The International Writers Magazine
: Caitlin on Cities

Sip the night away
Caitlin Metland

love cities, but only by night. The light makes it seem not quite real. It makes me think of bars. People dancing and laughing, flashing their teeth with their fake toothy smiles, their painted lips, their sculpted hair. It makes me think of the Quartier latin in Paris, Soho in London, Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid.

And each in turn make me think of rich Havana, or golden Rio. We want to escape from our lonely worlds into a room full of people, so close that in any other place we would feel our personal space was being invaded. A room where people brush past you and you feel the cold clamminess of their drinks slide over your shoulders, your back. You feel them push their bodies into a space which is really too small, you have to push yourself into the person in front of you, and they in front of them. The moist air from the heat of people’s bodies make you reach out for your beautiful swirling cocktails, so many colours, a Singapore Sling, a White Russian, a Green Dragon, an Angel’s Kiss.

The cold glass drips in your hands and as your swallow the liquid hits the back of your throat and provides you with brief respite from the heavy room, it glides down your throat sliding its way down, the ice cubes cool you if only for a little while. The music beats through the wooden floor, and vibrates up your heels and through your leg, it makes its way up to your head, so you will still be hearing the bass on your cold walk home.

You turn to survey your ‘amicos’ in this escape, your fellow sybarite searching for freedom. You search, hawk-eyed, through the throngs of people for your friends. You allow yourself to relax, just a little, and watch the people around you. You catch your breath; from the colours, the swirling, the subconscious beating of music, the moisture clinging to you, the energy of the people. And this time it is your turn to apologise, your time to push your way through the crowds. You place your hands gently on someone’s shoulder and ask in a theatrical whisper, excuse me. They smile and move forwards, you smile a soft apology. You weave your way in-between people, leaving slight gaps from where you have been, with the silk of your dress around your legs, brushing against your skin. People watch you, sometimes from a distance, sometimes from closer than you would let even your friends, they hope to catch your eye, you look ahead towards your friends, hoping not to catch theirs.

The colours of your drink blend together and you try very carefully not to spill a single drop of this magical liquid that aids and abets your freedom. You brush past other people, you don’t and probably will never know. You struggle to be gentle against them, taking small steps, trying to leave just a hint of a touch, just a suggestion of your carefully chosen perfume. You think this is what men like, a brush of silk, a hint of sweetness. It’s why you choose to wear your hair long, it feels like you are wearing silk across your shoulders. Except now it sticks slightly to your hot neck, so you flick it across your back to cool you off.You touch someone gently on their waist, trying to get past them, touching them where you would never dare if you were not here, crushed and crowded together. They move slowly whilst looking you up and down. You smile shyly, they take your hand and kiss it, you laugh gently and thank them but move on. You manoeuvre your way through busy people, all trying to get or give something. You, at last, get back and an arm is slung around your waist, proprietarily.

He takes a drink from your hand and you reach up and kiss his lips, which are still wet from the sip of drink he just had, he tastes blue. You close your eyes when you kiss him because you already know exactly what he will look like. He takes the drink from you hand, puts both yours and his down on the table next to your friends and slips both his arms round your waist, caressing the silk. He makes your waist feel tiny as he places his hands at the bottom curve of your spine. He wants to make sure you are his, after being so close to other people and you want to be enveloped by him again. You always want to be in physical contact, you don’t like being on your own. You break eye contact and look away just for a moment, he watches you watching. His eyes look into you as if looking for an answer, though you don’t know the question. You turn back and smile and open your mouth slightly to laugh.

You look up into his eyes and kiss him again, gently, teasingly while you move lazily to the music. Just your hips. Your arms are placed around his neck and your can smell his aftershave, you know he shaved twice today, as he always does.

The crowd slowly stops their chattering, like a mexican wave a hush gets passed from one person to the next. Their heads turn like meercats, buzzing with curiosity. Straining to see you stand on your toes, and see something, no not something, someone. Men turn round to stare, women take a step back. She has the kind of Latin beauty you wanted as a child, other people were going blonde you went brunette. Hair which falls, like heavy water. Her strong cheekbones giving her a forceful look, as if she knows what she wants, but also that she knows she will get it. You can see in her feline eyes. She prowls like a jaguar, each step carefully and intentionally placed. She turns to look at the crowd safe in the knowledge that everyone is looking a her. Your eyes linger unknowingly, at her looks, her poise, her stature, her presence. You feel unintentional jealous.

You feel the hands around you tighten, he stands up taller, he tautens his back. He looks for just a second too long. Before shaking his head and squeezing your closer. He wants your attention back from the crowd. You break your gaze and turn to look into his softer eyes, his smiling eyes. You think of him, how you watched him decide what to wear, sitting on your bed reading about how best to please him. You asked for his approval on what you were wearing, though he wouldn’t dare say anything negative. He knows how long you spend trying to decide what is right for the occasion. He watched you make sure everything matched and fitted together. He knows what you are wearing underneath your dress, how everything fits, how it does up, and how to undo it...

You move away slightly and pick up your drink, you break the intimacy of the moment because you are worried everyone is looking at you, you don’t want to make a scene. You now smell the drink no longer his perfume, it refreshes you from the oppressively sweet taste of him. You turn round to your friends who are laughing at something, he stands just behind you, with his hands still around your waist and takes a drink, he concentrates on his drink whilst you try to follow your friend’s conversation. The beat of the music takes it’s place again, it makes it difficult to talk, but you have known them all so long that you could probably guess what they were talking about. You catch the occasional word over the funky music, it makes you want to move and act as if you were on screen. The brass trumpets the loud drums demanding attention, the increasing tempo, the high and the low pitches, the huge leaps between the two. You laugh because the music makes you happy. You laugh because you are happy.

You reach for your glass, but realise it is empty. You are dragged back into the world of the club, look at the bar and decide to visit the toilets before facing the long walk to the bar. You feel slightly dizzy, from the heat and the music and the alcohol. You find a stall and stop to catch your breath. The click of heels comes in, the tap tap tap of stilettos. Even in the harsh sparse reality with clinical overhead lights she still has her feline grace, her impossible beauty. She answers the phone, ‘Yes, I can be there, as soon as you would like me to. What would you like? I would charge $50 just for the hour, or the evening for more.’ You are not sure whether to leave or not. You hear the heels move again.

Your mind stops, thinking. She, who was so much, is nothing but a high class whore. She trades on her looks, she trades her looks for money. She sells herself. You feel secure because you 'trade' yourself with the one person you love. You get what you want from just one. But then, you smiled to get what you wanted at the bar. You sold your looks, in one way or another. Don't we all?
© Cailtin Metland Nov 17th 2005

Caitlin is the associate editor of and is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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