It’s like an electronic world of “Invisible Cities.” Do you know the work by Italo Calvino? In one room you’ll find decadence. In the next you’ll find…squalor. Yeah, that’s a fitting word from this perspective. Okay, let me stop. I need to go back to the beginning and preface this.
I always lie.
There. Now that paradox is established, and you cannot say I did not disclaim any truth in this; let me begin again.
I was walking down dark streets. That is not a metaphor. I was literally walking down what was basically an alley in a large U.S. city. It was night. I was looking for my own little type of oblivion. Have you ever heard that? The things that make all things good, those are the things that take you to oblivion; that is oblivion. Anyway, a friend had told me that an old industrial space had been converted into something like a sex parlor. I thought it was a little questionable. But this guy usually got most things right. So, I went to check it out.
Okay, let me stop again. I know you might be thinking that sex was my oblivion. That’s not it though. You see, the story of it—the investigation of this place was the oblivion. And now that’s where I’m living, in oblivion.
So, I rattle the roll-up metal door. Some guttural voice comes through. I tell them the name of my friend. The metal rolls up. The guy points to this counter where another guy is standing. The counter was literally a kitchen counter that had been ripped out and propped up here in the middle of a vacant warehouse. It was alarming, but I walked over. He asks if I want a drink. I tell him no, that I don’t drink. I ask where the girls are. He laughs and says all around the world. Just like that. Then with his smile wide, he points to all these little cubicles on the other side of the room.
He explains that there are webcam girls in each one. Not the living girl, just a feed mind you. Webcam girls from around the world he says. He explains that I can walk around the around and take a look. When I find the one, let him know, and he’ll introduce me.
So, I walk. The first few rows were amazing. The girls were lying on lush comforters. They were obviously wearing make-up. These were the stars that you find in Hollywood class porn. They were sipping drinks through straws and smiling. But things changed the deeper into the cubicles I went. The upholstery was worn or absent. The eyes were turned away or vacant. The walls around them were bare and there was no refreshing beverage. It was unsettling.
I went back to the counter. I want to chat with #65. He stared at me. The filmy glasses sat on the counter. Sure, he finally replied. He asked me why I was here. He said that I didn’t look like the usual sort of patron. I admitted that I’d never been with webcam girls. I usually just went over to a lady I knew in the Montbello district. Finally we were standing in the cubicle.
It occurred to me that the girl might not speak English, so I asked. He assured me that this one did. Then he flipped on the booth cam and mic and held the earphones to his head. She tensed for a moment. I could see it in her neck. The tendons pulled out then gradually sank. She was definitely the one. He explained that she was going to entertain me. She smiled and waved to me. Then he stepped out pulling the door closed behind him.