Months passed, and Jody’s and my relationship grew more platonic. She was beautiful and I was 21 years old: platonic was the last thing on my mind.
But I loved her madly, and that is not hyperbole. We get one shot to love someone without restraint, to be all in, all of our chips stacked on that person’s number with no idea that the dice sometime come up craps. We put it all out there—every passion, fear, desire, and anxiety. She’d never hurt me. She’d never use that intimate knowledge against me. It’s a fool’s game, but damn does it feel good.
And there was the rub: My heart belonged to Jody, but the barely adult hormones pumping through said heart were rolling perpetual snake eyes. Not that I was the only Hollywood resident forced into celibacy. Music Plus’s resident Goth muttered “I’m so fucking horny” at least once per day. Jamie, the store’s rocker chick, approached her dry spell like a dare: “Let’s go, right now. I don’t care. I’ll fuck anybody anywhere.” If only she could’ve helped out Goth Girl.
In fact, sex or the lack thereof permeated Los Angeles. Middle-aged customers flirted with the young record store staff, and we flirted back to pass the time, make a sale, or in one coworker’s case to score free cocaine. One older woman was good every visit for a couple of CD sales if I took the time to chat her up. She came in regularly for months, always happy to spend some bucks in exchange for a little flattery.
“Have you seen the new Woody Allen?” she asked me one evening.
“No, any good?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I haven’t seen it.”
“$31.98,” I said, and I bagged her CDs.
“Do you want to see it?”
“Yeah, I think I do. Let me know if it’s any good,” I said.
“No, I mean do you want to see it? Forget it. Never mind,” she said.That was her last visit to Music Plus.
The only sexless place in all of Hollywood was Su Casa apartment #207. Even our upstairs neighbor, who claimed “party clown” as an occupation, was getting regular action, an unwelcome fact we learned when Jody marched upstairs to ask him to turn down his stereo. Spread open on his coffee table were several albums packed full of Polaroids of our party clown neighbor enjoying a Whitman’s Sampler of penises.
He wasn’t even the weirdest character in the building. The lady who lived in the apartment next to the laundry room took home that award. She was a tall woman with long, frizzy hair and a thrift store wardrobe. Her crooked tea-stained teeth seemed too large for her mouth, but that may have been due to the deranged smile permanently spread across her face. She carried a brown grocery bag wherever she went and never spoke, just stared at me with her picket fence smile.
Once on my way to the laundry room I peeked inside her apartment when she left her front door hanging open. Her bed was positioned directly in front of the door rather than in the bedroom. Maybe she shared the place with a roommate, or perhaps the laundry room on the other side of the bedroom wall was too noisy, I don’t know. Regardless, seeing something as intimate as the building’s crazy lady’s sleeping chamber felt awkward.
I jammed my clothes into the washer, fed some quarters into the machine, fired it up and walked back to my apartment. I peeked again as I walked past her open door. She reclined on the bed now, fully nude, head buried beneath a pillow, masturbating.
I’ve told that anecdote enough times to know that it’s a simple gender test:
|If you are a….||…then you just said….|
|Man||“Did you help her out?”|
No, I did not help her out. The other thing that this story proves: It’s never the people you want to see naked that you get to see naked. Unless you pay, of course.
As the celibate months piled up I grew more desperate, finally breaking down and hitting a strip club for the first time since; well, since my first time. On stage was a porn actress named Hyapatia Lee. She wore a buckskin dress and an Indian headdress. She danced over to me and cooed, “Is your iron horse outside?”
“Did you come here on your iron horse?”
“Car. Did you drive here in a car.”
“Oh. No. Motorcycle,” I said, and Hyapatia rolled her eyes and took her buckskin elsewhere.
I ducked into the Seventh Veil, too, that Sunset Strip landmark immortalized in Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.” The song’s video was all neon and glamour, a big party starring half naked women. The reality was dark and rundown. Three men sat at what looked like a raised sandbox the size of a large table. They leaned on a red, wooden counter that separated them from the little pit. A nude woman about my age lounged on her back on the small dance floor inside the pit, chewing gum and rocking her knees open and closed.
“Come on, fellas, if it’s looking good then put it on the wood,” the DJ said. Nobody moved.
“Tip, you fuckers, or I’m just going to sit here,” the naked lady said. Nobody moved. She clamped her knees together and chewed her gum. The whole thing was depressing. I didn’t even get a mulligan on the “iron horse” question from my previous encounter.
Even the corner newspaper machines oozed sex. Right next to the Los Angeles Times and LA Weekly stood the racks for the LA Xpress, kind of a pre-internet Craigslist for hookers and escorts. The photos all had stars or bars across the naughty bits, but anything for a cheap thrill.
I was lonely, even if the math didn’t make sense: three million fellow Angelenos; a dozen record store coworkers; a couple of friends; and one (1) true love in my bed each night. But she wasn’t. She was a million miles away, and I was lonely.
“James, this is Theresa. It’s her first day,” my boss said. “Show her around the store.”
“Hi,” Theresa said, and when she smiled my ability to reason lodged in her dimples.
Record store coworker #13. Always a lucky number.
—modified photo Don Richards /Flickr Creative Commons
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