The moon must have risen but Femina can neither see much of the sky nor anything of the moon. The small road is hidden under leafy roofs and descends steeply. To her relief, this time they were not blind folded. Not that there is much to see anyway apart from what the light beams of the bikes reveal, like small pieces of the road ahead and bushes and tree trunks to their sides. But, they were not given their own bikes to travel on, for ‘reasons of convenience’, as Oliver declared. His companions did not want to be held up by them unfamiliar with the area as they were. Though it sounds reasonable enough, Femina, unlike Dan, does not believe that the improved attitude of the Desperados towards them had anything to do with trust. How naïve can he be? They are just no longer a risk to them. And why not! They are in their hands, they are in their territory and, under constant surveillance. If anything, Femina is more alarmed. And now, this nightly excursion with far more men than she was lead to believe after Dan’s initial proclamation! Sure there are more motorbikes than men, but they are still of a good number to make this trip anything but a spontaneous fun ride with a few friends. Besides! To be with them also means belonging to them. It does not make her feel better. There are indeed enough reasons for distrust, both ways however, to be fair.
Rooftops appear followed by more and more houses. The settlement is larger than anticipated, more a small township than village, partially built into the steep hills of the mountain range, but at their feet was enough room to grow and spread. Looking to the west the land oddly shines brighter than the rest. They don’t stop either as Femina expected, instead driving right through the town. As good! It looks like a ghost town anyway despite the night still being young. Or maybe it is due to the booming noises of their motorbikes travelling ahead of them like the hungry growls of animals that gather for their nightly hunt. Rumbling through the empty streets and echoing in the lonely alleys, it warns all, game enough to be out and about, so they rather hide than take the risk of getting caught.
A long avenue brings them to the shores of a lake. Now that explains the brightness Femina has seen on their descent, being shining water not land. She wished they were travelling in daylight because the countryside is most likely as picturesque as can be. Leaving the houses behind they follow the road along the west-shore, fringed by slim lines of bush or grass if anything at all, because rock walls and lake allow for nothing more. It goes on like that for kilometers with the rare occasion of little bays and a strip of beach or a spot of land but, after a bend there is after all a bit more, a somewhat bigger bay harboring a single building. It is their destination and as it turns out it is a hotel, standing lonely and steadfast between lake and road like the only left over tooth in an otherwise toothless jaw. It reaches high up into the sky probably looking higher than it actually is though it has multiple stories. There are several parking lots along the drive to the entrance, all are fully occupied. Not that this is a concern! They ride straight up the ramp, motors throttling, ignoring the sign that says ‘No Parking’ and promptly parking in front of the entrance, without any concerns that they block the driveway and the ramp, lit by the lights at the side of the building, the stairs up to the door, neon light above it and the light falling from inside through the glass door.
They dismount and take off their helmets, Femina also taking off her leather jacket as it is far warmer here than it was up on the mountain. Now and then she hears music fleeting in and out but it does not come from inside the building, instead falling out of the sky above. She looks up. Nothing to see except a plain white wall with rows of bland windows, not even a balcony that would interrupt the boring facade. Maybe they are on the other side with a view of the lake, instead looking on to the street, parking lots and barren rock walls.
Full parking bays are usually a good sign, a measure of popularity a facility has. This place must be a particular magnet for local night owls and other night strollers alike for there are many more cars than house guests could account for. Probably, all who don’t want to sleep the night away enjoy themselves here, far away from the graveyard of a town. Or, it may just be the only open bar far and wide, as it does not look that exciting at all.
Neither does the entrance hall. Stone floors, two lifts on both sides of the entrance, a small reception on the right, a few velvet cubes to sit on next to it and scattered along the wall opposite, which also provides access to a restaurant beyond. Metal cladding and tiles, dull and shiny, bring a somewhat minimalistic design element into an otherwise unremarkable and barren hall. Big glass doors at the back obviously lead to the lake but, they are closed as all else is and, only nightlights throw a dim shine. This is however in stark contrast to the entrance area which is trenched in light, far too much for Femina’s liking. There, the recessed ceiling lamps are more like mini flood-lights as if someone wanted to take a good look at visitors, or may be just wanting to get rid of patrons quickly, preventing them from lingering on. No cameras can be seen, but that does not mean they are not there. Big signs at the lifts advise that one side is for house-guests only, while the other is for public visitors. There is little time to ponder about things. The lifts are ready and transport them very swift and silently up to the 20th floor, the last one to be. The doors open into a generous rounded foyer, with a dome like ceiling and a mild bellied curvature wall opposite the lifts thus, preventing direct access and view of the premises beyond, possible only through the open sides as one follows the rounded passage way. Femina finds this a clever solution for smooth patron traffic but also a formidable trick to raise the expectations of newly arriving guests because no one can resist the lure of noisy chatter and, as in this case, the music of a live band, coming from somewhere obscure. It literally draws you out of a vacuum into a pulsating and rollicking center, where you want to be. However! Nothing prepares Femina of what she is going to see, a dance bar so extravagant and exciting that it literally freezes her to the ground at its entrance, astonished and speechless, except for a big “wow”.
