West Yellowstone National Park – “Sexual Heroin”.
She repeated herself. “I am sexual heroin”. Then paused. Letting the words she had used to describe herself wash over me. This was a woman who was trying to entice me, and maybe perhaps threaten me, to this day I’m not sure. Despite the unquestionably unorthodox use of language, her chosen personal pronoun wasn’t out of place in a bar that managed to sum up a sense of true Americana better than any place I’d yet been. The bar stools stood tall and proud, saluting and seating comfortably a row of blokes who I can only assume were sponsored by Levi’s, such was the amount of denim on show. Apparently, the Texan Tuxedo was also available in America’s proud Pacific Northwest.
Here, deep in Montana, in the township of West Yellowstone, the locals exuded a sense of down to earth reality. The type that might make those Kardashians quit with all the lip fillers and butt implants if they just took the time to shoot a deer between the eyes. Speaking of, the mounted deer head on the wall above didn’t look a single bit chagrined at his fate. His lips curled into an infinite smile at being part of a scene that was clichéd in all the right ways. Not so much overseeing but enjoying my surreal conversation with a woman whose self-proclaimed sexuality wasn’t just likely to get me high, but leave me a scratching addict. Searching among the wreckage of my life from that day forth for just one more hit of her personal brand of brown – which as far as coded language goes could refer to Heroin’s street name just as much as it could anal sex. And with her scatter gun approach to flirting both felt like options on the table.
Sexual Heroin’s real name was Kayla, and she proved as much by showing me that very same name tattooed on her lower back in the type of font you’d never use on an assignment during any stage of your schooling life. I can only imagine this was an alluring reminder in case she, or anyone indulging in some sexual heroin, was liable to forget. Darius Rucker’s ‘Wagon Wheel’ blared from the nearby jukebox, like there was any doubt that wouldn’t be present. The strained sounds emanating from its well-used and time-worn façade were country music personified. Not just a reminder to finish my drink and polish my truck but consider dating my sister too. I couldn’t help but wonder if the universe was in on the joke. Yet with a newly filled pitcher of ice-cold beer and a bar full of friendly strangers, none more so than Kayla, was there any other choice but to dive into the hospitality of Big Sky Country? I could only hope Kayla had a friend in case things got too out of hand, preferably a sexual Methadone.
It’s a well-known adage (that I’ve just coined) that the best thing about West Yellowstone township is the road out of West Yellowstone township, because it leads to Yellowstone National Park, a veritable icon of the American landscape. With a total population of around 1,300, the West Yellowstone township is on par with a rural New South Wales township, like West Wyalong for example.
Never heard of West Wyalong? Exactly, and West Yellowstone should be the same. But when you put one of the most incredible geological locations in the world next to a small town you create a vortex of tourism and time truncated. A perfect storm of nothing to do and everything to see. Imagine if the Great Barrier Reef was next to Coonabarabran. Madness. And yet that’s exactly why people flock to the town of West Yellowstone, with an insanely high 4 million people a year. Hell, it’s why I was in West Yellowstone.
Sexual Heroin had not been my first foray into Montana’s eclectic underbelly though. In fact, I found myself staying in a literal West Yellowstone trailer park with my three best mates leading up to our random rendezvous. Despite my pre-conceived notions of trailer park life, I had settled well into the rhythm. I quickly stopped pronouncing full words and, instead, started communicating with a series of simple head nods and carefully directed chewing tobacco spits. Bathtub brewed moonshine was all that could satiate my palate and let’s just say I’m thankful none of my cousins were on the trip with me. I kid of course, and no disrespect is meant towards any trailer park folk who might be reading this (assuming they can read).
By staying in such local trappings, I could fully engage in the quaint community surrounding me. West Yellowstone township itself is an enigma. Small enough to walk from trailer park to the pub and somehow large enough that I got lost on the way home. Unassuming in a way that was relaxing yet still significant enough to house a large museum that I never visited. And while the guidebooks will beg, demand and implore you to visit Yellowstone National Park (and if you like seeing wonders of the world then go nuts, I’m not your real Dad, do what you want) I remained tied up with Sexual Heroin – metaphorically speaking of course, but based on her demeanour and aggressively illicit and lustful nickname, I couldn’t rule out the real thing.
‘I’ve never met an Australian’ she drawled. Her emphasis on never more loaded than a plate of Montana’s finest nachos.
