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Come Tuesday, The Cathouse

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A group of jarheads cruises the stretch from Gazzarri’s to the Roxy, rubbernecking to check out long legs and stilettos. The leader wears a black t-shirt window-paned with photos and whose band name is in red and all caps, front and center. Mentally, I call him out. “If you are going to show up on Sunset Strip after paying money to catch the Ratt-Poison Concert at Irvine Meadows, some advice: Don’t wear the concert t-shirt. And if you really need to, don’t choose the hack headliners whose rep has been poisoned, if you will, by the success of their opening act.” The dude is blissfully ignorant.

A block later, another group in matching Look What the Cat Dragged In tees. They’re painted on, shiny and new, just like white sneakers that beg to be stepped on.

Some dude in a Camaro shouts as he drives by, “I’d whistle but I can’t tell if I’m checking out a chick or a dude.” Like it’s some joke. Like to be either the dude or the chick would be an insult. Like it’s his shot to call. Like it ain’t some tired old tirade we hear every damn night. The Strip’s brand of androgyny is simple theatre. Pink cans of Aqua Net are consumed like speed. The callouses on fingers are hard won. We are here to get paid and get laid, not to listen to tourist assholes who don’t get it. Still, I keep my priorities straight, which means I keep my hand extended with a flyer the same color as baby puke. The color sucks but it’s the one Chris and I can afford.

Don’t get me started on our name: Romeo Slaid. Three of five band members voted it in. Not the founding members, not that it matters. “It’s supposed to be said out loud. Like ‘slayed.’ Like we kill romance.” Ha. With our big guitars.

When Shane first said it, I rolled my eyes. We were all wasted. I figured—I hoped—no one would remember. The next day in rehearsal, though? He repeated it. This time with crossed arms. Three sets of eyes bored into me and Chris. We kept our outvoted mouths shut. Again. Then, we went to our day job and wrote a set of lyrics we kept to ourselves as well. This wasn’t the first time we had thoughts about starting again.

Back on the Strip, Portia Jemm rushes toward me with wild eyes and a see-through mesh top. No bra. Her tits are in constant motion and it’s challenging to look elsewhere. When I do, I catch only the thinnest ring of green visible around her dilated pupils. “Hey!” She shouts, “That’s Riki Rachtman—and Taime is with him!”

Chris and I look at each other and smile. The hosts of Headbanger’s Ball rarely leave their club. Getting in with them is a dream.

A second later, we move in the direction Portia points to, parting the sidewalk crowd like an ice trawler. She grabs the sleeve of my leather jacket and huffs, “Come on.” I’m spun around as she takes the lead, weaving us into slow-moving traffic until we get to the place where a boom operator and a spot light create a concrete stage for two local celebrities.

I can’t hear what they’re saying.

Portia pulls me behind her and I pull Chris. One of the jarheads is behind him. Not the loud mouth. Not a bearer of the Poison shirt. This guy’s in a white tank top. His boots have a chain going around the ankle and under the heel. We make eye contact. He edges closer. His chest brushes past mine. There are sparks. I feel like I know him. He keeps going, shuffling his feet forward. Then, he glances back and I’m right behind him. Don’t ask me why. It’s like he wants me there.

We get to the edge of the ring when Riki looks over, shocked. Slowly, a huge grin spreads over his face and Riki asks, “I can’t fucking believe it, man. Joel—is that you?”

The camera pans over. I can tell—I’m in the picture. Just. The jarhead—no, Joel—nods. “Yeah, it’s me.”

Riki leans in and ends up yelling cause the crowd is loud. “What are you doing here? Not that I don’t want to see you or anything but…”

“I’m out,” Joel says. I shift my weight to see Joel’s face but all I get is the back of his head.

“You’re done?”

“I’m done.” His voice is deep, resonant. It’s in my knees.

“Four years?”

“Yeah.” I don’t even know him but he sounds happy. “My four years are up.”

“You still play drums?”

“Pssh,” Joel smirks and the back of his neck gets red. “You think I ever stopped?”

Riki sucks in his lower lip. When he smiles again, his lip peels out from under his teeth. “Right. Tuesday. Come to Cathouse.”

“Tuesday?”

I shouldn’t be listening to this. It’s private. But it’s also about me. I mean, not yet. But I need to make this about me. Every cell in my body says so. I can see it. Me and Chris bookending the stage. This guy wailing behind us. I look at Portia. I’ve heard her in the shower after messing around with Shane. Girl’s got lungs. Yeah, she’d be amazing.

“It’s all about Tuesdays,” says Riki. “We’ll hook you up.”

Before I know it, Riki’s gone.

Joel turns to face me and seems confused by my presence. “Hey?” It’s like he asked, “So, we meet again?” and “Are you ready to do this?” and “Are you thinking the same thing I’m thinking?” all at once but it just comes out, “Hey?”

My blood is on fire. “You don’t need hooking up,” I tell him. “You should get with us.”

He glances at the flyer in my hand, amused. “Um. Aren’t you in a band?”

“Yeah,” I continue. “But I want more and…” Joel looks over my shoulder but I keep on talking, “We could jam a little and…see?”

A sixth sense makes me turn around.

Shane.

Next thing I know a fist greets my face. The world spins. My nose fucking hurts. I might be bleeding.

Then, three new sets of eyes come into focus. Not long after that, I remember: my hands are fine, we have lyrics, and, come Tuesday, we’ve got a personal invite to get into The Cathouse.