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Marlene On the Wall

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Aug. 5th, 2012 | 05:37 pm

This story intersects with this one; they also stand alone.
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Marlene watches from the wall
Her mocking smile says it all
As she records the rise and fall
Of every soldier passing

But the only soldier now is me
I’m fighting things I cannot see
I think it’s called my destiny
That I am changing

-Suzanne Vega

It happened a long time ago. 

Yesterday.           

She was lying in the bed where they’d fucked, despite not having a condom between them, and had ended up faking it for the first time in a long time because he was insistent about it even though he didn’t come himself because, “It’s giving away too much isn’t it.”

Yes, it was.

She’d been prowling, walking alone, making eye contact with the last man in every pack of Brit boys roaming the streets looking for cheap beer and getting thrown out of strip clubs by the same big black men in day-glo safety jackets who’d cajoled them inside with bigger and bigger discounts on cover, “Fifteen minutes free, you want fifteen minutes?”

The last man was always a little behind the others. Glad to be with the lads, he is, but also a little bit sorry that all he’s seeing of Prague is the insides of pubs and bars and the restaurants that don’t have No Stag Parties signs. A little tired of groupthink and matching drink for drink. He almost always had pretty eyes, blue ones. And if Jenny made eye contact and smiled, instead of doing the quick, down and right, please-don’t-rape-me-I’m-a-tourist slide of the eyes, he’d turn and look back when she was fifteen paces past, which was when she’d turn and look back. And they’d laugh, because they’d caught each other, take another five steps and look again. Then she’d stop, and he’d come and ask her “Where ye goin’, Darlin’/Love/Sweetheart,” (it sounded much less demeaning from a Brit, they called all women eight to eighty their pet name of choice) and she’d say, “I think you have beautiful eyes.” 

And he’d say, “I’d quite like to kiss you.”

And she would, and his mouth was usually soft and tasted of fresh beer and sometimes cigarettes, Friday night tastes, and he’d put his hands gently on her hips, careful not to take too much.

It was safer to walk near a pack, on the way home. Not really. But she liked listening to them tease each other and picking out their voices, Manchester, East London, Suffolk, Geordie, Scottish sometimes, best of all. They’d tell how hard they were for the lap-dancer, what an effort it took to be faithful, how many beers they’d pissed into the gutter or against the six-hundred-year-old walls. Tonight’s pack was Cheshire, older than the average, all with buzzed hair to match the groom. Jenny’s path turned and the men waved goodbye, but she wanted to see if she could hold them so she called out, “Why the haircuts?” and ended up patting and judging, Paris-like, whose was softest.

“Like to go to the last bar of the night with us? It’s quite near our hotel, it’ll be lovely, come on.” She knew she wouldn’t pay to get in or pay for drinks; she’d escape the metal detector wand and the bouncer’s frisking hands.

Orange juice, orange juice, orange juice, while the pack put away vodka and Red Bull and Jenny cut out the one dancing in place like her. They shouted into each other’s ears, a good reason to be close, on a white dance floor, watching the plasma screens over each others’ shoulders.

“You don’t dance like a Canadian.” He’s a barrister, he wears a wig and argues before a higher court, he explained. He caught when something she said was rehearsed, and that impressed her. She knew before the last round of drinks she was going back to his hotel room, and it only stung a little to see his friends give him the thumbs up. She realized the pack would have walked her home and left her at the door if she’d felt scared enough to need it. The coat check girl was sleepy, or maybe had something wrong with her left eye, and Jenny left her twenty crowns on the way out.

The room cost as much in a night as she was paying for a month’s rent in her flat-share near Florenc, probably more. There was mineral water on the table and they drank it while he told her about his dad in the RAF, and how he went into law instead of the Air Force. Every two or three sentences, one of them had to repeat something, the accent, the phrasings tangling in their ears, making them listen harder. Three AM, showering, head, his hands soapy on her breasts, she was thankful she’d dropped weight, the water was warm and cool enough to feel like bed. In the bed, he wanted to be an athlete, four or five positions, wanted to please her, wanted her to come, and finally she was sore and hoping to quit. 

“How can I help you?”

“Hit me,” she whispered back. Below her, he shook his head, and she realized she didn’t actually even want to come with him, but wasn’t getting out until she did. Afterwards, she explained about hitting and spanking and how constricting the windpipe is one feeling and pressing on the arteries leading to the brain is another. He could never hit a woman, he said, he can’t wrap his head around anyone wanting to be hit (today, there are bruises on the eyes of her elbows and the insides of her breasts from his touch).

