Closer to the in-between of my thighs,
The room set aflame by a perfume of underclothing,
I breathe my mouth into one of her armpits.
“I don’t know how to touch you.”
It’s all about licking and impatience,
Holding suspended, between gravity and body;
I could just eat and fuck, pretending I was asleep,
A kind of physiological anesthesia,
Expelling years worth of civilization.
The latest prerequisite for familiarity: fucking.
For her, to share was to be robbed –
Her smell, peculiarly earthbound.
Woman, Rm. 209 (Coda)
Night, the very dead center of August, the orange wax dripping and pooling, the single candlelight sway-flickering, fucking sweat’s soak-staining through my t-shirt, I got no air conditioning to speak of, plus this pit-bull of a hard-on, what with his jaw full of teeth, refusing to stop growing. It’s making me itchy. The bourbon’s beaming straight out the bottle, I’m laying there, seeping my way into the dirty wooden floorboards, Had enough of this, I’m finally thinking, Gonna get up off this floor, take him out for a walk – gonna point the fucker.
To the Tokyo, I figure. Another last trip.
Scene on the boulevard that night’s some kind of porno. Dry, and rubbed raw. Chafing. I walk into a tangle of dirty dark-skin boys, these gypsies, they’re begging someone to take one of the same exhausted thorn-crown Christs off their hands, they’re raising copies of the poor, porcelain-skinned, rib cage-heaving image high. Poor sucker’s still stuck there on that stick like some kind of sad, steamed noodle. I walk right through and by, ignoring their pleas, the curses of the red-faced man spitting spittle down and upon them.
In the dark alleyway, a moment’s flash of bright, white light, this glass pipe’s glaring like a north star. I watch the exhaust of this rising from out of the part of the mouth I can see: dirty swirling fumes, the coughing and laughter, then, “What the fuck are –” but I’m off and away.
Out on the street, the cars are stalking as they ease on by, men and boys leering out the windows cruising, their eyes devouring everything they aim upon, tongues tonguing the air to show you what they know, a deep bass buzz rattling through that coffin of steel and fiberglass. Like they want to fuck something, like they’ve built themselves erect so to show you this, to crash this out and against everyone and everything, to spill it sticky and drying. The only takers? Line of the whores standing beneath the mural. They’re entering these cars, exiting. The money’s changing hands.
This mural, see, it’s a big old mural in the alley on the sidewall of the Tokyo Hotel, a big old picture of an ever-devastated Virgin of a Mother, three spotlights spraying down and against her face like some kind of gangbang moneyshot. Here’s something new: someone’s given her pink graffiti tits and a cock droop-dripping between her legs, but this hasn’t changed the doomed eyes she’s aiming; sad old gal’s repulsed as ever, like she sees how this story of mine, just like some other stories, it ain’t never changing. She’s my messed-up greeter too though, see, so still she’s beckoning me inside, pleading plenty dirty, I like to think, like I can hear her whispering the filth through those cracked dry lips of hers, the things she wished she could’ve said in life.
Inside the Tokyo, it’s a zoo of depravity, the one hotel in town all the limousines are pointed to. It’s where the money stops and lays for a while. American and German gentlemen-businessmen, you see, they’re on a bread-winning vacay away from their family reality, and Tokyo, she’s got a bar that goes dance-strip-sex club if you know what you’re doing, if you know how to ask. What am I saying? Hold out the cash, you’ll find yourself coming inside or against something soon enough.
The women that fill that place? Ain’t exactly women, just girls, mainly. Dark-skinned, way too beautiful girls come acrossing the border, some weird trick of econo-philosophy, some kind of global brute pressure no one’s exactly understanding. I get to rippin’ through the single shots at the bar. Ugliest thing you ever saw are groups of fatass-suit-guys out on the dance floor shaking it around, conqueror-fools swarming like grinning maggots for girls who’ve learned how to good and fake it. Putting their hands all over them. I let myself get worked up again like always, but what the fuck am I going to do or say? And like I’m any more than a shade better?
Got my own business here: Maja. Maja. She’s my girl. How I come to find her was an intervention of a kind. Drinking a drink one night, I’m only in town for a moment, get to noticing this beautiful woman at a table next to me. Kid comes around the tables, some little, gypsy kid, he’s selling these flowers, pink-red roses. The sweet-smelling things only cost a dollar. I buy three, send them over across the way, but when I approach, she motions fast, her eyes making signs not to come any closer. “Not now – the Tokyo,” she tells me. “I’ll be there later tonight.”
Woulda shoved off the next day. Meant to leave her, but I didn’t. Went to see her again, that girl, Maja. Been coming to see her for the last year.
I move from the bar and find my way to the stairs to the rooms. Holding the back door wide, old Pedro, he holds his hand out for me, lets go the burliest grin you ever seen. Nods when I ask if she’s in, never looking at me. “Thanks,” I tell him, stepping into the stairwell, the door crashing closed behind me. I got some kind of Pavlovian twitch panging the sweet ache through my crotch, all the logic I got left. Creaking and squeaking, the steps are two at a time. Before I know it, I’m in front of the door I been aiming him for. 210.
Number’s glowing just like it does in my dreams.
Rap on that door, wait fingering the handle and my pulsing crotch at the same time, but the thing won’t come open. Rap again, lean in listening, but there ain’t any steps to be hearing. Nor music – nor crying – nor fucking. Call out. I call out a time or two, a time or two too many. Someone’s hushing me through the wall. That fucker Pedro told me she was here. Yell, sure enough, I yell long and hard, “Maja!” I’m yelling, but there ain’t no nothing.
