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Flashing neon lights

Published by Selbbin in the blog Stuff. Views: 269

Small part of one of my shitty books. Yes, it's bad. I know it's bad but I wrote it a loooooong time ago. The following has coarse language so be warned! Swearing and all that jazz. :eek:

... We started in the usual place; buried in a mid-city bar with a steady flow of beer and pointless conversation. Chris suggested that we see the latest Hollywood action film, so we could escape in two hours of gratuitous sex and violence. I agreed. As soon as the end credits rolled, we stumbled out of the dark and into the crowded city.

‘That was shit,’ Chris was angry, fighting through a stream of people, ‘totally shit. They shoot too many films and not enough directors.’ We ducked into our usual eatery; a kebab restaurant that also served as an all-night café. ‘Who the hell thought that was a good idea? “Hey, that’s crap. Here’s a hundred million dollars.” They may as well give me the money so I can film our toilet after a bad night on the piss.’
‘It wasn’t that bad.’ I found our usual half-booth and took my place on the chair. Chris took the bench along the wall.
‘Oh come on! No helicopters! No explosions! And no nudity! What the hell was the point? We should have stayed at the bar. I can get four drinks for the price of that crap, and I would have seen more action.’ Chris screwed up his face, groaning in pain.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Yeah, no,’ he grabbed his temple, ‘it’s just, I’ve had this headache all night. But now it’s getting really bad.’
‘That’s because you’re all worked up.’
‘No, it’s not that. I just don’t feel very good.’
‘Do you want to go?’
‘No. It’s ok. I should be fine.’
We read the menu for some reason, even though we always ordered the same. Chris groaned again, clutching his temple in agony.
‘You know what, I think I’ll duck out and get some aspirin. You don’t mind, do you?’ He slid from the booth and stood.
‘No. Go for it.’
‘I’ll be quick, there’s a place down the road…’
‘Whatever, go away.’ I just wanted to eat.

Chris dashed out while I stared at the menu; stomach growling at me to order. ‘Fuck off,’ I growled back. Soon, even the menu grew boring. I was left staring at a framed picture of Marilyn Monroe; the famous picture that everyone knows, with her white dress billowing over the subway grate from The Seven Year Itch. The place had a classic movie theme.

‘Chris! Where the fuck are you?’ I checked my watch impatiently. Half an hour had passed. I built a small log cabin out of thin, tubular sugar packets; including a driveway and letterbox.
‘What’s that?’ The waitress asked with a laugh.
‘It’s a house, in the tropics.’ I grinned. ‘I’ve ordered a pool but they said it would take a few days.’
‘You’re weird.’ she walked away.

I sighed, and then built a doghouse in the backyard. Chris finally staggered in, gasping for breath and clutching a small paper bag.
‘What took you so long?’ I destroyed the cabin and replaced the sugar in the plastic container.
‘Sorry man,’ he sat, ‘no place was open. I had to go right down the road.’

Chris took his aspirin, and we proceeded to order and eat. I devoured my chicken kebab with lettuce, tomato, onion, and barbecue sauce. Chris looked at me with pause. Guilt was eating him faster than he could his lamb kebab. He wanted to tell me something.
‘What?’ I studied him, curious.
He took a moment to think, glanced at the waitress walking past, and then leant in. ‘If I tell you something, you promise you won’t get mad?’
‘Tell me what?’ I mumbled through a mouthful.
‘You have to promise.’
‘Ok, I promise. What?’
‘I don’t really have a headache.’
‘What? Then, where did you go?’
Chris floundered for a moment, looking around uncomfortably. ‘Don’t get mad or anything.’
‘Just tell me!’ I was far too curious to get mad.
‘Ok…’ His explanation was brief. There was a strip club a few blocks down the road. Chris had been there a week before and a particular dancer caught his attention. ‘Long brunette hair, perfect breasts, and her pussy…’
‘Get on with it.’

