Bacchus Paine – No Church in the Wild
No Church in the Wild
A hypomnema of hypersexualtiy
To become the spectator of one’s own life is to escape the suffering of life.
Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Fruimini, Dissipate, Prodigite
On Halloween, the streets of San Francisco filled with lunatics overjoyed to be freed of their nine to five chains and bound by those they wear in the dark. Lovely skirted hips swayed as they passed, camouflaging thick obliques that consumed the uncurled waistline of an eighteen-year-old boy, but that’s normal for the Castro. Thirteen masked wrestlers in the space of a block and a half. A sizable portion of political statements. Body paint on men and women, cheeks and shoulders, asses and bellybuttons, nipples and cocks. Feathers reaching to kiss upper-story windowsills, pink feathers, gold feathers, peacock feathers, actual peacocks. And, oh, the leather. You smell leather walking through the streets, laced with sweat and liquor and precum. Some of the men shame New York’s best male models and Vegas’ best gigolos. In fact, this neighborhood is a gathering of the largest proportion of good-looking, well-kept, in-shape, exposed beefcakes in such a small geographic area available anywhere in the world. But I see as many tits as cocks.
This was one of the City’s most-clothed parties, thanks to the costumes. Furries. Soldiers. The obligatory cops (oddly hard distinguish from the real ones). Numerous people in boxes with various graphics, slogans strewn abreast. And boots! My see-through black boots with three-inch heels and laces looked average. I looked around expecting to see the aquarium-in-platform heels of I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. There was no shortage of such pimps. Purple pimps, mostly, though most cool colors made a pimpsuit appearance. My eyes jumped from the Obama mask on my right to the man’s ass in front of me, jumped to the girl’s ass to his right, and caught the couple fucking in a fold of the building as I passed by. Hundreds of people, every one in costume… or naked. But that guy was always naked. I wasn’t yet stumbling into my friend whose furry vest was leading the way. I did, however, have Jack Daniels in my Coke Zero bottle, so it was only a matter of time.
Back in the day, this party was legendary even by City standards. Then someone got shot. So, lately, Halloween in the Castro had been one of the more muted festivals of the Season. One-thousandth of the size of Pride. One-hundredth the risqué of Folsom Street Fair. The Gays of San Francisco made this, like all the others, into a day where everyone can walk outside and be proud of whatever it is they feel like looking like. And do drugs.
I didn’t want most of what some of those people wanted. I didn’t want to be whipped; those lash marks looked painful. I wasn’t turned on by fat ladies in leather corsets. I was only tolerating checking out the chubby or deformed naked folks because occasionally there was a really hot naked guy. And I always appreciate that. I always appreciate the freedom, the revelry. They’re my personal reason to call it the “City” with so many other glorious cities in the world, though I’m sure others inflict capitalization for their own reasons.
San Francisco does instinctively what the Internet had to be invented for Middle America to enjoy: it whips out the cloaked but exposed bits you can’t whip out at work and leaves those bits out to be witnessed by folks who might enjoy them. And oh, my, was this exposure. It felt good, to just do what was in my head, dress any wonky way, never to be abnormal. I was thin on comforts at that moment, and looking around at all those people who seemed fucking batshit suddenly made me feel better about being crazy myself. Plus it felt good to see other people who didn’t seem afraid of sex.
For my part, I’d donned a semi-80s getup with tight-ass jeans and knee-high lace up heels. I’d looked at myself in the mirror, thinking, the 80s must almost be out of fashion. No one ever talks about the 60s anymore, much less the 70s, or the 20s, which were better, I thought. The waning of the 80s must be forthcoming.
Yet somehow it seemed like every fucking weekend somebody in San Francisco had come up with a reason to have an 80s party. The decade smacked me all the time, such that I felt I must be at the ready for the 80s at any moment. For this reason I kept a stock of clothes in my closet that I’d deemed, self-mockingly, “semi-80s.” Each incorporated perhaps one 80s-like feature: a tealish tanktop, a black leather jacket with shittons o’ zippers, puffy red shoes. I’d not wear 80s jeans. Having been born in the 80s, perhaps I should have championed their idolatry, though.
