Before Lucia and I were friends we hung with the same crowd of about 60 to 120 people who did most things together. One Friday night we were at The 140 Club, a dingy gross cheap smelly bar across the street from our office.
I should explain that we worked for a company that employed 240 people then; we were all basically the same age; single and this was 1978. The company then laid off half the staff; then hired about a thousand more people.
Neil was leaving to become a mailman. Most people left our job to go to grad school, become computer consultants, a Fortune 100 company or for adventure. Neil wasn’t the brightest bulb in the place; he was so dim that he barely registered on my screen. He was in his mid 20’s as were most of us. For some reason Marla, a 60something still beautiful supervisor was in love with him and they had been going out or doing whatever people did in 1978. I was one of the few people Marla approved of completely.
She liked my clothes. While they were funky they were good. Laura Ashley had opened around the corner from my apartment. At first her clothes didn’t all have small flowers on them but were deep shades of red, blue, greens and other vivid yet subtle colors. The tee shirts were amazing; they were an incredible very thin textured cotton with thin satin piping around the neckline and sleeves. The three tiered skirts were made of a different cotton than the tees, and today would be called twirly skirts. Madonna would have loved them a few years later.
I had heart shaped sunglasses in red and purple, and a complete other wardrobe of all black with metal jewelry. My mom had given me a heavy necklace that looked like it was made of giant paper clips, and I had a watch made of safety pins. I was the most expensively dressed punk around.
I had won $1700 in an accident settlement and spent it all on clothes; it was the most amount of money I ever had at one time, then.
Joelle was at The 140 Club. Her father was president of one of the largest corporations in the USA; as she was always reminding us. I had been to Joelle’s apartment. Over her bed she kept a pair of handcuffs, a whip and yes a chain. They weren’t for show. On another wall she hung a white garter belt that looked too used and dirty. I never really understood why she considered that art, but my hippie Buddhist aunt made soft sculptures from girdles, so I believed that anything could be considered art.
Joelle was another one of my projects. It was an era when everybody had one night stands and I certainly did. But Joelle never dated anybody and had no real friends. She went from one man to another and I knew because they would laughingly tell me, not in detail because I was too nice, but I sort of got the gist that Joelle, willingly and often, did threesomes and anal sex. In the long ago ’70s, if you did those things you did it with people who would be discreet. Joelle didn’t realize that people were laughing both behind her back and in her face. Maybe she did; and I just didn’t realize it.
My friend Elana and I accepted her dinner invitation. We were going to talk to her, and make her see that she could have friends without being everybody’s screw. Only then we saw the handcuffs, whips, chains, garters, a dildo next to her bed and other sex toys. I had to explain to Elana what a dildo was and I only knew because when I had lived in Israel, a group of my friends stayed in a dingy hotel in Tel Aviv and we found one under a bed. We spent the evening in silence trying to pretend to eat the rancid food that might have been exposed to we had no idea what, but…I might have had a punk warddrobe and hung out at CBGB’s and other punk clubs, but my punk world consisted of basically nice kids. Joelle was a nymph. Knew a few who all came from big bucks but none had Joelle’s sleaziness.
I don’t remember who I had come to the 140 Club with; I was drinking too many straight vodka shots and smoking too many cigarettes when Lowell, the timekeeper called me over. Lowell was ancient, an ex-army career sargent who seemed to spend his entire life screaming about people being a minute or two late to work (at a time when the subways were very undependable) or falling off bar stools. We didn’t like each other and neither of us pretended to. While I was walking from the bar stool I wasn’t falling off, I saw him motion to Lucia to come over. I was tipsy enough for nothing to surprise me. Or so I thought.
Lowell put his arms around Lucia and me, and in a very slurred said:
“You girls are crazy; but you’re classy. You’d neva do thiss…”(I’m bad at drunk dialogue.)
He pointed to under a table.
I think Lucia and I stood there with our mouths open. We had never seen two people doing what Neil and Joelle were doing under the table. Their tops were unbottoned; their bottom clothes were at their knees, and they were humping.
I didn’t know what to do. Lowell wouldn’t let go of Lucia and I as he continued telling us what wonderful girls we were. Somehow I knew come Monday morning, both Lucia and I would be late and he would scream at us again.
I got away from Lowell, said good night to a few dozen people, got my coat and wondered into the cold dark night to find a cab on Broadway. Neil walked out after me and offered me a ride home.
“Uh, no, I’ll find a cab thanks.”
He followed me and tried insisting but a cab stopped and I jumped into it. I thought as little as I could about that night. But three years later I worked at a new company that Marla was part owner of. I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t talk to me for years as I remembered how much she had once liked me. She had people beg me to work there, and somebody snuck me a copy of a review of my manager that said the only thing saving my manager from being fired was me.
One day my boyfriend (the one who took me to the spot where his father killed himself) asked me if it were true that I had ever slept with one of Marla’s boyfriends.
“What?” My face crunched up in disbelief. He began to tell me a story and I realized that it was of that night. Apparently Neil had said that he wanted to sleep with me and ran after me as I left. Marla had never seen him again.
I was very insulted. I would never ever sleep with such an ugly stupid twerp and told that to my boyfriend. Marla began speaking to me again but after so many years we could never say more than hello and good bye.
I still feel weird knowing that there are people in the world who think that I might have thought of sleeping with somebody who was not only ugly and stupid but had just finished humping somebody in a bar with at least 20 people watching and 200 more people standing around. Yick.