I explain to Jeoff what happened on the ledge outside the building. My clothes are wet and I feel uncomfortable. He takes me to a dark wood paneled room with a rack of clothes of all sizes and graciously helps me find some suitable replacements. He’s chatty and funny. He talks up the party quite a bit. I think maybe he’s alright after all, though I can hardly forget how he behaved in the dining hall. Afterward we head upstairs.
It seems that Jeoff knows everyone. As I follow him out across the lobby we pass a crowd of people disembarking the elevator, dressed in evening attire on their way to invisible destinations, a make up mirror, rooms booked by other people, rooms not their own, and dark tubes extending into nowhere’s nether regions. Jeoff waves and smiles almost indiscriminately, child like in his abandon. His open palm flits like a lopsided propeller. His smile is that of a two-year-old’s. I admire his outgoing nature, and though dismayed by it, feel a bit envious. I close the gap by putting a smile on my face. I try making eye contact with the people passing. I see festive faces, put on bright eyed like the stars, and mirroring a light only I am meant to see. Something else is here in this hotel, they tell me, something devilishly fun. I feel the blood quickening my pace. My last step into the elevator is a leap.
The doors close. Standing five foot four, elevated four inches at the heel and extending eighteen more from the top of the head by a heavy fruit laden head dress and giant sunglasses is a male Lady Ga-Ga impersonator. Her low cut shoulder strap dress reveals a strong back and arms slenderly cascading down a rapturous spine.
“Hi Miss Ga-Ga.” Jeoff says, waving coyly, ever the infatuated sycophant.
The queen turns exposing a puckish nose, square jaw, piercing eyes and a protruding Adam’s apple. She smiles broadly waving indelicate fingers, revealing a gap toothed grin.
Jeoff laughs at my horror, and giggles fiendishly with Ms. Ga-Ga, whose baritone laugh causes me to shudder. The elevator lurches skyward, and picks up speed.
“Quite a rush, isn’t it?” Jeoff says to me, obviously flushed.
I can hardly disagree, as all my blood is rushing to my feet. I feel lightheaded. Someone is smoking. Grey wisps of burning leaves swirl up my nose. The nicotine breath mixes with the stale hot smell of ozone radiating off the elevator’s electric motors. The heat begins to toxify my brain.
“Where is it?” I ask Jeoff.
“Party’s on the penthouse floor, right next to the banquet terrace.”
The elevator whines incredibly and picks up speed even more. I feel my weight pressing heavily towards the floor. And my arms seem to be stretching. The skin on my face is pulling downward against my sinuses making an awful pressure. My ears pop three or four times. How high up are we? The numbers on this elevator only go to thirteen, and we’ve got that high, but we keep going. Onward and onward, up into god knows where.
I feel a slowing, and my limbs are coming back to me. And before I return to myself the doors are open and I feel Jeoff’s hands on my shoulders behind me, pushing me out.
A dark smoky room spreads before us cut in half by table lamps and tiny fluorescent tubes from the bar. Half lit people caucus in the standing-room-only space. Queer musical pulsations throb against the walls and beat down from the ceiling. The sound of strange violins and electric music clamors off of the massive square columns, richly decked with shimmering dark wood tones, and cut velvet wall paper. Crude shadows stretch across ornately carved wood beams in the ceiling. Gigantic bowl shaped chandeliers looking like bronze age mobiles echo down the room, reflecting odd pins of electric and candle light, exuding none of their own, break up the shadow patters of the people, each dressed in full costume party regalia, red-carpet-risqué, and bold with laughter. A woman smiles and makes a willow motion with her black satin gloved arm and kisses a man full on the lips. Some bit of light snaps the shimmering wetness of the bottom of her tongue as it slides into his open lips. He takes her by the waist as her giraffe’s neck bends with grace and hunger back towards him. The moment flashes indelibly on my memory.
Jeoff walks ahead of me, and I can make out the back of him moving in between occupied chairs. He looks at the ground and I make my way toward him, heading toward the bar. He talks affably with everyone he meets. I gape at the sight of his alcohol flubbed face, gazing downward at a little yelping Pekinese dog that has run out of the crowd and is greeting him warmly. The dog climbs upon its hind legs, wraps its forepaws around Jeoff’s leg and starts humping, humping. His little crimped Pekinese face glows warmly up at Jeoff, little black eyes sparkling, mouth pulled back in a little doggie grin.
“Oh, Gino, yes, it’s nice to see you too! Yes, it’s too bad, Darling Lucious Shnookums, it’s too bad you’re so short and walk on all fours. We get along so famously!”