‘So, have you met an Australian or not?’ I pressed. Hoping my inability to comprehend her odd verbiage was more to do with cultural differences than the fumes of her sexual heroin persona beginning to pull me in.
She was coy. Playful and aloof and somehow still withdrawn. Her jeans sat low on her wide hips, leaving her lower back tattoo constantly on the verge of exposure, like a gunslinger’s weapon just waiting to be unleashed by quivering fingertips. A mop of dark brown hair fell around her shoulders and her eyes had a twinkle that likely signalled a natural affinity, though I can’t rule out insanity, towards life. Not entirely unattractive. But at the same time not entirely attractive. And if that sentence is difficult to understand, imagine my trouble in deciding what to do in the face of her outrageous, yet completely bold, attempts at seduction. Her invitations to get to know each other both intriguing and threatening in this West Yellowstone bar.
My life back in Australia was a distant memory by now. Receding with each day and each new opportunity afforded. This, in the first of six months traveling the world. On a grand scale, this felt like an opportunity for personal growth, to meet and be inspired by a woman whose life differed so greatly from my own. And on a much more local scale, this felt like an opportunity to get laid.
In my younger days, the upfront nature of a confident woman was unsettling. Not for their direct approach used, but for my indecision in return. With every flashing neon light or sound of a successful jackpot win I’m transported back in time to my first trip to America. Wandering the dusty streets of outer Las Vegas and wondering why, as a 21-year-old, I was not drowning in women at one of the Vegas strips legendary pool parties (but not drowning in a traditional sense, because pool safety is paramount even in a fantasy). And yet, despite the lustful drives of my cowboy on the road persona, when a woman approached me on the street wearing a skirt so short that it was almost just a shirt, its entire existence inverted to confuse and seduce young men like myself, I crumbled.
This prostitute, confidently walking the streets in the perennial dry heat of a Las Vegas afternoon, extended to me the alluring line, and one I’ll never forget, ‘have you ever had a Vegas blowjob?’
‘Do you want one?’
In any circumstances, a polite offer of oral sex should be admired, if not accepted. There are of course moments where it is not appropriate. During a job interview. Or meeting your partner’s parents. Social situations do spring to mind. But here, as a young man whose pockets were literally overflowing with cash (I wasn’t wealthy, I just had shallow pockets) I could certainly have taken the moment with decisive action. Instead, I made the noise you make when someone punches you in the stomach, then literally ran away from her.
But I had changed. I was a 26-year-old man. And maybe exiting my comfort zone was just what I needed. ‘I only live around the corner’ she purred. Oozing a confidence that really shouldn’t have existed based on her style, demeanour and posture. ‘And I’ve never met an Australian’.
‘Well you have now’. My retort shooting forth with all the intentions of a pithy James Bond witticism but carrying literally no meaning at all besides the bloody obvious. But it didn’t matter. Kayla was not a woman of words, so much as substance. And if she really was the West Yellowstone Sexual Heroin she claimed to be, it was time for some substance abuse.
‘Let’s get one more beer’. My suggestion as clear as Kayla’s tramp stamp (see: not very), that we’d finish one more round then abscond together. With nothing on the horizon but ensuring Kayla could never again say “I’ve never met an Australian” without a wry smile, she read between the lines and winked my way. She turned on her faded heels and wandered haphazardly off to the bar. Flicking the hair out of her face with such force it almost took an eye out, I was left contemplating the road I had taken to get here.
Travel is a funny thing. You can plan every minute detail and still, it throws curveballs at you. You might lament those changes. Curse the fact that your agenda began detailed and ended up derailed. But once it’s all said and done, it’s those moments that take you by surprise that last longest in your memory. They’re fuel for the fire to get you back on the road when regular routine takes over, and they are the embers of the best stories that spark to life when travel is discussed. I felt blessed to be in West Yellowstone township, deep in the heart of America. Even more so to have courted the attention and affection of Kayla, the Sexual Heroin herself. Yes, this truly was a chance to live in the moment.
I’m a firm believer that travel is a microcosm for life. What it really comes down to is growth. Playing the cards you’re dealt and trying new things to make sure you are the very best version of yourself that you can be. When presented with a new opportunity, embracing the best parts of your humanity and giving it a red-hot crack makes the world of difference, I truly believe it’s why we are here on Earth. And as I literally ran out the door in West Yellowstone while Kayla was at the bar, making the noise you make when someone punches you in the stomach, I made a mental note to try that one day.