1. Nordic basement night club
It seemed like the night would never end. She couldn't really figure out anymore where the heck she was, and was careful to stay with the group she had come out with. If she were to get separated now, it would take here a long time to find her was back to the hostel. Hell, she couldn't even remember how to pronounce the hostel's name. Harvey had made all the reservations for this vacation. Where was he now? Over in the corner flirting with some teenager. Whatever.
Lola started taking stock of the situation. Realization number one was that she was drunk. Oops. Pretty drunk. Ok. Body check. Miraculously she still had her sweater. So many sweaters had been lost in drunken ramblings around foreign cities. Sometimes Lola liked to think back on her lost sweaters and imagine what they were doing now. The fact that she still had possession of this one was testament to how fucking bored she had been all night. If she had really been having fun, the sweater would be gone. And not only that, she wouldn't be thinking about keeping track of her stuff or her friends or worrying about getting back to the hostel Klunkstooky or whatever it's called. Sure to have a K in there somewhere, and probably an umlaut.
So, sweater, check. Money, yes. Passport, yawol. The money and the passport were in her jeans pocket. As long as she kept her pants on--which was looking fairly likely at this point--they should be safe. So that's the essential. No credit card. Not much cash left. Probably not enough for a cab even if she did manage to remember what the hostel was called or where it was. She could use another drink. Lola looked around the filthy basement dance club she was in, wondering if someone in there might maybe buy her a drink. Do men in this country buy women drinks? Maybe she didn't look alone enough. You have to look alone to get someone to buy you a drink. Lola made a halfhearted effort to look more alone while keeping tabs on a couple of the people she had come here from the hostel with at the same time. It wasn't easy and she gave up after a minute. She tried to send Harvey a telepathic message to buy her a gin and tonic, but she knew very well that men do not accept telepathic messages from their fag hags while chatting up Estonian teenagers in basement dance clubs.
This might be the suburbs.
If it was the suburbs the dance club would be in some kind of hangar-sized pre-fab building and there would be a bunch of local girls involved in a salsa-dancing floor show. They'd have costumes. The drinks would be cheaper, and there might be some old people hanging around, chaperoning their underage kids. Basement dance clubs are totally urban. Even one as big as this. There were at least five warring disco balls in here. The way her feet stuck to the floor made Lola glad it was so dark. She'd seen a lot of night clubs in the full light. She used to be a bartender. All of them were dingy, disgusting, and shabby as hell in the full light. Not that any night club she'd ever worked in ever saw a lick of daylight, but when it's time to clean up at the end of the night, the big overhead lights go up and you get to see the real grim face of the wizard.
So, this was definitely in the city still. Yet Lola was positive she remembered having walked through some kind of forest to get here. Maybe it was just a big park. Some kind of mini-forest in the city, like Central Park. Hey, that's a clue. If she knew how to say "forest" in the local language it might get her somewhere. Doubtful anywhere she wanted to go.
The music was pretty interesting. It was a mix of your typical euro-pop technoid stuff, plus American music from the 80s and 90s. The crowd seemed to like it. Lola would have liked to dance a little, but she was afraid of getting left behind if she let herself get caught up in dancing and stopped paying attention to the two or three people she was sure she recognized from the band of foreigners who had left the hostel together what seemed to her like days ago. Probably none of them recognized her or had noticed her or would think to let her know if the gang of them decided to bust a move. Just Harvey. She looked over to the corner where she had last seen him. Judging by how deeply his hand was buried in that boy's trousers, he wasn't going to be helping her keep tabs on where she was tonight. And why should he? She's a cosmopolitan type. A grown up. She's been lost and drunk in foreign cities before and lived to tell of it.
It wasn't that she was worried about it, really. The worst that could happen is a lot of walking, maybe sleeping on the ground or on a park bench for a few hours. No breakfast. Big deal. She just would rather not have the adventure tonight. The inconvenience. She wanted to have her sucky time with her crappy jet lag and feel lonely and nurse her bad attitude.
Maybe if she worked on getting that drink...
Fuck it. Harvey has cash on him, and he's probably carrying his credit card. Lola stood up. Whoa. Lola sat back down. Deep breath. Amazing how hard it is to adequately judge how drunk you are while you're sitting down. Sweater, cash, passport. Let's try that again. Lola stood up more slowly and bounced over to Harvey's corner, doing a little dance move on the way. He and Mr. Estonian Universe were gazing into each others' droopy eyes. She smiled. Harvey saw her coming and disengaged from his make-out session to turn to her.
"Lola! My Lola! Are you having fun?" He threw his arms around her and gave her a friendly hug. He was the friendliest drunk anyone has ever known. He gave her faux euro-kisses. Four of them. She made smooch noises in the air.
"Buy me a drink!" she said.
"Here," said Harvey, picking up a plastic cup off a low table and handing it to her. "Have this."
"Do you even know whose drink this is?"
"Do you want to know whether I know whose drink that is?"
"Lola, meet Uno. Uno, this is Lola. He doesn't understand a WORD of English as far as I can tell. Nor French, nor German, nor Spanish! Imagine! We've invented our own sign language."
Harvey looked at the young man and pointed his index finger at him, gave the universal "bang you're dead" sign, and winked. The boy blew him a kiss.
"Cute," said Lola. "I'm glad you and nuero Uno here are having fun. I don't suppose you feel like going back to the hostel."
Harvey looked Lola square in the face and let his jaw drop theatrically.
"No Lola I know would want to go back to some lumpy hostel bunk bed in a room full of snoring Italians before the sun is even all the way down."
"I thought so, too. So, you're not having fun. Why don't you dance? My God, they're playing 'Because the Night Belongs to Lovers'! For Chrissake's, missy, let's get out there. Never in America are you going to get a chance to dance to this song in a room boasting five disco balls."
Harvey grabbed his new blond friend by one hand and Lola by the other and dragged them both out onto the dance floor.
2. The red chenille cardigan
The deep red chenille sweater. She had found it in a bin outside at Sunshine in Barbes. She hadn't even been shopping. She was just walking by. The 10-franc bins were piled mountainously high. They leaned against the wall of the building for support, dripping colorful polysester puddles onto the gum-specked and spit-encrusted sidewalk. Crowds of women elbowed their way around them, picking up and discarding the clothes. One in a hundred pieces was worth even keeping for a closer look. Most of these sad rags were riddled with moth holes, unevenly dyed, and fraying at the armpits. They were chum bait, set out on the sidewalk to draw in the greedy bargain amazons. Get the mu-mu-clad Antillaises and the shrewd Tunisienne to step just inside the door, where they could be enticed by the more expensive cheap clothes hanging on actual hangers on actual racks, inside. Lola was a shark like they were. A mountain of clothes with 10 F scrawled onto a piece of cardboard hanging over it was like the shiny flash of the seal's underbelly. She hadn't been shopping that day. Just heading to the subway after visiting a friend. But the lure of the bargain was irresistable, and it paid off. In seconds she had in her hands the dark red chenille sweater.
It was a cardigan. Lola's hands had magical thrifting powers. She knew quality instinctively. the weight of the sweater alone told her it was worth looking at more closely. Excellent buttons, and all of them intact. Three-quarter sleaves, short ribbed waist. V-neck. Adorable. In under fifteen seconds she had found it, evaluated it, and paid for it. She had barely broken her stride.
This turned out to be one of the favorite sweaters of all time. The color was perfect. The shape was fitting and trendy. It was warm, and it washed well. It could be worn over a shirt or by itself for extra sexiness. "Je suis toute nue sous mon pull," she sang to herself whenever she wore the soft yarn next to her skin. She was partial to cardigans. People were constantly asking her where she got her sweater, to which she replied, "It's pretty, isn't it?"
The red chenille and Lola parted ways one October in San Francisco. She and Daryl and Karpo were out with a small band of Swedish girls who were students of Karpo's at the art institute or something--Lola could never keep track of the Swedish girls. Sometimes Daryl would give one of them a memorable nickname, like Elizabeast or Bandana Anna, but the girls were never around for more than a semester, so it hardly felt worth it remembering them all. They were roaming the streets in the Mission and drinking cheap wine out of a brown bag. They were all dressed to the nines. They always were back then. And they were having a great time.
Daryl threw his hands in the air with his palms facing straight forward. Everyone stopped. He turned around to face the little crowd of six or seven.
Everyone listened. It sounded like the Mission on a Saturday night. Traffic. Voices. Music.
"I hear a party," Daryl sang, cocking his head to the right. And he took off up a side street. Two blocks later, the bunch of them stood under a balcony crowded with attractive young drunks. Dance music played loudly and filled the whole street. People stood outside, getting some air and smoking Dunhills.
Lola passed Karpo the last dregs of the wine they'd been sharing, and walked in the front door, up a flight of stairs, and into the party.
Lola quickly took in the main attractions. People were dirty dancing in the living room. The kitchen counter was heavy-laden with mostly-full bottles of hard liquor and mixers. There was a bowl of cigarettes and condoms on a coffee table. Lola walked over to the kitchen counter. Another girl was standing there, alone, staring off into the distance. She was pretty, in a too-skinny sort of way. She had big eyes and short hair and she was smoking a cigarette. "She probably lives on cigarettes and Hershey's bars," thought Lola. Lola thought of Colette.
"Can I mix you a drink?" asked Lola.
The girl turned her dark eyes to Lola, who met her gaze and smiled. She meant it to be an ambiguous smile falling somewhere between friendly and mischevious, but the girl was too drunk already to notice such nuances. She looked into the plastic cup she was holding. Looked at Lola. held out the cup.
"Yes. Vodka and grapefruit," she said. "Thank You."
"Russian," thought Lola, recognizing the accent. "Definitely Russian."
"Are you from St Petersburg?" Lola asked, as she plopped a couple ice cubes into the cup. In those days it seemed like all the Russians in San Francisco came from St Petersburg. She poured the cup half full of vodka.
"Yes. How you guess?" she replied, raising an eyebrow. "I only drink with grapefruit because the vodka here is shit," she added.
It was always impressive how drunk the Russians could get. Really incredibly drunk. Walking oblivious drunk. Most mortals would have passed out gracefully at about the half way point on the long road to completely, incoherently, absolutely, slobberingly, jelly-leggedly drunk which every Russian in San Francisco seemed to travel any night of the week. This woman was just starting her night.
Lola was careful not to fill the glass all the way to the top as she poured in the grapefruit juice. Drunken Russians spill. Everyone knows that. Never fill their glasses to the top after 10 pm.
When Lola looked up again to hand the woman her drink, she saw that the woman was plainly staring down her shirt. "I am Olga," she said to Lola's cleavage.
"Lovely to meet you," said Lola, handing off the glass. She set to work on her gin and tonic as Daryl walked up to the counter, distracting Olga from her ogling.
"Set me up, Blanche!" Daryl said to Lola, finding himself a spot to stand in the crowded kitchen next to Olga, who may have been farther down the tipsy trail than Lola had originally suspected. She seemed to be sort of propping herself up against the counter. Daryl's approach upset her equilibrium and she tipped her glass. No spill. Lola smiled to herself.
"Gin Ton, my good man," said Lola, holding out the plastic cup of fizzy sweetness she had just finished pouring. "You cut a lemon."
"Oh man! They have lemon!" Daryl exclaimed just a little too loudly. "Check this out," he said in a stage whisper, leaning in close to Lola's face. "This is a great party." He growled out the r like the breakfast cereal tiger in the old commercials. Sugar corn flakes or whatever. Frosted Flakes? "Snacks, tunes, full-on dance floor happening over yonder... and would you look at these girls!" His smile widened and he pushed a lock of curley black hair behind his left ear. Pointing an index finger at Lola's nose he said, "Can I find the party, or can I find the party?"
Lola only smiled, fixing another gin and tonic. No arguments from her. Daryl indeed could find the party. It was his super power.
"The booze is on the cheap side," said Lola.
"But plentiful! Plentiful!"
Daryl walked over to the bowl of condoms and cigarettes and took two smokes and four prophylactics. The living room was dark, where the people were dancing. Lola couldn't see who was manning the stereo. Could be a DJ, maybe. She took her drink, nodded to Olga, and went to have a look. She copped a cigarette and a condom from the bowl of party favors without even looking at it as she walked into the living room.
People in there were sweaty. It was November and all of the windows were open, but the room was full of body heat. She saw one of the Swedes dancing near the speakers. A little gaggle of men began to form around her, all of them pretending for the moment not to notice her. Just dancing six inches closer to her than they were a couple minutes ago. Karpo was standing in the corner talking to the guy who was in charge of keeping the music going. Clearly not a real DJ, but he was taking his job seriously. You could tell he was proud that he had the party dancing so hard. Karpo was standing over him, taller by about a foot. Karpo was taller than everyone generally, but this guy was pretty short. He looked mediterranean or North African. Maybe Israeli, judging by the techno he was playing. He probably had some e. That's probably why Karpo was talking to him. Lola stood just to the left of the coffee table which had been pushed up against the wall and looked around. She liked to try to figure out who's apartment she was in first thing whenever crashing a party. If anyone asked her how she ended up at the party, or who she knew, she would say, "I'm a friend of Olga's." You didn't even really have to know the name of a real person at a party like this. You could say anything. This was a great party with three g's, just like Daryl had said. Everyone was having so much fun nobody gave a rats pootapatoot who was an invited guest. Olga took a gulp of her drink. There was a futon sofa on the other side of the room. Four women sat on it, watching the dancing. They seemed to know each other. Two of them were engaged in what looked like a lively conversation, but they had to take turns shouting into each others' ears to keep it up. They seemed a little bit older than most of the crowd by four or five years. They might be in their early 30s. Both of them were wearing expensive-looking shoes, though it was hard to tell from across the room. They weren't dressed in the raver uniform most of the other party guests were sporting. They were both wearing black. That sofa real estate must have felt pretty valuable to them for them to stay there trying to have a conversation like they were. The stereo and cds and tapes were all organized on a big bookcase across the room. A door was open past the stereo. Karpo and the music man were mostly blocking the doorway. Karpo was seemingly unaware of the annoyed revelers pushing past him to get in and out of the room.
