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Waiters & Stars
SATURDAY, JANUARY 18, 2003
VAN NUYS, CA 2:45 P.M.
Jason got home from his lunch with Bill. The apartment was empty, just the way he liked it. He went into his room and checked his machine, no messages, as usual. He saw his laptop on his bed and since he didn’t notice Cynthia’s car in the garage, he decided maybe it was time to check his E-mail. He logged on. His mailbox was full. He scrolled down the message list. The usual junk mail. He deleted it all and signed off. He sat down on his bed then remembered the waiter’s number. He turned to the cordless phone on the floor which began to ring just as he picked it up.
“Well, hello there yourself! Where the Hell were you last night?” It was Ken Jenkins, one of Jason’s closest friends. His family.
“Sorry. I got home late and I wasn’t in any shape to do the bar. I just had a few drinks here with Cynthia.”
“Oh, well. At least you drank for a change. We missed you, though.”
“How was the crowd?”
“It was dead, as usual. Mike, Matt, and Elliot left before one.”
“Yikes. That is dead.” Jason said as he tried to fish the waiter’s number out from his front pocket.
“I trust we’ll be seeing you there tonight? Saturdays are always better anyway.”
“I don’t know. I actually might have a date.”
“A date? You remember what that even is?”
“Look, I don’t know for sure yet. I have to call this guy and see if this is for real.”
“Where did you meet him?”
“Actually, I met him at The Garden during my lunch with Bill. He was the most gorgeous thing on Earth, or at least in that general vicinity. He kissed me before I left and he slipped me his number.”
“Gorgeous, huh?” Ken asked with a distinct tone.
“What? Can’t I get a gorgeous guy?”
“Well, aren’t you the one who’s complaining that men are so vain and superficial? Here you are talking about how gorgeous and perfect this guy you met is, and you don’t even know his name.”
“That’s not true.”
“Then what is it?”
“Okay, fine. I don’t know it. I’m not made of stone. A hot guy is a hot guy. Besides, I never finished the paperwork on my sainthood.”
“Translation: You’re ditching us again.”
“I’m not ditching anyone. I’m just living my damn life! Okay? Maybe you guys should try it once in a while!” Jason exploded. He heard only silence on the other end. Then Ken spoke up.
“No, I’m sorry. I’m just a little frustrated. Between my personal and professional life, there seems to be no peace. I hate my job; my writing career is nowhere and so far the best relationship I’ve been in is with a woman. I have a life on the zero scale. If this guy goes out with me, it will be my first date in a little over a year, and pretty much the highlight of my life to date. A year! Can you believe that? There are people who’ve gone insane over less stress than that!”
“You put way too much importance on dating. You neglect your friends. You need to learn to balance better. You’ve got to learn that your friends are all you’ve really got. We’re the ones who pick you up when those you date drop you.”
“Excuse me, but when Chris and I broke up, I don’t recall anyone picking me up, but only because I was not dropped. I didn’t need counseling, besides, I’m my best therapist. Always have been. Although, I remember a few times I’ve had to talk you down from the ledge.”
“You and that damn memory.”
“Look, I’ll call you later to let you know what’s up. If I’m not there tonight, we can all get together tomorrow for lunch, okay?”
“Okay. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Later. Bye.” Jason clicked off the phone. He finally discovered the crumpled up paper in his pocket and dialed. There were a few rings and then a familiar voice purred on the line.
“Hello?” Jason was shell shocked. He had little experience in talking to people on the phone. He usually got the voice mail. He soon remembered the first rule of phone etiquette: Respond.
“Hi! I don’t know if you remember me, but I was at The Garden earlier today, you kissed me before I left.” Silence on the other end. Apparently being kissed by the waiter didn’t get you membership in an exclusive club with him.
“Okay, before you get too scared, I do remember you. I’m just messing with you.” The waiter said. A feeling of relief washed over Jason. “My name is Clark.”
“Nice to have met you Clark. I’m Jason.” He said with relief. “This is kind of weird. I’ve never done anything like this before.”
“Talk on the phone?”
“No. I mean take a number from someone I just met by chance. Especially someone as hot as you. I have to admit, I couldn’t take my eyes off you.”
“Yeah, I noticed.” Clark said with a little laugh.
“So, your little note mentioned dinner. How about tonight?” Jason began wringing his sheets waiting for the response. Clark finally broke the silence.
“Sounds good. I’m free,” Jason could see the parade in his mind. Trumpets blaring, confetti flying down from the heavens. A date! A date! He had finally managed to get a date. “I don’t have a car though, so maybe you could come over here? I know some nice places to eat. We could catch a movie or something after.”
“Yes. Absolutely. What’s your address?”
“I’m at 766 Hitchcock Avenue, number 13.”
