Club Kid by Jessie Woods


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Club Kid by Jessie Woods


He's older than me by one-half of the distance it took me to arrive here. Which makes him about fifty. He's Spanish and I'm lukewarm. Across the bar on the wall is a picture of two bare-chested guys carousing, wearing cowboy hats. I love the splash of bright warm colors. All the men here, including the ones hanging out by the piano, face one another as if alternating singing parts of a duet.
     When I tell Enrico why I'm here, that things across the bridge didn't quite add up, or that I'm the sum of a hundred broken histories and dangling questions, he nods his head, as if he understands too much and tells me that I'm not exactly straight. He says he's bi, that sexually he prefers men. I had told him that with me it was the other way around. But girls always saw me as nothing but a reflection of their brothers, or in some cases, someone naive enough to be tricked again and again. When Enrico approaches the bar for another drink, the bartender, who flaunts a Russian accent, wearing a Tee-shirt that screams FUCK ME WITH YOUR BOOTS ON, jokingly tells him they don't serve straights. Around here, the gays refer to bi's as "straights." Maybe it's universal.
     On some nights, Enrico tells me bits of his life, how he was close to his mother, who refused welfare or how he never could keep the men he loved. He never knew his father, and that story sounding all too familiar, keeps traveling around the world.
     Enrico then comments that he likes me with blond hair, forgetting that he tells me this a hundred times already. It's some product called Solar Spray and it has the picture of the sun on the cover. The color comes out after a couple of washings, leaves my hair feeling dry and stiff, a part of me I no longer recognize, so I keep re-applying it.
     He then brings up this one night, when I was so fucked up and he was living in a three room dungeon uptown. I offered him my ass just to see what it would be like, whether I could take the pain, if this could make me more of a man. Or maybe to spite the pastiche of somebodies from my past, smiling from old photo albums, but only for the camera. Enrico rubbed his hands across my chest, down my abs, and said he couldn't do it.
     After floating in a river of rum and coke, we leave and head to a place on Ave. A called The Pyramid Club. It's not even six, and inside, there's room to wander. Here, most come in singles and I give everyone an identity: musician, independent filmmaker, drag queen, gay, doper, lonely misfit. There's room for unclassified. The bartender, a black dude with biceps like cannonballs, serves us on his roller blades. On the TV. the last emperor of China cuts off a lock of hair. We head towards the back room.
     The music is throbbing, maybe too loud for this space in the shape of a keyhole and the stage to the rear is empty. A few people are sitting at either side. The room is chilly, damp, the kind of place that sticks to your skin after you leave.
     Enrico, drunker than what I imagined him to be, starts dancing in the center of the floor, trying to copy my moves from the previous club, which I, in turn, mimicked from a Madonna televised concert. He's spinning and attempting to cross both legs in front, turning, jumping, and trying to land in the exact same spot. But he doesn't. His balance is awfully shaky, but by the smile on his face, one that won't wash off, I can tell he's having a good time. He's being himself.
     One guy sitting across, smiles at me, then looks at Enrico, now performing a Tango by himself across the floor, and seems he wants to break into stitches. I'm too tired to dance. In his own way, Enrico is brilliant this evening, the way he holds his imaginary partners, the dramatic expressions and tilting back of the head. The performance of his life. It should be taped.
     After that evening, I didn't see Enrico for a period of about two years.
     Something happened.
     I gave the police information about who was responsible for what, what exactly went on in this uptown club, one I had stopped going to, who was supplying the Ecstasy, who carried a gun, who broke heads. I identified faces in photos and told them what was said to me in a private room.
     I stopped going to certain places. I read stories about how club kids were found in garbage bags at the bottom of rivers, nothing more than a collection of body parts and no one cared to look for them. Not even their mothers or sisters. I laid low.
     It's a cool April. I'm sitting in the bus at Port Authority after browsing bookstores and art shops. My new life is placid but safer. Enrico steps aboard. I call out to him. He sits down next to me and we both are giddy like in the old days. I can smell liquor on his breath, but he isn't as drunk as I remember him on our best nights. He asks me how I'm doing, then comments that my hair is no longer blond and asks when did I grow the goatee.

Jessie Woods lives and works in New Jersey, where he skateboards, falls and sometimes can't get up.