Around two a group of us went out to the parking lot to smoke one of Bekka's joints. She warned people to take a single hit and wait a couple minutes. This was creeper weed, and high powered. If the joint needed to be re-lit, so be it. We all hung around the rented Cadillac, being randomly social.
I found myself leaning on the trunk of the Brougham with Jill. She thanked me again for the Ecstasy. "I feel wonderful. I guess the only downside is that I'm also feeling really horny. And I want a cigarette, which is very rare for me."
I handed her one of my Marlboros, and we lit up. She continued, "Yeah, this is way better than how I usually feel around this time. My normal mode is to drink enough that by now I start getting all morose and full of self pity. 'Woe is me, I can't find a girlfriend, I'm gonna die lonely.' Tonight I actually feel kind of philosophical about it. Yeah, I'm lonely, but something's gotta happen, sooner or later. I'm still young."
"What kind of girl are you looking for?" I asked.
"This is gonna sound kind of narcissistic, but I'd like to find another gym bunny bitch, like me. Not a serious bodybuilder, though, and no steroid users. I mean, I'm buff, but I'm into sculpting, not massive development. See? Look, I still have boobs. Haw, yeah, I want a girlfriend who can spot me when I'm on the bench."
We paused and stared at the stars. After a minute, Jill said, "Do you think I'd have better luck in California? You know, meeting someone?"
I smiled and said, "Absolutely. That's the nice thing about California, if you look closely enough, you can find people who are just like you, more or less. Are you a Guatemalan transsexual wine snob? Shit, they've got a bowling league. Obviously you'd want to be in an urban area, but you'll find people you click with. Especially if you spend your time in gyms, like I'm assuming you would."
"Is there a lot of lifting in California? I thought it was all about jogging."
"Every decent sized town will have two gyms. They'll have a damn 24 Hour Fitness Center, so the yuppies can run on a treadmill, and an independent place for the serious iron-pumpers. I don't know a damn thing about that whole scene, except for Muscle Beach."
"What's that?" asked Jill.
I was a bit surprised she'd never heard of it. "Muscle Beach is in Venice, which is in LA. Lifters and bodybuilders hang out, pump iron, gossip, and debate anabolics versus HGH, I guess. It's kind of a mecca, if you think you've got the strength and the build, you show up and sorta get critiqued, in a friendly way. Yeah, bodybuilding is kinda big in LA. Given the narcissism of the town, it makes sense. Hell, you can buy that protein shake mix crap in any Safeway."
"Wow. Do you think I'd make the cut at Muscle Beach?"
I considered her. I said, "Stand up in front of me, pull up your sleeves, and flex."
She did. She was definitely well-developed and chiseled, but didn't have the massive bulk usually seen on bodybuilders. She was very highly muscled, but still smooth and feminine.
I told her, "Girl, it's too bad you're not into guys. Show up in a bikini, and you'd have every dude at Muscle Beach giving you their phone numbers. The ones whose dicks still work, anyway. And going by what you said earlier, when people start giving you advice on how to add more mass, straight up tell them, 'No, I'm not a damn bodybuilder. I lift, and I sculpt.' Yeah, you'd get along fine, just 'cos it's obvious you take your work seriously. Um, you'd probably want to spend some time in a tanning salon first, though. You definitely have the standard Midwest moon tan."
Jill giggled at this. "Oh boy. Around here, lying in the sun and doing nothing except trying to turn a darker color is viewed as total self-indulgence, like you've found the world's most useless hobby. If you're in the sun, it's because you're working, so your arms and neck get color. The rest of you stays the same color as porcelain."
"So what's your max?" I asked, using up the only weightlifting jargon I knew.
"I can bench 330 on a good day," Jill answered.
"Damn shame you don't have a penis. I'd introduce you to a friend of mine. Her name's Lois Ayres, she's a porn star, she was really big in the Eighties. She's hunting for a gym bunny with a brain. Shit, that's you. I've gotten the impression that her girl/girl scenes were only done for the money, though."
We passed a bit more time silently. Suddenly Jill said, "I'm changing my answer about what I'm looking for."
"Feel free," I replied.
"I want a girl who's just like Mallory. That's what I want."
