[PREFACE: This is part 3 of the first part of the story of my journey into mania. Bipolar presented itself if small steps over the course of 2 years starting with an anti-depressant and a business trip to Las Vegas. Names have been changed.]
The only club I’d been to was when I was in 10th grade. My best friend’s little step-sister really wanted to go to this club in town that had an age minimum of sixteen. She was only fourteen. I was a little anxious about taking her there. Her father had not given her permission, in fact he had forbidden her, and what if they ID’d her? Would I be in trouble?
But they did not ID her, and there were no people there, save two. It was a week night and not much was happening. It was dark and there was a dimly lit, square dance floor sunken down in the middle of the club. There was a man in black pants and a black turtleneck dancing sensuously by himself while a man in biker clothes and beard watched, sipping his drink. I suspected they were lovers. I’d never seen, that I knew of, a gay couple, and I was fascinated.
We all took a table and ordered Cokes.
“So,” I said, to Leanna, “Are we going to dance?”
She looked at the solo man dancing with a look of both disgust and trepidation in a way that only a fourteen-year-old girl could.
“I dunno. I don’t want to be the only other person dancing.”
She was not a kind girl, but she was pretty. I guess I had hoped that I would get to dance with her. Perhaps if I only went down there and danced, she and Trey would join.
Over the course of several summer camps, I’d become more outgoing and even popular, but only at summer camp. I was making an effort to integrate some of that into my home life. My conferences served the same purpose.
I took a moment to muster the courage to do it, then walked down onto the dance floor. The man in the turtleneck didn’t seem to notice me. I wondered if he thought I was gay, but I would never know.
I only had one dance move which was to step from side to side to the beat. This move would eventually turn into the 80s step that Courtney Cox and the guy on Prince of Belair popularized, known as the Carlton. But I was far from that more advanced stage of 80s pop dance.
I was very self-conscious, but I wanted to make an impression on Leanne so I tried to make it look like I was really into it. After the first song, I tried to persuade them both to dance with me.
Leanne said, “Jesus, all you’re doing is stepping back and forth. Let’s just go.”
She seemed embarrassed by the whole scene. I danced one more song, and after half of it we left.
I’d also seen numerous club scenes in movies and shows with DJs and loud music and twirly strobe lights and drinking. I was resolved to go and I was open to the full experience. I hadn’t prepared for this clothes-wise, but I had a vague idea of what was appropriate: black.
In my hotel room, I took a shower, put on a little cologne, put eye drops in my itchy eyes, brushed my teeth vigorously and put on a black collared shirt and blue jeans. My jeans were not fashionable but I didn’t know it. I thought there were just one kind of jeans for men.
The LAX was a newly built club at the Luxor Hotel; the one shaped like a pyramid. I’d spent my honeymoon there, so I at least knew how to get there. I couldn’t decide whether to tuck or untuck my shirt, so I tucked and planned to look around when I got there to see what the other guys were doing.
I took the new tram over the Strip straight to the Luxor and wandered around in the casino until I found it. There was a line and an enormous black bouncer at the end of it. Just like in the movies. It was full of stylish, young women and men. I was the oldest, and not stylish, and I knew it. I pulled out my ticket and walked over to a Luxor staff member who was at a table by the line and showed it to him.
I said, “Yeah, so I’m a guest of CA. They gave me this VIP pass to get me in.”
He didn’t look up. He was busy handing out bracelets to people.
He spoke in an effeminate voice, “Ok, just stand over here and we’ll get you in as soon as we can. ”
This was not how I had imagined this going. I stood awkwardly at the front of the line trying to get the attention of the bouncer. He was flirting with all the women and waving them through.
“All right, now,” he would say, “You ladies don’t do anything in there I would do. Welcome the LAXXXXXX. MmmmMM. You lookin’ fine tonight Felicia. Get on in there and shake that ass” And so on.
He was taking twenty dollar covers from some and nothing from others.
I finally got his attention, and showed him my pass.