On that crisp October eve I’d journeyed to a special Halloween edition of the usual 80s Mondays at Trigger. My good friend, newly out of the closet and commonly called Ben, was out risking a hangover during his upcoming 8 am call. We both loved Trigger, but for slightly different reasons. Of course, we both loved the go go dancers, whose genders varied and whose female variety are often black, the only kind of women Ben really found attractive. Ben was only a novice gay, but we could both appreciate a spot with the hottest, trendiest, slimmest, trimmest, clippedest men in the City. This was where the abs kicked it. On Tuesdays, Trigger dedicated its slowest night of the week to lesbians and promptly filled the fuck up with hot girls. On non-Tuesdays, the existence of a potential scene on Tuesday kept a baseline contingent of lesbians in the bar; the dearth of women the rest of the week kept gay men coming even on Tuesday. Hence, I could drag Ben to Trigger Tuesday and he could drag me to Trigger Anyothernight absent enmity.
On Halloween Ben and I brought out our friend Shane in the furry vest, one of the “straight” guys who either really only likes chicks or has some sort of unclear cultural pressure dissuading manifestation of a passing interest in cock. I think of that cultural pressure like the mallet-and-mole game at arcades; if something peeks its head you bash it down with a big mental mallet. I guessed (and as yet have not been proven wrong) that Shane only liked chicks.
I guessed he only liked chicks because he was so damned comfortable in this gay club, sporting his furry vest. Really. He drank, and danced, and bopped his head to the Prince, occasionally falling into a white man’s overbite, smiling all the while, without the slightest recognition that most heads turned as they passed him by.
We were joined by a female friend of his, whom I’d met a couple of times before. She was lean, with ample tits and long auburn hair. Cute. To my delight she’d recently discovered (recognized) she possessed more than a passing interest in women. I had watched her, crippled with bash, repeatedly stall when she set forth to lay her game upon the lezzie club. I found myself the beneficiary of this deficiency one evening at a past Tuesday-slow-night lesbian party down the block at Q-Bar, when she exasperated, “I just want to make out with someone.”
I shrugged and said I would make out with her. She accepted.
I guess it’s not relevant that I hooked up with her, but I did want to point it out. Over the course of Halloween evening I’d tried desperately to orchestrate a threesome with her and Shane of the Furry Vest. My progress mapped that of a real estate deal, plucked from escrow. Interest but no consummation. Alas. Just then, I was really rather expecting failure from life and embracing it, though perhaps I should have been noting happily that I’d gotten the chance to make out with her before instead of thinking whiny thoughts about failing to score a threesome that evening.
Notwithstanding, the heat of the suggestion hung in the air, and both Shane and I would endeavor drunkenly to rehabilitate the discussion from time to time, but only in body language. Otherwise we just watched the sweaty go-go dancers groove in their Converse. I grew bored.
The dance I’d begun to dance of late had no rhythm, and this was as good a place as any to get down that way. The bar was seething with lesbians, given that it was not Tuesday. I surveyed. In the corner near the bathroom a pack of girls dressed alike, in some costume that involved sports bras and baseball caps, though I couldn’t identify the theme, as I daresay no one in the bar could. In fact, I had trouble finding creativity in any of the lesbian costumes. It was troubling, as if all of lesbiankind had shuffled off its responsibility to make a statement of its Halloween. But I was no better, I supposed, with my boots and semi-80s. I took leave of my failed ménage to survey better on the move.
The bar, like so many others, was organized as a circuit, which I paced. Along the wall, pitiful lonely lesbians and twinky gay boys occupied a low bench. The dance floor was weak with 80s rhythm. I didn’t need to sway at all to move through inconspicuously. Along the wall, I spied a hot girl with big green eyes… or were they hazel… it was so dark, but they seemed to glow…. She appeared to conduct her own survey, as I had been from the far corner with my friends. She wore long thick hair, almost Indian in volume and color, framing a delicate olive face, reasonable but modest tits, thinset. The look of her was poetic. I watched her turn her head, her mane flowing, eyes lighting, mesmerizing. I could feel my heartbeat speeding, blood pushing outward through my ribs, and I started to feel as if my body pulsed all over with the same force I’d normally feel within an agitated chest. More, I’d say, than just the excitement of beholding a hot girl.