"Uh.... I must be missing something here. The original edition of Mallory is available, and is inside dancing. Why try to find one just like her? Why not just ask out Mallory?"
Jill gave an extended sigh. "Because her and I have been friends for a long while now. We're really tight. She was my support when I outed myself to my parents. She was lucky, her parents were pretty accepting when she came out, accepting as any Lutherans can be, I guess. I just.... I don't want to fuck up our friendship, and I'm afraid if I make any sort of romantic overture, I will. Besides, what would a cutie like her see in some damn muscle bitch, anyway?"
I looked at Jill. "She'd see an intelligent woman, with a pretty face and a sexy body. She could probably also see a situation where the preliminaries of starting a relationship are already over with, you two could get down to the rather fun business of becoming lovers." I paused. "It's all in how you approach it. You make it sound like you have quite a crush...."
"So don't walk up and confess your undying love. Just tell her, hey, I think you're really groovy, and I'd like to try dating you. If things don't work out, we'll still be friends, it'll just be a failed experiment. No pressure. That way if she's not interested, she can say so without feeling like she's hurting you. And while you may feel hurt, you know you've saved your friendship, the subject is closed. Neither of you are any worse off in the long run, you still have your friend."
Jill stared at me for a few moments. She said, "Is that how you and Bekka got together?"
I started laughing. "Oh, shit no. Our relationship progress was much more knotty. We started off as just friends, then we decided to start a physical relationship. Just for fun, you know? Only I had a huge crush on Bekka, which I confessed. She shot me down. She'd been fucked over in every relationship she'd had since high school, and was sure I'd end up hurting her too. According to her, we were just friends. Okay, we were friends who had a shitload of sex together, and had the keys to each other's cars and apartments, and walked on the beach holding hands, and knew each other's greatest hopes and fears. But no sirree Bob, we weren't dating. Just ask Bekka, we're only friends.
"Bekka says the turning point was when I got shot up in San Francisco. I rescued a friend of ours from a rapist, and took a slug in the ribs at point-blank range for my troubles. Bekka said that while she was waiting to see me in the hospital, it struck her that --- this is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said about me --- it struck her I was willing to sacrifice all in order to protect people I care about, that I was a truly selfless person.... And she wanted to push me away. She admitted to herself she really did love me. She still kept it a secret for another six months. Then we moved in together, and I proposed a month after that. Um, how kicked around is Mallory feeling? She'd mentioned a string of bad luck in her dating life."
"Oh, the poor girl," said Jill. "She kept hooking up with these half-butch chicks who had the full-on Queer Nation frame of mind. In a way, I suppose I'm lucky, Mallory really doesn't seem to have a 'type' when it comes to what a chick looks like. I don't think she'd be bugged by the size difference between us. Really, I think what Mallory looks for first is brains. And yeah, these QN bitches had them, but you can be smart and still hold blind allegiance to a party line, or be a reactionary, or a bigot, or whatever. These chicks were pressing her to look and act like a stereotype dyke. The thing with Mallory is, she doesn't believe one's sexuality influences what sort of a person you really are. She thinks the uniforms in the scene are worn by people who are afraid to share their true personalities, they want to hide who they are, for whatever reason. Haw, she once suggested that stereotype bull dykes, under the flannel and loud attitude, just might be some of the most insanely fucking dull people in the world. That's why they put on the act, to hide that they're really boring."
I commented, "My friend Terry is an outlaw biker babe, and she's made the same suggestion about bikers. Looking like an outlaw, people assume you're dangerous, and a lot of the outlaws use that assumption to hide that they're just as scared of the world as anyone else."
"Outlaw bikers?" asked Jill. "Like the Hell's Angels?"
"Exactly. Or the Diablos, or the Coffin Cheaters, or the Mongols, or the Nomads, or the Booze Fighters, and on and on. I personally have spent enough time around outlaws they don't bother me a bit. It's a little weird, one of my studs, a young guy named Roach, was drafted into the Hell's Angels, which is incredibly flattering in that universe. He introduced me and Bekka to the club, and now we're all on really good terms. I hired a couple to work as security at the studio, and they've been great. What are the local clubs around here?"
