At midnight I approach the club with a somewhat vague desire to do harm to every second person in line, fortunately the bouncer waves me past all the young men with tattoos that reek of drunken nights, the young women with boyfriends discovered pillow side that morning and with a ‘Good Evening Sir’ bids me welcome.
Drum and bass rise as I slowly descend the stairwell, welcoming the darkness, the shade that hides imperfection, that separates the good from the great. The left side of my face is a faded yellow from a beating one week past and I wonder as I slide between bodies how to best present this.
I approach the bar and squeezed between mini skirted muse and pool hall tottie I struggle to make myself heard. The suspiciously young bartender denies himself eyeball orgy barely long enough to take my order and with eyes returned to the cleavage delight either side he blindly yet expertly pours the drinks. His hand reaches in my direction, palm up, begging …
“No,” I shake my head, “I’ll be over there,” pointing to a booth in the far corner, away from the grope fest but close enough to observe.
“Wha?” He cups his hand to his ear, as if this simple courtesy is too much for a man who tends bar. His eyes are now firmly locked with mine.
A moment passes.
I turn and make way toward the booth. Within a few steps I hear him shuffling behind, I slow my pace, he overtakes and serves the drinks just as I arrive.
I pay, I sit, I stare.
Within seconds I am drawn to a Lolita in white shoulder-less blouse, her eyes are fixed on a vision for her and her alone and though her dimples intimate innocence her demeanor tells quite another tale … ‘smile at me, buy me a drink, fuck me sideways, memories are for saps’. Weighed down with offers from all directions she nonchalantly follows each sip of a cocktail with suggestive lick of her lips.
“She’s so damn cute you can’t help but want to grab her and bend her over a kitchen table.” With this James slides into the booth.
James drifts from hour to passing hour.
James believes social niceties to be an affront.
“I’ll grab you and hold you still, and once you’re caught I’ll enjoy you my girl.” Eyes fixed on Lolita he continues, “and this big thing, large and stiff as a lyre, I’ll bury up to your seventh rib, or higher.”
“Beautiful, though hardly subtle.” I reply.
“That is a classical composition on the Greek God Priapus my good man, he of the enormous member … so who are we to argue?”
James pictures himself a scholar.
“With her make-up dripping off her cheeks, she is rutting openly, she breaks the mattress, and with it the whole four poster bed …” James is interrupted by a vocal scuffle a few feet behind.
“What do you think I am? Just a cheap fuck?”
I turn to spy Dylan waving away the accusation as if clearing smoke. “I never claimed you were cheap,” he responds “and I’m not sure if all that …” a pause, “… qualifies as fucking.”
With this he turns his back and James and I alone observe the girls retreat. Dylan sits without word or greeting.
Dylan is tall and blonde and lean and generally disagreeable. There is a magnetism about the sly bastard however, something I appreciate when he negotiates his way into some forbidden den.
“Who was that?”
“Susie or Susan … Karen I think …” With this he rubs the back of his neck, pauses, reaches for a drink, “ … I can’t rightly recall. All I remember … her apartment was pink, all pink. Pink walls, pink shades, pink bed, pink fucken everything. Also … her first words once we got in the door were, ‘you know, you can do me in any hole you want’ … after that it’s all a horrid pink blur.”
Lolita slides her hips, silent grind with all who gaze in her direction.
“Good Lord,” I hear myself mutter.
No one says anything for a moment delicately drawn out.
“Put it aside man,” from James.
“I wouldn’t concern myself,” I add, and with this Lolita steps back into shadow and the evening can now begin.
And it’s nights like this I feel the slight strain of guilt that accompanies the realization that my father is paying for this, all of this. This year of tits and ass and smoke and snort and apparent epiphany and to him it’s money well spent and so the checks keep coming, classes are attended and further and further I glide toward respectability, toward the life of the educated man.
My mother and I sat before my father on the night of my college graduation and, in desperate measure to fill the gaps in stilted conversation, I found myself prattling on about the sanctity of the written word and so with undue haste was enrolled at Chesterton. In two years time I am scheduled to emerge a man of letters.
My father couldn’t be happier, and so I proceed, although to be honest a passing grade is all I desire, enough to keep the checks coming, the life flowing, enough to turn today into tomorrow. All I desire is time to proceed.