"That's where the drugs are," thought Lola. She took another gulp of her drink and walked toward Karpo. It wasn't easy just crossing the room. The dance floor was pretty crowded and the music was good. Lola was tempted to just start dancing and forget about finding out what was going on in the other room. When she got close to Karpo he reached out with his long arm, wrapped it around her shoulder and pulled her in close to him. She lifted up her face and he kissed her, pushing a little pill into her mouth. It was a half. Nice! She smiled. Man, Karpo was so good at this stuff. He walks into the party, finds the man with the drugs, buys some, and shares it. All in under 15 minutes. I guess that's what they teach you at art school.
"Hey, Lola. This is Dov."
"Manishma!" said Lola. It was the only Hebrew word she knew, but she liked to show off.
"Manishma!" said Dov. You speak Hebrew?
"Nope. All I know how to say is that and 'ken.' I used to have an Israeli roommate who talked to her mum on the phone a lot. It was pretty much "Manishma? Manishma. ken... ken.... ken. That's all I picked up. Nice job with the music. I'm going to do some dancing in about five minutes."
"Thanks! It is a good party."
Lola patted karpo on the tummy. Boy, was he skinny. "Daryl was in the kitchen last I saw him. In case you're looking for him."
"So, Dov, do you know the felafel place in Tel Aviv with the neon camel sign?"
Dov nodded. "Oh yes. Many nights I go there after the night club on the next street. Great felafel. You cannot get a decent felafel here! That is the only thing I miss of Israel."
"The guy who owns that felafel joint, he was engaged to my mother once!" exclaimed karpo. Lola had heard this story before. Half the Israelis in San francisco had heard it before, too. But there was no force on earth strong enough to keep Karpo from repeating a story. Lola slipped into the next room, pinching karpo's scrawny ass to make him move out from in front of the door way.
Karpo lived on a different plane than the rest of the world. In Karpovision the connections between everything in the universe were visible and traceable. And when they weren't visible and traceable, they were easily inventable. Karpo had lived on several different continents. His father was a diplomat. So he'd gone to International schools in Africa, Central America, and the US. He remembered everyone he had ever met, it seemed, and no matter where he was in the world he was bound to run into somebody he had gone to school with, or someone who knew a friend of his. If everyone else in the world was connected by six degrees at most, for Karpo it was easily half that, and he was constantly connecting those dots. Lola had known Karpo for years, so she'd already heard most of his best stories many times over. They did evolve some as time went on. He had a lot of stories about Lola, actually. They were basically factual, most of them, but became sensational in the telling. Karpo would probably start telling Dov his story about meeting Lola for the first time as soon as she was out of earshot. His version had her leaping through the window of his ground floor apartment waiving a ziplog bag full of speed over her head. There had barely been three lines, in reality. Lola and daryl had finished off most of it before even leaving his apartment. But it was the good stuff, and left an impression.
Lola didn't really even like to take ecstasy at parties, but back then she hadn't figured out how to turn down an opportunity of any kind. Ecstasy was too powerful. She couldn't figure out how everyone seemed to be popping them like aspirin all around her. She was glad it had only been a half that karpo had slipped her and she looked around the room for a safe spot to go to if she started to feel overwhelmed. part of Lola's problem with e was that she was prone to hallucinations. If a drug had anything even vaguely hallucinogenic about it, Lola would get visuals. Sleep deprivation made Lola see things. Most of the time it was fun to be trippy like that, but it was also always disconcerting.
The back room had a bed in it piled with people's jackets and bags. Lola took her purse and put it just under the head of the bed, saying to herself, "Your purse is right here at the head of the bed. You will take this purse with you when you leave." About a dozen people were sitting on the floor of the room, passing a bong around. Lola had never liked bongs. She hated being really stoned on pot. It was probably her least favorite high of all. Being high made her feel like her words came out of her mouth typewritten instead of spoken, and hung in the air in front of her. She had the feeling that she was reading what she was saying silently to herself and that there was a gap in time between her words being spoken and the hearing of them by other people around her. So she would just sit and keep her mouth closed, watching the room expand into a tunnel or feeling herself levitating uncomfortably.
Lola knew that in a couple minutes the e would hit and she felt apprehensive. Would it be a gentle hit, or would the floor drop out from under her? Would it be trippy e or speedy e? Gum. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a pack of gum. She finished her gin and tonic, then popped in a stick of eucalyptus flavored chewing gum. She had a friend in London who sent her a box full of eucalyptus gum about three times a year. It was Lola's favorite, but fairly hard to come by in California. It's funny how different cities have different flavors. London loves eucalyptus. You can get eucalyptus gum and candy everywhere. In San Francisco if you wanted eucalyptus candy you had to buy cough drops. In Paris there was sucre de Vosges, pine-sap flavored candy. And grapefruit mentos. San Francisco had an unlimited supply of gnarly, bizarre chinese jellies, but Lola really never cared much for those.
Not wanting to start a conversation with any of the bong bunch while waiting for her drugs to kick in, Lola got up and walked back out to the living room dance floor. The music sounded even better than before. She stood at the edge of the crowd and listened with her whole body. Her shoulders started to move. She walked over to the sofa where the two black-clad ladies were still conversing. They were speaking French. Lola took off her shoes deliberately, and placed them carefully under the couch. The woman closest to the edge of the sofa raised an eyebrow and Lola blew her a kiss with her lips. Then she stood up and started dancing. Dancing was the best thing. You could never go wrong dancing. Lola closed her eyes and moved. She breathed in rhythm with the music. As she started to dance faster, she broke a sweat and unbuttoned her sweater with her right hand. She let it fall down her arms and then she stopped a few beats to lay the sweater on the corner of the coffee table before going back to her dancing. The ecstasy came on her suddenly, like it always did. She stopped, put her head back, and took a breath as deep as she could take it. As she exhaled, she brought her head back down and saw Dov smiling at her from across the room. She could tell Karpo had laid it on to him about Lola's wild ways. Ugh. "My reputation exceeds me," she thought, as she walked out of the room.
Just because she was doing e didn't mean that she wanted to get groped by the DJ. Drugs never made Lola want to have sex with people she wouldn't ordinarily want to have sex with anyway. They just gave her an excuse later for having done it, or made it easier for the sex to happen. All drugs are aphrodisiacs. They make sex more possible. Lola felt a little pang of cynicism and sadness. Why all the trouble with sex? Why did people spend so much energy on not fucking the people they wanted to fuck? Why waste so much time on not having sex when you could just simply be doing it and enjoying it? Why did you need to stipulate that you'd been high at the time? Just fucking do it, enjoy it, and feel responsible for it. Lola smiled and felt her teeth clench. Oh man. She felt really good, but the teeth clenching was a shame. Good thing for gum.
Back in the kitchen, she poured herself a glass of water. As she was standing, facing the sink, moving to the music coming from the other room, a pair of hands touched her shoulders. She closed her eyes and melted into the touch. She moved her head from left to right, stretching her neck muscles, as the hands massaged her shoulders. Small hands. Not Karpo or Daryl. Lola leaned back into the person standing behind her and inhaled. Perfume. The hands dropped down and held Lola around the waist and the two bodies danced together. Lola put her hands over the slender wrists around her waist and slowly moved her hands to entwine her fingers with her dance partner's fingers. The touch of fingers to fingers was electric. Lola loved holding hands. It had always been one of her favorite parts of making out. Just fingers touching fingers. They moved together like this perfectly for what seemed minutes. Lola's dance partner put her chin on Lola's left shoulder. Lola felt breath on her ear, felt it warm her skin and the warmth radiate from the two of them like a halo. She smelled vodka. It smelled delicious. Lola let go of the hands around her waist and turned around in the arms encircling her. It was Olga. Lola's sudden move threw Olga off balance and she lurched forward, pushing Lola backwards. Lola landed against the counter in front of the sink with Olga pressed against her. She looked up at Olga, whose brown eyes were shining. Then she reached a hand up to Olga's short, blunt hair and kissed her.
It was the perfect kind of kiss. Unexpected. Perfectly reciprocated. Olga was a good kisser, but not too pushy or hard. She was a biter, but she was holding back. Lola could tell that from the way she paused at just the moment when she would like to have bitten Lola's lip. The kiss went on and on. Lola was afraid of what might happen if it stopped. She moved her left hand up Olga's side and held her breast. Small and soft. Lola's hand began to move along Olga's body. Olga held onto the counter with one hand and pulled Lola's hair with the other.
"Oh my! That Russian looks good on you, Blanche." Darly reached behind Lola and turned on the tap. "Mind if I get some water?" Lola laid her head on Daryl's shoulder while the water ran into the plastic cup. He kissed her on the top of her head. It felt to Lola like an hour had passed in that kiss. She felt herself returning to time and place again. All the little elements of reality slowly coming back to her body, or her body slowly coming back to it's spot in reality. She took Olga's hand and kissed her fingers and looked into her face.
"So, uh, did you see Karpo?" Daryl said, full of portent.
"Yeah. I'm good."
"I can see that." Daryl turned his back to the counter and stood next to Lola, leaning.
"Is this your boyfriend?" slurred Olga.
"Oh no! No! Never mind me," said Daryl. "Pretend I'm not here. Hey, uh, Lola. You have any of that food yet? It is incredible! Pate! I'm telling you! Pate! Well, I'm off. You see that girl over there?" Daryl smiled and pointed at a girl across the room. She smiled back at him. "I think she likes me." And he walked away.
The smell of vodka and perfume was suddenly almost too strong for Lola. Olga was really way too drunk. She was hot. Sure. But she could hardly stand up by herself.
"I'm going to have some pate," said Lola, moving carefully out from between Olga and the sink. Lola walked toward the kitchen table, which was full of food. Good food. Cheese, pate, fresh fruit. Lola picked up a bunch of grapes and put two in her mouth. Oh god, they were good. She was keenly aware that everyone in the room had just been watching her make out with the drunkest Russian at the party and it made her feel dangerous. She looked around. An unusually beautiful man, about 22, was sitting on a chair at the table talking to two other men about wine. She walked over to them and listened for a few seconds.
"French wine is overrated. California wine is totally just as good."
Lola sat down on the knee of the man who was sitting, pulled a white grape from her bunch, and put it near his lips. Beautiful lips. He opened them. She put the grape in his mouth and rested her index finger on his bottom lip as he chewed. They looked at each other straight in the eyes. "He kisses with his eyes open," thought Lola. She fed the man another grape. He pulled a grape from the bunch and put it in Lola's mouth. Lola looked at the two other men.
"I didn't mean to interrupt," she said. She pulled two grapes from the bunch and held them out in her palm toward the two men. They each took one and ate it. One of Karpo's Swedes walked into the kitchen and saw Lola. She came over and stood between the two men.
"Hello Lola," she said in her singing accent.
Lola plucked a grape, stood up, and walked up to the girl. Lena? Maybe. Lola squeezed the grape gently, rubbed it on the side of the girls neck, then put the grape between the girl's lips. Then she leaned over and licked the girl's neck where she had anointed it with the wet grape. The girl took in a sharp breath. The man sitting in the kitchen chair took Lola's wrist and turned her around. He took a cupcake from a dwindling supply on the table. He lifted Lola's tank top up to expose her belly button and spread cold icing on her white abdomen. She let out a small scream, pushed the man back, and grabbed a jell-o shot off the table which she threw at him while running to get the table between herself and the Cupcake Boy. She grabbed a small brownie and brandished it at him. He threw a handful of fruit cocktail, which she ducked. Tiny cubes of pineapple and passion fruit pelted the backs of a few people standing behind her. When they turned to see what was going on, Lola and the cupcake boy threw two more handfulls of fruit cocktail at them. They were both laughing hysterically. Lena and the two other men were already chasing each other around the kitchen. One of the men was wielding a jar of mayonnaise, flinging fingers full across the room. Lena was carrying a bowl a quarter full of popcorn, and squealing like a child. One of the other Swedes grabbed Lena and disarmed her. Then she held her down while the Mayo man spread a handful of Helmann's from her neck down to her naval. The kitchen quickly cleared of any people not up for a shirt full of pate, but about a dozen people stayed in the kitchen, chasing each other and throwing food. Someone found a bag of flour in a cupboard and defended himself by flinging handfulls of the powder at his would-be attackers. The mess was incredible. There was mayonnaise on the ceiling. One window was smeared with chocolate hand prints. The food fight seemed to go on for a good ten minutes before an angry young woman walked into the kitchen and screamed as if she'd been stabbed in the heart with an ice pick. Everyone froze and looked around. Eyes widened.
"Get. Out." said the woman.
"That must be our host," thought Lola.
Four or five men, including Dov, came into the kitchen. She'd brought reinforcements.
"You all have got to leave. Now." Said one of the larger and more sober-seeming of the men.
Lola and the others, all covered in food, were marched to the front door and practically pushed out.
"Hey! My shoes and my purse are in there!" yelled Lola, pounding on the door.
The door opened a crack. It was Big and Sober. "Where are they?"
"Purse is the brown leather one under the head of the bed. Shoes are under the couch."
The door shut again, and locked. Most of the other expellees had started down the steps already. Lola felt fantastic. After a minute or two the door opened again a crack. It was Big and Sober again.
"Mona threw your stuff off the balcony. You'll find it in the street. You better go before she calls the cops." He looked amused. Lola ran down the stairs. Under the balcony she saw Cupcake Boy waiting for her, holding her shoes and her purse.
3:00. Mona turned in the bed, away from the clock radio. She reached over Dov, who was sleeping flat on his back with his mouth wide open. Water. She sat up in bed and drank what was left at the bottom of the glass she had retrieved from the night table next to Dov. She felt like shit. Like her tongue had grown in the night. The curtains were drawn in the bedroom, but she still squinted a little.
Dov had the gift of sleeping stuff off. He'd be laying there without moving a muscle until 5. Then he'd be fresh and ready to start all over again. Mona envied him. She'd have liked to have woken him up and tried to force him to help her clean up a little. She would have tried, actually, but past experience told her it was useless. There was no waking Dov until he was ready to wake up. He could sleep anywhere. Mona had seen him sleep on floors, on couches, in parks, cinemas, museums. He never moved in his sleep. And when he woke up, he woke up completely. He just opened his eyes, stood up, and was fully awake. His hair always looked perfect, even immediately after waking up. He looked good in his stubble. Since he never moved in his sleep, his clothes didn't even get wrinkled. He was naked now. Mona was amazed by the hair on his belly. He had more hair on his belly than on his chest. He smelled good. She'd have liked to have woken him up to fuck, but she also knew from past experiences that even that was pointless.
