The Imperial 400
Driving home alone from the strip club, I was beating myself up for being such an idiot. How many times would I need to go in there and blow threw a few hundred dollars thinking that this would be the time the girl comes home with me? It was always the same thing, if I just gave her enough money, if I was just nice enough for her to trust me, if I was just compassionate enough to listen to her bullshit problems then I would be lucky enough for her to come home with me. They saw me coming when I walked through the door, these girls could put themselves through college on people like me.
Every time I left the club I would take the highway home. It probably was not much quicker, but for some reason that was how I did it; take the main road out and hop on the highway coming home. Pulling off at the downtown exit and turning on to Market Street, I was swearing to myself that this was the last time, I was finished with all this shit and that never again would I set foot in a strip club.
Thinking that all of it could go to hell; the porn, the escorts, the strippers all of it ,when I glanced over to the left and saw this pigtailed girl walking in front of the big grey stone catholic church across the street from where my ex stepdaughter went to high school . And I’ll be damned if it didn’t look like she was wearing a school girl uniform. Now when I say she was walking I am being overly complimentary to her ambulatory skills. Careening , swaying even land swimming would have more accurately described her condition, all doubts to her sobriety level were removed by her almost flipping herself into the passenger seat of my car as she leaned up against the door and peered through the open window. “Hey! What’s up buddyyyy!”, she said.
Aside from being extremely wasted, this girl was somewhat cute and I could not resist the image of her against the stark grey of the Catholic Church and the dirty litlle school look she was sporting. “Hop in I’ll give you a ride.” I say. Opening the door to get in she says “I just got my tongue pierced, wanna see?” Staring at the steel ball on the tip of her tongue all I can manage to say is, “Freakin awesome!”, and next thing you know I have a new best friend sitting next to me as I am driving down Market Street in the early morning hours of a random Tuesday night.
“Let’s go to the Imperial 400 so I can demonstrate my new tongue piercing, you would like that wouldn’t you?” Some guys go through their whole lives without ever hearing those words uttered. I had to laugh because the Imperial 400 was this dive hotel that my Uncle Harry used to insist on staying at when he came into to town. He was from a small Burg in Pennsylvania, and I am sure he did not stay there for the view. Now the last thing I wanted to do was be seen pulling into the Imperial 400 with such a classy young lady at my side, so I told her we would probably have more fun if she came over to my place. “How would that be sweetiee?” I say. “Hey!! That’s cool babeeee, all I need is $60.00 and I’m with you!!” It dawned on me that I had spent all of my cash at the strip club and that I had maxed out my withdrawal limit on the ATM. I shared this information with my new friend and she said, “That’s no problem baby, if you have a check we can go to the Giant Eagle and cash it, they will cash it up to $60.00.” Nothing better than a smart hooker. Well, maybe a smart hooker with a new tongue piercing.
On the way to the Giant Eagle it became very apparent to me that this young girl was completely and totally wasted on crack cocaine. She was scratching her arms and in constant motion, rocking back and forth, shuffling her feet, shaking her head around, making me a nervous wreck just watching her. Talking non-stop she was telling me how her boyfriend had made her hit the streets to make some money so they could buy more drugs. “I live real close to where you picked me up baby, down along the canal in the projects. You know where I’m talking about babyeeeee?” Actually I was glad to say I did not know where she was talking about, and pulling into the Giant Eagle parking lot I said, “Wait here, I’m just going to run and cash this check and I’ll be right out”. “Hey!! Wait for me!” she said as she followed me into the store.
Walking into the grocery store with this cracked out whore following me I felt like everyone in the place was staring at me with their jaws dropped. The bright fluorescent overhead lighting accentuated the feeling of being watched and I tried to distance myself from her as I approached the customer service counter.
“Hey baby, will you buy me some cosmetics?” she says, “I need to get me some cosmetics so I can make me all beautiful.” Hearing her ask for something so simple, caused me to glimpse her as a little kid and it was hard for me not to feel sorry for her.