She reminded me of someone, I couldn’t put my finger on who, but the pulse in the midst of me suggested recognition. Her movements painted my air. I fear I was staring, searching for the moment from which I remembered her, when she caught me. I looked away, looked back, and looked away again, but began to shuffle in her direction. I was no master of openers. Now I wished I had some rudimentary talent, but all I knew was to seed a glance and hope she came to me. Wait for her eyes. There was something about the eyes, their glowing.
Upon continued inspection, I discovered she was swarmed by a few less remarkable girls, each enamored of chatting with one another, though without the appearance of flirting. I changed course and walked to the bar, hoping they’d move off the wall so I could finish my circuit behind her. I was drunk already, no doubt, but for weeks now I’d ignored being drunk for plenty long enough to still walk back up to the bar. The drinks they poured at Trigger were some of the strongest in the Castro, and I watched vodka fill three quarters of my glass before tonic filled it to the brim. Newly armed, I turned back to the posse of interest and found them delightfully separated from their wall. I slivered, arms open, drink elevated, until I could hug the wall along my circuit. The big green eyes did not look back at me, but I heard this girl talk as I passed and found her voice to be even more familiar than her face, and a certain heat rising off of her, and a new wave of pulse. But she displayed no interest in me. Defeated, I hurried through the rest of my circuit, back to my friends, and handed off my drink to go wait in the bathroom line.
To my surprise, she appeared behind me there.
“Hi,” I offered. Really, truly awful at this.
With my cloudy brain I struggled to find some topic of interest in the throng around us. I could insult the sports bras, but it seemed petty. I could comment on the music, but I had little comment. It was far from silent but the awkward silence hung about us nonetheless. I cursed myself. Why, god, why, do I have no game?
God answered with the sound of a forceful vomit in the near stall. We both laughed, and I turned to her and said, “Lovely.”
“Seems like a rough night,” she replied. Again I sought to part the clouds of intoxication and be witty, but my mental journey was interrupted by the appearance of my cute female friend with the auburn hair, who at this most inopportune moment approached me in line, slid her hand slowly around my waist and under the waistband of my pants, leaned into my ear and spoke intimately against it.
“We’re thinking we should bounce.” Thwarted again. I nodded, stepped into the open stall, and abandoned my clumsy conquest with one last longing look. By all appearances I was there with someone now, anyway, and she’d be especially disinclined to humor my advances. I was still seeing the color of her eyes even after I’d locked myself in the stall, and I blinked.
Having decided I had no chance with her, it seemed suddenly as if the night was over, and I elected to leave when my friends did. I waved them into cabs and turned to start my drunken walk over the hill home. Yet, somehow, there was something new alongside the doldrums that had borne down onto me for weeks. There had been a hole, and now I could swear I felt something in it, but at that moment I didn’t understand why.
I’d walked over this hill many a time. This time, my hill maintained a homeless man who looked to be in his mid-fifties, which probably meant he was in his late thirties. He wore layers of found livery. Bright red marshmallow coat, tattered green sweatshirt touting some unknown junior college, black glove, brown glove, grey hat, orange corduroy pants, and a pair of grand Reebok pump-ups he may well have stolen off of someone for the cleanliness they enjoyed at the apparent expense of his other clothes. Perhaps he’d found them recently.
He was sitting on the step of a welcoming modern townhouse with green awnings and a covered stair, tucked around the corner from the Castro’s bustle. And he’d managed a joint. It smelled delicious. I had the wherewithal to joke with him, drunk as I was, my eyes no doubt swaying across my eyelashes. “Well done there,” I said as I approached.
He laughed and held it out to me in offering. I was struck by his generosity, but wary of his soot-infested mouth and unwilling to kiss it by proxy of that joint, much as I craved a buzz.
“You are an angel, but I couldn’t take it knowing how difficult it must have been for you to acquire.”
Again, a chuckle, ending in a wheeze that was never to leave his breath. “Nothing is difficult to acquire with a silver tongue like mine,” he called after me.
Now it was my turn to laugh. The laugh betrayed my shock, as did the slowing of my pace and the beginning of my turn. I rarely heard anything from a bum other than “do you have a cigarette?” or “can I have your Diet Coke?”. Maybe an unintelligible heckle. What was this fool, a prophet?
“That sounds like a good story.” I turned further, but still immeasurably.