Mona got out of bed and walked naked to the bathroom. She looked in the mirror. Pasty. She couldn't remember if she had brushed her teeth last night or not, but she doubted it. Her mouth felt like an ashtray. She took her sparkly pink glitter toothbrush from a glass next to the sink and spread some bubble gum-flavored toothpaste on it. The toothpaste packaging sported a picture of a tellie tubbie. The red one. Po. Mona looked in the mirror as she brushed her teeth. She saw black hairs growing from her eyebrows. They were about two inches long and swayed as if they were branches in the wind. "Oh Jesus. I'm still fucking high," thought Mona. She spit into the sink and when she looked in the mirror again, the hairs were gone. She rinsed her toothbrush, shook it off, and put it back into the cup next the sink. She turned on the cold water to rinse the yellowish toothpasty spit down the drain. She wasn't going to look into the mirror again. Mirrors were a bad idea for Mona high. She pulled her shower curtain closed and turned on the hot water all the way. The shower curtain was decorated with a pattern of red and white capsules and white pills with lines down the middle for breaking them more easily in two. Mona stepped into the shower and let the hot water run onto her head. Her long dark hair clung to her body. For several minutes she just stood there, imagining the steam and heat pulling poison out of her body by osmosis. She felt the filmy layer of cigarette smoke fading from around her body. She rubbed the skin of her face with the palms of her hands. The bathroom was in pretty good shape. There had been a big crowd of people in there at one point. People standing in the shower. The coke people always did that, whether they needed to or not. Part of it was that coke was so expensive they didn't want to have to share with anyone not explicitly invited, but there was also just something they got off on about crowding into a bathroom together. It made them feel exclusive. Like the john was some kind of fucking VIP lounge. Dumbasses.
Mona grabbed the shampoo bottle and squeezed some out into the palm of her hand. it felt incredibly cold. She rubbed it onto her head and massaged her scalp. There must have been 100 people in and out of the party last night. God. Mona hadn't know half of them. The apartment was fucking trashed. She was going to have to spend the whole day cleaning this shit up. If Jenny got home from Memphis early, she would shit bricks. No one was in Jenny's room at least. Mona and Dov had moved a book shelf in front of the door, just to be sure. Jenny would freak if she found out anyone had been in her room while she was gone visiting her folks. She already wasn't going to like that there had even had a party, but what the fuck. She only pays half the rent. She doesn't own the place. Mona stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel. It wasn't there. Huh. Missing towel. She stood there dripping for a minute and then leaned over the sink to wring some water out of her hair. She opened the cupboard above the toilet. Oh shit. None of her towels were in there. Mona hesitated. Jenny did not share. There was no fucking way it would be ok with her for Mona to borrow one of her fancy-ass bath towels her mom had sent her. Mona shut the cupboard door and scampered across the living room naked. She paused at the party favor bowl. There was one condom. No smokes. She looked around the room. It wasn't as bad as she had expected. Laura and Christy must have made a run-through with a trash bag before they left. They did that sometimes and it made such a huge difference. The windows were still open, so the stink wasn't really that bad, but it was fucking cold in there. Mona ran into the bedroom and jumped back in bed next to Dov. She was shivering now, and feeling nauseous.
Dov still wasn't moving. Mona sort of suspected that by now he might be faking his sleeping, trying to wait until she'd finished cleaning up. Lazy fucker. She jumped up out of bed again and picked up a shirt off a chair. Ew. Smelled like an ash tray. Mona made it over to the closet and pulled shiny pink dress off a hanger and put it on. She grabbed a cardigan sweater. It had thin horizontal stripes, pink and red. It was cropped short, above her waist, but the sleeves were extra super long, hanging about four inches lower than her fingertips. It had a silver zipper with a big metal circle for opening and closing it. It reminded her of candy canes and Doctor Seuss at the same time. And caterpillars, because it was fuzzy. She put on her Teletubbies slippers. Dipsy. The green one. Raver Tubbie. Suddenly Mona remembered the kitchen.
How the fuck was she going to get the goddamn mayonnaise off the ceiling. She felt herself getting furious again. She liked a wild party as much as the next person, but there really is a limit to what you do in someone's fucking apartment. Who even were those people? A food fight? It was a good party, not a scene from "Animal House."
Mona walked into the living room again and closed the windows. Laura and Christy had already thrown away all the plastic cups filled with cigarette butts, but the floor was pretty gross. At least nobody was sleeping in here. Mona noticed her towel on the floor in a corner and walked over to pick it up. She rolled up the sleaves of her sweater and lifted the towel two inches off the ground, dropped it, stepped back, and covered her mouth. Oh shit. Somebody puked. Oh man, that was nasty. She walked quickly back over to the windows and opened them again. Ugh. It was probably fucking Olga. At least she wasn't lying there sleeping in the pool of vomit like last time.
Mona braced herself and walked into the kitchen. It wasn't as bad as she'd expected. God bless Laura and God bless Christy. Three large trash bags stood under the kitchen table. There was dried mayo on the ceiling, but they had actually swept the floor for her. She was going to have to mop it. Several times. There was a sticky mixture of flour and pate and Lord knows what else coating the linoleum. Her Dipsies were getting trashed, but whatever. It was better than being in there barefoot. She could throw the slippers in the washer. Mona walked over to the refridgerator and opened the door. She took out a diet coke and a yogurt for breakfast. She grabbed a spoon out of the drawer and carried her little meal back into the living room. She saw the puke towel in the corner and walked back into the kitchen. She opened the diet coke and took a long drink. Cold. Nice. It settled her stomach. She sat down at the table and ate her yogurt.
The food in her stomach made her feel a lot calmer. She had better get this apartment cleaned up before janny got home. She was supposed to be arriving at about midnight. It was only 4 pm, but this was a big clean up. Mona threw her yogurt tub into the recycling bin, grabbed her coke, and opened the cupboard under the sink. She took out a plastic bucket and some Mr. Clean. When she poured the yellow cleanser into the water running into the bucket from the tap, it made Mona's stomach turn a little, but she could feel her queasiness subsiding. The Diet coke was helping. She lugged the bucket and a sponge into the living room. Surfaces first, then floors. She cleaned sticky rings left by the bottoms of plastic cups off of the shelves of her bookcases first. Then she went over to have a look at the stereo. She could use some cleaning up tunes. Man, Dov was amazing. There wasn't a single cd out of its case. "That's practically supernatural," thought Mona. She opened the five-cd changer, took a disc out, laid it on top of a speaker, and popped in "the Orb". She pushed play and the music came out full blast. It hadn't been turned down from last night. She lowered the volume just a couple notches and went over to the coffee table. There was a red sweater laying on the table. Nice! Party booty! You always ended up with a bunch of extra lighters after a party. A lot of times someone really wasted would accidentally leave some drugs. That was the best. People are always too embarrassed to even ask you if you found their fucking drugs after a party. As if you'd give them back, anyway. No fucking way.
Mona lifted the sweater up to have a look at it. It was dark red. Deep red. It was really pretty. It reminded Mona of a different decade somehow. Something about the cut. It wasn't a raver sweater. It seemed sort of old fashioned almost. She'd keep it for a while, see if anyone claimed it. See if she liked it enough to wear it. Mona held the sweater up to her face and smelled it. It would need a wash. Like everything else in the house, it smelled like a cheap dive bar. Mona tossed the sweater over toward the door of her bedroom and set about washing off the coffee table. She grabbed the bowl with the last condoms in it and walked back into the kitchen for a broom.
Dov woke up as predicted at about 5. Mona was standing on a chair washing the ceiling with a mop. Dov could see her underwear peek out from under her shiny pink skirt when she raised her arms to wield the mop. She was cute. Dov walked over to the kitchen counter and grabbed the empty coffee pot.
"You want coffee."
"No. I want you to help me out here. There's mayo on the fucking ceiling."
"Just leave it. Nobody ever looks up anyway."
Mona lowered the mop and looked at Dov. "Are you serious? You seriously think Jenny would not notice if she came home and there was mayonnaise on the kitchen ceiling?"
"Mona, do not let that uptight bitch terrorize you."
"I am not terrorized. I'm not afraid of that cunt."
"Then leave the damn mayonnaise."
"No. I just don't want to have to deal with her and listen to her bitching."
Dov turned the coffee pot on and after a couple seconds it made a sizzling sound as the water on the outside of the pot evaporated on the hot plate.
"The living room looks great. I'll help you clean up in here. Man, that food thing was kind of amazing." Dov laughed. Mona looked at him, got down off the chair, sat down, and started laughing. The laughter became stronger and stronger. They remembered the scene when they had walked into the kitchen.
"I can't believe you threw that girl's shit off the balcony." said Dov. And they burst out laughing even harder. For several minutes neither of them was able to say a word. Every time the laughter subsided enough for someone to try to say something, they would start sputtering and snorting all over again. Mona thought she was going to fall off of her chair. If she had gotten around to mopping yet, she might have let herself fall, but she didn't want to have to change. She had enough laundry to do as it was.
Once the apartment was all spic and span, Dov and Mona gathered up all her laundry and stuffed it into an army surplus duffel bag with pieces of star-shaped yellow reflecting fabric sewn all over it. Dov lugged the bag on his back down the stairs and they headed for the laundromat. The laundromat was pretty dead on a Sunday night. Two Mexican women where folding clothes and talking gaily to each other near the entrance while their kids ran around and climbed inside of industrial-sized dryers. Mona nd Dov put some quarters into a big machine, got some soap from the dispenser and started shoveling clothes into the washer. Dov pulled out the red sweater. "What's this?"
"Party score. Someone left it."
Dov lifted the sweater and looked at it for a few seconds. Mona kept loading up the washing machine.
"Hey! I know whose sweater this is."
"Oh yeah?" said Mona, a tad disappointed. She hadn't even gotten a chance to decide whether or not she wanted to keep it and now it looked like she was going to have to give it back. "Whose is it?"
"This girl Lola. The one whose shoes you threw off the balcony."
"Yeah. I sold some e to this friend of hers. Man what a trip this guy was. He introduced me to her and told me all these crazy fucked up stories about her. She's like a crazy nympho or some shit."
"I believe it. Throw my new crazy nympho sweater into the washin' machine, Dov." They laughed.
"Maybe it has crazy nympho super powers said Dov."
3. Nordic Basement Night Club
"Because the night belongs to lovers because the night belongs to us," Lola and Harvey shouted the lyrics to each other as they danced. Uno was shouting, too, but he was just making stuff up. Some phonetecially close Englishy non-words. Lola caught some of it through the noise and her mind translated it into English. Bee claws Bee loans toad vows. He really looked cute singing his phonetic non-language and he was a good dancer. Lola did some dance moves with him. The classic back-to-back shimmy and the Harvey sandwich. It didn't seem like the Estonians had too many moves that were not in the general known euro repertoire which to Lola was solid proof that Estonia was part of Europe. There was none of the gypsy wrist twisting or subcontinental shoulder shrugging or North African hip seizure in Uno's dancing. There was a bit of vogueing, a dash of pelvis thrusting, some techno aerobics arm formations. Your usual fare for a European queer guy, albeit done very skillfully. He was such a good dancer, Lola started to wonder if he was a prostitute. Whatever. That was Harvey's problem. He was probably just a horny kid. He probably lived with his parents still and he and Harvey would end up in a toilet stall or an alleyway or something because they wouldn't have anywhere to go at the end of the night. Not likely an alleyway, since the sun was pretty much never going down here and even Harvey didn't have the balls to fuck in a daylit street.
Lola turned away from the boys who were making eyes at each other and performing their little mating ritual for one another. She really loved Pattie Smith. Not this song per se, but it seemed like the only one you ever heard played anywhere. And only in crappy night clubs in Europe. She closed her eyes and kept dancing, letting herself listen to the voice and feel the roughness of it. She didn't identify with Pattie Smith. She rather thought Smith was a flakey old nut, actually, but there was something in the rub of that voice that she had always responded to and in some abstract kind of way felt a kinship with. As she danced Lola began to feel a little less drunk and a little less bitchy. She stopped caring so much about whether or not she'd make it back to the hostel. The next song was a nice techno dance song. Maybe Aphex Twin. It had been a long time. Lola wasn't sure of her old tunes any more. She stood for a minute and felt the music. Then she just let herself over to it and danced.
Harvey saw Lola dancing and smiled. He didn't need to worry about her anymore. Not that he worried about her in the first place, but she wouldn't be around to pester him to entertain her now for a long time. He'd known Lola for years and he had learned early on that all she needs is to get dancing. That's probably all most dissatisfied people need most of the time, actually. A bit of old-fashioned hedonistic abandon. Or just getting outside of yourself for a while, outside of your mind and into your body and a little bit outside of your body, too, into nowhere. Only it wasn't nowhere. Except it was hard to remember anything about it.
Harvey would sort have liked to dance like Lola. Alone and absorbed and oblivious to time and the passing of the world around her. But he would also sort of like to see how far he could get with this delicious Estonian. Uno looked like he was about 20. Harvey began to do some thinking about his situation. He was going to be 38 in a day or two. He wasn't sure what day it was, with the jet lag, but who gives a shit anyway. He was pretty much 40, right? He ran a little cold tally of himself. "Almost 40, but I totally look like I'm 30," he thought. "I've got lots of hair and I'm fit." Harvey went to the gym three or four times a week and ran almost every day. He went to the gym mostly to hook up with the guys who frequented the place for the same reason, but he still put in a semi-honest work out when he was there. He had a good job in an architecture firm doing boring-ass projects, but he made enough to keep his credit card payments up, to keep him in gadgets, and to go on vacation twice a year for real. All not bad, he thought. 38. Still. Not bad. The main thing he was asking himself was whether it was likely that this hot little numero Uno, in his tight white disco pants and his shiny baby-blue t-shirt that clung to every ripple of his chest was hot for Harvey or a possible danger.
Harvey watched Uno dance. He was a fag all right. Harvey's chances of being mugged by this kid seemed low. He wasn't that big, and Harvey had had his hands over every lycra-blend inch of those pants and he knew Uno wasn't carrying any kind of knife or anything like that. He might be looking to get paid, though. The idea wounded Harvey's 38-year-old ego, but beyond the sting he really just wondered whether Uno was worth paying for or not. "It could be my birthday present to myself," he thought, feeling wicked. Harvey reached his arm out and put it around Uno's waist. Uno stepped into harvey and put his right leg between Harvey's legs so their thighs touched. They stared at each other and moved together to the music. It seemed to go on and on. They weren't doing any dance moves now or thinking about impressing each other with their skill. They were simply touching and moving. "It's like dancing sitting down," thought Harvey, which jarred him a little. It was a quote from the saddest part of his favorite book. He felt old again.
