the curator, the whore, and the tourist

There were six of us squeezed in a cab, back when you could get away with not wearing a seat belt. We were at university, cash-strapped, and immortal. My companions were all men, only two I knew from a political science class. We were on a mission.

We didn’t tell the cab driver our exact destination, but he suspected, and in his rearview mirror, he scowled at me. No decent girl goes to those places, he muttered. I avoided his gaze the rest of the ride. Before we approached the building, I pushed my hair under my cap and pulled on someone’s dirty flannel shirt that smelt of alcohol. Earlier, I shaded in a unibrow and a mustache. The group contemplated my appearance and shrugged.

Standing outside an apartment the colour of sewage water, we rang the doorbell hidden behind a postbox. It was five minutes before we heard rattling inside, the sound of someone unlocking a padlock and chain. The door opened and a man in his thirties popped his head out. Someone in our group held up both his hands to show six fingers. That was all the information exchanged. The man pushed open the door to let us in. Inside, the building crawled with shadows that swallowed everything.

We were led up a stairs to the second floor, which was a long and narrow hallway with doors on both sides. The man I nicknamed the curator, who wore glasses and dressed in a shirt and grey trousers, flung open every door we passed. The rooms were dimly lit and bare: there was only a bed and a naked girl in each one. I couldn’t make out faces, but the smell was overpowering– it was the sharp, pungent scent of cheap soap. It shot up my nostrils like cocaine.

We came to the last door and the curator opened this with a flourish. Lying on a bed was a young girl who uncoiled her long limbs and approached us. She flashed her teeth. The curator said something about her youth and virginity. I’m not sure what drew her gaze, but after running her eyes over the group, she settled on me. I felt her loathing. She knew: I overheard the boys talking about this place, and I had asked to tag along; I told them I wanted to see the city’s underbelly but that was pure shite. I got dumped recently and was feeling self-destructive. She saw through me. She knew I was a tourist.

The curator looked back at us, questioning, his experience told him that one of us would make the purchase. When no one said anything, he frowned and asked, what the fuck do you want? Someone said that they weren’t in the mood after all, maybe another time. This wasn’t the plan. We were supposed to each hire a girl, and I would interview mine.

The curator peered at my face. Is this a girl? Did you bring a girl here? Then to me, what are you? Reporter? Spy? Police? The girl inside the last room looked on with a cool smile that didn’t waver.

Someone grabbed my hand and said, let’s go. We turned around and walked quickly down the hallway and descended the stairs. The curator came after us, shouting, demanding to know why we came, and threatening to have us killed if we said anything. A voice tried to calm him, explained that we were neophytes and had lost our nerve. But why did you bring the girl? the curator kept bellowing. Someone said, she’s not a girl. But he didn’t sound very convincing. I was pulled forward again and I didn’t have time to take in anything else as we scurried for the door and then bolted down the street. We stopped running after ten minutes. The men turned to me and shook their heads. What the fuck were we thinking?

Someone hailed a cab and most of them got in. They told the driver to head for the nearest bar. I was abandoned on the street with the two boys I knew from class. They both started laughing, a nervous release. I tried to join in.

 

Photograph by rockthepixel

Originally published on Conceited Crusade

 

About listentothebabe

writing is the teeth that gnaw on my bones.

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