fired up and he wrote on a card and gave it to me, explaining that it’s like Facebook for people with fetishes. (It was an early night in my stay and I was worried about my prospects. I haven’t had a chance to fill out my profile yet, but I will.)

Last night he told me about two of his kinks — one I’d never heard of, but that he discovered around the same age I discovered one of mine — and one that aligned perfectly with mine. Something was smoldering under those ice-water eyes; I was as sure of it as every customer who’s ever flirted with bar staff has ever been. (He even poured my drinks! Barbacks never pour drinks!)

“What are you doing Xmas?” I asked. “I know you’re not working.” (The place will be closed; I checked.)

“I’m going over to a friend’s house,” he said.

“All day and all night?”

“Pretty much.”

Meanwhile I’d been chatting with a lanky blank chef who’d sidled up to me to say how beautiful I was. Hearing his accent, I asked where he was from.

“Côte d’Ivoire?” I asked. “It’s got to be one of the Francophone African countries.”

“No, but you’re good!”

“Cameroon’s both Anglo- and Francophone, right?”

“You’re good!”

“But still wrong? Where else, where else? I’ve had two vodka-Diet Cokes.”

Finally he wrote the letters S and E on a card and I got it. Senegal, though he’d mostly grown up in Paris, where he’d worked his way through culinary school as a stripper. We’re both 42, though he’s a few weeks younger than me, having been born on Nov. 18, which is, needless to say, my wedding day.

Also needless to say, he wanted to fuck me.

When I made clear that wouldn’t happen, he said it didn’t matter, that I was his brother.

“I’m your brother from another mother,” I said.

“Oh, no, I can’t call you that! I only call my best friend that!”

The chef’s best friend is an escort. We tried to connect with him but he was on an overnight.

“I have to get up early anyway,” I said, before toddling out just as the barback was making his way downstairs. I grabbed him.

“I have to go,” he said.

“Will I get you alone before I leave town?” I asked.

“No,” he said, and slipped off. Oh, the things he could have taught me!

None of the museums in Washington, DC — at least none of the ones I want to visit — will be open for Xmas, so I looked up the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, which I badly wanted to see but had to skip on my way up. It’s open 365 days a year. The minister/pig-semen tycoon who officiated at my wedding is driving up from Norfolk to meet me there. He’s never been to Richmond. The universe is efficient.

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