Four days ago, I gave my name and credit card number to anonymous online merchants who promised discretion in the packaging of their product and discretion in the company name that might show up on a credit card statement. Now, I'm worried about this purchase showing up on a credit card statement no one else will ever read. If I had a wife, or a girlfriend, or if my two female roommates were even remotely nosey, I might have reason to worry. There is no way anyone else knows or cares about this purchase, and yet I can imagine the feeling of coming home from yoga, or from my creative writing class, or my job at Starbucks, and knowing, before the handle on the front door turns, before the door opens, before my girlfriend/wife/roommates' tilted shoulders and tilted eyebrows and tilted questions roll over me, of the shame I would feel. I can simulate the dread. I can feel a trap door open and my balls drop out. Even now, sitting on my bed with the package on my lap, my blood pressure is rising, and I don't even have a girlfriend.
I do have two female roommates. But their problem with this purchase would be that I didn't make it sooner and I didn't include them in the shopping process.
“You bought what? How can you even live with yourself?”
“You aren't a stable person and we think you should move out.”
They would never actually say those things. One of them teaches first grade and the other runs a construction company, but...
“It's a ridiculous outfit, but your ass is going to look good, though, ugh. I will give you that.”
They might say that. It's stupid, even my anxiety and harsh self judgment sneak in a little positive spin. You're a monster but your butt will look good?
I think the devil on my shoulder is critical, and a joy thief, and a liar, and rude to strangers, but he does have a thing for fashion. While he is shrieking in my ear about how bad my screenplay is and how fat I'm getting and how only a terrible person would get karaoke-bar-level drunk at their father's funeral, I'll hear a faint whisper about the shoes I bought.
I guess even terrible people like to look good.
It's a shy compliment in a land of extroverted cruelty, and I'll take it. Every time, I'll take it. My therapist says it's a temporary fix for a deeper issue.
Did you say fix?
I open a pair of scissors and slide one of the blades across the box's side creases. Then I carve down the main middle crease, leaving the last few millimeters of tape intact so I can pull it apart with my hands and hear and feel the satisfying pop.
The company lived up to their advertisement, it is discreet. Most people don't know that you can buy a police officer uniform online for $24.99 and have it arrive in a box from Walmart. Granted, the cuffs are plastic and the shirt and pants have velcro that allows for easy speed-removal.
Like, if you need to rip them off in one uber masculine, hyper-sexualized movement.
They should be able to survive multiple rippings and re-rippings, if the wearer survives their first bachelorette party. The badge says “Officer Frisk,” which I chose over “Lt. Dangle” and “Officer Ken I Seymour.” Now, turning the badge so the light hits it just so, I feel I made the right choice.
You're the worst.
The shirt is adequate. The badge works. In the box, the pants seemed awful but now, looking in the mirror, I feel like I make them work. I'm not sure they'd be worthy of the village people, but I'm not far off. I have a shiny pair of shoes ready. I'm not sure which of my fake mustaches I'll wear, or if I'll even wear one at all.
No, I can't. I can't wear a mustache, or these pants, or this shirt or this badge. I can't do any of it. I hear you, devil, I hear you and you're right. This is stupid. I AM pitiful. No normal, decent person would buy these things, and no normal, decent person would ever wear them in public.
Of course not.
Or in private.
I like how you said you were done with this life.
No, no, I never said I was done. Yes, I know what I said. I said some things. I never told myself I was done with this life. I said, in a dark moment of nauseous ennui and staring into a muddy puddle of regret, I might have said I didn't want to do this anymore. But everyone says that sometimes, about everything: jobs; family; relationships; life. No, this isn't rock bottom, it's just a silly outfit. I know the handcuffs are plastic, it's the softer side of fantasy.
It's so cliché.
Hey, you wear a cape and carry a trident, so maybe be careful with the accessory critiques.
So you are going to do the show tonight?