“Hi, will you cash a check for me please?” I said. “Do you have a driver’s license and Giant Eagle Card?” the woman behind the counter said. Handing her my card and ID I said, “What’s the highest amount you can cash it for?” “I can give you back an extra $60.00 in change, but you need to purchase something first,” the counter woman said. My hooker friend was falling all over me as I tried to put all of her cosmetics up on the counter. She would let go of me and then do a big circle walk around me as if I had her on a big string. Finally after many sidelong glances and quite a few whispered comments, I was finally able to cash my check, pay for her stuff and get out of there.
I turned off the main road down a dark side street and she began to get very quiet. There were thick woods on either side of the narrow street and no lights except for the porch light on the Clarks’ place up around the corner. It was winter and there was some snow on the ground, which gave the whole area a spooky glow.
Turning into the long gravel road, which was my driveway, she was silent and looked down at her feet as she fidgeted with her fingers. Using the remote to open the garage door, I pulled the car in and shut it behind us. The garage light was on and you could see the random trash and debris lying around. I had been working on varnishing some pieces of my sailboat and they lay haphazardly across the floor.
My new girlfriend had let herself out of the car and was standing in the corner with her arms crossed staring at me. “You aint gonna hurt me are you?” she said. She was rocking back and forth hugging herself, humming a the melody from an old nursery rhyme. Looking at her in the light I could see that she was just a scared kid. I had seen a documentary recently about seal hunters. Seeing her there in my cold garage, staring fearfully at me, she reminded me of those little seals before the bastard hunters crushed their skulls with their sticks. “I don’t feel so good baby, I think I’m gonna get sick,” she said. “I wanna go home, take me home please.” All the sudden I didn’t feel so good myself, “Ok, get in the car, I’ll take you home.”
Answering my cell phone on the third ring I heard, “Hey dude it’s me! Remember me from last night?” she said. “Oh yeah, how’s it going today. You feeling any better?” I said. “Oh yeah! I am totally feeling better. Hey you wanna hook up again today, I had a great time last night,” she said. “Why don’t you come pick me up, I can keep you company,” she said.
If anything I am a people pleaser and even though I had just met her and she was well, a whore, I still found it hard to say no so I agreed to meet her. “Cool, pick me up at the McDonalds on the east side, my friend will bring me over.”
Pulling into the parking lot of McDonalds I drove by the car she was in and waved at her. There was a white kid driving with one of those rap baseball caps on sideways, he smiled at me a she walked over to get in my car. “What’s up! Hey did I tell you I got my tongue pierced?” she said. “Yeah, you did, you told me that last night,” I said, already regretting having agreed to meet her. “Let's go somewhere so I can show you my tongue piercing,” she said.
That is how I ended up at the Imperial 400, following in the perverted footsteps of my Uncle Harry from Pennsylvania, in broad daylight on a Wednesday afternoon. An L shaped compound of two story buildings, the Imperial 400 looks more like a prison yard than an establishment of fine lodging. Surrounded by barbwire, the there are around two dozen units clustered around a small parking lot. Inside the décor is 1970’s county jail all the way, painted cinder block walls, pale green furnishings and cracked Formica dressers and cabinets. There was a small TV bolted into the ceiling above the bed. There was no door to it but behind a portion of the cinder block wall was a stainless steel toiled and a fiberglass shower insert. The carpet resembled dirty Astroturf and stuck to your feet when you walked.
“Hey, sit next to me,"she said as she walked closer to me. I reached into my pocket and pulled out $100.00 in $20.00’s.
“Here you go,” I said as I threw the money on the dirty bedspread. “You can keep the room for tonight. Just don’t make any long-distance phone calls,” I said.
Opening the door sunlight flooded the room, “Where you going?”, she said.
Looking at her, I paused in the doorway and said, “As far away from here as possible”, shutting the door behind her and walking fast towards my car.
©mordechai zoltan 2010