I snapped awake in Carpinteria, my body screaming for ice water. We hit a fast food place where I bugged them for french fries and the largest water they'd give me, I'd pay full price on a soda for ice water. After that, Bekka and I traded off using the bathroom so we could rail up.
In a short while we were in Santa Barbara, searching for a posh hotel. After much picking of brains we found a place called the Bacara Resort & Spa, with $140 rooms and $70 dinners. Perfect.
Given how the day had gone so far, it was decided we get into the mushrooms and get out of our heads: each of us eating a handful of shrooms , waiting for them to kick in, then get good and strange by taking some MDMA and going for a walk on the beach, feeling the sand springing under our feet.
It was the combination of the words "Hotel," "Resort," and "Spa" that should have given away the fact that the fun we would have should come at the expense of other guests, not what the hotel had planned. Hotels are nice. Resort Hotels are pretty awesome: they usually have Jet-Skis for rent. Spas are a drag: far too many people wearing fluffy terrycloth robes at all hours and in every social setting except meals, and that is usually up in the air. Personally, if you want to be in a robe and out of your room, it had better be during a run to the ice machine at one in the morning.
The solution of the Hotel-Resort-Spa-Bath-house-Brothel is to keep the guests swaddled in terrycloth for as much of the day as possible, bringing shame on those that are not. No substitutions, either: the kabuki-style Japanese kimono robe Bekka was greeted with much coughing and throat-clearing.. Bekka's entrance into the dining room via the front desk made the front of the hotel sound like a tuberculosis ward. (Given the shortness of the garment, there were few if any complaints from male guests.)
Another tip-off as to the tenor of the place was the near-constant availability of wine regardless of where one went. Not only were neither of of us wine drinkers, any alcohol in combination with psilocybin mushrooms pretty much guarantees a long visit from Uncle Ralph.
The saving grace: massage. And a normal massage, no happy endings, just a good therapeutic rub-down. The hitch was that we wanted multiple sessions, preferably back up to each other. This aroused suspicion....
"Hello, this is 41-C. We'd both like massage therapies, at 1:00, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:00."
"Uhh.... You're aware the therapy appointments last ninety minutes, sir."
"Oh yes. Two sessions for me, two for my girlfriend."
"'Why the multiple sessions?"
"Because they feel good, why else?"
In a tight voice, the man on the phone said, "You are aware that these are therapeutic massages only."
"Pfft. Dude, if I was looking to get off, me and my girlfriend would stay in our room and take care of business on our own, for free. Why would we spend $200 to come?"
"People often get the wrong idea, sir."
"Ain't my fault they're lonely and stupid. We're on, right?"
"(*sigh*) Yes sir. Appointments at 1:00, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:00."
"Works for me. See you there. We'll be the ones wearing flimsy robes and Doc Martens."
Wait, room 41-C? There's a note here.... Ahh.... The management asks that if you do wear your robes in the dining room, please also wear undergarments. And a brassiere."
"Why the hell would I wear a bra, buddy?"
"I believe that is directed at your female companion."
"Okay, just checking. I've seen a few dudes on the beach that could use one. They also look like they're in their third trimester."
Bekka had fun with beachwear atrocities in a couple boutiques. She figured that even if Inana Productions went belly-up, she'd be working for some production company or another, and would need the outfits: no company wouldn't be doing poolside shoots. Some swimsuits were straight-up porn-wear, others looked like they were out of 1906.
The general rule of thumb was that the less material involved, the higher the cost. Serious sex-bomb bikinis went for $35 and wouldn't cover two hamsters, while the mega-modest one-piece ones, single pieces Tammy Faye Bakker would look at and think, "Oh please," ran for maybe $20. Bekka explained it was all about strategy, covering what you could with as little as possible.
Our post-massage shopping was an interesting experience. I was looking at how the bikinis were cut, while color seemed to be Bekka's litmus. We'd eaten more of the mushrooms before getting showered and dressed; Bekka wanted hues that could be used to signal aircraft. Bekkka knew how to get her way. She went out on the patio (under the suspicious eye of the sales girl) and began asking middle-age wine drunks --- the ones responsible for the "Therapeutic Massage Only -- NO INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR" signs in the massage rooms --- if the suit looked good on her. There was a consensus that it did. She had several requests to make money by removing it for them, while they took pictures. I gave out Inana business cards and instructed them to send an SASE (large) to receive a catalogue, but we were currently on vacation. "Porn never sleeps," said Bekka. "Like an erection that never dies down, porn blindly thrusts forward."
"So porn is cock, period," I responded. "No other physical attributes."
"Well.... Porn is also pussy, but I haven't thought up a decent simile yet. But porn is cock, it's pussy, and those of us possessing either one work like hell to bring off the lonely, the degenerate, the pent-up, and the needy in the world. We free the repression in the souls of the desperate, that they may come, and have release!" She had her arms spread like a Shakespearean performer at the end of this, and she wasn't done.