I don't have to make a hard decision yet, relax. I can just cancel and they could get Bruce, or Gary. Bruce and Gary are great and I'm not feeling one hundred percent anyway, so... yeah, that squat workout wrecked my glutes and then we did stairs and my hips are fired up and I spent too much time out in the sun without my coconut water and Carol wants me on register for seven hours tomorrow so I'm leaning toward no. I haven't prepped my set, I don't even know where my iPod is. It's been at least a week since I twerked at all, so I don't know. I shouldn't do it, I'll say that. I should pass it off to Gary, but let me just... let me just look at this stuff. I just want to look. I know, I should just tape the box back up and burn it in the kitchen sink. I should melt it in acid in the bathtub or throw it into a volcano, but...
Wait, is that...?
Oh sweet meatballs I forgot. This is the main reason I ordered this particular outfit in the first place. I can't believe I forgot, in four days, about the shining police officer hat. It's a peaked cap with a golden medallion and I know I shouldn't be this excited again about something I was this excited about four days ago, but I am. I mean, I'm sure it won't fit because standard hats, especially those most likely manufactured somewhere in Asia, never fit me. I have a big round head. I should be proud of my big round head but I'm not. Alec Baldwin seems proud of his massive head, shouldn't I try to be more like Alec Baldwin?
Is Alec Baldwin proud of his bald spots?
They're not bald spots, you ass! Sure, my hair is thinning a little, is that so terrible? Mom and dad's sides both had baldness, it's not my fault! And furthermore, I feel like still having this much hair past thirty is pretty good. I'm good, I'm all good.
So you're back, then?
No, I didn't say that. I'm curious, can't I be curious? I'm just going to try it on. There's no harm in trying it on. It is here, right here in my hands, after all. Someone slaved over this outfit for hours.
Yeah, a child slave.
So what? So what if a child made this in a factory? I didn't make him make it. In fact, I think to not buy the child's precious labor is exploitative in its own way. What, should we throw away all products made by children so the children worked for nothing? Or, should we honor their sacrifice by rocking these pleated pants and this navy blue button up and badge and tip this peaked cap to a room full of cackling bridesmaids?
You're a hero. So you're back in, then?
These pants are tight. Why did you tell me I could get a MEDIUM Dairy Queen blizzard? You know what ice cream does to my hips!
Aren't you going to be ripping those pants off, anyway?
It fits. It fits! The hat fits my beautiful and perfect head. I told you it would fit.
Whatever you say, officer.
I do look the part. Why didn't I become a cop?
Probably something to do with the two DUIs before you turned 18.
Look at me, I should've been.
How about your germaphobia?
Eh, sani wipes. This isn't even my best mirror and look at me. Who wouldn't want to get a ticket from me? I look like someone who could slap the cuffs on you, take you downtown, and throw you in the slammer. I look like someone you better listen to, or else.
Don't taze me, bro.
Gary, you're going to have to sit this one out.
What am I doing? I told myself I'd never do this again. They told me I was great but it doesn't matter if I don't feel great. They told me I was the best but I don't feel like the best. I still feel the rough edges in my chest where the last bachelorette party scooped out hunks of my soul. All those sweaty wads of one and five dollar bills. All that pawing and shrieking, and... objectifying. I am a human being!
And yet here I am again, having texted the maid of honor twenty minutes ago to tell her I was on my way, then two minutes ago that I was here, and now I'm standing in front of the large double doors of a two-story colonial in Pasadena and listening to the wall-buffered rumblings of Katy Perry.
You like Katy Perry.
That's not the point. I can feel the plastic handcuffs digging into my left butt cheek. It's been almost three weeks since I wore a thong and my ass doesn't remember how to handle it. It's itching in protest. I can hear the women singing along with the music and squealing with delight and they are definitely drinking and definitely not preparing their physical boundaries or washing their hands regularly and if they swarm me in the state I'm in, I might just lose it. This is a mistake, this is a huge mistake, I should leave. It's still not too late to leave, right? I could still call Gary and...
I got you.
What have you done?
