Jul/Aug 2010  •   Fiction

Sunset over LAX

by P. William Grimm

Artwork by Costel Iarca

Artwork by Costel Iarca

Sunset over LAX. It is romantic in a Bukowski way. I am all alone in the hotel room, same as ever. I am dreading the evening. I am thankful the sunshine is over. When you fear the night and run from the day, your options tend to be quite limited. Sunset, like sunrise, is purgatory. Sunset, like sunrise, is reprieve.

The road is constant and the road never ends. This cliché is my truth. There are others walking this road, too, of airplanes and airports, of bad shaves and thin towels, of pay-per-views and sixteen dollar bacon burgers, of vapid magazines and Sky Mall catalogs, of taxis and shuttle buses, of hellos and goodbyes and of little in between the two. Our universes run helter skelter around one another, but never collide.

I never took a wife, and consequently I never raised a family. I flirted with the proposition now and again. There was a woman once with blonde hair, who I loved greatly, perhaps more than I intended to love her. It ended years ago, for reasons I choose not to recall. It is hard to believe the reasons would matter now, if I did somehow remember, so much time having passed.


The whore arrives at nine p.m., the hour when I typically schedule these sessions. She engages immediately in the type of small talk I despise. I read once many men who engage such services actually care more about the talking than the fucking. Not me. I answer her questions because I do not want to suffer the delay or discomfort addressing the issue with her would cause. I don't ask any of my own. I know this will last just a few minutes, and then the physical act will begin. I have patience. I can play the game, though I would prefer otherwise.

I am fine. She is fine. I have a name, and she has one, too. I am from somewhere, and so is she. We have each heard of the place where the other grew up. It would be odd if she hadn't heard of Miami. It would be odd if I hadn't heard of Brooklyn. I do not ask her how she made it all the way from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, and I am passively relieved she does not volunteer. After seven minutes seeming a hundred years, the talky-talky part is through, and she gets the money part out of the way, too. After that, she is all business, and I am relieved I don't feel compelled to feign charm any longer.

She starts removing my trousers, and she is quickly on her knees. I offer her an additional fifty to leave the rubber in her purse. She agrees. I am standing facing the mirror. I watch her as she works. I am hard but I feel no excitement, not really. Not in the gut, where it counts. Her hair is long and blonde. She is probably twenty-one, twenty-two. I remember that age, though it is so long ago now. I was a different person then, or rather, I am a different person now. Soon, she stands up and takes me by the hand. It is quite clear my lady friend has a pattern for her clients. We are following that pattern. She unbuttons my starched white shirt and soon I am completely naked. She strips herself, too, and so we are now both naked. She lays me on the bed and we have sex. Three positions, the regular ones. She moans and moves her head and says yes, yes, yes several times. I am staring at the ceiling. I am staring at the wall. I am staring at the head board. I tell her I am about to cum, and I do so. On her stomach.


She is gone and I am as alone as I was when she was still in the room. I am as alone as I was in the womb, more so even. I walk to the window and look out over the city. There are no stars in the sky, the frozen horizon of the airport shooting out more light than the evening can stand. I am dark.

I am at my computer and I am writing an e-mail to a high school friend. I write the e-mail several times, erasing it each time I get close to pressing the send button. None of the words I write seem real. None of the feelings I am feeling seem to come out. I erase and erase and erase. After the fifth time, I don't bother starting again. I turn off the computer and walk back to the bed and lie down. The clock says it is thirty minutes past midnight. That is a long time to go before dawn. I consider calling another hooker but I can't stand the idea of any more small talk.

There is a print of a sail boat on the wall across from the bed. I sit on the bed with my left leg crossed over my right leg. My arms are stretched out on either side of me. There is a plate next to me, the remnants of a chocolate cheesecake. The burger and fries are long gone. Two beers. The old waiter had been outwardly uncomfortable as he waited for me to sign the bill. Porn on the tube does that to some people. I dragged it out as long as I could before I handed him back the little leather pamphlet. It is the one moment of entertainment the night offers me. I sit up and look out the window. My eyes will not shut. This room is beginning to shrink.


I am at the hotel bar and I am grateful it is still open. It is just me and the bartender, a homely woman looking not unlike Flo from Alice. She pours me my whiskey and asks a question about my visit. I am not certain if she asks about my job or my family or what. I don't care. Without answering, I stand up with my drink in hand and walk to a sofa away from the bar. Flo just shakes her head and moves on to some other task, clucking like a chicken. It makes no difference to me.

I am sitting on a leather chair across from the bar. I am staring at the ice in my drink, and occasionally I mumble to myself. The lights above me are fluorescent. The lights above me make my head ache. I watch the ice slowly melt. I take another slow drink from the glass, almost empty now. In another few minutes I will order another drink. I will order another one after that.

I do not know what it is about the lights in a hotel bar. I do not know what it is about the whiteness of the glare. I do not know what it is about the tube on the left that is burnt out, and I don't know what it is about the tube in the middle, the one flickering. I do not know what it is about any of it. But, I know I have been here before. A hundred different times. In a hundred different cities. Shit.


The woman approaches me so quietly, I smelled the alcohol on her breath before I heard her at all. She is smiling at me, looking right at me, but she doesn't speak a word. I wait a moment and, not having much desire for any further awkward moments to pass, I speak. "Hello." Her smile grows broader. "You're Jewish," she declares. "Yes," I agree. "I'm Jewish, too." "Ah" is all I can respond to that.

She wears a red velvet dress, no more the color of coral than are her lips. She treads on the ground. Her hair is black wires, but blonde. Breasts of dun. A true compare.

