From that odd locale, we walked for blocks upon blocks, children’s toy castles, and we arrived in the bar district where the night life was lived, and is lived even now as you read.
The place seemed like any other strip in any other town, until we began to examine the place and learn what it was all about.
A man in a slouch cap leaned against a green lamp post like the other hundreds lining the city streets. He moved his skin across his jaw and ruffled his whiskers.
The man broke his toothpick between his teeth, and raised his eyes gently toward us.
“D’ya wanna’ roll? Thirty bucks a hit. Good shit in from Miami.”
There was a brown stain on his blue denim button down. “Aderol. Five bucks a pill. Shrooms, thirty an eighth.”
The fingernail was missing from his right pointer finger.
“Thirty for an eighth? That’s ridiculous.”
“Okay, okay twenty-five. Whadaya say?”
“You’re killing me dude.”
“Fine, fine twenty. I gotta’ eat bro. Twenty, okay?”
I mess with guys like him. It’s like being at a market in New Dehli where every price is negotiable and every price marks the barrier between hunger and happiness. He was dark-skinned and leathery from the sun in that way construction workers tan after years of shirtless middays in the summer heat laying bricks leaning ever so slightly forward over scaffolds drinking Sun Drop.
“C’mon. Don’t mess with that bum.” Brett was looking out for me.
It’s as if the guy knew everyone on the strip, but had taken a vow only to speak to a select few. He knew how each person there thought and what they were after. He knew who they’d been with the night before and he surely knew who they wanted to be with that night. He knew then that the night still held surprises both positive and painful. Brett knew a thing or two.
We walked into a seedy club called The Jinx. The doorman checked us out on the way in, but I don’t think he was looking to see if we were of age. It’s more like he was looking into our minds and trying to decide whether or not we belonged inside. He apparently approved, and we went in. There was dark brocade carpeting and wood fixtures including a backlit bar spanning the entire left wall of the place piled high with liquor bottles of every make and mark.
“A White Russian please.”
I watched Pete as he took the place in. He was checking out the girls, and I was sure that he didn’t quite know where he was or what he was in for. The girls were in pairs or in groups, as were the men, and they didn’t seem to mix. Pete examined all of this as if it were an anthropological study. A man in a black pin striped blazer bought him a drink. He had a rousing conversation with a pair of lesbians in neckties.
Suddenly, it hit him like a blackjack to the temple.
Pete set down his drink and started toward me. Brent and I were having a stirring discussion about the new Brooks Brothers line when Pete staggered up to us with his eyebrows wrinkled into an angry crunch. His upper lip was tucked into his lower lip, and it seemed as if he’d been deeply offended and betrayed simultaneously by someone’s genuinely offensive betrayal hatched by the plotting mind of a person whom he always thought would betray him because they deeply offended his sensibilities.