BAD FAIRY, Chapter Two
Make It Rain
“Culture hour’s over!” Ariel bellowed to his housemates on returning to his parlor. “Vamoose!”
Brian and Tyler huddled together on Ariel’s giant leopard-print beanbag, shaken by the savage denouement of a 1977 Encyclopedia Brittanica educational film that Ariel pulled from his archives, called Pamela Wong’s Birthday For Grandma.
“What. The. Fuck,” Brian slow-blinked at the TV as the credits rolled, a bong in one hand and a bottle of poppers in the other. “How is that shit educational?”
“The message seemed on-point to me,” Tyler replied. “‘This is life, kids.’”
Tyler was Ariel’s best friend of three-plus decades. When Ariel fled New York City in 2002, Tyler was coming down from her turbulent 90’s, when for years she balanced her money job nursing at the St. Vincent’s AIDS ward with her free nights as a sought-after downtown “It Girl.”
The emotional disparity broke her heart in the end; Tyler disappeared not long after Ariel left, washing up in New Orleans a decade later, unable to recall long stretches of the intervening years.
Brian was a bisexual Korean thug and Ariel’s Millennial business partner. They met on Christmas Eve a few years back for a frisky online hookup; on meeting face-to-face they began busting each other’s chops in the ruthless manner of lifelong friends.
Fooling around was out of the question after that. They were soul brothers from the start.
“Attention, Ladies. Your attention, please,” Ariel announced nasally, clapping his hands. He had no time for shenanigans.
“I’m not a lady,” Brian grumbled, knowing no one would hear.
“Medulla asked me to fill in tonight. Or get filled, rather. So I gotta be showered, douched, snatched and vivacious at the Harlequin in” - glancing at Judy - “seventy-nine minutes. Give me space.”
Tyler rolled off of the beanbag, singing with arms outstretched in her best Gene Kelly: “GOT-TA DOUCHE! GOT-TA DOUCHE!”
“Who’s the ah, lucky guy?” Brian asked.
Ariel narrowed his eyes at Brian. “Some blue-blood tourist.” He pulled his shirt over his head. “He’s one of Medulla’s VIPs so you know he got bank.” He balled his shirt and pitched it toward the laundry basket, missing the target by several feet.
“Pansy,” Brian observed, retrieving Ariel’s shirt from the floor. “Any word yet from Prada Purse?”
“Not since he crossed back.”
“That was yesterday.” Brian dropped a three-pointer into the hamper from across the room. “The border’s a twelve-hour drive.”
“Why you guys canoodling with Prada Purse?” asked Tyler with a squint.
“We engaged him to perform a little, ah, recovery mission.”
“He’s liberating a couple liters of Esket from a buddy in Nuevo León,” Brian clarified.
The drug in question was Esketamine, Ariel’s favored strain of Ketamine, an elusive hallucinogenic dissociative intended for medical and veterinary purposes. Ariel and Brian dehydrated the liquid into powder and sold it to tourists by the gram - when they could source it, anyway.
“Y’all sent Prada Purse? To Mexico? Dude’s half a wit short of a half-wit.”
“He may be no tenured professor, but he didn’t get his moniker for nothing,” Ariel pointed out.
It was true. Prada Purse had a knack for clandestine transport. Back in lockup (where he was so christened), Prada Purse was a darling of the block, celebrated for the volume of contraband that he could nestle within his rectal cavity. Witnesses reported that delivery was like a magician’s “endless hanky” trick but with cellphones, weapons and packets of drugs.
“The longer the kid keeps the Ket, the more he gonna step on it,” Brian grumbled. “We better find him sooner than not.”
Judy ding-donged the third quarter-hour from her spot in the Costume Archive. Ariel shooed his housemates. “Time’s a-wastin’. Scram, allayou. I got magic to do.”
“He got MAGIC to douche!” Tyler belted on her way out.
Ariel loved his job, all in all. Along his three decades as a sex worker, he garnered a loyal collection of regulars.
The bulk of them were out-of-towners to whom Ariel was a gay sherpa, guiding them in exploration of otherwise forbidden pleasures. Other clients lived openly as gay men but inhabited closets within the culture; Ariel brought their fantasies to life beyond the eyes of their provincial gay fellows.
Others were just lonely. And Ariel gave good company.
His early regulars watched him mature over the years from Twink to Jock to Young Dad (where he felt he eddied nowadays, or maybe whatever the hell a “Zaddy” was). His Norwegian/Irish genetics didn’t intersect with “Daddy,” at least not in the classic strong-featured way. He attempted a beard for a spell, and having seen the world from the bearded side, he returned clean-shaven and wiser for the journey.
Over the years Ariel aged out beyond the type of many of his regulars; but as he learned, when a Twink door closes, a Jock door opens, and so forth, and as every door opened a new market emerged.
But lately it wasn’t clear when or where the next door would open. And he noticed that his regulars were becoming irregulars more and more. Medulla hadn’t matched him with a new client in months. And even tonight he was but a pinch-hitter for somebody younger.
