Three LA Storiesby Hannah Sward
Motels and Vodka
Chloe and Dimitri sat across from one another in a dark red leather booth at a vintage bar on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Dimitri leaned back, placing his fists on the table. “So, ask me anything you want.”
Chloe was silent.
He handed her a photo out of his suede wallet. “A picture, my son.”
“Smart looking boy,” Chloe said. “He’s here with you?”
“In Moscow. Eleven he is. Seventeen I was. Very hard. I miss him.”
Dimitri waved down the waiter. “Bring more vodka and dessert. Whatever you have, but nothing peachy.”
He dismissed the waiter with a flick of his hand.
“What you want out of life?” he asked, leaning in close to Chloe.
She smiled softly.
“I know. Love you want,” he said.
“You’re making fun of me.”
Dark blonde curls framed her smooth face as her head tilted down, just slightly.
He stroked her pale cheek. “Oh, baby.”
The amateur jazz band in the bar began to play. Chloe pretended to be interested in them.
Dimitri knocked back his vodka. “What, no love in your life?”
“What about you?” she asked.
“Not in this lifetime, baby.”
The waiter brought two desserts to the table.
Chloe took a sip of her drink. “You’re kind of young to give up.”
“Not giving up,” Dimitri said, sticking a straw in the chocolate dessert, swirling the sauce around. “I don’t want any love.”
They left. Driving east on Sunset Boulevard.
“We get hotel room.” Dimitri waved his cigarette in her face towards the seedy motel on the right hand side of the street.
“Oh, do we?” Chloe asked, somewhat amused.
Chloe followed Dimitri up the stairs into the motel room. Fully clothed, Dimitri stretched out on the bed. Feet crossed, he lit a cigarette.
“You go shower now,” he said, watching his smoke rise to the ceiling.
Chloe closed the bathroom door behind her. She undressed, hanging her pale pink slip and stockings on a metal hook. Then she turned on the shower and sat on the toilet. A foggy, full-length mirror was opposite her. She stared at herself, naked. Her hips appeared fuller in this position in comparison to her narrow waist. The crack in the mirror distorted the reflection of her breasts. She stuck her feet in the shower, lathering each one up with a bar of soap. Then she wiped them off and walked out of the room. Dimitri was lying on the bed naked. He didn’t look her way, staying concentrated on his smoke. She just stood there, motionless.
* * *
Shower Dances at The Wild Goose
As kids, my sister and I crazy glued our hands together. Now we strip together at the Wild Goose off of San Fernando Boulevard.
Daytime shift. Men eat pizza while girls hang nude on poles. I am giving a lap dance in a private red booth. It is mirrored. Blue lights. The man smells of garlic and wears thin nylon jogging pants. I feel his hardness. Forty dollars I tell myself.
I try not to look at him. In the mirror I see my sister. She is giving a shower dance. A man hoses her down, aiming high between her legs.
I close my eyes. Imagine her and me when we were little. Daisy chains on our heads, dancing through the grass, pretending we were fancy ladies on our tip toes. Talking about what we were going to be when we grew up.
After work we go home, roller-skate on the hardwood floor of our apartment and eat chocolate cake.
My Mother’s Designated Fuck
I knew I was a positive person when I saw your father in bed with another woman. I
tapped her on the shoulder and said,
“Jenny, you’ve had enough. My turn.”
It was actually quite comical. Jenny went over to the other side of this enormous bed to her husband, a doctor. It was at a time when primal scream therapy was in. Jenny and her boring husband had a primal scream room. All padded so no one could hear. We all went there to scream and then we went to their bedroom. Oh, I was so bored. I just wanted to be agreeable. It was forgettable.
Now I’m in love with a redneck, Vince. I had enough of the intellectuals. They make excellent fathers though. I know you and your sisters love your fathers. You’re very lucky you know. There’s none of that sibling rivalry since each you are the apple of their eyes. A poet, an English professor and a painter. Broke, but wonderful fathers.
My poor redneck has no money either. But he saves lives. All day long he sits in his lifeguard stand and looks through his binoculars. I remember the moment I met him. It was on Siesta Key Beach. I saw him walking across the white sand. The aqua water in the background, the palm trees. One of those late afternoon Florida sun showers was brewing. It was windy. His jet black hair was standing on end. He walked right towards me in his red Speedo. You know, the truth is I liked him right off. I stood there in my yellow bikini very quietly. When I like a man I get shy. He wanted to have sex right away. I brought him home.
