This is a fictional short story from a collection called “The Chapters Never Written”.
It’s time, for a story to be told, so may the words unfold, falling, in the right place.
I have been working in this place for (what seems to be) forever.
Night in, night out, here I am, inducing people into alcoholism, providing strong drinks and unyielding advice. This is what I do. I am preoccupied with nothing more than co-ordination of movements and unspoken communication. Perfect synchronicity between us. We, are the staff. We are the bar. We are what makes this place alive. We are what people expect a show of, every night. It is our duty to work our toughest, no matter how tired, worn out, fed up. The night always awaits.
Everyone else is swarming the streets wearing their best, expecting anything and everything. For them the night is young and promising.
We are the people who are on the other end of this transaction. As if a big tease, a master hoax that we are part of, a manipulating occupation, misleading people to drink more, to act out, to continue being addicted to us.
When we walk home from work no one is around in the streets, silence is as thick as the humid morning air. We, are the people living in the sidelines. We live during the odd hours. Our clocks are broken.
While all the other “normal” people are at work, we are sleeping. It seems like the world can function despite our absence. There is a whole race out there. Reading their newspapers, talking on their cell phones, booking appointments, filing paperwork, a whole network of people of which we are not part of. We sleep by day and work by night.
We go out when darkness has begun to veil the streets.
We all gear up, separately, each in our own house, in our own way, but all having the same purpose, the same end. We are the ones who toil in the obscure hours of darkness. We are the ones who bear the scars of forbearance and perseverance. We do our grocery shopping – on the brink of where night meets day. We carry out the final march home, when the sky begins to light up. We do our laundry at break of dawn. We drink our final cup of tea before bed, while the person in the flat next door is drinking coffee as they wake up for work. We co-exist, but in a parallel timeframe. A deviating life.
Every night seems to a greater extent surprising. There are no dull nights. We stand here all night, behind it all, and watch the show from backstage.
Sober. Alert. Witnessing everything. We induce, we seduce, we lure them into a well planned trap, we mislead them into intoxicating themselves more.
“Will it be a single or a double?”
Who dares say single, to a person they are trying to impress? They assume we are all they are not. They assume us to be detached and strong. They imagine all sorts of things and in awe and some fright, order drink after drink. With their devious temporary identity, they begin the elusive act from the moment they set foot. This entire nocturnal performance, this oblique veil of instincts and flaws, is a lucrative utopia, an imaginary fib, fed to the aspiring celebrities. The ones who feed off and hunger for acceptance.
All we have to do is remember their drinks. Make them feel special. This is why you go out in the first place. To get away from everything. You don’t want to see miserable faces nor confront your issues. You want to feel wanted, you want to believe the fabrication. You want to be the character in the movie. Or else you wouldn’t be here, would you?
This perpetual arrangement has turned me into a reticent standing figure. I look into you and I see through you. Eyes don’t lie and I can tell who you really are, how miserable you are and I wish I could leave all this behind and pat you on the back and say, take a walk on the wild side.. But there is no need to and no time for. This is not that type of exchange. My role is to arrange for the exact dosage and dexterous mixture relevant to the personality. I execute and therefore leave no room for personal opinion. But my intent is there, ever present. I want to heal people within the one minute of social exchange and the produce of the perfect potion. That is all you are entitled to. And that is all I am willing to do. That is all I have time for. My gestures have to be minute and well-calculated. I have to be fast and efficient, for I have to be coordinated and fit perfectly within the combined web of actions.
We are silent. We are patient. We are calm.
Yet erratically running around, swiveling in between ourselves, as the bar holds a personnel of 10 (minimum) and on rough nights 14 of us. It is a cylindrical bar that serves all ways. We are right in the middle of this, at a pit, feeding the yearning and awakening the fire.
The building, previously a cotton mill, entails the valor of a former factory and the height of such grand structure. A gracious composition of bricks, with tall ceilings and wide windows.
The pillars, coated in black paint, sustain the foundations of the entire building… The walls that are not covered in bricks, are dyed maroon red. The lighting is faint, dusky almost. All one can see is the flickering lights of the candles, slowly burning behind the orange-tinted glass. The music is loud and intoxicating. Shadow silhouettes are moving sedatively into a palpitating deep beat. I hear the bass thumping like the pulse of a human heart. I look around. People are taking drugs in the corner under the stairs. People are fucking in the bathrooms. People are drowning their sorrows inside their glass.
Every single night we witness the stretching augmentation of morally abusive beings, trying to exploit each other, trying to consume one another. Avenging their sins, deprived, greedy, manic.