Half covered by a softly curved glass roof in the center, half under open sky all around including the big dance floor, which is hung on chains like a draw-bridge, reaching out over deep grounds if not the water and, no balustrade securing the sides, or so it seems, Femina indeed does not know where to look first to take it all in, because nothing really looks like an entertainment facility, the kind she has ever seen; it looks more like a landscape that was transformed for the purpose of entertainment. Floors, as well as everything else, could be of marble and other crystalline stone, dull and rough or smooth and highly polished, in the colors of stone and with colorful natural veins running through it. She will have to use touch to find out more, but no matter what, the effect is fantastic. Besides, apart from the dance floor, there is no other even floor space, only plateaus like rice paddies and islands, which, particularly in the middle under the glass roof, carry variable seating arrangements, however, without any conventional tables, chairs or upholstered furniture. Everything grows out of the ground like the bizarre stone formations of caves, stalagmites, big and small, solid and petite, even like filigree flowers and wondersome plants; the difference here, for most of it, being polished stone cubes and, benches and, pillars, partially covered by rugs, big pillows and soft cushions, scattered around and between, to ensure comfortable sitting and reclining, for all who prefer to socialize rather than dance. The band has its own island and the bar follows the length of the curved wall, nestled into the soft belly that in fact is facing the lifts. Occupying a whole platform with slim pillar tables and stools along the outer edge and, stools along the counter, it shines in glass and metal and tall mirrors, highly polished and glossy and then again dull and smooth as steel. From the bar one can see the whole locality, the band to one side, the dance floor opposite, separated by the central area, the big middle section that is the exotic landscape, somewhat sunken compared to the rest and like a magic grotto, filled if not overflowing with people, like glowing fireflies, moths and all sorts of iridescent creatures of the night. Next to the band on pillar torsos scantily clad male and female dancers perform their acrobatic acts; they are just beautiful to watch, for their looks and their skills. But to all that even more magic is added by the varied and technically brilliant lighting. There are crystal clear and milky glass hanging lamps over the bar area, resembling variable thick and thin, long and short stalactites, some bundled together, here more there less and, everywhere else, strategically placed mild shining light pillars, thick or slim, small and tall, as well as floor lights, lining walkways, without which one would get lost as it happens in unmarked or poorly lit caves. Single spotlights provide a steady light source for one or the other point of interest, while others wander about or appear all of a sudden to highlight events or people, randomly for who knows why. And there is the glass roof, also changing color of phosphorescing pink, lilac, blues and greens, in a pattern like tidal waves and, when it is plain and clear, random meteorite showers running over it. All this has a truly mesmerizing effect and Femina would forget to move on were it not for her companions who push her along, fortunately towards the bar, the place she prefers to be.
The men, about twenty of their group, not all have obviously come up with them, behave very ‘civil’, but they belong to this environment as good as wild dogs belong to a rose garden. It is not just due to their jeans, leather jackets and motorbike boots, or because of their tattoos. Despite everybody pretending that they were just like other guests, all get out of their way and leave space around them, creating thus a zone of ‘no-man’s land’. Femina herself does not find her companions that frightening nor unattractive with their strong and well-built bodies, their mostly long hair, ponytails and some short cropped hair or shaved heads, with or without beards. They exude however so much testosterone that nobody can disregard it, except one has lost common sense or is tired of life. Of course, everybody looks at them, just not openly, though the girls are less shy. Particular attention is paid to her. After all, she is the only woman among the mob, wearing no necklace or choker and certainly not being attired for the occasion. At least Femina believes this to be the reason for the curiosity she evokes, particularly because all females are in their best ado, ‘tres chic’ and ‘vogue’, shining in all colors, including their make-up. But she is curios too. The audience is rather young with a few exceptions, the females more so than the males and altogether it seems, not that many wear a necklace. Overall, they are very different to the people Femina has encountered on the last leg of her trip and of whom neither she nor her friends had been fond of, in fact, avoiding them the best they could. She thought of them as a primitive species, uneducated and brutal, indeed, belonging to a different time and, though of the same race, not of the same kind. She understands and relates better to animals than to those two legged types. She tried to find something positive on them but as much as she tried, she liked the land but not its inhabitants. Well! Maybe it is again different here, on the other side of the mountains. Maybe they left the barbarians behind, may be here……..
“He Femina! What do you want to drink?” Dan’s voice and his elbow force themselves into her pondering mind. She does not answer, hanging on to her reflective thoughts, because…., no…., she has left nothing behind, as far as she can see. In fact, she herself is a member of the brutal society, and not just that, she is associated with the elite of it, the aristocracy of brutal, criminal and terrorizing. ‘So what’, continue her thoughts, does she have a reason to complain? So far she has none really. She cannot even justify to judge the Desperados so negatively and so one-sided, nor can she legitimately condemn them. That they brandish their weapons, that they built a fortress for themselves, that they make their own laws? Who can actually blame them when the whole society is brutal, and as she has witnessed, runs around with guns as good. Did they not all live according to the principle that only the strong ones have the right to live? Of course that is utter nonsense and as far away from truth as can be, but would anyone consider anything else or even listen to something else? Sure not! And what about here? The rough customs may have been replaced by sophistication, but that is no more than a variation of little significance. Would she find anyone among these patrons who does not crawl on the same ground, the only difference being that it happens under neon lights that lure with luminous colors but blinds all the same? She wouldn’t! A brutal society cultivates violence and idolizes strength. It does not matter if the people wear rough hides or a golden fleece. It is all the same. How else could the Desperados and alike grab power and rule?
