Author and date unknown. Fragment attributed
to "F. Lengel", a Trocchi pseudonym.

Can I have a room, I say, and the old man looks at Cathy through his heavy industrial glasses, says, for you and the missus? Yes, I say. One night? he says. That'll be twenty pounds. He doesn't for one second believe we're married, Cathy looks so young, a child with lipstick and her mother's coat on, a runaway. Dope has wasted her away... or maybe it's the look, the fashion, erotic stick woman, a symbol on the doorway to death. I sign the register as A. Nails. He hands me the key, leads us to the elevator cage. Now I realize the other old geezer sitting beside the stairs is a dummy, a sort of novelty decoration for the hotel. The dummy has a cap, blazer, slacks, a familiar cadaverous face, a pope in his catacomb.... and as we ride to the third floor I realize the dummy is just like the night clerk, the old man in the cage with us.

Cathy shivers, leans against me, her dark hair sweet in my face. Watch yer step, says the old man as he pulls back the accordion door, and we emerge onto the dim landing. Lav's just down the hall, he says, dragging the door shut. The motor hums, the cables groan as the cage descends, disappears, leaving us alone in the damp corroding maze of this empty hotel.

You see the look on the man's face, Alex, says Cathy. What man, I say. The man who was watching us, says Cathy. In the lobby, you mean? I say. Yes, says Cathy, I know him... but can't remember who he is. Don't get Freudian on me, I say. Just an old cunt, forget him. He was watching us, says Cathy. Forget him, I say. He's not real. Not real, says Cathy. A dummy, I say. Like a ventriloquist thing? says Cathy. I don't believe it. Believe it, woman, I say. This town is full of dummies.

We get lost immediately, go into the wrong wing. The lighting is terrible, staircases everywhere. Even so, we can see the shabby lime-green paint on the walls, and the blue carpet runner which has also seen better days, better nights. We find our way back to the elevator, try another corridor. When we find our room, it's not so bad, if a bit cold.

No view, I say, unless you consider a stone wall a view. At least there's a window, says Cathy. Our window looks at their window, I say. Whose window? says Cathy. The other wing, I say. Actually there are several windows. What's below? says Cathy. An invisible yard, I say.

I switch on the electric fire. She's looking at the bed, barely big enough for one.

I hate Glasgow, she says. Be glad to leave.
Me too, I say. Fag?
Not just yet, she says. Would you look at these magazines... ten years old.
Didn't say it was the Ritz, I say.

There's a rumble, the underground train coming or going. Oddly, I can smell the stale solvents and arc burn as if there's a ventilator shaft from the tunnel into this high room.

Feeling better, Cath, I say.

She's holding her hands close to the red glowing bars of the electric fire, spreading her fingers experimentally.

I think so, she says.

We decide to have a shag, don't know why, haven't felt like it in weeks. Last time was in the portico of a church, where we took shelter from the rain. We did it on the wooden bench that was recessed into the wall, fully clothed, like starving animals. We didn't have time to finish because a priest or a sexton or someone walked past, perhaps investigating our love pain. He was dead silent and nearly invisible in the darkness. Maybe it was part of a regular patrol, a circle of the consecrated grounds, who knows... we stole out into the graveyard, finished up against the stone wall of a tomb.

It's the only way to get warm.

The chair creaks as she grinds against me in the slow pleasure of what we are. Shadows on the wall. In the saddle, riding through the heather... below a bridge, digging our heels into the bank... against a high fence, climbing slowly... shadows... climbing....

Sometimes we're in the first person plural, unified like plasma. We love, we dream. We leave the hotel, we take a taxi to the Kingston Dock, the freighter is waiting, departure on the midnight tide. A heavy frost covers the ground under the brilliant moon and stars, our map in this world and the next. We hesitate on the gangway, intimidated by the frost which covers the ship like powder.

I stick, I stick thee. I stick thee in the lst, symmetrically. Penetration is the greatest symmetry there is, the geometry of reconstructive surgery. Stick man, stick woman, fitting together, symmetrically. My hands buzz on her nylons. I grip her garter belt, draw myself deeper. I am watching myself in the 3rd. He is swollen, she is swollen. Like the moon, swollen.

He rolls long like mercury down her electric legs.

In the next wing, through a window one floor closer to heaven, the dummy sits watching.

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© Lawrence Russell

Culture Court 2000