“You’re just going to have to wait, sir. ”
I showed him a twenty and he said, “Hey man, I’m sorry but the club is full to capacity right now. You gonna have to wait,” he repeated more emphatically and with wider eyes.
I looked on the back of my ticket and saw that John had scribbled his number. I called it. He didn’t answer. So I waited. And despite the fact that the club was “full to capacity”, he continued to wave people in. Occasionally, he would tell people to wait. In the whole time I stood there, the people who instructed to wait never got in. They eventually turned and left.
I tried the number again, but there was still no answer. I left a message. I now had to consider leaving. In a way, I was relieved. I could see by the people who were getting in that I didn’t belong there anyway. I was not a party guy. Although, I was relatively good looking, I wasn’t LAX good looking. I began looking back toward the casino, and thinking about what my last night in Vegas would be. It would be the same as always. Nickle slots, a couple of drinks, pack my clothes, and go to bed. But just as I turned to leave, a man with a CA polo shirt blew out of the club doors and started looking around. I flagged him and showed him my pass.
He was easy, and casual. Although he was around 50, and no more stylish than me, he somehow belonged. He spoke to the bouncer. They laughed and the bouncer pointed me back to the gay guy to get a bracelet. CA guy belonged because of money. Big money. Computer Associates money.
The CA guy said, “Hi Daniel, I’m Steve. I can’t believe they let you wait like this! No worries, though. The party is just starting!”
He was speaking very loudly, like he’d just come out of a very loud environment, which he had.
“Hey. It’s no problem. Thanks for coming to get me.” I was feeling like a Very Important Person, indeed now.
The LAX was loud and very dark. It truly was packed, as the bouncer had said. People were congregating by a long bar to the side of the dance floor which was under a three story vaulted ceiling. There were people dancing wildly from the ground to the top floor, packed in close enough that their bodies could not avoid each other. There were seating areas all around the edges of the floor and right up near the stage was a roped off area where Steve was leading me. We passe two tall very good looking black men with flat bill hats and were dressed to the nth of coolness. They gently nodded their heads to the beat, scanning the crowd. There were a lot of guys like that, not dancing, just watching….waiting perhaps.
The music seemed nothing more than a droning throb of deep bass thumps. As I approached the VIP area, John saw me coming and threw what could only be surprised as a little ecstatic fit.
He screamed at me, but the music covered up his words. I guess he was happy to see me. I climbed over the rope and he embraced me freely. It wasn’t a large area. There was a long couch with a back and arms big enough to stand on. Beautiful women….LAX beautiful…were dancing on it.
He gestured to the booze and ice and shouted “All you can drink, my friend!!!” Then he gestured to all the beautiful women dancing on the couch. He leaned in and spoke in my ear, “Pick any woman you like. We take care of our best clients.”
Now this was something unexpected. Were these business execs? Were they prostitutes? I was very confused, but I didn’t have another second to think about it. John grabbed my arm and pulled me over the ropes, around the corner to an elevator.
I said, “So what’s up here?”
“You’ll see. It’s just a little quieter up here.”
They were glass elevators so I could see out over the club. If a golden calf had appeared in the middle of the dance floor I would not have been surprised. John handed me a bracelet.
“Put this on. It will get you in and get you all the drinks you want up here. VIP level, baby!”
I wondered how much this bracelet was worth. A hundred dollars? Hundreds of dollars?
We got off on the third floor, It was a posh bar, and it was, as John had said, a little quieter. We showed our bracelets to the doorman, and he waved us through. No waiting this time. There was smoother, lighter music playing. Something with a bit of a samba feel.
The room dimly lit with lamps ensconced on wood paneled walls . There were red velvet settees and club chairs. The bar was mahogany and the bartender wore and red vest and bow tie over a crisp, white shirt. He had a white towel tossed over his right shoulder. He was skillfully opening a bottle of wine. I went straight to the bar and order a Jack and Coke.
