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Richard Roe +1

You become acutely aware of your place in the world when you’re the +1.

Your name isn’t on the list. You don’t even have a name. You could be anyone. They’ve could’ve brought someone else.

But there I was, a +1, on the end of the Sunset Strip at a lounge named after a street a few blocks away in Beverly Hills. Oh, those crafty club owners. Nothing drives up the value of your venue like associating it with a wealthy residential street… But I can’t really talk. My name wasn’t even on “the list.”

Outside, as they say, was a meat market. Or more aptly, an Iranian meat market. Persians lined the streets waving money at zombie-like bouncers. Turns out they hit capacity two weeks ago and haven’t let anyone in since. We were free to stand outside as long as we liked though.

Naturally, I was drawn to the longest line where I expected to wait until we decided that the place sucks and left. I moved towards that line only to learn that each of the forty people had informally committed to bottle service. There they were, patiently standing in line, prepared to spend a thousand bucks on a hangover. Clearly, that wasn’t the line for us.

We were guests! I was a plus one! And by god, I refused to mingle with people who have more than my networth between the folds of their wallet. After about a minute we found our man: Tall, black, void of emotion. We assured him our presence was needed inside. He agreed.

We were escorted through the backdoor. We walked through a kitchen. I accidentally mistook the walk-in refrigerator for a bathroom. Eventually, we reached our destination. Smiling young people with bright teeth and clear eyes. Yes, we had arrived. Yes, it was an open bar. Things were starting to make sense. One tequila, two tequila… yes, things were crystal clear.

Did I mention it was a birthday party? The birthday girl: a lanky blonde, marginally famous, a model by trade. She once drank a bottle of sauvignon blanc on my couch. She didn’t remember me. She did however remember the gentleman whose plus one I accounted for. He brought a gift. That suave bastard! Maybe if I had brought a gift she’d remember slaking herself in my domicile. I doubt it.

My friend, let’s call him GENTLEMAN CALLER and the BIRTHDAY GIRL embraced, exchanged pleasantries, etc. Here’s what followed:

GENTLEMAN CALLER: I got you a present.

BIRTHDAY GIRL: You’re so sweet! (Another hug, she looks longingly into his mahogany eyes and finds the meaning of life).

Keep in mind, said present is nowhere in sight. In fact, it’s in the car.

GENTLEMAN CALLER: Guess what it is.

BIRTHDAY GIRL: Give me a hint. (winks)

GENTLEMAN CALLER: It’s something you do everyday


The gift was a bottle of wine.

No one laughed.

Inside, I smiled. My heart was full.

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Jing Continued to Pontificate about the Banality of Breasts

The late afternoon’s sun left the floorboards uninhabitable. I dragged a kiddie pool into my living room and filled it with ice, which melted almost instantly. I fortified myself with Jalisco’s worst and brought out a machete to trim my cuticles. Precision was key.

My focus was infinite or at least it was until I heard someone scream, “Show me Donald Trump’s birth certificate!” I gasped and looked around the room. Who was in my humble abode? I spied around the corner, but saw no one there. I found myself at my bathroom window. I peeked out and saw Gladys, my six-two pre-op transsexual neighbor. At her full height she looked like a bull on its hind legs. Gladys, God bless her, was handing a plastic container of leftovers to a man at her door. The bedraggled man wore neon pink reading glasses and a Carhartt jacket. “For all you do for me,” Gladys said. “You can come over here and shower anytime.”

I ducked below the window. Voyeurism begets voyeurism. I could spend all day watching Gladys’ human interactions and I still wouldn’t know who shouted that anti-Trump statement in my living room. I returned to my couch and it was there that I came to the very really possibility that I was hearing voices that might only exist inside of my head. Voices that I didn’t recall intentionally generating.

Eleven hours later I was dining with Hugo. Hugo was talking about approaching four girls who spoke a language, which neither of us understood[1]. Leave it to Hugo to think girls eating hamburgers at four a.m. were waiting to be whisked off their feet. I was about to iterate this when she sat down. Her name was Jing and she wanted to show me a picture.

I offered her an onion ring and she accepted. “Real men” Jing chomped and said, “don’t talk about breasts because all that really matters is the flower—the vagina.” Two things crossed my mind: 1.) Don’t laugh and 2.) She’s probably a courtesan[2]. I looked to Hugo expecting to share a glance that said, I don’t know what’s going on, but I like it. My eyes met with Hugo’s ear. He was in the throes of Jing’s poetry[3]. “Older men,” Jing continued, “never talk about breasts[4]. Older men also understand the importance of the ass.”