I had just turned forty. He was twenty-six. I was his one and only for five months. Then it was sex without commitment. It still is. You see Vince is just one of those good looking men who has lots of women. But that’s just what an affair with a younger man is all about. In the beginning I tortured myself visiting him on the beach.
I’d have to put on a face, a happy one. What could I be happy about? All those women milling around his lifeguard stand. Well I wasn’t going to wait around. Men were falling out of trees for me for Christ’s sake.
That was right around the time I began my year of one night stands. I must have slept with a hundred men. That was a good year. In fact, one night I slept with two guys. They thought they had died and gone to heaven. They were in the major leagues. I love baseball players. They took me out dancing, bought me flowers, made me their queen. One I kept seeing. He was very famous. I was in the shower with him once and Vince came knocking. Oh, I was so happy I was with someone.
“Shhh,” I giggled.
The baseball player was shaving my legs. It was my year. You see, it was the first time in my life I didn’t have you girls with me, only on the weekends. It was my one opportunity. And when I met Vince I just had this feeling that he’d be a good thing for me. I’d have the freedom I needed with him. That I could do my art and have time for my girls.
You see, in life sometimes you’re just inexpressibly drawn towards someone. And we make our own destinies. What we put in our minds is what we find there. Oh sure I miss the
conversations with your father.
My redneck, he’s not chatty. I think that’s why sex with him just keeps getting better and better. He’s a simple man. He sits in his lifeguard stand all day, saves lives, plays his darts and smokes his weed. Oh, he loves his weed. I did enough of that with your father. I sent you that picture of him didn’t I sweetie? The one with him and his pot plant on the stove. It’s a great picture. He was so handsome and we loved taking Acid together. It’s just what you did at that time. The late 60’s, early 70’s. Everyone thinks of it as such a liberating time, everybody sleeping with each other, love everywhere. It wasn’t so free loving as all that. But your father, he was the first man to really open me up sexually. He was wonderful in bed, so wild but then he started with all that Baba Muktananda nonsense and not having sex. What did your father think, that I would put up with him meditating all day and writing poetry?
But now I have Vince. I don’t think he’s read a poem in his life which is a good thing. I never have to worry about him writing a nasty poem about me. That’s what your father did you know and he put a copy in every faculty mailbox at the University. Oh I don’t know, people are all just so different. It was his way of dealing with things. What was I going to do? People do what they want to do.
Oh sweetie, remember that handsome man we found out we both slept with? He was so horrified when he saw us at the Wharf. He had no idea we were mother and daughter. Some people are just so uptight. Where they draw the line I just don’t understand.
I was so terribly broke then. I don’t think anyone but you knew just how broke I was. We had a nice Christmas together though, didn’t we? The Bagel Inn and a matinee. What a terrible movie. War of the Roses. Why anyone would make a movie about a couple fighting for two hours. I’m not a fighter, I didn’t fight with any of my husbands. If I was angry I just left. There’s always an answer to everything. That’s what suitcases and doors are for. Don’t like something, leave then, get out, find another lover.
People torture themselves. I hope you always remember that, who you put in your life and what you put in your mind is what you find there. It’s like a bucket. Or a shopping cart. Oh I hate shopping. But you know what I mean. You can pick and choose what you want. No one is forcing you to put anything you don’t want in there so why choose rotten tomatoes? It’s the same with relationships and thoughts. Do you see what I mean?
So what’s this I hear, you’re thinking about having a one night stand? That’s just wonderful honey. You could be a slut for a while. There are so many men out there. But don’t fall in love with broke ones like I have. Oh, it’s your life you do what you want. But why don’t you put on a nice dress and go to the hospital? You could meet a nice doctor. Or go to the museum, that would also be a wonderful place to meet a man. I could get you a membership to LACMA. I hear they have a Chagall show now. I’ll send you one of my cashmeres. Men love cashmeres and I don’t know why but it’s always so chilly in museums, hospitals too.
Of course, LACMA is nothing like the MOMA. That was a great trip wasn’t it? Going to New York together and going to all the museums. I read another great story in the New Yorker today. I’ll send it to you. I heard Garrison Keillor chose one of your father’s poems to read on his show. Your father is wonderful reading his poems. So many poets who aren’t, they go on and on. Too indulgent. Most things in life are best kept short. Of course, there’s the exception like with Vince. Neither of us ever would have thought after sixteen years we’d still love having sex with each other.
Now where is he, where is my designated fuck? He’s late.
Read more about Hannah’s adventures in her forthcoming memoir, STRIP.
‘Imagine if Bukowski were a female stripper addicted to crystal meth. It’s like that, but better.’ Tortoise Books