Harvey Wallbanger and a Slippery Nipple by Nicholas Yandell

I hate myself for showing up to work. What a waste. I’ve danced four sets for worse than no one, just those who return my failing attempts at sensuality with a dehumanizing stare. I’m continually reminding myself that it’s not my fault that I’m not making money. Not helping though. Neither are all the drinks I’ve had. Now it’s the bottom of the barrel, the club is empty, and I’ve still got another hour to go.
I don’t even give a shit what I put on at this point. Some gray briefs will do. Don’t bother with the jewelry. A red baseball cap so I don’t have to fix my hair. Who the fuck am I trying to appeal to anyway?
Slamming my locker shut, I can’t even remotely get into a good headspace. As I’m leaving our prep area, I’m passing the bar, and a guy I’ve never seen before walks through the door. Holding a nearly-finished drink, with just a few ice cubes and a little stir straw, he sits down at a table near the door. Silver-haired, dressed formally in a suit and tie, he’s definitely the type one would call a “gentleman.” I’m immediately thinking: I’m not gonna be his type and I don’t have it in me to get rejected again. I should just go sit in the locker space, lay low, and wait out the night. Fuck it though. I got one more try left, then I’ll throw in the towel.
Adjusting my cap, squeezing out that last bit of remaining willpower, I swagger up to the gentleman’s table. As I put my arm around him, I say:
“Welcome to your own private den of sin! Anything I can do to make your stay more pleasing?”
“Oh. Um. No. I’m quite okay. But thanks for offering, mate.”
Mate? I like that. And he’s got a strong thick accent. I’m immediately thinking: Okay, now there’s potential here. I continue with:
“Anytime! So, I take it you’re visiting. Where are you from?”
“Yeah, that’s right. Last day of my trip. I’m here from Sydney, Australia.”
“Nice. I figured you were from somewhere down under. Thrilled you stopped in to see us! What’s your name anyway?”
“I’m Lachlan.”
“Lachlan? Never heard that name in my life. It’s pretty cool.”
“Well, thank you, and what’s your name, mate?”
“I’m Holden.”
“Holden? Ah, yes. Like Holden Caulfield.”
“Very good! Yeah, I’m basically him, only now he’s a faggot, who’s all grown up, and stripping for a living. Yep, that pretty much sums me up.”
He looks a little shocked by what I’ve said and I realize that not everyone’s so accustomed to my casual use of that word.
“Sorry, if my language is a little harsh. I didn’t mean to offend a kind sir like you.”
He immediately smiles, then laughs, before saying:
“Well Holden, I think you’re actually a lot nicer than you want people to think you are.”
“Uh… thanks. I guess. That’s a very strange compliment, but I’ll take it.”
“Is it a compliment, or just an observance?”
”I don’t know, Lachlan. Good question. Hmm. Well, how about this one: I think I like you a whole lot more than I expected I would.”
“I’d say that’s a compliment, but it might not be much of one. Your expectations of me might’ve been really low. Maybe you assumed I was just a lecherous old man looking to take advantage of a young chap like you.”
“Oh, I’m not worried about that. No one takes advantage of me anymore. I’ve been burned too many times. Now I’m just a cynical fuck, who’s always on his guard.”
“I have no doubt you can take care of yourself, and you clearly know how to hold your own against a tipsy old traveler like me, but I doubt you’re as cynical as you say you are. I bet you’re actually a romantic at heart; you just don’t know it yet.”
“Yeah, okay. You’re really grasping at straws with that statement.”
“That’s quite true. I really am.”
I look down and his finger is holding the stirring straw in his empty glass. I shake my head, chuckle, and say:
“Okay. Yeah. Real clever. Bravo, good sir.”
“Glad I could make you laugh! Also, looks like I’m in dire need of another drink. Can I interest you in something, Holden?”
“You know what Lachlan? Sure. Why not?”
Following him to the bar, he says to Anthony, the bartender:
“You know how to make a Harvey Wallbanger, mate?”
I’ve never heard of the drink, and apparently neither has Anthony, but Lachlan quickly tells him how to make it and then adds: “And whatever this chap would like as well.”       
“I’ll take a Slippery Nipple,” I say, looking directly at Lachlan. He’s amused and responds with:
“That’s quite the name. Where did you first encounter a drink like that?”       