“Margarita”, she says after all and adds, “should they have it.”
“Oh, they have everything,” he replies, “particularly for us.” He grins with a smile full of meaning and snug with satisfaction.
The band is excellent but no one of her group seems to care or is keen on dancing. Instead there is a coming and going but she is busy with looking, noticing only after a while that she was by herself at her bar table while feeling more and more the rhythms vibrating through air and all things. Drink in hand and in sync with the beat of the music she wanders over to Dan who leans with a few others at the bar counter. He looks at her curiously and asks how she is going and if she likes it here but, that’s all the attention she gets. He returns quickly to what must be an interesting conversation, keen not to miss out on or, should not be missed. Well, that may be the case if the world has nothing more to offer than bikes, cars and all things related, only Femina finds it boring, at least after some time. She would rather hear something about the rockets or any other technology these guys have. But maybe that is a taboo subject to keep it all well behind closed doors. Besides, they ignore her. Even when she enters the conversation, no one actually gives a comment or acknowledges it. The replies go to Dan and all talk over her, it is as if she did not exist. Well, so be it! She turns away and walks to the dance floor. There is the action more to her liking. Even if none of her companions is keen on dancing and neither anyone else may dare to ask her for a dance, she can do as she likes.
The dance floor indeed hovers above the grounds, or maybe even the water. Instead of a balustrade, tightly strung black cables secure the sides and as they disappear visually, it adds the thrilling element of ‘dancing midair’. The load bearing chains though massive indeed are unlikely to carry the big extension all alone; there must be some clever engineering behind it, creating an illusion that is on the mark and, includes the flooring as well, which looks like stone but is wood, painted in speckled grey, sealed and polished to a low sheen. Once again, she wonders about the Desperados. There is a lot she admires and there is even room for creativity. She plants herself on the side at the step to the platform and while sipping on her drink she observes the action for a while. Unfortunately she notices that the passersby also avoid her, keeping the distance, walking around her. She hopes that none of this happens on the dance floor when she will join the dancing crowd because it would make her oddly stick out while she wants nothing more than to blend in. It annoys her too. Bugger it! They can all get lost for what she cares! She empties the glass. With music in her legs and margarita in her head she is ready to jump into action.
“He Femina! Come, let us dance!”
Startled, she turns around and stares into Wilson’s face, his mouth wide with a grin, obviously amused by her astonishment. Neither Dan nor any other of their group are with him. He is the only one to have come and now is asking her for a dance! Wilson? Of all, it would have to be Wilson? Well, if that is not an irony and, not amusing at all! But she laughs back at him. She wants to dance and now she has a partner, an unexpected one for sure, though he came at the right time. What is she waiting for? Besides, she likes that the dead black of his eyes is gone. They glitter instead like moonlight reflected and broken into tiny pieces by a curtain of glassy icicles. He is tall indeed, like a bear on two legs, rather slim but still impressive. He plaited his beard and wears his long hair curled up into a knot on his head and his smile reveals a set of unbroken rows of pearly white teeth. A tattooed snake winds itself up from the back of his right hand, over his arm, round the neck and, the head disappearing at the back under the hair above. There are no other tattoos, none that can be seen that is. Femina feels a brush of cold air. Well, to counter it, only dancing can help and so she nods at him and they immerse themselves into the dancing crowd.
Wilson is a good dancer and enjoys it as well. They become more and more attuned and unrestrained and only stop when the band calls for a break.
Hot and thirsty they head straight back to the bar where Dan already awaits her at the step, waving a margarita in his hand. Icy cold and just to her liking, she drinks greedily knowing however what terrible effects alcohol has on her when she drinks too much. She gets violently sick, the exception being tequila, though still spewing up, it is without ill feelings unlike all other alcohol. Naturally after that point there is no more partying to be had, but while tequila sends her off to sleep, any other alcohol makes her suffer until all is eliminated. And indeed suffering it is, like a dog who ate poisoned meat. She therefore sets down her glass after a few big gulps. Still being thirsty, she plants a kiss on Dan’s cheek and is off to the bar to get a bottle of water and a glass with ice. While she leans at the counter waiting for service, Wilson comes up to her and though it brings her immediate service, he engages her in a chat, very charming and intelligent, so she stays on. He baffles her just as well as she is over and over again surprised with the rest of his ‘kingship’. She is also impressed how he holds up with all the poisons in his body. She sees no sign on him that alcohol or anything else affects him, despite the copious amount he seems to consume. He is attentive and alert, nowhere near “La La Land”. Nor are his conjunctivas reddened and his black eyes reflecting all light, the pupils could be any size; actually, one cannot see them at best of times for the iris is as black as they are. He also exudes a kind of arrogant self-assuredness which Femina finds fascinating and attractive, but there is also a coldness that neither his charm nor his literally hot body can melt. She asks herself if he really was only interested in men, particularly sexually. She believes, he loves nobody and enjoys sex, full stop. It makes him unavailable and unattainable and, she is sure, he gets rid of anything or anyone he dislikes, including women and children; simply said, he has no scruples.
