HINDSIGHT ISN'T 20/20
It’s one of those moments. The kind people talk about always remembering perfectly no matter how much time has passed. Flash-freeze of surroundings. Colors and smells. Like how my parents remember exactly where they were, what they were doing—down to what they were wearing—when a man first walked on the moon, and when JFK died.
Frozen memories latch to human extremes. We never hang on to the mundane—those experiences are the thinnest threads between beads of trauma or exultation. They make us real, give us life, but rarely do they define us.
We each have our own string of beads, different colors and shapes that build over the course of our lives. But every once in a while, beads are shared among many. Almost exact duplicates, save slight differences in texture or tone. Binding us together despite our best efforts to remain apart. Do you remember where you were? What you were doing? And everyone remembers.
I wonder if he will remember, like I will. I wonder if we’ll share the same bead on our timeline-threads. If we do share this moment, its bead of space and time, mine is matte black and pitted. His is white and sparkling, lit by fires of righteous rage.
But regardless of color, they’re the same shape. And their cores will hold the same sensory memories, if not the same emotional ones.
The floor, sticky yet slippery. The smell, a mixture of gas fumes, wet copper, and unwashed bodies. The sounds of women screaming, sobbing, and the click of the lighter in his hand.
As chains rattle and bladders release in terror, I’m one of the quiet ones. An empty body-shell. I watch him, and he watches me.
“This is your fault,” he says.
I nod, wet my lips and rasp, “I know.”
Am I horrified at my end? Afraid of pain?
Honestly, I’m relieved.
A few of my mental screws are loose. Why else would I be sitting on a bench in brightly-lit hallway beside two women doing sexed-up Edward Scissorhands impressions? Halloween was four months ago.
Their black latex bodysuits have cutouts around the shoulders and waist, highlighting their toned, tanned bodies. I can’t even imagine the crotch-sweat happening right now. What if they have to pee? Is there a zipper down there?
Defying logic, they don’t look uncomfortable as they chat and laugh quietly. In fact, they look like they’re exactly where they’re supposed to be. Like they belong here. I’m clearly missing a big piece of the puzzle. Did I overlook some fine print in the email? Was there a specified dress code?
Here to interview for a bartending position, I’m wearing skin-hugging black pants, my comfiest ankle boots, and a tight black t-shirt—a nice one, flattering and new. Black on black, but actual, practical clothing. I look good. Sleek and professional, my dark blond hair pulled back and my makeup perfect thanks to YouTube tutorials.
What I saw of the newly constructed nightclub on my walk through was modern and on trend. White walls. Discreet lighting. Various seating areas—tables, couches, chaises—that in my former life I wouldn’t mind enjoying on a night out. A huge, sleek bar that I can definitely see myself behind. Zero indication that the intended clientele are people with latex fetishes.
The online job advertisement had been oddly obscure, the description of the club vague and heavy on words like exclusive and private. God willing, the club’s exclusivity doesn’t translate to obligatory background checks for employees. Either way, the gamble is one I have to take. Despite working part time at two other bars, I have fourteen dollars in my bank account. Living alone in Los Angeles is not cheap.
The fluorescent lights overhead are starting to give me a headache, and the presence of four closed doors in the hallway feels increasingly ominous. Clearly television has rotted my brain, because for several minutes I entertain the possibility I’m in a horror movie. Any second one of the doors will open and a clown with a chainsaw will jump out.
To distract myself, I stare at the tantalizing glow of the Exit sign at the end of the hallway and fantasize about running away. Far, far away where no one knows my name. Maybe I should have left the country when I had the chance, before my savings disappeared into the pockets of impotent lawyers.
Among other things—like grief and rage—what stopped me then was one of my mom’s favorite catch-phrases. No matter where you go, there you are. In our childhood home, a sign with the words hung in the entryway where it couldn’t be missed. Of course, it’s merely a quaint way of saying there’s no running from the past. That it comes with you.
Unfortunately, it’s true. Nearly three-thousand miles between me and the past, and it’s with me all the goddamn time.
“I’m sorry, we’re being so rude! We don’t mean to ignore you, we’re just super excited.”
Grateful for the reprieve from my chaotic thoughts, I turn toward the voice. The latex-women are smiling at me. Besides the dominatrix gear, they look… normal. Gorgeous, polished Los Angeles women. In latex.
“I’m Maggie, and this is Beatrix,” says the woman closest to me.
I force a smile. “I’m London, nice to meet you.”
“You too,” gushes Maggie. “What are you interviewing for?”
“Bartender,” I reply, but it comes out like a question. “Is that, uh, what you guys are here for, too?”
They giggle like schoolgirls. “Oh no,” says Maggie. “We’re auditioning.”
As I open my mouth to ask for what, the door just past our bench opens. A smooth, deep voice says, “Maggie and Beatrix, come in.”
Their immediate nervousness is palpable. I have a feeling—a bad feeling—about what they’re auditioning for. They stand up, smoothing nonexistent wrinkles in their latex, and turn toward the open door.
My desperation for this job takes an immediate step to the back shelf. I blurt, “You don’t have to do this.”
Hair flies as the women’s heads whip around. Instead of the embarrassment or affront I expected, they wear twinned expressions of anger.
“Honey,” snaps Beatrix, “you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“That’s enough,” says the man, still unseen in the room beyond. “Come in ladies.” When they hesitate, he says calmly, “Now.”
His tone holds no edge, no emotion, but the power of it echoes down my spine.
“Yes, sir,” the women say in unison.
They slip into the room and the door closes.