Jill was staring at me wide-eyed. "Oh my God, you're friends with Hell's Angels? Wow, you're either way tougher or way braver than I thought."
I gave her a reassuring smile and said, "Actually, they're good people, overall. Really, the Angels have stronger feelings of social alienation than most people, but instead of being crippled by it, an Angel fights back, daring the world to get on his case or talk shit. And no matter how thin you slice it, at heart they're all total geeks for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. All the scare stories you see in the paper or in paperback books just sensationalize minor events. A bar fight will be made to look like a riot. A gang rape will turn out to have been some drunk chick getting caught blowing an Angel under a table in a saloon. Yeah, Angels are kind of arrest prone, but nothing ever comes of it, nobody is actually indicted. The papers will report that five Hell's Angels were arrested on drug trafficking charges, but never report the follow-up story three days later, where the charges have been reduced to a single charge of misdemeanor possession of marijuana. The Angels are some tough motherfuckers, but they're not the monsters they're made out to be. Again, what clubs do you have locally?"
Frowning, Jill said, "Uh, I don't think we really have any. Minnesota is the wrong place to own a motorcycle, personally. You'd spend too much time sidelined by weather. Yeah, it's summer now, so you'll see people on motorcycles around, but those bikes will be garaged by the middle of October, and stay there until late April."
Jill bummed another cigarette. I realized she had a look of steely determination on her face, like she was about to go into battle. I asked her about it. She replied, "Dammit, I'm going to take your advice, and I'm going to take it right now. I'll put forth the concept of dating to Mallory as a casual idea, no hint at my crush. She's in a good mood, so no time like the present. Wish me luck."
After she went back inside, I scooted up to Bekka, where she was holding court with several fans. I sighed, "How depressing. Dating is just as awkward and full of pathos no matter your gender or sexual preference."
"Having dated women, this is not groundbreaking news to me," said Bekka. "What's going on?"
"Someone has a crush on someone else, but they're friends, and someone is afraid the friendship will be destroyed if the idea of dating is brought up. I suggested the first someone approach the second someone in a casual way, not confessing the crush, and not making it sound like a vast alteration from their current friendship."
Bekka gave me a slightly patronizing smile and said, "Yes, Jill is rather hung up on Mallory. Personally, I think they'd be darling together. They're already close friends, I think cranking up the intimacy would be a wonderful thing."
A skinny dude with fire engine red hair, Doc Martens, leather pants, and a yellow t-shirt that had the word 'FAGGOT' printed across the front slowly eased by. His stride indicated he was pretty hammered. He started to go past, then got a visual lock on Bekka. He stopped and stared, his expression showing both awe and annoyance.... Or he was just drunk, and his facial muscles were being allowed to follow the muse. He finally said, "Hey. Are you Becky Page?"
"Live and in the flesh," Bekka smiled at him.
"What are you doing here?"
"My husband and I are in town to visit a pen pal in person for the first time. She wanted us to see where she likes to hang out on weekends, so here we are."
"Who's your friend?" asked Red.
"A girl named Mallory Ollafsen," answered Bekka. "Do you know her?"
Red pondered this, then said, "Oh yeah. Nerdy girl. Totally closeted."
I gave a confused chuckle and said, "Um, if she were closeted, why would she be here at all?"
His eyes focused on me, with a bit of effort. "Who are you?" he asked.
I stuck a hand out and said, "I'm Lenny Schneider, Becky's husband and producer. Glad to meetcha. And you are?"
Red glared at my hand, then gave it a brief clasp. "I'm Wolf. So nerdy girl thought it was a good fuckin' idea to bring her straight friends here? We don't need no fuckin' tourists comin' to stare at the homos."
I installed a puzzled look and replied, "We're not tourists, we're here with a friend. Just because we're straight doesn't mean we're narrow, if you follow me. Personally, so long as it doesn't involve either farm animals or children, someone's sexual preference and identity doesn't mean jack shit to me, I honestly could care less. I like this place, it's a decent club. I just wish the DJ was more adventurous, though."
Sneering, Red said, "Yeah right. You're just trying to look all hip and accepting by hanging around the queers. I hate hipsters. Fuckin' nerdy girl should have shoved you in a Bennigan's and left you there."
