Friday, December 19, 2014

Cuento de Mi Id

“The Girls of Winter”

It was half past twelve when the next girl came on stage, which proves that not all scary things happen at midnight. She was a skinny young thing, most likely jailbait, and it hardly seemed worth it for her to take her top off. She staggered about the stage for a while, waving her arms up and down as if they were drumsticks. I could clearly see her ribs beneath her skin and I almost felt sorry for her.

She was promptly booed off the stage -- no doubt as an act of mercy, I thought. She then grabbed her top and scurried off to the back room.

The next dancer was of more conventional proportions but she wore too much blue eye shadow. I quickly lost interest and returned to my drink. The club closed at two and I wasn't looking forward to navigating my way home with a hundred other drunks. However, it was fifteen below outside and I was in no hurry to brave the winter traffic. I came from Chicago myself so snow and ice don't scare me, but trying to dodge fifteen other drivers while trying to avoid a fishtail tends to take all the fun out of winter driving.

In fact, I almost totaled my car making it this far. Some wiseguy in a pickup truck was too stupid to drive at normal speed and made me put on the brakes when he cut in front of me on the highway. When you're driving on ice, that's the last thing you want to do. I managed to get out of it okay -- I always do -- but I must admit that I was really shook up there for a while.

Yeah, a long while.

The next dancer came on stage as I finished my beer. She was a black girl and she reminded me of a girl at the last club I was at. Very friendly that one had been. In fact, she even offered me drinks. Then she started putting her hand on my thigh and I realized that drinks were not the only thing she sold.

Outside, that old north wind must have been howling like a banshee. Perhaps if I put enough antifreeze in my system, I could make it as far as the parking lot, I thought as I ordered yet another beer. The waitress took her time bringing it as if she were being paid to bring it extra slow and I mentally subtracted a large portion of her tip while I was waiting.

In the meantime, I kept looking up at the stage and trying to not act bored but it was hard. After all, there was nothing in the club I couldn't see in a Playboy. And you're not allowed to touch the girls here, either. You're just allowed to get close enough to drop a bill in the old G-string and that's it. How dull.

The next girl on stage appeared to have needle marks on her arms. At least, I thought they were needle marks. Didn't make sense to me. I would have figured that most girls in her profession would be into skinpopping. If this was Canada, I could find out for sure, but they don't allow such places down here in the Bible Belt. Not at normal prices, anyway.

My beer finally arrived but for some reason, it tasted funny. I called the waitress over to order something in its place.

“Want any change?” the waitress asked me.

“What for?”

She gestured at the dancers.

“No, of course not.”

The waitress shrugged and went to fetch me my drink. It didn't taste much better than the last one. I began to think that I had been in the club too long.

I looked around again and saw that the club owners were out in force. Dressed in suits, they looked like members of the local country club but as they clapped along with the music, trying to drum up enthusiasm, they somehow reminded me of guest extras on Miami Vice and I was almost tempted to look for shoulder holsters.

My next drink tasted like it had a dead animal in it and I decided that was it. Time to go.

I threw a twenty down on the table and made my way to the door.

I looked back long enough to see that the girl on stage was now showing off her wrist scars and then I headed out to the parking lot.

The club was supposed to have valet parking but it seemed to be mostly reserved for the suits and the owners of late-model cars. I was neither, of course, and anyway, no one was on duty. So I made my way across the wind-swept parking lot by myself.

That's when I noticed that the parking lot was almost empty apart for a few scattered vehicles -- which was really unusual considered how crowded it had been inside the club. Where the hell did everybody park anyway? Surely they did not all arrive in those few cars like they were circus clowns or something? Or did the creeps who owned the club sell out to a chop shop?

I was thinking about going back inside when I suddenly saw a familiar vehicle. My old red Chevy was parked at the far left corner of the lot. As I walked closer toward it, I could see that it was not in great shape. In fact, it had a couple of dents in it that had not been there this morning. A couple of big dents in it. In fact, the whole left side of the car was caved in.

And that mess on the ice. It looked like blood. At least, some of it did. And the rest of it looked like...

Suddenly I was back on the highway. I was going 35 and my engine was starting to stall. The guy ahead of me was going 15, then dropped down to 0. I slammed on my brakes to avoid hitting him, but a pickup got in front of me and in trying to avoid him, I found myself fishtailing on the highway. My brakes locked, the oil light came on, and I found myself heading toward the rear end of the same pickup that cut in front of me.

Then I blinked.

And found myself back in a mostly empty parking lot. The same lot I had been in before. I hurried back inside and didn't think twice when the girl at the door demanded another five bucks to enter the club. Instead I gladly paid it.

I went to the men's room to check myself out in the mirror but saw nothing wrong. But then I had seen nothing wrong before.

Then I went back out on the floor and picked myself an empty table to sit at. One that was near the stage. I ignored the other customers which was just as well since even in the half light of the club, they didn't look so good. But I wasn't paying to look at them so I didn't. Instead I stared ahead at the girls on stage until a waitress came up to me to take my order. This time I noticed a scar on her chest that was not quite covered by her uniform, but I said nothing about it. Instead I just ordered a beer.

No, I ordered three beers.

Then I turned to watch the dancer on stage try to pretend that she was not totally out of it. I didn't care if she was or if she wasn't. I was here to forget and that was what I intended to do.

In fact, it's almost one thirty and I'm still here. The drinks are starting to take effect now and I no longer notice the bad taste of the beers. I don't notice much of anything, in fact, except for the girls on stage. And I stopped trying to tell them apart a long time ago.

My wallet doesn't seem to be empty, and I could probably stay here all night if the club owners would let me. But I doubt they will. In fact, it seems like the club is going to end up closing soon.

That worries me. For as much as I try to pretend otherwise, I can't help wondering what will happen to me If I try to stay here past closing time. Or if there will even be a me here past closing time.

And yet I really do not want to go outside again. I really don't.

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