Reader’s Note: This is a true story. The following character below is desperate for love, or sex rather, and seeks it at what he sees in the newspaper is advertised as a meeting of The Ceres Singles Club. Singles clubs have a reputation for having lonely women. Have you never been lonely? Have you never had a sense of low self esteem? Have you never thought with your reproductive organ instead of your head? If not, then you can apply for sainthood. Me, I’m just like most everybody, struggling, stumbling backwards through life trying to get joy and meaning where I can.
The following is written in the style of a novel:
I find a singles meeting set for this Saturday, a meeting of the Singles Club. But it’s in a place called Ceres. Where is Ceres? I’ve been living here for five months and I’ve never heard of it. I get a map. It’s a town just about seven miles south of here I conclude. Easy. I’ll just drive down there and check out the action.
It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m getting cleaned up and ready, ironing my best pair of tight slacks, putting underarm deodorant on, shining my shoes, combing my hair, putting on a tight-fitting sexy red shirt that shows that my chest muscles are about ready to pop the buttons.
I’m driving in my red sports car into the countryside expectant of the glories of the evening to come, past the orchards of walnuts and figs. Where is Ceres? It ought to be around here somewhere. Here it is. I guess. Is this it? A gas station and a trailer (mobile home) with nothing around. A few dilapidated buildings. My heart and my crotch begin to sink with the rapidly descending sun.
This place looks like a dead dog town. A couple of yokels are out in front of a small convenience store of some kind. I ask them for directions, and they stare at me as though baffled at my appearance. They give me a few mumbled directions to my question and point down a two-lane country road. They look at me like I’m a man from Mars. I drive off in the direction they indicate, and I check my rear view mirror, and they’re still staring at me and my car as the distance and dust obscure them from view.
What did they mention, something about a Guard Armory. That sounds odd for a Singles Club swinging party. Guard Armory? Hmmmm!
There it is. There are cars out in front. This has to be it. Boy! It sure is out in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know about this. It’s sort of creepy, what with the fields of walnut trees, and nobody else around, and everybody must be inside. The building looks like a run-down kind of old. I don’t know what.
Should I chicken out? I’ve already pulled up, and nobody’s seen me. It’s not too late. I could drive away and nobody would know. But it’s Saturday night. And I took a shower and got all cleaned up and pressed my shirt. For a wild swinging night. And for what? To go home and watch wrestling on TV. Tomorrow’s Sunday. The next day I’ll have to go back into the office and face my boss, that little snake face, Joe Bad.
No. I’ve got to go in. I’ve got too much riding on this. It’s a Single’s Club. They got to be some good ones in there.
I enter. I look around. It’s dark. Like a cavern. There’s a bar. A juke box is playing Country Western, a sleepy, lazy (Freddie Hart) tune called Easy Lovin.’ My eyes adjust to the light. The enormity of my luck now becomes apparent. They’re all elderly. Old people! This is a Singles Club, and they’re all old. Wrinkled up old farts. Sitting in metal folding chairs. They’re all ancient. I can’t believe it. I think about backing out through the door. But they’re looking at me.
I can’t run. What do I say? What do I tell them? I’m stunned. I move toward the bar, uneasy, and nod at the bartender, who looks to be in his fifties, except for me the youngest person in the place.
What’ll you have chief? He says.
Is this the Single Club? I practically whisper.
Yeah. The Ceres Singles Club. What’ll you have?
I wipe my brow and shut my eyes for a moment. I’ll have a drink. A..uuhhh! I’ll have a whiskey and Seven-up.
You got it.
I sit down at a tall bar stool with ripped black naugahyde seat. He brings my drink.
I take more than a sip because I need more. Suddenly. Wow! Now that’s a drink! That’s the first good thing that’s happened. Talk about a drink. He put the whiskey in it and he didn’t spare the whiskey. Is there any Seven-up in here? Now, that’s not bad!
This place may be shit. But they sure know how to pour a drink. Damn that’s good!
How much did this cost? Seventy-five cents?
I don’t want to look behind me at the several women in this place. But eventually I do, after a few more good belts of this fine drink the generous man poured for me. I’ll tell ya’ what. If nothing else works out, this is the best damn drink I ever had. I take another gulp.
I don’t feel as bad as I did a few moments ago. I look around. These are old people who come here to get drunk. A pool table nearby has a few old yokels with the sticks over there. A smoke haze fills the place from wet old lips on cigarette tobacco. The people lunge with vacant eyes staring, nursing their drinks, like a scene from hell. Old people getting loaded.
I decide to take my drink and sit down at a table and if nothing else, play the part of a mystery man, a kind of Humphrey Bogart, like Rick in the movie Casablanca. As I pass a table I hear one old lady tell another, “Where did he come from?”
I can’t understand it. This is the most hopeless, sodden group of pathetic people I’ve ever seen in my life. In the daytime around their little houses or mobile homes they probably can be seen trimming their roses. But here they are trying to be something. Young again? Desirable? Wanted? Loved?
What’s even stranger is that I’m here too. The more I drink, the more I get into it. It’s sick. But it turns me on. What’s the matter with me that I’m enjoying myself, here in the bowels of the earth at the edge of the world in the middle of nowhere. All the exciting things and people that are happening everywhere, and I’m here, with these pathetic relics and their strong drinks, silently getting stoned and listening to lilting hillbilly music. I know it’s sick. But then. I just thought. I don’t know what I thought. I’ll make the best of it.