"Porn is my world. It is my hell-burned sun that warms me too strong. I live under the video camera's unblinking eye while I suck and fuck and lick and touch, being held sway under it's remorseless judgement, yet I know the camera loves me, unconditionally, as I love it! Smut feeds me, smut holds me in an unyielding grip. Porn is fucking, and I am porn!"
There was a fifty-fifty split between concerned muttering and light applause.
"So you wanna give 'em a piece about three-ways?" I asked, as we waited for the elevator.
"Nah," she said. "Always leave 'em wanting. I'd love to work that into a video. Just.... Get as fucking high as I am now.... Absolutely blast all the fuckers' brains out, do something so powerful it gets stuck in their heads forever." I realized her teeth were clenched and her eyes were huge. If she'd taken more drugs, she hadn't told me, and it was too late to do anything about it beyond riding it out.
Between the mushrooms and her having taken two more hits of Ecstasy, Bekka was absolutely cartooned. We had dinner delivered to the room, but she was insistent on going down to the dining room for dessert. She had developed a nudist streak, nearly demanding that clothing be avoided at all costs, no matter the situation. I managed to get her into the bathroom while the porter brought in our meals.... And that that still didn't work, as she came out exclaiming, "Is that dinner? You beautiful man!" while wearing nothing but a very manic smile. I was able to convince her that clothing was not optional in the dining room, they would insist upon it, or we wouldn't get served. She weighted the options of not wearing clothes and missing out on molten chocolate lava cake, and cake won out. She even put on mostly full clothing, consisting of a sleeveless blouse and jeans, but no shoes: while I'm hardly a fetishist Bekka had very nice feet. They didn't get sucked on, merely got admired.
"I know it sounds like I'm trying to run myself out of a job, but casual public nudity, and even sex, would be such a liberating thing in the world. Imagine saying to someone who is naked as you are, 'I think you're gorgeous, let's screw, no strings attached'."
I told her, "Your job would be in no jeopardy at all. Think of the rejection, of the hurt feelings. Think of all the people who would be turned down because person 'A' doesn't find person 'B' attractive. I think there would be a lot of anger and frustration in your hypothetical situation, a lot of bad feelings and anger. It wouldn't work. Trust me on this one: unless you somehow managed to get people to develop uniformly attractive bodies, you'd have one group, a smaller group, that would be getting fucked all the time, while there would be a huge group who would slowly turn into rapists due to their frustration and and anger: after all, why shouldn't they get to have sex with with the beautiful people? You'd end up creating a two-tiered society: the pretty and the not-pretty. And the not-pretty would rebel."
Bekka poked glumly at her cake. "You think so?"
"I know so," I told her. "One of the reasons I started dealing drugs was to meet girls.... Or at least get laid every now and then by chicks desperate to score. How pathetic is that? I was ugly. I may not have been been particularly physically ugly, but I felt ugly, and I thought ugly, so what was the difference? Women who approached me had something up their sleeve, I knew it. No fuckin' way they liked me for me. That was impossible, a goddamn fairy tale. I was just some ugly dude who had good dope."
"Stop it," sobbed Bekka. "Stop.... Hating yourself. I've heard you spend too much fucking time calling yourself names and talking shit about yourself. You say you're ugly and and criminal and a useless thug and I wonder who the fuck you're talking about, because I see a man who saves the lives of strangers in motel lobbies and is generous and kind and would give the shirt off his back to someone who needed it and I can't stand it! Please, please get it through your fucking head that you are a good person. Why can't you please believe me!? Please stop hurting yourself!"
" Bekka, please stand up."
She did, and so did I, and we held each other and cried and fuck all who thought what of this scene.
"I can't just change, Bekka. I wish I could but it's gonna take some time. I have to learn how to stop hating myself, to not think of myself as worthless. I hope.... I pray.... that I can. I want to be good. It's my own head-war, where part of me knows I'm not a bad person, I'm good, but there's also a demon in my skull that always tells me I'm shit. And I want to kick it to death and tell it I am good. and to stop and leave me alone."
Bekka wiped her eyes. "You already are good. I just need to convince you of it."
"Yours is about the only voice that gets through a lot of the time. You are.... So beautiful for that." Tears began running down my face again..
I told Bekka, "Let's finish our desserts, and go upstairs and make love. Not have sex, not fuck, not screw, but make love. Is that okay? I need to be close to you like that."
She smiled and said, "I think I'd like that a lot."
An hour later we lay intertwined on the bed, touching each other, enjoying the pure tactile feel of our sweat-slicked bodies against each other. Even without coitus we felt insanely close: the touch of our fingertips bringing us closer together than most people feel during sex.
As a more practical matter, we needed ice water: we were parched, even with the relatively mellow pace we'd held. I grabbed both ice buckets --- one for drinking water, one for wine bottles --- and the key and headed out the door, wearing boxers and boots.
And there just had to be someone arriving at the machine the same time as me.
