I’m back in the apartment, my better judgement laid waste by the drink and the drugs. I unlock the safe behind Francis Bacon’s Screaming Pope and pull out an old fashioned paper address book. Wrenching the ancient Nokia from its charger I order a take-away. The voice at the other end of the line sounds French and is surprised and obviously pleased to receive my call. I list my requirements and the voice promises delivery within the hour. We negotiate a fee – $2,000 in used notes.
Now I’m shaking like a lunatic, part of me is already regretting my recklessness. Another part of me is already plotting and scheming, attempting to rationalise what I have just done. Still another part of me is licking its lips in anticipation. This is the part that I catch a lingering glimpse of as I parade in front of the bathroom mirror, holding in my stomach, fingertips rolling over the muscle, snarling at myself.
The minutes tick quickly by. I fill in the gaps by devouring four more massive, grandiose lines and rolling another spliff, which obviously has no effect but gives me something to do with my hands. I think about ghosts, as I often do at times like this, whether they exist or not, hoping they don’t. I’m not really comfortable with the idea of the ghost of my grandmother watching silently over my shoulder as I do what I’m about to do. As usual I decide they do not exist but I still have one or too lingering doubts.
The Nokia rings exactly 58 minutes after making my order. A voice tells me to go down to the street. I stuff an envelope full of dollars into my jacket pocket and almost skip down the stairs, like a little kid at Christmas, scarcely able to contain my excitement.
There is an anonymous white saloon parked outside the apartment block. The driver leans out of the window and motions me urgently towards him. As I emerge from the darkness I see the silhouettes of two people sitting in the rear, a male and a female. I lean into the car and deftly pass the money over to the man in such a casual manner that he doesn’t even notice the envelope full of notes that has fallen into his lap. He is sweating profusely as he asks for payment and I motion towards his crotch; he laughs without humour and then apologises before turning his head towards the girl on the back seat. She now belongs to you, is what the look on his face is telling me. He barks some unintelligible orders and the girl reluctantly opens the car door to be captured by my arms. I march her trembling body across to the apartment entrance without looking back or saying a word. There are no witnesses to the scene, and if even there were all they would see is a pair of drunken lovers rolling home after a night on the tiles, that’s what I tell myself. The whole exchange has taken less than a minute to complete. We awkwardly walk arm in arm slowly up the stairs, the elevator being far too public.
Before we reach the apartment I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of disappointment that leaves me dizzy and swooning. Even in the half-light of the stairs I can see that the girl is pretty – beautiful actually. A light blonde fringe hanging over a perfect complexion and the elegant point of a fragile nose. She smells pretty, too, hurriedly drenched in a perfume that is far too expensive for her. I hold one hand in my left, firmly but not too firmly. My other arm is around her waist where it absent-mindedly checks for any excess fat. It is not disappointed, the girl is lean, firm and toned like a prize racehorse.
We get to the door and the girl turns to face me. There are too many things wrong with the look that she fires at me. Firstly, she is scared, terrified actually. Her whole body is shaking uncontrollably, her teeth are chattering with fear. Secondly, despite the hurriedly applied make-up, she is far too young. On the phone I had asked for someone in the age range of 22-26, this one is definitely younger than twenty, possibly as young as seventeen. Already I’m feeling like killing myself.
I find it hard to conceal my disappointment as I take the girl’s jacket, (very cheap, pink, fake fur) revealing a body that would be well worth $2000 dollars of anybody’s money. She is wearing a tight grey sweater that emphasises her large natural looking breasts and impossibly slim waist. Ordinarily she would be perfect but now I simply see her as a problem. An enormous problem. I place her in a seat and offer her a drink. The girl shrugs at me nervously so I pour her a neat brandy which she proceeds to drink like cold tea. Immediately she begins to cough and splutter. I hand the girl my handkerchief and ask her name. “Sara,” she replies, when the coughing has subsided. Her accent is a cross pollination of Eastern European and broad Bronx.
Eastern European. It gets worse. The girl starts to sniff and I realise that she has a cold. I watch a thin stream of mucus hang from her left nostril and gesture towards the handkerchief. She looks at it blankly and then I point to her nose, which she clumsily wipes. Very bad. Very bad indeed. Then the girl suddenly stares deep into my eyes, like Bambi looking at his dying mother, “What are you going to do to me?,” she asks. A single tear trickles down her cheek.