One One

The innards of the cabaret stank of pheromones and mildew – the exotic blend of youthful excitement and the rank of decay. The situation immediately put Ash into a state of comfort. A dingy club full of coarse sounds and social intrigue: perennial pacifier of young adulthood. Ash relaxed her focus as she approached the bar. She didn’t want to fall into greeting rituals too quickly. She wanted to ease into things. She wanted to savour the freshness of her arrival with a cool drink. A glass of water, sweating the very sweat of the clubbers, by the magic of the room’s indigenous water cycle. A shot of rye whiskey, sharp and potent. They came from the hand of a middle aged man with speckled hair and tight skin. He smiled robotically and she reciprocated thusly with a tip.

The heavy thud and meticulous aggregate of textures blasting out of the speakers lulled Ash. The music was simultaneously dense and sparse, rife with staccato detail and micro melodies, but equally defined by instants of emptiness. If you added up all the split second silences they would account for a third of the time. But what framed the nothingness was almost too much to decipher. The composer probably used hundreds of chopped samples and software synth bleeps, filters and field recordings and audio stripped from archives. Digital psychedelia. An abstraction of multimedia culture.

Ash ordered another drink, pleased with the sweet snap of the first. She scrutinize the crowd. As many were dancing to themselves as were with others. As many were gazing in the ubiquitous mirrors as at fellow revellers. Vignettes of this moment were captured all over. The flashes of cameras and whirling LCD screens in people’s hands served as the equivalent of the strobes and lighters and glow sticks of days gone by. Across the backlit plexiglas bar island, a group of three fresh girls were depicted laughing, captured by a photographer in their scheduled abandon. In a corner on the lower platform of the dance floor, an androgynous and probably underaged waif screwed their brightly painted face in a mask of existential angst while a friend recorded. Someone else interviewed a local quasi-celebrity under the harsh light of an on-camera spotlight. The behaviour was both superficial and deeply sophisticated. The meticulous, self-conscious creation of moments and images was a default setting for this crowd. A reflex. Every so often a space in the music would last a full second or two, and the light man would flash all the club’s overheads at once. For that interval the room was a random collection of narcissists with no context, engaged in a dizzying spectrum of bizarre social behaviours. Ash loved those spaces, and suspected that most of the other people did too.

“Not a flake after all,” growled a voice in her ear as two delicate hands rubbed her shoulders.

“You’re not the only one surprised,” Ash replied as as she leaned into the massage without looking back.

“I would tell you you’re tense, but I’ve never felt your back be loose.”

Ash’s head came to rest against the familiar torso behind her stool, smelled Rudy’s tacky, flowery perfume. It was a maternal intimacy. Ash knew a lot of people. But Rudy gave a shit. It was rare. She closed her eyes. The pulsing buzz of the music was gathering to a bassy hum.

“I need your help, Rudy.”

“No shit, girl.”

“More than the general preening this time.”


“You know Alice’s parents a lot better than me -“

Rudy’s firm grip suddenly went slack, probably mirroring her expression. “Fuck off. You’re still obsessed. I thought you were going to give that a break.”

“I think I have something this time.”

“You’re fucking lucky Alice’s mother never figured out whatever it was you two were doing. You start bringing that shady shit into this, you’ll kill them. Or they’ll kill you.” Rudy let go and Ash spun around in the chair. “Jesus look at you,” Rudy admonished, getting her first look at Ash’s sunken eyes and pale complexion. “Did you even sleep?”

“I just need to ask them some questions.”

“Come on.” Rudy grabbed Ash’s fore arm and began leading her though the club toward the washrooms, down a staircase, around a corner. They wove speechlessly throughout the whirling mass of dancers and lovers and losers. Their paces were subconsciously timed to the rhythm of the room and its cacophonic mess of music and conversation. They were in transition, in their own melodramatic microcosm of crisis, like everyone in the place.


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