I have needed to stretch my writing muscles a bit this week and write something completely different from my NaNo piece. So here it is – me just going for a short jog.
Look at me, she said in the voice of a thousand burnt out stars. Look at me. I am woman.
The universe was a hotel bar in a neighbourhood so seedy that if it became fertile nobody would see trees for forests. The lights were permanently set to half past sunset, while the eyes of the patrons idled in parking bays for the disabled.
You buy me a beer, handsome? she cooed in a crow’s voice.
Listen, lady, I tell her, it’s a downward spiral when you start drinking on the job.
When the Devil’s your boss, it’s a requirement, she comes back.
Nice, I say and wave the barkeep, who looks like he could be the lover of the bride of Frankenstein, over with a finger. When he moves, it looks like his body parts belong to a human, but I wonder if they are living.
Give the dame a drink, I order him, and make mine a double.
His brown-toothed smirk tells me all I need to know. He thinks he’s seen it all before. I feel like telling him he ain’t, but he looks like he could do with one last surprise in his life, so I keep my mouth shut and pull out a handful of coins and spill them onto the bar counter. Should keep him occupied a while.
Sures hope you got more than that down there, the old sweetheart says.
Sure I do, I wink back at her, then pull out my cigarettes and matches. I light up. Through the blue plumes of smoke curling in on themselves like serpents trapped in a dream, I see a man seated at a table in a darkened corner. My mouth twitches at the sight of him. He watches me closely.
The barkeep slams two drinks onto the counter with a grin before he sweeps up the change in a surprisingly dextrous movement. He turns and limps away without as much as a glance backwards. The dolly next to me nearly tumbles over the bar, she reaches for her beer with such urgency, like it’s going to grow legs and walk away. I take my drink. Golden. Iced. I clink my glass into the beer bottle.
To us, she says.
You bet, I say. I take a slug. Goddamn tequila. I pucker, holding a sharp inhalation of alcoholic fumes in my lungs. I close my eyes and feel the liquor run into my bloodstream. It is exhilarating. When I open my eyes again, I ask, What’s your name?
Lilly, she says. Like the flower.
Beautiful, I say. You come here often?
You could say so, she says.
Who’s the fool in the corner?
Never seen him before, she doesn’t even bother to look in his direction.
Looking to get laid tonight, Lilly? I ask.
With the lights on, she says.
I consider her.
And I know some knots not even you’d get out of, she continues, leaning in so that she can mumble in my ear. Her breath odour is a concoction of beer, meat and cheap lipstick.
I nod my head.
I’m always game for a challenge, I say, glancing up and staring directly into her blue eyes admiring me in the mirror hung on the wall behind the bar counter. I drag deeply on my cigarette then throw back the tequila.
Yo! I yell at the barkeep. Two more over here. And one for the gentleman in the corner over there.