Printet on standard A4 paper the story contains aprox. 18 pages
"... SHE WAS NOT even thinking about money for the moment but the thrill of making him see her as she wanted to be for all these lonely men whose greed of lust was nothing but an aching prayer for beauty ..."
William T. Vollman: "Whores For Gloria"
Steam was rising in columns from the sewer lids on 8th Avenue - as though it were boiling and sizzling beneath the black asphalt, as if on account of a stumble made when crossing the street against a red light, you could fall right through a manhole cover, straight down into Hell.
Marilyn Monroe had been winking from Times Square, as I leaned out into the humid, sweltering August heat from the room's air-conditioned chill. I tried ignoring her over there with her tits pressed up against the man's white shirt, hands on hips and soft thighs packed into a pair of Levi's, straddling a cup of "Eight O'clock Bean Coffee".
"Why don't you just go for walk?" Louise had asked, since I kept stirring around in the bed - after a bit of groping about which she, still half-asleep, brushed off. And finally, I stood there a little annoyed, staring out the window, with a semi-boner in my shorts. "Well, we've got to go up and look at Andy Warhol's pictures tomorrow morning, right, so I want to be well rested", I mumbled several minutes later, drowned out by the sound of sirens and motors from the street twenty stories below. Because that was something we had been planning - something we had talked a lot about back home, before we left.
Louise had been working as an au pair with an American family in upstate New York, and she really knew her way around the city. Enthusiastically, she had led our first expeditions as a tourist guide for a bunch of hicks -up to the top of the Empire State Building, all the way down Broadway and boating around Manhattan for hours on end - bursting with anecdotes about the first time she was there with this or that person. Especially with this or that American guy from the au pair period, the quarterback of the football team, and what not.
"It's just like coming home!" she had howled from the Empire State's observation deck, flinging her arms out to both sides as if to embrace the horizon - my very own Statue of Liberty with scintillating eyes, belly pressed up against the iron railing, butt jutting out in tight jeans and hair blowing around in sun and wind. "I'm B-A-C-K!"
I was standing a few yards behind her, with my back glued to the mass of the building, slightly dizzy and nauseous, balls shrinking every time my gaze crossed over the edge, down into the abyss, and I tried to suppress a mad urge to shove her aside, leap up on to the railing and jump out. If I hadn't at last suggested taking the elevator down, she just would have kept right on standing there until they closed up for the night. Or until I had jumped¼
Unflaggingly, she pushed on - dragging me through the streets in the heat, in and out of cafes in the Village or designer shops on Fifth Avenue. But soon, I found my own favorite spots. Buried myself for hours in books and records in dusty side-street stores, bought a ticket for a Woody Allen film in a movie theater where most of the other people in the audience looked exactly like the actors, and drank draft beers and watched baseball games with loudmouth Irish blue-collar guys in a bar where I felt very 'authentic' when one of the lads greeted me after I'd been there a couple of times, even asking me what I thought about the Yankee's chances for winning the pennant.
I started to understand her fascination with New York. Started to feel right at home in the swarming streets in the shadow of the skyscrapers, and even started trying to walk, stare and talk like a real New York motherfucker with that certain inbred mixture of aggression, cool purposelessness and hell-bent humor ("ah, fa-get-about-id!", as they constantly moaned in the bar every time the Yankees blew another one). Even though she, obviously, was so much more on home turf than I, as she bantered with a waiter about "how terrific it was at the Tunnel last fall", automatically ordered her eggs over easy in the diner in the morning or effortlessly changed from one subway line to another in the noisy, stinking inferno under the ground.
It was two-thirty A.M. I'd bought a pack of Marlboro Lights and a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon in a Korean deli, where the food lay gleaming in metal trays beneath glowing heat lamps in the back of the joint: drumsticks dripping fat, noodles, mashed potatoes, soy-soaked spring rolls, over-boiled broccoli, spareribs, fettuccine carbonara, sausages with their meat turned out through cracked skin, lasagna, won-tons, burnt rice with tired vegetables, fried eggs looking suspiciously like painted plastic ¼
Without really being hungry, I fell into a reverie for just long enough over the buffet to make my mouth water, before noticing the young Korean behind the counter, eyeing me suspiciously through thick-rimmed glasses - with one hand alertly beneath the cash register, maybe even fingering the trigger of a pump-gun?
