Clutter's was a small nightclub at the corner of Fifth Street and Yasher and its general drawing power was the fact that well-off college kids could go there and drink and smoke and grind and whatever, in the anonymity of shadows and cigarette smoke--and, of course, the well drinks were sold for a buck. Definitely good for the college students' binging budgets.
Even though Quintana stood six-and-a-half feet tall and tipped the scales at 265 pounds, no respect was forthcoming from the kids. For sure, most of them were spoiled brats whose parents sent them a Franklin or two every week, but Quintana still couldn't quite wrap his mind around the fact that they viewed him with such obvious derision. Gaudy in their silk shirts and Gucci shoes and hip-hugging miniskirts and belly-baring midriffs, the kids saw him as Authority--which he was, as he was the doorman/bouncer--they saw him almost as a police officer, and so they all but thumbed their noses at him as they paid their $20 to get into the venue.
"Here," spat a face-painted coed, as she jammed a twenty into his palm, her hip-hugging jeans revealing a rose tattoo just below her navel. "I suppose you want to see my ID, too?"
"Just doin what I gotta do," mumbled Jose as he eyed the proffered card, not surprised to see that Marissa Keyes, 22, called Penobscot Avenue home. Kept isolated from the road by wide expansive green lawns, the houses on Penobscot Avenue sold for about $1.5 million and were the dwellings of lawyers and doctors, entrepreneurs and CEOs.
Lisping excitedly to her friend and all but ignoring the bouncer, Ms. Keyes pushed past Quintana and sashayed into the club, her posterior twitching with feistiness.
Mama mia, thought Jose. No sag in that firecracker. Of course, Quintana, 30 and undereducated, knew that any interaction with girls like Marissa Keyes, save for looking at IDs and collecting money, was never going to happen, was a pipe-dream, was about as likely as an Untouchable from 18th Century India unrinating in the Taj Mahal. Popular fiction may call America the land of opportunity, but he knew that for the plastic axiom that it was: Bright and polished but egg-shell fragile to the touch.
Quintana sighed heavily and turned to the next patron, a florid-faced portly fellow with bright green hair and an X-rated cartoon screen-printed on his T-shirt, the words "Blurry" and "Meat" bracketing the obscenity. Ribald though it was, the shirt had a sort of symmetrical grace to it and Quintana was duly impressed with the artist's renderings. Scores of inebriated collegians were waiting and vulgar laughter was reverberating off the brick walls and Jose Quintana fetched another sigh, knowing with certainty that it was going to be another long night, filled with drunken fights and unbreathable air and ear-shattering Shit Rock, as he had come to call it. "Talented" was about as far from Blurry Meat as the Earth was from the Sun.
Under the still of the sparkled night, at 3:16 AM, Jose Quintana drove his '98 Ford pickup truck home, paying no heed to the posted speed limits, nor giving a damn about the shadowy intentions of spider-hole police officers. Verily, he almost wished to be pulled over; in the mood for a throw-down, he would take on all comers, whether they be strapped or not.
Women, he thought. Xyloidic in their responses to his repeated, often clumsy, overtures, Jose had become more and more frustrated as the night had worn on and, eventually, had turned too readily to the booze, created a scene and, amid the tattered demonic chords of Blurry Meat, had summarily been given his walking papers, canned after almost a decade of steady bouncing.
Years would pass before Jose Quintana would admit to himself, and to another human being, that that night at Cutter's was the beginning of his slide into alcoholism and crack cocaine and pornography and Republicanism.
Zeus had looked down, had shrugged the axis of the Earth, and Jose had fallen, flailing, to the red-hot fire hole of Despair.