“I love this place,” Pumpkin says. His voice is sincere. It is hard not to believe words that come out of this behemoth of a man. Something in his voice holds the remnants of an east coast accent though from what I know he’s been out west most of his life., “ If I could I’d own [The Den] and I tried. I tried. If it wasn’t two-point-four million dollars I would be the owner.”
“You already seem like you are,” I joke. I give an anxious smile. He doesn’t smile back, “Mayor of the place.”
“Yeah, well, you know, I mean, I already told ya guys come in here all the time and they see me, ya know, not doing what a normal customer does and they automatically assume I’m the bouncer or I work here. And for the sake of, for the sake of, them having an eye out and to behave, I’ll tell em ‘Yeah, I’m the bouncer. I have my eye on you tonight.
“Really, I’m just here to have fun, man. Sit down, relax. That’s what keeps my head level for the week, ya know. Like, when I’m working I come out on Sunday night, I spend four hours here and it gives me a peaceful sense for the work week.”
Other than the owners and male employees and sycophantic boyfriends who hawk in the dark corners while their women bare their skin, Pumpkin is at The Den more than any other man I’ve met. Most of the week he spends hour upon hour in the back at what I dub his throne.
Twice as wide as the average man, taller than most and covered in tattoos of angels of death and skeletal outlining on his hands, Pumpkin could look the part of a disgruntled bouncer or an obsessive paramour but he is none of those and it pains him to know that. I see it in his face, in the way he smokes cigarettes under the black lights. It might as well pour from him like a noxious liquid, dark and frothing and foul.
“What keeps you coming back?” I ask him and the question seems to change his mood. Though never bright or happy, somehow Pumpkin grows more discontented. He slumps into his chair and plays with his cigarette lighter and ponders for a moment in his own mind. The silence is intimidating. A frown furrows his face.
“I don’t know,” he answers after a moment, “I fucking hate this place.”
The first time Pumpkin even acknowledged me was the night I met Nightmare. While the pale ice queen beauty and myself sat in awkward silence near the front of the club, Pumpkin lumbers in with his behemoth waddle, un-geled mohawk and dressed in his usual uniform of all black. That night he stopped and nodded to Nightmare and when I think back on this how strange it seems. Knowing them both now makes me ponder how uncharacteristic they both acted that night. Almost coincidental that these two people who would play such a huge part in my life for both better and worse would stand parallel but that evening Nightmare was still only a tall and lanky blue eyed beauty with a pixie cut who I was sure as hell was annoyed with me and Pumpkin a sort of scary tattooed mass of flesh who looked at me as if I were the biggest douche bag in the world.
Looking at those two I imagined they came from a familiar cut of cloth. Both in dark colors, black upon black upon black. I pictured them at home listening to angry mainstream hard rock pretty boys with long hair who were all angry at their fathers and every attractive woman who ever turned her cheek on them. Yet Nightmare and Pumpkin are opposites, one sitting on the side of wanted and the other, unwanted. And they are similar, wrapped in shadows and black light, quiet and to themselves, one saying forget the world and the other saying fuck it to hell.
Nightmare looked up to Pumpkin with her legs crossed and speaking in bored tones she pointed to me, “I like this guy.”
Pumpkin shrugged his shoulders and walked away without a word.