You’re not the only person to face such a transition, he mused. If you’d chosen a career in ballet you’d have aged out years ago.
Like a Danseur Étoile at the Paris Opera House, Ariel was trained by the very best.
He learned to check his people-pleasing tendencies under the tutelage of Master Rick, one of New York’s legendary Old Guard BDSM Masters-For-Hire. Master Rick instilled in Ariel the generosity in taking charge, the kindness in consensual humiliation, and the gentle art of administering painful pleasures. By the time he was twenty-six, Ariel could crack a whip with the adroit precision of a leather-clad Indiana Jones.
And he developed Taste from the Gods in such areas: that tight-knit group of gay Tastemakers known as the Gay Mafia, eminent cultural leaders in fashion, art, music and entertainment. The workaday lives of these household names knew no shortage of grasping, pretentious climbers; and in his humble, good-natured authenticity Ariel was the furthest thing from that.
The men of the Gay Mafia taught Ariel that Taste is worlds apart from “stuffy,” as it embraces High and Low Culture with gusto, elevating the Interesting from the commonplace in everything. His legendary benefactors encouraged Ariel to measure life in shades and gradations, eschewing the trap of snobbery - that binary worldview that divides things into In or Out, Hot or Cold, Cool or Uncool, a fearful way of living and a prison of itself.
With Taste comes Authenticity, and with Authenticity, self-possession.
One unforgettable night in his mid-twenties, a legend of the music industry invited Ariel to dinner on the Grand Tier of the Metropolitan Opera House, followed by opening night of the Zeffirelli production of La Boheme. In the Lincoln Town Car over, freshly-fucked and in a natty suit, Ariel learned that Beverly Sills was joining them for dinner.
THE Beverly Sills, legendary diva soprano, long since retired, and currently chairwoman of the whole fucking Met. Ariel went white.
“You okay?” asked his benefactor. “She’s lovely, I promise.”
“I feel, like, insecure all of a sudden.”
“Yet you weren’t intimidated by me. Thanks a lot.”
Ariel laughed. “Well I had a job to do.”
“And a job expertly-done, I might add, and with admirable consistency.” It was their seventh meeting.
“What if she, y’know, asks me a question?”
“Then answer it,” his companion smiled.
“What if she asks how you and I met?”
“I’m sure she knows, kiddo. It’s the last subject she’ll broach. And if Bubbles breaks protocol, I’ll tell the bitch myself!”
Ariel sighed and touched his forehead to the window.
“Tits out, Ariel,” the music-industry legend said.
“Claim your space, own your history, and take on the world Tits Out.” His benefactor stroked Ariel’s neck, admiring him. “I’m gonna let you in on one of life’s great secrets. Ready? Look me in the eye.” The pupils of the famed producer always burned black, and in that moment his eyes were portals:
“It’s okay to fake confidence, because often in the process, confidence arrives.”
Now Ariel was 49. His wealthy mentor was dead, a decade now, from early-onset Alzheimers. He read it in the Times; they’d been out of touch for years. Ariel stood before his own reflection at half past six on a Friday, remembering him.
He was douched, showered, shaven, nose-hairs plucked; he wore a jock beneath tight jeans of buttery Japanese denim; he tucked a simple white Hanes tank into a leather belt fashioned by his friends at Mr. S Leather in San Francisco; and on his feet he wore a well-loved pair of immaculately polished, vintage 16-grommet Doc Marten boots.
If these boots could talk.
Ariel was sure that his Republican client knew nothing of leather tradition, but for the Old Guard’s sake he flew a navy hanky from his right rear pocket and snapped a simple black armband on his right wrist.
As his final task, he sorted through a collection of plastic cards until he found a key marked HARLEQUIN HOTEL.
He shoved it in his pocket with a sunglasses case. It was time to meet his first sight-unseen client in God knows how long. Could it have been a year?
Tits out, Ariel.
At 6:57, he pushed through the Canal Street entrance of the chi-chi Harlequin Hotel and strutted across the lobby, tsk-tsk-ing at its twee, Old-Tymey N’Awlins decor.
With a smirk, he dodged a pair of gay husbands fussing over a stroller. The contents emitted earsplitting shrieks broken only by gasping intakes of breath. Who on earth would seek out such a responsibility? Ariel wondered.
The elevator doors clattered open as Ariel arrived, disgorging a tourist family of three. The mother and father wore poufy helmets of heavily-sprayed hair; their reedy college-aged son slouched behind them, cap pulled down, nose in his phone, wearing a hoodie with the words “JESUS U” emblazoned across the front. He bumped into Ariel and proceeded without looking up from his device.
Poor kid, Ariel thought as he entered the elevator. He considered that his own childhood, raised as he was by drug dealers, might have been worse; at least they weren’t Fundamentalists.
Emerging on the uppermost floor, he strutted toward Room 805. He took a centering breath and knocked on the door, waiting in a pool of harsh downlight outside the room.