Here he was, almost 40, still picking up the same guys he was fucking when he was 20. That thought made him crack a smile. "I'm a lucky bastard, actually," he said to Uno. Uno smiled and flashed his crooked teeth. "No braces in Estonia? No orthodontists?" wondered Harvey. The two men danced apart again and then drifted back to the low tables where they had first met a few hours ago. There was a big blonde man asleep on one of the benches, drooling. "Must be Danish," thought Harvey. One of the Spaniards at the Hostel had told him that whenever you see someone here stone drunk, you can bet they are Danish. No one seemed to notice him, but something about his slack jaw and the drool sliding down his cheek like a slug trail made harvey uncomfortable. he steered Uno to the bar and bought them each a shot of vodka.
Now, a man who is nearing 40 and who has done as much recreational drinking as Harvey had done certainly knows to beware of the shot glass. He ordered the drink partly out of bravado and partly because he wanted to speed things up with Uno and find out sooner rather than later where this was heading. He wondered how to communicate with Uno well enough to figure out if the boy had an apartment. The two of them downed their vodka. Uno put his glass down on the table with an expert-sounding thunk and made a deep "ahhh" as the liquor warmed his stomach. Then he smiled at Harvey and made a thumbs-up sign with both hands.
"This is not going to be that easy," thought Harvey.
Harvey pointed to himself and to Uno and then toward the exit of the night club. Uno nodded. They walked past the still-crowded dance floor. Harvey saw Lola dancing now with total abandon. She was going to be fine. They'd hook up tomorrow somehow at the hostel. The stairway leading out of the basement and upstairs into the main bar was full of people standing, talking to each other, watching the dancers. It was a good vantage point. People pushed their way up and down the staircase. Uno was following Harvey, which made Harvey feel pretty uncomfortable, since he had absolutely no idea where he was going. He didn't even know where he was, or if he was even still in the city. There had been this Finn at the hostel who knew the city and had rallied everyone to go out. He'd taken them on a pretty long scenic route. They'd gone through some kind of big park or forest.
When Harvey got to the top of the stairs he squinted. Sunlight was shining in through the windows. God, it was so bizarre. he guessed that was why they had their night club in the basement. You couldn't have a night club with all this daylight all night. He hoped the harsher light would be kind to him. The upstairs bar seemed swanker than the dance club downstairs. It was all tricked out in an uber-clean nordic design style. Like Ikea, sort of. Harvey noticed that the ceiling was especially beautiful. there was a large circle cut out of the ceiling in the center of the room, with a dome in it. The dome was made of some kind of milky white plexiglass or plastic of some sort and colored lights set behind it gradually changed color, causing the dome to shift from pink to red to orange to yellow to green to blue to purple and back to pink again. Harvey felt envious of the unknown interior designer who had built that installation. He never got to do that sort of thing. He mostly just drew boxes and boxes inside boxes. Keeping it cheap, clean, and square. If he had known what working as an architect was going to be like back when he was in school, he might not have bothered. At least it paid the bills.
Harvey turned and looked at Uno in the full light. He was still delicious. Just look at that skin! He was a lean young man and his blue eyes were really blue. Not grey or hazel. He had eyes like a movie star. Just like two big blue reflectors, flashing the sunlight back in Harvey's face. The daylight made Harvey feel shy. he had forgotten that the sun wasn't actually going to set and that it would be light outside. for a minute he wondered how a person negotiates sex in the daylight when it's really night. He knew how to figure out sex in the afternoon at the gym, but sex in the daylight in a night club was a new one for him. To buy some time, he walked over to the bar.
The bar was long, spanning most of the far side of the room. Harvey approached the bar and stood waiting for the barmaid to come and serve him. There was a bright neon sign above the bar reading "Mobiles Disco." Mobiles. Harvey wondered what the word mobiles evoked for these people, in this language. It was the kind of language that was really totally foreign. In a lot of European countries you'd at least be able to recognize some words, enough to tell what was orange juice at the grocery store. Mobiles and disco were the first words other than Lotto and jackpot that Harvey had recognized since flying into town yesterday/this morning. Jet lag was mostly working in his favor, but he was shocked by the level of disorientation he felt. He had never known how much his body relied on the cues of sunlight to place itself approximatively within the spectrum of time. It's something every single person below latitude 60 pretty much just took for granted. Harvey looked around the room at these Laplandians. Laplanders. Laps. Harvey looked at Uno. Lap dancers. There were some other tourists in the room, but not many. That Finnish guy Toiva had steered then away from the bars most of the tourists could find on their own. This was a locals joint. Harvey had never seen so many blondes in one room outside of Minnesota. They were all so shiny, with the night sun reflecting off the smooth pale surfaces of their bodies. Harvey could practically hear the hairs on his chest growing. He had never felt so Semetic in his life. His thick, curly black hair and his end-of-day stubble made him easily the most exotic man in the room. If Uno was a hooker looking for a tourist, then finding and targeting Harvey would be a pretty easy thing to do. Harvey hoped that Uno was just craving a short, dark, hairy, and handsome man. Maybe he was bored with all of these flat, tall, Vikings.
Harvey heard a voice behind him and turned around. The barmaid was standing in front of him. She was speaking to him in what he guessed was Finnish, but frankly it could have been Estonian or Swedish and he would never have known the difference. She stood there for two heartbeats more and then just walked away and served someone else about five feet down the long, chromed bar. Damn. He'd missed his chance. She was a surley barmaid. Maybe even the owner. Harvey was going to have to pay attention if he was going to get a drink. He turned to face the bar. They had one beer on tap, but Harvey didn't know how to say beer and he felt pretty sure that this barmaid was not in the mood to understand English. The woman was thick, and older than the crowd she was serving. She wore her hair in braids, like heidi of the alps, and her giant cheekbones set her right on the fragile divide between almost unbelievably beautiful and undeniably freaky-looking. She had probably been farther on the beautiful side when she was younger. Her face was tired now. Harvey remembered something his ex boyfriend used to tell him when harvey would be stressed from work and frowning, creasing his brow. At ten you have the face you are born with. At 20 you have the face you want. At 40 you have the face you deserve. Seemed a bit harsh. The lady lived in a place where there's no sunlight for six months a year and she probably worked her ass off her whole life. She couldn't really help being tired. She didn't have to be such a bitch, though. She could have stood there ten more seconds. Time enough for Harvey to collect his thoughts enough to say the word 'vodka'.
She was back. What an amazon. She made harvey think of Wagner, which made him feel a little uncomfortable. "Why is this Jew so stupid?" he imagined her thinking.
"Vodka," said Harvey, holding up two fingers. Brünnhilde looked at him and said something else he couldn't understand. She looked at Uno. She seemed to know him. She looked sideways at Harvey. He had no idea what to say or do. He felt like an idiot and he repeated himself.
Uno said something to the woman and she laughed. Maybe he had said, "I'm going to kill this Jew and take his credit cards. Then I will come here and buy you a drink," thought Harvey. Maybe he had said, "Put the drugs I gave you earlier into this faggot's drink. I will strip him of his money and bring you your share." Maybe he had said, "My hairy friend does not speak Finnish. He is cute but stupid."
Harvey shook himself out of his paranoia. Uno had probably said, "Bring us two shots of Vodka, please."
Uno put his hand on the small of Harvey's back and whispered something completely incomprehensible into his ear. The man's breath on Harvey's ear relaxed him and he put his arm around Uno's waist. There is really nothing like being in a room full of people who are speaking a language you don't understand to make a man feel paranoid. "He could be whispering into my ear that he is going to cut my throat," thought Harvey. The sensation of the slightest movement of Uno's fingers on Harvey's back was electric. Brünnhilde came back with two shots of vodka. Harvey took one of the larger colorful bills out of his wallet and handed it to the bar maid. He had no idea how much the drinks cost or even really how much money he was giving the barmaid. He was fast at mental arithmetic, being an architect, but that last shot of vodka had stripped him of his ability to work out the complicated exchange rate and more importantly had made him stop caring.
Harvey and Uno leaned against the bar facing each other. Uno was flashing those crooked teeth again, grinning. He blew Harvey a kiss and threw the shot of vodka at the back of his throat. Harvey lifted his glass, smelled the vodka, and swallowed the liquor. Uno slammed his shot glass down on the bar and pointed to the door of the bar with a motion of his head, Harvey nodded and the the two men stepped outside. It was two o'clock in the morning, but it could have been two in the afternoon. The sun was shining. The sky was amazing. The street was empty. Uno walked up and stood in front of harvey. Then he reached out his hand, pulled Harvey's face toward him, and kissed him. it was a sweet kiss. Not a hard kiss. The pointed tip of Uno's tongue traced the bottom of Harvey's top lip slowly, then he moved his face back an inch and put his hand brazenly between Harvey's legs, looking him in the eye. Uno raised his eyebrows and cocked his head to one side, inquiringly. Harvey's cock was hard and the vodka had his face flushed. He nodded and kissed Uno again. It felt like a dream, standing on this deserted, sunlit street, under this incredibly wide, frighteningly blue sky, kissing this beautiful young man. Uno backed off a step and took out a cell phone. Nokia, of course. He pushed one button on the phone and spoke for about 30 seconds. Was he checking in with his pimp? Doubtful. Calling a friend for a threesome? Now that would be a happy birthday.
Uno reached out and took Harvey's hand and led him to the end of the street. They rounded the corner and Uno ducked into a doorway. Harvey pushed Uno back against the concrete wall of the doorway and kissed him again. He noticed that Uno's eyes were open and that he was watching the street. He was waiting for someone. Harvey felt a chill at the base of his neck. This kind of escapade was always a little bit dangerous. That's part of what made them so exciting. Maybe Uno had just called some friends to come and mug him. But if so he would have taken Harvey a little bit farther from Mobile's disco than this. Harvey figured he could probably get back to the night club if he saw any trouble coming. There wouldn't be guns. This wasn't Chicago, or Omaha, or something. Uno grabbed Harvey's left thigh with his right hand, sliding his thumb right under Harvey's balls, and he squeezed hard. Harvey bit Uno's neck, and then he heard a car slow down on the street near them. Harvey leaped back a few steps, startled, and ready to run for it. Uno was laughing. He waved. At the curb stood a taxi. It had an advertisement attached to a sort of long, narrow billboard on its roof, showing a blonde man leaning over a red billiards table, with a cigar in his hand. Behind him, a woman with black hair sat on a bar stool in a red oriental-style dress, staring at him with a smoldering look in her eyes. Four words ran across the bottom of the ad. Harvey had no idea whatsoever what the ad was trying to sell.
Uno pointed to Harvey and to himself, and then to the taxi. He grabbed Harvey's hand and pulled him toward the cab. harvey hesitated. Uno opened the door to the back seat, and made a large motion with his arm, inviting Harvey to get in. Harvey took one step toward the cab, but still hesitated. Uno stood up, and stomped his foot. He pouted, and ran his hand trough his shimmery hair. He looked Harvey in the eye, smiled, then ran the tip of his tongue over the bottom edge of his top teeth and made a little snarl. "Oh fuck it," thought Harvey, and got into the cab. That was maybe the hottest and the cutest invitation to get in a cab he had ever received in his life and if he turned it down just on the off chance that he might be going off with a sociopath and never seen again, well, he would never forgive himself.
"I'm not that fucking old yet," he said to himself.
Lola had taken off her lightweight hooded cotton sweater and had tied it by the arms around her waist. She had no idea how long she had been dancing, but she was dripping with sweat and she needed a drink of water. She walked over to the low bench next to which she had stashed her cowboy boots and she put them back on. She'd have liked to go to the bar and get a nice glass of ice water, but she hadn't the vaguest idea how to ask for ice water nor did she know if she had enough money to pay for it if the water wasn't free. She walked over to the ladies' room. The bathroom was really the best thing about this place. The lighting was flattering, it smelled all right, and it seemed clean. Everything here was clean. It was probably the cleanest place she had ever seen. Not just this night club, but the whole damn country.
Lola walked up to the long row of oval-shaped stainless steel sinks in front of a long mirror. The mirror covered the entire wall and the sinks stood each on its own post in front of it. It was one of the prettiest bathrooms Lola had seen anywhere. She hoped the men's room had been the same. Harvey would love to see this. Mounted on the mirror wall next to each sink was a gigantic piece of soap mounted on a steel peg sticking out of the wall and a paper towel dispenser. There was an opening for a trash can on the front of each sink's pedestal. The Sink was mounted somehow cleverly on top of the trash cans. Space saving. Elegant. Lola looked at herself in the mirror. Whew! What a sweaty old whore. Her mascara had smudged under both of her eyes from the perspiration. Lola Lifted her long red curls up off her neck. Long, wet hairs clung to her skin. She lifted her hair in both her hands, twisted it around, and pulled an oversized hair pin out of her back pants pocket. She jabbed the bobby pin into her hair and it held. It was a curler pin. Big and thick and strong. It had taken Lola some practice to perfect the one hairpin technique, but now she performed it with confidence. She had decided to learn how to use a single large bobby pin after a weekend of watching old movies. It wasn't the move of putting the hair up that she wanted so much as the glamourous effect of removing one single pin and letting all your hair down in one motion. That was a good move. It was satisfying, sexy, dramatic, and always impressive.
Lola turned on the cold water and leaned over the sink. She saw her reflection distorted in the scuffed stainless steel. She made a cup with her hands and filled them with water. She took drink after drink. She knew that she looked a little bit barbaric, standing there in front of this super-designy bathroom sink display drinking from her hands, but she couldn't have cared less. She splashed some water on her face and smudged her mascara even more. She grabbed a couple paper towels and pressed them against her face. When she pulled them away, there were two dark brown marks where her eye make up had rubbed off and large mascara marks under her eyes. Lola dabbed the back of her next and her chest with the paper towels and threw them in the trash under the sink. She took another paper towel, wet it in the water still flowing into the sink, then turned off the water. She dabbed a corner of the paper towel onto the gigantic bar of soap and used it to wash the mascara out from under her eyes. She brushed the cool, wet paper towel over her hairline and then stood up straight to look in the mirror.
