I Want To Be Adored
He sat at the computer while the cursor arrogantly blinked. Next to his laptop was an ashtray overflowing with the expired, stubbed-out sticks of dead end ideas; each sucked to the filter as if the answers might be in those tiny wads of cotton.
We’re taught from the day we’re born to make sounds that mold to words, taught to overshare and pontificate- to expound and wow the crowd, but tonight? Tonight, there was no flow, nothing but that blinking cursor pulsing with the calculated patience of a heart that doesn’t race because it doesn’t know how. That cursor- winking and flirting with such careless ease- it’s thudding both faint and relaxed, like a heart that lacked the knowledge of what it felt like to come up short.
‘Buy a ticket- take the ride’, hissed a voice from a thin body hunched over the desk in the furthest and darkest corner of the room. The voice terrified him; he jumped a mile in his skin- the adrenaline coursing through his rigid body. Until that voice rose from nowhere, there hadn’t been a noise in the room beside the deep inhale and exhale of stale cigarette smoke for what felt like hours. ‘Buy a ticket- take the ride’- it said again, this time with more confidence.
He stood; weary- unwilling to stir the figure- but also to keep from stirring himself awake. This was surely some sick dream, and in this moment of delirium he remembered how deeply his baby brother slept-walked all over their childhood home- letting himself out the front door- and even once climbing the counter in the kitchen to unpack the contents of a cupboard into the sink. Waking a sleep walker was a dangerous game.
‘Buy a ticket-take the ride’- once more floated through the air, this time reaching his ears in a much more hushed and whimsical tone. When he reached the desk across the room there was nothing but a crisp one hundred dollar bill-folded neatly in half and a short, cool glass of water casually sweating beads onto the polished wood. His mind raced- confusion teamed with curiosity. A rapid succession of three knocks rapped the door as he raised the glass to his parched mouth-dry from chain smoking Camels. The cool liquid shocked life into him while the knocking stiffened the hair on his arms and back of the neck.
He turned to answer the call at the door and instinctively palmed the cash from the table. His nature was that of a man too cautious for his own good- often his hands clutched the wheel with such force that his knuckles ran a ghastly white. Yet for all his caution there was this satellite effect to the way in which he loved. It was all encompassing- like a waterfall- pinning people beneath him and raining down affection and praise. It was the clashing of that cautious armor and his reckless heart-sleeves that both defined and confused him, but in this moment there was nothing more pure than his fear of what was behind that door.
The man on the other side held out a small packet and slowly rubbed his fingers and thumb together-a customary and silent sign for money that we’ve all come to know and accept. This transaction, though brief and undefined, felt sleazy and universally rewarding. Like a robot, he handed over the bill- accepted his pouch- and firmly pressed the door closed, sealing off the lights and sounds of a night that promised to be anything but ordinary.
He pressed his forehead to the door- scared and uncertain- still hardly sure what was in his hand and whether or not this night was some figment of his sleep-starved brain. Over his shoulder came the rasp- ‘Buy the ticket-take the ride’. He turned ever-so-gently and slid his ragged body down the door into a heap. He drew his knees to his chest and unfolded his palm. Inside was a small zip locked bag, not unlike those that used to contain the weed or stomped cocaine he bought as a younger man- when his tolerance for bad drugs was higher and his inhibitions chased his confidence like two-finger shots of warm whiskey. Inside the zip locked bag was a small, opal shaped pink pill, and an address. Suddenly it became clear, he had just bought the ticket.
Silence was losing the fight to the chaos between his ears. Every ounce of his soul knew that taking this indiscriminate pink pill was a game designed for much younger, craftier men. Furthermore, chasing these feelings towards some strange address scribbled on a torn corner of a paper handed over by a faceless drug dealer was likely the worst way to spend an evening in a city where there was never a shortage cheap fun to be had.
Maybe it was the stress of every day, or the promise of aggression that might accompany the mystery drug-but by the time he’d swallowed it down he was overcome by a wave of nervous energy. He felt an odd courage running up and down his spine- a feeling normally reserved for classic kisses in dark parking lots, or the first time two bodies tangle up and strip each other down to their cores while exchanging kisses that measure on the Richter Scale. He liked this dangerous feeling, it was something from his past that no matter how hard he tried, he’d never shake.
He grabbed his coat and closed the door behind him. Before he’d taken a forth drag from his quietly smoldering cigarette, his car arrived with a glowing purple Lyft sign practically daring him to climb inside. The car crept towards 143 Central Avenue. He knew his city well-and knew that Central Avenue was a place to get cold beers during the day and grams of coke at night. Ladies with floor to ceiling fishnets and vibrant wigs kept close to the cross streets as to not bring the attention of the Police. Dealers casually observed their corner boys push weight with the most discreet hand to hand transactions on the planet. Central Avenue was its own world, a world he wasn’t a part of.
