Ten days in the city

Posted Sat 16 Aug
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…continued from nine days in the city

I couldn’t see for the costumes on racks in the corridor, but I knew she was down there. Pushing past dancers and showgirls, I got to the back office. Opening the door to a shriek of suprise, large eyes blinked at me in the reflection of makeup mirrors. ‘Wrong room, bozo’ she sneered, not even bothering to cover her modesty, “Office is across the hall”. Making my apologies with my eyes guarded, I left.

“I expect you would like me to explain”, she drawled, stubbing out the last inch of a cigarillo. Behind her, in the shadow of the drawn blind, stood two girls, lazily picking at their nails. “All has changed, hasn’t it? I figured you would be back. Your type always is.”

“Got fed-up with the identicut tall dames, didya? All the rareified intellectual chat and louche living ain’t for the redblooded hedonist, eh?” Despite all her polka dots and belts, she had a point. I guess I was in a groove, the cigars and A-line lifestyle moved a lot slower than this ‘hood. All of human life is here, here for the taking if you want it.

She laughed then. A knowing laugh, an earthy laugh, a laugh I couldn’t help but replicate. There was a wild abandon here, I could tell. Not sure if I wanted to be caught in this snare just yet, I cleared my throat, and looked at my clean-shaven face in the mirror casually laid on her desk. Rubbing my chin, I spoke over her head, to the quiet girls behind her. “What’s with the dolly-birds?” A short laugh, and a low snarl was my reply, and sparkling, dangerous eyes regarded me with disdain.

“This is the city, son, not your hicksville ivory towers. Real work gets done here, all day and all of the night. Those dolly birds are your betters, and don’t you forget it. They are everywhere. Everywhere you go, you will see them. And more importantly, they will see you. Watch your every step.”

I sensed I was dismissed. On probation. But that cuts two ways, and my mind ticks over as I stare at the back of her chair, she having swung deliberately away from me, leaving only the after-image of deep red lipstick and sharp cheekbones. The gravity of the city isn’t that great, and I can escape, out and away, drained and dirty, crawling from the belly of the town out into the sunshine. Out beyond the crammed houses, the striding populus and the Babel of voices.

The fast city speeds on with or without me. I hide in the shadows, avoiding the bright lights. Sure it ain’t true the streets are paved with gold, but something more vital moves in their veins. I think I’ll stop awhile longer. Just for a bit. I can give up anytime.

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