I pushed the glass door open, covered with advertisements and cardboard posters, which cleverly blocked people from the outside from seeing the happenings on the inside. It was the same clever tactic that most any place – like this place – used to lure in customers. It made me think that there was something exciting taking place behind the structured walls. It gave the illusion of mystery that left me wanting to know. Then again, I was not a fool. When I entered the door, I knew I would walk away only knowing disappointment.
The doorman in the black shirt painted with skulls and colored lines said nothing. His head was full of curly hair, including bushy eyebrows and a beard that strapped his jawline as though a child had colored it in with a dull marker. He smelled like booze and Mary Jane.
I flashed him my driver’s license in my wallet. He barely looked at it, if he looked at it at all. He may have grunted, or possibly it was just an expulsion of air. Regardless, he indicated that I had permission to advance past him.
My eyes swept across the establishment and I nearly turned heel back out the door. Advancing forward did not seem to be in my best interest. I took a quick count of thirty-something tables, three pool tables, one bar under stocked with liquor, and four patrons sitting idly under a water-stained ceiling. The allure of mystery was quickly substituted with the aroma of shit. Disappointment was an understatement. If I took another step forward, I would walk away with deep regret.
I made a beeline to the bar.
The bartender, a woman long past her prime, hobbled towards the stool I plumped down upon. Stroking a greasy rag over her shoulder, she eyed me up and down and licked her lips as if weighing my worth.
“Where’d you come from?”
I raised my eyebrows, surprised by the question. I had expected her to ask what I wanted to drink, or to welcome me to whatever the hell this place was called. I looked around at the other four patrons. Three men all in their forties, and another that might as well be this old broad’s husband. They stared at me as though I was a Penthouse whore.
“Outside?” my voice was equally inquisitive, uncertain of the intent behind her question.
“No one comes from outside,” the woman’s wrinkles wrinkled.
My jaw dropped. “What?”
The old man chimed in, “You’d need a door to get in here from out there.” The other men nodded their heads in unison as if hearing a beat to the same song.
I shook my head defiantly in bewilderment against their harmonized head bobbing. I turned to look at the doorman, thinking that he had passed his weed pipe after lacing the Mary Jane. To my shock, I found that there was no doorman. Furthermore, it appeared that there was no door. It struck me that it made complete sense that there could not be a door without a doorman.
“Where did he go?“
“Maybe you should go back the way you have come, Mary Jane,” the old woman said.
Hearing my name brought tears to my eyes. I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. I hadn’t been called Mary Jane since I was a small child when my grandparents cared for me in their small house in Baltimore. I had nearly forgotten that I had a real name.
Realization hit me like my first ex-husband.
“Go home!” the woman screamed slamming her fists on the counter. The face was distorted. My nostrils were overwhelmed with the stench of booze and death.
The bar faded. My grandma’s scream echoed over the hushed whispering voices in my ears.
“What do we have, doctor?”
“Another prostitute… overdosed… She might live through this one.”
Mary Jane twitched her finger. She would survive.