Friday, September 25, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 176 - Robert Crisman


Date a guy you don’t know, you make out the best way you can.

That afternoon at the pad, Roanne and Michelle had just got done fixing, Michelle in her arm and Roanne in her thigh. Roanne took awhile.

Michelle whooshed and fell back in her chair. “Goddamn!”

Roanne finished up, tossed her rig on the table, leaned back, and grinned. “Speedball deluxe, dear. I told you.”

“You did. Damm—it’s the shit!”

They sat there and grooved.

Michelle had just started banging again after three jagged months, first in treatment, then those damn 12-Step meetings. She’d been angling her way back to dope since the exile began. She was 5’7”, slender, all peaches and cream, with long, dark-brown hair, big baby-blue eyes, and legs that went all the way up. Michelle, 22, made the boys want to put bibs on and pray and dive in.

Roanne was fresh out of jail. Even raw as she looked after that little trip, the woman left echoes. Her skin was a rich olive sheen, richly buttered, it almost glowed; you wanted to nuzzle it, taste it. The most beautiful skin that God ever put on a woman. A little paler today than he might have envisioned. Her eyes were black pools with thich lashes, the better to drink you.

The smile on her face on he days that she smiled, the play of emotions, quicksilver mischief. You wanted to make her your partner in crime.

Michelle said, “Where’d Joey go?”

“Back to work I suppose,” Roanne said.

Michelle giggled. “God, Roanne. How did he get a job delivering flowers anyway? I mean, God, he’s so dirty!”

“I don’t know, girl.” Roanne snorted a dry little laugh. “Must be his charm.”

Joey, Roanne’s old man, at the moment at least, sold lighweight dope—20s, eighths, quarters, etc.—mostly out of the flower delivery car on his way to and fro through the city. Dealing kept him in dope, which worked out for the girls as well—except on those mornings he blatzed off to work without leaving a wakeup behind. Like this morning.

Good thing he’d come back an hour ago with an eighth, or Roanne would have killed him that night in his sleep.

Roanne yawned and stretched and got up from the table. “I’ve got to start getting ready.” She told Michelle she’d be going out later, some time around eight. She had a…date.

A date? Like with Joey? Michelle didn’t quite... Oh. That kind of date.

Roanne said, Uh yeah. That kind of date.

It was as if she’d been keeping this secret, her manner guarded, peering now from under her lashes. How Michelle took it seemed really important.

Michelle sat there and blinked. This, uh, date... Roanne, tricking. Wow.

Michelle couldn’t have told you to save her own life what she felt, but one thing was sure; she wanted to know more.

Tricking, well, ugh and all that, as far as she, Michelle, was concerned. But... Roanne, who’d gone down those byways she’d only dreamed of, whose cachet with Michelle was precisely that dance down dark alleys. Roanne, turning tricks. Michelle, cotton-soft, had to know more. Her eyes, even pinned, said it all.

Roanne laid it out. See, it was like this: she was an Escort. She’d signed with this service a couple weeks back, had been out on some dates and, it was cool. Two-fifty a pop, she kept half, and the guys were mostly 30s on up, lots of white-collar yuppie-type guys. Sometimes, you know, a truck driver or something.

“What is it like?” Michelle said.

“What do you mean, what is it like?”

“Well, you know, like, do you go to a motel, or the guy’s house, or, you know, what?”

“Depends. Guy calls the service, he’d like to meet you at such-and-such or, here’s his address and you go where they send you.”

“Uh huh... Then what?”

Roanne looked at Michelle, laughed a little. “Well, then you go in and do what you came for.”

What Michelle really wanted to ask was, what’s it like to have a trick’s dick in your mouth? Also, how freaky, you know, did it get?

Little Miss Clean Jeans Michelle. Roanne knew what this was now, down to the dime.

“What do you think?” Roanne, grinning now, pushing Michelle just a little.

“Well, I don’t know.”

