Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nightwhore at the Diner - Perspective 4

This is the last in a four-part series. I know you are a 'read the end of the book first' kind of person but don't start here.  I know it's tempting.  But don't.  Scroll down for parts one, two and three.  Do it.

Edward Hopper  (1942)  Nighthawks at the Diner 

He was cool.  The coolness of a man whose guilt had already been assuaged by a salve of excuses and planned path of redemption.  It was a coolness  that had been interrupted earlier in the evening with a sharp pause of desire.  He knew she was the one as soon as he saw her.  She needed attention.  Red hair, red dress, red lips.  She knew what she wanted too and he was the one to show her, but she didn't know about the lesson she was going to learn.

He took her away from the bar as soon as he could, to this crackpot diner, the only thing open, where he could regain some calmness while he mentally worked through the plan. It hadn't been easy.  Their peace had been ruptured with a loud clatter of stainless steel as the waiter sent the milkshake cups flying when the latest customer had slunk in. The noise richoched around his head, puncturing his demeanour.  While she stared at her fingernails he shot death stares at the waiter while he willed his mind to be still.

He wondered what passers-by might think if they saw him there with the girl. Would they think, he wondered, of her warmth and his coolness?  Would they wonder why they were together? Why she would be with him?  Did they know?

At first glance she was beautiful, but under the skin he knew that wasn't so.  Warm on the surface but her soul and heart were slowly atrophying.  In the fluorescent light it was easy to see that the poison was reaching her skin.

It was the guilt that did it.  He knew from nights like this one.  Nights he tried to resist, but couldn't. Women he tried to resist, to no avail.  Urges he tried to resist, but failed.

The sex, and the blood, and the violence.  And then the redemption for it all.  He remembered every night like this. Different towns, different hookers, different dresses. But the scripts were all the same.

He spared a minute from his thoughts and glanced across the counter at the customer whose entrance had so startled the waiter.  It didn't take him long to put a name to the uncharacteristically solemn face.  Detective Seb Lazarides from over at 4th.  It was definitely time to leave.  He willed himself calm as he threw the coins on the counter and nudged her.  She put on her coat and he grasped her by the arm, leading her towards the doorway that bridged darkness and light.

For observers it looked as though he was leading her into darkness.  But he knew that the darkness was here, in places like this.  His truth was that he would lead her to the light.

Oh yeah.  She would atone for her sins tonight...


The policeman was still fussing with his badge as he rushed out the door to start his shift.  Slacks pressed, creased tightly down the middle, coal black boots freshly spit-polished, baton knocking against his leg.  His partner smiled a patient greeting.  "Did you hear the news?" he enquired.

"I haven't had time! I was out late last night at a club, just got in this morning and obviously I'm running late!" He winked.  Why, what's up?"
"Lucky bastard.  No wonder you've got bags under your eyes.  How the hell do you manage to  get lucky so often when you've got no bloody hair?  I'll have to get a leave pass and come out with you one night and get some of your magic.   I can be your wingman!"
"Sure, sure - just let me know when.  What's the news?"
"There's been another hooker murder.  Poor bitch, apparently it was ugly."
"Really? What's that? Ten now?"
"Christ, they better stop that bastard soon."
"I hope so.  The paperwork is killing someone."
"What's the first job today partner?" he asked, through a nonchalant smile that betrayed nothing.
"We've got to go over to the Southside.  She had a kid that she apparently left home alone at night."

His badge fixed perfectly on his lapel and knowing everything was in order, just the way it should be, the policeman looked up and began the short walk to the patrol car.  He was a knight to the rescue of the endangered child.

Redemption, it seemed, was waiting.

The end.

Nightwhore at the diner - perspective 3

This is perspective three of a four-part story. Parts one & two are below.

Seb was normally the kind of walking charisma who could bring life to a party of geriatric oncology patients.  A great sense of humour, a word for everyone, a man who left smiles in his wake.  Others envied his ability to look people in the eye, the effort he put in to knowing at least one thing about everyone in his immediate surrounds, no matter if he liked them or not.

They wouldn't recognise him tonight.  For once no one noticed his presence. And, for once, he was lost for words, his charisma shrunk by the world he found himself in.  He paced the street, kicking mindlessly through the detritus that lined the road from the hordes that, with their shadows, tracked this path earlier when the light of the day still offered some promise.  The trams and Lincolns and street vendors had gone, the staticy sounds of New York swing no longer riffed invitingly from doorways.

He wasn't supposed to be working, work hours were long over, his beat complete.  But he was never one to follow the rules.  He'd been looking for someone he didn't know, someone he didn't like, someone that, despite being out here in the stranger's world, he was no closer to finding.  It was hard to find someone who, he suspected, knew the rules even better than him.