“Oh, there was this guy I used to date, a bartender, and he used to give me this shot. I still enjoy people’s reactions when I order it.”    
“Do you think of him when you drink it?”
“I mean, maybe. A little.”
“Nothing like a little alcohol to bring out the sweet reminiscence of a former flame, right? Sounds wistfully romantic for such a cynic as yourself.”       
“Please. I wouldn’t call him a flame, whatever that means. We just fucked few dozen times over a couple months. There was no romance there. That’s never been something I’ve had any interest in, at all.”     
“And yet, when you have this drink, he comes to mind. He must have had some impact on you. Do you miss him?”       
“I mean, I guess. It didn’t end badly between us or anything. Breaking up was just the practical thing to do. He moved across the ocean; there was no point in keeping a long-distance thing going. Enough about me though. Tell me about your weird-ass drink?”
“Well, I didn’t used to care for this drink at all, but I’ve had enough of them on this trip that it’s starting to grow on me.”
“Okay, so now I’m curious. Why would you drink a whole lot of drinks that you never liked in the first place?”
“It’s my husband’s favorite drink.”    
“Yeah, okay, well, still doesn’t make sense. If it’s not your thing, just let him drink it! It’s not like you need to have the same tastes as your husband. Couples are so fucking weird.”
“I won’t argue with you there. I just like to drink it because it makes me think of him.”      
“So… What? Is he at home or something and you’re homesick?”       
“Not exactly, mate. He passed away two months ago.“       
“Ah, okay… Listen: I could tell you I’m sorry, and feel really bad about him passing, and make this awkward, but I’m not going to do that, because I don’t think that’s what you want.”
“Hmm. A bold choice. You’re definitely perceptive, Holden. I think you’re also quite good at your job.”       
“Yeah, well, a lot of people get really shy around us dancers, so we have to figure out what they want whether they’ll tell us or not. Let me say this though, Lachlan: I admire you for not just lying around at home, mourning, and getting all caught up in that sentimental bullshit. You’re out living your life and seeing the world!”  
“Well, I won’t lie to you. This whole trip wasn’t my idea. It was my husband, Aiden’s. He always loved the American West Coast, ever since he lived here as a young surfer lad. We’d planned this trip for a couple of years, but never got to go together of course. It was actually supposed to be our honeymoon. How’s that for being sentimental?”
“Wow. How long were you two married?”
“Only 1 year, 2 months, and 16 days. We were together for 51 years though. Got married on the 50th anniversary of the day we met. I bet you’re really judging me now, aren’t you, Mister Cynic?”
“Only a little bit. But honestly, I’m also confused. For guys like you two, why’d you wait so long to get married?”       
“Well, it was only legal less than a decade ago, and by that time, we debated whether it even mattered for us at that point. In the end, when he got sick, it became important to us for many reasons.”
“I get it. I think at that point it goes way beyond anything sentimental and I’m glad you got to have that.”
“Doesn’t appeal to you though, does it, mate? The idea of spending your life with another person in a ‘romantic’ way?”    
“Well Lachlan, since you’re such an expert on the subject, tell me, what does it even mean to be in a romantic relationship? What makes it different than any other relationship?”
“To me, it’s less about what romance is and really more about what it does to its participants. Through the intimate ways in which you know another person and they know you. How you open up to each other, with such vulnerability, that your time spent together seems to alter both of your chemical existences. What do you think of that?”       
“It can’t be easy to open up like that.”
“No, it isn’t, but once you’ve been there with someone, it becomes a necessity and after such an experience, it’s awfully hard to even remember what your former life was like.”
“Honestly, that’s never happened to me and I don’t think it ever will. I wouldn’t even know how to start being that vulnerable.”
“You do exactly what you’re doing right now. Even just admitting that lack of experience is opening up, revealing yourself, and being more vulnerable.”
“What if this is all fake though and I’m just lying to you? Then I’m not really opening up, am I?”
“But you’re not lying to me, Holden, are you?”
“I don’t even know what’s true anymore, Lachlan. I feel like I’ve lived so many different lies over the years. Here, as a dancer, and in life in general. I lie about my age, I tell people I’m 27, but I’m actually 36. Even the name I told you, Holden, that’s not my real name, that’s just who I dance as.”    