“It depends what they want,” Roanne said. “Sometimes they just want a blowjob. Or to fuck. And they’re paying for an hour of your time, right? And, it’s not like it’s in the back seat of some car. They like you to dress nice and talk, some of them, you know, just like to talk, and you’re there in this place and it’s usually, you know, nice.

“This guy last week, I went up to the Westin, and the guy had this dinner laid out in his room and, like, candlelight, wine, like this real high-class date and...” She shrugged.

“What was he like?”

Roanne laughed one more time. Little Miss Clean Jeans, my ass.

“We-el, he was this older gentleman, from Atlanta, he said, and he was tall and white-haired, with a nice, dark gray suit and—”

“How old was he?”

“Maybe 60.”

Michelle made a face.

Roanne went on blithely. “So I came into the hotel and— ”

“What were you wearing?”

“That red blouse and those black slacks that I got, and these open-toed black shoes, and I had this shiny black purse and my hair was done up, and this gorgeous red lipstick and—” She snapped her fingers. “I was quite the one, let me tell you.”

Michelle sat rapt, drinking that scene in the lobby.

“So,” Roanne said, “they told me just go right up, Room 1209, and so I went up and then down to his room and I knocked on the door and he opened up and, like, practically bowed me into the room.” She laughed.

“Wow,” Michelle said.

“And I smiled, said hello, my name is Alexis—”

“Alexis!” Michelle loved it.

“Yes, dear.” Roanne fluttered her eyes. “Alexis. Yes.” She laughed. “His name was Mr. McWilliams. Martin McWilliams.” She grinned that wry grin. “And he escorted me into the room and offered me wine, and then we stood by the window, looking out at the lights, and he told me how beautiful I am.” She batted her eyes and they laughed.

Michelle said, “Too much!”

“Yeah,” Roanne said. “So, anyway, we talked for awhile and he told me his business and stuff and, like, why he was here in Seattle and—Girl, I was so loaded!” They laughed. “And he’s asking me what do I do, you know, besides this and I told him I’m going to school, dress design, and he’s really, like that’s just so great! He couldn’t get over it, hardworking girl like me, and so beautiful, too, and he really went on and I’m, maybe he’ll help me open a shop and—“ She couldn’t help laughing at that one.

“So the room service comes and they’ve laid out this dinner, poached salmon and something, and, just, laid out, candles, the works—and all of a sudden I feel like I’m going to puke. So I excuse myself and go in the bathroom and refresh. And then I felt better. And then I went out and we sat down to dinner and—”

“Did you eat?”

“I pushed my food around on my plate. But, by this time, he didn’t care. He’s looking into my eyes and I’m mooning back, and he’s telling me how absolutely stunning I am—and, by this time, I’m beginning to feel like I’ve been there for two million years. So I started to, you know, hurry it along. I told him how excited to be there I was, what a gentleman he was, a sexy, attractive, older man— ”

“Oh God!”

“Until he just—he practically carried me into the bedroom.”

“Oh no!”

“Oh yes!” Roanne laughed.

“And then...what?”

Roanne arched her a look. “We-el...”

Little Miss Open-Nose Michelle. Roanne hadn’t been sure how Michelle would react at the start. But the storyteller’s art had done what it set out to do: rope in the listener. That had actually been easy; Michelle had opened herself to the tale like right now. She was complicit, both in the telling and in the adventure itself.

“We fell into bed,” Roanne said, “and we were wrestling around—”

“Oh God!” Michelle giggled.

Roanne laughed. “Yes and—now he’s trying to rip off my clothes, and he’s calling me his beautiful whore—”

“Oh God!”

Roanne laughed, rolled her eyes. “And anyway, I finally got him under some sort of control, and he’s got his pants off, his shoes...”

Michelle leaned forward. “Then…what?”

“I sucked his cock.”

Michelle got this look, like the spritz just got lodged in her throat.

Roanne laughed. “God, Michelle, you should see yourself.”

“Well, God, I...”