I wasn’t a fan of porn, and I hated going into sex shops. It wasn’t any moral objection. I wasn’t offended. I just found them crass and tasteless. Chris lied to get away from me and find out if the dancer was on again. If she wasn’t, then he would stick to the headache story and I never would have known. But she was on, and he was desperate to see her. ‘Sorry for lying to you, man,’ he was still full of guilt, ‘but you can understand.’

‘What about Jess?’ His girlfriend—the third ingredient in our cheap mixed salad of friends. A young suburban girl, she liked to say ‘Fuck Censorship!’ and adored heavy techno. She had short pink hair. She was an eyeliner junkie. She liked to hang out in the ladies room of an all male gay bar. She would probably hate you, unless your name was Chris. She went to university and that brought the usual debauchery into her rental terrace house; like parties on the weekend that start on Friday and finish some time before lunch on Wednesday. Anything could happen; bonfires, benders, group orgies involving full contact nude twister and a four-foot stuffed koala with a bow tie. ‘She’s hot. Why do you need to look at strippers?’
‘Just because you have Da Vinci at home, doesn’t mean you can’t go to the gallery once in a while and check out a Monet.’
‘That makes a strange kind of sense, except Monet was an impressionist that did landscapes.’
‘This brunette has an impressive landscape.’
‘Anyway, it was a shitty thing to do, lie to you. I’m sorry.’
‘It’s cool.’
‘And I’m going to see her again.’
‘Now. Are you coming?’
I considered it for a moment: Dark, filthy watering-holes saturated with intoxicated louts shouting abuse at drug-fucked dancers in tight vinyl boots and cheap lipstick.

Flashing neon lights danced on the wet street. Red. Blue. Yellow. Green. A light rain slowly drenched those lingering outside in the open. Bins overflowed with garbage. Smashed beer bottles and fast-food wrappers littered the ground. Vagrants slept in alleyways and dark corners. Some even found shelter in the entrance to the train station, where streams of people spilled onto the street. Young girls wandered aimlessly along the footpath, scantily clad for a quick mounting. Lonely men lined up behind automatic tellers, extracting their weekly pay for a night of companionship, or entertainment.

We stopped for a moment as Chris answered his phone. He dove into a corner to block out the noise while I waited nearby, trying to stay out of everyones way. Three plump, elderly women waddled past; short, well-dressed, and dignified. All I could hear was one of them declare: ‘…what we need is a full-scale chocolate dick…’
Two businessmen in suits came stumbling in the other direction. ‘What’s worse than paper tits?’ one laughed before he was out of earshot. ‘A cardboard box!’
Five girls in their mid-twenties came trotting by; faces covered in thick make-up and cheap jewelry; dressed in high heel shoes and ugly frocks. The one on the far left bellowed ‘…so I said to her, “you don’t know anything about reality”…’

Across the street, a teenage girl in rags caught my attention. Barely noticed by the crowds rushing past, she huddled from the cold and was begging for spare change. She appealed to a young tourist couple in new designer cargos, sandals with socks, and overly expensive polyester jumpers they sell in adventure stores. It was a rough part of town, sure, but it was still the middle of a modern western city; not some towering mountain in the Himalayas, war-torn village in Africa, or dark corner of the Amazon. They don’t need all that modern backpacking shit, I thought to myself. To me the word backpacking had always conjured up thoughts about adventure. And when it started, that’s exactly what the backpacking culture was all about: people launching themselves into the wild unknown on a journey of discovery. You wouldn’t have much money. You’d carry one bag on your back for months at a time. You’d sleep in flea-infested hostels, wear the same clothes for months at a time, and eat the local food of wherever. There were no guides. There were no books. You followed a slight idea, some vague information, and the stories told by other travelers you met along the way. You wouldn’t really know where you were going, or how you would get there. Maybe trekking across some lonely mountain range, or hitchhiking along the coast. Walking through some isolated Nepalese community where the only transport for a hundred miles was a diseased yak with a limp. Not anymore. Backpacking had slowly mutated to accommodate a younger suburban middle class that were desperate for escape, but unwilling to give up their luxuries. Most were glued to the safety rails of the tourist trails, indulging in the delusion of adventure while clutching a Lonely Planet bible and low interest credit card.

