It’s 3AM and the Lollipop is empty, except for a few regulars. Everyone’s feeling good and it’s like this morning never happened. Piper’s sitting up on the bar, chain smoking Newports and laughing about something Chief’s saying; Myron’s in the back with a new dancer who believes him when he says he can make her a star, and me and Max are huddled across the bar trading insults. It’s what passes for flirting between us and I’m so into this game, I didn’t notice the Big Man come in; I don’t even know he’s in the bar until I hear the tap tap tapping of his diamond pinkie ring on the bar.
“Amaretto sour”, he says and smiles directly at me.
Everything stops, frozen. Then the floor falls away. White noise floods in, fills my ears. I’m deaf. I can’t hear the jukebox, the conversations. People are moving again, their lips move but I don’t hear anything.
This morning, as he was leaving, he told me that he loved me, that he’d never really hurt me, that he’d be there, watching over me for the rest of my life. That’s what I hear. Over and over. “I ain’t going anyplace, baby. I’ll be watching you, for the rest of your life.”
Everyone is far away. I am trapped in the wrong end of a telescope. Trapped in the silence. In the white noise. In the rest of my life. I’m trapped.
I don’t know where I am.
It’s not real.
He’s not really here.
“I told you I can’t stay away from you, you’re my girl. ” He reaches out, stroking my face with the back of his hand. I step back, staring. I still cannot find my voice. “How ’bout that drink, now?” The Big Man smiles as he pulls out a cigarette, tamps it lightly on the bar. “Gimme a light, girl.”
I smell singed hair. I smell burnt flesh.
I grab a bottle of vodka and just walk away. I don’t say anything, don’t make eye contact, not with anyone, but I see him in the mirrors. There are mirrors everywhere, on every wall. I cannot not see him. He’s spun around, arms stretched out on either side of him, resting on the bar, leaning back. He owns everything.
For this minute, at least, he owns every piece of me.
My vodka keeps me safe, it is my vaccine, it is my shield, it is my bullet proof vest. My vodka is my body guard, my sword, my rosary.
“You’re mine now, girl,” he says from his spot at the bar. His voice reverberates off the narrow walls of the staircase, surrounding me, smothering me.
Vodka is my armor, I shall not be in want.
I reach the bottom step, crack open the bottle and crawl inside.
It guides me downstairs to the basement, it restores my soul.
Curled up on the cold cement floor next to the lockers, I try to listen to the muffled voices and footsteps from upstairs. The vodka helps stop the shaking, the little epileptic like spasms.
and I shall dwell in the house of the Vodka.
Half the bottle is gone by the time Piper sits down on the floor next to me and takes a swig. Big Maxie stands in the shadows on the wooden staircase watching both of us.
He loves us. I know he does, in his own way. We’re his A-Team, his moneymakers. He just stands in the shadows and watches.
“Is he still here, Piper?” I hand her the bottle.
“He’s gone. Maxie 86′d him for a couple of weeks.” She takes a swig and passes it back. “What happened J? Did he do this to you?”
You know, you don’t think this kind of thing happens to girls like you. This kind of thing happens to stupid girls, new girls, young girls, girls with no…affliation. Not you.
You have Huntsberry. You have the Ice Man. You have affiliations. He’d showed you where his baby daughter lived. You’d met his friends. Everyone had seen you out together. So when you said he could sleep on your couch instead of driving back to Jersey, you thought you were being nice.
You tell how you woke up when he was already halfway up in the loft bed. You don’t mention how you and your mom get matching robes for Christmas every year and he was wearing the red robe you got last year, the one with the hood. How seeing him in that robe made everything seem okay and not okay at the same time.
You tell how you right away figure he’s too big to fight off, too big to kill with the skinning knife you keep wedged between the mattress and the wall ever since you threw Red Wolf out. You say how you thought he would just fuck you and leave and that that was better than him beating you senseless, then fucking you and leaving. You remember thinking you need to get a bigger knife, a thicker blade.
You tell how you couldn’t breath with his weight on top of you. How you lay in bed after, staring at the ceiling, listening to the sounds of him dressing, calling his baby daughter, getting his things together, getting ready to leave. You lay there staring at the ceiling, listening and waiting for the sound of the door closing behind him.
Then he starts yelling about the diamond pinkie ring you stole, he drags you out of bed. You know you didn’t steal anything and you thought he’d leave, but he isn’t. He isn’t leaving. He isn’t leaving without the ring he says, his girls sold good pussy to pay for that ring, he says, good pussy and your pussy ain’t shit, bitch and throws you against the wall.
You don’t remember getting dressed up. Or when he tied your wrists and ankles with the mens neckties you had hanging on the ladder to the loft, each one a romantic souvenir of some man whose name you’ve forgotten.
You tell how he shoved his fist in your ass looking for his ring, how he made you shit and piss in front of him, dragging you from room to room because your ankles were tied together so you couldn’t walk, couldn’t run away.
You tell about the cigarettes, the smell of burning flesh; the lit matches flicked at your hair, the smell of singed hair.
You tell how it went on for hour after hour. Two hours, three, four, more than that. It went on until it was over. You tell how the ring was in his cigarette case the whole time, how it was all a game, a turn out.
You tell how he untied you, kissed you gently on the lips, told you he loved you and left.
You don’t say anything about how even after he was gone and the door was closed you couldn’t move, couldn’t get up to lock the door after him and even if you could, what was the point, really? You don’t say if you cried or not, cause what’s the point, really?
You simply polish off the last of that bottle of vodka and say “That’s what I get for trusting someone.”
“That’s what you get for hanging around with niggers” Maxie mumbles as he turns, walks up the stairs and leaves the two of you on the floor.
It was the last time any one of us mentioned it.