Cuerpo is a two-dog town and both of the curs have rabies. Edward Brady sits at the bar drinking tequila with sour beer chasers. La Pesadilla is the only tavern in town that will serve him. He is its only customer. The parrot in the rusty cage squawks something in Spanish and pulls a feather from its wing.
Fucking thing, Edward says.
¡Que te den! says the parrot.
Your mother, Edward says.
¡Chingate tu madre, cabrón! says the parrot.
You win – as usual, Edward says.
The hot wind from the dusty street stirs the bead curtains and in wafts the stick-thin body of Pepita.
Shit, Edward says.
You ain't wrong, says the parrot.
Edward knocks back the tequila, sucks down the beer, and is about to rise when he feels Pepita's bony hand on his shoulder. Edward closes his eyes, wipes his lips with the forearm of his Levi jacket.
Pepita's ghost fingers beckon him back to Alphabet City and the reason he's sitting in La Pesadilla. Avenues A, B, C and D. Acid, Bennies, Coke and Dope; assholes, bastards, cunts, and dickheads; hepatitis, hepatitis, hepatitis, and hepatitis. A long walk around the park, people huddling in graffitied doorways, jacking up in burned-out buildings. Pepita, like one of those big cats believed to prowl the cities, luxurious pets escaped from millionaire owners, lived in rumour and myth. Until, one night, late and not meaning to, he caught her squatting in the corner of an abandoned apartment block, pissing, the smell feral, acrid, moreish. Underneath her ragged dress, her skin – yellowish, cheetah-like, spotted with bruises – shivered and trembled. He held her hand, he stroked her matted hair, he fucked her until his cock, raw and stinking of shit, fell limp, dripped onto the calluses on her feet and the damp newspapers they'd used as a mattress. He took her home. What there was of it. What there was of her.
He smokes a cigarette while watching her in the filthy mirror. The parrot climbs its cage, hangs upside down from the roof bars. Nothing matters. You are either crazy or you're crazy. Maybe it's the sun. Maybe it's the flies. Maybe it's just the maybes.
Eduardo, she says.
Peppy, says Edward.
Now you come home?
No. In a while.
I have rice. Some beans.
Edward wants to cry, wants to put his head on the bar and cry and sleep and wake and cry some more.
Not yet, hon, huh?
I make money, she says and opens her hand and places 50 pesos on the bar. Edward can smell it – greasy, marinated with sweat and peppers, chocolate and semen.
And he sees her sitting across from him in a booth in the Horseshoe Bar, sipping a glass of red wine, her hair in pigtails, her fingernails painted black. She handed him a map. He got himself another beer and a cloth to wipe the table. He spread out the map and looked at its curious markings. He looked up at her, turned his head to one side, and said:
What's this, Peppy?
Our future, she said.
Where is it?
Home, Eduardo. It is home.
He stared at the map and asked her questions she would never answer.
That was a year ago.
You come now, she says. It isn't a question.
No, he says, you go. I won't be long.
She leaves. He takes the map from his back pocket. The markings are barely readable and the place where there was once an X, where there was once a heart, is nothing more than a hole.
About the author:
Steve Finbow lives in London, very close to King's Cross Station. Next year he will live in Tokyo, very close to Shinjuku Station. Is this a terminal addiction? You can find out here http://indifferentmultiplicities.blogspot.com/ and here http://theglasshombre.blogspot.com/.
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