Though the moment seems a happy one for both of them, Gino somehow gets the wrong idea about Jeoff’s comment and soon his little doggie smile is gone, and he plops down in front of Jeoff, raises his back leg and pisses on Jeoff’s pants leg.
Jeoff snarls hideously, and takes complete leave of his senses. His eyes flash with gigantic savagery, and he rears back and kicks the poor dog, sending it sailing and yelping through the air, crash landing on some forgotten silver tray by the wall behind a row of slot machines.
The violence goes unnoticed by the other guests, who continue blindly in their discussions, their card games, their roulette. Smoke rises up from their collective singular focus. All have cigarettes or some incendiary phallus in hand. The familiar heavy odor of cigars wafts nearby and mingles with the trace musk of marijuana and sweet cloves. A cloud undulates dispassionately waist high in the room, lingering like an incantation above the heads of all the revelers.
Jeoff brushes his hands off on his pants and looks up at me with a bemused grin. He knows I saw him kick the dog and seems to care less.
“Gino’s irrepressible.” He says wending towards me.
I turn away from him and look at the bar. I could use a drink, but a cursory feel about my pockets reminds me. “Oh no.” I say.
“What’s wrong, darling?”
“I don’t have any currency.” I left without taking any. Not that there was any to take, the play money jar was empty anyway from our last family splurge for the month. Goddammit! I hate not having any money! It drains me and makes me feel bad. I need to write that book. But I don’t even have a title. Faced with the void, writing is such misery. It’s the work of the heart. The mind crafts a mirror of the soul and brings out the worst in a person, the best too. I thrill for the bright spark, the high, the connection with the spiritual coded messages only the deep inner mind, the heart, and the imagination can unchain. I’ve lost that light. It sends me into panic stricken depths. The deeper I go the darker and further and further away the light gets, until I can’t even think of a single word, let alone a catchy phrase or an idea that would transport me into that bright oceanic consciousness. During times like this I hear the dry sucking sound of the sea being drained away. Huge multinational corporations are using it to irrigate government subsidized crops and to generate electricity, the practicality of a world gone mad; man and woman driven hither and yon from each other, two souls cling together, get smashed and ripped asunder by grim economic machinery. Me and Helen, fish and ancient monsters from the deep gasp for air on the salty muck of what is now a graveyard waiting to claim its stock.
Jeoff looks downcast, and I’m embarrassed he has seen my existential despair.
“I-think I-know who-needs a-little-drinkie.” Jeoff sings with a twinkle. He takes my arm and leads me to the Promised Land. The altar is lined with people, sparkling glasses trimmed with alcoholic elixirs clink and clatter like rain drops on the mahogany.
A gaunt head attached to twin narrow shoulders peers down at us. Jeoff regards him cautiously with a heart warming smile and asks for a triple zip or something – some drink I’ve never heard of before – and an apple martini. I tell the freak head half man I’ll have Kettle One, on the rocks, shaken, neat. He smiles wiping his glass rim, and mumbles as his long arms pull glasses and begin their octopus dance of drink making. While we’re waiting, Jeoff sidles up to me so that I can feel his hot breath rushing past my neck. His breath is honey sweet and tinted with poultry rot.
“Mmm, Martini man…” He muses.
A woman next to us with a feather boa recognizes Jeoff’s voice and turns to us with a wide flashy smile. Her mouth is too big for her head. “My, Jeoff,” she says, “Here to play, poopsie?” And she tweaks his cheek with a giggle and a snort. Jeoff plays like a dog and paws her gloved hands, stamping the floor with his foot. He bears his teeth and growls, “Linda….RffRRRrrrrRRrRRRr.”
She laughs and gasps as he muzzles her neck with his nose and mouth, and she strokes his hair with her lizard-like talons, and makes turned on noises that blather straight to my crotch. She’s sexy alright. I watch and they get quite carried away; she rubs up against him furiously. His had cups her full breast and begins kneading.
Soon the drinks arrive, and Jeoff turns away, reaching for the thick drink that looks like some lugubrious mixture of spices and fruit pectin. He looks at me, eyes sparkling, hair mussed, lips smeared with Linda’s lipstick. “Cheers!” He says, already intoxicated. Our glasses touch and clink. We cheer one another. Linda disappears with another guy. I hear her heels cascading away as the first sip of my martini slides down my throat.
“Get out much, do you, Johnny boy?”
“No.” At least, not like this.
“Aw, that’s too bad. Wife and kiddies got you lying at home watching TV. That’s funny you don’t look like the couch potato type.”
