The place gives me that favourite coat feeling. It’s really just the old Indie Temple with a new name on the door. It still wears the same worn in, tarnished glamour of a faded starlet, everything all soft and furtive under Vaseline lights and the kindness of strangers, except that nobody gives a fuck now, in that disaffectedly nonchalant way. I can’t help loving it.
Thursday is ladies’ night. I’m not sure it means what they think it means. The dick ratio is out of control and there’s sweaty clots of guys all over the place, pawing the room with predator eyes and restless libidos, better dressed Hyenas with bad hygiene and less social grace. We get stalked a lot, Cleo stinks like red meat.
I move towards the bar, wading through pools of faux-retro faces, ironic mustaches, and forwardly familiar hands, working up an angry sort of thirst on my way. The bar is dressed as a cinema concession booth and makes me think of buttered popcorn. I order a couple of long islands from the disheveled somnambulant lurking behind it. He doesn’t say anything, just mixes the drinks with a docile flair and slaps them down in front of me. I match them with a ten, knowing it won’t be enough. He calls me on it with a look of implacable boredom and I up the ante with my cleavage and a smile. The guy just shrugs, slipping the note into his pocket, and shuffles off.
I turn around and stare at Cleo’s predictable absence. She probably found something interesting to put inside her, so I find somewhere to sit and practice not giving a shit. The far wall is littered with tables, little circular affairs like you get at wedding receptions and kindergartens, I wade over there holding the cocktails out in front of me like Helsing brandishing a cross, splitting the throng open with the power of a cocktail’s personal space. I sit with my back to the wall, next door to a copse of roller derby types, thickset flannel wearers staring at me like I’ve never heard of steak. I’ve fucking heard of steak, they’re just sour because I don’t eat fish.
I decide to give Cleo until the bottom of the glass before I get pissed off, then half my drink goes down without hitting the sides and I don’t really care. I keep scanning the room looking for familiar faces to avoid. One of the bodies detaches itself from the throng and walks over, becoming something like a man only younger, scuffed and bright, standing at the fringe of my table.
‘Do you have a lighter?’ He says and I tell him I do and don’t do anything. He looks down at me, grinning with canine innocence, green eyes and no guile. I finish a third of Cleo’s cocktail before he sits down.
‘What else you got?’ He says, eager and comfortable.