That cannot be said of Dan, she smiles as he is suddenly behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and clasping her tightly. Feeling him sway, she is not sure if he wants to hold on to her or if he was demonstrating first right of possession. It might be both. Either way, it makes her uncomfortable and worse so, when she realizes Wilson noticing it. Though he pretends not to, downing his glass of beer instead and ordering a new one.
She lays her hands softly over Dan’s, squeezing them lightly but long enough to get him to open his grip while she wraps up the conversation with Wilson.
“…. by the way, I did not expect you to be such a keen dancer. I really enjoyed dancing with you. May be we have another go some when?” Though this was more a phrase than a wish, allowing for a polite exit.
“Why not?” says he turning around to his companions.
After filling up on more ice she and Dan join Ger and Oliver at one of the tall bar tables close by. They seem to be oblivious to their surrounding talking intensely. Or is she mistaken? Oliver, that is, glances at her a few times not quite so friendly. ‘He couldn’t be jealous, or could he?’ She feels somewhat uneasy and perplexed.
The band is back and she is ready for another dancing round. But Dan is not interested. He is more interested to get himself drunk. What the hell is wrong with him? She does not find it funny to hang around and watch him downing one beer after the other while he puts her off to ‘later’. It only raises her anger. Soon she has enough of it and turns away, strolling back to the dance floor without further notice. To her pleasure, others of the gang have as well become interested on having a go at dancing and there are now more than enough dance partners at hand. They seem to take their turns to dance with her and in no time all her disgruntledness dissipates.
And there is Wilson too. She sees him out of the angle of her eyes leaning against one of the big corner pillars on the side, watching her. It amuses her despite her common sense attempting to educate her for the better. She shrugs it off. Why listening! She already knows that Wilson is her formidable opponent. He is her match and has much the same traits than she has though applying them very differently, that is a given. They may live on the same plain of this world but between them runs the Mariana Trench, deep and unfathomable. But! They understand each other and neither of them can deceive or mislead the other. Mind you! That is a challenge, for both of them. And, for her it is also a mine field because it is his territory she has entered into inadvertently. This however presents a tiny advantage over him too, because she knows that tiny bit more about him than he knows about her. One thing is very certain, their encounter may be an interesting one, if not exciting but it can never have a happy ending. For now, she can be quite sure that it won’t take long until he will make himself her dance partner again. She swings around, turning the other way with the view into open space. She feels a thunderstorm approaching despite the full moon still chasing all clouds away. Better she enjoys her dancing now before it will come to an end.
“He Femina! Didn’t you promise me another dance?” Here it is, Wilson’s voice right behind her! She turns around, smiling. Her dance partner of late gone, Wilson in his place. “Indeed,” says she and just continues the dance with him. She can see his predecessor talking to one of the musicians at the bandstand, then fetching himself another dance partner from the many girls in the non-dancing crowd and then, the band leader makes an announcement, heralding a round of ‘Rock ’n Roll’ which someone had apparently requested. The dance floor empties briefly only to get filled up again with other dancing pairs. This time most of the Desperados join in too, handpicking their partners from the auditorium with the girls happily obliging and then they begin the rocking and rolling as if there was no tomorrow and no other dance in this world. Femina is swept away by all the excitement and by Wilson who is a dream to dance with. He whirls her round and round and high and here and there. She never knew she could do that though she always loved to rock ‘n roll. The floor vibrates and more and more onlookers gather hooting and bawling enthusiastically, obviously fired up themselves and inspired by the rhythm of the music and, the spectacle they watch alike. Femina thinks she sees Dan, Ger and Oliver in the crowd but as it is only a fleeting impression she may as well be wrong. Being quickly swirled away again she could not be bothered to give it an other thought. Wilson is the man she has the pleasure with and it is more than enough. The band knows no mercy, heating up the minds with raw pleasure but depleting the bodies of all their reserves. The dance floor starts to become slowly but surely less crowded as one pair after the other give up. First there are only one or the other couple leaving but more and more follow with the crowds clapping cheerfully at them and more so at the remaining dancers, firing them on ever more. Wilson is insatiable and Femina gets the message. He will not stop before she is spent. Ah, but she is all for winning! And her strength still holds. The crowd whistles and yells louder and louder the fewer pairs remain and their noisy enthusiasm culminates when finally she and Wilson end up as the last pair, now dancing all alone. She laughs at their victory. It is the climax and a dead-end at the same time, because no matter if they could carry on dancing or not, how long would anyone want to watch a pair with only one type of dance in their repertoire? It would get too quickly boring. A good band of course knows that too and to no surprise, there is the announcement that they will wrap up the number and have a break. With the last fanfare and salve of whirling and under the final ovation of the crowd, their dance marathon is over.