“It only took a couple of minutes.” Roanne grinned. “You don’t have to swallow.”

“Thank God!”

Roanne, still laughing, said, “You never swallowed?”

“God, Roanne! No! I mean...”

“No? Never swallowed? Or what?” Roanne, torturing her buddy.

“No, that’s—I don’t know! I mean—an old man like that, it’s just—”

“Michelle, he was a trick. Jesus Christ.”

“Well...I’ve never done that.”

Roanne just deadpanned her ass. “Uh huh.”

“I haven’t! I never—I swear to God, Roanne!—like, when Chris and I were together, he always had money. And then, before that, it was like, you know, lots of times when I didn’t have money, there was always somebody to, you know, turn me on.”

“Uh huh.”

“Really, Roanne!”

“And you, like, never slept with any of these guys.”

“Well, sometimes, but not always, no.”

“Not always. Just sometimes.”

“Well, yes, but—when I wanted.”

“When you wanted to.”

“Yes. You know, if I felt like it.”

“And what happened when you didn’t feel like it?”

“I just said, see ya, I gotta go.”

“And they didn’t mind.”

“I don’t know. I didn’t stick around.”

“So, they just got you loaded out of the goodness of their hearts.”

“Well, some of them did.”

“But not all.”

“Well, no, but—”

“You thought they were just being friendly?”

“No, I didn’t say that, but—I didn’t say I was, you know, going to give them sex so I could get high.”

“You just let them think what they wanted to think.”

Michelle shrugged. “I can’t stop anybody from thinking whatever.”

“What about those guys you did go to bed with?”

“Huh? What about them?”

“Well, like, would you have gone with them if they didn’t have dope?”

“What? Well, I guess—yes, like I told you... Most of the time.”

Roanne laughed. “Most of the time.”

“Well, yes, I mean...” Michelle, sweating under the third degree lights.

“Yeah, and? Those other times?”

Michelle did not want to answer. Roanne had her in crosshairs, however. “Well... Okay, so I did sometimes. But it wasn’t like—they were just...guys. I wasn’t like, you know, some...old man, or...”

Roanne decided to end all the stutter and drive home a lesson. “Honey, it doesn’t matter what you call it, or who the guys are, or how old they are, or anything else. You’re giving up something to get what you want, and that’s—”

“Well, okay, but—I just don’t think I could, you know, an old man, and—”

Roanne laughed. “God, Michelle, you are a puss. Look. Old man, whatever, a dick is a dick and a trick is a trick. And anytime you’re giving up pussy to get something back from a man, that’s the deal. I don’t care what. Money, dope, a white picket fence with the kids and all that, a charge card at Nordstrom’s—a trick is a trick and a dick is a dick. Sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do, and that’s it.”

Michelle had no comeback. She knew she’d been spooned a big dose of truth. She hunched her shoulders a little, as if a cold wind had just blown in from the street.

Old men, yucka pucka! Still, though, socked at the crib after Roanne had left, Michelle mulled things over. Yeah, the old man and all—but something about this thing jazzed her. Reverie took her. She heard the echoing click of Roanne’s heels on her way to her dark assignation. Dark assignations downtown.

Bright lights and fast ladies, and dangerous, beautiful men in the shadows. The sounds: late-night laughter and whispers that tickled.

A whole other world, set free from the bland weight of days in L7.

The silent roar of dark, unknown things.

Michelle lay back on the bed and replayed the dream.


Next day, she picked up her check. Three hundred ninety-nine bucks, dopefiend welfare. It went poof in two days.

Well, what now? Go out and boost? Not Michelle’s thing. She’d tried it a couple of times and got busted once, and, uh-uh, no more. Daddy? Uh...Daddy, no dummy, who’d been through this once, would know right away she was back on the stuff. He wouldn’t give her a dime. Not only that, he’d probably try and hammer her back into treatment. Fuck that.

So, what? The Escort service and all but... God, this was tough!