And so I arrive where I am expected and take notes when notes need to be taken and nod when required and so far have managed to shuffle through the first year of classes and tutorials and exams and essays with fair results.
And so here I sit, Saturday night, buzzed but not drunk, tweaked but not high, James and Dylan either side.
James is a Classics major, big, solid, handsome despite post pubescent acne – though this could be the steroids – the kind of guy who’ll tip his hat to an old lady before laying into a drunk on the sidewalk.
Dylan lies at the other end of the physical spectrum. Lean in a way that makes girls wet, Dylan’s morning workout consists of rolling off or over someone or other and reaching for a morning cigarette. Dylan is the consummate Lothario, effortlessly fucking each and every beautiful body he encounters without so much as a nod or wave of the hand. Dylan is a poet at large and has no time for flirtation and so draws all who come near.
Dylan is handsome, Dylan is disinterested, and therefore Dylan is irresistible to woman and as such Dylan is destined to be hated by men, but for now James and I put up with Dylan as Dylan is entertaining and Dylan always has weed and Dylan is Dylan.
“Fuck, if only I were gay,” sighs Dylan.
“Strike that,” he continues while thumbing a cigarette into an ashtray before instantly lighting another. “If only I were capable of celibacy, sweet, sweet celibacy. Fuck these balls, they hold me captive.”
“Little less of the melodrama,” I urge.
“Life is melodrama my friend,” offers Dylan. “Life is melodrama and angst and despair and pussy, and it’s the latter that’s always getting in the way.”
“You might have something there,” contributes James. “Last semester I came across a letter to Aristotle from an elderly friend. The old man writes to Aristotle to decry the loss of his libido now that he’s aged … and yet his final line is ‘Thank the Gods, finally I can begin my work.’ And it hit me, here’s this guy, he’s lived his whole life with this … this pussy-fog clouding his every thought, and when it clears what does he think?”
James pauses, takes a giant swig of beer and pointing in exclamation to no-one in particular continues, “He thinks, ‘Thank the Gods! Finally I can begin my work!’ So I say to you Dylan, you may be onto something. Maybe a quick castration is all you need to focus the mind.”
“So what’s your point?” I ask, bored of the conversation, already aware of its destination, eager to simply progress.
“My point, my point … my point is that …” James pauses, burps, pauses, burps once more, “my point is … perhaps women are indeed the enemy. Maybe for all their agreed upon loveliness, for all their bangs and whistles and barely hidden delights, maybe they’re simply the devil that distracts from a higher purpose.”
“Take Dylan here,” James continues in upswing, his voice taking on the tone of a Southern preacher in full revival tent glory, “this man, this young man, this talented young man,” with this he waves a hand in Dylan’s direction, “who desires nothing less than a life of dedication to the written word. A life of study, a life of contemplation, a yearning to contribute to times within which he is blessed to be a part,” eyes alight, a hint of slight Southern drawl, “and yet my friend, what is his sentence? What is his charge? To daily battle the urge to fuck whomever takes his fancy. Each day he rises with fresh dreams of literary glory, and each day he is faced with tits and ass and ass and tits and smiles and waves and signs and signals and temptation, distraction, degradation and by nightfall what has his mind accomplished? Little else but ‘What would she like?’, ‘How does she this?’ ‘Why does she that?’ Nothing more than the mindless drivel of a cum-driven maniac. If only his balls were disconnected from his brain …” James’ voice rises as if awaiting response from an audience unseen, “only then would he be able to proceed down the path of righteousness!”
“Yes friends,” the voice now a whisper, “pussy is the enemy, an enemy we must face anew each day. I see the Devil and Clitoris be her name.”
Throughout the performance, no-one, save Dylan and I, has paid any attention whatsoever. To all others James is simply another wild man in a corner booth, but to Dylan and I a mood is definitely awash. James has accomplished something with this little diatribe, of what I am unsure, but something indeed.
James takes a breath and the night proceeds.
“Fuck this place, how about the Twister?” Suggests Dylan.
“The Twister?” I repeat with eyebrows raised.
The very idea is dismissed immediately. The Twister is hip, happening, a place to be and as such will never do. The trick is to find somewhere on the edge, on the verge of hip and arrive at the tipping point. Grindhouse is decided upon and as one we step onward and outward and make way toward.
