Alex walked out of the Noh Space and into the chill South of Market air. She emitted that burning aura that actors radiate after they’ve just given their strongest performance — she practically gleamed. Alex said, “It’s not that I don’t want you to come, but I’m afraid that you shouldn’t come.”
“Why not?” I asked. A happy couple of theatergoers beamed at Alex, and she waved at them.
“Well,” she said thoughtfully. “It’s called the Lexington. It’s in the Mission. It’s just a dive bar, with cheap beer.”
“Great job,” someone shouted. Alex waved again and grinned.
“It may not be for you,” said Alex. “It’s kind of… A women-only bar. Lesbians. Well, I suppose you can come, but you’ll be the only straight man there.”
“I’ll be there in ten minutes,” I said. “It’ll rock.”
The Lexington, nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds later. A girl with a pierced nose and a ripped black T fingers a pool cue thoughtfully outside the bar. The woman working the bar is black and round and tough. Her hair is close cropped, and her eyes are the color of chestnuts. She weighs almost as much as I do. She slams down a glass of pineapple-orange juice on the bar. I raise it over my head to protect it from the pool cues and the swing-dancing goth chicks, and I walk over to the table of actresses.
Lee is big, as in six feet, with a smile widened by a couple of glasses of something red. She’s the artistic director of something. Ann, this side of forty, in a denim skirt with curly blonde hair, sits immediately to her left. Directly in front of me is Patrice — mixed-race, perhaps black and Asian. She fondles what looks like a piece of alabaster. Alex and Stacey are at the other end of the table, along with a few other women I don’t know.
The conversation is fast and not very coherent. The din and the threads of multiple sentences and topics all simultaneously dogpile on top of one another.
Lee raises her powerful hand into the air and screams, grinning. “It is! It is an experience you will never forget! You’re coming! I’m going next weekend, and you’re definitely coming! To go through it, and come out the other side… It is the most powerful thing that can happen to you, ever!”
Patrice shows the rock to me. “You feel that, honey? Coming off that rock, it’s like heat? That’s power, darling. It’s the healing power, tell me that you don’t feel it.”
Ann sidles up to Lee and whispers something gently in her ear.
Lee shouts, “Caving! That’s what I’m talking about, caving! We’re going next weekend… I found this wonderful place near Sacramento! It is the darkest, tiniest, most twisted and closed collection of rock anywhere! And look at me — look how big I am — Can you imagine that I could fit through a solid-rock hole only this big?” Lee shapes her hands into a basketball.
Patrice puts the rock into my hand. “That rock right there is from the pyramids at Giza. Got the healing power of the pharaohs. You can feel it. It’s given me nothing but luck. Nothing but luck. I use it to warm these hands, just before I work on Alex.”
Ann says, “Oh, Lee and I are not going out right now. I just made out with her once. I didn’t actually get my rocks off, though.” Ann laughs.
Lee screams, “I’ve only done it once — but it changed my life! I was in this tube, only this big — complete darkness and rocks pressing on my body from all sides — and then, I focused myself and shot through the hole, like a bullet! You have to overcome all the challenges of yourself — physical, emotional, mental — in order to survive!”
Patrice says, “Alex and I trade massage therapy. She’s worked on me for seven years, honey. And she’s got a good and honest energy. A powerful earth-based energy.” Alex hears her name, and looks toward the conversation. Patrice throws her hands up and hoots at Alex. “I’m talking about your energy! That’s what I’m talking about, girlfriend!”
I said, “Don’t you need some kind of training? Some kind of safety gear to go caving?”
Lee pounds on the table. “And when you pop out the other side and come back into the light — You want to fall on the ground and roll in the mud, it feels so good to be free, back into life, back into the light! You are alive! You survived the earth! And the rocks! You can survive!” She reaches for my hand and howls. “YOU MUST COME CAVING! TELL ME YOU’RE GOING CAVING!”
I walked Alex to her car. “Did they treat you kindly? How was it?” she said.
“It rocked,” I said.