Laughing and joking and still full of raging energy they make straight for the bar. He has his arm around her shoulder and then lifts her up to set her down on one of the bar stools made ready for them.
“Water and margarita!” Gasping, that’s all she can or wants to say. And the water arrives promptly followed by the margarita not long afterwards. Both gulp their drinks down in a hurry, she has the water, he has beer. She thinks she can hear the sizzling sounds of water and fire clashing into each other, followed by a long ‘ah’ as they exhale. He pours down a second beer and then the half of a third before he turns high spirited to her.
“Now, you have stamina!” says he as matter of fact. “And what fun to dance with you! We were truly unbeatable. Have you seen, how one after the other ran out of juice? Well, more the fault of the girls than our men. They dress up like Christmas trees, but their bodies are good for nothing!” He snarls contemptuously.
Others gather around them, joking, laughing, complementing them or coming up with all kinds of reasons, why they could not win. In all, it prolongs the high mood and Femina is finally ready to give up the mistrust and her conviction that the company of bandits means only drama. This evening proofs how much she is plagued by her own prejudice. Forgotten are the unpleasant events at the beginning, forgotten are her frustration and pessimistic views of her being stranded in the realm of the Desperados. Doesn’t she have a great night? What can she complain about?
Dan, Ger and Oliver join their circle, Oliver seeking out Wilson, Dan coming up to her. Both are drunk, Dan more so than any other. Femina feels a cloud ascending on her though it may just be Dan’s breath smelling of alcohol and getting stronger as his face closes in on her trying to plant a kiss. His arms grab her like strangler plants and he pushes himself against her as if he was going to devour her. He whispers sweet words into her ear she can hardly understand, lacking clarity, being more drivel than speech. And then he starts to kiss her, along the neck down to the shoulders, where only her top puts an end to it. Her erogenous zones promptly react but, with mixed feelings. Damn it! What the hell is he doing? She knows psychotropic drugs that alter reality but none that alter the character of a person as it appears to happen here. This is not Dan, the ‘easy rider’ with whom she went on a trip. This guy here she does not know. This guy does not hug her tenderly or passionately. He embraces her possessively and demonstratively and his kisses are branding irons used to burn their stamp into animal skins or fur. Defensiveness creeps up in her, muscles tightening and her lungs holding back her breath. She must escape this suffocating embrace immediately, now, before she loses control. She disentangles herself from his clasping arms, whispering in his ear that she needs to attend to private business and off she goes in a hurry where no one would follow her, except in an emergency.
The sanitary facilities are fortunately generous and actually comfortable, with toilets separate from the powder room and which is fitted out nicely indeed. Porcelain tiles, mirror walls, on one side all the basins and opposite a place to rest, with two velvety benches and, a slim table between them carrying a pretty flower arrangement. Palms in pots fringe the outer edges and a few sitting cubes scattered around the lot creates a relaxing ambience in which one can attend to personal recuperation or touch ups as conveniently and leisurely as can be. There is a coming and going of course, but nothing too disruptive and currently no one staying longer than for the brief washing of hands and a glimpse in the mirror to confirm they look their best. That suits her just fine. Sitting down on one of the benches, legs crossed under her, back and head leaning against the wall, she closes her eyes.
Admittedly, she feels the effect of the alcohol, is more than just a little bit tipsy, but Dan is blasted! Instead of dancing with her he filled himself up with beer and who knows what else to the point of overflowing. WHY? Did he not want to dance or does he not know how to dance? Many men don’t like dancing. It is an image thing and, she was even more surprised that the Desperados did enjoy it to such an extent, though expecting it less of them, like, who expects rough ‘bikies’ to lick on a cone of ice-creme! What an upside down world! But what changed Dan from the self-confident beautiful independent free spirit to this insecure pretentious male? Does he have two left legs and needs alcohol as a crutch or encouragement to master a dance? Vane enough he is. Or does he have to proof something to himself or the Desperados? And what would that be? Or is he more invested in her than he wants to admit and she far less in him than she thought? Should love problems, or better, relationship problems be really the biggest challenge she has to face here in this predicament? She would find that even more bewildering. She had prepared herself for violence, cruelty, anything but issues associated with love and relationships! Here, love does not exist, at least not the way she understands love! Her train of thoughts suddenly stops. Damn it! It does not mean there are no emotions, particularly of passion and lust. Indeed, problems occur when love is lacking, when there is no love! Frowning, lips curling, she curses her ignorance. – OF COURSE! – A WORLD WITHOUT LOVE - IS - HELL! –¬¬ At the street barrier she anticipated hell, had visions of it! – But! Though expecting hell, she did not expect to be confronted with the causes of it! Her mind had focused on the consequences not the cause, - indeed! Now she understands, – no need to be confused any longer.
But something else, something more remarkable is happening.¬ – Hallelujah! – A wave of intractable joy like a tsunami sweeps through her body and all else connected. Her brain once again releases a piece of long lost memory. ‘Thank you, dear brain! Thank you with all my heart! So! My home is where love is! I am at home in the realm of love! If this here is hell, then I am a child of heaven!’
