Chapter 2 – Depot
Cities change. They breathe, and they grow, and sometimes they die, only for a new city to be built on top of it, crushing everything old underneath. This is what Barry was thinking about, as they walked over to Depot, trying to recall the last time he’d gone out to a club. Trying to remember the last time he’d even been in this part of the city. The neighborhood looked so different. The clubs were different, the people crowding around the doors were different. Younger than he was, certainly. At some point, they moved through some liminal space, into somewhere new. The men around them grew a little seedier, a little hungrier, a little more ragged, and women almost disappeared entirely. Someone brushed between him and Dennis in full leather gear–and Barry had to pause and try and remember the last time he’d seen anyone in that much leather out on a sidewalk. Years ago, if ever. When he turned to snap something at the stranger, he found that the man was looking at him, leering really, and then he was gone into the dark, before he or Dennis could muster a word, and they continued on.
“What was the last club we even went to?” Barry asked him.
“I don’t know.”
“The Grotto, wasn’t it?” Barry answered himself.
Parker laughed. “The Grotto? That place doesn’t even exist anymore.”
“It was for posers anyway. Couldn’t get a blowjob in a corner without bribing a damn bouncer with an extra one, right babe?” Parker said, and squeezed Samuel’s ass, getting a peck on the cheek in return.
The Grotto. Barry had liked the Grotto. It was gay, but it was safe. It was expensive, but you were paying for the instagram selfies, and the clout. Sure, some nights the number of straight girls there outnumbered the gay guys, but where was the harm in that? They all just wanted a night free of straight guys anyway. Sure, Parker was right–if someone caught you with your pants down, and you weren’t hired to be go-going on stage, then you were gonna get thrown out on your ass. But what did they think this was, the 70’s? All red lit back rooms and saunas and AIDS around every corner? Sure, it was cleaned up now, but they were all better for it. Safer. Maybe it had been for posers, but Barry didn’t see anything wrong with a little glamour. He looked over at Dennis, but his husband was just frowning, obviously annoyed at having his preference for a quiet weekend at home further disrupted. Barry found himself feeling defensive and frustrated, thought about defending their current course, but decided against it. He’d dragged them out tonight because he’d wanted to have fun, damn it. Dennis would enjoy it too, probably. If not, it was his fault for being a bore.
Samuel and Parker stopped halfway down a block, and walking behind they nearly barrelled into the other couple. It took Barry a moment to realize they’d stopped because they’d arrived. Depot was not the usual garish bar looking to advertise itself from halfway down the block. He would have never even known it was a bar if not for the black clad bouncer sitting on a stool next to the solid black door, with just a small neon sign hanging overhead. Samuel popped up the steps and made small talk–he apparently had been here enough to be on a first name basis with the staff. They were all waved in, the bouncer didn’t bother checking any ID. Looking around, Barry tried to pin down what space had been gentrified and hollowed out to make this. An old gas station or auto shop? Warehouse? The ceiling was high enough that it got lost in the dark. The music was loud and deep, thrumming through them and the floor. Samuel and Parker led the way towards the bar to get a round of drinks. They were cheap, surprisingly, for a place that presented itself as so hidden and exclusive, and looking around, most of the men were clad in simple gear–denim and leather might be out of fashion outside, but not in here. He would have called it a bear bar, and there were certainly bears in the bar, but it was mixed enough that he hesitated. It was nearly all men, however. He couldn’t remember a time he’d gone to a gay bar with so few women in it, in fact. He and Dennis got whiskey sodas, turned around and found Samuel and Parker talking to someone they didn’t recognize.
“One drink, and then we’re leaving,” Dennis said.
“You’re such a bore,” Barry said, and he could feel Dennis get a little stiff, though he couldn’t see it in the dark. He hated being called a bore, mostly because he knew he was. He didn’t wait for Dennis to stutter something back–he’d never been good at reading or shade–and joined Samuel and Parker with the fellow he didn’t know.
“–god you’re here, that fucking gallery was such a fucking drag, give me a bump darling, just something to wake me the fuck up, please, I’m begging you,” Samuel was saying to the man, who passed him a little bag of white powder. Barry drew up short as Samuel went to slip away, and he rolled his eyes, “Calm down, it’s just a little coke, not meth. You want some?”
“No thanks, I’m good tonight.”
“Suit yourself,” Samuel said, and sat down at a table to make himself a line.
The fellow dealing stuck out his hand, and gave him a solid grip. He was taller than Barry, but then, most guys were. Not quite as tall or as built as Parker, but handsome and charming with a smile that made your knees a little weak.
“Welcome to the Depot boys, the name’s Hugh,” he said, and shook Dennis’s hand as well, “Samuel said your new around here. Anything I can get for the two of you, off menu? Something to make you a little more comfortable?”
Barry hesitated, and Dennis spoke for them, firmly refusing and closing off the possibility entirely. Barry felt himself get a little defensive, both mad that he hadn’t refused faster and confidently, and mad that he couldn’t have a little fun now that Dennis had put his foot down. He’d done his share of shit on the circuit, but while Dennis could tolerate the extramarrital sex provided they were both PrEPed to the gills, the drugs he couldn’t abide, and were strictly “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
Before anything else could be said, Samuel was back up, well bumped, and pulled Barry away. “Come on! Let’s go dance. I want to see how much worse you’ve gotten at it.”
Looking back, he saw Parker pull Hugh away, asking about something, leaving Dennis standing all alone by the table. He tried to wave him to follow, and was mostly certain he saw him wave, but wandered off in another direction. Fine, if he wanted to mope, let him. There were stairs that dropped down to the dance floor, which despite being relatively early in the evening, was already teeming with bodies in various states of undress. It smelled of sweat and alcohol, but the night hadn’t advanced enough for the scent of vomit to mix in. The music was louder but still deep. It unsettled something in Barry’s guts, and though he hadn’t danced in years, he found himself doing his best. Maybe he should have taken some coke, he always danced better with a little coke, or at least cared less. The energy managed to infect him anyway. He was dancing with Samuel at first, and then he was dancing with someone else, a stranger, and another stranger, and then he wasn’t dancing with anyone, he was dancing with everyone. Perhaps it slid into him then. Perhaps it was later. Perhaps it had been in all of them, all along.
Cities change, but what they don’t tell you, is that it’s not the cities changing, not really. It’s the people who live there. Sometimes on purpose, but not always. As Barry felt himself join the teeming mass of bodies around him, kissing and touching and groping along with them all, losing jacket and then shirt in the throng, he felt something fleeting that he’d missed. Something he hadn’t even really known he was missing. But that small touch, he could feel it, sliding into him, wanting to pull him, warp him, and he found himself terrified, for a moment. But it was just for a night, he told himself. Just a night.
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