The tourist couple feigned a conversation, pretending not to notice the beggar as they marched by; towards whatever trendy bar their fancy hostel had told them was the place to be. The girl searched for the next opportunity amongst the crowds rushing past—thick wallets to be emptied in poker machines and ladies panties. No one stopped.

I felt guilty. To me, one chunk of metal can be lost without care. I waste it on tips in cafes or a quick phone call about nothing. But to that desperate girl it could mean everything. It could help her buy a miserable piece of food, or find a safe place to sleep for the night. But more importantly, it could mean knowing that someone actually cared. That she mattered. I realized we had more in common than I dared to admit. And as I wondered where she had come from, and how she found herself begging for help in the rain, my hand was snug in my pocket, fingers twirling a small coin.

‘Alright, it’s up here,’ Chris grumbled as he pulled me away, fighting through the crowd.
‘Who was that?’
‘Jess,’ he sighed, ‘she’s gone to a spirituality conference in some outback hippy watering-hole.’ She was very big on that kind of thing, and I secretly shared her interest. Not the pot-smoking, lentil-eating, beard-growing part of it; and one day I hope to see a can of tuna-free dolphin. But I refused to hurt the multitude of cockroaches that shared our apartment and believe there’s more to the world than what we can see or touch. I often felt uncomfortable when conservative friends made fun of the alternative culture, when I secretly wanted to be something of a hippy myself.
‘I don’t like it, man,’ Chris grumbled, ‘those freaks are going to warp her brain. I had to tell her to be careful and not listen to everything they say.’
‘Don’t be so paranoid.’
‘I know what she’s like. I bet when she comes back, she throws out all the steak in the fridge.’
‘We have steak?’
‘Not for long. We’ll be steaming vegetables and listening to whales masturbate, and then we’ll see who’s paranoid.’
‘We have steak?’
A herd of students came charging past, singing and yelling in drunken merriment. They were ambushed by a spruiker and convinced that his club was the best in town.
‘Live sex on stage!’ He proclaimed, guiding them towards the door. ‘Hot girls, cheap drinks!’ The students laughed and jumped about, slapping each other on the back as they charged in. The reluctant few on their tail were quickly dragged in by their mates. The spruiker then blocked our path and tried to bundle us in with the rest. ‘Come on, mate, wanna have some fun? Live sex on stage! Who knows, you might get a free fuck.’
‘No thanks.’ Fuck off.

Our stop was Girly Girls, one of the smaller clubs tucked between a newsagent and a cheap backpacker hostel. They wanted a fifty dollar cover charge, but Chris talked it down to ten. I forked over the cash, followed Chris along a dark hallway, and then opened a large black door. We entered into...

The overwhelming stench of beer soaked carpet, stale vomit, and sweat. The air was damp and hot. I could barely breathe. The stage was lined with red velvet curtains. Worn out, they were covered in stains and rips and holes. Behind them was a room where the dancers got changed. Cheap wooden stairs covered in strips of rotten carpet led from the centre like a catwalk, down into the audience; two rows of chairs faced either side of the stairs, and three rows on either side faced the stage. The steel-framed chairs were interlocked; the cushions crushed and rotten. The bar was two meters wide and right next to the entrance. Dirty glass shelves held a few liqueur bottles and a display of beer available; the usual local brands, plus something exotic from Germany. Four tall, round tables with barstools sat right down the back, near two black doors. One led to the fire escape, and the other to the male toilets. The ceiling and walls were all black; warnings and adverts painted in fluorescent pink: NO Photography! – Water, beer, bourbon $5 – Keep off the stage! – Champagne available, ask at the bar. The paint was illuminated by several black-lights, which made the fluff on my clothing glow.

