There was one day we tried to get into all of them. Every single porno store in San Francisco, or at least in the small concentration downtown. We were both about ten years old then; it was summer. My mother was working at the time, so she was gone all day while I had no school. I don’t think Dion’s mother was working, but she would be gone too. We had been building towards this. Everyday we grew more familiar with the streets. There were shortcuts we learned. Small alleyways that cut between buildings. They would have dumpsters in them covered in graffiti and filled with treasure.
There was one such alley that ran behind an X-rated movie theater and a strip club. In the dumpster there we found long beams of dead florescent light bulbs and had a fantastic sword fight with them which ended when one of the bulbs burst and a plume of poisonous white powder exploded all around us. We coughed and laughed wide-eyed and excited and waved our hands in front of us trying to catch our breaths. After that we took turns spearing the remaining bulbs into the air and watching them blast open against the walls and ground. Every so often a patron would exit the club or theater and we would try to sneak in to see what we could see.
One time we got into the movie theater. We snuck up into the front seats, which were emptier. There were a just few figures in the back and they were all still and unmoving in the darkness. The screen was large and the sound was loud but I could still hear small rustling behind me. I didn’t turn around to see what it was; we just stared ahead. The scene was of a woman at a funeral and she was talking to someone off screen. Dion let out a small hiss of disappointment when he saw her dress and I shared the sentiment quietly. I don’t know if we were sure then what exactly it was we wanted to see, but we knew it didn’t involve any clothes. Excitedly we waited for the scene to turn. I gripped the knees of my pants and fixed upon the screen. Before it was over a thin man in a red vest came over and bent down and whispered to us that we had to leave. We stared up at him and stammered and then looked back at the screen and then looked back up at him and stammered some more. He moved to the side and spread his arm out presenting to us the exit and we took one last look at the woman talking and I marveled at her cleavage one more time and then without protest we got up and left.
On another time we got into the strip club. This was a stroke of luck. On a whim I tried the door and it swung open letting a blast of blinding light in from behind me. I caught a glimpse of the seats which were set up like an auditoriums and in one not far from me a woman sat on a mans lap and she was in her underwear. She had her hand on his hand which was on her bare leg and she had her head in his neck and was whispering into his ear. I quickly closed the door and gasped and looked at Dion.
-What did you see? He asked impatiently.
-A naked lady, I said, she was sitting on a man and they were kissing.
-You lying, he said. But even though he was right I could tell he believed me.
We both opened the door again, this time he went in before me. We shut it behind us and moved discreetly along the shadows on the wall. Everything looked black and red and smelled it too. There was a naked woman on stage holding a pole and a rock and roll song was blaring. She had long natural brown hair and her tits were flat and saggy. There were other girls walking around talking to the men and I don’t think we expected that but at the same time I don’t think we knew what to expect at all. I just knew that we weren’t supposed to be in there and I wanted to see what we shouldn’t. We stood along the wall in the thick redblack trying to be hidden in the sounds and smells around us. A woman walking by looked down towards us with slow bored eyes then adjusted her bra and moved on. The husky wind of a sweet perfume followed her towards a man in the seats. I looked at Dion and he looked at me and from our eyes a noiseless screamed passed between us. Then a lady wearing long lingerie who wore caked on mascara and deep red lipstick yelled to us from the seat of a mans lap.
-HEY YOU KIDS GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!!!
We bolted from the door laughing and stumbling and leaving in our wake an explosion of sunlight. We stood at the end of the alley gasping and catching our breath. Beaming from the experience.
That wasn’t the last time I would visit that club but it was the last time I was ever in it with Dion. At the time we thirsted for more but weren’t ready for interaction yet. After that we stuck to mostly video stores.
As I said, one day we tried to sneak into them all, and we almost did. We were systematically ejected from most every open porn store in the downtown San Francisco area. All in the same day. In some stores we would immediately be ordered to leave. Hardly even catching a glimpse of the flesh covered walls and racks beyond the entryway. But in some stores we went unnoticed. The clerk would sit behind he counter, bored and oblivious, and we would peruse all the aisles, avoiding other patrons, gravitating towards the box covers with the most exaggerated women posing on them. We saw pictures of couples entwined together, sometimes one gender out numbering the other. Faces shocked into ecstasy and the uncomfortable grimace of penetration. Portraits of lust without romance. We let these images chip away at our innocence, twisting and perverting our ideas of temptation. This was what we thought they had held from us. This is what we believed we were never told.