“What type do I look like?”
Jeoff leans catlike against the bar and inserts his finger into the triple zip, and sings full bore “Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered… am I…”
I hope he finishes that drink soon. I think he sees me too clearly. Am I this obvious to everyone? “You should drink up.”
“Want one?” Offering me some of his.
“I’m fine, thanks.”
“Are you a somnambulist?”
I take another sip of the martini before answering. I don’t like this question and I like the answer even less. “I’m a writer.”
“An author, mmmmm…”
“What’s that supposed to mean? ‘Mmmmm,’ are you well? Do you have indigestion?”
“Why Johnny, I’m surprised. That’s not it at all! I just think that life is so much more… interesting… to say the least. Your poor wife must be very unhappy with you spending all that time in seclusion… writing.”
“She doesn’t mind.” When I’m actually working, that is.
And then the little bastard gooses me from behind. I look harshly down at him. He just smiles sweetly, his eyes sparkling, his teeth hungry. I could give him a case of indigestion that might curb his appetite. Then someone else catches his eye, and he bats his eyes coyly at them and waves. I can’t make the face out in the darkness, or whether it’s a man or a woman.
Enough of this! I feel silly standing here, exposed, letting this petulant twerp ask me these questions, and invading my body without a warrant! I feel like I’m being toyed with, lured – as if I’m the butt of some cruel joke, no pun intended. I shouldn’t be here. I should be home. It’s late! Helen is bound to be worried sick. What if she calls the police, or worse, comes looking for me? How will I explain myself? How will I tell her about the ridiculous events of this afternoon that have brought me here to this bar, to be drinking vodka with this lecherous food gobbler? Well, you see, then there was the elephant man, and the acid entrée, and this hyena dragged me upstairs… I’ve got to find a door. Where’s the elevator? How many flights of stairs will it take till I’ve got both feet planted on terra firma?
I begin to push my way through the crowd angry and anxious to leave. I nearly knock over a waitress in a cocktail dress. Some substance in a shot glass splashes onto the tray she’s carrying and onto the floor, nearly causing her to slip and crack her head. But she falls back into me instead, and my foot slides. My groin muscles spread and scream. I clench my arm around her. It’s all I can do to keep us both from landing on the floor. Then Jeoff comes and rescues both of us. His arms encircle me – his body pushes against my back, steadying me. Carefully he eases us both upright.
I look at him enfolded within his arms thankfully and embarrassed and he smiles. The waitress looks at both of us, her face white and accusing. I’m sure she thinks we’re lovers, and I feel an uprising in me. Slings and swords go clanging as soldiers within me swing and spill blood. Angels call their distress to a god who won’t listen. And all of Satan’s armies are cheering the fall of the beloved. I think Jeoff senses my disease. But he won’t leave my side. I shrug him off my shoulders and straighten my jacket glaring at him. He leans against a table looking at me with trouble-less eyes and a vague yearning. Still hungry, I take it. I turn away, renewing my resolve.
He is on me in an instant, wrapping his plush hand around my elbow, pulling me back. Baffled, I look back at him. Won’t he ever give up?
He speaks to me in soft warm tones, “Let me take you in the back. There’s so much to see…”
I pull away, half intrigued, half repulsed by his persuasiveness. “No thank you. I’m not interested.” I’m determined to find an exit.
“But surely you want to make it to the banquet, Johnny.” I hear a hint of desperation in his voice. No, you want to make it to the banquet, I say to myself. I just followed you up here because… and I get lost. There was Mandolin, moving me from room to room, the strange shadow man, the voodoo statue, the nearly fatal walk on the ledge in the rain. What was I doing here in this place where I don’t belong? How did I come to be here? I can’t remember. Then there were the books on all those shelves, scrambled as if someone had put them all in a blender, and that librarian, so genteel yet completely senile, and the clerk with his sinister urging and insistence that I should eat and take part in the hotel’s happenings. Yes, that’s it, even though he scares me, I know he is right. I came here to get away from everything, to somehow find myself and to recover from this maddening block. And here I find more things I can’t get away from… Jeoff is sincere with me. His touch makes my soul quiver. I resonate with the insistence in his voice and in his eyes. There is something true in it. “But surely you want to make the banquet, Johnny.” I do?
“Excuse me.” I pull his hand away. It drops dead at his side. He looks disappointed, but I don’t care. I won’t be taken in by his fool hyena attempts to seduce me.