She bursts into loud out laughter becoming immediately aware again that she is not alone in the room. There are a few young women staring at her as if she was crazy. Femina laughs at them cheerfully and says light-hearted:
“Don’t worry! It’s just Tequila having a chat with me! But how are you? Having a good time? You all look absolutely fabulous! Where do you get this glorious outfits you wear, in a place as tiny and forlorn as this?”
The girls look at her with big eyes as if she spoke a foreign language. Two rush off, the other two turn back to whatever they were doing before her salve of laughter interrupted them, but one, a sweet redhead is interested to have a conversation with her. Her voice is soft and she talks with an accent but speaks the same language: “Ah, we buy our clothes in town. None of us lives here. We only come for the weekends, for the hot nights and, the lake and, there is always a great band playing. Besides, the local guys are crazy about us and as you have seen, there are great dancers too. It is the place to be. And…,“ (short pause), “you get the best stuff ever, … and not even expensive!” To proof the point she opens her little purse, takes out a fancy little tin box, and opens it to pour white powder in a few straight lines on to the glass top of the table. Then she rolls a money note to a thin tube, draws up through her nose a couple of lines, one to each nostril and invites Femina to follow suit. She declines but another girl joins in and offers in exchange some pills she has in her possession, which Redhead happily accepts but Femina declines as well, explaining:
“Tequila is my best friend tonight. He has my undivided attention and he sure wants me all for himself too.”
The girls giggle amused snorting up some more and then one saying: “Not only Tequila wants you!” And they giggle some more.
“What do you mean by that?” Femina asks somewhat puzzled.
“Really! Do you want to pull our arms?” The answer comes back with more laughter. “Wilson wants you, don’t you know? You are so lucky! We all want him. He is the best! But no such luck for us. We have no chance! No matter what we try, he just ignores us. He does not pay the slightest attention to us, whatsoever!” They express their disappointment with an element of disbelief.
Femina insists how mistaken they were, explaining, Wilson’s interest being of a very different nature than they thought it was. But they only roll their eyes as if to say how naïve she was and that they knew it obviously better. Others enter the room making it far too busy and crowded for her. She decides to return to the guys she had left in a hurry and getting up, shaking off the last bit of hesitation, she brazes herself, for her inner storm has settled, not the one brewing outside. The night is far from over and, as far as Wilson is concerned, she can only hope, she is right not the girls, in judging his interest in her as curiosity not what they imply. She takes a deep breath. ‘Hum!’ Cynical thoughts get the better of her and she sees Wilson’s eyes following her for whatever reasons, and Oliver, the boy angel, for whom she is a thorn in his eyes for as uncanny a reasons and, she sees Dan struggling with her as his problem.
The troupe is where she had left them. The band is returning as well. They play now a softer kind of music tuning down into a more romantic mood. She puts her arm around Dan’s shoulder. He looks at her with glassy eyes and smiles appeased.
She turns to Wilson, asking: “Do they have something to eat here? I am starved.”
“No problem Femina,” says he, “no problem at all. The hotel kitchen is open round the clock for the house guests and, serving the bar too.”
The bartender brings the menu and Dan and Ger, as well as some others, join in. There is quite a selection of hamburgers and toasted sandwiches available and the service is swift and the food is good. She wonders, if all patrons receive the same prompt attention and quality service, though having no proof to the contrary. But the meal has sobered her up and she finds the whole excursion, hotel, bar and all more than odd, if not surreal. Who knows what this hotel is all about! Mostly young females and all together a very accommodating management! Their night out only for pleasure? Hardly! She shrugs off any more thoughts. Whatever! And why worry? Right at this moment she can lick her lips and purr like a cat curled up on a sunny window sill.
Ger asks her for a dance and as she agrees he looks at Dan, who nods too. Goodness me, is this infuriating or what, but Ger only does what is customary. He is the noble knight, old fashioned yes, but oh so honorable. This sure explains why she finds him odd, more often than not. They dance arm in arm as one does with a slow dance. He seems to be troubled. Maybe he wants to talk to her without having anyone else present. Nothing is better suited for it than a slow dance.
“How are you going?” says he to start with. “You seem to really enjoy yourself.”
“Sure do. I love dancing. Just too bad that Dan does not seem to be keen on it. Do you know why?”
“No idea! You need to ask him yourself.” He answers evasively and maybe he really does not know but he appears generally vague, so she waits. Whatever occupies his thoughts, he has obviously a hard time expressing them.
