After having a rather childish argument with a female friend, the smart thing for me would have been to simply go home. I seldom do the smart thing.
There I was walking down Monmouth Street in Newport feeling annoyed with my infantile behavior. I looked across the street and saw an adult bar called The Brass Bull.
Why I decided to go in, I can't say. Maybe I was looking for diversion from how I was feeling. Maybe I wanted to be someone else for a while.
I walked in and immediately couldn't see shit. The place was almost pitch black. I could kind of make out a bar in front of me.
To my left, I saw a lady dancing around a pole. As my eyes tried to adjust to the dark, I could tell she was wearing clothes ... but not many.
I could mostly see the bar now. I sat down at a barstool, and a young blonde woman wearing glasses came over and took my drink order. I asked for my usual vodka and tonic.
Looking at the ashtray on the bar, I remembered I could still smoke in bars in Kentucky. I reached into my shirt pocket and pulled out a cigarette. As I was about to light it, a woman approached with a lighter and did it for me.
She told me her name was Connie. She was tall and young with black hair. She had on some kind of sparse dancing outfit. Despite the darkness in the bar, I could tell her face looked rough.
"You want some company?" she asked rather quickly.
I said something to the effect that I just walked in and I was trying to adjust to the lighting. "Why is it so dark in here?"
"The darkness is for the customer's privacy," she said.
"God, what a line," I thought to myself.
I told her I was just going to have a drink and leave. She was fine with that but asked for a dollar for the jukebox. I gave it to her.
Finally alone with my drink and cigarette, I looked at the stage again. There was now another woman up there dancing around the old pole. She was skinny with dark hair. As my eyes continued to adjust to the dark, I noticed I was the only customer paying any attention to her.
Two more dancers approached me for money for the jukebox. I handed over the bucks. I'd barely touched my drink. I could barely see my drink.
As I put out my cigarette, another woman came my way. This one looked older, had blonde hair and her voice was a little southern.
"I'm not leaving you alone until you buy me a drink," she said rather loudly.
"Really," I said. "Are you going to follow me home?"
"I haven't had one customer all day," she said more softly. "I need to make a little money here."
"How much is the drink?"
"What's in it for me?"
"The pleasure of my company."
I bought her the drink. She told me her name was LuAnn and that she used to work in a bank. She's divorced, has two teenage sons. She likes to watch The Price Is Right on television and likes to cook.
As she rattled on about herself, I was kind of listening but kind of not. Not once did she ask me my name or why I was in Newport.
I hadn't been in The Brass Bull for half an hour and already I was feeling uncomfortable and shallow. LuAnn put her arms around my neck.
"If you buy me a larger drink, we can get a table in the back," she said.
"How much is a larger drink?"
LuAnn started to tell me various pricing "packages." Pricing began at $50 and went into the hundreds of dollars. I was a little taken back.
"If we go in the back, what happens?" I asked.
"We'll have more privacy," she replies.
"More privacy to do what?"
The woman who first approached me when I came in was now on my right.
"This is Connie," LuAnn said. "Would you like for her to join us?"
"No," I flatly said.
I was starting to feel ambushed. I got up from my barstool and threw down some dollars for the bartender.
"Hey, I was nice to you when you first came in here," Connie said defensively.
"You're both nice," I said to her and LuAnn, "but this scene isn't for me."
Looking for the front door in the dark, I found it and quickly left the bar.
When I got back home, I called my friend and apologized for my behavior. I told her all about my Brass Bull experience, which she found highly amusing. It probably is, but later on that night I found myself with questions in my head.
No one made me go in there, and I pretty much knew what I'd be getting into. Was I looking for what LuAnn was offering?
I mean, I bought her that drink. Did I, in some primitive, ridiculous fashion, want the pleasure of her company?
CONTACT LARRY GROSS: firstname.lastname@example.org