I push through the crowd some more. I pass around table mounted by an array of computers. Hotel guests sit in the pale green glow of the monitors wearing strange Halloween masks; ghosts and ghouls, witches and satanic cherubim engaged in an electronic circle jerk. I have to get out of here!
You think you don’t belong here, a thought crowds my head, but you do, you’re one of us. You’re a resident. I look back over my shoulder. Jeoff is standing in the crowd, arms folded, looking at me intently as if I’ve committed a crime. You’re the criminal, I think back to him, not me. An innocent smile refinishes his exterior. He won’t leave me alone. I turn again, but I know he’s following me with every step.
A light comes on from nowhere. A brilliant pop and flash illuminates the room. Confetti explodes and litters the air with tiny paper fragments, thicker than snow, so dense I can hardly see across the room. The loudness of the bang and the sudden shrilling of the partygoers stun me into an immovable silence. My eyes expand and my jaw drops. The spectacle is stupefying. Whistles and twirlers scream and scratch the air. The crowd of revelers is up in arms. The room is more raucous than New Year’s Eve. Searchlights make crazy figure eights over the room carving a kaleidoscope of human forms and myriad broken patterns and shadows on the floor and throughout the room. A spotlight beams across the space. A stage appears through a wall, with heavy dusty velvet drapes weary with a few holes and cheap hasty patchwork drawn across the loose wooden planks. People gather and carouse at the foot of the stage, banging beer mugs and whistling, jeering and spitting streams of smoke.
A caller appears on the stage from behind the curtain. Tall and thin, his coat and tails are the tint of bright blood. His top hat is steeped on his forehead at an extreme angle, and he bangs a wooden cane with a shiny brass handle in the shape of a dog or a wolf. He raises his arms above the audience and exclaims in a loud shrill voice, “Come one, come all! He is here, the one you’ve been waiting for, the man whose skill and resistance to pain have made him renowned the world over, (and throughout the known universe, for that matter). He’s here straight from the dungeon, the one, the only INCREDIBLE PIERCING MAN!!!”
The crowd cheers. The curtains part to reveal a tall thin, man with alabaster skin standing on stage. He is naked except for a white cloth wrapping his loins, his skin is hairless from head to foot. His eyes are blotted from existence by twin black patches. And sticking through various portions of his arms and legs and body are large black cast iron needles. I tremble with the horror of seeing him. Jeoff seems to be quite amused. The crowd is in an uproar of muddled wonder and speculation. An assistant appears behind him. And at her appearance another wave of shouting and applause passes through the audience. Wearing black knee high boots, a Santa miniskirt, bra, and hat, she smiles prettily and curtseys beside the man. She is beautiful. Her taut thighs slide up the fur hem of the skirt and come to terms with a lithe torso that rushes toward her shoulders to catch long blonde curls. Her crystal eyes ray out at the audience and at me. I feel a shrill lurch up and down my spine. She’s holding a fourteen inch cast iron needle, and waves it over our heads like a wand. We all anticipate what she’s going to do with it. I begin to clap and whistle and jeer with the rest of the animals.
In a wild use of power, she orders the thin white man to bend over a low table, which he does with ephemeral sobriety. His head points upward, his canceled eyes wander out. His arms stretch over the table top, hands and spindly fingers clasp the edge for security. Little tremors jerk his face. He bears his teeth in anticipation. His whole body vibrates with the needles already enclosed within it.
With a violent swipe of her arm, she pulls the loincloth back away and whacks him firmly on the buttocks causing a dark stain to appear that immediately turns a rosy glow and slowly fades. The audience gasps in wonder. The piercing man’s head lurches upward in response to the sting. He pulls at the table, his arms going tight then relaxing. She whacks him again, several times. Each time he jerks and tenses on the table like a fish, his lips parting, teeth bearing, a quiet cat snarl of pain and hypnotic pleasure.
The audience is spellbound and enthralled with the sounds of the woman’s hand spanking the fleshy pearly white skin. A hush falls over the room, leaving the music pulsing like a heartbeat, as every eye, every soul stays fixed in a state of suspended animation, waiting to see what comes next. My heart is a hammer going off in my chest. Jeoff is motionless, eyes full on the stage, mouth raised and parted slightly in a lusty grin.
The piercing man’s head lies sideways on the table. His baby’s head goes to rest on his mother’s belly, his body supple and receptive as the Santa Clause mistress strokes and bounces the coarse needle over his the lobes of his bulbous posterior. I begin to shake watching as the needle moves blithely, trying its length in the longitudinal crevasse.