“Femina,” he begins after all, “I am very worried about my brother. I have tried to persuade him to come with us. But he is totally infatuated with Wilson. He would not want nor could he live without him, so he says. And I believe him. He always was such a loving boy, loyal and faithful to his friends. Not that he had many. In fact, he had more tormentors. He was never able to assert or defend himself. And it did not help that he was best in class. On top of that he was the most gorgeous kid around, even more so as he grew older. All were drawn to him like bees to the honeypot. It did not make him friends though, neither female nor male, which would be reasonable enough, isn’t it. But there were too many jealousies on both sides and the anger always was taken out on him. Countless times did he come home, beaten up, too often did he cry himself into sleep! It never changed and I never understood why he did not fight his opponents despite being able to, going to the gym, training his body. He just never utilized it for fighting. And he would not talk about it, only when it was absolutely unavoidable. It usually ended with him shrugging his shoulders and maybe a statement like ‘not being a fighter because he loved beauty’. Finally he left. I had no problems to understand that but I saw him going in the wrong direction. And now I know he did! He believes, he found his home here. But I believe, it is his grave.”
“Oh Ger,” says she compassionately. The words get stuck in her throat because she cannot find anything enough comforting to say. And yet, she wants to help, just how, she wonders. “Is there anything I can do?” She asks after all.
He pulls her tighter towards him and though his voice is now a whisper, it is close to her ear and she can hear him well despite the music and noise around them. “Not really, except maybe one thing: Please let my brother know that you are not falling for Wilson.”
She abruptly pulls back looking at him, horrified: “How can you even think I would!”
He pulls her close again obviously to avoid anyone’s attention, but she can feel his body relax.
“Oh am I glad to hear that from you! Glad that I was mistaken. But, you see, you spent all this time with him and you both seemed really to get on well. Besides, you are an attractive couple. You fit together. And,” pausing briefly to emphasize, “Wilson certainly has eyes for you!”
This is a second time now to have this pointed out to her. As before, she refuses the insinuations. And they don’t fit together! Wilson and she are day and night! She sighs while reflecting on her own thoughts. Well, there is in fact truth hiding in there. She suddenly sees what others see and that they are not outright wrong. Opposite attracts, like electric poles and electric currents, meaning opposing sides still make up a unit, completing each other, fitting together like the two sides of a coin. But! She puts up a fierce resistance for good reasons. Nobody here can understand why. How could they! They judge the world with their eyes, not hers. Of course, she cannot deny that he tempts her and, that she is tempted, to go into battle with him, to lose herself with him in the abyss of lust and passion, only to rise up in hate like a fire spewing dragon, ignorant of devastation and pain, interested only in who could win the next battle, always wanting more. It is the lure of a dangerous liaison, the taste of anticipation to win against all odds and maybe the chance to bathe in the victory over an untamable beast. It makes the blood boil, enraptures the senses, and gives life the thrill of walking on edge. ….. But! ….. She shudders. Nothing else would have place in there. ‘No thanks,’ concludes her sober mind. Her life is more worth than gambling it away! After all! The house always wins, particularly here, where she is in Wilson’s house.
She leans back again to look into his eyes: “Ger,” says she with a firm voice and leaving no doubt, “apart from Wilson’s interest in me being no more than curiosity, truly very different to what you or others seem to believe, - wouldn’t it be more reasonable if Oliver discussed that with Wilson? Wilson’s feelings, or better, his intentions are of concern for your brother, not mine!”
“Oh Femina!” Ger shakes his head in good natured spirit. “What peculiar creature you are! Don’t you see? Y o u are Wilson’s interest! Wilson is no different to other men as far as women are concerned. My brother always fears to lose him, because, in case you don’t know, Wilson is bi. He only finds sex with men less complicated than with women. He told Oliver himself.”
They carry on dancing silently. Femina feels truly sorry for Oliver. What a tormented soul! What kind of beauty does he find here where the fuel is testosterone and dominance the ideal? She also feels for Ger who cannot help his brother, can only watch him cry. There is nothing left to say, nothing left to do apart from assuring Ger that she will not pain his brother, as long as it is up to her.
“Maybe it would be better to leave, today not tomorrow, if you understand what I mean.” She suggests it for a good reason, but Ger shakes his head.
“I cannot go yet. I have to give it at least a few days more. Maybe I can after all change his mind. I have to give it the best try I can.”
Femina says no more. She knows, the longer they stay the more precarious it will get, if not plain disastrous. They end their dance in silence, joining the others again. Ger is obviously satisfied that she has no intention to rival his brother. Did she not wonder about him, more often than not? She likes him a lot, but does not understand his logic. Never mind, she wonders about the others as good.
The band announces another break after the next number. She looks at Dan. “How is it, Dan, don’t you want to dance with me after all?”
To her surprise, he does, having a few problems with balance but as it is a slow dance, in fact, they hardly move more than turn on the spot, he masters to keep up control, with her help that is. He cuddles up tightly and leans on her at times as if she was his walking stick. He carries on kissing her earlobes and neckline. Well, unlikely he will be able to do much more for the rest of the night. At least, his kisses are no longer branding irons but soft and smooth like the rubbery heads of stamps, pressing against the ink filled cushion to upload on what they need. She closes her eyes, listens to the music. It is an old song and in a way suiting so well to this first and, may be the only one and last dance together:
“When a man loves a woman…….”
But before the dance runs its course they get interrupted by no other than Ger and Oliver.
“Come, we better leave!” says Ger. “This does not look good.” He points to a hustling crowd near the bar. “It’s going to blow! We better don’t get involved!”