“Okay, I’ll be there about eight?”
“Perfect. I’ll see you tonight.”
Jason spent the remainder of the afternoon going through his closet trying to find something to wear. He poured through shirt after shirt after shirt. He pulled out all sorts of colors, styles, and fabrics. He was stuck over what kind of mood he wanted to encourage. He finally decided on a black over shirt and a red shirt beneath with black pants. He never went by the labels, just colors. By the time he had come to this conclusion, it was already six. He jumped in the shower and washed all over. Just in case. He got out, dried and combed himself. Once he put on his ensemble, he cologned himself. He had a very musky scent complete with pheromones that would make him irresistible, or so the perfume girl had promised him.
A few minutes after eight, Jason finally rolled onto Hitchcock, a little side street not too far from the heart of Hollywood. The neighborhood looked a little on the questionable side. The usual homeless and odd balls were strolling along the streets. Run down houses were accented with overgrown lawns and fading paint. There was one apartment building that looked somewhat new at 766. He parked as close as he could to the building. He stepped out and heard sirens in the distance. He didn’t see anything moving, but he could swear there was something skulking around the shadows near the trees. He sprinted to the front door of the apartment building and buzzed number thirteen. He anxiously waited for an answer, for more reasons than just to see Clark. Jason looked over at a list of names taped over the buzzer. Across from unit number 13 was the name Clark Mikels. Suddenly, Clark’s voice came on from the speaker.
“Okay, hold on.” The buzzer rang and Jason lunged for the door. He relaxed as it shut and locked behind him. Although the main thought on Jason’s mind at that moment was what would happen on the way back out. Jason walked down the first hall he came to down to number thirteen. He knocked on the door but heard no activity within. He waited a few moments more. Suddenly there was a loud rumble and the door swung open violently. A pretty woman with dark hair stood before Jason. She seemed to be in a bad mood. Her eyes were seething and her mouth was turned down in an almost angry way. He could hear the sound of a baby crying further inside the apartment.
“Come in.” She said sternly. Jason stepped in. She shut the door behind him and retreated into the kitchen. “Clark!”
“What!?” He responded from a room in the back. He even had a beautiful voice when he yelled, Jason thought.
“Your date’s here!”
Jason sat down on the couch in the living room. He looked around. The apartment was pretty well kept. The carpet looked clean. Ugly, but clean. There were a few piles of books on the floor. The TV was set upon a cheap looking little entertainment center that looked like a reject from Ikea. Jason was nearly comfortable when Clark burst out into the room wearing only a towel around his waist. A small towel.
“Hey, sorry, man! I’m running a little late. I just got out of the shower. I’ll just be a few more minutes. You met Nicole?” He said pointing to the woman in the kitchen.
“Uh, yeah. Briefly.”
“My sister,” The baby’s crying continued. “The baby is hers too. Nicky! Could you do something about the kid?” He asked.
“Keep your pants on. Oh, never mind.” She said as she walked through the living room into one of the back bedrooms. Clark followed her. A few moments later the crying stopped and Nicole returned to the kitchen.
“You met Clark at the restaurant?” Her question startled Jason.
“Oh, yeah. Yeah, today after lunch.”
“So, you just like guys?”
“I don’t know if Clark told you yet, but he’s Bi.”
“Well, I don’t really know him well enough for it to matter that much just yet.”
“Where are you going to go?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it. I guess we’re going to get something to eat first.”
“You could eat here. I’m cooking some pasta. There’s plenty to go around.” Jason turned around in his seat and saw her at the stove stirring a large pot.
“Uh, thanks, but I think it’d be better if we just went out. I don’t want to bother you.”
“It’s no bother. In fact you’d be doing me a favor. I hate leftovers.” Jason looked down, thinking of a polite way to say no. Clark emerged back into the room before Jason could think of anything.
“You ready?” He asked Jason. Nicole stepped out of the kitchen.
“I was talking to Jason about you guys eating here. What do you think?”
“No. We are not eating here. We’re going out. I don’t think Jason wants to sit in this little kitchen eating your skunky Linguini. And even if he does, I don’t.”
“Skunky? What the hell would you know about my cooking? You hardly ever eat here as it is!” Jason was growing more uncomfortable. He wasn’t normally religious, but he found himself praying for something, anything, to save him from the ensuing domestic tragedy. A meteor; a mutant invasion; nuclear winter. Anything.
“Look, we are going out. I’ll be home later. Maybe.” Clark looked over to Jason. “Come on.” He said gently. Jason bolted up and followed him out of the apartment as fast as he could.
“It was nice meeting you, Jason.” She said pleasantly. “Burn in hell, Clark!” The loud sound of the door slamming echoed around them as they walked down the hall.
