Peep Show

1983, IT’S 2AM IN SAN FRANCISCO’S NORTH BEACH.  I’m waiting for Jasmine to get off work. She dances at a peep show. You shove coins in a slot, a door lifts, and on the other side of splooge-smeared glass there’s naked women. Some are dancing. Others look like they’re just waiting for a fix.

With its worn-out carpet, tacky old school red velvet wallpaper, and sticky-floored private booths, the place is a bit of a dump. Tucked in on a side street off the main drag it’s not the best joint to work at. Dancers here don’t make the big bucks the high-end strip clubs on Broadway offer. Yet, with tips and an hourly wage it’s still more of a moneymaker then waiting tables or tending bar. And what Jasmine pulls in every night goes straight to scoring our drugs for the next day. Typical junkies’ vicious cycle, shooting dope just to keep going to make more money to get more dope.

Jasmine’s my girlfriend. We’re pretty serious. We’ve been together for over three years. In another couple of months we’ll get married and think of having some junkie kids. Only right now feeding two arms is more responsibility than either of us can deal with.

Of course Jasmine isn’t her real name. It’s Darleen. But she hates Darleen. Besides, all the dancers use stage names. They have to in order to protect their privacy. Strangely, and unlike typical strip clubs, peep shows foster an implicit yet awkward intimacy between dancers and clientele. Maybe it’s that there’s only a sheet of glass that separates them? Or perhaps it’s an illusion provided by the private booths and the fact that dancers can see them jacking off? But whatever the reason there’s always the creepy regulars out front at closing time, hovering around in raincoats (generally worn to cover latex bondage wear). Usually they’re nervously fidgeting in the shadows by the entrance waiting to accost their favorite dancer. Hoping this time if they grovel enough she’ll take them home, let them lick her toes, maybe she’ll even piss on them.

And tonight being no exception, a particularly greasy looking fat guy dressed in black lederhosen, combat boots, and a cape leers in my direction. His sleaze vibe is way over the top and I don’t want to deal with him. I mean you have to figure he probably doesn’t really care who pisses on him, as long as he does get pissed on, and in his little fantasy world it could just as easily be me. However, the reality is the dancers really do rely on guys like him to feed the quarters for a few minutes of timed voyeurism. And for a dude like greasy fat guy it’s a merciful postponement of a sad isolated life. A sixty second reprieve before the peep hole slams shut on the certainty of his being alone again in a dark private booth with nowhere else to go.

Even though it was Jasmine’s decision to work here, she finds the customers and their strange masturbatory fetishes weird. And because of that and their constant nocturnal stalking she insists I always meet her after work. Luckily I’m right down the street at the local punk club working stage and bouncing drunks out the back door. So it’s no problem to be here when she needs me.

I give greasy fat guy a mad dog glare then lean against the building, light a cigarette, and check out the disco wankers milling about next door at the Palladium dance club. Gaggles of hot chicks decked out in high heels and shiny spandex maneuver their way through gauntlets of slick cats in three-piece suits and platform shoes. Definitely a different uniform then my black leather jacket, Levis, motorcycle boots, and torn cut-off t-shirt.

Taking another drag on my cigarette I stare at them all with a look of contempt. But then I see this girl in seven-inch come-fuck-me pumps, a glittery halter-top and matching mini that barely covers her ass. I keep peeping her and she’s stealing quick glances back. Then she just walks right over to me.

“Hey,” I say.

“Hey,” she says.

“Wha-da-ya doin’?” I ask.

“Looking for an after party. Know of one?”

Then I say something cheesy like there’s an after party in my pants and as far as pick up lines go that one sucks bad. But I’m not dealing with a conversationalist here, just another girl from the suburbs looking for cheap thrills, or maybe even some rough trade.

Thinking I’ve at least a half hour before Jasmine gets dressed and walks out the front door I grab the girl’s hand and lead her teetering across the street. In the alley by the porno shop we make out, my hands in her panties, her skirt up around her waist. She’s groping in my balls, her tongue down my throat, when I rip off her underwear. Stumbling backwards we fall into a phone booth. I grab her from behind and press her against the glass. Her skirt now almost all the way off, I pry my studded belt apart, rip open my jeans, shove myself deep inside of her, pulling her towards me with both hands.

A siren in the distance, getting closer, messes with my concentration. When I glance up I’m momentarily taken back. It’s as if I’m observing the world outside through a TV screen. Pedestrians are everywhere, there’s cars going by in the street. An elderly couple walking on the sidewalk, no more than three feet away, stops to watch. I shift my eyes their way and the old woman is smiling, enjoying the show. If only there was a slot for her to put money in.

Oddly, I’m getting off on being watched and I’m wondering if the girl is too. Only with her face turned away from me I can’t tell. But she’s shoving her ass back against me, meeting my every thrust, her arms stretched out, hands pushing against the small shelf beneath the payphone. So it appears she’s pretty damn enthusiastic about it all. And I’m thinking, this is fucking weird. I’m not someone that likes being half naked in public, let alone having sex while San Francisco’s entire red light district watches. Yet instead of freaking out, I focus on the back of the girl’s head, grab her ass on either side, and pump into her. And then right when I’m about to shoot my wad, someone knocks on the phone booth.

I look up.

It’s Jasmine, tapping the glass with a quarter.

“Hey,” she says, “while you’re in there why don’t you call a cab. I’m tired, wanna go home.”

I hastily fold the girl further down into the phone booth, trying to hide her, while pulling myself back into my pants. Unaware of what’s happening she yells, “What the fuck? Where’d you go? I was about to cum!”

But I’m already outside, running to catch up with Jasmine as she hails a cab.

It’s a twenty-minute ride across town to the Mission District, where we live because it’s closer to the drug dealers. And for the entire ride Jasmine sits next to me, silent. The smell of sex wafting off of me as I’m mentally checking off how bad I’ve fucked up this time, and where I can possibly go if she kicks me out. It’s not like I’ve a whole bunch of folks out there happy to see me.

And then as we near 16th and Mission she hands me money so I can do what I usually do, hop out and score from one of the dealers on the street.

“Pull over here and wait,” I tell the driver.

Sixty seconds later I’m back in the cab, our salvation in my hand. As we pull away from the curb Jasmine leans over and kisses me on the cheek.

“How could you fuck that girl?” she says. “She was wearing polyester.”


About Patrick O'Neil

Patrick O'Neil is a former junkie bank robber and the author of the memoir "Gun, Needle, Spoon" (Dzanc Books, 2015), and an excerpted in part French translation titled, "Hold-Up" (13e Note Editions, Paris, France). His writing has appeared in numerous publications, countless film festivals have rejected his documentaries, and he continues to play and record music, much to the ire of his immediate neighbors. He currently lives in the heart of sleaze "Hollywood, California" and teaches at a community college to students whose main purpose in life is destroying the English language. Find more of his writing, music, and films at
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