“I think you’re a whole lot better at this vulnerability thing than you think. Just look at how much you divulge when you let your guard down for a moment.”
“Okay, good sir. You were sly and got that out of me, but slow down. This has got to go both ways. What about you? It’s two months after losing your husband of fifty-some years, and here you are, on a different continent, on the last day of your trip, drinking with some stripper in a club at 1:30 AM. What’re you even doing here? You can’t tell me you’re not running away from something.”
He doesn’t respond, and after a minute or so, I lick the last drops out of my shot glass and add:
“I’m sorry if I went too far with that.”
“No, Holden. You’re right. I am running away. It’s hard facing every day with the same longing to wake up next to him, and maybe that’s why I left. I hoped that I could fool myself into thinking, for a time, that I was just away, and I’d eventually be home and he’d be waiting for me there. Now it’s just so painful imagining anything after this trip, a trip that meant so much to him. That’s why I’m here in this club. Being adventuresome, doing what he would have done and going where he would have gone. Still offering him my love as best as I know how. Til death do us part and as long as I can stretch it beyond. But when I get to the tips of all these loose ends, I don’t know what I’ll hold onto, and that’s what scares me the most.”
I have no idea what I can possibly say after this. This night has become way too much for me to handle and I’m not comfortable with any of it. Just as I’m making plans to get hell out of this conversation, he smiles and says:
“Another slippery nipple for you, mate?” He then laughs, and adds: “That is a fun name to say. SliP-Purry NiP-Pull! Might have to try one of those. Please, join me for one more drink?”
Fuck it. I smile back at him and say: “It would be my pleasure, good sir. Only this time, I gotta try one of those Harvey Wallbangers!”
“Anthony, another Harvey Wallbanger and a Slippery Nipple, only this time we’re switching places.”
“Switching places? You know, I can’t even imagine what that would be like!”
“The young cynic switching with the old sentimental sap. A whole new spin on the Prince and the Pauper, right?”
I laugh, but I’m not feeling that great all of a sudden. Lachlan immediately notices and says:
“What’s wrong, mate?”
“I’m gonna be honest with you, Lachlan. Sometimes it does bother me that I can’t even begin to picture myself having something like what you and Aiden had. I didn’t choose to be like this. It’s sad to think that maybe I could have actually had “emotional availability” or whatever guys I’ve dated have always said I’m lacking. I just didn’t grow up with anyone who cared about me. Everyone let me down and left me behind. And when I was all alone as a little kid, I knew I just had myself to rely on and that was it and I don’t think I’ve ever been able to see beyond that. Pretty fucking sad, right?!”
He puts his hand on my shoulder and I immediately feel embarrassed, switch up my thoughts, and nervously chuckle as I say:
“Dammit. I’m sorry. I’m just really feeling all the drinks I’ve had. I’m sure you wanted an escape tonight, not to listen to some stripper babble on about his difficult childhood.”
“No, you’re wrong, Holden. Nothing could make me happier than to hear you open up like that. Makes me feel like there’s a reason to still be alive.”
Before I can reply to what he’s saying, they’re calling “Holden” on the speaker. For a moment, I had forgotten where I was and even what I did for a living. I say to him:
“Dammit. Hold my drink, will you please? I gotta go move my body for 10 minutes.”
Right before I head to the stage, I get a sudden idea and stop by the DJ real quick. Right as I get on stage, the song starts: All the Lovers by Kylie Minogue. Moving my body and mouthing the words, I direct them right at Lachlan. He shakes his head, laughs, and walks over to the edge of the dance floor saying:
“I know this one! Aiden was a big fan.”
“I kinda hoped you would. She was honestly the only Australian singer I could think of in the moment, but I’m happy it worked out.”
“It’s perfect, mate. You know how to really make my night.”
As he’s watching my performance, I get another idea. Walking off the stage, grabbing his hand, I say: “Here, dance with me, good sir.”
Without a word, he takes my hand, spins me around, and even dips me. Not my style of dancing, but damn, he’s a good partner.