And as we exit there is observed a definite tension in the air, time has passed, those waiting behind the velvet rope have grown more resolute as to their place in the larger scheme of things.
The natives are getting restless.
And as we amble toward Grindhouse a chalk pavement statement catches the eye, ‘Please forgive me Georgie’ in bright yellow script.
I stop and stare and light a cigarette, peruse the area for a ‘Georgie’. There are many viable suspects.
Dylan admires the craftsmanship of the pavement artist. James leans against a lamppost and nonchalantly removes an eyedropper from his pocket, lolls his head back and drops a couple of beads onto his tongue. His face wretches, his eyes water, blinking wildly he aims the dropper in my direction.
“Strychnine” he offers, “great for kick-starting the metabolism. You feel a little like you’re on a Ferris Wheel, but otherwise she’s all good.”
‘Why not?’ I think, and with this I tease a couple of droplets onto my tongue, grimace and gurn and relax into the night … Dylan nods in admiration of the pavement artist’s intent, James mutter’s a few words regarding original sin and as we stroll we observe city as circus as buskers, drunks, bouncers, stragglers, late night strollers and the odd homeless perform a one-night-only-step-right-up production of epic proportion, a singing, dancing, shouting, screaming extravaganza and all is well as we all move this way and that in perfect formation and Dylan is weaving and I am sliding and James is swerving and bustling and edging and bumping and now staring and cussing and eyes are narrow slits and face is red and oh God what the fuck and with this I stand and simply observe as James grabs a stranger by the throat while others stare and mouth ‘oh my God’ and James looks, simply measures the guy, simply shares a moment, as if to say ‘you and I know what’s going on and you and I know that I am champion and King of all and if you want you can leave and walk away and all is done and forgiven and resolved’ and the guy simply looks at James for a moment before seceding and James releases his grip and they part ways and all is calm once more but not really as we make way toward our destination.
And as we waltz along I spy another message, another call to ‘Georgie’, this time ‘Please, please, pretty please’ and the mind wonders as to what has been done to Georgie to warrant such lament.
And now James is staggering slightly and this draws attention to the almost effortless glide that Dylan displays as we parade, a simple slide through the night as we zig and zag and weave and wave at passersby. The air is sweet, the evening offers embrace, there is shimmer to every surface and I realize of course that the Ferris Wheel has arrived and swept me along but I relax and release and surrender all the while …
On the pavement outside Grindhouse lies one final plea – ‘You’re my one and only Georgie Girl’ – and atop this scrawled appeal lie the feet of the many and the desperate, the lost and the loaded defer to a red velvet rope.
James is in no mood to wait, fortunately the girl at the door recognizes Dylan, actually waves him forward and we three stumble past the throng of pissed off punters in narrow line. Dylan raises an eyebrow at the girl as we pass, a look of recognition perhaps, and we are inside.
Music blares, bass blasts, lights strobe left, right, and centre and all is cacophony and mass confusion. As James makes way to the bar, “Absinthe, absinthe, absinthe,” he echoes, I zero in on a brown leather booth in distant corner.
Settled in my seat I accept that Dylan is nowhere to be seen, lost in the multitude he is no doubt deep in a corner somewhere, notebook out, scribbling, lost to us all. James arrives sooner than expected, the crowd has parted as he makes way to the booth – there is an almost inexplicable air about James at this point, a whiff of atavism perhaps and so he proceeds unaccosted while others scrape shoulder to shoulder – three shot glasses in one hand, full green bottle in the other.
“Dylan’s off and about?” he asks, although we both know the answer. Dylan will be gone for now and will most likely return at some point, or not. It is to be expected.
James places the glasses, tips the bottle and fills with a grin, “Night is here but the barbarians have not come, and now what shall become of us without any barbarians? Those people were some kind of solution.”
And before I respond the moment has passed and I drink and he drinks and the hours pass and the music turns to melody and girls drift to shape and fleeting fancy and as I stumble into the morning’s light I recall that I am but an educated man and that I am yet waiting for the barbarians.
Michael Tyler has been published by Takahe and Bravado Lit Mags. He writes from a shack overlooking the ocean just south of the edge of the world. He has been published in several literary magazines and plans a short story collection sometime before the Andromeda Galaxy collides with ours and …