The song says that a house that kind can only exist in New Orleans.
Half an hour later, Ram, the driver, gallantly opened my taxi door in Brooklyn, on the other side of the river. The Indian was exultant; I sensed that nobody in this complicated city leaves a tip of 30% per usual. Anyhow, this figure was the most intuitive choice available, strategically suggested on the right corner of the passenger seat screen. “Some hustler must have designed it this way.” Deep down, I couldn’t care less (the money was Ben’s) and who knows: maybe that carelessness gesture would make a real difference on the other side of the planet.
“Here we are, Miss. House of Yes. I hope you like it. Please be careful.”
Be careful, he says. I have not been in this city for 6 hours yet and Ram is (already) the second man to warn me about of all the wicked dangers that surround us. And to think that he has been sweating and distressed by my presence all the way here; I even got to listen to a full tachycardia when we crossed the Williamsburg Bridge. The poor devil tried to dissimulate his weakness by adjusting his ugly metal rings then.
It did not work.
I stared at the building in front of my eyes, a rusty laundromat that had been converted into a macro party space. Dozens of hipsters dressed in leather and covered in glitter populated the entrance “…but what kind of impression have I given to the poor cab driver?…”.
“Good evening, miss…I see no costume.” – a colorful and muscular bouncer blocked my entrance (in a very elegant manner, nonetheless). Truth be told, I already felt sufficiently disguised wearing that cheap-looking American Apparel dress. “[…] tonight is House of Love, and the theme is sensual: latex, short skirts …”.
“I’m very sorry, I’m not very inspired today, maybe that’s why I came to have fun!” – I winked at him. “So, how much does one ticket cost?”
“I’m sorry beautiful: full house tonight.” – to my surprise, the guardian of that laundromat in Brooklyn was immune to my charms. Perhaps I lost something beyond time locked in that Egyptian priest’s tomb for decades. Priest. Oh, that’s it.
“The bouncer is homosexual, Lilith.”
“If you haven’t bought a ticket online, there’s nothing much to do now baby, I’m sorry,” he continued, showing a perfectly cordial smile.
Yes, clearly gay. I remembered that, according to my manual, the Internet gives the opportunity to “learn everything about the universe without having to move your ass from the couch”. It seems that the world wide web would allow me not only to know the world but also to purchase it. I evoked the brand of my blue dress and realized the country where I was now. Yes: I could always resort to both economic bribery and public scandal to achieve my purposes without incurring into major complications.
I quickly analyzed the dynamics of the scene and made a decision; I (seductively) lowered the neckline of my dress, leaving exposed an exquisite Lise Charmel bra (Ben was clearly oblivious regarding fashion, but apparently the boy knew a thing or two about my weakness for lace underwear). A full round of applause and a couple of whistles were heard. The bouncer smiled again, with the proviso that this time he left me in, taking (really elegantly yet discreetly) a couple of 100 USD bills from the cup of my bra.
Every inch of sky’s got a star
Every inch of skin’s got a scar
I guess that you’ve got everything now
I memorized the catchy song playing in the background as I walked through House of Yes and ventured into its multiple rooms, testing the ground.
I barely saw him, but I was instantly attracted. He was in a hurry. I bit my lower lip: I had no time to waste. He entered the red room, and I followed him like Alice in that tale. And as in the tale, once inside, my rabbit had disappeared. In his lieu, I found several couples (and other numerical combinations) having sex under a sign that read:
House of Yes
Enjoy yourself, but always remember: consent is everything.
Please obtain verbal affirmation before touching and/or engaging in any intimate activity.
I wondered about the nuances of the word “consent” in 2019 while watching a quasi-retiré request a blow-job for the fifth or sixth time (in the most British way possible, truth be told) to a couple of females who were barely in their twenties. The scene was grotesque. Personally, I consider any nuisance as the most abusive interaction that can occur in the social sphere. In this sense, I do confess to having agreed to be touched not because I cannot say no (as you may already guess, shyness is not one of my core faults), but to end an upsetting situation as quickly as possible. Immortals or not, the only thing we truly own is not our bodies but our time.