"So how's yours?" he asked.
"How's my what?" I responded. I knew what he meant. He confirmed that there was a high percentage of rich winos looking to spend the weekend with women who charge a thousand bucks a day for their company. From the funk he gave off he'd switched from wine to scotch over the last couple hours.
"Yer broad, kid! How is she?"
I don't want to have this conversation, I thought to myself. I want Captain Fuckface to get lost I ignored him and began filling my buckets
"What, she ain't playin' right?"
"I don't want to talk to you, sir. I think I hate you. Now fuck off and leave me alone."
It was as if I hadn't spoken at all. "If they don't play right, not doin' what they're told, jus' give 'em a few slaps. Those prices, issa only thing ta do."
"You didn't hear me before, and I really mean it now. I hate you. Also I hope you die of testicular and penile cancer so your tiny little cock doesn't work, and they end up cutting chunks off your dick in an attempt to save your life, but it doesn't work so your balls get cut off, then your cock. You're ambulatory pus, worthy of nothing but hatred and contempt. I want you to die while they slowly chop off chunks of your balls and dick. Go the fuck away, with your mouth shut."
"You issultin' me, kid?" Captain Lushatio asked.
"Well, you stupid fucking lush, I did just tell you I want you to die of cancer. You figure it out, asshole."
"You weirdo lookin' lil' punk! I'll take ya apart!"
"Swing on me, tough guy. Why don't you try to hurt me?"
He tried, I suppose. He swung at my face, which I dodged. As his fist went past, I grabbed it, twisted it between his shoulders, and smashed his face into the ice machine. Then I leaned in close and asked, "Which is your room?"
"Your temper has gotten you nowhere. The woman you hit is leaving after you pay her off." I twisted his arm up further. "Your room, sir."
"Then let's walk that way."
He was just a few doors down from us. As we walked, I heard a door open and shut, and looked behind me. It was Bekka , wondering what the hell had happened to me. I silently mouthed 'follow me' at her; she silently padded behind on bare feet.
At the right door, I shoved him forward and told him to unlock it. He did so, and I pushed him into the room. It was the same layout as ours, plus the addition of a girl in a negligee with the beginnings of a black eye.
"I'm guessing ugly things have happened in this room," said Bekka, looking at the girl.
We must have looked trustworthy, because the girl suddenly exclaimed, "He has a gun!" and sunk to the floor behind the bed. I dove for the drunk's pants at the same time he did, only I didn't have a Sicilian landing on my back and crunching a knee into my tailbone, like the drunk did. Bekka stood on him like he was a surfboard while I went through his pants, extracting a small .25. I shoved the pistol into my boot.
I gestured for Bekka to get off him and handed him his pants. "She from an agency?" I asked.
"Tip her. Well," I instructed him.
He pulled out a couple hundreds and a few twenties. "I got friends in this town, you little asshole."
"Well you big fat asshole, I don't have any friends in this town at all. That makes me more dangerous, because I don't care who I hurt. And now I have a fucking gun. Goodnight, and please die. Soon, and painfully." Me and the two girls left the room. Presumably the drunk poured himself another tankard of whiskey to help himself relax.
"We'll get you dressed in our room, then take you home. Is that cool?" asked Bekka.
The young woman had the voice of a child. "Yes, but.... I do not wish to return home. It is not a home, it is only a place to sleep. I wish to be anywhere else. Me, seven other girls, we share a small house, only three rooms. I beg you, please, allow me to leave this city with you. I will work for you, if you wish I make love with you, please do not make me stay in this hell."
"You know, I don't even know your name. What is your name?"
"I am Ivanka. Ivanka Kovnik. I am here of Romania."
"Me, I'm Lenny, and this is Bekka. If it won't make you too paranoid, is it okay if we talk privately for a few minutes? We just want to sort out a few things. We'll be on the patio."
"May I watch your television? I use it to improve my English."
I smiled and assured her that was fine.
"Well!" I said, "I've never had a pet Romanian. I'm not sure about their care, feeding, or grooming. God knows how to throw fuckin' curve balls, that's for damn sure. It's like He said, here's this dope-dealin' sap from San Diego. He's always helping out people; let's toss him a challenge."
"We're not leaving her. We will help her as much as we possibly can," growled Bekka.
"Damn right we are. I just wish I had more gun than I do if we're going up against white slavers, you know. This damn little thing has an effective range of about nine feet. Better off throwing handfuls of gravel at people after that."
"Why do you think we're up against white slavers?"
"I'll bet you some unspecified sexual favor or act that her visa was taken from her as soon as she arrived, and hasn't seen it since. My hunch is they're not going to hand it over just because we ask nicely. Maybe while I'm being pistol-whipped, you could recite that plaque on the side of the Statue of Liberty. You could keep a steady beat. The worst thing is, I'm walking into this with my eyes wide open. Goddamn right we're seeing this through. Right now we need some answers from Ivanka."