They stepped out of the building. Jason kept an eagle eye out for any suspicious activity. He felt a little safer being with Clark. A native of the land. He would know how to guide them safely.
“I hope that didn’t freak you out or anything. With Nicky, I mean.” Jason had been totally freaked out.
“No. It was fine. I’m fine.” Jason said. “Where do you want to go to eat?”
“Let’s see. There’s that fifties style diner on Highland.”
“Mel’s. Yeah. Works for me.” Jason agreed and they packed into his car and sped off into the night.
At Mel’s Diner on Highland, Jason and Clark sat down for dinner at a booth way in the back.
“I’ve never been here before.” Clark said. “I’ve always wanted to though. I’m totally into the retro thing.”
“Yeah. It’s nice. There’s another one close to where I live in the valley.” Jason said as he picked up his menu and began studying it. The strains of The Supremes singing ‘Stop In The Name Of Love’ mingled with the loud conversations of the other tables. “How long have you lived with Nicole?”
“A few years now. I’m not sure. I don’t really keep track of that kind of stuff,” He said. “But she and Jared should be moving out by the end of the month. Jared was the noisy baby.”
“That’s too bad. At least you come home to a full house though. I like my privacy, but sometimes I think it’s nice to have people around. I can even stand the company of babies every now and then.”
“Yeah, it’s nice having them with me, sometimes. Although there are times I want to cram her down the garbage disposal. It makes dating harder. I think sometimes she tries to scare my dates off on purpose, but she’s family. She got knocked up by some son of a bitch when she moved out here. He just ran out on her when he found out. I was all she had and I wasn’t going to let her end up on the streets with a kid.” Jason put down his menu.
“How about you? Tell me about your life.”
“Oh, okay.” Clark said. “I’m from Boston originally. I came out here for school, but I flunked out. By then though, I couldn’t leave. I loved it here too much. I started doing odd jobs to make ends meet, then one night I was offered a job dancing. I loved it and I started doing it full time. I worked most of the bars and clubs all around Hollywood. I even tended bar a little. I do that mostly at The Garden now. I’m getting kind of sick of dancing now though, besides, the tips are better behind the bar. I’m also trying to get an acting career off the ground right now. How about you?”
“Fair enough. I have a boring day job at a valley newspaper in the pre-press department and I write on the side.”
“Really? Cool.” Clark seemed oddly impressed with Jason’s account of his life.
“Cool? Did you hear me?”
“Yes. I’ve had a few boring jobs back in the day. It’s cool. What do you write?”
“Screenplays mostly. I haven’t sold anything yet, but I know some people in the biz and I’m optimistic.”
“That’s cool.” At that point, conversation ran dry. They sat in a void of silence. Jason looked around, searching through his brain for something to say or ask. Anything to break the silence. Just as Jason was about to say something, the waitress came up to their table. She had a head of black hair with streaks of purple on the sides. Her name tag on her chest had the name ‘Jinx’ on it.
“Hi guys. What can I get for you?” She asked in a peppy tone.
“Double cheeseburger and a vanilla Coke.” Clark said. Jason looked up at the waitress.
“I’ll have the chef salad and an iced tea.” Jinx happily jotted down their orders and skipped away with a smile. They waited in silence for their food. It seemed to take forever. As hard as he tried, Jason simply couldn’t find anything to say. Clark began playing around with the napkins. Suddenly, Jinx returned with a tray full of food and set down their dinners in front of them. They ate quickly and silently. Jason had the feeling of being a passenger on the Titanic. He couldn’t think of a date that went any worse, even the ones that ended in gun fire. There was just nothing to talk about. As hard as he scanned his brain for a new topic, nothing registered.
After dinner, Jason and Clark walked out to the parking lot and stopped at the car to plot their next move.
“So, what do you want to do now?” Clark asked. Jason looked over and saw the shopping center at Hollywood and Highland. Just as he was about to suggest going, Clark chimed in with an idea of his own. “I know a place. I nearly forgot. It’s a great little place called The Nook. How about it?” Jason thought for a moment. He didn’t feel comfortable saying no, so he agreed. He figured perhaps going somewhere Clark wanted to go would loosen up the mood.
They got in Jason’s car and drove over to Sunset. Clark directed Jason to drive down a dark side street for a little while. He suddenly asked him to turn right at an even darker, smaller street. Jason wasn’t able to see the name on the street sign as they passed. He cruised down the street until they came to a small building with a blue neon sign outside that read ‘The Nook’. After an hour of circling the block for a parking spot, Jason finally found one a few blocks down from the club. It was a tight squeeze between a black and red Miata. They walked down the dark street closely together.
“So what’s this place like?”
“You’ve never been here?” Clark asked, looking at Jason as though he were some kind of alien.
“No. I’ve never even heard of it.”