I would have taken care of that disgusting man myself, but as you can imagine, I had no time to waste. Nor did the white rabbit, apparently. I alerted a staff member about the situation and left the red room. My gaze drifted to the left; there he was, my attractive hummingbird, laughing between flashes of violet light and dancing under a ballerina who performed impossible stunts on him and his friends. He still had not seen me; I decided to use my last seconds of anonymity to slowly savor his leather carmine pants, which tightly fit his legs, that were long and athletic. The shirt, white, boring, slightly open, showing both the birth of some dark chest hair and a delicious carotid artery. He had a spectacular smile, the kind that illuminates a banquet hall after a day of poor hunting. His laughter, childish and easy, forced him to momentarily close his dark eyes, which under some bushy yet interesting eyebrows, became small and mischievous.
Every inch of road’s got a sign
And every boy uses the same line
I pledge allegiance to everything now
“Hi,” I whispered in his ear, smoothly stroking his right elbow “I’m Lilith.”
I noticed how, almost instantly, his hair bristled under his shirt. His pupils dilated violently when I fixed my eyes on his black glaze. I slowly breathed in his smell, which was somewhat salty, and memories of the Mediterranean Sea came to me.¨Pum¨. Personally, I have always found the building up phase leading to a kiss quite wonderful. ¨Pum Pum¨. Each breath of mine was already at sync with each beat of his heart. Everything around us started to dissipate in slow motion. ¨Pum Pum Pum¨. My hand ventured south to meet his big palms, and my fingers started playing with his knuckles.
I happily acknowledged the absence of any metal rings. Or of any kind of material.
(Everything now!) I need it
(Everything now!) I can’t live without
(Everything now!) I can’t live
“Fernando, come back and help me get the dancer’s phone, come on, you promised me at the office” – one of his cronies (already stripped of the regulatory white shirt) was pouncing on us, irremediably interrupting our brief moment of eternity. “Shoot, I did not notice you were busy” he exclaimed, shamelessly checking me out. For some reason, that gesture bothered me. “… Hi, Lilith, eu sou Fernando, I’m from São Paulo, these are my colleagues from the studio, and…”
Bored, I left Fernando behind before he could even finish his sentence and walked towards the main bar on that very singular step that only a badly wounded pride gives to a lady. Yes, the Brazilian was of exotic beauty, but he himself would have to make an effort this time, or inevitably, I would end up losing interest. Hungry and tired, I did not have the patience to enjoy a process that I usually had found pleasurable on its own. Although in the end, it did not really matter. House of Yes was full of opportunities; someone easy would show up soon, and if not…
“Lilith, sorry, I’m sorry, I’m really sorry” Fernando said, hugging me from behind. His body felt marvelously warm. I drew a smug little smile; the last decades between stone and sand had not made my charm fade away, after all. “Sometimes my friends can behave…like children, you know. My name is Fernando,” he said, handing me a business card. A very New York gesture, I remembered. “Could we start off again?”
Every inch of space in my heart is filled with something I’ll never start
Each time presents its peculiar social dynamics, but if there is something that I have observed remains relatively constant over time, is the ability that certain young men (still unsure of both their abilities and their vital position) have to talk about themselves without any consideration towards the conversational interests of their counterparts. I am embarrassed to admit that Fernando, 31 years old, 183cm, was one of those men.
[Brief intermission: I know I’m about to make a cruel and limited remark, but in full honesty, I’m unable to feel any attraction for anyone of small stature. This is totally involuntary. I could always blame the Evolution of this reality, referring to the fact that women seek protection in the bodies of their partners, but I honestly do not know if any biological laws apply to me since 1610. Perhaps 2019 might a good year to explore new dimensions. Perhaps.]
The night was cool; the pavement was still wet. The blue atmosphere contrasted starkly with Fernando’s warmth, who pressed his body against me as we walked down Flushing Avenue, leaving Wyckoff, its rainbow colors and all the sin behind. In only 20 minutes I learned that Fernando’s paternal grandfather had been an Ambassador and that his father had developed an inferiority complex towards the many achievements of his progenitor. This problem led both him and his younger siblings crazy, the first one being a man of about 25 years and the second one a graceful teenager, apparently very popular at her institute in Floripa. “A few weeks ago my father drunkenly confessed to me that he was having an affair with his new wife’s best friend, so feel free to imagine what kind of character I have to deal with.”