“Girls, was that the doorbell?”
That's her, that's the voice from the phone. That's the woman who set this all up. I could still run to my car and drive away and never look back. I could be in Mexico in a few hours.
You should run. You're not ready for this.
My legs won't respond. My feet weigh a thousand pounds.
The door opens.
“Oh no, what seems to be the problem, officer?”
Before I can run, the shift begins. It's been so long since I worked a party like this that I'm not prepared for the fever to take hold of me. A smirk fights its way up. I can't stop it. The woman looks me up and down and her eyes go wide and she has to cover her face to conceal a crazed shriek. My hands cross over my chest. I raise an eyebrow to tell her she needs to control herself. My eyebrow lays down the law.
The training is trying to take over. One step over the threshold and I'm back in the familiar rhythm, the swagger, the sass. I want to let them look at me, let them take me in. There's a lot to take in. Wide, round shoulders, a swimmer's back, long lean calves, abs for days, and a couple of honeydews in the back. It's a sight to behold, take it in, ladies.
Then I notice the dining room. On the floor in the corner, there are two baby bounce chairs, chunks of mouth-moistened Cheerios and Goldfish crackers dotting the plastic rims. As I look around the room, I can tell that whoever lives in the house has a number of kids, and she isn't the only one. The way the women are sitting, leaning on the arms of the couches and chairs, the way they try to stifle their whispers and their giggles, the way they are downing the margaritas and wine, all has the feel of a room full of women who are still coming down from the high of simply not having their kids following them around and screaming at them for a few rare and precious minutes. Their mom masks are cracking. The essence of wild womanhood is starting to seep out. I've been here before, in this wind tunnel of margaritas and Rhianna medleys and crumbling female inhibitions. I've patrolled these streets. I know the laws around these parts, letter and word. These women are ready for an escape, ready for release.
These are dangerous women.
You know what you're doing.
Why did I wear this belt and these leather holsters?
Why did I fill these holsters with plastic pistols?
What have I done?
“Oh no, the cops are here!” one of the women yells before putting her hands over her mouth.
The bride-to-be rolls her eyes and smiles. She finally sees what's happening and her hands go over her face. The cackling squeals of the others surround her. They're like Hyenas circling a kill.
I want to let go. I want to forget about the cracker crumbs and smeared drool and snot and the galactic laser light show that I'd see if I hit this place with a black light. I want to ignore the sticky tile in the entryway, and the gritty crunch of the dirty carpet under my feet right now. I might find serenity if I thought there might be one spot, just one little spot, that I could touch that wasn't crawling with child-borne diseases.
So you shower afterwards, big deal.
I need to find a point of reference so I don't continue to look around the room.
Too late, I see a toy box, and in her rush to prepare her house for guests, Carrie didn't put all of the toys back inside the box. She stacked some toys on top, and a few trucks and blocks are on the floor next to it. I can see the crusted applesauce. I can see fingerprints made with now dried and sticky jam.
Focus on the job.
I slip Carrie my iPod. She's been told what to do.
“Cut that music off! Cut it off!”
Again, Carrie abides, Rhianna is silenced. The other women turn and their dancing and giggling slows to a nervous stop. They see Carrie at the stereo system. They hear the sudden silence. But they don't see Carrie plug in my iPod.
“I need your full and undivided attention, ladies! Now, my name is officer Frisk and I'm responding to a noise complaint. From the looks of it, I'm in the right place.”
The wall at the base of the staircase has a crosshatching of jagged crayon scribbles, drawn by small, frantic hands. Hanging from the banister is a dog leash, a poo bag tied around the end.
They have a dog, too?
“Now, by law, I'm supposed to make you aware of the noise complaint and give you a warning.”
I feel like I'm going to get dog hair in my mouth. My hands float, on their own, to the heels of my pistols. At least I know those are clean.
“I usually give my verbal warning and go about my business. But now, standing here, looking around the room at all of you... ladies... I'm worried. I'm worried that maybe you don't like to follow the rules.”
