It was 1992 and I was a 25-year-old POA slinging a hundred drinks an hour at a popular nightclub in San Francisco. I was the sassy bartender who scowled at the crowd and made out with the cocktail servers. I was the bad attitude in the cut-off denim short-shorts and beat-up black combat boots charging you extra when you’d ask for drinks with fancy names. I made lots of cash, saw lots of bands, and had lots of sex. Those were the good old, bad old days.
Being on staff at this bar/music venue was what I imagine it must be like to work in a theater. We were a circle of weirdos with a few cool kids sprinkled in, thriving on lots of drama and tons of crisscross hooking up.
Despite the amount of debauchery going on, I was the only one curious or carnal enough to target the oddly beautiful – and just plan odd – sound guy running the mixing board that controlled the venue’s epic sound system. You know the type – he rode a vintage European motorcycle while wearing a vintage military leather jacket (German, natch); he drank Slivovitz for fun; he kept an antique gun (loaded!) under his bed. When he wasn’t forced to mix for underage ska bands or Japanese noisecore acts, he listened mostly to Gang of Four and My Bloody Valentine. He was my kind of weirdo.
Before he and I connected, I don’t think the man had slept with anyone else at the club, a real feat considering the speed at which the liaisons were made and dismantled there. He had a paralyzing fear of sexually transmitted diseases, but an equally powerful sex drive.
The first time we were undressed together, I practically drooled over his lean and muscular ballet dancer torso. His skin was perfect and pale, except for the back of his neck and his wrists, where the fog-infused sun hit him as he motored over the Golden Gate Bridge every day. He insisted on being behind me – not because he was going in the out door, but because he didn’t want me to touch him. He wanted full control. I went along, the way you do. As the fever pitch grew, he started breathing hard. And then I heard him say something no one else has said to me in an intimate moment, before or since.
He said, in a low grunt: “Oh, mama.”
According to Urban Dictionary, one definition of “mama” is “a very attractive woman.”
In rock and roll, we get “hot mama,” “hey hey mama,” “sugar mama,” and even “suga mama” (Queen Bey style). Somehow, I don’t think ABBA was barking up the same tree when they sang “Mamma Mia.”
What my lover was saying came from some deep and primal place where lines of love and lust are always blurry and always crossed. His mother had been a beauty contestant and a prize-winning rifle shooter, and cancer killed her while she was still young, still mama. Thinking back on it, my man’s growl was his inner boy and outer man meeting at one of the two sacred places where a pair of bodies connect so completely: birth and sex.
At the time, his breathy name-calling was just another of the quirks I had come to expect from this strange, intense man. To be honest, I even found it a bit of a turnoff – I surely didn’t want to be anybody’s mama back then. Here, 20 years later, I am just “mom” to a 6-year-old whose wrapped-around-my-waist, always-snuggling days are surely running short.
Remembering the way my lover’s hot breath sent that chosen word deep into the nape of my neck makes me quiver. It also makes me wonder if anyone will feel that kind of mixed-up, hot mama-desire for me ever again.