"Glisteny," she said to herself. Her brown tank top was discolored by a huge dark stain of wet sweat between her breasts and in the middle of her back. She felt good. She felt the music outside trying to pull her back out. She smiled at all of the women she saw in the mirror behind her. She walked into a toilet stall to pee before going back out on the dance floor. She wished she had a rubber band instead of a hair pin. The hair pin wouldn't hold for dancing. Not for long. But if she could get her hair up off her shoulders she wouldn't sweat to damn much. Her hair already was practically dripping with sweat. She took off her sweater and hung it on a hook in the bathroom stall, then she unbuttoned her jeans. The denim was sticking to her skin and her cotton thong was damp and sweaty. She looked at the toilet seat. All dry. Amazing. Even the toilet seat was clean here. She sat down and peed. Sitting down suddenly made her feel tired. It was amazing how that was. Lola never felt tired while she was dancing. She thought it was possible that she could dance indefinitely. She had never tested the theory, but she had had times where she had pretty much danced from 10 pm until six am straight without feeling ready to stop when the night club kicked her and the other late stragglers out at last. One thing Lola had was endurance.
Lola stood up, buttoned up her pants, and walked out of the toilet stall and back to the fancy sinks. She washed her hands, took a couple more hand scoops of water, and walked back out into the dance club. The crowd was thinning out. It must be after 4. Lola's phone had run out of battery just when she was ready to leave the hostel tonight, so she had plugged it into the charger and left it in the room. That was a classic dumb move. She looked around the room, trying to locate Harvey. there was a big guy sleeping in the spot she had last seen Harvey and Uno. she didn't recognize anyone in the room any more and there were only a few people left. Most of them were so drunk Lola doubted they would be able to navigate the stairs to get out. She felt a little pang of panic. She had hardly any money, no cell phone, and no friends. She saw a tall man staggering toward her. It was that time of night. There were twice as many men in the room as there were women and the poor desperate fellows were competing to get one of these last available potential dates. Lola felt like the last candy bar on the grocer's shelf and she didn't like it. She just wasn't in the mood. Especially not for a big drunk guy who she'd probably have to carry up the fucking stairs if she even was interested. Lola pretended not to notice that the man was clearly approaching her. She ducked away and headed straight for the stairs. Maybe Harvey was waiting for her up there.
When Lola got to the top of the stairs, she was blinded by the bright light coming in the windows. It was hard to believe that there was a scraggly crowd of people dancing downstairs with all of this light up here. It felt like Lola had just gone from 4:30 am to noon in one flight of stairs. When her eyes had adjusted to the light, she took a look around. The sunlight felt fantastic on her skin. There weren't too many people left up here either. It seemed like the bar and night club had pretty quickly cleared out at around four. Lola wondered if the Mobiles Disco upstairs ever bothered closing at all. It looked more like a cafe now than a bar. The crowd was quiet. People were talking quietly in pairs or in groups. Most of the people seemed pretty drunk, but it was easy to imagine the place transitioning seemlessly form the night club crowd to the breakfast bunch. Lola noticed the barmaid was loading platters up with pastries. She wished she had enough money to blow on a little something to eat and a cup of coffee.
It took Lola about 30 seconds to realize that Harvey was definitely gone. "Fuck," she said, under her breath. She should at least have asked him what the name of the goddamn hostel was when she was talking to him earlier. None of the other people from the hostel group were there either. Lola sat down at a table near the front windows and started thinking. She suddenly felt completely sober and perfectly alert. Any fatigue she had felt a minute ago was washed away by adrenaline.
Lola had a dreadful sense of direction, so when she thought about trying to retrace her steps from the night before, it was not really a serious thought. It was more of a wishful fantasy of herself as a person capable of such a feat of orientation. She had no idea where she was, if she was even still in Sodankyla. The place was more of a village than a town. It probably didn't even have a suburbs, being barely an urbs itself.
She wished she had her phone. She'd just call Harvey and tell him to get his ass back here. She didn't have enough money for a cab, even if she had known the name of the hostel. If she knew the name of the hostel she could get the guy to take her there and then run in and pay once she was there. But she really had no idea what the hostel was called. She knew it was in the center of town. Really what she needed was to get back to the center of town. It would be crawling with festival tourists and she'd be able to find someone to help her out. Lola decided to go outside for a walk around the block to help get her ideas flowing. She got up from her table, appreciating the warmth of the sun on her arms as she walked toward the door. She pushed the glass door open and stepped outside. Wow! It was cold! That was unexpected, too. All this sunlight and it was cold anyway. Hello, arctic circle. Lola shivered and realized that she had forgotten her sweater in the bathroom. Oh no! She hurried back inside and prayed that her sweater would still be hanging where she had left it. She had no idea how she would try to ask for the lost and found.
Rushing back downstairs, Lola was blinded again by the difference in light levels. She stopped for a second at the bottom of the stairs and blinked. The scene down here was pretty much as she had left it. A little crowd of drunk stragglers trying to figure out who was going to go home with whom. Lola marched straight across the room into the women's toilet. She walked straight to the stall she had used and opened the door. Nothing. Gah! "Goddamn it! Muther fucking son of a bitch!" she shouted, she slammed the stall door. A woman started to come into the bathroom, but turned right around and walked out again. Lola pounded her hand against her forehead a few times. "Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid." She felt like crying. No phone, barely any money, no idea where she was, and now, now, no goddamn sweater. Lola gave the stall door a kick with her cowboy boot and it slammed against the inside of the stall. The noise calmed her down right away. She cringed a little. The last thing she needed now was to get bounced from this place for throwing a fucking baby tantrum in the john. She took a deep breath and collected herself. Maybe the bartender would speak English. She hadn't noticed much English being spoken here. Mostly just Finnish and Swedish. That was another clue that they were nowhere near downtown Sodankyla and its touristy treasure troves of English speakers. She was in the authentic laplandia here. Lola took another deep breath and walked out into the dance club. She headed for the bar. As she got up to the edge of the bar a man scootched over from about five feet down the bar to stand next to her. He was shimmying along the edge of the bar, using it for support. His head bobbed slightly as he approached. Lola turned her back to him and looked longingly toward the bartender. Cute bartender. She had medium-length blonde hair wound up into two messy little buns, one behind each ear. She wore a tight t-shirt that almost but not quite met the waistband of her jeans. Her jeans were cuffed wide and she wore doc martens. Lola smiled. Then she suddenly noticed something sitting in a pale pile next to the cash register. It was her sweater. A wave of relief came over her.
The tipsy casanova behind her was trying to get her attention by talking to her in Finnish, then German. Lola understood the German and could have answered him, but she figured concentrating on the sweater-retrieval at hand was the best course of action and she acted as if the man didn't even exist.
The bartender came over and said something to Lola in Finnish.
"Hello, said Lola. Do you speak English?" She desperately hoped for an affirmative answer. It probably wouldn't be too hard to convey, "that sweater right there is mine," with gestures, but the girl was hot and the boots were a good sign.
"Ya. I can speak English." said the young woman, smiling. "You want a drink?"
The drunken suitor was getting pissed now about Lola's powers of denying his very existence. He leaned his head close to hers and put a hand on her shoulder. Lola smiled at the bartender and swiftly elbowed the man in the gut. She walked about two feet farther up the bar and said "I lost my sweater. I see it right here behind the bar." The injured man started walking toward Lola angrily. Lola was staying calm on the surface, but she was ready to kick that guy's fucking ass if he touched her again. Really. She was just not in the goddamn mood to be messed with. The bartender reached out over the bar and grabbed the man's arm before he got within a foot of Lola. She raised her other hand above her head and waved. Within about two and a half seconds a monstrous giant of a bouncer was there escorting the man off the premises.
"Thank you." said Lola.
"It is not you who should thank," said the woman. "It is he! I think I just protected him from being badly beaten." Both women laughed. Lola let out a long sigh and felt herself begin to relax.
"So, this is your sweater, ok?" said the bartender. She lifted the white hooded sweater from next to the cash register and brought it over to Lola.
"I'm so glad someone found it," said Lola. "I forgot it in the bathroom."
"Ya. It is a pretty sweater."
"You are a very good dancer," said the bartender. "What is your name?"
"Thank you. That's very nice. My name is Lola" and she held out her hand.
The bartender shook Lola's hand. "I am Maarit. I noticed you before, dancing. I like to watch people who are dancing."
"I love dancing." said Lola.
"I know" said Maarit.
Both women smiled again. A couple stepped up to the bar. They were basically holding each other up, they were so drunk. Maarit shouted something to them and they walked away mournfully. She looked a Lola. "Bar is closed. Five o'clock."
Lola suddenly had an idea. She did not have a phone, but Maarit surely did. It seemed to be a prerequisite to citizenship in Finland to carry a cell phone on your person at all times.
"I hate to ask you this, but I have a bit of a problem. Could I possibly use your telephone?"
"oh sure," said Maarit. "of course." She pulled an adorable little pink Nokia out of her back pocket. "Pink phone. Bad sign," thought Lola as she took the phone and said thank you. Maarit walked away to give Lola some privacy and to finish rinsing some glasses at the bar sink. Lola dialed Harvey's number. The telephone rang rour times and thhen harvey's voice mail kicked in. "I'm out of the country until Wednesday. Leave me a message and I'll call you back when I get back to town."
"Harvey, this is Lola. I'm still at that Mobile's place. The downstairs is closing. I have no fucking idea how to get back to the hostel. I have no phone, practically no money, and you are so going to make this up to me tomorrow." She hung up and put the phone back down on the bar. Lola picked up her sweater and tied it around her hips again. She watched Maarit clearing up behind the bar. Almost everyone had gone upstairs. Lola sat down on a barstool and suddenly felt very, very tired. Maarit walked over and pocketed the phone.
"You want a drink?" she asked.
"Bar's closed," said Lola.
"Not for good dancers," said Maarit. "I invite you. What do you like? Vodka?"
Lola smiled. She was just starting to lose her buzz. Vodka was exactly what she needed. "Yeah," she said." I would love some vodka. Maarit poured two large shots of vodka and put them on the bar next to each other. The bouncer was nudging the last few stragglers up the stairs. The big man drooling on the couch in the corner could not be woken up. He seemed to be out cold. Maarit shouted something to the bouncer and he made a sign with his hand. The two women watched him prodding the sleeping giant, trying to move him up the stairs.
"That is Uls. Every time he is the same. He is a very kind boy, but when he drinks, he sleep." Maarit shrugged. The bouncer carried Uls up the stairs. Suddenly the lights came on overhead and the night club was washed in fluorescent whiteness. Maarit picked up her vodka and took a sip.
"Kippis," she said.
"Kippis," said Lola, and took a sip of her vodka. It was the good stuff. She figured kippis must mean cheers, though she couldn't be sure.
"You are here for the festival, not true?"
"Yes. But I actually have a small problem tonight," said Lola.
"What is this problem?"
"I do not know where I am!" said Lola. "I also do not know where my friend is, and I also do not know where my hostel is."
"What is hostel name?"
"I don't know!"
Both women laughed. Maarit shook her head. "Tonight you lose more than the sweater only! I have to finish some cleaning, but stay here and I will help you after. Have your vodka."
"Thank you," said Lola, and she really meant it. Maarit went to work cleaning up behind the bar. Lola sipped her vodka and looked around the room. It brought back memories, being in a lit-up night club after closing. She had worked as a bartender herself all through university and then some.
In 1995, Lola was working as a bartender at Tacheles in Berlin. This was the best time to be in Berlin since Weimar and Lola felt like she was living in a fairy tale. The squat was one of the centers of the cosmopolitan culture. She was sleeping with a young man named Ian at the time. He had come from Scotland to work on the construction sites but had quickly discovered that he was way too lazy for that kind of work. He told her that after a few days of the intense physical labor he was dreaming of driving cranes and that was when he knew he had to quit. You can't work ten hours a day and then go home and dream for eight hours about working. It was too much. Ian got a job at another bar and lived at the squat. He was a musician. he'd been the lead singer in a pretty popular Sex Pistols cover band. he and Lola had been sleeping together for about two and a half months and Lola felt like the end was coming close. She'd rarely kept the same lover longer than three months straight and she really didn't feel like Ian was going to be the exception. She was on the verge of breaking up with him, but she was hoping that maybe he would break it off instead. He had a serious girlfriend waiting for him back in Scotland and she knew that he suffered terrible guilt over his infidelity.
It was an exciting night tonight. Nina Hagen was coming to do a solo acoustic performance at the bar. It was going to be a zoo in there. It was only 3 pm, but Lola was there making sure the extra beer kegs were all there and that there would be enough glasses. She went down to the basement to fetch some reserves of hard liquor. As she came back up the stairs lugging a cardboard box full of booze, her boss Heinrich walked up to her.
"Lola. I have an important job for you," he said. Lola walked past him to the bar and began stowing the bottles of alcohol.
"What is it, Heinrich?"
"Find us a Christ."
"You got it. What for?"
"Nina needs a Christ. It is for the show. Her Christ has broken his leg last night and Nina has no other one to replace him."
"What time do you need him?"
"In two hours for rehearsal is best. Seven PM at the latest."
"Yeah. I have, like, a warehouse full of Christs. You know that. I'll try for five, but he may not make it until seven. Tell Nina it's ok. I've got more Christs than I know what to do with."
Heinrich grabbed Lola's shoulders and hugged her.
"You Lola, don't work tonight. I'll get Antje to fill in. You enjoy the show. Now you go and bring us your Christ.
Lola stepped outside into the courtyard of Tachles. Her bike was parked over by the big swing. She saw Ian standing with a crowd of guys over on the other end of the vast inner yard, where a small school bus was half buried in the ground. This was one of the biggest squats in Berlin. The bus had been buried long ago by people who had since moved on. Someone told her that there used to also be a tank out here, but that the cops had taken it. Cops hat it when anarchist squatters play with tanks.