“Did you learn this in a focus group or—?” I asked. Jing said that I should stop trying to racialize everything. She had a half dozen henna freckles on her nose. I wondered if she’s was happa. Where else would she get these freckles? I took a bite of an onion ring, but the onion didn’t break—like an oyster on the half-shell I slurped it from its fried carcass.

A little Mexican man emerged from behind the counter with a cupcake and started singing happy birthday. We all joined in. I mean the whole fucking Astro Burger screamed “Happy Birthday” at the top of their lungs. I clapped furiously for the table of girls who spoke one or more of 6,700 recognized languages that I didn’t know.

Exhausted from the clapping, I closed my eyes. When I opened them her phone was in front of my face. “You don’t look like my friend,” Jing said. I nodded, I didn’t. “But my friends,” she pointed over her shoulder at a light-skinned African American girl and blond kid who couldn’t be older than twenty. “They think you look like his best friend.” He gave a furtive wave. He reminded me of Artur Lecomte from The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.

She showed me the picture again. It was a guy at the beach. I was a guy at Astro Burger. “Jing,” I said, my voice grew hoarse. There was so much I wanted to ask her. I wanted to know where she was from, how she developed this overt sexuality, why did her words remind me of the most vulvic Georgia O’Keeffe paintings? I wanted to know why she was talking in metaphors at Astro Burger at four in the morning.

Jing continued to pontificate about the banality of breasts. Things kept coming back to the flower. “It’s really all that matters,” she shrugged. Jing held all of the testicles of the world in a vice grip—disagree and she would crush your sense of masculinity, your sexuality. And yet Jing was just a nubile in a peach-colored top with a freckled nose. She seemed to know something I didn’t. She seemed to be on a drug that I hadn’t heard of. She also seemed like the type of girl who made posthumous headlines. I told her one of those “older men” might better suite her as a chaperone. She said she didn’t have a Daddy Complex. At this point, I didn’t know what to think.

Her friends told her that they were leaving. “You can stay if you want,” Arthur offered. I hoped she wouldn’t. She looked back and gave them a nod, which they did not understand. She looked at me and gave me a look that said ‘Let them wait’. Or maybe she said that. I really didn’t know. I thought I was listening.

Jing was at her best when there existed a divide between Jing and the audience. This was not a dialogue. When she said older men, I corrected her and said she meant “mature.” She seemed offended[5]. She thought I was trying to insert myself into the mature subset of flower appreciators and ass aficionados when in actuality I was looking for clarity. I had spent the day wondering who was talking and now that I had a talking person in front of me I wanted to understand what was being said.

Jing stood up and I stayed seated. She said goodbye and I felt myself growing sad at the prospect of reading in her obituary that she had died that same morning in an after-hours salsa club near MacArthur Park called “The Mild Enchilada.”

Jing and I had shared an onion ring. We’d talked abstractly about reproductive organs and sexuality. She said in one-way or another something incredibly crude to someone who preferred to bask in a daily coat of naiveté. In a way, it made me feel silly and her—the vagina poetess, a staunch realist.

Hugo was still to my left, though I couldn’t account for his last half hour. He was watching Jing leave. “Did you see that?” Hugo chuckled when she was out of earshot.

“See what?” I asked.

“She had no ass!”

I looked up and caught a quick glance before she walked into the pre-dawn morning. Hanging loosely below her waist, a deflated sack of denim trailed Jing out of Astro Burger.

“And what of the flower?” I heard what sounded like pre-op Gladys’ voice whisper into my ear.

-The Neapolitan Mastiff

[1] There are an estimated 6,700 recognized languages. This means these girls could’ve been speaking up to 6,699 different languages or possibly 6,700 with an accent we were unaccustomed to, like Glaswegian.

[2] Fresh from a jaunt to Vegas, I unjustly suspect all women who seek my conversation would like to be compensated for their time or at least their efforts. While Astro Burger might not look like a twenty-four hour cabaret, Jing and all this flower talk made me feel like I was engaging myself in a transaction of the human flesh.

[3] At this point, I’m convinced Jing peddles pleasure.

[4] Most of the older men I know only talk about breasts.

[5] At this point, I’m pretty sure she’s been over-served, under-supervised and not a hooker. Knowing this, I no longer fear that I will be clubbed over the head by her pimp in the parking lot for not paying for her “time” inside Astro Burger.

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