Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Night on the Town

Her room is dark. No lights lit. She looks over at the mirrors of her boudoir, strings of pearls hanging around long peacock feathers and bronze capsules of carmine lipstick. She is sitting on her unmade bed, satin sheets wrinkled and stained with wine and cigarette ash. She looks at her reflection in the mirror and begins to feel it. The gripping loneliness. Where is that goddamn cab she called.

Yellow lights burst across the drive, snake up the side of the house, and scatter across her venetian blinds, lying for a moment across her lap and in pieces across her deep, absorbing carpet. She’s on her feet then. Her painted toes disappear into the rug. A dab of perfume behind each ear and snaked down her thin, white neck. She leaves the loneliness of the cold, dark, yellow light scattered boudoir behind her as she locks the front door and steps into the cab.

“Where to Miss?” He starts driving before she even responds.

“The Bottlenose Club.” She knows that with her glowing red lips and her perfume filling the air he knows exactly what she’s going to do at the Bottlenose Club.

“And what’s a girl like you doin in a cab. You got money ta pay?” He slows near the curb and turns to take a good look at her.

She loves it. He’s watching her. She doesn’t have to say a word. He can tell by the faint light of her cigarette and his lighter that she’s wearing silk, hugging her frame like water, leaving nothing at all for the imagination. He swallows. She loves it when they do that, moving her leg slowly over to her other leg, silk falling and flowing and dipping and pulling and drawing back. She lets her fur drape down her shoulder and pulls out her purse. She hands him the five dollar bill.

“Now, let’s just see if you can get me to the club on time.”

And he does.

The doors open and it’s a wall of smoke and honkytonk music that greets her. This is the early evening crowd. The whiskey and the rum is still flowing freely and she’s not quite sure what she’ll do tonight, but what she knows is by the time the night is done, not a single person will forget her face.

She slides into the barstool, knowing the dress is catching already, sliding along her satin shaved legs and revealing the pure line of white that’s visible above her black stockings. Some men in hats over at a table notice. They’re way too eager. Much too easy. She leans forward on the bar, trying to smile coyly, even though she’s upset cause she feels the puddle of moonshine her elbow is in.

“What are you havin, luv?” He doesn’t even turn as he polished the glass, long white fingers with black hairs on his knuckles moving in and out with the bleached white rag.

“A cosmo.” And she turns her long, swanlike neck to the side and casts a glance over the other patrons of the bar. Most are preoccupied by the show. They don’t realize the real show is in the back by the bar.

“Here you are.” He set the glass down and in the instant her elbow leaves the table to reach for the glass, his bleached white rag is over the surface, removing the offending grime, lightly touching her elbow. A knowing smile on his face. “There. That’s better.”

And then he’s gone again, off to take another order, pour another lager, prepare another cocktail. She bites at her red lips. She knows she should not let this bother her. She knows that she should just let him go and look for someone else who might be more challenging. But the way he just turned and left her. Like he really didn’t caer. That was what irked her to no end. It was compulsive. Possesive. Almost beyond her control as she raised the glass and dropped it.

The shards flew, the ice skittered across the hardwood. There were flecks of liquid slowly soaking into the base of her dress. A necessary sacrifice. She would tell herself that later. Right now she isn’t justifying. That’s not how she works. She doesn’t think. She acts. She feels. She speaks. She does. And then later she’s stop and ask herself if it was a good idea or if she should have done it. Every eyes is on her. Even the music has stopped. She resist the urge to relish in the attention of their fascinated glances. Every eye belongs to her. Except his.

“You’d better clean that up.” He says without turning.

“It’s not my fault.” She lies, anything to prolong the talk.

“You dropped that glass on purpose. Now you’d better be willing to clean that up or I’ll toss you outside on your tailfeather, Missy.” He still hasn’t turned as he continues to wipe his aggrivating glasses.

“Fine!” She huffs and walks around the counter. “If I must. But know you’re being very very cruel. Making me clean something that wasn’t my fault! All of you! You heard him!”

But to her horror they all turn back and the music starts to play again. They’ve already forgotten her. No, this can’t be. She was in control. She turns to the bartender still polishing his glasses and walks over, her chest rising and falling rapidly. And then she kisses him. And instead of tasting of wine or whiskey as she imagined she only tastes fish. But worst than that, he pushes her away first and then proceeds to smack her through the face.

“Get out, whore!” He turns and goes back to polishing his glasses, “And if you don’t leave I’ll give you something to cry about.”

She’s outside the Bottlenose Club. She is trying not to cry because she knows if she does her mascara will run. And she can’t afford to do that because then the night will be officially over. She sits down on the curb and bites her red lips until she’s absolutely certain that they’re bleeding. She’ll have to pull herself together. She stands shakily to her feet and signals a cab passing by.

“Hey, you’re the dame from earlier!” A stroke of luck, the same cabby from before. “They kick you out or somethin?”

“Please sir.” She gets into the cab and begins to pretend to cry. She can’t really cry. Mascara. “There were horrible horrible men in there.”

“Usually are in the Bottlenose Club.” He says and seeing her continued her tears he reaches a hand back, attempting to take hers and comfort her. Instead he gets a handful of tender flesh and hears a squeak of surprise. “Oh, I’m sorry!”