Then John led me to a sitting area where there were what seemed to be three CA business execs and a conference attendee. He was still wearing his conference street clothes; middle aged, balding. He seemed radically out of place, and I wondered if I was as well. I took a seat across from a beautiful, blond woman. She looked familiar. But before I had a chance to exchange introductions, John brought over a tray of drinks with no small amount of flare.
“Alright kiddos! Everybody take a drink! We’re going to toast to the best CA World ever!”
The drinks were in old-fashion glasses. Larger than a shot and smaller than a rocks. I had a bad history of mixing liquors and was really anxious about mixing this concoction with the whiskey drinks I’d had over the course of the evening. I was also very much a light weight.
John noticed my hesitation.
“Drink up, Daniel! You only live once, bro!”
“What is this?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter, it’s going to make you feel awesome!”
I took one of the glasses and swigged it down in two gulps. It was sweet, but before I had the chance to break the flavor down, John put another in front of me. Now I’m in trouble I thought. I swigged it down just as I had done the first one.
Then I recognized the blond. She had sat next to me at breakfast on the first day. Kaitlin
I got up and sat next to her on the couch, emboldened by the drinks.
“So yeah, we’ve met!” I said, perhaps a bit loudly. “You’re Kaitlin, right? I’m Daniel.”
“Yes, of course I remember you. Harvest, right?”
We talked about the conference for a few minutes then she stood up and said, “Let’s forget about business and have a little play. Shall we?”
At that moment I saw the cigar guy in the back of the room with three beautiful women all kissing him and caressing him and I wondered what I was getting myself into. But that little crack in the dam was breaking just a little bit more. Making me not care. Making me not think. Making me want to do.
I got up with her and she led me too a bit of a dark corner and began dancing with me. What would have been awkward for me was now easy. She made it easy. She gently pulled me closer to her. Her breath smelled of cinnamon. For a moment, the other conference attendee kind of hovered near us. Perhaps he wanted a little of what I was getting or was about to get, but he gave up and walked away.
I don’t remember much of what she said, but our bodies moved closer and closer until she was grinding herself against me. I could feel her pubic bone knead into my leg and groin. I spoke into her ear, “So which products do you sell?”
And this is the one thing I remember for certain. My head was swimming from whatever drink I’d been given. I can hear her voice as if it were in my ear right in this moment. On some level I’d dreamed of being the kind of guy who could be in a club like this with a woman like this and being spoken to like this.
In a sizzling deep whisper she said “I’ll sell you any….thing….you….want, sweetie.”
Then she kissed me hot and wet on the mouth. I’d never kissed another woman but Ashley since we were married some fifteen years before. And she’d certainly never kissed me like this.
I stepped back to look at her. Her white dress clung tightly to her fit body. Then a look of concern crossed her face.
“What’s wrong with your eyes? They’re incredibly red.”
My eyes. I felt for my eye drops. They were in my pocket.
“Are you sick?”
I began wracking my brain for a story, but I knew now what the truth was. It was a raging case of pink eye; conjunctivitis.
I removed myself from her embrace and said, “Ahh, shoot, it’s nothing. It’s just these contacts. I better go take care of them.”
She stroked my shoulder and said she wasn’t going anywhere.
In the bathroom mirror, I could see that my eyes were indeed bright red. I put drops in, but it didn’t seem to make much difference. I was embarrassed. If I was going to remain at the club it would need to be in light where it was not noticeable. And besides, I could always use the contacts excuse.
As I stood there, I thought about what it felt like to be with another woman besides my wife. Someone so beautiful and openly sexual. Ashley, had once upon a time been this way. But that stopped during our engagement.
I was brought up to believe that sex before marriage was harmful; a sin. As much as I wanted to have sex with the girls I dated in high school, including Ashley, I could never let it happen. It’s hard to unlearn something that your parents had taught you.
When we became engaged in our junior year of college, Ashley took my hand, led me to her bedroom, undressed and guided me into my first experience with full intercourse. I’d had plenty of experience with fooling around, but I felt ok about that. This was something entirely different in my mind. Something special. Not just “fooling around”.
