The Lost Kids
We dance. I dance my stupid jig, Clara moves a little more seductively, and Jed thinks he is dancing, but I wouldn’t really call it that. Either way, we’re not exactly in judgment mode. I turn around, and the stage is empty, except for Jean leaned up against a pole, eating a cone of fries. “Well that’s a fucking sight to see. How is he still eating?”
“Jean always eats. I mean, look at him,” Clara laughs.
“Yeah, I guess so.”
Clara dances closer to me at times before dancing away to be in her own little world. As usual, I wonder what her end game is. People are so strange with their intentions.
“Gretchen…do you want to leave soon?” Jed asks, looking kind of sweaty and burnt out.
“You two want to go back?” Clara chimes in.
“I guess so; do you want to go with us? Where do you live?”
“Actually, I have an apartment across the street from the hotel. I’ll walk with you.”
“Should we take a cab?”
“No,” Clara laughs. “The hotel is just ten minutes from here.”
We bid the rest of the group goodbye and thank them for everything. They are all extremely enthusiastic about having met us and insist we come back into Gros before we leave for New York.
The walk is even shorter than I imagined. As we near the hotel, I reach into my bag to look for my room key, but Clara reaches her hand into the bag and pulls out my hand. “Don’t you two want to come for just one last drink?” I look at Jed, and he seems like he’s condensed back into more of a human by now.
“Why not?” I agree.
“This is mine,” Clara points to an old building on the left and leads us to the door. She lives on the third floor, which doesn’t really faze me considering all the stairs I take in my New York apartment. Jed, however, is sweating by the time we reach her place. “You live on the same floor as me…why is this so difficult for you?”
“I honestly don’t even leave my place half the time.”
“Jeez.” Clara’s apartment is small and neat, and she doesn’t have any roommates. Maowww…as I sit down at her table, a cat jumps up on top of it.
“Hellooo, sir,” Clara scratches his head. He’s a hairless cat and is grey except for one pink ear.
“What’s his name?” I ask, already cobbling together a plan to kidnap the strange animal.
“Oui. What would you like to drink? I like tea with Calvados before bed.”
“What is bed? We’re going to bed?”
“Your context, not mine.”
“I’ll have one of those teas with Calvados I’ve heard such good things about.”
“Me too,” Jed mumbles, as Scarface climbs onto his shoulders. Clara puts on music and places a kettle of water on the stove while filling each of three cups half full of her brandy and an Earl Grey tea bag. We sit in a dazed but comfortable quiet with Janice Joplin playing low in the background. I think about the part in Pulp Fiction when Marcellus Wallace’s wife tells John Travolta’s character that there’s something nice about being able to share silence between people without it being uncomfortable. And it’s true. Everything is perfect without voices at the moment.
The whistle of the kettle interrupts our reverie, and Clara gets up to concoct our drinks.
“Come,” she says, holding all three cups and signaling us to follow her through the door out of her kitchen. We follow her into her room and sit down on the bed, each accepting our cup of boozy tea. It’s delicious, even though I wish I had a lemon. But I’m ashamed to wish for anything more than this, so I eject the thought and take a long, slow sip.
The tea ventures into me, warming my throat, now my chest, now my belly.
“So is this how you lure all American tourists home with you? Cute cat, hot tea, booze…there are probably seven and a half roofies in here, am I right?”
“Ah, yes, you’ve found me out,” Clara smiles. I hope she’s joking, because I really don’t have time to be a part of some fucked up new version of Taken, even though I guess I do, considering I just left work and have no real life plans. Is that how it ends? Young woman gets roofied by female stripper in Montreal, found starving, tied to pole, covered in cat scratches? That would happen to me, but I’m not ready, considering I haven’t had time to fully detail Hem on the preferences I have for my viking style floating pyre for my funeral…”Hey–” Clara catches my attention, aware that I’m completely spaced out in my own world. “No roofies,” she smirks, running her hand up my arm to my shoulder.
She puts my cup on her bedside table and looks at me, undoes the top button of my shirt, looks at Jed. “It looks better like this, no?”
“I think it does,” Jed agrees, smiling into his nearly empty tea cup. “And you know what…” he adds, “orange doesn’t really seem to be your color…”
“No? Jean said he liked my blouse. But then again he bought it for me. But what does he know about style? Someone from New York, on the other hand, he would know about these things.”
“It’s true, it’s not exactly the best with your drinking flush, especially,” I agree, helping her slip it off. Jed and I flash each other a grin through the dim light. Scarface jumps up on the end table, knocking my empty cup onto the floor.
“Such a voyeur you are,” Clara says to him. “Pervert.”
The night weaves through like some kind of ridiculous fabric, rich and soft and bright, and we don’t think much, and our brains are fried, and it’s something beautiful and grotesque, or I am. I forget who we are, because everything is new, and we don’t know where we are; Scarface watches. Maybe he is god. I would blame these conceptions on the tea, but considering the few things that were not consumed over the course of the night, I don’t see where the ideas are not coming from, you know.
As the sun begins to come up, Clara dozes off, and I steal one of her cigarettes off the table, light it, and take a half-purposeful drag. Jed looks completely wiped out but tinted with self-satisfaction.
“That happened,” I say.
“Quieres?” I hold out the cigarette, but he nods ‘no’. “OK, so…”
“So…” he cocks his head at me and looks with heavy-lidded eyes.
“I think I’m falling in love with you.” I spit out, mildly blasé but also unnerved. Ye olde love coming around at me without proper planning, as it does. Cunt-bag love.
“I don’t want to, though, you know.”
“Not like…love…it’s good. I know, but I don’t trust it for a second. It’s this mortal thing with a chance at immortality, and that’s difficult to me. It’s like being alive and not being sure if you might die one day. This I do not like.”
“And at what point do you feel you have the control to just handle it?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Gretchen…it does suck…but it’s like anything else. You enter into it knowing it could be gone at any moment. Like you wouldn’t surpass the chance to buy Boardwalk in Monopoly just because you might lose it later in the game. Because if you do, you’re alone with the certainty of what you don’t have. But that’s it. You don’t have shit: no chance at winning, nothing. And certainty is not worth the sacrifice of experience. And as it happens, I’m falling in love with you.”
“I hate Monopoly,” I smirk.
“Shut up,” he squeezes my shoulder and flares his nostrils at my ridiculousness, as he does.