My moment of introspection passed. We continued down the street until we came to the corner. She saw a cab coming walked out into the street and stood there, blocking the way. The cabbie leaned on the horn but she just smiled at him, turned to me and waved for me to follow. When we got in the driver, a dark skinned man that looked Mid Eastern turned around in his seat. The growing line of cars behind him began honking their horns but he ignored them and focused on her. "
"Wha' the fuck bitch! Don't you wanna live?"
She ignored his comments and simply said, "Take us to 50 Water Street."
She settled back in the seat as he continued to stare at her. Finally he realized that she wasn't going to respond. He shook his head, mumbled something about bitches, turned around and stuck his arm out of the window to give the world and all the rabid drivers behind him the finger. Satisfied by his statement of defiance he started off with a squeal of rubber.
I didn't say anything. There wasn't any point. I stared out the window and watched the buildings grow grimier and more derelict the further we traveled into the heart of the city. We passed a playground where a group of kids in blood red jackets stood huddled around two people on the ground. At first I thought they were fighting but then I realized that one of them was a girl because she was wearing a dress. I further realized that it was fucking, not fighting, that the crowds attention was focused on. Two grim faced teenagers locked in a prison of leering, sweaty faces, were doing the horizontal bop. I was curious whether it was a voluntary performance or forced. I wanted to stop the cab and watch but I didn't. The days when I would wander through the wasteland and watch the mid night whores at work were gone. Now I didn't feel like taking the risk was worth it. Although anything can be justified as a search for experience. I'd had enough of that kind of experience.
We pulled up in front of a sprawling brick pile of a building that in some long gone time when the freighters still used the port might have been a warehouse. Now it was just worn out. Lights hung from wires over the loading dock and a crowd of people wearing black shuffled around outside the door. Two fat men with bald heads picked among them, pushed some of them ahead toward the door, pulled some of them out of the line with a shove down the street.
We got out. I heard screaming coming from an alley behind me but I didn't turn around. At the door the fat men gave us the eye but after she whispered something to one of them he waved us on. Inside A small, shabby girl by the bathroom with what looked like a steel bone through her nose was doing a brisk business in something that she slipped into hands that held a folded bill . The bar was three deep with bodies. They all looked like they were squeezed from a mold- all gaunt, all wearing black, the men wore black glasses and the women were uniformly scarred with tattoos from forehead to toes. They all wore black, ripped clothes, as if they were uniforms. I shoved my way through the crowd and screamed at a bar girl with a shaved head and a scar that bisected her cheek for a double jack/rocks. When I got it I turned around and surveyed the scene. A plank platform faced with barbed wire held a DJ and a wall of speakers whose volume shook the stage. A girl with a chain around her neck danced naked in a cage suspended above the DJ.
Suddenly she was at my shoulder tugging on my arm. I bent down so I could hear her and she yelled something about meeting someone and I shrugged. She smiled and pulled me off to the right of the stage and down a red lit hallway to a rust scarred steel door at the end.Her kicks boomed against the door until somebody opened it and we stepped inside. When it closed it was as if the music had been decapitated. After the glare of sound from the main room the silence was breathtaking.
A doll faced man in a white suit sat on a cushion on a hard chair, a drink in hand. He had tiny hands, and his face was pale as a hospital child's except for his painted lips. He stared at us . His eyes were red rimmed and blinked constantly, like he was semaphoring us in a secret code.
"Hay blood!" She said and flopped down on a black leather couch. I sat next to her.
I felt a strong sense of Dejavu.
"Hay poet. Hows the pose?"
"Oh man, you know, looking for fun and finding none."
"Life is a bitch babe."
"Tell me about it."
"What's on your mind?"
"I wanted you to meet somebody." She grabbed at my jacket and shook the sleeve, as if she was trying to wake me up. I looked at her and she looked at me and then she laughed.
"What's the matter babe?"
"I don't know his fuckin' name man. I mean, we've been sharing time but we never got to that."
"Did you fuck him?"
"Nah man, you know me better than that. I don't fuck strangers. I would have asked him his name first. Hay." She said as she turned to me. "What's your name?"
"Are we going to fuck now?" I asked.
"Ha ha! Funny." She said.
"I'm James." I replied.
"Well, well. Darlings, I'm impressed.What can I do for you?"
"Oh, not much. I just wanted him to meet you."
"How nice." He replied and took a sip of his drink. The way he held it with his little finger out reminded me of people who held their cigarettes cupped in their hand or between two fingers, "european style". I didn't say anything. Everybody has something that tells you more about them than you ever wanted to know. He was no different.
His eyes drew down to slits, like red wounds above his fleshy lips. "What's your story James?" He asked.
"Not much I replied. Girl meets boy. Boy meets girl. A little this- a little that."
"She walked right into your life and sat down right?"
"Something like that."
"And then she told you she was a poet."
"Not right away. First she ate my toast."
"Joyce, Joyce, you'll never change." He said to her.
She just shrugged.
"Aren't people wonderful James?" He said, turning to me.
"Just people James. Let's not put a face on it. Not just yet. After all, we just met."
"And we're going to get to know each other better?"
He pursed his lips. They glistened. He smiled. His teeth were unnaturally white.
"Probably not. So much to do. So little time. You understand."
I looked around the room. On one wall was a large cross with a Jesus on it. The cross and the Jesus were painted black. On another wall was a window. It was painted black. On the third wall there wasn't anything. It was relaxing to stop there but the relaxation died when I followed the wall to the floor and saw, sprawled, tongue out, a black dog. He had one eye. Unlike the man, he didn't blink.
"Nice dog." I said.
"He isn't a dog." He replied.
"What is he?"
"A lost soul."
"They're all lost souls." He said dolefully.
I didn't respond but she did.
"Oh give it a rest, will you? I don't want to hear about lost souls tonight. I'm here to have fun."
"So are they." He replied, nodding toward the door.
I didn't say anything. I figured that, soon enough, all would be revealed. Besides, I wasn't in any rush to get anywhere and I knew that if I waited long enough something interesting would happen. When swimming with sharks it's best to be patient.