He thought she was asleep when he came back from the bathroom, and gathered up his wallet and his cash, plucked his cell phone from the charger, put them in the room safe. The buzz of the lock left her bemused and angry, and as he lay back down beside her, still sweaty from the effort of faking, Jenny said, “I’ll try to avoid rolling you for your wallet in the night.” Then she had to explain the slang.

Even after dancing naked in two countries, planting her flag on nearly a hundred lovers, knowing good sport sex and can I please have a hundred dollars sex and what the hell it’ll make him happy, I’ve got twenty minutes sex, whoredom is still a foreign country. The buzz of the safe crosses the border of risk and power and the granting of secret wishes, takes her past the first adultery of a barrister trembling on the threshold of middle age, beyond tourism and detachment and sometimes even pleasure. It still rings in her ears in the hallway of the Renaissance Hotel, through the lobby, and out to the realm of the girls who stand on the corner, waiting to be invited upstairs.



________________________________________
The Suzanne Vega song is here. That's my buddies Billy, Mike and Doug on backup (Phil's behind the sound board)--I'm still waiting to be in a room with Suzanne and not be completely tongue-tied with awe.




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Comments {16}

(no subject)

from: faerie_spark
date: Aug. 5th, 2012 11:01 pm (UTC)
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My husband--partner--used to want to marry Suzanne. I love her lyrics. This song is one of my favourites, the other being To The Left of Center.

Saw her live in concert a few years ago. She's very good so it was worth the hour schlep to our local big folk music venue.

I love the complexity of sex you weave into this...especially the irony that he would never hit a woman, yet she had bruises on her. While I respect if someone doesn't want to play rough, I think the distinctions are too clearly drawn sometimes.

Lots of complexity in this story that'll need a few more reads.

Still have a literary crush on you!

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notodette

(no subject)

from: notodette
date: Aug. 6th, 2012 02:47 am (UTC)
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If you want me, you can find me, left of center off of the street.

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whipchick

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from: whipchick
date: Aug. 7th, 2012 02:10 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - still reciprocating!

I spent a couple of summers seeing Suzanne on tour as my path intersected with hers - I originally met her band on the steps of the venue in Amsterdam, and have been buddies with them now for awhile. It's been neat to see her sing different set lists in different venues and watch how much the crowd is into it!

Glad you like the complexity - I just did a slight revision on the closing pp and am hoping the end is easier to follow :)

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notodette

(no subject)

from: notodette
date: Aug. 6th, 2012 02:42 am (UTC)
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Even if I am in love with you. All this to say, what's it to you? Observe the blood, the rose tattoo. Of the fingerprints on me from you.

I love her.

I will come back and read this when I do the readings, but the title made me click right now.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 7th, 2012 02:11 pm (UTC)
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She's amazing :) And the story was inspired by an incident during a summer where I was socializing with her band while they were all touring in Europe.

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Lose 10 Pounds of Ugly Fat...  Cut Off Your Head.

(no subject)

from: n3m3sis42
date: Aug. 8th, 2012 12:38 am (UTC)
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Wow, I loved this. All the details and the voice were so compelling.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - I was hoping it would work and wondering if the story was too oblique :)

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alycewilson

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from: alycewilson
date: Aug. 8th, 2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
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I really liked reading this side of it: how desperate and human it is.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
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Thanks - it was neat for me to try and make both voices very different.

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notodette

(no subject)

from: notodette
date: Aug. 9th, 2012 03:23 am (UTC)
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Came back to read it. Liked it just as much as I thought I would.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
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Thank you! I've been liking your work a lot this week, too :)

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Laura, aka "Ro Arwen"

(no subject)

from: roina_arwen
date: Aug. 12th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
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This line confuses me a little: there are bruises on the eyes of her elbows - I'm guessing you mean like where the elbow dimples? It's a very interesting turn of phrase, regardless. =)

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for asking! I mean where you bend your elbow, inside the joint - I think I heard the phrase in Yoga class one day, the teacher said, "turn the eyes of your elbows towards each other" and I looked down and (on me, at least) there is an eye-shaped wrinkle/depression on the inside of my elbow.

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(Deleted comment)

whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 02:38 pm (UTC)
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Thank you!

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The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors

(no subject)

from: halfshellvenus
date: Aug. 13th, 2012 10:42 pm (UTC)
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Very vivid story, and I love some of the details like,

he’d put his hands gently on her hips, careful not to take too much.

because there's so much of sexual politics in that phrase, and in whether a stranger is pushy or cooperative.

out to the realm of the girls who stand on the corner, waiting to be invited upstairs.
Such a desperate, lonely life.

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whipchick

(no subject)

from: whipchick
date: Aug. 14th, 2012 08:24 pm (UTC)
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Very much so.

Thanks for reading - I'm so glad you're still around.

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