There was already a dancer on stage; a large woman awkwardly moving to the hoots and hollers of slobbering drunks. Her blubber shook with every move. Her face was hideous; like someone smashed a vegetarian pizza with a sledgehammer. I couldn’t understand why the rest of the room was so excited. Chris shrugged and ordered a beer. We nestled into our moist seats and prayed it was spilt drinks. Appalling dance music drummed through my head. It was so loud that neither of us could talk normally, so I resigned myself to just sit in silence and pretend to enjoy the entertainment.

A stunning girl in her mid-twenties slipped up the stairs. Tall and slender, she had a fit body and long brunette hair. She was one of those girls that I always caught myself staring at on the street. Cool trance music, along with interesting and fashionable clothes, proved that she not only had talent, but taste. Thank fuck, I thought, finally someone to look at.

‘That’s her.’ Chris slapped me with excitement.
‘What?’ I only heard a mumble.
‘That’s her! That’s the brunette.’
‘The Monet?’
‘What?’ He only heard a mumble.
‘The Monet!?’
‘No! That’s the Monet! Nice, eh?!’
‘Nice!? Right!?
‘She’s alright.’

Not only was the Monet attractive, she was also a master of seduction with no inhibitions to get down and dirty. The crowd was hypnotized. They just stared in silence, drooling in lust. She owned them. She owned us all. We were under her power. Her moves did all the work; the Monet stripping slowly and not revealing much until the very end. Chris got ice down his top, a sore nipple, and a big grin.

‘So, what did you think?’ Chris was eager for my approval.
‘She was ok.’

The next dancer was of no great interest; shapeless body; chunky legs; ugly tan lines. She could have been a librarian or shop assistant for all I knew. It was fascinating that most of the dancers were just ordinary girls. They were not Penthouse Pets or Miss Julys. You would never see them on calendars hanging in a workshop, or plastered on a teenager’s wall. Instead, they were just ordinary people you would pass on the street, sit next to on a bus, or see at a friend’s party.
She finished, and we loosely clapped in appreciation for the effort. We did that for every girl who performed, even if we didn’t like them. We were the only people who did.

My façade of care was slowly dissolving, but luckily at the same rate that Chris was getting drunk. I didn’t want to ruin his evening, or be a pain, so I just put on a smile and made the most of it. I read every poster and sign in the club, peeled off the labels from all my beer bottles and then five that I found on the floor. I arranged the bottles in a conga line and gave them all five-letter names: Scott, Jenna, David, Paige, Felix, Maria, Byron, and so on. After several hours, the Monet was back on stage and I had to take a piss.

I got up and staggered into the bathroom. It was filthy. The urinal was only big enough for one, and the single cubical had a cracked toilet bowl without a seat. The floor was wet and sticky. I could smell the stench of previous masturbation. I tried to hold my breath as I pissed in the bowl, staring out of the window into the alleyway behind. I’d had enough. I wanted to go home.
As I stumbled out, the Monet finished and slipped behind the curtains.

‘Come on.’ I insisted. ‘Let’s go.’
‘Why?’ Chris couldn’t understand. ‘Beer and pussy.’
‘I’d rather go to bed.’
‘And do what? Dream of beer and pussy?’
As the Monet came back down, a new dancer pranced up the stairs and slipped behind the curtains. I didn’t take much notice. I didn’t care.
‘I’m serious. Come on.’
‘After this one. I don’t think we’ve seen her yet.’
‘So what?’
‘So, she could be alright.’ He was pleading. ‘Come on; it’ll take, like, two minutes. If she’s not interesting then we go. Alright?’
‘Alright.’ I sat as hip-hop music bellowed from the speakers, followed by moans and sighs of despair. This wouldn’t take long. Chris quickly finished his beer.

The crowd was still jeering as the dancer began; hidden behind the split in the curtains. There was an intriguing sense of mystery, yet frustrating. I just wanted to go. After toying with us for a few moments, the girl finally appeared.
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