I figured out how to do it well enough. She was experienced and knew how to help me along. And it was special. The feeling was so much freer. It felt good. But a few week later, I was house sitting at one of the voice faculty’s houses and Ashley planned a romantic evening. I arrived to candles and wine and Ashley in a silky teddy. She was smiling and ready to claim her position as my lover for good.
I couldn’t do it. I stopped her. The other experience had been spontaneous. I didn’t plan it. I somehow felt morally absolved of the action because I had never intended to do it. Such is my brain. But now? Here? Openly admitting that pre-marital sex was ok? I could not.
So we ate our dinner, sipped our wine, got in bed together and slept. In the middle of the night, however, I woke up with an erection and we did it. Again, not planned, morally absolved. Or at least I could ask for forgiveness from having acted impulsively without changing my belief.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this changed things between us. Ashley, who had been a sexually free individual now felt somehow tainted by my guilt. After that, our sexual relationship was complicated. We didn’t even have sex on our honeymoon in Vegas.
And now here I was in Vegas again with a beautiful woman, a sexually open woman, just as married as I was (I had observed a ring while we danced). And I didn’t feel guilty, because I certainly wasn’t planning adultery. So I was absolved. And after all, it had only been a kiss. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, but I wanted more of her.
But when I came back, she was gone. I never saw her again.
“Hey!!! Wassup, Daniel? Having fun?” John handed me another of the same drink and I drank it down. I didn’t care if it made me sick or not.
John grabbed a few people and we all went downstairs. We exchanged greetings on the elevator. John was a charming leader to us.
We went back to the VIP area and John pushed me up on the huge dance couch behind a young woman in a party dress and a huge diamond wedding or engagement ring. She didn’t look at me, but John assured me in some way that she was at my disposal, at least for some dancing. She did not respond to me at all. I began to feel uncomfortable. I stepped down and immediately John grabbed me again and we all went out on the dance floor.
I didn’t know the music, but I could feel it in some way that I’d never felt music before. The lights seemed to be soaking through me and making me alive. As we danced together in a group, most of us 30s and 40s and most of us just as average in attractiveness as the other, we gave in to something. It wasn’t just me, but it was everyone there. I began to feel a powerful sense of euphoria. I wondered about the drinks that John had been pouring down our throats. And to this day, I don’t know what was in them. But they didn’t make me drunk, they made me alive in a way that was beyond anything I had experienced. And then the needle dropped on something that we all new. The DJ shouted “Alright, you oldies out there, this is for YOU!!!!!!!!”
And like that the dance beat seamlessly transitioned into AC/DC’s Back in Black. And we went wild. We high fived like only 80s kids would. This was OUR jam. A string of 70s and 80s hits rolled over the dance floor and both young and old screamed with joy and glee….and abandon.
Then he put on a slow jam. I looked at my watch, and I looked around at the people I’d been dancing with and decided there was no one I wanted to dance slow with. it was 4am and it occurred to me that maybe this club nor any club in Vegas closed until the party was over. But my party was over. I was going to have to be up at 6:45 am. I knew that I would crash soon, and I wanted to be in my bed before it happened. I looked around for John, but he was nowhere to be found.
On the way to my room, I decided to sit down at a nickel slot and spend the rest of my money. 20 bucks or so. But I could never lose it all, nor could I win. The numbers just went up and down for over an hour. So I cashed out and went to me room. To a shower, packed, set my alarm, and went to sleep. I woke up green, but I didn’t throw up. For this, I was grateful, and a little self-impressed. And I left Vegas to return to my stayed and steady life.
Upon reflection in the coming days, it occurred to me that these women at CA were not prostitutes…exactly. But they would do just about anything to bring in money to the customer. Why they thought I was a ticket to that, I’ll never know. But I’m glad they did. For a night, I was a VIP. I also reflected that I could have never gone home with the blonde woman…because of the pink eye.