The Escort trip, man. There’d been this war raging inside her the past couple days. On the one side, Little Miss Clean Jeans. On the other, Michelle the Seeker After Adventure. Now, with the last of her check in the breeze, Michelle the Broke Dopefiend checked in.

The war lasted one more day, more or less. Then poor Miss Clean Jeans went down for the count.

Roanne took her down to sign up that same night. Behind the desk, an ice-cold blonde with nutcracker jaws and eyes to go with them. Michelle, scared as hell; today the first day of the rest of her life.

Nutcracker gave them a good one right off. He wanted two girls, $250 a pop, that very night. Eight o’clock, the Ramada out by the airport, Room 242. Be there or stay broke.

Michelle wore form-fitting jeans. Roanne wore all black, crowned with a small feathered hat with a veil tipped over one eye.

They took a cab out. Michelle imagined the driver could hear her heart blasting away, loaded as she was.

Roanne was calm, cool, collected. She did the best that she could on the way to bring Michelle out of the trees. She’d done doubles a couple of times. They were actually better, she said. There were two of you there, so it wasn’t just you and the guy, which was good, especially the first time and all. And what they, the guys, wanted a lot of times was basically to watch. You know, you and your partner, like, doing each other.

Michelle clung to those branches. Doing it—with a girl? She’d—wow. It just kind of hit her. She hadn’t realized. Roanne sat and watched her. Michelle looked her way, then away. It wasn’t, you know, that she had anything really...against it, it didn’t disgust her, just...she’d never been with a girl, and—she’d seen girls, known girls who, you know, were that way, and she’d even, a couple of times, it could have happened. This girl named Jeannie she’d known in ninth grade. Jeannie was pretty and blonde and athletic and she had this way of looking at you...and she’d smile at Michelle. Michelle used to think about Jeannie.

Roanne took Michelle’s hand, squeezed softly, slowly. Michelle, eyes in her lap, held her breath. Then, gradually, she let the warmth bring her in. She felt herself blushing. And then—she’d uncoiled to a point where breath would now come—the tension blew out of her bigtime. Almost like somebody’d uncorked her. She choked out a giggle, spraying saliva, her eyes squeezed shut tight. A long moment then, and she brought her eyes up and breathed deep and turned to Roanne and smiled a bit of a smile. She blinked and, again, for an instant, breath would not come. But this lack of breath was a whole other world than before.

She sat there, face toward her friend, eyes widened, mouth slightly open to draw in the softest of breaths now, offering herself to be taken wherever it was that she had to go.

Roanne’s eyes, lasers, searching Michelle, the last hidden crannies. She snuck a quick look at the driver in front. He might have been back in Somalia for all the attention he seemed to be paying.

Roanne cupped Michelle’s face with her hand. She drew Michelle to her and kissed her, brushing her lips, then bringing her mouth full on Michelle’s. She stroked Michelle’s hair. Gently insistent, she forced her tongue past Michelle’s lips, past her teeth, found her tongue, stroked it, inviting response.

Michelle brought her hand up to Roanne’s face then and rested it there, almost not touching. Her own tongue now probed, caressed, her eyes shut and then opened, taking in all that they could.

It seemed like the traffic had gone off the face of the earth. Roanne pulled slowly, gently away. She pressed Michelle’s head to her chest and looked off. Then she sat back in the seat and pulled Michelle closer.

She stroked Michelle’s hair and looked at the lights and the traffic.

They pulled into the Ramada. Roanne paid the driver and tipped him five bucks. He smiled and said thank you.

In the light of the doorway, Michelle started patting and futzing and tweaking her hair and her clothes into some kind of order. She took out her mirror and lipstick and undid the damage she felt she’d sustained in the cab. There was almost a frenzy about her, trying to airbrush what all had transpired in the cab.

Roanne finished her own quick toilette far more calmly, then laughed. She took Michelle’s arm and steered her inside.

