Tommy, and Wayne are sitting at a sidewalk table when I get to Spice
& Sage. Around the table, various brown and clear drinks are
watered down due to melted ice and an abnormally humid Friday afternoon
in the city. I order Ketel One on the rocks.
ever date a stripper?" Tommy asks me as my drink arrives.
take a long drink, and then loosen my tie, noticing Tommy is wearing
a yellow tie, the same color yellow as mine. "I dated a stripper
from New Jersey, but it was for only, for like, two dates."
calls over the waitress and orders another round. "What happened?
Was she a tease?"
no, Chance, that was her dancer name, I can't remember her actual
name, but she was cool. It just didn't work because she lived in
drinks arrive. Jackson drinks down half of his Scotch. "Bridge
and tunnel strippers, there should really be a law." Everyone
nods and takes a drink.
is going out with..." Tommy points over to Wayne.
from The Rear End."
finish my drink. "Nice. How did you meet her?"
one answers. We have another round of drinks and then split. Tommy
and Jackson going to a new club called Sassy; Wayne and I heading
to a rooftop bar called The 600 Club.
a cab Wayne says, "She was with my dealer. That's where I met
Your guy doesn't mind? I mean, those are usually the guys you don't
want to piss off."
laughs as we get out of the cab. "No, he doesn't mind, the
amount of money I give him, damn, he should be so lucky she is all
long elevator ride and we are greeted by a man in tight slacks and
a girl in a tighter skirt. Both dressed in black. They take us to
a table near the bar with a great view of downtown. We both order
vodka and light Parliament cigarettes.
she's pretty cool. The only thing is that Alexis is a headliner."
Wayne looks over at the bar, watching our drinks being poured.
ashtrays, I put out my cigarette on the side of the brick table.
"Damn, how are you handling that? I've never heard of such
a fucking headliner."
finishes his drink, takes a long breath, and looks around. "You
want to go tie off?"
inside the open roof-top area there are private bathrooms, spacious
enough for couples to have sex. Spacious enough for two heterosexual
males to shoot heroin.
* * *
I'm covered in sweat when I wake up the next day. I'm on a patch
of grass, which after further analyzing is a field with no end in
sight. I don't have a headache, and there are no marks on my arm.
A lake is off to the left, mountains straight ahead, a camouflaged
painted cabin to my right. It's not humid, just dry heat as I pick
myself up and walk over to the cabin.
to Idaho" reads a postcard taped to the door as I enter. There
is a kitchen table, set for eight. Steam is pouring out pots from
the top of the stove. A woman wearing a tattered apron and red scarf
appears. "Oh, you must be Stephan. I'm Lucy." Lucy grabs
my hand and leads me out of the kitchen before I can ask where I
is sitting on one of the four chairs in the living room. As I enter,
he looks up. "Welcome. What happened to you?"
sure, I just woke up..." I point with my left hand toward the
kitchen. "I'm from New York, uh, City."
looks over at a man napping in the chair next to him. "That's
Cameron. He was a cop in New York. He cheated on his wife, and,
well, the way Cameron tells the story, she grabbed his gun and surprised
him one morning. No hesitation."
sit down on a chair. "Oh."
me..." Ned laughs, "I'm a victim of AIDS, but it's my
fault, you see." Cameron stirs. Ned looks over. "You see,
I married a stripper, and not just any stripper, but a headliner."
look down at the floor for a second, and when I look back up, everyone
am I doing here?" I'm back in the kitchen, asking Lucy.
face turns red, embarrassed. "Oh my, you didn't get your basket,
some reason I look around the kitchen, scanning the place for a
basket. "No, I didn't."
runs out of the kitchen, and is back in a minute. She's carrying
a basket and hands it to me. Sitting on top of the basket is a welcome
card, welcoming me to the afterlife.
staying on the second floor. Don't bother looking for a key, because
we don't have any." Again, Lucy pushes me out of the kitchen,
this time toward a staircase.
a hundred stairs and I'm on the second floor, a hallway of doors,
no names or way of identifying who or what is behind each door.
I open the first door. A man is strapped to a chair and getting
a tattoo from a person mixing ink, gasoline, and gun powder. Gagged
with a rag, only tears escape. Blood drips from his right ear.
the second door, an old man sits in a metal chair as a woman continues
to stick a needle in his arm, purposely missing his veins, but promising
next time will be the one. The man's arm looks black from the bruising
and he is shaking from withdrawal.
the third door, a man is stripped naked on a bed. A table saw is
hanging a few inches over his midsection. Naked girls are dancing
around the bed. Also gagged, the man is unable to communicate his
thoughts as the table saw is turned on and his excitement brings
him inches closer to the blade.
this, I run down the stairs, back to the kitchen, where there are
seven seated at the table.
Stephan. Right on timeI made omelets."
going on here? This isn't heavenwhat is this place?"
laughs. "Oh, Stephan, who said anything about heaven?"