The light emanating from the diner wasn't exactly inviting but it held the promise of a hot coffee.  Without much thought he found himself walking in.  Neither the waiter's startled surprise nor the clatter of milkshake cups as they bounced across the floor registered on his radar.  He slouched onto the diner's stool, his back to the outside world. He sat.

It may have been the door closing that nudged him out of his reverie long enough to notice the waiter about to ask him for his order.  

"Hey Sir. What can I get ya?" His voice grated on Seb who found himself wishing he could have just served himself from a pot without any need to break from his thoughts.

"Coffee. Black."

He summed up the resentment of the having divert his energy, even for just those few words, with a mentally muttered, "Fuck" before retreating back into his thoughts, his mind a cacophony of crazy as he struggled to subdue his feelings of despair and disgust. He needed to stop feeling shit.  He knew it was the feelings that were making him miss something simple.

Normally he would register the details insignificant to everyone else.  That the man sitting across from him had seemed suddenly uneasy. The click of the coins as they rolled on the counter, the scrape of the bar stools as they scored the linoleum.  That the man had grabbed the woman's arm a touch tighter than a lover might.  That the red dress didn't hide the loneliness of the woman whose companion was escorting her to the door.  But not tonight.

He vaguely registered the smell as the waiter released the coffee from its urn prison.  But by the time the man led the woman into the darkness Seb had continued drowning in his own thoughts, lost in an ocean of problems of people he could never know, in a mental prison of a murderer's making.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Nightwhore at the Diner - perspective 2

This is perspective two of a four-part story.  

It had been a slow night.  Not much was left of it, a few stragglers seeking refuge from the crisp air were all that remained.  As he bent for the steely coolness of the dirty milkshake cups under the counter, the sudden jangle of the doorbell made him jump.  The cups fell to the floor with a clatter, the aluminum clash enough to make his teeth jar like he had been chewing on foil, sour strawberry milkshake splattering up his legs, the stains seeping insidiously into the legs of his crisp white pants.

He'd been struggling to control his composure ever since Scarlett, as he had secretly named her, had walked in with the man earlier, hot flashes of red and white  drawing his vision as she strobed across his periphery.  The crash drew the man's attention to him.  He could feel the glare,  twin spears heading straight for his self-consciousness, feel the cold angriness at his incompetence.  He was annoyed with himself as he felt his face flush. His last vestige of composure since Scarlett sashyed in the door like a red tidal wave, stripped from him by the death stare of a stranger.

As he clumsily started to wipe up the milk, he felt, rather than saw, the presence of the customer newly seated at the bar. It was more than just the faint odour of stale cigarettes and dampness of clothing newly traipsed in from the cold evening air.  There was a sense of hopelessness that hung from him like steam dissipating off a hot cup of coffee.  He slumped over at the bar, hat tipped down obscuring his face, his back to the street in an effort to block out the world.

"Hey Sir, what can I get ya?" He stammered, face still red, as he tried to redeem himself from the spilt milk fiasco.  The customer was sparse with his words, like it was his dying breath and he didn't want to waste it.  "Coffee. Black."

As he turned to the urn, he heard the clatter of coins on the counter and the low-pitched scraping of stools on the linoleum as Scarlett and her partner stood up wordlessly. As she put on her coat he caught a sense of her weariness, and the partner's cold indifference.  He watched as he grabbed her by the arm and led her through the doorway and into the darkness.

As he pressed the Bakelite tap and the coffee cascaded into the cup, he comforted himself.  "Just one hour till close..."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Nightwhore at the diner - perspective 1

She couldn't believe that she was here again, close to daylight, surrounded by strangers, including the straight-laced jock beside her. She gazed pensively at her chewed up nails like a hooker at the bar but without the comfort of a glass of Jack.  She didn't know how she got here, she rarely did.  Nights like this normally ended up with some half-limp dick trying to prove he was the world's greatest fuck.  They rarely were. Instead, like life, they left her unsatisfied and looking around for more.  

The fluorescent light echoed around the room, bouncing off every flaw in the goddam place - she mustered up the effort to wonder what the lights were doing to her complexion. She sat for a moment, watching the promise of the waiter, his white coat masking his clumsiness as he wiped up the spilt milk.  The jock beside her was rigid and stiff, balding head covered by a nasty hat, probably thinking of his wife. She could hear it now, it was pathetic, his mind clogging up with ethics and righteousness while his dick grew hard at the thought of teaching her a lesson once they finished their drink.  

She had the sudden thought she could finish it now, run out into the street and away from this non-existence.  But the dark night held no promise of redemption, no brightly lit cab to take her away, only shadows, cold and pervasive risk.  Cold and dark outside, cold and stark inside.  She felt transient in her own life, a charade.  The jock gave her a nudge and flung some coins on the counter wordlessly.  As she got up to put on her coat she felt a sudden, fleeting bout of nausea and disgust.  