The deli-food was clinging to my nostrils, eventually combining itself with other pungent odors from the alleys I passed - rotting garbage, fermented piss, the smoke from my own cigarette coming back up from the lungs and merging into one with the universe again. Up in the hotel room it was so cold and clean that it didn't smell of anything else than the two of us when we were close to one another in the darkness.
Like a sleepwalker slowly waking up and, with consternation, finding himself out there on the street in bare feet and pajamas in the middle of the night, the senses returned, jump-started by beer and nicotine. Suddenly, I discovered faces and bodies outlined in the shadows, heard echoes of hip-hop tracks booming from cars gliding by ("FIGHT THE POWER!"), and felt the adrenaline rushing through the limbs.
Marilyn was still looking up towards our room, where Louise was probably asleep again, as if she were wondering where the guy standing in the window had gone off to. I didn't have any eye contact with Marilyn anymore from this worm's eye view, which on the other hand could certainly not be said about the girls on 8th Avenue, more and more of them, in fact, the closer I got to the Port Authority bus terminal and 42nd Street, for the first time all by myself down here, without any guidebook or girlfriend, after the first week in New York.
Black they were, most of them, black like the asphalt. Long-legged, wide-hipped and stacked Pam Grier clones with Afros, leopard-bras, hot pants, with fake gold around their necks and go-go boots hugging their thighs. During the day, they didn't restrain themselves either, not even when I came along as any other innocent tourist with a camera and Louise by my side, with their "Do you wanna blow-job, sweetie?!" or whatever proposition they could come up with. But now their marketing resembled the growling of hungry predators just before attack.
"Come back here, white boy, I got some chocolate pussy for you - let momma fuck you hard, little baby!" they hissed with hoarse voices, melting together with the blackness of night except for the white of their eyes and their ivory teeth, and otherwise only occasionally illuminated by the lights of passing cars or the red-fluorescent tubes over porn shops when they stepped off their own slab of the pavement, looking for a potential customer. Off the slab from where they leaned up against the wall during breaks, waiting with flesh strapped up and loins protruding, lips puckered around cigarettes and gazes scanning from right to left for anybody remotely resembling a john. Waiting with shiny handbags dangling like amulets from loose wrists and unmentionable bodily openings oozing under the makeup, the leather, the panties, where a man - as if on account of a stumble made when crossing through life against a red light - could whirl himself straight down into a heavenly Hell.
My throat felt harsh and dry. Emptied the beer with the neck tilted back as I stood at yet another crosswalk. What would it be like to screw a black girl? In other words, how would it be different? Tried to remember a certain skin-mag from the teen years, "Black Bunnies", I believe it was called. But it was hard to focus; it was the same feeling I had musing over the food in the deli; impossible to choose between all those courses even though you had a craving for something tasty.
OK, you might have chosen the first, the best. You could have let yourself be taken down a side street, up a staircase and into a sleazy room. You could have pulled out a wad of bills, counted a few and paid her whatever she wanted. You might have laid down on a bed underneath a rotating fan and watched her twist her arms around her back to unsnap the bra.
But I just kept on down towards 42nd Street, in a trance, even though I felt like saying 'yes' to all of them. And in some irrational way, I was actually sorry to disappoint them, giving them the impression that I didn't find them attractive enough to shell out the "only forty bucks". A little like when I was scared of losing Louise, worrying about not being kind enough or attentive enough, and rambled on, telling her how sweet and beautiful she was, and how much I loved her, until she - tiring of the compliments - coolly cut through them: "You don't have to say that all the time, do you?"
When I averted my eyes in polite rejection, balancing myself on the curb to get away without any confrontation, they only sneaked up on me from behind. Breathing down my neck or stroking my skin with long nails through the sticky wet T-shirt until a trembling palpitated from my synapses, along the spine and down into the groin. In free fall from the Empire State, in slow motion into the abyss.