Another motion, the mistress changes her tack. She brings the needle in a slow arc through the air, and our eyes follow it magically. Targeting carefully, her eyes two focused laser beams, she brings the tip of the needle to rest on the inside of his right cheek. And with a snarl and flexing arm she begins to press. The man’s body goes taut, and his head lurches off the table. His face squints up with the feeling of the needle digging into his backside. With a short thrust she penetrates him. He lets out a yell and begins to tremble. The bones of his hands go ice white on the edge of the table. As the needle pierces the soft muscle his whole body rocks with spasms and his head whips around in cruel circles. He rears back, face a rampage, mouth cursed into a roar of painful ecstasy, as the needle lunges forth and blood spurts from the open wound and slicks downward, down his quivering leg and onto the floor. The tendons in the back of his knees and his heel quiver and vibrate like rubber bands about to snap. He shouts and screams uncontrollably, his voice grinding and wincing, trying to control the pain that has him torturously, viciously, sublimely in its nail handed grip.
The audience loses its breath. I fight to stay my balance, and Jeoff reaches behind to steady me. The spectacle of it! The man laying on the table, naked and trembling like a beaten dog as the Santa Clause mistress stabs him relentlessly with the needle, milking every ounce of raw animal terror from him, from us, from her. Everyone in the room is united, inept in our shock, transmogrified, grossed out, and held captive beyond our will, every eye unblinking. We feel as we try to imagine the pain. What she does to him, we do to him. We do to ourselves. We squirm as our blood ejaculates onto the walls, the floor, hanging like smoke in the air. We delight as we draw from this terrifying well. The blood jettisons all sense and sends us reeling like atomic particles high on animal trembling and the pounding of ritual drums, breathing the musk of blood, of our own life and death. For now, there is no other place on earth. We are wanton voyeurs bathing in a deep river of shadows.
A ridge appears on the other side of his ass. He is writhing, gagging, snorting. He spits uncontrollably. The Santa Clause mistress is a wolf with teeth clamped shut on its prey. The needle bursts the skin, pushes through, more blood spills. He lets loose a warrior – AAAAAHHGH! – and falls faint. His skull knocks darkly against the table. His body goes limp. Horns sound TA-DAAAAA! The crowd cheers. The Santa Clause mistress smiles, raises her arms, crosses her legs, and does her best Shakespearean bow. The curtain closes. The lights go dark. The room and the people and Jeoff reappear. My mind is incandescent and strange. I feel numb. Where have I been?
“Come this way…”
Jeoff is leading me by the hand, but I don’t know where he is taking me. I can just make out shadowy forms around me, but none of this feels real. We come to the edge of the audience pressing toward the stage to a few stragglers moping here and there at empty tables, and past a few more columns blurring to the left and right. The edge of the room is getting darker. The heavy wood beamed ceiling gives way to a smaller room where it drops and the light is more diffuse. In some half darkness off to the left there I see two large machines. Square and black, they have wires and armatures, and pipes with gauges and blinking diodes. They rumble and hum with the sound of cooling fans and central processors babbling with bits. Out of the top of each machine articulating arms support an assemblage of cables. At each end the cables drop down and connect to two women standing on the floor. The women are naked, one thin, the other large boned and chunky with hearty trunk like legs and knees. They each have helmets on. The bra and panties blink with more tiny lights and twitch with electrical impulses from the various cables. The two women are standing oddly bending their bodies as if to get them closer or further inside the machinery. With each zap and vibration of an electrode they bounce and squirm and make shrill happy noises. They wave their arms and hop around moaning orgasmically.
“Fun isn’t it?” Jeoff asks.
I’m reaching through a fog to comprehend the set up. “What is it?” I wonder.
“Oh, just a little something the engineer cooked up for us. It’s for those who want to play it safe… Oh, but you’re a purist, aren’t you, Johnny? I can tell. Come this way, let me show you.”
Show me what? Whatever it is can’t be any stranger than this. Jeoff leads me past the end of the room down a hallway, broken here and there by dim lights in the ceiling. The hallway is cramped and inviting. The ceiling is very low. Scantily clad women rush by and bump against me. They feel like the wind. The air is brushed with alcohol. Suddenly I begin to feel the walls close in. A tall hulk of a human being in a dusty black suit and tie considers Jeoff and me from several feet away. His bald head has volumes of flesh covering his cheeks and neck. One eye stares directly at us. The other, a billiard 8 ball, drifts appositely. I feel something go flaccid inside me. Jeoff fires up and starts spouting like a Roman candle.