By the time he lead her to the doorway that bridged the light and dark, she felt nothing.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Probably too much information...

**Warning - upon reflection this story may actually be quite disturbing and a little too revealing.  Before you read on, I want to assure you that there was no lasting psychological damage.  Little kids do odd things. Sometimes there is no acceptable adult explanation.  Okay?

Let the story begin...

When I was a kid I was in love with Fraser McPherson (not real name) from across the road.  And, I am sure, in his own way Fraser loved me too.  I was five, and he was six - the dashing older man.  We went to the same school.  Our parents weren't friends, in fact, as far as I recall, we weren't really allowed to play together.

But you see, I loved Fraser, and Fraser loved my feet.  Yep, that's right. To be precise, he loved to smell my feet.  We would huddle furtively under a blanket - ostensibly playing cubbies, and after a quick reconnaissance of the out-of-blanket world,  he would smell my five-year-old feet. But it didn't stop there.  He smelt my feet out the back near the woodpile.  He smelt them in the shelter of the freshly built garage. It became a regular rendevous.  I would wait out the back in nervous anticipation until twilight, disregarding my mum's call to dinner, in the hope that Fraser would give the secret knock on the back fence.  Then there would be the secretive glancing around, before the shoes got whisked off, and Fraser copped a noseful. 

I had no idea then of why this was naughty, but even at five I knew there was something a bit wrong about it - I still remember how I felt nearly 40 years later, and how hard I tried to hide this secret child's business from my parents.  But now, as an adult I realise that it was incredibly disturbing and weird, and that Fraser must have had something a bit skewiff in the upstairs department.  Not least because my feet have always been large and ugly, so ugly that my husband has nicknamed one of my toes "E.T." So ugly that the closest I get to having my toes sucked is to gaze at pictures of Sarah Ferguson reclining langourously on a sun bed, her toes in the mouth of her soft-bellied lover.  But also because, much to my life-long embarrassment, my feet have always been smellier than Vieux Boulogne, a French cheese described as having "an aroma of six-week-old earwax" and emitting "a pleasant eau de farmyard, replete with dung and Barbour jackets."  It seems that Fraser loved a bit of toe cheese straight after his breakfast toast.

How does one get to have a foot fetish at 6?  Almost as disturbing is the question of why I lined up for this experience.  It did tickle, and I remember finding it quite funny, but, in the way of memories, the exact reason I participated is lost to me now.  We moved from that address not long after.  I remember being heartbroken, but in hindsight it was very, very much for the best.  What would have happened if we had stayed?  What kind of a person did Fraser grow up to be?  Curious, I did a quick google search on his name - but to no avail.  Perhaps Fraser became a horse farrier, or a shoe maker, a podiatrist, or even a serial killer. Or maybe, he became a specialised purveyor of stinky cheese.  I don't know, but it's interesting and kind of scary to speculate.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Memories lain...

We stack our memories. Layer upon layer they wait patiently to be unpeeled when we feel like wandering through memories lain.  But even though they are archived, seemingly safely tucked away, their essence slowly bleaches out like sun-worn timber. Only the strongest grains remain, braille touched with life-worn fingertips of memory.  The emotions, the smells, the visions flash up unsynchronised - lips move with no sound, disembodied emotions, sounds heard but no vision, smells.

Today's memories are new, raw, thick and emotionally charged in the storm of their making, unwittingly waiting to be compressed and subdued by memories to come. But the older ones are refurbished, gaps refilled, turned over and recast in the wellspring of our minds.  What do we keep and what gets discarded?  What does it mean to say "I remember"?


These could be my favourite childhood memories, but, in truth I can't be sure:

Sunday morning radio stories on crackly airwaves - Watership Down and Spike Milligan, Walt Disney World. Sunday board games day.  Being bathed, soapy warm and clothed in night's armour - pyjamaed before darkness made its dusk charge.  Heidi and Lassie and Skippy.  Solving the mysteries of haunted castles with the Famous Five, curled up legs on long car drives in the days when you thought there was nothing special about scenery.  Boats, trains and automobiles, tunnels and mountainous road trips through pine plantations. Competing to see whose lolly lasted longest, resisting the urge to crunch.  I spy. Home baked biscuits and cakes, rich chocolate tentacles wafting through the air and learning how to cook.

Walking home from school, misty breath through baby teeth and lips, gumboots crunching through the frost covered grass, a blanket of freckles no protection for a nose in weather so cold that it burned.  Frowny concentration searching for four leaf clovers, the perfect leaf, the deepest puddle, the cracks. Cold fingers wrapped around warm mugs of chocolate, breath blowing away the steam.  Musky lambswool and log fires.  Wallpaper.