“No, no it’s fine.” She keeps his hand in place with her own cold hands. “I’m use to being treated like this by now.”

“W-w-what does that mean? Are you some kind of nightwalker or something?” He stammers as he tries to stay in his lane.

“No!” And she throws his hand back to him, “Men! You’re all the same!”

And he does exactly what she’s expecting, “Hey, listen I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean nothing by it. It’s just that normally most woman don’t do or say things like that.”

“I aint like most woman.” She drops into her more natural tone, this will seal the deal, she’s certain. “And I can show you if you wanna find out.”

What happens next is a blur of silk and screeching tires and honking horns and waving streetlights and tearing cloth and his shirt button pops off as he pushes her off of him and into the passenger seat.  

“Lady! Listen!” He is sweating as he holds up his left hand, “I’m a married man! And I aint looking for no hanky-panky neither! So you just tell me where I can drop you and then I’ll be on my way!”

“Just here is fine.” She says sullenly, pulling her furs back up around her neck.

“Here? But it’s a dark alleyway. You looking to get into serious trouble or somethin?” He looks past her at the darkening maw, the faint lights of half a dozen lit cigarettes visible.

“Why do you care!” She screams as she throws the bills at him, “Here! Take it! Take it all! All your dirty filthy money! Nobody cares about me! Just leave me alone!”

And she jumps out of the cab and goes clacking down the street in her heels. Ahead of her the dark alley and all she can think of is that it serves him right, the prig, she hopes that she dies and he has to live with that on his conscience! What kind of man doesn’t give a woman some attention when she freely offers like that! But her thoughts her cut short.

The first cigarette drops and is crushed into the ground by a heavy boot. Several others follow. She swallows nervously, then remembering the bartender and the cabdriver she steels herself and marches into the alleyway. She doesn’t think. She only feels. And she acts on that.

“Oh boys, you lot looking for a good time?” She says in her best sing song voice.

There’s a general leering and laughing in the darkness around her. Several other cigarettes drop to the ground in fountains of sparks and red embers. She can barely make them out in the darkness of the foggy night. She beckons with her finger for them to follow and begins to walk down the alleyway, throwing her hips as she does, knowing that the stained satin isn’t hiding anything. She can feel their eyes on her. She loves it. For a moment they all will adore her. She will be the only woman to them as they follow her down the alleyway.

The first one grabs her arm. The second one brings his hand over her mouth just before she can scream again. That is all. One desperate note of panic and fear. But it is enough. There is a rumbled and a sudden lancing of bright yellow beams across fear-filled faces before the sound of bones cracking under tire-wheels is heard as the cab crashed won the alleyway, the doors sparking against the brickwork houses. It stops in the courtyard and the door flies open.

“Get in! Quickly!” He yells. Now he wants her in. Now he wants to be with her.

She jumps in and clutches his jacket, burying her face in the wool lining as he drives back. She lets herself cry now. But even as he shushes her and tells her there’s no need to be afraid anymore she’s smiles to herself because these are tears of joy. Her way is before her now. Because he doesn’t look where he is driving and soon the cop pulls them over.

She’s in a state. She can’t control her crying. She has no words. She just shakes her head and points at the cabby. Her torn and stained dressed along with her mascara stained cheeks is more than enough to convince him. The cabby shouts at her as he’s pushed into the police car. She isn’t sure what he says. She’s not entirely sure she cares. She let’s them take him away and then gives her statement about the alleyway, only the way she tells it the cabby took her there on purpose. Then comes the part she has been waiting for. They pull out the camera. They take her picture. She knows she can’t smile but inside she is beaming.

She arrives back at her home with police escort. She slides in, slowly pulling the dress, the stockings, and the bodice off. She rinses her face, now mascara and lipstick free. She still has a trace of the perfume on her. She slides in between her dark velvet covers and closes her eyes and smiles. Tomorrow everyone will see her picture on the front page. Tomorrow everyone will know how terrible it was for her. She can just image their faces. That bartender especially. He’ll think twice before kicking her out again. Not that she’ll go back. As she begins to slide towards sleep the warm buzzing sensation that they’ll all see her face begins to dissipate. All too soon she feels it again. The cloying loneliness. The cold of the bed next to her. She begins to cry, which is stupid because there’s no one even there to see her crying. A waste of perfectly good tears. She hugs the pillow tight until her knuckles turn white, and she prepares to ride out another night of the crushing darkness and the aching voices in her head that tell her she is all alone and forgotten. She keeps telling her she just has to make it through the night. Make it through the darkness.


  1. This was chillingly good. What a fascinating character study, and tactile, mesmerizing images-- the whole piece felt iconic, like something I'd expect to see in a literary anthology of classics. You should draft this up to submit somewhere!

  2. Thanks! :) It's actually funny. I wrote this as a way of trying to find one of my main character's voices for NaNoWriMo, and it actually ended up going way off from what I intended and ended up being this totally other woman who is kind of a sociopath and kind of lonely and I actually almost didn't even post it cause I thought it was a bit too risque and rough. I haven't even gone over it yet. But I might if you really think I should try submitting it. I think I still have a few nom de plumes I can use. LOL