Have you ever been to a bathhouse?
—Cruising In Towels
Dear Cruising In Towels,
One decade and too many cocktails ago, I spent the night cruising at a DC bathhouse called the Crew Club. It was a good idea at the time.
I started at The Fireplace, a gay bar infamous for strong drinks, strange odors, and segregated floors. What I lacked in money I made up in networking. I met Pierre upstairs on the black level.
“Want a drink?” He asked in a thick french accent.
“Smirnoff Ice please.”
He ordered both drinks and we started to dance. How many more drinks could I get? I swayed my hips to the best beats while rocking the shortest shorts of the season. This was a broke week for me. I freelanced between jobs, and desperate for a check.
“Let’s go to this club on the 14th street.”
“Oui, oui,” I responded.
Four drinks later, I developed a French accent. We hoped in a cab and took it seven blocks. We were too drunk to walk. I entered an environment I never knew existed–a bathhouse.
Since I was short of cash, and Pierre wouldn’t pay my way. I decided to sneak in. While Pierre was being processed I went under the folded door, like the ones at a bar, and rushed upstairs.
The Crew Club is where the guests exchanged trousers for towels. I decided to blend to blend in. I undressed in a small room the size of a jail cell, which they called lockers. I needed to blend in.
I draped my towel like a sarong. And I used another towel to place my hair in like a swirl of vanilla ice cream layered over a waffle cone. There was something clinical about white towels in a dirty place.
I tip-toed down the halls of this steamy place with a mixture of nervousness and curiosity. It was like walking around an insane asylum filled with sex zombies, lurking for their next fix.
You can hear the moans of the Walking Dead, fucking in small rooms, called “lockers.” Some were so loud that the screaming was like an aphrodisiac—an ode to the joy of random fucking.
I couldn’t find Pierre. I walked over to a coterie of creme chairs, where white men jerked off to white porn. I thought for a moment that I should integrate that environment.
I sat in the sauna, against the brown bamboo benches that aligned the walls. The mist surrounded me like a ghost. I felt both decadent and mysterious.
This place seemed haunted. The men meandered through the corridors like they were in a trance. Many were drunk, high or about to die, escaping their empty lives with shallow sex.
“Sir, you have to pay or you have to go,” He said as he approached me.
“Sorry, I was mistaken. I’m leaving.”
I rushed to my abandoned room to get dressed. Security escorted me outside and told me not to come back. I never got off, and I never found Pierre. And I was too drunk to care.
Got a question? Email your letters to [email protected]