It was only me and the black girls. Everyone else on the street - taxi drivers, cops, panhandlers, winos, night creatures, sailors, hot-dog vendors, dealers, psychos, junkies, doomsday preachers with their Bibles raised above their heads - invisible in the heat mist.
Turned around the corner on to 42nd, into the conflagration of neon and wailing sirens, without even noticing the threatening looks, wounds on outstretched hands, voices shrill with hysteria, pills or powder displayed for my assessment, screeching tires, crutches quivering under weakened bodies, guns in the oiled holsters of policemen, slamming doors, blood-filled hypodermic needles strewn on to the ground around garbage cans. With a sensation that now, now it should happen, entirely clear and serene and all in place in my own choreography, while the pulse hammered its beat through the flesh. Through my flesh, through the flesh of the girls, through the sweet-scented flesh of a thousand black girls.
A homunculus with a shaved head and a harelip was busy changing dollar bills into coins, seated on a barstool like some diminutive, disfigured Buddha behind bulletproof glass. Every time the door to the street swung open, whenever the bouncer was showing in a new customer, they were both bathed in red light from the neon sign on the marquee that also had drawn me from the other side of the street, like a magnet.
"Welcome to Pussyland!" the Buddha intoned. "The finest meat on Manhattan, I guarantee you that, my friend..." He had said that many a time before, and showed absolutely no emotion when I politely answered: "Thanks, I'm sure you're right, my friend¼"
A dancing, nude woman surrounded by merry musical notes was stamped on to the golden coin. Carefully, the little man had explained that these coins were the legal tender in Pussyland. Whatever you wanted to pay in tips to the girls in the peep-show cabins, on the other hand, was up to you, as he put it, with a poker face. The coins were the 'open-sesame' for Aladdin's cave, but if you wanted to rub the magic lamp, cash had to be supplied as well.
Men were slinking their way along the walls, with faces turned away and hands deeply buried in pockets full of coins. It was clammy, but it was not as hot as out on the street. Through a sexshop with dildos and magazines, and then hallways with private cabins, solo cinemas with video screens, and after that, a strip bar where you could sit with a drink resting right on the stage. Only there were no dancers up there, just a disco ball spinning around itself under the ceiling, watched indolently by a dozen dudes who didn't utter one single word to each other, while Madonna's "Like A Virgin" blared into the room.
Continuing up the stairs, my rubber soles sank into a thick, spongy carpet of some indeterminate hue. A long hallway with red walls, straight out of a Freudian wish-fulfillment dream, but with a different kind of energy going on, another tension in the air. Maybe because real living women and not mere flickering video images, were concealed behind the peepholes. Unmistakably, in all cases, that fug of sperm, perfume, females, sweat and disinfectant. Closed my eyes and inhaled it as if it were the very same scent I had followed all the way from the hotel and down 8th Avenue.
A red lamp was lit above the occupied cabins. On the way in between the many illuminated lamps, I overheard fragments of conversation, coughing, knocking sounds, little yelps, moaning ("come on bitch, yes, yes, YEEES!") and explosions of laughter behind locked doors. An older black man was mopping the floor in a vacant cabin. He was wearing a Walkman, moving his head in time with his own music, far away from the pulse of lust, the soundtrack of Pussyland.
Finally, a door without either a lit lamp or a cleaning attendant. I held back my breath and stepped forward into a stale darkness, sucked clean of oxygen and light, almost blind for a moment, listening to the roar of blood in my head and the tinkering of coins between my fingers. Caught sight of the glow seeping in beneath the shutter, a little low stool in the middle of the floor, a couple of crumpled Kleenexes and a solitary condom, heavy with a milky-white substance, kicked away into the corner - and there the slit for the coins, just like on a one-armed bandit. I threw in the first coin, with a slightly quivering hand. Jackpot, the shutter hoisted itself up, mechanically.
Ten inches from my nose, a cunt was hovering. A swarthy cunt with almost purple labia surrounded by jet-black, curly hair. Female hands with long red fingernails descended to part open the lips and reveal the pink meat: a tropical fruit sliced open like in some Bountyland ad. But this was Pussyland. This was real. And I stared, dumbfounded, at the unveiled sex, utterly incapable of removing my eyes. Until the rest of the body lazily pulled itself back and sank down onto its knees beneath a pair of big and heavy breasts.