“Ah well, I’ll share it.” I’d then stopped and faced his stoop, tilting my head to the side, oddly without fear of rape or mugging. He was harshly tan, deeply wrinkled, with near-black eyes that tilted downward at the edges, and they danced as he spoke. “I found two junkies on the side of the path in Buena Vista Park. Not sure what they was smoking otherwise, but they’d left their baggie of kush sitting on the ground beside them, and I spied it. They was high on something else, ganja don’t have that effect on the eyes ‘xactly. I slowed down and pulled out a cig, and they asked to bum one, like I knew they would. Asked what they’d got up to today, they says they’s slamming and watching the bridges. So I lean in real close and say ‘friend there’s a patrol rolling down the hill behind me, I hope you’re out.’ Quick-like they scuffled up and ran down the hill, left their sack right there on the ground, all for me.” His inhalations echoed with his whistling wheeze.
“Darling, that sounds more like trickery than a silver tongue.”
“A silver tongue is trickery.”
“After a fashion. Trickery requires a situation and a silver tongue, I suppose.”
“When you look like me, folks think you can’t lie.” Hard to believe, really.
“I have the same problem.”
“Ah, now, I dunno bout that. Maybe they’re just staring at your tits and they don’t hear the lying.”
“Why you out so late alone?”
I laughed again, wondering now whether I should fear the rape and mugging. He must have seen the wondering in my eyes.
“Don’t worry, I don’t care to hurt ya.”
“Well, I appreciate that. Truth is, I’m harder than I look.”
“You’re still a lady…”
“I assure you I am no Lady.”
This was his greatest chuckle of all. “Ah, you hiding a cock in those tight-ass jeans?”
His eyes danced. “You a dyke?” He looked incredulously at my high heels and the tight shirt. Of course, I had just sauntered up from the Castro smelling of sweat and 80s.
“Occasionally, in spurts.” Not tonight.
“Well, for a girl with big tits and a magic cock who walks alone at night you sure look down.”
I ignored the insinuation. Down or not, he wasn’t my therapist. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Grot. What’s yours?”
“That ain’t your real name. What kind of name is that?”
“It is my name. It’s the same kind of name as Grot, I suppose.”
He smiled. “You made yours up too?”
“It found me.”
“Are you a god of wine?” Grot, the scholar!
“Of wine and debauchery, or so I try.”
“Do you succeed?” Had he grown more eloquent?
“Grot, I am an abysmal failure.”
“At making debauchery?”
“For myself, at least. Wine, I manage.”
“Here I thought Bacchus made debauchery for other people. But I got extra debauchery.” He reached into his pocket and flipped a nug up to me with the top of his thumb. Without thinking, I reached up and snatched it with my left hand, one simple motion.
“You do have a magic cock!”
I looked at the bud I now held, thinking on his words. This, I did want. “Tell me how I might repay you.”
I took a ten out of my back pocket and held it out to him. “Buy yourself a pack.”
“See, I told you I had me a silver tongue!”
“I stand corrected. Enjoy your evening, darling. May you continue to have more success than me.”
And with that I turned and started hiking uphill, toward my cold, empty bed. I felt a sort of mental itch, and my instinct was to try not to scratch.
As soon as my head hit my pillow, I began to dream, feeling very presently in a place of my own historic obsession:
There’s a faint dripping, but the marbled floors are dry. My naked toes curl on a mosaic of Neptune on the floor, leading my eyes up to my naked legs and my naked torso. I blink, wondering how the sun has projected so brightly in this vaulted space, the curved ceiling reflecting orphan light between marble polishes.
I look inside, and I see a long shelf along the wall, with little frescoes identifying eight stalls, and there are eight more that remain obscured, and rows of sectioned baskets sit below each of the first eight stalls, along the wall, on the floor, and I realize I know the place. I’ve studied it. The Suburban Baths of Pompeii. From the sparkle on it, Vesuvius can’t have covered it yet. The opulence of the marble overwhelms me. Along my right I see the frescoes, forming an ancient erotic storyline, as I step forward to look into the first panel, wondering endlessly at the shine and newness of the interior, and at the frescoes themselves.
Suddenly I awoke into cool light, feeling different still.
Edit news description to add:
- Historical context: how the event or text affects the world and history
- An explanation of the work's overall story (example: "Here, President Obama confirms the legality of drone strikes...")
- The work's impact on current issues