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Gangsterland

Chloe Barcalau

 

I’m crashing my way through six blocks of coral reef to your heart. When I speak of heart I am not referring to the paper red cut-outs that we pasted macaroni to in grade three. When I speak of heart I am referring to the gross red-blue-black pound of muscle on the left of your chest, pulsing in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out. Your lips are curled around some pink bubblegum and as I watch your teeth move up and down something inside of me throbs.

“I just, like,” you speak brashly, chewing your gum like cud, “I just am not too into that. You know? You know what I mean, sugar? You ever been with a woman?”

I watch a tiny droplet of spit fly from your painted red lips, whizzing past my earlobe with the speed of an atom bomb. I nod, blindly, stiffly. I don’t know why you’re making small talk.

“So you wanna do this then, hun? You got the cash, sugar?”

I nod again. Your red nails come and lock down around my wrist, and there is suddenly something coy in the tilt of your overdone eyelashes.

I am not sugar. I am not honey. If I was a condiment I would probably be closer to overripe mustard.

I watch you shove the cash at him and I watch him place the packet on the table and I watch your long nails reach out, crawling like spiders, towards it.

There is nausea somewhere in the pit of my stomach, but I am shaking too much to care.

We go back to the hotel room and you pull the curtains shut and I enter the bathroom and weep.

I know you can hear me but instead you shuffle around and make noise with the clinking of the champagne glasses that management has shoved into our mini-bar.

“Kid?” You call out. I am staring at the mirror. I forgot that my eyes were brown. “Kid!”

The door opens and you lean against it, a long, lithe, radioactive blonde, your eyes narrowed, your red nails on your hips.

“Whatcha up to, kid? You gettin’ cold feet, baby?”

I turn my head away from the sink and slowly stand up straight. You shrink back, unconsciously.

“I’m not going to hit you,” I say quietly, and edge my way out of the door. There is a clatter and I can hear you following me; I turn around and you are still all predator, hip still jutted, hair still mussed.

“Well?” I wonder if the gum you are flaunting around in your mouth has any flavor left to it. “Are we going to do this thing, or what?”

You blow one out. The bubblegum pops.

 

I have paid you an inordinate amount of money to sit beside me in a sleek, satin gown. I have paid you an inordinate amount of money to press your cheek against my suit and purr seductively in front of the diplomats trying to keep their jaws in check. I have paid you an inordinate amount of money to flip your blonde hair and bare your too-white too-white canines at the girl sitting across from me.

I have paid you an inordinate amount of money to make the hands of the girl sitting across from me clench.

“So where did you two meet each other?” There are two high spots of red on her cheeks, and I keep my face stiff as you twist towards her question, grinning like a feral cat.

“Oh, we were out dancing, sugar,” you reply, almost cooing, adjusting the lapels of my suit, “You know how it is, me being a young college girl and him being a graduate student. We weren’t dancing though, sugar, in the same group, … I mean, you could say that we looked across the dance floor and just knew.”

“Just knew?” The question is laced with derision.

You smirk back, cloyingly. “Maybe one day you’ll get to experience a love like this, sugar.”

Some may call this cheating. I think I haven’t paid you enough.

For an escort you ran a tight business. You used to run around with some old bad girls near Toronto mid-town. I’d see you when I’d run for the streetcar, you waltzing past on the sidewalk with a stutter in your step – dagger eyes and a cigarette dangling from your too red lips. You jumped on right behind me, the fellow behind you squeezing in just before the chime went and the machine moved on east.

You whipped around me, draconian, gleaming.

“Hey, sugar, I think I’ve seen you around somewhere before.”

I clutched the pole, nervous about the new moon I just acquired.

“Hey, sugar, I think you look pretty rad.”

My hands started to sweat. I tried to not make contact with your dark blue eyes.

“Hey, sugar, take my number – ” you pulled out some dark red lipstick and scrawled some figures across a napkin, then shoved it into my pocket “ – you never know when it might come in handy.”

When you sashayed off the streetcar at the next exit, I pulled it out of my pocket and lifted it to my nose. It smelt like tobacco and thick perfume.

The gig was that you’d sit with me at the provincial dinner and I’d sit with you at that dirty motel table with my arms crossed and pretending that my body wasn’t as soft as a pillow. I still would have to pay you an inordinate amount of money, of course.

“You better not be a screwball this time, Agnes.”

His voice was dark and low, considering that he was a small man, well-dressed, in a grey suit with a violet flower peeping out of his pocket. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the small revolver to his left.

“Of course, sugar,” you stumble back, the words not quite as confident as they should have been, “Of course.”

You are holding the packet of small crystals with the tips of your nails, and I am a boulder sitting beside you.

“I’m not kidding. I don’t care how much of a dollface you think you have. You either sell that pronto or you’ll be six feet under.”

You cross your legs dramatically, and sigh. I glance at your smooth forearms.

“And who is this kid, huh, Agnes? You think I need anymore loose ends?”

I look up. His brows are darkening.

“Take it easy, baby, take it easy. I did a little favour for this one, and now he’s doing a little favour for me,” you drawl back, pressing the back of your thin hand against my cheeks, “An eye for an eye, you could say.”

“What’s the favour?”

The gig wasn’t that you’d sit with me at the provincial dinner and I’d sit with you at that dirty motel table with my arms crossed and pretending that my body wasn’t as soft as a pillow. The gig was that you’d sit with me at the provincial dinner and then you’d dance with me in front of her and then I’d touch your waist in front of her and then you’d make her cry and let me watch when we followed her back outside her window. The gig was that I’d sit with you at the that dirty motel table with my arms crossed and pretending that my body wasn’t as soft as a pillow and that I’d have a piece of solid metal pressing against my chest with a feeling like home and that I’d pull out that piece of solid metal and that there would be three loud noises and then we’d be grabbing the packet and the cash and then we’d be crawling out the window onto the street.

“Want some bubblegum, sugar? I find it helps with the nerves.”

He reaches out and smoothly sticks the pink slice in between his lips.

I’m crashing my way through six blocks of coral reef to his heart. When I speak of heart I am not referring to the paper red cut-outs that we pasted macaroni to in grade three. When I speak of heart I am referring to the gross red-blue-black pound of muscle on the left of his chest, pulsing in and out and in and out and in and out and in and out. His lips are curled around some pink bubblegum and as I watch his teeth move up and down something inside of me throbs.

 

© – Tamie Dolny 2014

 

Image by Chloe Barcelou. Click here to view more of Chloe’s work or to contact her.