A black woman, around thirty, stuck her face right up to the opening, in a rustle of Rastafarian braids, and with a fragrance of incense encompassing her. Blinking with false eyelashes, grinning with chalk-white teeth between full lips: "Hey baby, was this something for you - heh-heh-heh?!"
It was she from the street, now naked and without either the shiny handbag or the PVC go-go boots. It was all the girls from the street, amalgamated into one body and talking with the same voice - directly to me. And I could feel an acceptance; an understanding that I'd never experienced before. Could feel that there was no need to be ashamed, that she was doing this for my sake, and that we could help each other - mutually - tonight. Bills flew from the pocket up into her hands. Relaxed and squatting, she counted them, without removing her glance from my eyes for more than a few seconds at a time. I threw some extra coins into the slit to prevent the shutter from crashing down right away.
"That's right, honey - I know you need me", she mumbled from her stage, from where I vaguely heard voices and glimpsed the contours of other men's torsos in a half-circle around the parading girls.
"My name's Jackie", she whispered, a hint of cigarettes and raspberry chewing gum on her breath. Brushing my forehead with her fingertips, she sent an electric shock from the hair roots to the tip of the toes. "If you're good to me, I'll be good to you, OK?!" And of course, Jackie, that's alright- I'll do anything you want. But, can I say you are sweet and beautiful? May I say that I... love you?
More bills changed hands. "Uhm," she moaned from deep down in her chest. Laid the neck back, let the tongue play across her lips, massaged the tits and pressed them up against my face, until my nose got buried tenderly in a cleavage smelling of spicy sweat, talcum powder and perhaps a dash of Chanel no. 5. Now above me, she blinked again and smiled, got up from her kneeling position and turned her ass toward my face. "Lick me in my ass, white boy, lick my black ass!"
The red nails bored their way into the cheeks, as she drew them aside. My tongue tasted the small, furrowed wreath, which quivered slightly, tightening and relaxing by turns, sucking me closer to the fulcrum of darkness. We were both breathing violently and she turned around, moist and glistening. "Touch me, come inside me, right here", sounded the affectionate command. The crack opened up vertically, right there in between the brownskin thighs, were I gasped for air, fumbling around with one hand for more coins while managing to find myself, hard and throbbing, with the other. Now with the pants down around the ankles, flushed with fever, a crazy man in a confessional booth, believing that all sins were absolved with a petition to beauty: an offering to an unknown, heathen goddess from Africa.
"Come on, boy, come on," she egged me on, pumping with the groin. Until I couldn't dig up any more coins with dancing girls and merry notes from the pocket, until I came with a gasp and felt the cunt slide away from my face. The shutter sank down slowly and creakingly, leaving me alone in the dark with a taste of bittersweet secretions on my tongue. Heard her clearing her throat and laughing in a muffled way on the other side of the steel plate - heh-heh-heh.
With the mouth down near the crack of light, I called into her: "I'm sorry, I don't have any more coins, Jackie." She ticked out a Morse code signal with the nails: "That was really mean of you. I was just about to come, you bad boy!" Said in such a teasingly lenient way that it didn't hurt, that I wasn't ashamed at all, even though I had promised to be good to her.
"What's your name, darling?"
I told her, while I wiped myself off and buttoned up my pants and allowed the pulse to fall back to its normal rate. I came over here all the way from Europe just to see you, Jackie. I'll be in town for a few more weeks and I'm staying in a hotel close by. "Listen - if you're bored some day, you know, then give me a call," she said after pausing to collect her thoughts. "Maybe we can figure something out¼"
A slip of paper with a telephone number scribbled down was pressed in through the crack: "Take care of yourself, sugar!" Probably she was already drying herself between her legs with a rag or checking her makeup in the mirror, preoccupied and professionally, ready for the next man in the box. "This is one dangerous city for little white boys."
