In Providence: Newport Nights

“I get tired as soon as I see the mall over to the left of the highway. That’s when I feel it. Until then, I feel high as a kite. If it’s been a good night. If not, then I don’t. Then I’m happy to be home. But I’m still tired.”

Every Friday at around two in the afternoon, he gets in a car that he didn’t pay for and begins the drive to Newport.

“That’s where I do weekends. I don’t want to be in Providence for the weekends, because nothing’s happening here. It’s gotten better, but if you’re looking for rich people, you’re not going to find them here once you get to June and July. You got to go to Newport for that.”

Depending on his mood, he’ll either take the way most of us are familiar with — down to South County and over the bridge — or he’ll go up through the back roads instead. This isn’t to avoid the toll, just to mix things up a little.

“I once had a cop follow me — I shit you not, this cop followed me. He was a Providence cop — followed me all the way from Providence to right before the bridge. I said, ‘What is this man doing? He is a Providence cop. He’s not a state trooper. He can’t follow me like this. But he did. Followed me all the way. I wanted to pull over and ask, ‘Can I help you?’ I told somebody about this and they told me, ‘They can’t do that. They can’t follow you like that.’ I said, ‘Don’t you think I know that, but they did.’ All the way to right before the bridge and then turned the sirens on and I kept right on driving. I was not pulling over for a Providence cop at the Newport Bridge. I paid my money and I went over the bridge and that felt good. It felt good knowing he was back there with his sirens on and I was going over the bridge. It made Newport feel special to me and I liked going there before, and after that, I loved it.”

He likes to listen to uptempo music on the way there. Party music. Music from the ’80s and early ’90s. Music that isn’t concerned with anything but putting people in a good mood.

“That’s the music my auntie used to play at the barbecues when I was a kid. I had– She was the best looking woman, my Auntie _____. She spent all her money on clothes and makeup, and my mother would give her hell for it, because that was her little sister, and she was like a mom to her, but to me, she was Auntie ____ and I understood some things about her. I understood she didn’t work and I understood that she always had plenty of money. When you’re a kid, you don’t know how those two things can be true at the same time, and you know not to ask. I knew my auntie had boyfriends and I knew one of those boyfriends lived in a nice house in Providence and nobody in the family liked him, but I never met the man. When I was 11 or 12, my auntie stopped coming over, and when I asked where she was, nobody would tell me anything. I found out when I was older that my auntie got into a big fight with the family, because everybody wanted her to stop seeing this man, because he was married and he had children. Everybody knows who this is. There are going to be people reading this who know who this man is, and they might also know about my auntie and if they know her, they know she went missing and nobody ever saw her again. One time when I first started driving, I got on the computer and I found out where that man she was seeing lived, and I drove to his house, and I sat outside. I had just started smoking and I smoked a cigarette and I sat there. It was a nice house, but it wasn’t as nice as all that. I’ve been with guys with much nicer houses. I think about that guy’s house now and I think, ‘Shit, I hope my auntie didn’t get herself killed for a two-story piece of shit like that.’”

There are a few places he likes to stay, but one hotel in particular is his favorite. When he checks in some time between 3:00 and 3:30, he immediately goes out for a drink, then returns to his room and waits for a phone call.

“I find out which parties I’m going to that weekend — that’s what it is. I’ve been to some really nice parties. I even went to a wedding once of this famous woman that you would know and you would be surprised to hear I was invited to her wedding. It was a nice wedding. I’ve been to nicer ones, but it was nice. Usually when I get the call, I tell the person calling that I don’t have anything to wear to wherever it is they’re asking me to go, and they agree to cover expenses for me, whether it be clothes or drinks or if I need to get my hair trimmed. It all gets covered and then I show up at the parties.”

There’s something he wants me to know–

“In all the time I’ve been doing this, I think I’ve spent the night with two men. That’s it. They weren’t men requesting it either. It wasn’t part of what I usually do, which is go to parties or events with these men who need dates for these events and want to show up with me. I don’t know why they want to do that. They do tend to be older, but not always. The two men who came back to my hotel room with me — one was last year and the other was when I first started — I met them after I had done what I was there for that night, and then I met them. One was at the event, he was catering, or he worked for the caterer, and the other was working at the hotel, and when he got off work, he came up for a drink. But I’m not there to get into that kind of thing, and normally, I don’t kiss and tell, but you asked so there it is. Someone asked me about escorting, and I don’t mind the word escorting, and I don’t mind people who escort, or people who do anything, it’s just not what I do. I’m there to be on someone’s arm. I don’t know why you would pay for that, but people with money pay for all kinds of shit. They just like it. They like being able to pay for something that doesn’t even need paying for, because some of them do have wives, and some of them should be bringing their wives to these things, but they don’t want to, and I don’t want to ask them why, because if they brought their wives, I wouldn’t be there and I wouldn’t be able to stay in a nice hotel and go shopping and all those things, so I don’t ask.”