The women giggle as they pull the bride from her place on the couch and stand her up in front of the large leather recliner in the middle of the room.
God only knows what levels of food and filth are living under its cushions.
“Now, I'm going to ask this once and only once. If you lie, I'll know. Who... is in charge... around here?”
Arms and hands and pointed fingers guide me to the bride. They point to her big white crown and her long lacy veil. When she bends over and buries her face in her hands, the women pull her back to upright and begin moving the other chairs to the edges of the room. Then they move away as I approach. One woman – the biggest, seemingly drunkest woman – gives the bride a slap on the ass before stepping away.
When I stand before the bride she tries to step back, catching a foot on the recliner behind her. She falls into it, and is suddenly sitting and looking up at me.
She is trapped. There is nowhere to go.
Time to go to work.
Oh God, is that baby powder?
“Is that true, little miss? Are you the boss around here?”
Before she can answer, Carrie comes in hard with, “Yeah, she's the boss. What's it to ya?”
“What's your name, boss lady?”
I lean down a little and turn my right ear toward her.
“Rachel,” she whispers, the name catching in her throat.
I lean a little more.
“I'm sorry, you're going to have to speak up.”
“Rachel,” she says, a little louder.
“And Rachel, are you in charge of these... outlaws?”
The girls all nod and affirm.
“Well, boss lady, I deliver my warning to you: lower the noise, or be prepared to face stiff consequences.”
The girls hoot and howl at that. One utters a sassy “uh oh” while two others clink their margarita glasses together and down the drinks.
The arms of the recliner are worse than I thought. The leather is smooth up to a point. As I lean in, my thumb hits a sticky section. I pull it away but it's too late, some mystery residue is now on my thumb. I need to scrub it under hot water. I need to soak it in Purell.
I stand and step back.
“I don't want to have to come back here. It's just a warning... this time. This time, you lucked out. You got good cop.”
I straighten my shirt and secure my hat. I turn and head toward the door. Under one of the chairs, a baby spoon sits on the carpet. Crumbs and dirt are stuck to it. Curly hairs are sprouting upward from the handle.
Don't you dare throw up.
As I reach for the door knob, I consider ignoring the plan and just leaving. But Carrie's voice catches me.
“Hey!” she yells. I turn and look back toward them all. “What if we want... a bad cop?”
The stereo silence ends. Her high end speakers fill the room with a roaring guitar.
The show starts with “Bad to the bone.”
The women erupt. As I make my way back into the living room, they take places on the chairs and couches, turning them to face the bride. I am a Manchurian candidate. When the song begins, what I want no longer matters. I can't resist the call. As George Thorogood and the Destroyers fill the house with grinding guitar riffs and his tales of pleasing women, I carry on his tradition.
I take off my badge and flip it over my shoulder.
I pull the pistols. They spin in my hands, first upward, then downward. Then one upward and the other downward before I toss them in the air and switch hands. I spin them again, faster now, and when I've heard a few oohs from the ladies, I holster one and I blast off the six caps from the other. I try to shoot to the beat. The women gasp. The pops are louder than they expected, but they soon screech their delight. I don't pull the second pistol. Instead, I pull the bride to her feet and turn. I bring her up behind me, put her hands on my hips, running them up and down my thighs to the rhythm of the song. But I'm still wearing my pleated pants and my striped shirt and my peaked cap.
I'll keep the hat on.
I bring the bride's hands around my chest to the buttons on the shirt. I use her fingers to undo the top button, then the next one, and after those two, I don't need to help her with the others. She sees what we're doing. As the last button pops free, I take her wrist so I can spin her twice around and lay her out over my left arm. I dip her backward and she bends and squeals. I offer my right cuff for her to unbutton. When she does, I pull her up and spin her twice around and into my other arm. She undoes the button in that cuff, as well. I pull her back to standing and turn. My arms go out and I throw my head back and wait for her. She immediately knows what to do. She pulls at the collar and slides the shirt open, out across my back and down over my shoulders. Every inch she pulls the shirt, every new inch of tanned skin, every new ripple of muscle, brings the hooting and howling of the other women up another notch. When she gets the shirt past my biceps, the big drunk lady cheers. I can smell the tequila pouring from her breath, and after her cheer, she surprises herself with a wet belch.