Footsteps behind the door slowed, then stopped; his client was looking through the peephole, Ariel figured, whereupon the door opened to reveal a ruggedly handsome silver-Daddy type, a mat of chest hair curling from beneath a robe.
I can be into him, Ariel thought. This might even be fun.
“Hol’ up, there, cowboy,” the john drawled in an affected manner.
“Howdy, pardner,” Ariel responded playfully - but not too.
The man darted his eyes at Ariel from head to toe. “This ain’t your first time at the rodeo.”
“If you want a virgin, the turnip truck’s outside,” Ariel replied lightly.
“So, ah, how old are you?”
“How old do I look?”
“I slept like shit.”
“Pushing fifty,” the man sneered. “Definitely not what your friend advertised.”
“I was filling in last-minute. Look, I can give you a discount, or -” Blood rushed to Ariel’s face.
“Y’know one thing I don’t have much of? Time. I can’t do this at home. And you have wasted my fucking time.”
“It’s the damn light,” Ariel gestured toward the cruel LED directly overhead. “Nobody looks good in a downspot.”
“Shall I ring up the concierge for some candles?” the john mocked, pulling a wallet from the pocket of his robe. “Brother, your ass is way past its sell-by date. I’m not sticking my dick in that dusty cunt.”
“Get yourself some Geritol and consider your life choices.” The man threw a handful of twenties in Ariel’s face and slammed the door before they drifted to the ground.
For a long moment Ariel didn’t move. Then he turned, catching his reflection in a full-length mirror down the hall. The man reflected there was drawn, gaunt, the flesh on his cheeks hanging from the bone in a way he’d never quite noticed before.
The dude looked sad, standing there. He looked like he was trying.
Ariel glanced at the handful of bills scattered at his feet, then back up at the mirror, locking eyes with his reflection.
His reflection considered his options for a moment.
Ariel reached down.
As dusk receded into night over the Warehouse District, Ariel took a seat on a long bench in Woldenberg Park. It was divided into three sections by armrests. A scabby male addict sprawled on the opposite end, jaw ajar, nodded out.
Ariel ruminated over the gay fathers from the lobby at the Harlequin. As he sidestepped them on his way up to the Room 805, their child was screaming like an air-raid siren and Ariel felt triumphant about his life choices. But minutes later, as he passed them on the slow march out, the fathers teased the now-giggling babe, raising her to the light with beatific grins on their faces, gently letting her drop a few inches, rocking her side to side, eyes shining all around.
I could be a grandfather by now, Ariel realized.
He had nobody to look after, no one to mentor, none with whom he could break the centuries-long spell of dysfunction that cursed the Hooks lineage.
Hell, he could barely look after himself.
A blurry dread, once-fleeting, was discernibly harder to dismiss these days as it came inexorably into focus.
It’s not too late to admit that it’s too late.
He glanced around the vicinity. The immediate coast was clear. Who’s gonna give a fuck anyway?
He withdrew a sunglasses case from his front pocket, snapped it open and shook a rolled-up hanky from inside it onto his lap. He unrolled the fabric to reveal a small medical serum bottle and a one-CC, 29-gauge half-inch syringe.
His eyes followed the Canal Ferry as it chugged across the Mississippi to Algiers Point. He expertly uncapped the point by feel, held the cap between his ring and pinky finger, plunged the needle into the membrane in the bottle’s lid and flipped the bottle over. Gripping the syringe with his thumb and fourth finger, he withdrew the plunger with his second and third, never once looking down. He’d done it a million times.
A full CC bubbled into the vacuum. When the plunger ceased to tug, he withdrew the point and raised the needle to his left shoulder, faking a yawn as he penetrated the meat of the muscle at its thickest point, already toughened from countless prior injections.
He glanced to his right as the liquid penetrated, then to his left - locking eyes with the addict sprawled on the other end, who woke up for some fucking reason. He watched Ariel, blinking in disbelief.
“Yo.” The man’s eyes were concerned. Paternal, even. “You gotta find a vein, bro.”
With the plunger fully depressed, Ariel plucked the point from his shoulder and capped it. “Not with this. It’s Ketamine. Goes in the muscle.”
The addict squinted. “Ain’t that horse tranquilizer?”
Ariel returned his rig to his pocket. “Neiggghhh, not in my case.” He rubbed the injection site and smirked:
“It’s whore’s tranquilizer.”
Ariel locked eyes with the stranger, who gaped back at Ariel and then fell out again, his head dropping to the bench with a clunk.
Tough crowd, Ariel thought.
He put his hands behind his head and leaned back, stretching his legs, resting his head on the weathered wood behind his neck. The Mississippi lapped at the shore beyond his heels.
The humiliations of the prior hour trickled from Ariel’s awareness as a gentle rain of fractal hallucinations washed over his mind’s eye, developing into a shower, then a summer storm, now a flood, all-encompassing, rising to crescendo without ending until he just wasn’t Ariel any more.
COMING UP in Chapter Three: The Hooks Fambily Tree
Thank You For Reading! Love,
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