When I opened the door, the old, black cleaning assistant was standing outside with mop, bucket and Walkman, bopping to the rhythms on the tape. I was embarrassed - maybe he'd think that I'd made all that mess? Ready to meet the accusing gaze, certainly, and maybe even to get bawled out, I suddenly noticed that his eyes were dead, turned away from Pussyland's nude goddesses and in toward their own cavities, as milky white as the sperm in the condom on the floor.
The air was cooler, the asphalt had been rinsed clean and glossy when I finally exited Pussyland - after having nodded goodbye to the Buddha with the harelip, sitting inscrutably on his barstool while counting the take of the night.
A girl was lying up in a room, waiting ¼ No, if that were only the case; but she would not be lying sleepless or turning over under the blankets. Not at all. No, she would have fallen asleep a long time ago, safely assuming that I had only gone for a walk and would, like a good boy, come back home afterward. Sure of me and my love, of my tiring tender words.
New York had fallen asleep. Somebody had turned down the city's volume on a control panel in some CIA-bunker, from where everything was controlled by serious, unrelenting men wearing identical suits. No longer were the pillars of steam ascending from the sewer covers on 8th Avenue. The winos lay there curled up on newspapers in front of the facades, most of the Pam Griers had vanished from the sidewalks and even the traffic had thinned out around the bus terminal, so that you could plod across the street without looking around or waiting for the light to change. Inside the Korean deli, the young guy was sitting with his head on the counter, sleeping, as if someone had knocked him out cold. He had turned off the lamps over the buffet, though.
I suppose I could have turned around halfway. There were tons of possibilities for repenting: could have just turned left on Broadway, cut across Times Square, said hello to Marilyn and turned back to the hotel on 49th Street with a clear conscience. Without having looked over my shoulder even one single time at the black girls on 8th Avenue or the red neon sign in front of Pussyland. But then, I just kept walking, and that was it. Yes, I had just continued walking down a street that I would find again in many other cities, in the years that followed.
A street where words and money, caresses and secretions were exchanged out of necessity. A street where the language was the same no matter what continent you were on. A street where I knew the pathway through the night without ever having to look at a map. A street where love didn't cost anywhere near as much as in the life that I returned to later on - without anything in the pocket but telephone numbers which there was not even the faintest notion that I should ever really call ¼
The concierge slipped me the key to the room, with raised eyebrows and a grudging "goodnight, sir", as I - overheated and out of breath - leaned up against the counter, while the hotel's refrigeration system froze the perspiration to a film covering the skin. Wondered whether he could smell the perfume in the clothes, the juices on lips and hands, whether he was standing down there, imagining his own scenario as I rode on the elevator up through the sleepy yellowish light.
Louise was sleeping on her back with one thigh extended out over the blanket and the hands folded together at her breast, like in a silent prayer. Her breathing hummed through the half-open mouth, competing with the climate control's buzzing and the cheek was grazed by rays of neon light emanating from the hotel across the street. Marilyn had turned her attention toward other windows in between the skyscrapers, after having waited in vain for me for such a long time, but the coffee mug was still steaming between the legs of her jeans. Soon it would be daybreak.
Contemplated my mirror image in the bathroom's blue light; inhaled deeply, fingertips gathered around the nostrils. Washed myself thoroughly until the fragrance disappeared down the drain with a sigh from a thousand black girls with lazily spread legs in New York's summer night. Pissed, flushed the toilet, brushed my teeth. Hesitated a moment with the slip of paper with Jackie's number in my hand, then crumpled it up, at last, resolutely into a ball, and chucked it out the window. Down into the abyss¼
Louise turned over with a sigh. But luckily, she didn't awake, as I lay down ever so gingerly on the mattress. In a fraction of a second, I was just about to wake her up and confess about everything and tell her what kind of man I really was. But she looked almost like a baby with her body protected under the white sheet and the locks of light-colored hair pressed up against her brow. I just couldn't get myself to do it.
"I really love you", I whispered with the lips close to her ear - knowing full well that she was in no position to rebuke me. No, that wasn't going to happen. I was tired now and later on, in the early morning, we were going to go up and look at Andy Warhol's pictures at the Museum of Modern Art.
After all, it was our honeymoon.
translated by Dan A. Marmorstein & Henrik List