L’Amphibi looked like a Rainforest Café, were it not for the fact that everyone was nude or draped in damp towels and grunting with the sounds of sex downstairs. The Brit and I were in the 14th, in the middle of the night, and I’d traded my leather jacket for a pink sarong, loosely tied around my breasts, bruised from the previous evening’s encounters with The Connection, trying to avoid the stares of the men around me.
We knew it would be seedy, but we’d asked to be infused with filth, if only for a while, figuring that we’d wash it down with vanilla milkshakes and the brisk November air after the fact. What I’d expected was that we’d go, prowl around for a little while, and that, due to the sheer outnumbering of men to women, I’d inevitably, lazily shack up with a woman while The Brit ran off with a guy or four. What I hadn’t expected was the lascivious creeping of hands up my thighs, glances bouncing off the angles of mirrors. It turns out that many men in Paris are bisexual.
There are aspects to the bathhouse that I want to take with me, impart upon the frigid culture of lesbian young women. The unabashed tackiness of sitting in a pulsating room, naked but for a plastic tumbler of champagne, and the power that comes with knowing you are wanted and denying it. The rooms designated for casual, almost lazy fucking down below, riveted and lit like a funhouse with strange paths and twists to disorient, fascinate. I admire the brashness of asking a stranger if they want to fuck and gallantly bowing out when they (your faithful narrator) decline. Above ground, you’d get slapped in the face. Here, it’s de rigeur.
The Brit got down to business in the steam room. One minute I was sitting with him, thinking that perhaps this wasn’t too different from my health club back home, and the next, he was fondling a muscular young black man and getting sucked off by a large older guy. I watched and smiled, a euphoric passive observer to passion until an older gentleman broke my heated trance. His fingers traced up and down my thigh as he and another man, both bald, grinned from the fading light of the room. I broke off and left.
Upstairs, we sat and toyed with attractive people whose eyes we caught in the mirror. We are partners in crime and decadence and disgust, white kids from the suburbs of summerland whose eyes are bigger than their libido. We toasted to frogs and to the bartender, offering us free glasses of shitty champagne and discretion. The Brit topped a guy while I waited, daring to ask the perky-breasted woman next to me if she wanted to sit down, as they say. “Madame, voulez-vous s’assoir?” in all my clunky formality, had almost crossed my lips when she scooted to the showers with a robotic, but handsome man, departing shortly after. The thrill of the chase in a pre-fabricated jungle.
In the end, we left satisfied, but not hungry, relishing the feeling of clothes on our backs and the mild alcoholic buzz. It’s less somewhere that I want to fuck in than somewhere I want to watch, peeling the layers off the shadows that go, probing the spectres taking solace in the bar and the empty rustle of the plastic fronds. Finding out what lies behind and shutting the door as I walk toward the street.