A Few Short Words

Dense Not Thick



Streetcar Concessions

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.

Crowded Out

Caleb, who is a complete fucking scumbag, is giving a lecture on the moralities of Batman. I’d probably have that conversation if it could be one. Every time he thinks he’s about to make a point he swishes up his drink (a fucking whiskey lemonade which he might as well pour straight into his vagina) and throws a swallow down like a magician takes a bow. Everyone at the table clearly thinks he’s great except for Cleo who I can always rely on to be bored, that bitch is like the Galileo of apathy and sometimes I’m just so fucking grateful.

‘What people don’t understand,’ Caleb says, swish, swallow and smug, ‘is that Batman only has one rule he never breaks. His moral compass only points in one direction but he’ll take any road he can to get there.’

I’d break that rule over Caleb’s handsome fucking head if I knew I could get away with it.

Cleo sighs over the brim of her martini (three olives, dry, and a nod to bygone times) and says to no-one, ‘Comics are for kids.’  The dickhead stops mid-monologue and sharpens his eyes on Cleo’s face. They slept together once, in what I can only imagine was a fit of drug filled boredom, and it always makes me laugh. I know what Cleo likes and I know she wouldn’t have taken it easy on him. There’s probably a few scars cowering under that firsthand vintage jacket he’s affecting. I watch her screw up a napkin and lob it into Caleb’s glare, smacking him in the smug and shutting him right up. She could have been an athlete if she didn’t believe sweat was a byproduct of sex.

The table laughs it off while he sulks and everyone falls back into a rhythm of pointlessness. I love the spectacle of a gathering, the cadence of conversation as it rises, falls and swells around a room. I love watching people think they’re not just animate meat, their little bubbles of hope and expectation that stew around the surface of this twisted social broth. I love playing whodunnit (or will do it), I’m like the Miss Marple of hookups, only mildly less celibate.

I’ve been watching Dylan (ugh) and Sammy’s chairs edging towards each other all night, slow-burn seismic shit the way tectonic plates slide in for a quake. I hope she likes the taste of salt and disappointment. The way she giggles I doubt that she minds anything so long as it’s said with Pavlovian intent. I can practically see her salivating as he rings her little bell.

I feel my phone vibrate and I pull out one of Cleo’s texts. Fuck this shit, it says. Happy hour. Lowered bar. Coke and cocktails. I hate how much I love this girl. I throw back my daiquiri, all slush and good intentions now, and excuse myself nodding towards the little girl’s. Smoke bomb, I text her back. Don’t be long.


I’m bored of being pretty. I tell Cleo I’m going to start a girl fight club. She smiles at me over her vodka cranberry, (sourdough bitch), and tells me I’m not supposed to talk about it. I can see the ovation in her eyes. I want to scrape the smugness off her with the painter’s trowel she used to put on all that makeup. You should try exfoliating, I tell her, if you want to get rid of that snaky complexion. She’s already not paying attention, her face buried in the fluorescence of her phone.

Mother superior of a digital mass, Cleo needs to check on her parishioners every few minutes in case their devotion starts to wane. I tell her if she checks me in I’ll eat her first born child. She laughs by pushing air out of her nose and tells me I’ll have to ask the clinic if they still have it. I ask Cleo if she ever gets bored of being apathetic and she shrugs out her response. My phone vibrates in my pocket but I leave it where it is. I’m not hungry enough to follow through on my threats.

Jessie and Dylan show up dressed like yacht club DJ’s, sock-less feet in seasonal shoes, rolled up khaki’s and V-neck cotton affectations. Cleo turns each cheek to receive their thin lipped tributes. I listen to them tweeting their intentions at her in sentences without character. They chart the night out for us by way of invitation. Seismic Collapse are playing a secret set, they say, in a warehouse in West End. Dylan winks at me through his bangs and asks, would I like to come? I can feel my vagina drying up like a salted slug. From underneath the table I text Cleo, no, with seven exclamations. I hope she’ll get the message, but telling Cleo what you don’t want is like chumming in the ocean.

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