One of Bekka's audience said, "Wolf, you're drunk. Shut the fuck up and go home. These people are cool, you don't know them at all."
"Hey!" said Wolf. "The last thing the queer bars in this town need is fuckin' straights hanging around! A couple show up, then their friends do, the next thing you know the bar has gone to hell, it's just another trendy shithole. Fuckin' straights already got their own bars, they should stay there."
Smiling patiently, I commented, "A couple problems with your logic. First, as Becky mentioned, we're from out of town. It's a bit of a commute from Southern California to here, so us returning anytime soon is unlikely. Also, you're using the same argument that is used to keep blacks from buying homes in suburban neighborhoods. Please tell me you're drunk enough that never occurred to you."
Bekka added, "I can give you a long list of clubs in San Francisco you'd hate. Goodness, queers and straights, all out on the dance floor at the same time in those places. What a travesty, huh?"
A second voice from Bekka's audience said, "Jesus, Wolf, they just told you Mallory invited them. Why are you being so hostile? So what if they're straight, they're cool people."
"Oh yeah, you say that," Wolf grumbled. "Queer culture doesn't need no straight influence clogging things up. They start hanging around, the next thing you know they'll be having fuckin' Bible meetings and potluck dinners and telling everyone how we're going to hell for being fags. They'll destroy a scene if they're not kept in check."
I laughed out loud. "Wow! That is some commercial-grade paranoia. Tell me Wolf, were your parents conservative Christians? Did they start quoting Leviticus to you when you came out?"
"Fuck my parents, and fuck all their neighbors, too," said Wolf. "Buncha fuckin' Bible-slappin' hicks. All hetero, too. I grew up around those people, I know how they think. They'd throw all the queers in concentration camps if they could. Fuck them."
"So.... You base your view of all heterosexuals on what your parents are like. Dandy. Maybe you should try getting a wider sampling of data, before reaching conclusions."
I heard a titter to my left. I looked over to see Jill and Mallory standing there. I smiled: they were holding hands. With a sardonic grin, Jill said, "Wolf, you grew up in Skime, Minnesota. While you may feel your decision to out yourself at the age of fifteen was one of bravery, it could also be viewed as horribly reckless, and a guarantee you wouldn't have a moment's peace until you left home. Here's a news flash, Wolf: Skime is not an accurate reflection of Western culture, and really doesn't reflect California culture, where Becky and Lenny are from. The strange judgements you are passing on them are only showing you don't know them, or their lives, or their views. Mallory brought them here because she know they'd be copacetic with hanging around a queer bar all night. You seem to assume they are malicious, just because Lenny is straight."
Wolf looked confused. "Uh.... Wait, is Becky Page dyke? Didn't they say they were married?"
"I am bisexual," said Bekka. "And yes, I am quite sure of it. Please do not develop an attitude over my bisexuality, as I will rip your balls off by reaching down your throat to get them, you little bitch."
Mallory said calmly, "Wolf, think about all the ignorant stereotypes you heard about queers growing up. You learned how wrong they were. But you are judging Lenny and Bekka based on your own stereotypes, you seem to assume that anyone who is hetero is just like the ignorant Lutheran farmers from your home town. If that were true, every queer bar in Minneapolis would probably have been firebombed a while back. For God's sake, stop viewing all straights as some sort of faceless enemy, out to destroy the scene. They're just people, and just like queers, they come in all flavors."
Wolf swung an unsteady sullen glare around at all of us. He was outnumbered, ten to one. He turned his eyes to the ground and ambled off, heading towards the street. We watched him go. Conversations started back up.
I walked up to Jill and Mallory and said, "Well! You two are looking perky. What's up?"
Mallory answered, "Jill just asked me out, and I said yes. Well, sort of. Actually, she asked me out and I stuck my tongue in her mouth. And we're not going out, we're staying in. In fact, uh, her and I are going to head for my place right now, we both feel a bit worked up. Call me around eleven, and we'll figure out the rest of the day, if that's all right."
I decided to play it stupid, for Jill's sake. I said, "That's fine. So have you two ever, uh, been together before?"
"No. We've been friends for ages, and I've always thought Jill is gorgeous, but I never wanted to say or do anything. I didn't want our friendship to get all mucked up, and besides, I'm just a skinny little weakling, I never would have thought Jill would have any interest in me."