Lola worked at Tacheles, but she didn't live here. She may as well have. Most people thought that she did. She certainly slept here often enough. But she had her own little place in a house in Kreutzberg, near the canal. She had the attic room all to herself. She wanted to say good-bye to Ian, but he was smoking a spliff with some of his Scottish friends and she wasn't interested in getting high or in talking to that gang. Lola thought they were probably the roughest people in Berlin. All of them seemed to be drunk one hundred per cent of the time, and ready to jump into a fight at the slightest provocation. Ian had even warned her never to go to the Scottish bars. There were always fights. He told her that most of the Scots felt like friday night was incomplete without busting someone's teeth in. The guy Ian was talking to now was nursing a knife wound to the ribs from some drunken bar brawl he'd been in a couple nights ago. Lola didn't like these guys and she also couldn't understand a fucking word they said. Even Ian became incomprehensible after about a dozen beers, when his accent could no longer be repressed. That was actually a big turn on. Everything he said in his Scotty slur sounded incredibly filthy, even though she didn't understand a word of it. And generally it was. Ian was a freak in bed and the foulness that came out of his mouth while fucking was incredible. Lola had never had a lover who talked so dirty. Sometimes it was a bit distracting. Or comical. Or terrifying, in a totally hot and good way.
Ian saw Lola unlocking her bike and waved at her. She waved back and motioned for him to come over. It was a long way across the court yard from the bus to the swing. Tacheles from the street looked fairly unassuming, but once you passed through the main cafe and out the back door, you were in a huge semi-vacant lot. The artists who lived in the squat had painted and decorated every square inch of wall on the buildings surrounding the lot. The school bus was a constantly-changing palette of spray-painted designs. A few people were trying to grow some vegetables in a plot, but like many things that happened at Tacheles, once the initial push of enthusiasm was over, the follow-up just sort of tapered down to nothing. It didn't look like anyone was watering the scraggly corn and carrots. Lola doubted that it was really wise to eat carrots grown in Berlin proper. Who knew what was in the soil. "Beware urban root vegetables," thought Lola.
She unhooked the U-lock and attached it to the rack over her back tire. She didn't have a lock-holder on the frame of her bike. She had inherited the lock from a polish girl she'd had an affair with last year. Anna. Anna had moved on to Paris and was living with a pornographer now. Lola saw her a lot in Puritan magazine. She looked good. When Anna left Berlin, she only took one suitcase. She had sold the bike to a thrift store in Mitte, but they didn't want the rusty old lock. Lola had gotten the old bike for ten marks from an American jazz musician whose name she no longer remembered, who had found the bike under a bridge. All it had needed were new inner tubes. That guy was on his way to Paris. The only thing that Lola really remembered about him was that he was afraid of dogs and he played the bass. He had this unconscious habit of raising his hands up whenever they passed a dog on the street. When Lola had noticed he'd told her that he had always been afraid that a stranger's dog would unexpectedly bite him on the hand for no reason, and if his hands were injured, he wouldn't be able to play and then he didn't know what he would do. He was going to Paris to meet up with some of his American friends who were more established on the jazz scene there. There was a lot of movement between Paris and Berlin back then. All the Poles were stopping off in Berlin on their way to more glamourous goings-on in the City of Lights while the French hipster elite was migrating to Berlin to get in on the hotter art scene. In general Berlin was a maelstrom of people and nationalities, especially now. Youngsters with any sense of adventure were coming here from all over Europe. It was pretty easy to get a job on a construction site with all the rebuilding. They could barely find enough able bodies to keep the work going. If nothing else, you could get by selling black-market cigarettes out of your apartment. It wasn't going to last for long. Even Tacheles might not survive, though out of all the squats in the city it probably had the best chance. Heinrich was running a good business here and he knew how to schmooze. He never called Tacheles a squat. He referred to the place as a "Kunsthaus," as if it was some kind of official city cultural center.
Lola took the plastic grocery bag off her bike seat and tied it around the bike rack. She had sewn a yellow faux fur cover for her bike seat. I looked fabulous, but if it got caught in the rain it took forever to dry, so Lola kept a grocery bag handy to cover it on grey days. It had taken her weeks to figure this out last July. She spent most of the month with a damp tush because it rained pretty much every afternoon in July. One day she came out of her favorite Ecke bar at the end of her street and discovered that a kindly passer-by had tied a grocery bag over her seat. Brilliant. She was still using the same bag, in fact. Lola thought of this as the power of the yellow fur bike seat. It made people happy to see it, and it made people want to do kind things. It was a magic talisman. Strangers lost their fear of approaching her when she was with the yellow fur bike seat. Even people she knew, she could tell, liked her even better when she was standing near the yellow fur bike seat. Lola felt that making that bike seat cover was probably the smartest thing she had done since moving to Berlin.
Ian was just catching up to her as she was moving the bike around toward the door.
"You leaving?" he asked.
Ian didn't touch Lola or act like they were together. Some of the Scottish guys were from his village and they knew his girlfriend. Ian was terrified that his girlfriend would find out that he was fucking around behind her back and he was careful not to let it show that he and Lola were seeing each other. This suited Lola fine. She didn't like Ian enough to want to be seen as his girlfriend. She did want to have sex with him whenever she felt like it, but she didn't want his presence to scare off any better prospects. She quite liked having a secret liaison, though she figured some of those guys had to suspect something.
"Heinrich's got an errand for me." said Lola.
"You coming back here then? After the errand."
"Maybe. Probably. I got the night off."
"Oh yeah," said Ian. "Shall I come by?"
"Nah. Go out with your boys. I'm going to see the show tonight and I think I'll go out with some friends after that. I might stay out late."
"Can you get me in tonight?"
"I doubt it."
"If it's just me?"
"Maybe, if it's really just you. You know Heinrich," said Lola. "But don't count on it."
"Right then. So maybe later, maybe not, eh?"
Lola felt a little bit sad about not wanting to see Ian tonight. She would have liked to have liked him. But then again if they started to feel all boyfriendy and girlfriendy she'd probably end up getting hassled or beaten up by the jilted girlfriend's cousin's brother's best friend or some such bullshit. He was cute. Tall and skinny and inked up and pierced. He was really very smart and sweet, too.
It was fun being at the same party together from time to time, flirting with other people, pretending not to notice him, knowing that they planned to hook up at her apartment at the end of the night. Sometimes Ian would leave first and wait for her somewhere. One time he had come up behind her as she was walking along the canal and grabbed her. It had scared the shit out of her at first. He had put a hand over her mouth whispered, "Don't scream. I'm going to fuck you now and you don't say a word." She recognized his voice--especially that voice. His dirty voice. She tried to get an elbow to his gut, but he was holding her arms and holding her against him tight. She kicked him in the shins but he barely noticed, pulling her down to the edge of the canal where the homeless people slept. He turned her toward him and kissed her on the mouth, holding her hands behind her back. Lola was still struggling, but only just enough to keep Ian trying to restrain her. "You are the biggest dyke cunt in Berlin." Ian breathed into her ear. "And I'm going to ram my cock into you until you fuckin' pass out." He held Lola's wrists with one hand and squeezed her tit with the other one. Lola bit him on the neck, hard.
"Promises, promises," she said. She tried to knee him in the groin, but he blocked her. He held her by the hair with one hand and held her wrists with the other. Lola yanked one wrist free and pushed Ian backwards. He stumbled and they both fell into the dirt next to the canal. It was muddy. Ian quickly pushed Lola face down flat on the ground. She didn't make a sound. He sat on top of her, holding her hands behind her back. Even in this position Lola had to be careful not to struggle too much. Ian was a scrawny man. He was strong enough, but he barely weighed more than she did and if she fought too hard, she would probably get away. If he thought he was really hurting her, he might stop, and that was the last thing Lola wanted. Again, she struggled just enough to make Ian try to keep her down. He got both of her wrists in a one-hand grip again and pulled her muddy skirt up over her ass. She was so pale in the moonlight. He pulled the crotch of her cheap cotton underwear aside to look at her cunt. Lola felt the fabic move and took in a sharp breath. She was lying very still now. Ian leaned into her and rested the forearm of the arm that held her wrists heavily against her back. She was pinned and couldn't have wriggled out now if she had wanted to. She could feel him shifting on top of her to open his blue jeans. Then she felt his cock, paused just before going inside her. Ian leaned his face next to her ear. She turned her face and kissed him, her tongue reaching inside of his mouth hungrily. He kissed her hard for a few seconds, then moved his face away. "Tell me you want me to fuck you."
"Please," said Lola.
"Fuck me," She whispered.
Ian moved his cock just slightly more inside of her. She tried to push into him, but he had her immobilized in the dirt.
"Tell me to stop," Said Ian.
"Stop," said Lola, and Ian rammed himself into her fiercely. Lola really couldn't remember what happened after that. Sex was like a dream space and she never really could remember exactly what had happened when it was all over.
Lola rolled her bike out the front door of Tacheles. Ian had been a very good lay indeed these past couple months. But it really was getting time to move on. She was tired of the post-coital guilty routine and she was sick of hearing about his bonnie fucking Shona. It was time for Lola to let Ian know that they weren't going to screw anymore. It'd be a weight of the poor man's conscience. Maybe he'd get Shona to visit. She'd never even been out of Scotland before. She'd probably love it here. Lola knew more about Shona than she did about the majority of her friends in Berlin. Shona liked to eat cheese for breakfast.
Lola walked the bike to the pay phone. She leaned the bike against the phone's base and reached into her courier bag. She took out a phone card and a small rectangle of cardboard with names and phone numbers written on it in tiny black-ink block letters. She dialed the phone card code and then Mario's number. She really hoped that he would be home. She had a couple other people in mind who could play Jesus for Nina, but none of them would be as perfectly messianic as Mario. Mario was a good performance artist, but he mostly avoided Tachles. He had his own art squat to take care of. Mario was American, from Los Angeles. He had inherited an apartment building in Berlin three years ago from an uncle he barely even knew, and he had been struggling ever since to figure out what the hell to do about it. The building was occupied almost entirely by artists who had been living there for years without paying any rent. Mostly Mario just wanted to give the building to the artists, but that was proving to be more difficult than anyone would have imagined. None of the artists really wanted to officially own the building and be responsible for utilities and taxes and stuff like that. Mario was thinking about selling the building and now all of the artists were pissed off that they might get evicted if he sold. Mario was doing well as an artist, and he loved Berlin even though he still didn't really speak much German. The first year he'd been here, he lived mostly by selling packs of Marlboro cigarettes. He'd found a few thousand packs of these in cartons in cardboard boxes, filling a small room in his dead uncle's old apartment.
The artists who'd been squatting the building were also a bit angry with Mario for finding the cigarettes and selling them. They all wished that they'd found the ancient stale smokes and felt somewhat that Mario had stolen that easy money from them by discovering the old Marlboros before they got a chance.
The phone rang a third time and then Mario picked up.
"Mario. It's Lola."
"Oh hey. I'm coming to the Nina hagen show tonight. I got my ticket for it yesterday."
"How late do you have to work after the show?"
"I don't have to work. I'll be there in civilian. Listen. You are going to drink free tonight."
"Because you will be changing water into wine, baby!"
"Oh good. I love it when I do that. What the heck are you talking about Lola?"
"I'm coming over. Don't move. I'll tell you everything when I get there and you are going to love me for it."
"Ok," said Mario. "I'm waiting. Grab some beers at the Turk's."
"I'll be there in 15 minutes. Bye."
Lola hopped on her bike and headed up the bike path. One thing she loved about Berlin was that people didn't walk in the bike paths. She loved her bike. It was a heavy old jalopy. A French-built bicycle that was so poorly designed that if you got unlucky you could hit your toe with the front wheel while making a turn. It was a three-speed, but only third gear was functioning. The brakes were pretty good. That was the only really important thing. The bicycle got Lola all over Berlin for free, didn't need much maintenance, and she never felt like she needed to hassle with bringing it in out of the rain or bringing it inside at night to keep people from stealing it. Who in their right mind would steal an old beater like this one?
Lola stopped in front of the Turkish corner store and attached her bike to a sign post with the U-lock. No matter how long she rode a bike, she was never going to figure out how to gracefully handle a damn U-lock. She pulled the U back off the front wheel and turned it upside down. She put the lock first through the bicycle tire and then over the bike frame and the sign post. She pushed the bike with her thigh to get it closer to the sign post and managed to close the lock. She turned the key and admired the fruit of her efforts. Today's rain had already come and gone, so she didn't bother covering the bike seat. besides, she wasn't going to be long.
The owner of the corner store was standing in the door way, watching Lola. When she had finished locking up the bike she turned and smiled at him. She came here a lot, bringing beer to Mario's. Mario had sold the man a box of his nasty old stale cigarettes, too. Lola gave the man a little sign with her right hand as she went into the store. She walked to the back of the store where another man was sitting, watching a soccer game on a tiny, portable black-and-white television. he was the guardian of the beer cooler. The beer fridge was pretty small, but the goods were packed in there tight. A row of bottled water stood at the front of the bottom rack of the fridge. Behind them stood four different brands of beer in tall botles. Two shelves held Coke and Fanta, and the last shelf was crammed with individual 33-centiliter cans of beer. Lola reached into the fridge and took out two tall bottles of the cheapest beer they carried. She nodded at the fridge guard and carried her tepid beers up to the front of the store and the cash register. She put the two bottles down in front of the cash register and the store's owner came in from his stoop to ring her up.
"I'll take two Kinder Eggs, please." said Lola.
The man put two chocolate eggs into the grocery bag with the beer. Lola handed him 10 marks and he gave her her change. She reached into the bag and took the eggs out and put them in her bag. She didn't want them to get squished by the beer.
Lola stood in front of Mario's building. She picked a small stone up off the ground and threw it. It bounced off of a window on the second floor. She watched the window for a couple seconds, bent down, picked up another small stone, and threw it against the same window. A face appeared in the window pane and Lola waved. Mario opened the window.
"Coming," he said.
Mario was half Mexican and half Irish. He had dark, wavy hair, and brown skin. He was skinny and sort of goofy-looking, with a full beard. The Turks thought he was Turkish. The Egyptians thought he was Egyptian, the cops knew he was a brown guy and he got hassled a lot. As soon as they saw the American passport the German cops were apologetic and accommodating, but Mario had a couple interesting stories about things most American expats never got to experience. One time he'd been walking home from the bakery in the morning in his heavily-immigrant neighborhood, and two paddy wagons appeared, one at each end of the street. Cops got out and rounded up every brown guy on the street and asked to see papers. Anybody without papers went into the wagon. It gave Lola the creeps hearing about it.