“Bruuutuuuuus!” He crows. “Johnny, come here. I want you to meet Brutus!” Jeoff reaches underneath Brutus’ jowls and rubs them indelicately as if he’s scratching behind a dog’s ear. Brutus moans and tilts his head with pleasure as if same, and grabs Jeoff for a great big hug. “Oh, look at that!” Jeoff gurgles, his eyes bulging, “He’s a big fluffy pillow, aren’t you Brutus?” Brutus moans again like a bear on ecstasy, and chortles. At the moment when Jeoff’s face is about to burst from being flushed with blood, Brutus lets go of him and steps aside, opening a flat featureless door.
“Come on, come on!” Jeoff urges, dragging me in by the hand. We enter a room so dark its dimensions are impossible to gauge. We stand at the doorway for what seems like a long moment, during which I try to think of ways I could get myself out of here. It’s quite impossible. Jeoff is half lit in front of me. I feel Brutus now standing in the doorway behind me. I’d like to politely beg off, but somehow I don’t think that’s in the cards.
Jeoff is smiling at me in a way that clowns often do at circuses. His eyes twinkle with another light that goes directly through me. I feel Brutus take one step in. The door behind him closes with a resounding metallic clang.
I’m sealed in the dark with these two strangers. The room is fathomless. I’ve nowhere to escape. Trembling sensations sweep over me. Neither says a word to ease my tension. They know everything. I know nothing. I’m at their mercy. Godammit, I wish one of them would say something. What is it I’m here for? What’s in the dark? Is the floor about to drop out? The whole universe could fly away and I would be stranded here. This must be hell: a dark room, a clown, and a blind mute. Sartre’s, at least, had stimulating conversation.
The lights return, squirming out of darkness in unusual rays, flickering and rotating. A pattern of light expands. Ripples and tendrils form a kaleidoscope of ever changing refracted light. Suddenly my mind begins seeing familiar shapes in the negative spaces. Here and there, moving and dissolving into one another, one, two, and still more appear – human forms.
I have to get out of here. Lithe bodies are writhing out of frequencies of light, cascading toward me like storm clouds. I turn and bump straight into Brutus. His bear groan tells me not to go.
Jeoff soothes me, “There’s no rush, Johnny.”
Brutus turns me, and I once again look, eyes gaping, mouth dry at the bodies in the cascade. I’m shaking and awkward with the prick of temptation’s quill dabbling at my lower spine and rippling through my perineum. Jeoff steps forward and I can make out the edges of his shadow in front of me. My heart is pounding. I feel his hands smoothing my arms. “Maybe you should’ve had another martini…”
“I think you’re right.” I say hoarsely.
“Drink this.” He says, handing me a glass. “Drink it.” And he disappears, down on his knees unbuckling my pants in front of me. The light’s kaleidoscopic fury shimmers. I raise the cool glass to my lips and begin to drink, as I feel myself spring free of my trousers into the cool air and immediately into Jeoff’s mouth. The bitter sweet taste inundates me, passing me under a wave of heat and lime-green sweetness, – absinthe. As the soothing heat spreads through my body, a blast of lusty breath hits me, radiating from my chest and up into my head. My senses fold into some lost totality, and I feel that I am purely, wholly, and gently suckled by Jeoff’s hungry lips in front of me. I swim now in a sensational blanket.
“Pure ecstasy.” I hear him say.
Now Brutus grabs me with his big hands by the shoulders and begins tugging on my clothes. I hear the ripping fabric, and the seam down my back is coming undone. With a violent jerk, the clothing comes off of me. Jeoff takes off my shoes, my socks. He does it reverently and slowly. He rubs his palm across my troubled arches. I feel another tug on my pants. Brutus guides my legs out of them, and suddenly I’m threadbare, naked and dangling in the curious dark. I feel Jeoff now standing next to me. He rubs his hands and finger through my hair and traces a line down the nape of my neck. I feel the muscles in my back release as the pleasure of heat sweeps my crotch, my ass, up my back and down to my heels and toes.
“Now I want you to go.” He whispers close.
My head is bowed, flushed with the Absinthe. And I am not myself. I’m in a relaxed trance induced state, subject only to pleasure. How did I get here? How did Jeoff put me so comfortably at ease? I walk forward into the light and the maze of human shapes. The brightness and the warmth reach for me, and I feel the first light touch of its fingers. A wave surges toward me. It sweeps around, a warm tropic mass of fluid embraces my body and carries me into itself. The broad current lifts me off the ground so that I am free and captivated by my own buoyancy. The fingers multiply and become an omnipresent caress of butterfly wings tracing every inch of my body as it floats in mid air. The butterflies whisper. They tingle. I hear birds singing vaguely far away. My eyes are closed, but I can still see the shimmering light, pushing through. I feel that I am begged forward. The light tugs at my remaining resistance. I open my eyes to see what the light holds in store.
