They’re nothing until the bitch walks by, just two old dogs lying in the street, one an abandon of rumpled dirty bath towel, the other a tumbleweed grown out of landfill, barely the strength between them to wag the one tail. But she’s so lithe, that bitch, and pampered, unburdened without the weight of days burred inside her coat. Such untapped vitality, they can smell it on her, well enough to raise their grizzled muzzles from the gutter and whine. Just two broken homeless puppies begging after youth, panting time paupers. They’re still nothing once the bitch walks by.
I totally wasn’t going to go home with him. When he sat down I thought he was one of those boys with more ego than equipment, a big bow on a little package, you know. Cleo was doing her usual Claude Rains impression, so I let him stay and talk to me, figuring I’d rather be alone with company than altogether lonely. It was fun for a bit, letting him Quixote my windmill.
It’s easier to ignore a noise than succumb to a silence. After he steamed out I noticed something sad in him that sang to the sick in me. It was the eyes, like a deep green lagoon, hidden and still, that you just want to throw rocks into. I’ve got a weakness for the wounded and weird, in a totally selfish way (fuck Flo Nightingale). It probably makes me messed up but people’s twisted shit makes my brain hard. I just want to wrap myself up in it and see how long it takes to suffocate, like drowning in one of those blanket shawls they sell across the late night TV wasteland.
So, after a few chivalry inspired cocktails I told him he could take me home.
He held my hand on the cab ride over and didn’t even try to make out with me, which was sweetly depressing, not knowing if it was nerves or patience. His place was one of those apartments grown in the remains of a plantation mansion that the invisible rich carve into single servings for multiple rents. It would have made a swell bordello before it got dissected and had its nooks stuffed with bachelor types, imported students and low income independents. Still, it had a rusted out opulence that was sexy in a decayed sort of way.
We had to go right to the back and up an infinity of stairs to get into his unit. The door was cut into the guts of a built-in wardrobe, it was like walking into Narnia if it had been written by Kerouac, with an eerie Spartan starkness to it that made me feel exposed, as though I had skinned his personality and was looking the intimate muscles of his life. There was kind of nothing there. The whole thing would have screamed serial killer if it wasn’t for the books. They were mounded everywhere, tucked up in corners and piled along the walls, stacks of them higher than my head and neatly disordered enough that it took the sting out of the Dahmer decor.
I lapped the room looking for something like peace of mind amidst the indecent Dewey Decimal wallpaper, a thirty second prowl that only left me restless. It’s hard to get comfortable without any comforts and I wasn’t sure what to do, which was new for me. I gave in and sat on the bed, it wasn’t a big step. I guess that’s the joy of studio living, the sections of your life aren’t even far enough apart to be considered walking distance.
Fiddling with a laptop upon a plinth of yet more books, he asks me over his shoulder if I’d like another drink. Sure, I say, as The XX start to play, and he tells me he’s got scotch or water. I take the malted option without sighing and ask to have it iced. Plumping myself into his pillows, I build a little fort away from my hesitations and watch him mine the ice from the kind of snack size fridge they stock in hotel rooms. The drink comes to me in an old jar and he shrugs without apologizing, telling me he doesn’t really entertain. It’s not much of an explanation, but the scotch was smooth and made excuses for him.
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.