In The Bordello, Still
There was nothing else to do ; I braced myself against the blizzard and trudged out. The white-out of the snowstorm glared through me, accusing with cold. I felt ridiculous going out alone so late, nobody else would be out in this weather, and anyway it was sunday, again.
I crossed the railway tracks again, freezing metal hidden under rapidly freezing snow.
And then I knew where I was heading for.
I watched for church spires, ducked through alleyways, almost impassable with wind driven drifts, slipping through archways in the old town narrow cobbled streets, turning confusing concentric circles and spirals, double backs and alleys and concealed back doors, an inscribed spinning mandala of deceit and self-delusion. Wheeling left into the broad spread at the crest of the hill, crowned by St. Vincent’s spire in semi-profile, gleaming big clock face hovering the hour over the arctic air, “Observe the time, my child…”
I was blasted off the streets by the icy winter wind and buffeted through the heavy double swing doors, tumbling down the steps into a warm seedy cellar bar, a dive amongst dives, a hotbed of crime and confusion – The Bordello. “Sympathy For the Devil” was bouncing off the walls, and the tiny low-ceilinged room was crowded, a buzzing market place of the illicit, just like I hoped it was.
I was in my element, and swimming with the tide. Before I could order a coffee Dolly sweeps over, claps me on the back and hands me what I need. Which we wash down with cheap sherry, she’s looking gorgeous tonight, and I’m glad she’s seen with me. We start talking. “It’s been confirmed” She says gravely, “The world was consumed by fire in 1904” “I know”
I try to sound concerned even though we’ve been through all this before. Anycase, we’re distracting ourselves until we feel the pills make something happen.
I turn away to view the bar. Mimi and Mary-Jane, what’s left of the wise women, street revolutionaries, are huddled together in a corner, in a sort of booth or snug constructed from aluminium beer barrels stacked against the pinball machine. Their voices drift to me over the rumble of the bar, “Fair is foul and foul is fair hover through the fog and filthy air”. They seem too engrossed to notice me, they’re playing a game of poker, writing out their stakes on blank NHS scripts.
Centrestage the Princessa Pestilence sat in a spotlight, sipping noxious fluids from a grimy goblet. Her pin-hole camera eyes fixed on the floor. She was waiting for Frankie, But I already knew she was waiting in vain. The last time I’d seen Frankie he was a young doomed hero sprawled across the bonnet of a big white flashy car – as if he owned the damned thing. “Dontcha want to come to Madrid then?” He pouted, pulling the best James Dean poses he’d ever managed.
“No” I said. And he left.
The harsh winter sun shone through his greasy quiff like a halo, his dark sunken eyes glowed in his cadaver white skull-face. Swishing off in the Princessa’s full length leather coat, her inheritance stashed in his boots.
Huddled against the far wall in the shadows lurked the Wye Twins. Florence and Drearia Wye conspire in hushed echoey voices, mynah bird repetitions, and poison dart mutterings. They’re exchanging suicide tips comparing scars, sharing habits and asking “why me?”. They’ve got pockets full of tamazies.
Over in the corner of the bar, languishing in deep shadows the Marquessa is enthroned on a bar stool. Jesus is tucked into tight black leather jeans, I can see that he’s left his underwear off, it is so obvious. A ‘Mr.Smith’ is polishing Jesus’ bike boots with his expensive silk tie. Jesus is tutting audibly and flicking ash onto the old guy’s shiny head.
Smooth like well oiled machinery the Marquessa lifted a champagne glass to her blood red lips and downed the lot in one sweeping movement, gulping and belching effortlessly. She jiggled her voluptuous curvature in time to the music. She was in the process of conning a Jack Daniel’s out of another ‘Mr. Smith’ in her own inimitable style “Buy me a Jack Daniel’s and I’ll tell you one of my stories” she demanded, drawing an Art Deco compact and mirror from the full sleeve of her white linen shirt. She posed in the mirror’s circle for a moment, swept a dancing light spectrum from the head of a concealed pustule. And snapping the compact shut, she winked to us. Dolly and I sauntered over – greeted with knowing smiles – we all watched reverentially as a ‘Mr. Smith’ began lining up our whiskeys……………….