Only thing for me to do is wait, so I ease my way to seated against the door. When next my eyes are seeing, I’m looking up from the floor into the mildew staining through the ceiling. Knock again behind my head not looking, but no one’s answering, and fuck if my tongue’s not gone dry and dying in my throat. I pull myself up, sway my way through the hall, my hands feeling the wall up like she’s etched in Braille.
Find my way to the next spot of door. Room 209. I can hear some music easing its way out. Some kind of sad, and jagged-broken. I’m on the point of knocking when the burst of voices busts. Then the door’s coming open. A well-dressed woman with black pearls about her neck rushes out, it’s all I can do to get out of the way. Then a smaller one rushes after her. Catches the first a ways down the hallway, stops her a moment, pleading, but then the pearl girl’s breaking away. Then she’s gone. The smaller one crumples to the floor, her head between her knees. I can hear it, just barely: she’s crying.
“Maja’s not here,” she say finally. Says it never looking, like from underwater, her head still between her knees. “You have to go now – she’s not here for you anymore.” Pulls herself up then, her face framed with a hate centered on me.
“Where is she?” I ask, seated again, I’m leaning back against the door.
“Not here,” she says again, standing now, and moving toward me. “Move. You have to get out of the way.” Standing, I move aside. I’ve seen the girl before, heard the sound of her and the others through the walls. Dark, with short, dark hair. Small, dark eyes. Got her arms crossed at her chest, standing before me at the open doorway. She can see I’m fumbling to fold over upon myself any second, only says, “She said not to come anymore. She’s leaving…she’s already gone.” Lets it go with some kind of deadweight, like some kind of deflating, like she’s got me pegged pathetic. She’s seen it all before. She’s tired of it. Lines around her eyes and mouth – I know she’s pointing this thing at herself somehow, too.
“Have to have some water,” I tell her, pleading. She pauses. “Please,” I say again, and when she moves in, she turns on the sink tap, moves further to a chair at the end of the single room, lights a cigarette.
I enter, the room aflame with a strange scent. Perfume and earth both. Woman. I put my face beneath the tap, drink lapping, like a dog; it’s like I just found my way out of lost in the desert. Let the water course all over my face and chin, and when I rise, turning off the tap, I rub the extra into my neck and head, staring into the dirty mirror.
“Here’s part of the story,” the woman says to me, a cloud of smoke pluming from her lips. “Some of it’s going to be uncomfortable, but that’s okay: I hope it’s painful.” Then she laughs, a bitterness croaking through a mouthful of smoke.
I turn, steady myself against the sink. Takes a moment to ash, and when she’s finished, she looks up at me for the first time. Our eyes catch, and I get this idea there’s something between us.
“Maja’s my girl,” she tells me. I blink a time or two, waiting. “She’s my girl, she was my girl – whatever went on in the 210 between the two of you,” she adds, and looking at me like to gnaw the throat from my neck. I roll my head about my shoulders a second, trying to spill the meaning of this out across the floor. “She loved me, not you – that’s what I’m saying,” she says softer, then looking out the window across the black, where the single block outline of a cross is beaming a glowing white like bared fangs, the words “Jesus Saves” flickering just beneath. Flickers like an eyelid, like a strobe; it’s twitching, setting free the last of its fluorescence.
“No,” I say, “she never loved me. That’s right.” Might’ve liked it if she did, but that’s not the way we built it up; that’s not what it was about, those nights in 210, the Tokyo. Probably I’d have broken in half, jumped out the window if I’d thought something so sick as that could happen.
“No, she didn’t,” she says, rubbing a hand over her face. “She never did… but she loved me. And I love her.”
We got some silence then, a big old black space of it, muffled sounds of the way people are getting fucked all around us. Clenching my mouth and jaw silent still, what’s left for me to say? She’s got me. On this point, she’s got me beat.
I’ve given in, but it’s not enough. “What do you think you know of her?” she asks, a serpent slithering through her mouth full of tongue and teeth.
“Nothing,” I tell her, but it’s not true. I know her eyes. I know her mouth, her face, the aching fucking. Not love, no, but I heard the hard hurting, like the animal growing and growling in her chest heaving, heard the voice of him as he was releasing, her crying. She always cried, especially when she was coming.
“That’s right,” she tells me, laughing. “That’s right, and neither did any of the rest of them…like they don’t know me, either; they can’t, not like me and her knew each other.”
I wait a moment to take it all in. “Where’d she go?” I ask.
Phone rings. She moves, picks it up like she’s forgotten I’m in the room. “No,” she says, “you said you would, you have to.” Got her hand over her eyes, her face falling to the dirty, carpet floor.“Please,” she says, “please just say you will… come over.” Silence. Then she throws the phone on the floor and, face down, lays on the bed, whimpering, a kind of animal abandoned. She’s broken.
Figure there’s nothing left for us, not me and her, nor Maja, who’s finally gone. Gotta get out of that hotel, the Tokyo, I’m thinking, get back out there on the dirty boulevard. But now my mind’s erecting hard, pulsing in a line rushing with the gushing blood engorged, I can feel every throbbing pang hurried from my heart. Take a hold of the thing in the bathroom. I grab him, strangle him until he gives up his begging, goes good and shut-the-fuck-up. Surprised to see the new face in the mirror. He’s telling me now maybe I can move on, try to be something good, or at least better.
Step outside into the wet heat, out the side door, and what should I find but some dude painting a bright green mustache onto the face of the Virgin Mother. The whores are standing all around him, they’re feeling him up, laughing. One of them’s jerking him off. I step to the dude, and even as I get to speaking, his canister hand makes a wide, windmill arc, shatters breaking against my temple.
Dreams then, the dreams. Dreaming of Maja.
When I wake, I rise – start thinking of ways to find her.