All I can think as I walk up Kerri’s stairs, is of:
1) my skirt riding up,
2) the sweaty backs of my knees,
3) how the hairs back there might look like soggy vermicelli. Some Playschool project out of PVA or semen, whatever you have at home.
If I could ever be friends with you after this I’d have to forget all you ever taught me; that bodily fluids look mostly interchangeable, and that what I should mostly be concerned with is how I look from behind.
‘Hello, darlin’,’ Kerri says to me more out of habit than anything else. She opens the door, lets the cold air from the double-brick invade my wet pits, like I notice the cold disks of her implants jutting from her chest, as though they want to be noticed, the way I want you to notice me, and I want you, and I want you to want me. Just like in a cheesy pop refrain or teenage poetry; we all have our cheap tricks.
Kerri is an old broad with posters up: a knobbly penis being erected by a mini-crane; that portrait of Audrey Hepburn glamorously sucking on a fag from when fags were fabulous while looking ‘round the apartment like she’s too good for it. Ten-me used to be sure adulthood was all ciggie holders and cobwebby pubes all obscured by the same elusive wisps when now-me thinks it might be somewhere I don’t want to be and weak smiling and closed-toe shoes.
Kerri and I cruise into the city in her shiny new hatchback. It’s like we’re in an ad for sanitary products where we use words like pash and luscious and lippie in earnest and we zip and glide around urban corners applying our lippie in the rearview mirrors while we perve on luscious boys we might pash. When in real life these things are about sanitary bins with old crusts on like tomato soup.
She points out a woman walking beside the car, ‘If you ever see a lady walking on King Street with a rolling suitcase she’s probably working,’ she says, and the words grow hard, slowly, like drying spoof. She always says lady, never girl, or woman either, and so I start to.
A tray of caramel lattes from the 24-hour pie place across King Street, skinny mostly. A bodyguard out the back of the roller-doors who Kerri calls ‘darlin’,’ too, before she presses the buzzer and the party don’t start till we walk in.
The counter where the ladies will eat cheese and carrots and hummus but will tiptoe around the bread; the toilets that I will clean; the supply closet on the second floor from which I will replenish the rooms.
And downstairs all the female staff wear black and all the ladies wear lingerie and wigs and how we are all always underdressed by someone’s standards. We all have ideas and mine is that I look like a frumpy secretary but Mercedes reckons I look thirteen and Pandora says Eastern European we watch music videos on the digital jukebox and the running gag is to ask if my parents know that I work here.
A lady’s face crashes crying into Kerri. Kerri says to her she doesn’t need to work tonight but she decides to stay on for some reason or another, she must have one, we all do. I’m unsure where to rest my eyes or hands.
A text from you with a single heart. Walking into the office and yawning to pretend like what I’m not doing is checking my phone.
Sometimes I’m an automatic door revolving slowly trying to trap confused businessmen who look like they’re hosting a shit game show, dressed by Roger David, Peter Jackson if you’re lucky. My dad said never trust a man with two first names. We all have our prejudices.
Everyone a bit hungry like primary school kids who lie and say they left their lunches at home, but not really, they just want for something different.
A man with red like McDonalds sundae dripping from a hole in his head comes in. He’s playing pool with Ebony and Pandora and maybe Sasha, no one minds. It’s like a nightclub in here.
I repeat the list of names of places I have never been and abstract concepts I don’t quite get. It’s all wishful thinking and aspiration, like on Oprah. This is Milan. This is Destiny. This is your life. A man with blurred words says his wife’s next door but he goes upstairs because he’s still starving, he could eat a horse, or be hung like one.
I am sometimes upstairs to the rooms after and they have the composty smell like the old salad in a lunch box with too many forks sifted through.
Pulling off sheets is undressing you, pulling them on is the re-dressing. You’re a baby and you need changing, and so I take you to the King Size room (the party room) with the big bed for the big boy, got you on my mind, fulfill my fantasy. But really I am just alone cramming new prophylactics in the drawer and checking if the tissue box needs changing. We are all someone’s children.
Not that I’m counting or anything but it’s 5.30am. Coffee. Ladies getting hungry now.
Dribs and drabs. Chewing faces. Sitting awkwardly to the side of the room while the ladies dance in the middle. Nudging. Are you sure you wouldn’t want to meet one of the lovely ladies?
Kerri leaves. Back to the office. A text from you. Can we kiss later?
What kind of a question.
Zip around the toilets, do one last little touch-up. Look in the mirror at my face. Skin looks wet but it’s dry as a napkin. A mirage.
I’m so excited. I can’t wait. An envelope filled with yellow gold and then I am finally meeting up with you, you who texted me all night, who was my boyfriend and reduced it like bechamel to the boy who I sometimes swallow. You say, let’s take things like cumming on my back heavy and things like eating out light. But I always text back, and I always wait.
I only accept the bechamel I think I deserve and I want you to shit where I eat and wear the Dolmio shit-eater’s grin. In the fast-food sunlight things are different, you’re pulling your stupid bike like it’s your best friend and another guy I don’t know like he is a lesser friend and then I am somewhere outside this hierarchy of need like a drunk Pharaoh locked out of his Pyramid with the keys inside, and the scenario’s not quite what a Pharoah would have had in mind but fuck him hey, fuck slavery.
So we’re going to Maccas, which I guess is an ironic decision, and so it’s ok for me and you and the bike and your stupid friend to sit amongst the debris of Friday night, even if it’s lost on me. A girl’s got to eat, even if she’s lost her appetite.
Even if it means the violence of torn wrappers and Coke and ice melted together like Ben Cousins, half-eaten patties that have gone cold and hard.
It’s all a learning experience, I guess, even if I come to regret it, even if I’d like to forget it. We all have our cross to grin and bear and maybe mine is this.
The first train back to my parent’s house, they’re not there right now to hear us. Afterwards in the bathroom mirror I pull my body apart like KFC chicken.
Eloise Grills is a writer of essays, interviews, comics and memoir from Melbourne. Places where you can find her recent include The Suburban Review, SPOOK, Overland (online) and Side-Eye. You can read her interviews at Grilling Me Softly.