Manny literally lives on the wrong side of the tracks.

His is one of a dozen houses on a tiny unpaved cul-de-sac that butts up against the railway. He still lives with his parents, but so do I, we’re both in our early 20’s.

When we first started dating, he wouldn’t let me meet his family or even let me in the house. I showed up one day, unannounced to see what he was trying to hide from me. Now I’m part of the family. The faded red bench seat from a pickup truck in lieu of a sofa doesn’t faze me, nor does the stack of dirty dishes that seems to only get washed once every few months.  His mother, Rosie, has that thin, hard look of people that get up too early and work too hard. She’s missing all of her teeth, but says dentures hurt her mouth. Miguel, Manny’s dad, has dark tired eyes and a big beer belly. He has a thick Spanish accent that he likes to play up when he wants to pretend he doesn’t understand something.  He likes to tell me how pretty Rosie used to be, and that he fell for her because she was a “real party girl.” Now he complains about how lazy and ugly she is, but it’s mostly an act and they both know it.

It’s Saturday, party night. Miguel and Rosie throw a party almost every weekend, and lots of people always show up. Rosie calls to me from the bathroom. I go in, thinking she wants me to zip her dress up. The bathroom door is broken off, it leans against the kitchen wall. Instead a bed sheet is thumbtacked to the door frame, so I push it aside and go in.  Rosie’s reclined in the bathtub, naked. She asks me to hand her the shampoo then splays her legs open wide. I look away and hand her the  bottle, then leave. She yells something after me, but I don’t turn around. I don’t tell Manny. He hates hearing about shit like that. The first time his dad flashed me, I freaked out and cried, now I just ignore it.

I help Manny carry a big cooler down to the party room. The party room is part of the unfinished basement. The dirt floor is covered with astro-turf. A makeshift stripper pole made of sturdy plumbing pipe stands in the back of the room, surrounded by mirrors. Last year’s bedraggled tinsel and Christmas lights still line the ceiling, lawn chairs line the walls. Across the hall is a little alcove with a toilet seat tied to a bucket. The sign above it reads “If you need to shit, go upstairs.”

About a dozen people pack in to the party room. It doesn’t take long until everyone is drunk. The room is tiny and humid, Pantera rumbles through the cheap speakers.  A VHS tape of a guy with three dicks plays on a little black and white tv in the corner. Manny has either left to buy pot or to go on a beer run, leaving me here. I sit in a plastic lawn chair nursing a sweaty bottle of Bud and chain smoke Camels, waiting for him to get back. Some guy takes off his pants, then all the guys take off their pants. Miguel dances in front of me, I’m at eye level with his flaccid bouncing cock. He does a wobbly half spin, spills his beer on the fake grass carpet. I tell him “I’ve seen bigger cocks on a baby,” and he just laughs and spins away.

Rosie thinks she is grinding against the stripper pole, but she’s so drunk that she mostly just leans against it and remembers to wiggle every few moments. Her eyes are shut and her dark stringy hair falls over her face. A big red headed man named Chuck stares intently at her, as if wishing will make Rosie’s blue dress evaporate. His hat rests on his lap, probably concealing a boner. Chuck’s wife just glares at him, then slips her hands down the pants of the guy sitting next to her, but Chuck doesn’t notice.

Manny’s younger cousin Shawn balances on crutches, his cast hovering above the floor. He’s pulled his sweatpants down to mid-thigh since the cast makes undressing difficult. He points at his dick and drunkenly yells “Bunny Foo Foo” over and over, tears streaming down his face from laughing. Shawn leans down and kisses me quickly, then hobbles away before I can protest. I’m very drunk now, I sit on the floor and concentrate on somebody’s shoes. It’s the only thing I can focus on while the rest of the room spins.

Manny comes back. He stands in the door watching everyone dance around mostly naked. I think he’s going to be angry and will want us to leave. Instead he goes to the stripper pole, tears his shirt off and yells “I’ll show you fuckers how to dance.” I watch him gracefully spin around the pole, glimmering with sweat. Manny dances strong and easy, pushing his hips against the pole, the muscles in his arms straining as he pulls himself around and around.  His eyes are wild and unfocused, he doesn’t look at anyone at all, he’s lost in his own moment, oblivious to everything except the music.