Pink Gin for the Blues


by Edward Crosby Wells


AT RISE – TRICK, a mature drag queen, speaks to an invisible bartender while sipping a pink gin.

TRICK: I don’t know. Crime has become institutionalized, hasn’t it? From the bottom to the top—everybody is doing it. Now, it’s mostly white-collar, isn’t it? That’s a kind of drag, don’tcha think? White collar, silk tie and pin stripes or tweeds—it’s all drag, sweetie. It’s the CEOs and the politicians getting caught in the act now, isn’t it? Of course, they’ve always been doing it, but most folks are pretty slow to catch on. We’re either raping or looting or we’re being raped and looted. We’re either politicians or we’re political prisoners. It all has nothing to do with anything, doesn’t it? Some days I just get wrapped up in the world—this sorry, sorry world. I’m sorry. Drag queens shouldn’t be taken seriously, should they? You're looking particularly well this evening.

Gin with a touch of bitters. It’s called a pink gin. You don’t get much call for it, I suppose. Oh, the first? Well, there you go. Maybe you won’t soon forget me, huh? The drag queen who drinks pink gins.

What? I don’t remember. Perhaps, it was something by Noel Coward. They were all sitting around in lavishly appointed digs, posed in gowns and in tuxedos, in glorious black and white. There would always be one—and that one would be me—casually anchored to the fireplace, taking turns between sipping smoke through a long cigarette holder and inhaling gin and bitters, in a satin gown with a plunging neckline. Be still my heart! How posh is that? Tastes like pond scum! Well, at first, I mean. Then, one gets used to it and, before you know it, you like it. Like so many things, we just get used to them. You know, like friends and lovers we learn to hate.

Is there a show tonight? Or, am I it? Just you. Just me. And I wore my Shelly Winters. Ah, yes. All my wigs have a name. This is late Shelly Winters—post-Poseidon. It’s all post-something nowadays, isn’t it? What comes after post-modern? Well, whatever it is, I’m sure I’m already there. Fashion is always fashionable, isn’t it? You ought to see me in my Ava Gardner. Now that is the most beautiful woman there ever was! Well, I guess it’s early yet.

I hate to walk into a room already filled with people. I like to greet the guests as they enter. It elevates my level of comfort. I like to grow into the evening—to feel more a part of it, more at one with the crowd. And, oh, my dear, I hate to leave early. I hate to feel compelled to do the rounds—to say my good byes and think of something clever, some final parting gem that will endure and endear me in their memory. One must think of something clever. When you’re dressed in feathers and beads, one must always think of something clever. When it is time to break the balloons and to go home I like to sit and smile at each and everyone as they stop by to wish me well before departing. That’s the proper way to treat a lady, isn’t it? It really doesn’t matter if it’s sincere or not. It’s the illusion of sincerity that carries the day. Still, sometimes it would be nice to be invisible and, other times, just not to care.

You seem like a bright young man. Have you grand plans for your life? Why not? You certainly strike me as someone who could go the distance—someone capable of doing whatever he damn well pleased. You have that air about you, that undeniable charm. You appear . . . intelligent. Oh yes, indeed you do.

Some people have minds like steel traps. You know the kind. You say one thing, anything, and they bite you on the butt by responding to the subtext, real or imagined. That’s when you pray for divine intervention to inspire you with the amazing grace to say something totally appropriate and sage-like. The nasty thing about steel traps is that they damage the thing they are designed to catch. I much prefer the mind that is more a cardboard box, a stick, and a length of yarn.

Somebody once said to me that there was nothing quite so sad as a woman in her cups, but I don’t know. Except for the obvious, I don’t know the difference between a woman and a man, do you? Do you know who is beneath all the grooming and the clothes—behind the eyes? We're equally sad in our cups—a woman and a man—out of control, out of our minds. I think there are far sadder things. Like the soul of the man behind the drag . . . helplessly watching while, sheepishly, controlling the performance. Being able to sadly observe and to sadly control, simultaneously. Now, that’s the trick, isn’t it? And, that’s my name. Trick. Just Trick. And, I’ve still a few up my sleeve.

You have beautiful eyes. I’m forever trying to believe that there is some element of God in there . . . inside . . . behind the eyes . . . in you . . . in me. Oh, God! Bless my soul, the things we do for love. Now, how sad is that?

I had a live-in houseboy. I was his John. I kept him in booze and cigarettes between odd jobs. He was mostly between jobs and they all seemed odd to me. He said he had to find himself . . . said I was smothering him and he had to get away. "All right, go," I said. An hour later he came back and ran into the bathroom. "That was quick," I said. And, he said he had just come back to take a leak and then he left again. Sort of gives new meaning to the word "John," don't it?

We never really learn, do we? They walk into our lives, glorious and new, bright as pennies and we take them into our hearts along with their terrible, all-consuming, self-absorbed pain . . . exquisite pain . . . like no one’s ever felt pain before. His pain could be felt from the next room. And his pain could be seen in his smile. His was a most fatal kind of pain. A gorgeous, unquenchable pain that glowed like coals behind his eyes—a pain so attractive that it can turn the best of us into moths. We throw ourselves into their beautiful fire and we burn.

It’s a different world now, isn’t it? Nowadays, you’d do better to keep your thoughts to yourself. Hide your soul—your spirit. Nobody cares. No. I take that back. They do care—they care when they hear thoughts that run counter to their own. They care when they don’t like what they see. They care and they care enough to make you want to run and to hide behind every available mask. So, here I am—behind mascara.

It’s called a pink gin. We used to drink them together through the night and into the wee hours—my houseboy and me. He didn’t want to be touched, yet, he’d make you think you were the only one. You’d want to believe him because not to believe him would force you to face the fool you’ve become. Ah, well. Pink gin, don’t it sound grand?

Are you sure there’s a show tonight? You’d think there’d be more here by now. Isn’t life just plain weird sometimes? I’m sure you meet them all. I don’t know how you do it. It takes a very special kind of talent to be a bartender. And, you certainly seem to have a very special talent.

This is where we met, you know—my houseboy and me. Right here, right here in this bar, about a year ago. One glance and that’s when I fell into his eyes and the liquid that gave them their sparkle. Then, something happened. Something always happens. Something happens to your sense of self when you discover that it is the drunk you love and not the drinker. Something happens when you discover that it wasn’t the man in you he loved, but rather the woman with a penis—the enabler in lust. That’s a tough one.

I had the strangest experience this morning. I had just finished with my douche. Just kidding. I was letting the tap water run hot so I could make myself a cup of instant coffee. Suddenly, everything stopped. I stood there, frozen. I disappeared. I was completely gone from my body. I was out of my mind, literally. My only sensation was that of my body’s recognition that nobody, so to speak, was home. You could have asked me my name and I would have had no idea what you were talking about. Slowly, I began to re-enter my self, but something had changed . . . like a wheel had turned for the first time . . . and something was gone . . . had left an empty space in my mind . . . and I knew I would never remember it again. Oh, well. Maybe, there's room in there for something else now . . . something new . . . something better.

Now, what I remember is that I never really got what I was looking for in the arms of another: Someone to touch me down there—to touch my heart, my soul—and to kiss me on the lips.

The world is a sad place, isn’t it?

Please come home with me. Nothing is the same without you. (Pause.) I'm sorry. I don't know what I'm saying. Is there a show tonight? I’m here for the show. You know, for the laughs. Please, I’d love another. If I could have another, I’d surely love another. And, while you’re at it, why don’t you have one on me?



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