It would have been useless at that point to tell poor Fernando that, should he have remained alive, he would have (almost irremediably) develop a very similar complex towards his own father.
I also learned that Fernando was a designer, which reminded me of the 30% tip that had left Ram in cash a couple of hours before. Honestly, I did not really know what it really meant to be a “designer” in 2019, so I would have to search for the term on Google back home. The possibility of “learning everything about the universe without having to move your ass from the couch” is really wonderful, isn’t it?
In brief, Fernando talked and talked as I proposed him increasingly concrete questions while the young man choked on (rather predictable) answers. It did not matter: I was not in a hurry anymore. Ben’s comment about the facial recognition cameras on every street of New York had made me somewhat cautious. In this sense, I gladly had accepted the Brazilian’s invitation to go straight to his apartment. A grandson of ambassador would probably have a discreet and comfortable home, an ideal scenario for my purposes.
We had not even kissed yet but Fernando was already opening the sliding door of his home, a spacious industrial loft with fabulous shiny metal ceilings located on Bedford Avenue. “Modern times, cutting straight to the point”. Was romance completely dead after the irruption of the new sexuality in the ’60s…?”
“Fernando, meu amor, where is the bathroom?” I intended to have a moment by myself to plan all the operations. I crossed the first door on the right and found myself in a small, damp room of minimalist decoration. On the wall, 3 original covers of TIME magazine, framed in glass, caught my eye. One of them, dated April 29, 1929 (a few days before the historic and fatal crash of the stock market) showed a picture of a small future queen: Elizabeth II of Great Britain, still known as Lilibet back then. On the cover, a very young Isabel wore a short golden mane, in the style of the time. I remembered that back then I was living in Paris, where my hair was clearly out of fashion; and so the flappers or garçonnes whose husbands I was set to murder liked to remind me.
“Lilith, laztana” – I then visualized my mother in that small and damp room that served us as a refuge from the outside world – “Do not say nonsense, no lady of the court would give up on her beautiful long hair … what a shame that the blonde is darkening so fast, really. “
I watched myself in Fernando’s round mirror; it was the first time in more than 35 years that I had done that, but I found the very same image that I saw 300 years ago. I had violet eyes with honey notes, framed in curved, long, dark lashes. Some long, thick and reddish locks. The soft pink lips, perfectly drawn on a white, smooth face.
I took a deep breath, remembering how hungry I was. I flushed the toilet to disguise the wasted time and walked decisively towards the living room, which connected to several chambers simultaneously. I was amused that Fernando had so many bicycles “maybe he is a collector”. Clearly, a man of his social status would circulate around the city by car or motorbike (in beatnik fashion) although perhaps transport standards have changed in recent years.
I still had a lot to learn.
Fernando invited me to sit on a maroon leather sofa and put a beer in my hand, a gesture that I found of poor and bad taste, although it did not matter: I would not get to taste any sip of it. I leaned over him. To my surprise, the Brazilian stepped forward, kissing me on the neck, thus avoiding any kind of action on my part. It seemed that Fernando was determined to take advantage of my receptivity to continue with his life story of vital anguish.
It is always surprising to find people who blame everything on their parents beyond their junior years.
[Please, learn from my mistakes: do not waste any time on self-centered lovers. Yes, they can be charming, as they manage to fill a void that you might need full in times of emptiness and confusion. But, deep down, they are not really that interested in you – and this, you already know. Remember that you are simply an excuse that they use to project themselves, season after season. Listen to me: it will not work out.]
I decided to give poor Fernando some extra 5 minutes, “these are his last words Lilith, be patient”. I distracted myself by checking out his loft, concluding that the hipsters’ liking was as eclectic as it was superficial. Native American elements intermingled with decorations from the Prohibition era and Quasi-Soviet furniture. Surprised, I noticed the absence of any French or British element, and of furniture of either colonial or imperial style. In short, there was nothing in that space that inferred the good taste expected from any member of a diplomatic family in the past times.
“Alonso,” said Fernando, turning away from me; and surprisingly again, my Brazilian was getting up the couch “I was not expecting you so early”.