The front door of the building opened and Mario appeared in the door frame. He smiled mischievously. "Enter my dear," he said, opening the door wide and gesturing with his boney arm. Lola walked into the entry of the small apartment building. It was a great building. The walls were covered with paintings. One person had painted a bold row of canary-yellow hawk silhouettes along the top of the right wall, near the ceiling. The same design had been stenciled in a smaller size all over the beat-up old mailbox that was attached to the wall in the entryway. A large red buddha greeted you with his painted smile on the far wall when you came in the door. He was outlined in the same canary yellow and an incredibly detailed cityscape of berlin was painted behind him. The painting of Berlin was constantly being changed, just like the city itself. It was Lola's favorite painting anywhere. The place was pretty clean considering that it had been inhabited exclusively by freeloading artists for the past 40 years. But the residents here weren't kids. Most of them were in their 50s and 60s, which made the idea of selling the building and the possibility of them being evicted even harder for Mario. The building smelled like cigarettes and oil paint. Only a couple of the artists living here were actually painters. Most of them were old-school performance artists. many of them had been involved with the Fluxus movement and most of them had been close friends with Mario's uncle, who had been a well-known and successful artist in his lifetime. Mario and Lola walked up a flight of stairs and passed an open doorway. Lola saw Ivana through the open doorway, stirring some soup on a pan over a hot plate.
"I like the new cranes," said Lola into the open doorway. Ivana looked up from her stirring and smiled at Lola. Her grey hair was wound around a pencil and held in a bun. She winked at Lola and bent her head back down to the task at hand.
The next door on the left was Mario's apartment. There were only four small apartments on each floor, and the building was three stories tall. Every inch of the wall space and the ceiling in all of the hallways was covered by collage and paint. It was a magical place. Good artists had been hanging out here drinking wine, smoking opium, theorizing, and leaving their small mark for decades. It was dreadful to imagine selling the place and having someone come in and take it all away. Paint over four decades' worth of the doodles and parlor games of all those men and women. The tension in the building had become pretty high over the past year. Mario opened the door to his apartment and they stepped inside.
Mario had not brought anything with him from Los Angeles three years ago. He was selling art and doing a lot of shows now. The first year he was lucky to have had a grant from the states to live off. His mom sent him money every month, too, and she paid for the German lawyer who was helping Mario figure out what to do with the apartment building. And of course he made some good cash off those old cigarettes. He hadn't changed much about the apartment, except for emptying out the room full of Marlboros. He'd collected a lot of junk off the streets in the past three years. He was building something in the middle of the room out of cardboard and hot glue. Lola couldn't really tell what it was yet, but it looked like it was going to be big.
"What are you building?"
Lola opened one of the bottles of beer and took a drink from it. She held the bottle out to Mario. He took the bottle over to the kitchen area and took a jam jar off a plain wooden shelf.
"What do you like? Mustard jar? Pickle jar?" asked Mario.
"I don't care. Just give me something that hasn't had paint thinner or anything like that in it before, ok?"
"That's why Van Gogh cut off his ear, right? Drinking wine out of the same glasses as he mixed pigment in. Art kills."
Mario laughed. He rummaged around on the shelf for a couple seconds and took a mustard jar off the back of the shelf.
"I think this one is ok," he said, pouring beer into the container. "So, are you going to tell me why I get to drink free tonight or do I have to guess?"
"Ha! You would never guess."
"Ok. Then I won't try," said Mario.
"Nina Hagen's Jesus broke his leg or something. She needs a guy to dress up as Jesus for her show tonight. So when heinrich asked me if I could get somebody, I immediately thought of you. With that beard, and those soulful eyes of yours... you are very Christ-like."
"Whoa. Does this require any sacrilege?"
"Mario. I just asked you to play the role of Jesus fucking Christ in a Nina Hagen concert. Whether that's sacrilegious or not sacrilegious is for you to decide," said Lola. "Free drinking all night. Very good story for your resume... why am I even trying to convince you? You don't need convincing do you?"
"Hell no!" said Mario, emptying his glass. I did have about a half a second imagining my grandmother going into cardiac arrest seeing me dressed up as Christ, but it passed."
"Which grandma?" asked Lola.
"Either one! I'm half Mexican, half Irish, and 100 per cent Catholic. This is actually pretty exciting," said Mario.
Lola filled both of their glasses again with beer.
"Let's get a half a chicken at the half-a-chicken truck and get over to Tacheles. I said I'd try to have you there for rehearsal. They've got a costume for you and everything."
"Ok. But first I'm going to give myself a haircut."
"what?! Your hair is perfect. Don't cut your hair," cried Lola.
"No, no, no... not the hair on my head. My other hair," said Mario, raising his eyebrows and pointing to his crotch.
"Oh brother! Ok. Be quick," said Lola.
Mario was the only man Lola had ever known who kept his pubic hairs razed. He achieved this with the aid of a pair of electric hair clippers, the kind that military barbers use to give flat tops. Lola heard the click and the hum of the tool being turned on. She took her beer and Mario's and walked over to the bathroom door. The door wasn't completely closed. Lola pushed the door slightly.
"Can I watch? I have your beer," she said through the crack in the door.
Mario was standing in front of the sink in the tiny bathroom. His pants were hanging over the shower curtain rod. Mario looked up at Lola standing in the partially-opened doorway.
"Can you watch? Of course you can watch. Never seen a man defuzz his testicles before?"
Lola stepped into the bathroom. She put both glasses of beer carefully on the edge of the sink. She lowered both parts of the toilet seat and sat down. She lifted her feet off the floor and rested her chin on her knee. It was a good viewing level for the shave. She took a sip of her beer. Mario didn't really have much hair down there. Apparently he kept up his grooming. This sort of surprised Lola. She hadn't ever really thought of Mario as a big groomer. But come to think of it, she had seen him brush his teeth in a state of severe intoxication at eight or nine in the morning after an all night party binge, on several occasions. Normal people don't brush their teeth on the precipitous edge of passing out.
Mario ran the clippers from his navel down to the base of his penis. Tiny, stubbly black hairs fell to the ground and clung to the clipper's blades. Mario ran the clippers over the area all around the top of his genitals, little hairs falling as he did.
"That must tickle," said Lola.
"I'm not ticklish," said Mario. Lola laughed.
"No. Seriously," he said. "I'm really not ticklish." Mario lifted his penis. "If I was ticklish, I wouldn't be cutting my pubes with a vibrating hair clipper."
"Good point," said Lola. She watched as Mario pulled the skin of his testicles taught and ran the clippers over his skin. He started to get a little erection.
"Do you always get an erection when you cut the pubes on your balls?"
Mario paused in his task and looked at Lola. "What do you think?" Lola smiled. Mario worked fast, moving the skin on his testicles and shaving it small section by small section. It was fascinating. With the hair gone you could really see that his penis and his balls were darker than the rest of his body. The skin looked soft and bare. Lola examined the way his testicles were symetrically wrinkled. Mario was trying to brush the tiny hairs off his skin now.
"I'm going to pop into the shower just to rinse off."
"Ok. I'll wait out in the other room. be quick!" said Lola. She got up off the toilet seat, grabbed her beer, and walked into the other room. Mario closed the bathroom door and turned on the shower. He took off his t-shirt and climbed into the shower. He rinsed the little hairs off his legs and turned off the water. This was going to be fun. He wondered if there would be a crown of thorns. Mario stepped out of the shower, dripping onto the floor. He didn't have a clean towel right now, so he put his pants back on over his damp legs. He picked up the t-shirt and carried it out of the bathroom with him.
"I'm just going to get a clean shirt and then let's go," he said.
"Great," said Lola. She stood up and walked to the table where she had set the other, unopened bottle of beer. She picked up the bottle and put it into her bag. Mario walked out of the bedroom wearing a red t-shirt with a black Che-like silhouette of Elvis on it.
"Chelvis! Good choice," said Lola, pointing at his t-shirt. "Let's rock and roll. We want to have time for the halbes hunchen wagon."
Lola and Mario walked out of the apartment and passed Ivana again.
"Do you vant some hair ball tea?" called Ivana through the open door.
"We have to run now, Ivana. I'll come and see you this weekend," Lola said as they passed.
When they got to the bottom of the stairs, Lola turned to Mario and whispered, "What is hair ball tea?"
"What? What the heck are you talking about?"
"Ivana. She asked if we wanted hair ball tea? What is that?"
Mario laughed. "Hair ball tea! She was offering you herbal tea, you dingbat."
Lola pushed Mario gently and he stumbled a little to one side.
"Get your bike," she said. "Let's go."
Mario's building had a special room off the ground floor entry way where they kept the trash cans and a few bikes. The building had four bikes that were shared by everyone. Mario took the bike closest to the door and then locked the room behind him on his way out. In another 30 seconds, he and Lola were on their way. They took their half chickens to go and made it to Tacheles with plenty of time to spare. Nina wasn't even there yet. They took their chickens out back and got lucky, finding the big swing empty. The swing was made from the scoop of a bulldozer and it hung on huge chains from a grid iron structure. It must have weighed a ton. Every time Lola sat in it, she felt lucky. When she was a kid she had always wanted to sit in the scoop of a bulldozer. Lola took the beer out of her backpack and unscrewed the lid.
"It's not very cold," she said.
"The importance of the coldness of beer is exaggerated," said Mario. They unwrapped their food and starting pulling meat off the chickens. Lola ate with her fingers, But Mario had a plastic knife and fork from the chicken stand. Lola was impressed by the way he managed to use his utensils to eat out of a paper bag on his lap. The flimsy plastic knife resisted cutting the meat of the chicken, but still he managed. Lola wiped her greasy fingers on a cheap paper napkin and took a swig of beer. She made a face.
"The importance of the coldness of beer this cheap is pretty real," said Lola. "I'm going to donate this to the Scrabble club and get us some real beer from the bar. I think Heinrich should be back now and I want to let him know that the Lord Jesus Christ has arrived." Lola picked up the bottle of beer and walked over to a group of young kids sitting on the grass.
A tall English girl was sitting up on her knees. Her shoes were off and her butt was resting on the heels of her feet, her toes propping her up. She was reciting a poem and the other youngsters were listening intently.
"it is a field of the wild carrot," said the girl, "taking the field by force; the grass does not raise above it."
Lola didn't want to interrupt the recital. She kneeled down slightly behind the circle of people and listened. The poem sounded really familiar to her, but she couldn't quite remember what it was.
"Each flower is a hand's span of her whiteness, white as can be, with a purple mole at the center of each flower. Wherever his hand has lain there is a tiny purple blemish."
"William Carlos Williams," thought Lola. "One of the best poems about orgasm ever. And that's saying something." The poem always made Lola think of light S&M. "Wherever his hand has lain there is a tiny purple blemish." She'd had a lover like that before, but to be fair, she did bruise easily.
The girl was reciting the end. "Until the whole field is a white desire, empty, a single stem, a cluster, flower by flower, a pious wish to whiteness gone over--or nothing." The reciting of the poem was pretty stiff and English, but it was a really good poem and nice to hear. Lola nudged the young man in front of her with the beer bottle and handed it off to him. He called himself Antonio and pretended to be Italian, but Lola knew that he was really Czech and that his real name was Antony Hzchinski or something like that. He had deep dark circles under his eyes. The Scrabble club was the youngest clique at the squat and maybe the hungriest. Antonio took the beer and nodded thanks. Lola stood up and walked toward the cafe.
"Each part is a blossom under his touch to which the fibres of her being stem one by one, each to its end," she thought. It made her horny. She walked into the cafe and stepped behind the bar. Gitte was standing near the door, talking with a customer. Lola took down two beer glasses and poured from the tap. Gitte noticed her and waved at her, smiling.
"Lola! Nice to see you."
"Gitte. I thought you were never going to work here again!"
"Ha! I wonder how many times I have sworn never to work here again," said Gitte. "I cannot resist Heinrich when he is desperate. And anyway, tonight, I would have come anyway. I may as well serve some beer and make some extra money." Lola set both beers on the bar and walked around toward Gitte. They kissed once on each cheek.
"You look beautiful as always," said Lola.
"I can't help it," flirted Gitte, fluffing her hair in a mock pin-up pose. "It is exhausting, you know, to be such a sexual goddess. But someone has got to do it." Lola laughed and kissed Gitte on the cheek.
"How do you like your new job? What's it like? What part of the hospital are you working in now?" asked Lola. Gitte looked around the room, making sure that no one needed a refill and that no new customers had come in. Then the two women walked together back toward the bar. The bar was a beautiful piece. It was built mostly out of old wooden furniture that had been thrown out in the street. The center piece of the structure was a beautiful old dresser. Decades' worth of paint layers had been mostly removed with a heat gun, but you could still see flakes of color in the wood grain here and there. The drawers were all closed. Each drawer had a circle of glass on it somewhere. If you knew about the piece you could kneel down and look through the lens embedded in each opening and see the scene that was set up and artfully lit, inside each drawer. Most people didn't know about it. It wasn't a secret, but it was sort of treated like one.
"I love my work," said Gitte. "I love everything about it. Becoming a nurse is the best thing I have ever decided to do."
"I'm so glad for you. Are you still working with the dialysis machine?" asked Lola.
"No, no, no, no, no," said Gitte. She put her elbow on the bar and tossed her head back. "Thanks heavens, no. I couldn't stand all of the dying people. I mean. No one actually died. But everyone was really dying. Of course all of us all the time are dying. But these people, they know it. Especially while they are there with that machine. Some people can work well in a service where the knowledge of death or the awareness of death is just lurking around for your whole 12 hours shift. But I was not one of these people. I cannot think of mortality for so many hours in a row, and I cannot not think of it in that place." Lola nodded and watched Gitte's face as she talked. Gitte looked away during most of this speech. She was keeping an eye on the cafe, but she was also ashamed that she had not been stronger. When she did look Lola in the eye, she also gave a little shrug and raised her eyebrows. Lola reached out and stroked Gitte's hand resting on the bar, to comfort her.
"I wouldn't be able to do it either," said Lola.
"Well, anyhow," said Gitte, straightening up and getting ready to go behind the bar, "Now I am in the maternity. And it's mortality all day long again, but at the other side, so better. I am thinking of now becoming a midwife, perhaps." Gitte picked up a rag and began wiping the bar with it.
"Wow," said Lola. "And how is the band doing? You guys haven't played here in ages."
"It's great. We're playing a lot, but we're taking a break from Tacheles. We were here too much. It was too comfortable for us. We're playing in a festival in Wales this summer. That is going to be great." Lola took the two beers off the counter, one in each hand.