Our tolerance has expanded into a whole different realm of leniency. Restraints no longer exist. We let man be the primitive inhuman human that he is.
I realize the room is full of unconstrained unsupervised animal wrath. Where is the all-seeing eye watching, assuring, that things won’t get out of hand?
The owner of this place is sat in the corner, enjoying a pint of draft Guinness, in pure stillness. His calm British face, his pale skin, his small beady eyes, uncaring of the circumference. Simply pleased and content. A grin even, as he drinks the thick black liquid off the 0,5 litter glass.
The manager is down at his office, at the private area of the club, in the subterranean cellar. The cellar is also an illegitimate, occasionally operative, private nightclub. A place which hosts private parties, nights of lost vagueness, where for a profit, the staff management would show tolerance on the whatever shenanigans. The Bed, they call it, and it is there where only one definite bar in a corner is present, on its own. One sole bartender, amidst chaos, within hell. Surrounded by darkness, engulfed in dampness, stricken by the distinct smell basements retain and feeling the chill all underground crypts enjoy. There are no chairs down here. Just mattresses. One next to the other, covered in silk and velvet pillows, divided by translucent, transparent, sheer curtains. An illusion of privacy. There is barely enough light to see passing silhouettes. The music is according to the theme of the party. Each night is a night of preference.
It is the perfect crime. Provided an imbursement, you can host your idea without any responsibility, shielded by the formality a club offers.
At times it is the Mediterranean. Nights, organized by wealthy Italian students wanting to lure beautiful women, getting them inebriated with wine, lulling their senses.
Some times it is the Latin spirit, collected and hand-picked from the entity of south America, listening to loud salsa, dancing bachata and samba. The people are loud and animated, killing themselves with straight tequila shots.
Most times it is private parties by executives of television channels, drunk comedians and former alcoholics, cracking jokes, refusing to leave, escorted by prostitutes, sat wasted on the beds, barely holding themselves up, women dancing on their lap having no control on their facial expressions.. People, out of control, falling with their backs onto tables, smashing glasses, unaware, unable to be in command of themselves.
Other times it is the bisexual, the metrosexual, the asexual, the homosexual, the impotents, the cocaine addicts, in need of shelter. In desperation for contact. All there, assembled in one dungeon of sin. In faint lighting where no one can see. Past poisoning themselves, into oblivion, they can let go and be the monster they really are. Kissing with lizard hungry tongues. Licking eachother purposely in public display. In pure satisfaction that they have found someone, anyone, to devour for the night.
And we, the staff, ought to be, and are, invisible. Passing through the crowd unnoticed. Collecting shattered glass undetectable. Unseen.
We learn how to move in the shadows. Weaving our way through. Like spiders. In a way I suppose this is why it is a requirement to wear black. We’re not supposed to even be there. We are the shadows.
When the night ends, our fingers are torn, our hands are tired, our legs weary, our clothes disgraced with bacteria. We have kept up the entire night. We have sustained the unseen. We have to repair all of it, as if nothing ever happened.
Our tattered weathered souls scrape the last muck off the floor. Tiny hands are holding big bags full of used wine bottles, striving, to carry them into the fire exit for collection.
Drained, empty, we collectively combine forces towards close.
When that time comes, no one, of them, wants to voluntarily leave. The bouncer has to force people out. While my hands are soaked into a sink full of ice and used lemons, I look up to see some guy being pushed around, not responsive to the bouncer’s pulls and tugs. In a blink of an eyelid, my eyes are punctured with an image, of a man being hit right in the face. His face in slow motion turning towards me, his eyes shut in pain, his nose breaking out in blood, his features forced into disarray. The bouncer, unrestrained, is pounding him angrily whilst yelling at him. The man is being pushed towards the exit and literally kicked out. Savagely beaten. I hear a distant sound breaking the silence of my thoughts. The sound is an angry voice of someone going overboard, clearly out of control. The voice becomes clear and over-rides the chatter… “Can you not hear me? Can YOU NOT HEAR ME??”
The bouncer is foaming with rage while relentlessly having a go the drunken clumsy figure. The man, unable to speak, looking widely with child-like eyes is unable to realize what is going on. The yelling and beating continues. The man is bleeding. His face seems familiar. The bouncer is unleashing all of his anger. All of the tension he has endured throughout this rough winter night. It is all out.
This man’s face… This man! I recognize him as he ordered a drink off me earlier tonight. I had difficulty communicating with him or even understanding what he was saying. It took great effort, both ways, to get through his stutter. He barely can speak. Words that come out are with great effort and take a while to be formed. I see him now in the street, down on the pavement, bleeding. The bouncer still kicking him and yelling. Still asking questions, that could not be answered.