I command my nose not to take it in. I will it. I beg God and Zeus and Krishna and the universe to spare me the smell.
I rip the tearaway pants off in one triumphant arm swing and hip thrust. All that remains are my shoes, the belt and holsters, and my shining golden thong.
And my hat, of course. Normally, I would put it on the bride-to-be. It tends to make the women feel less weird, somehow, if they are wearing it while I dance for them. There is no logical reason for why this would be true. It just is.
But, I want to be able to wear it again so I don't want to put it on her head. She probably lets her friends' babies play with her hair. I bet she feeds them and burps them on her shoulder and they spray-belch a fine mist of milk and stomach acid onto her braided ponytails.
Do it, put it on her head.
If I put it on her head, I will never get rid of the image of wearing a baby vomit hat. It will feel like long, stringy trails of barf are oozing their way down the sides and back of my neck. Stringy barf hair, I don't want stringy barf hair.
You won't get stringy barf hair.
The women cheer louder when I pull the too large hat down over her hair. It slides to the side, just so, in a way that some might classify as cute. But there is a price for the hat. As she grabs the edges to adjust it, her wrists get close enough together that I can handcuff her.
I can still phone this in. I have a simpler act, shorter, easier for me and easier for her. Three more songs, a brief full frontal, and I'd be out. It wouldn't be my best but they wouldn't know that. My mediocre is still pretty damn good.
Ugh, is that a grape-scented Yankee Candle?
I could run most of my normal moves. This carpet, while stained and sticky, feels good enough for a back flip. A back handspring might be better. I don't know if my hips can handle a drop into the splits today. Maybe after I get going.
The bride isn't a big girl, but she isn't small, either. Could I pull off a Magic Mike?
You have to do the Magic Mike. Either a Dirty Dancing or a Magic Mike.
The other women are starting to drop dollar bills into the bride's lap. When she doesn't work fast enough stuffing them into the band of my thong, they jump in to help. The first two hands are polite enough, maybe a little grabby.
So many different types of hand lotions. There's no way they all washed their hands before doing this.
Through the second song, the bride is starting to loosen up and enjoy herself. She even gets tired of placing individual bills, and she shoves a wad of ones straight down the front of my goldies. When I bring her hands to my chest, they don't smell weird. Maybe this will be fine. She isn't drunk and she seems clean enough, as long as none of the other women...
Another set of hands hits my shoulders, then another on the other side. It's one of the margarita chuggers on my right and...
It's the big girl on my left. As I turn to look at her, I hear her giggle way too close to my ear. I feel a puff of hot drunk breath just before a wet sponge hits my cheek.
Is she licking me?
She is licking you.
She grabs my head and pulls me in, spreading a wide, slow, wet path of saliva from my chin up to my ear. Her tongue rolls up over my earlobe, then dives down deep. It squishes around for way too long and creates a suction. When she rips her head back with a satisfied cackle, my ear pops and it starts to ring. The air on the saliva sends icicles into my bone marrow and my butt cheeks slam shut.
Rachel loves it. I can't hear it, but I can see that she is scream-laughing. I wait for Carrie to jump in as the voice of reason and escort little miss licky lick to a safer distance, but when she lets go of my head, another set of hands grab it from the other side and another tongue explores my face. This one, too, settles in my ear, and this tongue didn't feel like the last tongue spent enough time rooting around. A similar suction is created and when the tongue slops out and I turn to look for Carrie, I see that it is her holding my head. It was her tongue in my ear.
You're losing control.
I lost control.