The second-floor hallway, Roanne checking numbers. Michelle lagged behind, her neck all pulled in. Her legs had no flex. Her arms hugged her body. Her face was a hard-set emotionless mask.

She walked as if blind, eyes ahead, except for the glances she’d dart at her lifeline Roanne.

Two-forty-two up there on the left.

Roanne quickened her pace, then looked back, slowed, beckoned Michelle, all but whispering, “C’mon, girl!”

Michelle caught up. Roanne took her arm gently and grinned, then leaned in close and laughed softly.

Michelle flinched when Roanne licked her ear.

Roanne kissed Michelle’s cheek. “This’ll be easy, baby. Just go with the flow. I’ll show you. You’ll be okay.”

Michelle nodded, quick tics in succession.

Roanne knocked on the door.


Afterward, on the ride back, Michelle rested her head on Roanne’s shoulder. Roanne told her, See? That wasn’t the end of the world. They made veiled jokes: Old shorty back there, that waste of a hose he had dangling.

All to the good, Michelle joking. It showed she could hang.

Roanne stroked her hair and looked out at the silent bip-bip of oncoming headlights, the unending neon, the absolute blackness that rules up above. She saw herself veiled, a carved bas-relief, her face like Queen Nefertiti’s, haloed by neon as night stretched forever.

Michelle, chewing the evening, stared out at nothing.

Nothing: a black night of sorts that stared back and rang changes.

The cab dropped them off at the 13 Coins Restaurant on Denny. In the booth sipping coffee, Roanne said, “Hey, girl, how are you doing?”

Michelle said, “Alright...” She grinned and shuddered. “Unngghh! What a warthog!” They laughed. “God, Roanne! It was like, I swear to God, he opened the door and—I don’t know, I—”

“You were scared shitless.”

“Well—yes, I guess. God, he… And then, we go in and he—it was like, he thought we were going to, like, steal his bedsheets or something. Goddamn, Roanne, I swear. And then, when we were, you know, on the bed and he’s—”

Roanne laughed. “That was so funny!”

“Funny?” Michelle screwed her face. Then, she had to laugh too. “God, I could just—there you are, and he’s all pressed up, like, humping the both of us, and his hands are—”

“Believe me, girl, he had at least eight of the fuckers. I know.”

“And then, he grabs my hand and puts his fucking cock in it, and—God!”

Roanne started laughing again, as much at Michelle as at George.

“It was a firehose, Roanne! God! And he’s humping my hand and—I don’t know how you...” The visual took over. Michelle blinked.

Roanne was still laughing. “I had to get you out of your predicament.”

“I can’t thank you enough but—yuck! What did you… I mean...”

“I had a rubber.”

“You had a rubber?”

“In my mouth.”

“You—I don’t get it.”

“When I went down on him, I had the rubber in my mouth and, you know, I just slipped it on there and did him that way.”


Roanne laughed. “God, girl, you should see yourself.”

“Well, I...”

“It’s just, you know, something you learn. You know, it’s just—”

“A real taste treat.” Michelle giggled.

Roanne laughed. “Scrumptious, honey!”

“Bleaugghh! Oh well...” Michelle slumped in her seat. “At least it’s over. God. I thought we were going to be there forever.”

“God, Michelle. How long do you think we were there?”

“I have no idea. Eight months.”

“Twenty minutes.”

“Twenty minutes? Really?”

“Yup, twenty minutes.” Roanne laughed. “And we spent half of that in the bathroom.”

“He’s just lucky we didn’t just lock ourselves in there!” Michelle giggled. “I could just see it. We’re in there, you know, and then, panting and moaning, and he—” She started laughing, “he’s beating his meat and drooling all over the door—”

They both whooped at that one. “And then, when we finally come out he just pays us, you know? He got what he came for, so, sayonara, you know?”

“Really, girl, it was almost that easy. I told you he was a mouse.”

“With a hog.”

“Yes, wasn’t it…” Roanne laughed. “He came in two minutes.”