She does not ask me my name. I do not volunteer, and I don't ask for her name. She does not ask if I am in town on business or pleasure. She does not ask me where I am from, and I do not ask her, either. We spend seven minutes talking about different types of alcohol. She likes vodka. I like whiskey. It is the kind of small talk I like. It reveals nothing of substance about either of us. I might as well be talking to my glass of whiskey, now empty but for the ice. And that is fine with me.

** * *

We are up in my room and I am lying on the bed. She performs a slow, sloppy striptease for me. The red velvet dress falls to the floor. She is in a black bra and panties. Her breasts are large but sagging. She is swaying her too-wide hips towards me. I could see cellulite on the front of her thighs. I think vaguely to myself, it is probably the same on her ass. Her ass is a fat ass. The room is dark. It could be darker. I see her eyes for a moment and I see they are kind. I avert my gaze from her eyes and make a mental note to avoid eye contact with her. There is a human behind those eyes, and I want to be alone tonight.

She is on the bed now, vulnerable on her hands and knees, smiling a come hither smile. She is crawling towards me. I touch her. Her skin is pale but warm under my grope. Suddenly, she is kissing me. It is not something a whore would do, and I am momentarily disoriented by this act of humanity. The taste is thick with cheap vodka and peanuts, an unpleasant taste. It reminds me again she is human.

I can't say the sex is any better with the red velvet dress woman than it was with the hooker. Awkward and unsatisfying, it dazes and baffles me. I don't bother to unclasp her bra, so when she is on top of me, she reaches back and does it on her own. Her tits are exposed and she looks at me expectantly. I avoid her eyes and don't say anything. She doesn't wait long for any comment. She seems as drunk as I am. She is on top of me and dry humping me. I try to play along and manage somehow to get hard. My shirt is still on and my pants are still around my knees when I enter her. She is wet and makes a sound upon first penetration. I am erect but, still, the fucking is difficult. Not physically, but emotionally. I can't explain it any better than that.


I blink my eyes and she is no longer in bed. She is putting her panties on and smiling at me. "Thanks, hon. That really hit the spot." I don't respond, not really. Just a small nod of the head and the smallest of smiles. For the first time, she asks about me. "So, what are you in town for?" I surprise myself to find I don't mind her asking. "I'm in town for a convention. A legal thing." "You're a lawyer?" "Yeah, for better or worse." That's my stock response. What am I supposed to say?

"I'm a lawyer, in a way. I deal with law, anyways." "Oh, yeah?" "Yeah." I know she wants me to ask, and I find I do not mind asking. And, so I do. "What is it you do?" "I'm a rabbi."

I respond to that with silence. She is smiling at me, in just her black bra and panties., the velvet red dress still crumpled in her hands, waiting for a follow-up question. What am I to say? "A rabbi?" "Yes, a rabbi." "What do you mean?" "I mean I'm a rabbi. My congregation is Temple Beth Orr. It's only about two miles from here." She says this with a knowing smile. My skepticism is loud on my face. "Oh," she chuckled. "Do I have a doubter?" I smile and scratch my head, looking down before I look up at her. "Yes, actually. You do." She scoffed once and put her hands on her hips, still dressed only in black bra and panties, shaking her head in mock exasperation. She opens her mouth and the most beautiful chant escapes.


Yit-gadal v'yit-kadash sh'mey raba, b'alma di v'ra hirutey, vyam-lih mal-hutey b'ha-yey-hon uv'yomey-hon uv'ha-yey d'hol beyt yisrael ba-agala u-vizman kariv, v'imru amen.

She is suddenly beautiful. Her pronunciation is perfect. Her shoulders are up and her chin is out. The shallow light drenches her body with a single layer of illumination. She is a thousand women. She is every woman I have ever known. She is every woman I have ever seen. She continues her chant and the final lines cut through me like a saber:

Oseh shalom bim-romav, hu ya-aseh shalom aleynu v'al kol yisrael, v'imru amen.


I am alone again. There is darkness. I think about all the people in my life I could call. I would wake any of them up, if I called them right now. It is a claustrophobic feeling, like how you feel sixty feet under the water. Completely engulfed and weightless.

It is dark. I turn on porn but keep the sound down. My mind wafts away to that woman I knew so many years ago. In my youth. In my beauty. On the television, a skinny guy dressed like a border guard has a Latina woman by the hair, and he is fucking her from behind. That is what everything looks like in my life these days. In my head, I hear that chant, in that beautiful voice.

Yit-gadal v'yit-kadash sh'mey raba, b'alma di v'ra hirutey, vyam-lih mal-hutey b'ha-yey-hon uv'yomey-hon uv'ha-yey d'hol beyt yisrael ba-agala u-vizman kariv, v'imru amen.


It is dark. The television flicker hurts my eyes. I switch it off. I stand up and walk to the window. The moon is high in the sky over the aiport. A Delta 737 zooms down over my head and charges onto a runway. The room is cool, if not chilly. I cross my arms over my chest. I rest my forehead on the cold pane of glass. The cold on my forehead feels so desperately nice.

I turn my back to the window. I can't look at the city anymore. The room is small again, but there is no place for me to go. It is me against this room. Mono a mono. I am in love with the darkness but fighting it still. Handicap it anyway you want, I will win this one. I am a gladiator. I am a soldier. I shut my eyes hard until I see stars and rays of lights of blue, yellow and red. Shooting stars. Popping lights.

Will tomorrow be more Poe than today was Bukowski? I sigh. There is nothing left to do but wait. The sun pokes its head up in the distance, orange and purple. Dawn arrives again. Purgatory. Reprieve. I breathe in. I hold that breathe for a long time before slowly exhaling. This moment will not last long.

Yit-gadal v'yit-kadash sh'mey raba.