October 24, 2002

Back Room, San Francisco

By Nathan West © 2002

We had only been at the club for five minutes when Sean puts his hand on my shoulder and says “This isn’t what I had expected.” It’s his way of apologizing for bringing me to the seediest place in San Francisco, some gay bar he found in the back of some free magazine he picked up in the Castro, without saying the word sorry.

The advertisement Sean saw promised naked dancers and strippers. Sean probably pictured a club like the one in Moulin Rouge: a parade of men, music and drinks. Instead we’re exploring a labyrinth of rooms and hallways, all painted black, in a converted old movie theater in a part of town that’s never been featured on a postcard.

There’s probably five people here, including Sean and me.

Sean heads back to the front desk to ask about the live entertainment. I find a corridor lined with a handful of small rooms, each the size of a closet, and each with a small TV screen showing hardcore porn.

In another room, I see a fat guy sitting behind a computer screen. He is typing with one hand. He is not wearing pants. I excuse myself.

Sean, where are you?

This whole place smells like sweat and come. I’m grateful the lights are dim. I end up striking up another conversation with another uncomfortable tourist, a balding older man originally from Italy but who now lives in New York.

Sean returns. He says that only one person is scheduled to strip tonight, but the show is about to begin. We find the cramped room that serves as a stage, and wait.

The stripper is young, with blond hair and a devilish smile. He strides into the hot black room, takes off his clothes, and immediately sits on Sean’s lap. He says nothing as he methodically caresses Sean’s hair, rubs Sean’s chest, cups Sean’s crotch.

He then turns to me. He rubs the front of my pants, feeling my hard-on. He starts whispering filth in my ear, which excites me more. I can see his penis get harder too, feel him pushing it against my chest.

“Wanna get out of here?” he asks.

I don’t know what to say, so I squeak out a “maybe.”

“There’s a room in the back with a lock on the door,” he says.

The stripper, fully nude, grabs my hand and takes me down the hall into a room I hadn’t seen before. He locks the door and lays me down on a long wooden bench. I introduce myself. He says his name is Randy, and that he’s going to suck my dick.

“Um, okay,” I said pathetically.

Randy unbuckles my belt and unzips my fly. He pulls my jeans and my underwear down to my knees. I notice I’m wearing an old pair of boxer shorts covered with pictures of dogs. I entertain a fleeting thought: an earthquake will hit, and this is how rescue crews will discover my corpse as they sift through the debris.

“Let’s talk about money,” Randy says.

I suddenly realize what’s happening, and I do my best not to let me stupidity and shock take control of my face. Randy is going to perform oral sex on me, and I am going to give him money. I am stunned by my naiveté.

“All I’ve got in my wallet is forty,” I say, trying to sound like I’ve done this a million times before. I don’t think I’m very convincing.

“Well, this is a hundred,” Randy says, knowing he’s got a dumb tourist in the palm of his hand. “There’s an ATM right by the front desk.”

I don’t want to be here, but I can’t see any way to leave.

“Okay,” I say. I lie back and try to enjoy the most expensive blow job in history. Then I give Randy two twenties. He leads me to the ATM, where I’m forced to pay some exorbitant fee to take out another three twenties.

“You know, I have a place right around here,” Randy says, propositioning me.

“Not tonight,” I say, still trying to come across like someone who’s no stranger to these sorts of things.

I leave Sean behind, too embarrassed to go back and seek him out. I find a taxi and head back to the hotel. I take a long hot shower, wrap myself in a thick robe, grab an overpriced beer from the minifridge, and stare for hours at the Golden Gate Bridge.

Nathan West is a writer from Florida.

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