I became an expert of the goings-on of the rich and wannabe famous, the Jane Goodall of seedy one-percenters.
I had gone gay-for-pay, so to speak, and got myself a job as a coat-checker at a trashy high-end club in Chinatown. It was a club with one of those doors that could very easily double as the secret hatch to an underground sexy-torture-chamber. I did it purely for the money, which flowed as steadily as my supply of free liquor, and I became the guy who hung rich people’s coats. I checked coats for five months and hung up expensive furs, expensive capes, expensive bags, and expensive scarves. I got screamed at by coked-up businessmen as their prostitutes watched in a sedated daze. I pocketed the stray cash and headphones that would end up strewn about the dingy floor of the little closet, and received dozens of business cards from men who wanted to spend a little time with me in the bathroom.
The coat check closet was roughly the size of a suburban closet, or an urban apartment. It was nestled in a neat little corner near the bathroom and succeeded in creating its own weather system by consistently being simultaneously muggy, balmy, and freezing. I became an expert in outfitting myself for the convoluted ecosystem, often layering two outfits tailored for both hot and cold weather on top of each other. My shifts started at 10:00 at night and would go until four or five in the morning. Some nights would be a success and I’d find my tip bucket overflowing with bills, and some nights would be excruciatingly slow. It was too dark in the closet to read any bit of smuggled literature, and any attempts to entertain myself with my phone would be met with frustration from the utter lack of Internet connectivity. I was in a black hole, surrounded by thousands of dollars of luxury apparel.
Slowly, I became an expert of the goings-on of the rich and wannabe famous. I was the Jane Goodall of seedy one-percenters. I became increasingly fascinated with the mating rituals of these individuals. The flirting was relentless; I’d hear sedated Europeans tell complete strangers about their carnal intentions, all while grinding their nether-regions together in a style of dance I could only describe as…unsettling. I’ve watched porn that was less graphic than the dancing that happened barely two feet in front of me. The club was adorned with plush, quilted walls and love seats all positioned within my line of sight. Women would be straddling the men they’d, undoubtedly, teased earlier with promises of abstinence. Every $20 specialty cocktail, presented by a well-dressed Mixologist, perpetuated the sweaty hurricane of sexual advances that, eventually, would find its way to the doe-eyed boy in the coat check room.
Some of my favorite moments were the ones that caught me completely off-guard. The girl who walked up to me and stuck her tongue down my throat. The guy who asked me if I did K and told me I was still cool when I told him I didn’t. The straight-laced young executive who asked me to join him the men’s room. Then, of course, there was the older Asian PR woman from England who bought me $400 worth of drinks.
“This drink is rather autumnal, isn’t it?” She asks, coyly biting her lip in an obvious attempt to flirt.
“Autumnal?” I sputtered, sipping on my fancy lavender-infused-with-bullshit cocktail.
“Autumnal. It tastes like it’s about to go trick-or-treating, then build a fire. Autumnal like Autumn.”
I nod in agreement. She’s piqued my interests, which at the moment, involve personifying alcoholic beverages and talking about Halloween. She was older, probably around 35, and dressed as if she’d spent all day yelling at unpaid interns in a SoHo loft. I could smell the success on her.
She was a well-oiled machine and was very clearly interested in having me lube her engine. Ew. Anyway, the night continued and the frequency in which she returned to my closet increased at an alarming rate. She would disappear for ten minutes and I’d catch glimpses of her grinding up against the bartenders and documenting her night with endless selfies. Every time she’d come back, a drink would magically appear in front of me.
“You know, I get these for free!” I shouted, trying to make myself heard over the five-millionth remix of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ "So, I mean, you totally don’t have to buy me these."
“I refuse to talk with you until you get fucked up.” She said, with the hint of a slur.
“Fine.” I said, giving in and flirting back, “My bosses want me to get drunk. I think they think it makes me friendlier or something.” She slipped some money into my overflowing tip bucket.
“How much you get from tips?” She asked, yelling over the music.
“Um, depends on the night!” I said. She vigorously nodded, feigning interest.
“What’s your name?” She asked.
“What do your friends call you?” She yelled.
“Scout!” I said, "Like from that book!"
“No. I’m just kidding.”
“Do you smoke cigarettes?” She asked.
“Do you want to smoke one with me?” She asked.
“Let me check.”
Smash cut to a Chinatown street corner at 2:30 A.M. She’s attacking me with a violent ferocity akin to a hungry polar bear snacking on a baby seal. I’m trying my best to defend myself, but finding it impossible to follow the intricate and puzzling actions of her inebriated tongue.
Every so often, she pushes me into a brick wall and tells me I’m a pig. I keep asking her to be more specific, but my questions are only answered with a detrimental oral Blitzkrieg. She asks me if she can come over and I tell her there’s already somebody in my bed waiting for me. I hand her my card and tell her to call me. She punches me in the arm and walks away in a heated stride, sans-coat. I shrug it off and walk back into the club.
“My man!” Says my favorite bouncer, extending his fist. I bump it and walk back into my closet.
Yes, it was truly a confusing night during an utterly nauseating time of my life. I’ll never forget the couple of months I spent in my booze-fueled eco-wasteland. Not because it was particularly inspiring or funny, mostly for the feelings of angst and disgust I felt on a nightly basis.
The British Asian woman wouldn’t be the last to approach me as I drank away my life behind the curtain of expensive fabric in my muggy closet. I would be offered a plethora of drinks, illicit substances, and outlandish invitations to dance from Russians in mesh. While the experience didn’t particularly add any positivity to my love-life, the takeaway was knowing I wasn’t even half as creepy–a fourth as creepy–as the designer hoodlums who spent countless hours and thousands of dollars on the dance floor. With every twerking ass and gyrating crotch, I would repeat to myself in a hushed whisper:
“That’s not me. That will never be me.”