The car paused at 143 and the driver quickly unlocked the doors. Her look from that sliver of rear-view mirror meant move- and move fast. He thanked her for the ride and closed the door behind him. 143 Central Avenue was a brick building with tiny windows that seemed fifteen feet off the ground. He was starting to feel strong warm flashes through his hands and feet-most certainly an effect of the pink pill. The door was unlocked and he stepped inside. The hall was dark, illuminated only by black florescent lights-the type that lit up heavy metal posters in basement bedrooms many ages ago. The stairwell to the basement pulsed with the rhythm of a hypnotizing house beat. It rattled his bones. His head involuntarily bobbed in time as he plodded down one step at a time. His body swayed and bumped from wall to wall.
The basement floor was littered with clothes. The lighter shirts-the greys and whites-were on fire from the black lights and were strewn indiscriminately around the room. His eyes adjusted and began to make out figures all around him. They looked like insects-long and gangly-some wearing clothes, others barely nothing. The closer he moved the more he could discern. There were men and women, men and men, women and women dancing, grinding, some in the various stages of innocuous physical gratification. The sounds and smells rose above the pulsing beat. They all seemed to move in time and their bodies formed a sweating, swaying human hallway that guided him towards the far corner of the space.
Another stairwell, but this time he was led by a young man-he couldn’t have been more than 20- with cropped brown hair and an incredible build. He stumbled to keep up-the pink pill now completely ruling his every wanton, misguided step. He couldn’t remember the way out, but he didn’t want to leave. The young man spun to meet him face to face-he looked so familiar, like the boy he once was, perfect teeth behind perfect lips beneath gorgeous eyes- and kissed him deep on the mouth. And with that he flung the next door open.
Unlike the other rooms, this one was bright white. Linens were piled on lush mattresses and pillows were everywhere. It was empty except for the small, haunting figure from his room earlier in the night. Just like he had been earlier, he was facing away at a desk- and just like before he hissed quietly over his shoulder.
‘You bought the ticket-and you took the ride’. He didn’t answer. His world was spinning. Who was this little man, and why was he orchestrating such a painfully fascinating night? The pink pill was raging through his veins. He felt restless and aware yet terribly aloof. He had no control over his limbs and felt himself cascading through the room-stumbling to keep from losing his balance. The walls were lined with silky white curtains that did nothing more than help the fall.
‘You took the ride…but why?’ the voice hissed as his eyes closed in a whirlwind. His heart had never raced so hard and his mouth had never felt so spiked and tingly. He had bought the ticket, and of course he knew why. He needed hat feeling again- like if she let go of his hand he might float away. And let’s face it he probably would have. He bought the ticket because he needed to once again feel like he was plugged in to a world that was so elegantly balanced between order and danger. He bought the ticket because she made counting the days ever so worth it, even when the risk might actually outweigh the reward. His mind spun-the thoughts swirling and blending in shapes that linked and faded elegantly like a kaleidoscope-it spun until it spun him into the ground, his face breaking his fall.
The slow trickle of blood from his nose was what woke him. It had run into his mouth like a quiet, dripping faucet; the copper taste jarring him from his pink-pilled coma. He was home, in the room where the night had started. His desk was slightly shifted from its normal resting place and the curtains had been torn from the rods and laid in pile where the dusty baseboards met the wall. There was one broken glass and sheet of paper with a torn edge. The weekly variety paper was open to the night life ads. 143 Central Avenue-the address for Love & Hate-the city’s most notorious gay bar-was circled what seemed like twenty times. He checked for his phone and wallet, which both rested on the bookshelf were they lived every night. In his front right pocket was the empty bag that had once contained the pink pill.
143 was their secret, the dance floor where they’d meet when schedules would permit. She was off limits-as was he-but they made time because time was all they had. He hadn’t been back there since she moved 2,298 miles to the desert to chase a dream that only a perfect dreamer dreams to begin with. He hadn’t taken those pills since the last time they snuck a walk around the pond-a night she made his knees weak in the trees- while the frogs croaked and the fireflies flicked in approval of their inside jokes. He planned to never go back to 143 because he’d never be there again- with her.
But as certain as his hair would grey, he would never ignore his urges again. That day he bought the ticket on an airplane that would take him 2,298 miles to her desert. He took the ride that he’d needed more than ever. The ride that reminded him, once more, that he was alive. The ride that ends with two bodies tangled up, stripping each other to the core-just once more.
This story spilled out from a place where the music and the mood came together. The title is from a song by The Stone Roses of the same name. I didn’t outline it, or plan for it. Late June, early July. Enjoy, comment, share. Get money.