No, that wasn’t it. That’s too noble, idealistic. Make the best of it. I really enjoy this, being the only young man, parading myself up to the jukebox to put in a coin in front of old ladies, some advanced enough to be my mother, or grandmother. They couldn’t do anything, but they could look. And wonder. And remember.
And the men. They probably wanted to kick my ass. Several of them probably could of. Once, long ago. But they can’t now. They’re too old. Just in the act of trying to hit me they’d keel over with heart attacks.
I swagger over to my chair. They all try and go about their business and pretend I’m not here. But I am, and they know it. Which of the old dolls shall I cast my lustful glances at. I’m having trouble controlling my urges to misuse power. I have power. They want to be what I am now, what they once were.
I get another drink. My head is spinning.
It’s dark and the dingy you can’t really see, the tacky high-backed bar stool chairs with cracking leather topped seats, the forty year old Schlitz Beer Bear neon sign that no longer lights, the cracking paint on the cinder block bricks, and the sterile Formica tables made back when plastic was thought to be cool. Liquor makes it all seem madly somehow relevant and memorable and hot desire and important—–because it’s me! It’s happening to me. It’s Saturday night and I don’t have anywhere else to go and this has to be it.
There’s a woman in yellow, a bright yellow pants suit, as bright yellow as a canary. I look at her. She looks over at me. She has an allure about her. What I mean by that is that she not only looks showy and younger by a large degree than anybody else, she looks like she might be easy. I’m feeling the effects of two strong drinks and my sordid blood is up. I can feel myself working up my nerve and it’s a lot easier now than it would have been an hour ago. It’s dark too. Dreary. It’s clear she’s here on the make (it seems clear to me as wishful thinking often is), unattached. She’s talking lively with some old guy and his partner or wife.
I walk over. With an Elvis Presley sneer I say, want to dance?
She does. Oh boy!
This isn’t the best dance to dance to, Freddy Four Toes, something about a runaway lawn mower. But it luckily gives way to something more appropriate, Young Love by Sonny James. She whispers something in my ear and laughs. This is going to be a wild night I’m telling myself as we slowly glide around the dance floor. That she is old enough to be my mother isn’t so apparent because in this dank smoke-filled chamber she holds up well. She wears her hair up and sprayed like Country Western star Tammy Wynette. She uses heavy make up and thick lipstick that in the bright light of a hospital waiting room would make her seem ludicrous, but not here in this debauched rural Gomorrah. No. The light and my condition make her seem to be a Venus rising who is also causing me to rise.
There would be a song later that recited the words, looking for love in all the wrong places. So true. Why did I? It only seems incredible now as I write this and you read this. Not then. No. It all seemed to be perfectly acceptable behavior. A young and healthy and powerful virile young man seeking flesh for lustful pleasure.
There would be no long term attempt at anything lasting or meaningful. It had to be both quick and cheap and eventually discarded.
We sit down at a table and I sip my drink and slur some joke I can’t remember and she laughs, words that amount to hisses of air that pass by and disappear into the mere hopeless nothingness they deserve. I can see in my mind right now the two of us sitting there and going through these futile motions, me wanting things from her, and her wanting. I don’t know what. I don’t really care as long as she gives me what I want.
The smell of her straight up 1950s style hair. I have to have her. We sit and joke and laugh and I don’t know what I’m saying. But it doesn’t matter. We’re leaving together and everybody in the bar is watching and we walk arm-in-arm outside and the fresh air hits our faces. I shouldn’t be, but I’m following her in my car even though I’m drunk as a skunk. I could be arrested. But this is Ceres. There aren’t many police around. Luckily.
My car swerves off the road onto the gravel twice. But I don’t lose her headlights ahead. I’m determined. We’re here. A sort of. A mobile home park. Trailers. Fixed to the ground trailers, so they’re like cheap homes.
I follow, up the tin steps into her trailer mobile home. The inside is dark. She turns on the lights. The place is white. White shag carpet. White sofas. White walls. She has a fetish about the color white, although I didn’t know what a fetish was then like I know now. I’ve sobered up a lot, though I’m still a little drunk.
Okay, she says.
I look at her.
Thank you for escorting me home.
What? I’m puzzled.
What? She says.
I’m puzzled. We look at each other. You mean? I’m not gonna stay the night? Can’t I stay the night?
Instantly, she has an expression of surprise that hardens into contempt. In a flash, she is a woman who would never have any such improper relation with a boy half her age. “Get out of here,” she says. “Go!” She’s angry that I would ponder such a thing, as though I considered her cheap (cheap is good, but I also considered her easy).
“Get out!” she yells. “What kind of woman do you think I am?”
I’m deflated, but also frightened. The neighbors will hear. They’ll come running. She night scream rape!
How quickly I, the swaggering hero sexual god, become the shaking, craven little boy begging for quiet understanding. Why did she ask me back to her place if she didn’t want it?
I lurch for the door, flee down the tin steps, and run to my car. I speed off into the night, much more sober than three minute before. My courage returns. You ugly old prune I tell myself. You lousy old bitch! You must be out of your mind. You must be crazy. I give you the one chance you’ll ever have left in your miserable life for the greatest sex you’ve ever had (I believed), and you throw it away.
I roll down the widow and gulp the night air and yell back over my shoulder in the direction of the trailer park. “You ugly scag!”
That’s it! I’ve got to get out of Modesto. I’ll cheat and use Joe Bad’s company phone to line up interview appointments for other jobs when he’s not around, and search the want-ads in the newspaper until I’ve got one. This place is the most screwed up I’ve ever seen. What a fool I was to leave LA.
I’ll make it right. I’ll still win.