“Two minutes? He fucked my hand for a day-and-a-half!”

“No, dear. Two minutes.” Roanne rolled and then batted her eyes. “I knew it wouldn’t take long. He just—I knew. We came out of the bathroom, old George was ready. And then, God—we’re there on the bed and he’s—I thought he was going to cum on my back.”

“On my hand.”

Roanne laughed. “Yeah. Anyway, soon as I, uh, took him in hand, I knew. He was just about ready to spit, girl, and—”

“Oh god, stop. Anyway, Jesus, twenty minutes. It sure seemed longer.”

“Twenty minutes. Two-fifty a pop for the both of us, girl, and that’s $750 an hour, less commission, which knocks it down to $375—”

“The service takes half?”

“Yeah, I told you.”

“Jesus, I must have missed that.”

“Well, dear, you were loaded and—”

“God, I guess.” Michelle shook her head, grinned.

“Yeah, so anyway, $375. That’s still not bad, eh? Let’s see, $187.50 for each of us and—”

“It sure beats working at Denny’s. Or, being a bar-r-rista at fucking Starbucks for six bucks an hour plus tips.”

“Indeed yes it does,” Roanne said. “And it happens, too.”

“What’s that?”

“Us getting out of there early. You notice, our little mouse, after he, uh, spritzed, he just, he wasn’t much for small talk and stuff. He just wanted us gone.”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I did notice that. Poor man, he seemed, what do they call that?”

“Post-coital depression. And that’s exactly what it was, too. All he wanted to do after we left was jump into his bottle or bourbon or whatever and get drunk. I think if we’d’ve, you know, lingered, he’d’ve started gnashing his teeth or something like that. I mean, he was just, Please go away! He didn’t even want to look at us. I said, Goodbye, George, and he’s just, like, unh or something and nods his head and gives me this look out of the corner of his eye and goes back to looking out the window.”

“I know,” Michelle said. “That’s so weird. Men, I swear. It’s like, as long as their dick’s hard, they’ll kiss your ass. But once that’s over, it’s, well, fuck you, bitch, and goodbye.”

“Yeah, well, that’s alright, dear, they can pay for the privilege. Five hundred fror twenty minutes’ work. I’ll take that every time. And some guys give you a bonus, too, so... He didn’t, but—”

“Cheap motherfucker.”

Roanne laughed. “Maybe next time.”

“I can’t wait.”

“Uh huh. Yeah,” Roanne said. “I figure, six more months.” She took on a musing sort of a tone. “Six more months. A year, maybe, I’ll have enough saved and then, kiss this shit goodbye. Get back into school. Do that, come out, open my own shop, and I’ll be set.” Her tone darkened. “I can do what I want then, and the world can go kiss my ass.”

“Yeah...” Michelle looked for a moment as if she was afraid of being left behind.

Roanne caught it. “I’ll take you with me, girl.” She laughed. “And, in the meantime, I’ll teach you the trick with the rubbers.”

“Yuck.” Michelle rolled her eyes. “Oh well. I want cherry-flavored. Then maybe...”

Michelle sat back in her seat. First date down. Michelle thought, not too bad. She remembered dates back in high school. Those times with some pimply-faced doofus with change for the bus and that’s it. Who’d keep sliding his hand up her dress till she slapped him or something.

At least with old George she got paid.

BIO: Crisman knew Roanne and Michelle a long time ago. They were funny and smart and strung out. Roanne was street-tough and Michelle was well on her way. Roanne appeared to be matter-of-fact about ho-ing; that's just what she did to stay well. Michelle would spit when she talked about tricks. Roanne once said that, out in the street, a man's world indeed, a woman has limited choices: she can turn tricks, boost out of stores/ like Mandrake the Magician, or be ready and able to kick a man's ass and take what she needed, whatever it took. There weren't too many of those, but the few that there were got respect...

1 comment:

Joyce said...

Gritty and dark--like watching real life through a window. Well written.