Femina does not need a second invitation. The guys take Dan between them and they walk swiftly to the elevators. So far nobody else is makes for an early retreat. One lift is open and ready and in no time are they down and out at the bikes. They get their gear ready. Ger gives Dan a few pills: “Here, these will help!” And Dan takes them obediently. A few Desperados are suddenly at their side, leaving Femina wondering where the hell they were coming from, but obviously they were around somewhere, most likely to keep watch on the bikes or whatever. Oliver rolls a nice joint for all. It makes the rounds in silence until Femina, enjoying the good quality smoke, can’t help herself stating:
“It sure has its benefit to be close to the source.” They nod and smile while she takes another puff.
Wilson appears with his bodyguard in tow. He glares infuriated at Oliver, hissing:
“No good idea not to wait for me!”
Oliver seems to shrink, looking down to the ground but before he can say anything to his defense, Ger jumps in, explaining, that it was him asking Oliver for help to get Dan and Femina safely down. Being the strangers here, he thought it would be best for them not to be in the way, or cause inadvertently more problems!
“Let’s go then,” says Wilson without further comment ordering the other Desperados to stay on, ‘as they were fine’. Femina cannot help thinking that Ger’s argument did little to help Oliver who looks guilty not pleasing his man.
The trip back home appears as it always does faster or, shorter, which ever, than the trip away in the first instance. She always wonders why and always wants to find out for sure but never gets around doing it, leaving her to ponder about the reasons once again. Maybe it has something to do with the earth’s rotation, one time going with and then against it. Or maybe it is due to the fact that the unknown has no particular limitation while the familiar is still well within one’s reach. Does that imply that the future is always further away than the past? ‘Of course not’, she giggles, ‘it depends from which point you take the view or who or what is moving. But that is the illusion isn’t it, because everything is on the move all the time. Only the brain tries to find a fixture, it needs the imaginary standstill, though it still moves as everything else. It needs to hold on to the illusion of stillness because it would otherwise go crazy as it basically boils down to the fact of chaos visa order. Femina is amused. Indeed, it is a problem when there is movement only, because one simply needs a point of reference, for the sake of orientation.
When they arrive back ‘home’, Femina does not join the others. She goes straight to their quarters. Though not really tired just mellowed from smoking the joint, she has enough of all the pervasive tensions around her and the explosive atmosphere. She rather goes to bed, which she can chose now to her liking, nobody making a claim for one or the other. She picks the second room as the more suitable for her, and Dan, she believes. It also has above the bed higher up and of reasonable size across the wall wooden bars, suggesting a window behind it. Just what she likes, if she could only open it up, because she always prefers to sleep with a fresh breeze of air. On closer inspection she finds it actually quite feasible, because the bars are just roughhewn wooden planks making up wings and she only needs, with a bit of struggle and force, lift the transverse bar off the hook and turn it around its pin. Voila, her efforts pay off, she can open the wings and pull them towards her. Now she gets more than enough fresh air because there is actually no window behind, just the opening. She cannot look out as it is too high up but she could squeeze herself through being wide enough should she endeavor an escape. Not worth the effort, she believes, it sure would not get her far. Tonight it is enough to lie in bed and look into the sky which she can, if she lies down with the feet against the wall. Contemplating her options she sees the moon enter the window space. That’s it! She fetches her sleeping bag and a blanket, slips off her clothes and into the downy soft cushioning cave with the blanket as her pillow under head. The night could not end better than this, alone with the moon who walks in silence, steady and slowly across the cool nightly sky, sending her silver kisses and creating silver magic everywhere.
“You know, moon” she says, “I love you. You give me your beauty. I also love Dan. He gives me his body. And I love the sun, filling me with warmth. I love the grass for it is so green, and the earth for bearing me. I could tell you about thousands of things I love. The fact is, I love. Every time when I see you in the sky I wonder over and over again, how beautiful you are. And so it is with all things I love.”
Her gaze follows Luna as she moves along. Soon she won’t be able to see her. Femina reaches out to capture her from the sky. Like the mother of pearl does she shine, light like a balloon is she on touch. If she does not hold her, Luna will fly away but if she wants to hold her, she can do nothing else. Femina fetches a piece of thin cord, wrapping it around the moon and the ends around her left little finger. Luna floats up to the ceiling, though not getting too far, the string being too short and, bouncing up and down and to and fro while Femina grabs a cigarette from the packet and lighting it, bringing back some peace thereafter. Sadly though, Luna has now ugly thin lines like blackened veins in her otherwise gleaming immaculate face. Femina retrieves the cord, takes off the slings and, for a few moments holding the flighty moon in her hand again, she lets finally go, thoughtfully blowing a long stream of breath behind for a bit of help.
“You know,” says she as the moon stands shining bright in the sky again, “I do not want to bind you fast. It imprisons me and you could not be the same for me to love.”
She puffs at her cigarette, blowing smoke rings, big and small and, finally a kiss at the end to say her good bye as the moon disappears out of her sight. Now she can only see the silver light and feel the silver breath and follow the shadows as they get longer until there is nothing left, whether this nor the other.