For the rest of my set, we chat, I do my thing, and he playfully slips me some bills so, as he says, he can have the “full Holden experience.” When the bartender calls me off stage, and we head back to the table with our drinks, I pick up my Harvey Wallbanger, and as I’m sipping it, he suddenly stares at me and says:
“Maybe it’s just this lighting, but seeing you there, dressed how you are, holding that drink, you look just like Aiden when I first met him at that beach bar. Even your rougher speech immediately brought him to mind, but I’m probably just seeing him everywhere right now. Sorry, Holden. We both know I’m just an old, sentimental fool.”
“I mean you’re definitely sentimental as fuck, but you’re no fool, Lachlan. By the way, my real name’s Chance. Not that you asked, but tonight, since I’ve already been spilling my guts way more than I ever planned, why not? Hmm. And if you don’t mind me asking, what did Aiden used to call you?”
“Oh, well he always called me Lanny.”
“Great. You willing to try something with me, real quick?”
He shrugs, then nods, and I add: “Let me try being him for a moment. How does that sound, Lanny?”
“Anything for you, Aiden.” He starts tearing up immediately as he says the name.
“Lanny, you don’t have to worry about honoring me anymore. You made me happy for more than five decades, you offered me so much love, more than most people can even imagine in multiple lifetimes, and I know you’ll never forget about me. But what I do need from you, is to take all that love, which right now seems to have no place to go, and keep sharing it with others for the rest of your days. Maybe there’s some damn lucky bloke out there, who’ll be fortunate enough to be a new chapter in your life, and if he’ll make you happy, don’t you hesitate. But if not, you do what you’re clearly so good at doing and take that kind of love and share it with others, especially those who may never have otherwise believed it could exist. Hell, maybe even find a cynical fuck, who works at a strip club, but now can’t stop tearing up even as he’s saying all this; wishing so bad that he could be like Aiden and have someone like you in his life.”
He takes my hand and I immediately bury my face into his shoulder and I’m actually crying. Me? Fucking losing it, right here. He seems surprised, but just holds me for a second. Then says:
“Chance. What an appropriate name for someone like you at the place you are in your life. Such a reminder that you have everything you need to find that love, if you’ll just give it a chance. But something’s been lit in you tonight and I don’t believe it’s ever gonna die away. It might take some time for you to adjust, and no one ever gets really great at being vulnerable, but it definitely gets easier.”
“I’ll take your word on that. I know you wouldn’t lie to me.”
At that moment, Anthony announces last call, and Lachlan says:
“I guess that means we should be on our ways. Hope you’ve got something warm to change into.”
“Thanks to that last drink, and meeting you, I’m feeling pretty warm inside right now. Confused as fuck, but warm all the same.”
“Good on you, mate. I knew you had a warm soul, it just needed to be thawed out a bit.”
With that, he reaches into his pocket and hands me his card. Then adds:
“I don’t know when or if I’ll ever be back this way, but you can always reach out to me anytime you’d like. And if you ever decide to visit down under, there’s always a roof over your head.”
He extends his hand out to shake mine, but I pull him in for a long hug instead. When we release, we just smile at each other and I say:
“Alright, alright. Don’t make me cry again, asshole. Seriously, you get home safe, and for fuck’s sake, find someone to give all that love to. Bye Lanny.”
He pauses for a second and looks a little wistful, so I add:
“It’s okay, you can call me Aiden one more time if you want. I’ll never have a problem hearing the epic amount of love you put into those two little syllables as they roll off your tongue.”
“No. It’s okay. I don’t need to say his name to direct that kind of love and I don’t need two syllables to do it. So let’s you and I end this night with some beginnings. Me with the start of something new to live for, and you with the first of many times you’ll hear such an immense love packed into that one syllable that represents who you are. You ready for it, mate?”
“I am, good sir.”
“Great. Well then, you take care, Chance.”

Nicholas Yandell is a composer, who sometimes creates with words instead of sound. In those cases, he usually ends up with fiction and occasionally poetry. He also paints and draws, and often all these activities become combined, because they’re really not all that different from each other, and it’s all just art right?
When not working on creative projects, Nick works as a bookseller at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon, where he enjoys being surrounded by a wealth of knowledge, as well as working and interacting with creatively stimulating people. He has a website where he displays his creations; it’s nicholasyandell.com. Check it out!

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