“It’s 2 in the morning, dude” – said a young man with an unmistakable Spanish Castilian accent, closing the front door with a dry slam. I noticed how my body tensed. “Hey, hello, but how beautiful she is Fernandinho, where do you find them?”
Fernando shrugged and headed to the fridge in search of another beer. “Good evening … Alonso? Excuse my appearance in advance, we have been out all night” – I did not understand the situation very well, so I thought that the most decisive thing was to take the leadership of the whole of it – “I understand you are either a neighbor or a close friend of Fernando, so how can we help you? “
“But what are you talking about, princess?” – Alonso laughed, sprawling on the couch and putting his right hand on my lap. I pulled away, surreptitiously; the Spanish was somewhat drunk. “I’m Fernando’s roommate, well, one of the other two, Fe, is Raúl already sleeping?”
… roommate (s)? What kind of professional with a college degree, already in his thirties, of a good family, still shares an apartment with two other people? I was very confused. “Sorry, but I do not understand” – I asked – “Is this a hipster whim, because it is understood that human company is always positive, or …”.
“Hey, we’re not hipsters, you do not insult us, uh, little princess, yes, we work in the artistic world, but …”
I was definitely quite lost in translation, although I had already found a first similarity between the beatnik and the hipster: neither of them liked to admit what they really were. Anyways, killing Fernando discreetly was going to be rather complicated that evening, as I would have to kill Alonso first. Oh, and also Raúl, I remembered.
What a bore.
“You’re Spanish as well, aren’t you princess? From whereabouts?”
“Raúl is already sleeping, yes, so why don’t you go ahead and do the same, Alonso?” – I noticed how Fernando (who was already finishing the second beer) had gotten annoyed; it was clear that my casanova was not going to achieve any goal that evening if his friend was to remain with us. It was also clear that Alonso’s personality was less docile than mine, but that he had the ability to fill void spaces even more developed than that of the traumatized Fernando.
“I’m originally from La Rioja, but I went to college in Madrid, so do not worry, no rednecks in here.”
La Rioja. “Salazar,” I murmured. A chill ran down my chest.
“No, my name is Alonso, and my last name is Romero. Fernando, who is this chick?”
I had run out of time. I said goodbye to a stunned Fernando with a quick but sweet kiss on the cheek and went back to the streets in search of a taxi that would take me back to Manhattan; I was not in the mood to be reminded of the many enemies of the past.
I turned on the laptop as soon as I got home, hoping to find a message from Ben; It was already 9 AM in London.
¨ Good morning Lilith,
I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, what’s in my head? Oy, oy, oy. As you may have guessed, I brought the piece of paper with me all the way back to London; I think it was because of the nerves of the preparations, you know, having the French decorator up and down all the time “Monsieur, cela va bien?” Fuck, again and again, she wouldn’t shut up!
Abba warned me about your learning abilities, but it is still really impressive… you will have to explain to me the trick you used to figure out all my passwords. Anyways, you have now all the information regarding our first fella online (thank you very much for creating that site!). If you could proceed tomorrow (something quick and simple) I would really appreciate it. We’ve been tracking this cat for a while, and he is now expecting a cargo from the port of Hamburg in a few weeks.
Remember I’m here for you. See you soon. Please be careful. Benjamin ¨
I do not know whether to be careful, but the experience with the Williamsburg hipsters had taught me that I would have to catch up if I wanted to achieve my goals effectively in this new year.
I entered the Internet portal and reviewed the information. The guy worked at a gym in Midtown and started his day around 9 in the morning, so I had nothing productive to do for at least the next 5 hours. I decided to waste my time on Google, discovering Arcade Fire and learning more about the sad curse of underground music, which, upon success, becomes mainstream. Bored with hunger, I found myself playing with Fernando’s business card between my fingers while humming the soundtrack of my first (yet failed) hunting night.
Fernando das Neves
UX/UI Designer. 917.***.**69. Brooklyn, New York.
“69”. It was already beginning to dawn.
‘Til every room in my house is filled with shit I couldn’t live without
I went to the bathroom, turned the hot water tap on and violently threw a new vanilla bar into the tub.