As if a roiling cloud were moving across the air, a tumbling mass of human beings clamors toward me for a naked embrace. I turn my head and I am surrounded. I feel them next to me. Warm soft flesh pushes and taunts my entire body. Faces turn toward me, warm, beautiful, and inviting. They’re everywhere. I feel I’m becoming part of a great oneness. Heat extends through the grappling throng. It rushes past me in streams. I am fanned and spin about. The breath of wine passes between all of us. It fills me like the rush of the sea, clamoring down my nose and my throat, drowning me. An intoxicating cloud saturates me. I am lost, spinning. Hands are on me, feeling me, clasping my breast, my face, my buttocks. Fingers fill my mouth. Beautiful faces and eyes and hair flow ruinously over my head. They laugh and whisper. I feel their voluminous flesh pressing against mine. Their breasts mash against me. Their hands feel every quarter of my body. I feel myself go rock hard, tongues and fingers brook babble and sway around me. My nerves ignite, and the hardness is compelling. The teardrop lobes of a woman’s ass sway over me. Her crotch opens and settled down over my mouth. My lips part and my tongue flatten to greet her delicious wetness. I drink from her lips and their wet petal fragrance trickles over my tongue and down my throat. My mouth goes to work smoothing this moist flower. The bulb of her clit is a bead against my tongue, and I search and probe and mingle as she rubs my face even and steadily, rocking back and forth. I feel this wetness descend over my shaft. I lunge upward, desperate to meet it. I can neither see nor hear, but I feel the squeezing of her legs and the hot power of her body as she lays down over me and strokes me with her nakedness. The interlock of man and woman completes the universe. The rocking becomes violent. I’m mesmerized by the sexual energy emanating from every pore, making lightning spasms in my pelvis as I rock into her fiery depths. My tongue flames the soft metal over me. Her lips grow hard and her clit becomes a crimson ball ready to explode. I am not alone. I am one with many. My consciousness explodes through the undulating field. I twist and surge and soon feel myself coming, jerking, and erupting. The strong fire of my life sends me wave after wave ripping the shadows of the room to reveal a lapping emerald sea where all madness ends. The shockwave rips through my heart extending out of heaven, down into primordial shadows to still the waters where the sun risks its vermilion sky and sinks into lavender and night…
I stumble out of the darkness, intoxicated, spent. I’ve been ripped apart and utterly conquered. From out of the darkness comes the sound of clapping, and I can hear Jeoff saying, “You did it! You did it, boy! I knew you could, I just knew it.”
Brutus puts a robe on me. I feel immediately secure, dressed and warm. Jeoff hugs me.
“Oh, just look at you. You smell like a whore on Santa Monica Boulevard! Oh, I love you, Johnny! I do, I do, I do!!!” And he squeezes me and pats my head. I feel as if I’ve passed some kind of test. I look querulously at him. I’m beginning to see. He still has that clown face. He punches me in the arm and chuckles. I guess I passed.
I hear a knock at the door. Brutus opens it. The brightness outside overcomes me. Jesus! Where’s a bed?
A skinny FBI looking fellow in a dark suit and skinny tie, with black sunglasses holds something out in an envelope towards Jeoff. Jeoff bites his lower lip insipidly like a child and snatches the envelope out of Mr. FBI’s hand. I watch from a distance with a queer disembodied feeling. The rush of the Absinthe and my orgasm still clings to me. I can barely stand up straight.
“For me?” Jeoff asks and rips the envelope open. “Oh this is it! My invitation! Oh, I’m so pleased. Oh, but Johnny, Poor Johnny… We have to figure out what to do for you. Well, don’t worry, I’ll figure something out.” He pats me on the shoulder. I’m supposed to feel relieved and thankful. But I have a disjointed sense of dread.
Brutus presents me with a rectangular box, a leather brief case. I look down at it, stupidly preoccupied with the grain finish and the details of the case, the leather handle, the brass key way.
Here’s a little present, Johnny. Now I want you to take it. Go on! Take it. Now I know you’re having a little trouble at home, so I just want you to take this to your pretty wife.”
“What is it?” I mumble.
“Open it and see.”
I try, but I can’t get my fingers to work in any coordinated fashion. Brutus’ fat digits deftly spring the latch for me. He raises the lid. There’s a whole lot of money in there, large one hundred dollar bills. What is this? Free money, some kind of bribe. This is Jeoff’s idea of a joke. I shake my head.