"And how wrong you were, girl," said Jill. She reached down and scooped up Mallory in her arms, cradling her. Mallory wrapped her arms around Jill's neck and they began kissing deeply.
I edged over to Bekka and simply said, "Too cool," in her ear. Bekka winked.
Mallory and Jill took of in Jill's car, a mid-Eighties Caprice, a former cop car she'd bought at auction. The rest of us went inside again. Finding more of our not-so-little clique, we found the news of Mallory and Jill getting very interested in each other had already been spread. The consensus was, well, good for them, they're both sweethearts and deserved some companionship. The size difference was commented upon, too. Jill was six foot four and well muscled. while Mallory was five foot six and built like Shelly Duvall. Smirking comments were made about how the two would engage in, uh, physical intimacy. I didn't know either, but I was willing to bet they'd have a hell of a lot of fun figuring it out.
Around three I was leaning against the wall at "our" spot, drinking a Mr. Pibb. (The club closed the bar at two, but had the decency to have soda vending machines, so people weren't getting too dry.) Presently two dudes walked up to me. They didn't blend in at Lush. I had no idea how much of a goth scene there was in Minneapolis, but these two had to be a part of it. Dyed black hair slicked back, eye liner, puffy shirts, the works. I nodded in greeting.
The taller of the two said, "Word has it you're married to Becky Page."
"Correct you are," I replied. "She's out on the floor if you wanted to meet her."
"Actually, sweetie, it's you we're curious about," said the other. "How on earth did some crusty manage to persuade Becky Page to marry him?"
I smirked and made a vague rude gesture. "I ain't no fuckin' crusty," I answered. "I work, I bathe, I eat meat, and I wear leather. I also have a brain cell to go with the other one. Jesus, does everyone in Minneapolis wearing a denim jacket get labelled a crusty? I had to deal with the same bullshit at our hotel."
The two looked at each other, then began studying me. One finally said, "Yes.... I guess a crusty wouldn't be likely to have a pair of cherry red Doc Martens."
"Extremely unlikely," I said. "If a crusty ever did own a pair of Docs, he'd have long traded them off for five bottles of Boone's Farm and a pack of smokes. So, what, are you two the fashion police for this establishment? If you are, I'm guessing you got your jobs by attrition. If you're gay and goth, I'd figure you'd take your style cues from Peter Murphy."
"Who?" asked the tall one.
This absolutely floored me. I said, "Uh, Peter Murphy? The singer for Bauhaus? He has a solo career now. That Peter Murphy."
That subject was abandoned, in favor of the smaller one sniveling at me, "Okay, you're not a crusty. But good lord, honey, you look like Sid Vicious's closet puked on you. It still begs the question as to why Becky Page would ever attach herself to you."
I fixed a stare on him. "Because we fell in love, that's why. Pretty fuckin' simple, really. Or does my obviously horrific sense of style negate me ever experiencing any form of companionship?"
With a theatrical sigh, he replied, "A woman with the class and style and, uh, and uh...."
"Panache," suggested the other one.
"Yes, thank you, the panache of Becky Page would hardly be likely to take notice of some punk rock ne'er do well. How did you two meet? Were you stealing the stereo out of her car?"
In a tight voice, I said, "You have a very limited number of insults you can direct at me. When you run out, I grab your ears and tie them together. No, I was the still photographer at Inana Productions, Becky's studio. I now run Inana Productions, I'm the COO. I also write and produce all of Becky's movies. Becky and I became friends, fell in love, moved in together, then married. So how did you two meet? Is there a cabal of homosexual necrophiliacs here in Minneapolis?"
Another theatrical sigh, this time from the tall one. "Let me get this straight. You're the one who creates the fantastic erotica Becky Page appears in."
"Yeah. Lenny Schneider. If you've got any of her movies, read the credits on the box to find my name. No, I don't look Hollywood because I'm not from Hollywood. In fact, fuck Hollywood, the whole system in that town is bloated and malfunctioning. They hate me, and I hate them. I make full features for less than what Hollywood would spend on Tom Cruise's elevator shoe budget. Yeah, I'm a punk. I always have been, having a career hasn't changed who I am. I'll tell you what I told the jackasses from Columbia Studios when they came sniffing around, trying to poach me: deal with it, fuck-wads. You can take me as I am, or you can leave quietly. Those are your options."