I'm trying to ignore the saliva-induced deafness, trying to ignore the layers of saliva now drying all over the sides of my face, when a hand hits my right butt cheek. I'm rotating my hips clockwise in front of Rachel, and when I swing my hips out to the left, the left cheek gets slapped, and when I come around to the right, the right cheek gets slapped. I go around two more times but the slaps are getting harder and harder. When I stop gyrating, the slaps stop.
Then there is a hand on my crotch.
One of the women has reached up, from behind me, between my legs and is mashing my junk around in a circle.
They're out of control, what do I do?
It's escalating so quickly.
I can't take much more of this.
Time to Magic Mike this bitch.
I ignore the slaps and grabs. I lean forward and squat down so I can slide my hands down under and around Rachel's thighs. I need to reach deep enough to clasp my hands around the back of her waste. This puts my face right between her legs. Luckily, curiosity puts the other women back in spectator mode. They want to see exactly what I'm going to do here.
My hands dig across the recliner seat and squeeze their way toward each other. I can feel my fingertips touch. I squat lower. The women scream louder. I throw Rachel's feet over my shoulders.
The women lose their minds.
My fingers are almost interlocked. I can feel the drunk one getting impatient. I know it before she gets to me. She wants to cram my face into Rachel's crotch. I can feel her approaching footsteps. If she rams my face into Rachel's crotch it's over. I will lose it. The actual police will have to be called.
There is a rise in the women's shrieks. The drunk one is moving in.
My back ripples and my quads engage. Once my hands clasp together, I pull Rachel closer to me and hoist her up over my head. I am her chair, her royal throne, and she is now riding my well developed shoulders and biceps around Carrie's living room like a queen while her loyal subjects cheer for her from below. In that moment, my ears clear and we lock eyes. She is cry-laughing. It is ugly and beautiful. She is nearly crushing my head with her panicked leg squeeze and her monkey-like grip. She tensed so hard when I picked her up that she broke my handcuffs.
I can feel the other women cheering, and secretly wishing they were Rachel. I can feel the waves of envy. We ride the waves together and I start to spin her. Song three comes on, “It's raining men,” and we twist and twirl around the living room, above the crazed women below us, above the crumbs and the stains and the mind-blowingly immense civilizations of bacteria living all around us. I tell her to put her hands on my shoulders. The fear only flashes across her face for an instant and then she complies. She presses down into my shoulders and I press her hips up over my head. A Magic Mike into a Dirty Dancing. I don't question it, I don't even think about it, I just do it. It just happens. Rachel's hands are on my shoulders and my hands are on her hips and her legs extend high into the air and we are eye to eye and spinning and for a single, shining moment, we both know who we are.
We are loved and understood.
Then her foot hits the ceiling fan.
An hour later, I am told bits of what followed our glorious moment. The fan changed the momentum of our spin and Rachel's hands slipped from my shoulders. She twisted in my arms and came down, face first, into my nose. It is broken, they tell me. The way it feels, like a cantaloupe hanging from my face, I believe them.
After smashing our faces together, the spin speed sent me sprawling back across the cookie table and into the dining room's china cabinet. Rachel kept spinning as she fell, straight down, like I'd executed some secret wrestling move. I was nearly naked and oiled up and there was music blaring and there were people cheering for us, so it may have looked, to an outsider, like a devastating WWE finishing move. But neither of us won. I was knocked unconscious by a falling cabinet and Rachel's face hit the floor and her feet hit a nearby coffee table, shattering the glass top.
I remember why I stopped stripping.
Carrie brings me a brown paper grocery bag. It has a sexy cop outfit, broken plastic handcuffs, and a peaked officer cap. Some of Rachel's blood is still on the brim. Carrie didn't notice and I don't tell her. She also hands me an envelope and smiles.
It is full of cash. A lot of cash.
She says it was one of the best nights of her life.
I tell her I'm glad she enjoyed the show. I tell her it was not one of the best nights of my life.
She asks me if I'm free August 17th.
Can you recover from a broken nose in four weeks?
You bet your pretty little pistols I can.