"I have to go back to Mario outside. You know he is going to be Jesus Christ in the show tonight?"
"Mario!? Oh, this is perfect."
"Heinrich said Antje would be working tonight. Do you know if she is coming in?"
"Oh, yes. But she cannot come until 9 pm, which is why Heinrich called me and made my heart bleed for him with his panic. He is no bartender, you know. So I said I would come and work until the end of the night. It's good cash, anyway. Especially a night like tonight."
Heinrich walked into the room from a side door. He looked harried. He saw Lola holding the two beers.
"One of those beers had better be for Jesus," he said.
"Come and meet him," said Lola. They walked out to the back lot together. Mario was still sitting on the bulldozer swing. He had pretty much finished his chicken.
"Oh my!" said Heinrich. "He is very Christ-like! Perfect. Nina is in the dressing room now with her make-up girl. Can you bring jesus to the dressing room in 20 minutes?"
"Of course," said Lola. They were standing in front of the swing now. Lola handed Mario his beer. "Mario, I want to introduce you to Heinrich. Heinrich, this is Mario."
The two men shook hands.
"I am very grateful that you can perform tonight," said Heinrich. "It is a great help to us."
Mario was taken aback some by Heinrich's formalness. "It is my pleasure," he replied.
"You can drink tonight for free. I will tell Gitte. But not too much before the show. We cannot have a Jesus who is too drunk," said Mario.
"Of course," said Mario, self-consciously sipping his beer.
Heinrich looked at Lola. "But you, you do not drink for free, you know that. I cannot give away too much beer!"
"Of course," said Lola. "I'm not performing."
Heinrich turned back to Mario. "We are ready for you in 20 minutes. Lola will bring you to where you need to be for the costume and make up."
"Very good," said Mario. "I will be there."
Heinrich nodded and walked away. Lola climbed into the swing and attacked her half chicken.
"I'm starting to get nervous," said Mario.
"I bet," said Lola, between bites.
Mario sipped his beer slowly.
When Lola had finished her chicken, she reached into her bag and pulled out the two Kinder eggs. She held them both out to Mario. "Choose your fortune," she said.
"Oh! Yay!" said Mario. He hesitated, his hand poised above the two eggs. Then he grabbed the one on the right. Lola closed her hand over the remaining egg and took the red and blue wrapper off carefully. She flattened the wrapper out on her thigh and set it on her thigh. Then she carefully broke apart the two halves of the chocolate egg and laid them down on the foil wrapper. Mario had bitten off the top of his chocolate egg and was chewing with relish. He held the egg half-wrapped in the foil, holding the candy by its metallic wrapper. Lola was shaking the yellow capsule from inside the egg next to her ear.
"It doesn't make any sound," she said. "That's a good sign. It can mean that there are tons of pieces jammed in there. Maybe stickers."
Mario smiled and took another bite of chocolate. Lola held one half of the capsule in each hand and twisted it apart carefully. She held the capsule upright and gently lifted the top half slightly to see what was inside.
"Wow! Tons of parts!" she cried. "Wheels!" Lola opened the egg and dumped the pieces onto the swing next to her. "you want my chocolate?" she asked.
"Sure," said Mario. he picked up one of the chocolate egg halves and popped it into his mouth. Lola picked up the long strip of paper that came in every Kinder egg. She was always amazed by this piece of paper, which described the object in so many different languages. Next, she looked at the smaller piece of paper which gave instructions for putting the toy together.
"Ooh! It's a limo!" said Lola. "Gosh. Well, this clearly means that I am going to get me some VIP treatment tonight. No big surprise there. I wonder if there is going to be an actual limo."
Mario was about to pop another piece of chocolate in his mouth. He held the chocolate daintily between his thumb and forefinger. "Could mean that you are going to be famous for something soon." He put the chocolate in his mouth.
"It could mean a road trip. Cars usually mean travel, but a limo is special. I think it means luxury, VIP treatment, privilege..."
"Decadence," added Mario.
"Indubitably," said Lola, beginning to assemble the tiny parts.
"I'll be right back," said Mario. "I'm going to go wash my hands." and he walked off toward the toilet.
Lola had put together he while stretch limo before Mario got back. She was holding it up in front of her, admiring it. "No stickers, but it does have tinted windows," she said.
Mario picked his yellow toy capsule up off the seat of the swing and twisted it open. There were no loose parts in his toy. He dropped the trinket into the palm of his hand. it was a small figurine of a sheep in lederhosen, holding a heart behind his back.
"Oh man!" he cried. "No fair! Why do i always get the lamest, most boring, stupid ugliest Kinder surprises? God! I wanted a limo!"
Lola took the toy out of his exasperated grasp, looked at it and burst out laughing.
"Oh man," she said, pushing her limo a little bit along the seat of the swing to test out the smoothness of the axles, "I'm sorry." She laughed again and then held the toy up to look at it more closely.
"Oh no! It's perfect! Mario, it's you of course!"
"What are you talking about?"
"Your kinder surprise. It's a sheep. A lamb. Get it. Jesus. The lamb. It's you. I don't know about the lederhosen. That might mean that you're going to try to speak German tonight. But the heart! You're definitely going to meet someone tonight. This Kinder surprise predicts love for you."
"Brilliant. The lamb of love and lederhosen. I'll take that fortune, I guess."
"We should get you into the dressing room, " said Lola. "I'll introduce you to Nina."
Nina was just finishing her make up. He black hair was styled like a mane around her face and she wore a long black skirt and a vinyl corset. Black and white striped socks showed below the hem of her skirt and she wore black platform shoes. She was smoking a joint and it smelled nice. The make up artist was just putting the last touches of powder in Nina's face when lola and Mario walked into the room.
"Jesus Christ!" Nina shouted when she say Mario. "Aaaaaah! You are very Jesus-y!" Her big eyes opened even wider and she held the joint out to Mario. He took the spliff.
"Thank you," he said. "I do my best." He took a drag and offered the joint to Lola, who declined. "I'm a big fan of yours," said Mario.
"Well, you know, you're a lot more famous than I am, Jesus." Nina stood up and walked over to a suitcase sitting open on a small sofa. She pulled out a wooden wreath and a piece of yellowish fabric. "Your crown of thorns and your loin cloth," she said. "Now when we go out there, all you should do is I will stand in front of the microphone with my guitar and you will kneel down in front of me on one knee and I will prop my foot on your leg. Can we try that now?
"Sure," said Mario. Lola sat down in a chair by the mirror and watched Mario kneel down in front of Nina Hagen.
"Now you must adore me!" shouted Nina. Mario looked up at her adoringly and she set platform shoe on his leg.
"Owe!" he said.
"Ok. That is not comfortable for you," said Nina. She put her foot down and slipped her foot out of her shoe. She put her striped stockinged foot on Mario's thigh. "Good. We can do it like that." Nina put her foot back into her shoe and Mario stood up. He took his costume and went behind a room divider to change. When he came back out he was wearing only the loin cloth and the crown of thorns. His beard and his longish hair and his scrawniness were perfect. He looked like he could have been hanging above an altar somewhere.
"can I get you a beer?" asked Lola.
"Wine please," said Nina." I can't drink something gassy like beer in this corset." She ran her hands over the waspy curves of her waist and hips.
"I'll have wine, too," said Mario.
"Of course we drink wine!" said Nina. "It is the blood of the lamb!" She opened her eyes wide and snapped her teeth at Mario. Lola walked out to the cafe to order the drinks.
"What do you need, Lola?"
The bar was beginning to fill up. Antje was serving drinks to the people seated at the tables now. Young punks and old punks and a healthy crowd of black-clad lesbians milled around the room, watching the stage in anticipation of the show. it was an unusual show. Nina was singing by herself, accompanied by just her acoustic guitar.
"I need a bottle of red wine for Nina and Mario and start me a tab. I want a gin fizz."
"You got it," said Gitte. She took a bottle of wine out from under the counter, opened it, and put it on the bar. "I only need one glass," said Lola. "Nina already has a wine glass." Gitte put one clean wine glass next to the bottle on the bar and took a tall glass from another shelf. She made Lola's gin and tonic a double. Lola Took the drinks back behind the stage to the dressing room and poured Nina and Mario each a glass of wine. They were talking and laughing as if they were old friends. Mario was telling her the whole story of his inheritance and all of the complicated problems he'd had since.
"My God," cried Nina. "You really are a martyr."
"There's a big crowd out there," said Lola. She looked at her watch. "Can you go on in 10 minutes?" Heinrich poked his head into the doorway.
"May I come in?"
Nina stood up and walked over to Heirich with her arms outstretched. "Can you!? You'd better, you old billy goat. Come here and let me rub myself on you." She gave Heinrich a hug.
"We're ready when you are Nina," he said. Nina took in a deep breath. She looked at Mario.
"Are we ready?" she asked.
"Sure," said Mario. "Let's go."
"I have to go and tell the light board," said Heinrich. "When you see the house lights go down, count to ten and then come out." He walked quickly out of the room. Nina, Mario, Lola, and the make up artist took a last few sips on their drinks.
"I'm going to go out so I can see the entrance you make," said Lola.
"Me too," agreed the make-up artist. They stepped out of the room just as the lights went out.
For about five seconds the room was dark. Everyone in the room became silent immediately and turned to face the stage. Then the stage lights came up. The crowd cheered and shouted. The atmosphere in the club was exciting. People felt lucky to be here. Lola felt lucky to be here.
Then Nina Hagen walked out onto the small stage, carrying an acoustic guitar. She stepped into the spotlight and faced the crowd. Then Mario stepped out and walked toward Nina on the stage. Nina lifted her arms slowly in the air and as she did so, Mario, bent down to kneel on one knee in front of her, gazing up at her adoringly. She dropped her arm, stepped out of her shoe, propped her foot on his lifted thigh and rested her guitar on her leg. The crowd was silent now. Nina strummed the guitar and began to sing, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" It was incredible, there in that tiny space, hearing her voice and the guitar. So different from her usual performances. Mario looked like a statue. Lola sat down on the floor and noticed that his bald scrotum was partially visible from certain angles under his loin cloth.
Nina sang four songs and then walked off stage, leaving Mario kneeling there in the spotlight for a few seconds before the spotlight went off. He stood up and walked off stage in the dark and then the house lights came up. People headed for the bar, conversation slowly began to pick up again. The show had been amazing. Lola walked up to Mario, who was standing in the crowd, still in his loin cloth and crown of thorns.
"You were perfect," said Lola.
"Really?" said Mario, "I didn't do anything."
"You looked great."
"You know what I just realized? Just now? Right this very instant?" said Mario, looking around the room now.
"I can have sex with any woman in this room. I just had Nina Hagen's bare piggies resting on my thigh. No woman in this room doesn't want to get a piece of Jesus." Mario was scanning the room avidly.
"I don't know about that, said Lola, not-so-subtly indicating a group of four or five very butchy lesbians slow dancing with each other in front of the stage."
"Are those women?" said Mario. "Almost no woman in this room, then." Mario was looking toward the doorway. Lola followed his gaze and saw a beautiful blonde woman with a blue stripe along the front of her long, blonde hair. She seemed to be arguing with a man. She snatched the pack of cigarettes he was holding and threw them out the front door of the bar. The man gave her a push, not too hard, but he was clearly on the brink of losing it. Then he turned and walked out the door after his smokes. The woman with the blue tresses turned around and walked toward the bar. She was wearing three artfully ripped and safety-pinned t-shirts one over the other and a denim mini skirt with fishnet stockings and motorcycle boots.
"That's the one," said Mario.
"Meet me back stage. I'm going to go say good-bye to Nina before she takes off," said Lola.
"Ok," said Mario." I'll bring my new girlfriend.
Mario walked up to the bar and stood next to the blonde punk on whom he had set his sights. She was waiting for Gitte to notice her. When Gitte saw Mario, she walked over. "You were wonderful," said Gitte. "Can I get you another glass of red wine?"
"Thank you," said Mario. "I'd like to offer this young lady a drink, also." He turned toward the blonde. She was even more beautiful than he'd first thought, from across the room. She looked him up and down and flashed him a flirty smile.
"Whisky," she said to Gitte. "Please." Her accent was Nordic. Maybe Swedish, maybe Norwegian. Possibly Danish. Not Dutch.
"You want ice?" asked Gitte.
"No thank you," said the woman. "Only a glass and some whisky in it."
"What is your name?" asked Mario.
"Me? I am Ingrid. I know who you are. Everyone knows your name."
"I go by many names," said Mario.
"No, no. That is the other guy. The diablo has many names. You have not so many," she replied.
"Maybe I'm actually the devil in disguise," said Mario.
"Oho!" squealed the girl. "Very good disguise." And again she ran her gaze up and down Mario's body.
Just then the man who had gone out to chase his cigarettes walked up and grabbed Ingrid by the arm. He spoke to her in what was either Norwegian or Swedish. Mario couldn't tell the difference. She yanked her arm away and answered him angrily in the same language. She looked at Mario once and the man looked at Mario with fury. Gitte came and placed a glass of wine and glass of whisky on the bar. Ingrid picked up her glass an took a large swig. The man turned toward Mario. Mario stepped back one step. The man, presumably Ingrid's boyfriend, was about 6 feet tall and probably weighed close to 200 pounds, and he obviously was not feeling the love of the Lord. Mario could clearly see that ha was about to be pummeled.
"I have no idea what is going on here," said Mario. "No harm no foul."
The man took another step toward Mario and clenched his fist. Suddenly Mario reached down and pulled on the string holding up his loin cloth. The piece of fabric fell off onto the floor and there stood Mario, utterly naked except for his crown of thorns--his bald crotch, and flaccid penis exposed in the middle of the crowd near the bar. The boyfriend began shouting at Mario in his native tongue, but he took two or three steps backward. Mario looked past him and smiled stupidly at Ingrid, who was laughing so hard that tears were welling in her eyes. Several people who had been lucky enough to see the scene cheered. Heinrich and two other larger men came up behind the boyfriend, twisted his arm behind his back, and threw him out into the street. Mario bent down and picked up his loin cloth, which he draped over his forearm like a Maitre d's white towel. Then he stepped back to the bar, picked up his wine glass elegantly by its stem, looked at Ingrid, and said, "Won't you join me?"
"But of course." she said. "I am your apostle."
Mario offered Ingrid his elbow, she hooked her arm in his, and they walked toward the back stage area.