Both of them sucked in air. The shorter one finally cracked, "You tacky little man."
I laughed at him. "Shit, I'd hope so. I make porn for a living. Not erotic cinema or whatever, but porn, videos designed to make dicks hard and pussies wet. And Becky is...."
Bekka appeared at my side. "What about me?" she asked.
Rolling my eyes, I said, "The H.P. Lovecraft fan club here is utterly mystified why you married me. They didn't like my answers, either. You know how in LA people think I"m too ugly to be married to you? These guys think I'm too tragically dressed."
The shorter one warbled, "Ms. Page, we just can't imagine why you would ever stoop so low as to associate yourself with this...."
"Cazzo parassita inutile!" barked Bekka. (Fucking useless vermin!) Stepping towards him, Bekka growled, "You insult my husband, you insult me. I will not tolerate you regine miserabili (miserable queens) questioning my judgement, or my husband's honor. The man I love has more strength, courage, and integrity in one finger than you two could ever hope to Hoover out of the diseased leather daddies you both certainly act as concubines for. Troie vili." (Cowardly sluts.)
While she was belting this out, Bekka had grabbed the shorter goth by the throat and had walked him backwards into the wall, her other hand groping in her purse. When she reached the wall, she pulled out her butterfly knife and spun it open. The sight of the blade caused the eyes of both goths to bulge. Bekka held the point of the knife about a quarter inch from the shorter goth's left eye. The taller one keened at me, "Oh my God, do something!"
I gave an evil chuckle and said, "Sorry man, too late. Becky is full-blooded Sicilian. When she starts speaking in Italian when she talks, the shit is gonna hit the fan, and I can't stop her. There is no greater source of rage in this universe than an angry Sicilian girl. And they are about as controllable as a hurricane."
Bekka hissed at her captive, "Cazzo respiro sperma rancido (Fucking rancid cum-breath), why do you question the love I have for my husband? Because of his appearance? I fell in love with a punk rocker six years my junior, what of it? No man has ever made me happier, and none ever shall. I am going to carve the eyes out of your skull and put them on my key chain. Try to not wiggle while I do so, or else you risk me jabbing into your filthy little cocksucker brain."
I stepped up near the terrified goth, pulling my flask out of my jacket. Holding it up, I said, "Becky. Becky! Look what I have...."
Bekka's eyes flitted between the flask and the goth. After about ten seconds, she slowly moved her hands away from him. When she did, I barked at the two goths, "Okay, run. Now." They briefly stood frozen, so I yelled, "RUN!"
Zoom. Both of them shot out of the club so fast there was a sonic boom. Bekka casually flipped her knife closed, then took the flask, opened it, and knocked back some scotch. She handed me the flask with a smile. I also drank and smiled, and said, "You know, I wonder if it will ever occur to them that they were in the presence of a highly talented actress just now." Bekka laughed and laughed.
"So how much did I miss?" asked Bekka.
I rolled my eyes and said, "Aw shit. Both of them want to be Mr. Blackwell when they grow up, but they don't get you can't walk around verbally abusing people without facing some repercussions. You'd think they were goth, but what real goth on the planet doesn't know who Peter Murphy is? Those two didn't. I knew things were really going to go downhill when they said Becky Page makes 'erotica.' And once again, the mere sight of my denim made people think I'm a crusty."
"I think we should say our goodbyes and get the hell out. When they calm down enough to think straight, they might decide to call the cops."
"Good point," I agreed. "Well, if nothing else, this little incident will probably be entered into the local folklore. A psychotic Sicilian porn star threatening people with knives in a queer bar, that's definitely notable."
Bekka smirked, "But people will also say, 'Yeah, but she was from California.' The whole episode will be written off as just another symptom of what a hellhole California is. And we're natives."
"Say, it's early Sunday morning now. Let's live the stereotype and set fire to a few churches on the way back to the hotel."
"Okay.... But we'll have to think up reasons why what we are doing has artistic validity."