The panty hose was the hardest to get on. Every inch of the way, the elastic material constricted movement, bound blood, itched the skin. Next came the Flamenco-style dress: luscious red velvet worked carefully over my outstretched arms, head, and shoulders. After that: female hands lovingly applied mascara, rouge, eyeliner, and lipstick. A mirror was finally held before me. I gazed at my reflection and ran my tongue across my lips. They tasted cherry: very, very cherry.

The occasion: my band was opening for one of the hottest all-girl bands in LA—the Screaming Sirens. From the very first time I’d seen them masterfully wailing on their instruments, while decked-out in those sexy dresses, I wanted to be just like them.

Wish granted.

During the show, every swing of my drumsticks, every vocal wail and spastic body thrash, led to more and more makeup cascading down my face. Dark streaks of mascara and sweat soaked the now ripped dress.

Between songs, a skinhead standing at the front of the stage howled: “It takes a real man to crossdress!” He bought me six shots of tequila. By the end of the set, I’d downed them all.

Once done playing, I teetered to the bar. Spotted two young women hanging out by a pinball machine. One was a bottled blonde decked out in a long, fur-trimmed coat, while the other, a brunette, wore a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. They were with some guy in a gaudy Hawaiian shirt, and an equally tacky moustache.

Every so often, the girls would glance over at me and smile.

Me, feeling like a Rock God—albeit a drunken Rock God in a dress—would smile back.

When the guy took off to the bathroom, I approached the girls. “What’re you doing with him?”
“What?” they said. “He’s not bad.”

“Yeah. Not bad for a guy that looks like Tom Sellick’s uglier brother.”

That one made them smile.

“I’m Marlene,” said the one in the Catholic schoolgirl dress. “And this here’s Debbie,” she said, motioning to her friend.

“Well Debbie and Marlene,” I said. “I think you should be with me instead.”

“What?” said Marlene. “A guy in a dress?”

“Not just a guy in a dress,” I slurred, now feeling the full affects of the alcohol I’d consumed. “But a musician in a dress.”

That one did the trick. Before the guy had even exited the bathroom we were gone.

We ended up in Marlene’s apartment. “Shh,” she slurred, now pretty wasted herself. “We have to be quiet. If my roommate finds out I have people here he’ll kill me.”

We crept into her room. Debbie promptly took off her clothes. Marlene followed suit. So did I. What amazing luck, I thought. Here I was, ready to engage in my first ménage-a-trois. Wait till Penthouse Forum hears about this one. We collapsed onto the bed in a drunken heap.

Debbie passed out first. Marlene was next. Then me. No sex.

The next thing I knew Marlene was shaking me awake. “You gotta leave. My roommate knows I had people over. He’s pissed.”

I eyed the clock. It was six in the morning. Still drunk, and head throbbing, I stumbled out of bed. Glanced through the partially open door. Spotted her roommate eating breakfast. The guy was a brute. He’d be that brute times ten if he saw me in a dress walking out of his apartment.

I spied a tree just outside Marlene’s bedroom window. “Here,” I said, handing her my dress. “Meet me downstairs.”

“What’re you gonna do?” she said.

“Jump.”

“You can’t do that. You’ll kill yourself.”

“Listen,” I said. “What’s gonna make the better story come Monday? You telling your friends that you picked up a guy in a dress and that he left out your front door? Or that he jumped out your window?”

Marlene considered that one, then said: “I see your point.”

“Good,” I said. “Now meet me downstairs.”

I threw open the window, and stood out on the ledge. Worst-case scenario: if I dove for the tree and missed, I’d break my neck. Short of that, maybe fracture an arm or bust a rib. It was worth the risk. I made a quick sign of the cross then sprang from the ledge in a spastic flight of flailing arms and legs.

The tree grew closer. So what if I didn’t get laid, I thought. Now all I wanted to do was survive. The tree grew closer. I could hear the hum of cars out on the freeway, and the murmur of people who’d gotten lucky the night before, now shifting in their beds. The tree grew closer. With any luck, I hoped, I’d reach that tree before noon.

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RICH FERGUSON has performed nationally, and has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka, T.C. Boyle, Jerry Stahl, Bob Holman, Loudon Wainwright, Ozomatli, and many other esteemed poets and musicians. He has performed on The Tonight Show, at the Redcat Theater in Disney Hall, the New York City International Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, South by Southwest, the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, Stephen Elliott’s Rumpus, and with UK-based poetry collective One Taste. He is also a featured performer in the film, What About Me? (the sequel to the double Grammy-nominated film 1 Giant Leap), featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, Krishna Das, and others. He has been published in the LA TIMES, Opium Magazine, has been widely anthologized, spotlighted on PBS (Egg: The Art Show), and was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, LA. His spoken word/music videos have been featured at poetry film festivals throughout the world. Ferguson is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and a poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. His poetry collection 8th & Agony has been published by L.A.’s Punk Hostage Press.

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