When I ask him how he started doing this, he tells me it began shortly after he dropped out of college. He was living with a friend on Laurel Avenue, and the friend was going to be attending a birthday party in Newport that weekend, but his date needed a date for another man who was going to be there, and there was money involved.

“I asked how much money and he told me and I let him know right out that I needed to know everything that was going to be expected of me if I did this. He gave me the terms and I was good with the terms, but I understood that terms really don’t mean shit if the person in charge decides to change them without telling you, but I was going to be with my friend, and that made me feel better about it. I was also two months behind on rent, and I think that made me more willing than I might have otherwise been.”

That birthday party was a five-star soiree right on the water. People left at the end of the night by hopping onto their boats and sailing away into the evening. One woman looked like the star of a popular television show, and another was a dead ringer for a supermodel who had recently been in the pages of Vogue.

“That’s who they were, I found out later. I found out that if you’re at a party like that and somebody looks like somebody, that’s who it is.”

There was good food and live music and at the end of the night, he and his friend got back into a car with not one, but two spare tires on it, and a tail pipe with a hole in it, and they drove back to their house in Providence.

“You don’t want to say Cinderella, because that’s the quickest comparison, but that’s how I felt. I was Cinderella and the ball was over and now here I was with no shoes and a busted up pumpkin going back to a house where the plumbing only worked half the time and one of the windows wouldn’t close so we had bats flying in and out at night. I’m not joking with you. Bats in and out of the house. Two hours earlier I was eating caviar. That was a night.”

A few days later, he got a call asking if he’d like to go to another event the following weekend. He had made a good impression.

“I moved out of that house two months later. No more bats.”

Now he’s booked every weekend.

Even talking to him on the phone, I can sense his charisma. He’s a beautiful man, but he also has that thing that makes you want to hear him say words just to find out how they sound when he articulates them. You want to get his opinion on things. You want to find out where he’s from and what he’s about. You want him to like you.

“But you can’t pay for that. A couple of the guys — one proposed. But a couple of them asked me to move in. A couple asked me for something serious. I don’t do that. This isn’t Pretty Woman. I’m not meeting a guy like that. I have a boyfriend right now and he treats me well and that’s all I’ll say about that. Does he know what I do? Yes, he does. He’s good with it, but he might not be one day, and if that becomes the case, we’ll talk about it, and I’ll see how I feel.”

There’s enough money in his bank account for him to give up the weekends in Newport and take a year or two to figure out what he wants to do, but he says he likes the rush of it. The adrenaline of the parties and the celebrities and the way people look at him trying to determine who he is and how he got there.

“I like the eyes on me. That’s the truth. When I have a good night, a good night is a night where I have a lot of eyes on me and a lot of people coming up to talk to me, and I meet lots of new people, and I can pretend I’m anybody I want.”

On Sunday evenings, he treats himself to a nice dinner, alone, and then he drives back to his apartment downtown.

“Last weekend and the weekend before that, I did feel tired. It’s not the same with everything going on, because these aren’t parties the way there were parties before, and I said to my friend, ‘If this is how it’s going to be all summer, I might want to do something else.’ I thought Newport would be immune from that feeling that everybody’s feeling right now, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think they’re pretending to feel good, but it’s just pretending, and these are people who are good at pretending, but this is something where — you can’t pretend it’s not there. It’s looming. It’s looming over all of us. We’re not going to be able to keep our heads in the sand. People can feel it — on every level. People can feel that something’s coming. My friend asked to spend the night with me this weekend, and he’s been seeing me for years, and he’s never asked me for that. I told him, ‘No,’ and he didn’t seem to be too upset about it. I think he asked to see what I would say, but he didn’t care one way or the other.”

His boyfriend is taking him away this weekend, and it’ll be the first time in two years that he hasn’t made the drive to Newport. The last time was because he had a family wedding, and there was no time before that.

“It’ll be interesting to see how I feel about taking a weekend off. If I like it, I might do it more often. Put myself more in demand.”

Does that mean Providence will be seeing more of him this summer?

“If Providence is lucky, it might. I don’t know if Providence can afford me if I’m keeping it a hundred with you. Providence might need to save up its pennies.”

I tell him to enjoy his vacation, and I ask him where he’s going. He laughs a serious laugh and then asks–

“Haven’t I told you enough?”

Hard to argue with that.