“Ohhh, no – I can’t possibly…”
“Why? Why not?”
“This isn’t my money!” You mother fucker. You think you can buy me, is that it? Huh? You wanna buy me so you can fuck me?
“Oh now, Johnny, please… You earned it!” Jeoff closes the case, takes it out of Brutus’s heavyweight hands and puts the handle in mine. Then he puts his arm around me as Brutus steps aside, and leads me out the door, whispering conspiratorially, his head tucked close to my ear. “Now, we’ve done you a little favor. I know it might not seem like much right now, but I promise you, you’ll thank me later. It’s for the best. Just trust me. You do trust me, right?”
What the fuck? No I don’t trust you. “Sure.”
“We brought your wife and kids here.”
Oh, you fucking asshole! What is she going to say when she sees me here looking like I’ve been fucked to the great beyond?
“We set them up in a nice cozy apartment downstairs. Now, we know you’re going to be with us for a long time so we want you all to be happy! We need men like you here. Family men… Residents! Believe me, this is the best move you could make. This is right up your alley! Now take this package. Oh, and take this too.”
He holds out to me another key on a ring. “What’s this for?” I ask.
Jeoff pauses and sighs. “Er, a little insurance… Just in case. We know these things don’t always go well, so… If you get into trouble and you need a place to go, you can go.”
We arrive at the end of the hallway at a doorway marked “exit.” I find nothing reassuring about Jeoff’s smile. But I am too drunk, to completely stoned and intoxicated and spent to argue.
“I see. Well that’s really thoughtful of you, Jeoffrey, that’s really swell.”
Jeoff opens the door and ushers me out. “Don’t mention it,” he chirps, “Now you’re wife is in room 710. Can you find it?”
“Yeah, sure, Jeoff.”
“Good! Off you go! Don’t worry about the banquet. We’ll get you in somehow.”
We? Yes I’m sure now. This is some conspiracy. They all have it in for me, Jeoff and Blix. They’re bent on turning me into a homosexual and screwing my marriage! “Oh, you know you’ll love it when I suck your cock, Johnny. You know you will!” I’ve got to get sobered up. I’ve had enough conspiracies.
I stare down the blank hallway and can just make out an elevator oddly shifting one and two down at the end. I put one foot in front of the other, my weight wobbling diffusely, my head swimming heavy and dull. Suddenly everything just goes lopsided and I find myself spun out, sitting, leaning against the wall. The whine of an elevator approaches. I can hear the doors opening. Someone’s coming out. Why is there money all over the floor?
“Oh my! Mr. J! Oh my God! Where did you get this?”
It’s Mandolin, uniform pressed and ready, hat raked, the ridiculous plastic brass pin shining. He swoops down over me and stabill – stabilizes me against the r – wall. His hands are moving… Moving. Moving. Quick, it’s the shell game. The money is disappearing. He stuffs it back into the case. Good Mandolin. You really deserve a tip this time.
“Man are you shit-out, or what?”
He helps me up, but I’m heavy. How does he do it? He’s strong for such a little guy. He pushes me toward the elevator.
“No, no, Mandolin, I’m fine, I’m ph-fine. I just going to take this to my pretty little wife.”
“Is she here?!”
He props me up in the corner, and I stand there like a corn stalk sort of bowed. I’m completely whimsical. “She’s downstairs on the seventh floor. Jeoff and Blix brought her here… had to be them. You know I think they’re out to get me… turn me into a homosexual. What do you think?” Mandy’s white makeup and red lips appear garish and terrifying in this light. He’s definitely one of them. “Ah, hell, you’re in on it too!”
“Are you a homosexual?”
“I dunno… sometimes… Maybe I am! Maybe I’m not. Who really cares???”
Mandolin rolls his eyes. “Don’t worry, Pappy, your secret’s safe with me.” Mandolin stops and considers me carefully. “Maybe you should come downstairs with me. I can get you some coffee. You don’t want to go to your wife in this condition.”
Ahhh, you rude fucker… you can’t have me! “Na, hell, fuck off. I’ve seen you looking at my money. I can deal with it!”
I’m gonna hold on to this case as long as I can. I’m not letting it out of my sight. Mandolin’s a good boy, but I don’t trust him as far as I can piss.
“Good boy, Mandy-lin.” I say. I don’t want him to get the wrong idea. If he thinks I don’t trust him he might make it difficult for me. I’m just gonna ride this elevator down. And I’m gonna get out. And then I’ll show this little