“It’s great! Great music. Great drinks. Hot boys!”
As they got closer, Jason could hear music coming from within the building. It was pulsating and energized. As soon as the blue sign above the door was visible, they saw a large crowd of people waiting out front. There were a lot of beautiful people with pierced parts and tight clothes anxiously waiting to be let in. They were all standing around smoking and discussing the famous and powerful people they all know or work for. They all seemed a bit low energy, but the sounds inside seemed to indicate a high energy atmosphere. Jason and Clark took their places in the back. After a while of waiting, Clark finally turned to Jason and asked him a question.
“You live alone?” Jason wasn’t impressed by the originality of the question but relieved there was a new topic to fill the time.
“No, I have a roommate.”
“Is he gay too?”
“No. He’s bi, actually, but he leans more towards gay. It’s what he’s famous for.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Well, my roommate is Ben Kollins.” Clark lit up like the Sun.
“You are fuckin’ shitting me! Ben Kollins? The porn star!?”
“I shit you not. The one and only.” Since the day Jason moved in with Ben, He found his social status had elevated in certain circles. Jason had harbored a crush on Ben long before they moved in and most everyone thought it was a strange match up that was destined for disaster, but surprisingly the two proved to be rather suited to each other, as far as roommates went, and Jason’s crush evolved into an honest friendship.
“I’ve got all his videos! I even met him once at Rage. I think he was dancing. God, he’s hot!” Clark went on. From that point on, everything Clark said had to do with Ben. He summarized all of Ben’s videos for Jason, as Jason had never seen any himself.
By the time Clark was finishing describing the final orgy scene of ‘A Knight’s Tail’ they had reached the front of the line. The door man was a large wall of a man with a yard wide neck and thick meaty arms. A chill ran down Jason’s spine. Of course, most people had that effect on him at first. He began to worry if there was a cover charge. Suddenly Clark walked up to the doorman, climbed up his arm and whispered something into his ear. The doorman’s thick face contorted into something of a smile and he allowed them both in.
They walked in past the scary doorman who gave Jason a slight wink and out onto the main floor. Jason was amazed by the size of the club. It seemed to go on forever. An endless sea of men, mostly shirtless, dancing and bumping into each other. Bright, multicolored lights were flashing and strobing all around, and behind the bar were more shirtless men serving drinks. The special of the house seemed to be a pill and a glass of water as that seemed to be all people could get at the bar. Jason had hoped The Nook would have been a good place for him and Clark to sit and talk quietly, but since Clark’s new favorite subject was Ben Kollins, Jason found it better to limit Clark’s opportunities to speak. He looked over at Clark and saw that talking would not be an issue as he was already shifting into club mode. He had thrown off his shirt, displaying his flawless torso and was flirting and talking with everyone in sight. It appeared Clark was a very popular regular there. The music playing was unknown to Jason but Clark was digging it big time. In fact, nothing looked, or felt, familiar to Jason. It was the first time he actually missed Coconutz, but Clark was right at home, dancing and drinking as if he were being shipped off to Iraq the next day.
Jason was settled at the bar sipping a glass of water, wondering if the problem was his. Everyone was happy, the music was high energy, but despite it all, Jason just didn’t feel what everyone else was feeling. He couldn’t relax enough to enjoy himself, but really saw nothing to enjoy. The men were too hot and snobby for him to approach, besides, he was on a date. Jason believed whole heartily it was impolite to flirt with other men while on a date. Suddenly Clark came out of the crowd and sat next to Jason. His chest shiny with sweat.
“Having fun?” Clark obviously was. Before Jason could say anything, a familiar voice rang out over the music. Jason looked over. It was Ben. He came striding through the crowd; the men seemed to move out of the way to clear a path for him.
“Hey, baby!” Ben said. He was tall and handsome, as most gay porn stars were. A smooth tan body, long, dark hair and wearing only the smallest of thong underwear. He wrapped his arm around Jason and kissed him on the cheek. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, I’m here with..” Jason started but before he could even finish his sentence, Clark jumped up from his stool and presented himself like an eager puppy trying to get adopted on gas day at the pound.
“Hi! I’m Clark Mikels!” He announced. Ben looked him up and down carefully.
“Hello there.” Ben said, obviously impressed with Clark.
“Ben? Clark here is my date. Clark, I believe you know who this is.”
“Yeah! I’ve got all your movies! I think you are like the hottest guy on the scene!”
Ben had Clark’s attention for the next hour. Jason had only to sit and watch the two of them act out a clumsy and tasteless mating ritual. Jason checked his watch. It was a little after eleven. He saw Ben and Clark deep in a discussion about body oils so he just got up and left. As Jason walked down the street back to the car, he half expected to hear Clark running up to him to apologize. He made it to his car with no interruptions.