Close like this
Jack pulled me down a dark alleyway, music still rolling through my body and pinging in my nerves. Music, or maybe it was the ie, or the erotic thoughts. All of the above. There was no sign for the place, just cage bars. Jack drew them across and we crawled through. Dim red glow. My heels landed with a clack on lacquered floorboards. The walls were stone. Just a few tables in the centre, perches on the walls. “You see?” he said, smiling. I saw the colourful parrots, cocking their heads, bouncing to an electric guitar. Was this place real? A leather-clad man led us to a table. I faced a hornbill; my lover faced a macaw. We ordered Sazeracs. I took the first sip too quickly and the absinth burned my throat. A parakeet landed on the table, which was ringed with a small seed trough. I put out my hand and it climbed on, tilting its head. Jack laughed. He looked like Withnail; black hair slicked back, a coat that winged out. The bird was a precious weight on my arm. Something uncoiled to my left and I stood quickly, the bird taking flight: a snake as fat as my thigh, its head a brown spade. “It’s okay,” my lover calmed me. “It’s contained.” The restraints were invisible, electric. He placed another ie on my tongue, and then his lips were on mine, aniseed sweet. I reached for his hand and felt the bones in it. The guitarist had a snake around his throat. “We should always be close like this,” I said, remembering the bird’s weight on my arm.
The Washington Irving Hotel
Alejandro and Cristina sat on the lower steps of a grand, curved staircase, like tastebuds at the tip of a tongue. Alejandro wore yellow trousers, like a nineteenth-century-dandy, but his were dirty and sliding down his waist. His other pair of trousers—brown corduroy—were drying over the banister. Pages of magazines were spread across the chipped marble floor where Alejandro’s hair fell. The cold stair was like a bruise under Cristina’s bottom, and she sucked in her breath when the blunt scissors here and there took too much.
“Maybe don’t wear your shoes until you are there,” she said.
“The walk will hurt. But your shoes—” The soles had separated from the tops, making mouths when he walked. “If you stand still when you get there, or keep your feet on the ground when sitting—”
“Turn your head.”
Alejandro did so and saw the old reception desk, shot through with emerald green, lit by a beam from a half-boarded window. If the Washington Irving was still open, he could be the bus boy, with a box cap and a gold badge, taking packages from soap-scented women in pencil skirts, receiving lipsticked smiles in that beam of light.
Cristina still had a centimetre of lipstick, which she saved for her shifts at the cave bar in Sacromonte, only one per week now that it was winter and the customers, mostly tourists, had dwindled.
“I think that’s it,” she said, twisting his head around to inspect her efforts.
Alejandro rose, and bounded up the staircase. He entered their room, at the back and out of sight of patrolling police, and leapt over camp bed and blankets to peer at himself in the geometric mirror. There Alejandro found the face of a skinny, hopeful child. He frowned, closed his eyes and opened them again. The boy was still there.
These stories first appeared in The Lifted Brow: Digital, Volume 15, Issue 2: The Running With Deer Edition.
Angela Meyer is the author of a collection of flash fiction, Captives (Inkerman & Blunt, 2014), and has published stories, articles and reviews widely, including in Best Australian Stories 2014. She is editor of the eerie anthology The Great Unknown. Catch her on Twitter: @LiteraryMinded.