Fighting For What

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07/01/2013

Neighborhood: Bowery, Featured

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Everything happened quick in CBGB's subterranean toilets. The release of body waste was rivaled by magic-markering a band’s name atop the thousands of previous honorees in the toilet’s hall of fame and while the inhalation of cocaine or heroin in the stalls was more popular than shooting up dope or speedballs, sex within the battered stalls was a cherished memory for anyone who could remember the moment.

The ladies' room was only a little cleaner than the men's room , reflecting Hilly’s belief in sexual equality, for the club’s owner thought that his clientele deserved nothing worse than the very worst and that basement’s grungy atmosphere suit us just fine.

After all we were punks.

One night in 1977 I was at the bar. The Cramps were on stage. A red-haired girl in torn fishnet stocking and black plastic mini-dress ordered a JD and coke. She wasn’t wearing a bra over her billowy 38C breasts. Her wind-tousled hair and tear-ruined mascara betrayed her broken heart, but tragedy was a temporary fix in CBGBs.

She was no ballerina, but moved to the beat of HUMAN FLY with a seductive ease.

After a minute she asked, “What are you looking at?”

“Not what. Who.” I stared her in the eyes.

“And who are you?” Her trampish voice slurried with a slur of ‘ludes.

I told her, “No one.”

“I love no ones. They never stay around to make trouble.”

“And other people do?”

“Not other people. Other men.” The redhead looked over her shoulder. “But not tonight.”

Our dialogue was heading in one direction and after two minutes she downed her drink.

“Let’s go to the Ladies' Room.”

“Ladies' room?” 

“Yes, I hate the men’s room. It's so squalid."

"Okay." I signaled to BG behind the bar to watch my beer.

"Good." She grabbed my hand and pulled me through the crowd.

Luxe was singing SURFING BIRD. The voluptuous redhead waved to the ash-skinned bass player. He gave a sardonic grimace to indicate that he had been there before. As we passed the dressing room, the band that had opened called out her name.

“Brenda.”

The redhead was popular with musicians.

We descended to the basement and the redhead led me into the ladies' room. She pushed open the door to a stall and locked it shut.

“Don’t let anyone in.” She dropped to her knees with the grace of a ballerina auditioning for SWAN LAKE.

I was single, 25, and a punk.

We lived for sex, drugs, and rock and roll.

The upcoming scene answered the sex part of the equation. Brenda was no angel, but a guide to earthly paradise.

After a minute on her knees she pulled down her dress.

“When you’re ready, cum on these.”

"Okay."

I was good at following orders.

A man stormed into the bathroom and pounded on the stall’s door.»

Fighting For What
Photo by VaxZine

“Brenda, you in there?”

Only a boyfriend sounded that angry.

Brenda lifted a fingernail to her lips and stood to pull up her dress.

“Another time.”

Heaven was not to be mine this evening.

“When?”

“Not tonight.”

She kissed me and opened the door.

The man was my size and wearing a leather jacket and engineer boots. His eyes narrowed with fury.

“Brenda.”

She laughed in his face.

“Calm down, Guadalcanal.”
“But___”

“We were only doing drugs.” She held up a packet of cocaine.

He wasn’t buying her lie and turned to me.

“Brenda’s my girlfriend.”

Something about sex in a bathroom brought out my cockiness and I said, “Then that means you’re next.”

I thought that the remark was funny and returned to the bar. The Cramps had finished their set. The bass player winked at me. BG asked if I had a good time.

“Good enough.” Another two minutes would have changed my answer.

A hand tapped my right shoulder.

The gesture was a classic lead-in to a sucker punch. Scrappers from South Boston loved to jap the unaware, but I had been to that school.

I ducked and a fist swung over my head.

It was the boyfriend.

I was too close for a counter-punch, so my hands reached out to clutch his throat. He responded with the same tactic. Within seconds we were choking each other to death. I couldn’t breathe. He was in the same boat.

Out of the corner of my eye I spotted Brenda exiting with the drummer of the opening band. Her boyfriend noticed her exit as well.

“Brenda,” he croaked from my death grip.

“Beer,” I warbled to call for a truce and release his throat.

“You had enough?” He leaned on the bar regaining his breath.

“Sure.” I signaled BeeGee for two beers. Brenda was gone. Fighting was a thing of the past and we drank till closing, after which the waitress play JOLEEN on the jukebox. It was a good song with which to end the night.

After that night Guadalcanal and I became friends. We never mentioned Brenda. She became a cabaret singer with too much style to visit the bathroom with men, but at one time she wasn’t bad enough.

Guadalcanal and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Like I said.

We were punks.

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