The smell was strong, but they didn’t stand out, as the smell of hash was present throughout the room. I looked at the people gathered together at other tables. At least three separate tables were rolling splifs, relaxed like they were rolling a cigarette. It was strange to me this public comfort with smoking hash outside of Amsterdam. It was illegal but tolerated, meaning you could get busted but no one seemed to care. Marco and Endres didn’t care; they were high.
Endres slapped his hands on the table and pushed himself up from his chair. He stood immobile for a moment with his weight leaning forward, and his head hung heavily over his beer for a second like it was detached from the rest of him. I half expected his head to snap off his neck and roll onto the table. He slowly lifted it and stared at us for what seemed like a minute.
“I’m going to thank that guy.” He said. “I want to buy him a beer.”
He moved with large wide moon-steps, like he was on elephant tranquilizers, toward Josef and his friends. He placed his hand on the shoulder of Josef for support and leaned into say something to him. Marco and I looked at each other then chuckled in unison.
A few seconds later, Endres returned and sat down in his chair looking sullen.
Marco crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair as if bored. I felt a yawn coming, but it was interrupted when I felt another brush against my shoulder. I looked to see Josef who gave a halfhearted swift wave good-bye, and then he walked out the door behind his friends.
“Bye. Nice to meet you.” I said.
“Hmph. I guess he liked her more than me. I just wanted to thank him for the splif and he wouldn’t let me buy him a beer,” Endres said.
“We should be thanking her.” Marco nodded at me with his chin. “She’s the one who got it for us.”
Endres’ head dropped to the table with a loud clunk then bounced back up again. “I gotta go.” He stood up and nearly tumbled back, but caught his balance, and then with a sudden lurch he propelled himself toward the door. Stumbling he made it to the edge of the bar then he tripped up the two steps, fell to his knees, and then like a rubber band he snapped right back up, and out into the foyer, and out of view.
“Jesus.” Said Marco.
“A regular slingshot, that guy.” I said.
We sat in silence a moment each sipping our beer.
“This is a mellow night.” Marco broke the silence. He looked down at his watch. “It’s five in the morning. You wanna go home? Those tiny white beads didn’t do shit for keeping me awake.”
We walked into the ivory foyer. Even though it was five in the morning it was still crowded in the hallway-bar and music was still blaring and encouraging people to keep dancing.
A skinny bug-eyed kid jumped out of the bar at Marco and grabbed him by the arm.
“Shit muthufucker.” Marco yelled startled.
“Where are you going?”
“Home muthufucker, where do ya think?”
“Why?” He had a strained desperation in his voice and was gripping onto Marco. His red shirt was sticking to his thin body with sweat. He pulled at the collar and shook air into his shirt. “I need you to stay. I need your advice.”
“No. I’m tired.”
“I’ll buy you a beer. And a shot.”
“You need to buy her one too.” Marco pointed to me with his thumb.
The guy looked over at me then nodded in agreement. He dragged Marco by the arm into the bar with me following close behind. People were bouncing to jungle and shouting over each other for conversation. The guy leaned far over the bar shouted to the bartender then he turned back with a shot and a beer for both Marco and I. He didn’t buy anything for himself. He pulled Marco in to whisper in his ear, but he had to yell.
“Do you see that man over there?” He gestured over to a man in a long black trench coat, with slicked back oily black hair, and a narrow widows peak. His skin was pale and tight like it had been pulled back and tied behind his ears, stretching his lips into a thin line.
“You mean Dracula, there?” Asked Marco pulling his chin in.
“More like, Udo Kier.” I said.
“And the woman?” The guy said again gesturing with his head.
“Yeah, right the vampire and the hot junkie, right, what about ‘em?” Said Marco. His stance was now impatient.
I looked back at the couple to examine the woman. She was tall, emaciated, and as pale as the man except that her golden hair was down to her waist and was the healthiest looking part of her. Her eyes darted around the room as she fidgeted with her black mini dress that was painted on her body.
“That man and his wife want me to go home with them. They want me to have sex with them. Should I do it?”
“Really?” I asked still looking at her. “That’s interesting.”
The guy was shaking Marco.
“Listen.” Marco placed both his hands on the guy’s shoulders and looked into his eyes. “Talk to him for a bit, get them to buy you some drinks then tell them you’ll fuck them but only if they pay you. Once they take you home have sex with the wife then bail with their money.”
The guy looked at Marco with an intense gaze then with a jolting nod of his head he turned on his heels and pushed his way to the couple.
“Hey! Wait! Where you going?” Marco yelled at him. “That dumb muthufucker. I was joking. I wasn’t serious. I was kidding and now that fool is gonna go home with that couple. What a stupid muthufucker. People gotta understand when I’m not being serious. No way is he gonna be able to steal that guy’s money.” He shrugged. “His girlfriend is gonna to be really pissed when he doesn’t come home to the bed he belongs in. Shit. I’m hungry.” He said.
“Me too.” I said.
We stepped outside and stood on the sidewalk staring out at the fading night. The light pushed from the base of the rotating earth and cleaned the surface of the sky hiding the stars that never stopped shining. We followed that low mothering light into a non-stop mini mart.
My head felt fuzzy as I squinted my eyes at the Czech writing on the boxes of food on the shelves. The non-stop looked like a dirty quickie-mart with narrow aisles and harsh florescent light that gave everyone a sick doughy look.
“They have a bar here?” I asked Marco.
“Yeah, through that door.” He said pointing at a door next to the checkout counter. “Not all the non-stops are just bars. Tuna patties,” He said grabbing a can with the picture of a fish on the front.
I peeked into the doorway behind the checkout counter. The room was a muddy red-brown similar to the Mississippi river. The lighting came from small-shelled sconces hanging on the side of the walls. The people were quiet and slumped over their drinks very similar to the man I had seen in the train station. It was a last stop dive. I felt sad looking at the loneliness, but who was I to judge? What did I know of their loneliness. Maybe this place was the only place they didn’t feel lonely. There is always a bar like this. I wondered what they were like when they were children. I didn’t want to look at it any more.
Marco nudged my shoulder. “Ready?”
I turned away from the bar and walked back out into the early morning.
At the flat, Marco poured oil into a pan and fried up two patties spiced with pepper and a kind of taco mix. He served the soggy patties on a couple of plates with stale bread and poured us each a glass of soda water with a mix of fruit juice. We ate in silence. Marco pushed his plate away, and without a word he wandered into his room shutting the door behind him. I heaved a deep sigh as I picked our plates up to drop them into the sink then stumbled into Francisco’s abandoned room. I dropped face first onto the lumpy futon and fell asleep with my shoes on. As I sagged heavily into sleep, I thought of people swirling and drowning in the deep muddy waters of the Mississippi and for some strange reason I dreamt of marble chocolate ice cream. In those last minutes before succumbing to deep sleep I realized that dreams are just an amalgamation of things we’ve seen and things we want, and perhaps, secretly, somewhere in there, we get a message or two.