By Adam Gilbertson
The Rainbow Room on Sunset Blvd. is a three-story galleon of a bar, indefatigably sailing against the currents of time. This is my third time making the voyage to this unyielding lair of rock. I drift across Sunset; the ship rises from the murky depths of the present before me. Angel is the glacially sized bouncer and he recognizes me this time. “Yo, Scott, it’s all good,” he says, and ushers me past the line. I draw baneful eyes. My aesthetic normalcy makes me feel like I didn’t wear my suit to work—it’s all rock and roll leather here: everywhere I see jackets and pants and hair distending and shifting around me like some monstrous blob with a thousand faces.
I stop as I pass Angel. “Dany here tonight?” I say. I’m focused on my goal. I’m not one of those multi-taskers. When I get something in my head it’s all I think about, and Dany is in my head right now. She’s been in my head for a month. Damn. I should have found out if she was working tonight. Help me out, Angel; I need some luck. “Third floor,” says Angel, grinning.
I step inside and everything is alive—for an instant the blob becomes a plexus of electricity: around me are the integral currents of a brilliant organism. I don’t want to rush things. I sit at the first-floor bar and grab a shot of Jack from the bartender, Tania. Tania’s young for the crowd, maybe nineteen, and reminds me of Marilyn Monroe, “Comin’ right up, honey.” I smile at how pretty she is but it doesn’t linger long; I’m here for Dany. Tania slides over the Jack and I throw it back, slapping the empty glass on top of the cash. A strong pull from my gut; it was a deep shot glass. “Careful, babe,” says Tania playfully. “Come find me later,” I tell her. I don’t want to give all my attention to Dany. A pretty little bird flying up to the third floor later could attract the right kind of attention.
I amble upstairs. On the second floor I piss for about two hours, which is the third time I’ve done this in as many trips to the bar. Cargo is the bouncer guarding the stairs to the third floor. He’s a statue as I approach, but his name makes me think there’s something dangerous lingering behind his stillness. His black cowboy hat and sunglasses make it impossible to get a read on him. I detect, perhaps, a slight nod as I pass him, but then I think again.
When I reach the third floor I’m flooded with the presence of Dany, but I don’t look her way. I keep her on the edge of my vision, a point from which she doesn’t retreat. She stays there, playing with the threshold of form, casting her influence into my consciousness like some amorphous nymph. I’m motivated but not narrow-minded. Across from the boisterous bar is a staircase that leads up to a private room. I imagine all the wicked revelry that’s occurred within the diminutive zenith. I head toward it and spot Warden, the DJ of the steadfast galleon, leaning on the railing.
“Sco-taaay!” he calls as I approach. “How you feelin’?”
He introduces me to a man who calls himself Train; Train is a garrulous face on the blob. Our conversation leads to a question that seems to burst free from thick dungeon chains: “You guys got any lines?” I don’t like drugs much but I’m grateful for the question because it’s about time I acknowledge the nymph on my periphery anyway. Below the private room is a lowered dance floor, where the sweating bodies seem like they’re in a trance that can’t remember its genesis. A little cave of a DJ room is dug into the wall next to the dance floor; Warden and Train head toward it.
“You know what to do,” I say to Warden.
“Don’t know if I can,” he says, turning back. “Dance floor’s alive right now.” But he looks at me and knows it’s my style. “Fuck it.”
Warden and Train disappear inside the DJ booth. The ambiguous rock fades and Hendrix’s “Bold as Love” sprinkles upon the scene like a warm rain. Instead of dying the entranced dancers twist into each other and form a kind of serpentine congruity. An abstract expressionist portrait of the limbs of senescent dreamers. I lean against the bar on the opposite side of where Dany mixes a drink. I want her to come to me. She sees me and holds my eyes for a second longer than she would just another patron. Her finally perceived presence, ostracized no longer, unnerves me and I’m glad I have a moment to compose myself. Her hair is the color of dark embers and is done up in a back knot from which slick strands of hair swoop, like the peeled skin of some exotic fruit. Her black lace top is separated from her jeans by a belt of milky skin, on which I can see the roots of a vine tattoo that disappears under her shirt and surfaces at her neck, as if it had broken through some midnight canopy to find that the sun had burst into a ruby-colored haze. She’s in a trance of work; a bead of sweat adorns the top of her forehead like the jewel teardrop of a crown. Her sylvan-green eyes find me; the tunneled eye-lock is a seductive labyrinth of possibility.
She pours two shots and puts one in front of me. “Where’ve you been?” she says, and folds her arms on the bar, anchoring herself despite the empty glasses waiting for her in some trifling thirsty region. She leans close. Succulent cleavage suspended in air before me. Undulating feminine fragrances floating. Senses over-nourished. Words drowning in whirlpool… Mental shake.
“Oh you know, found another barmaid to bother somewhere.” She laughs and I raise my glass to that. Clink.
“Dany!” some asshole shouts from down the bar. He acts like he’s one of the more venerated faces of the blob. He’s bouncing a fake-titted blonde on his lap. She’s too young to have fake tits. Even as the asshole bounces her up and down the tits hardly budge. They’re unshakable and cling to her chest like a pair of steroidal pectoral muscles. She doesn’t seem to like being bounced like a little pet, but she’s a saturnine thing and doesn’t complain. The tits probably weren’t her idea.
Dany squeezes my hand before she leaves. Asshole orders one drink for himself and one for Titsy, but before Dany can come back to me he’s got his big mouth open again: “Why don’t you come over here,” he says to her.
“Yeah?” says Dany.
“Yeah,” he tells her. He promptly bites into Titsy’s lips like a dog biting into a rabbit carcass and with a terrible twist of his head turns to Dany: “Care to join us?” The crowd around the bar calls for her to join in and she listens. Stillness takes me. The rage I feel for Asshole burgeons like a freak accident in a laboratory. Dany looks at me hopelessly for a split second. She looks at me as if to say, “I’m sorry. I have no choice.” And while the three-way suck fest commences I escape into the crystal emptiness of my shot glass and the people around the bar cheer.
I like the confines of the DJ booth because it’s a sort of respite from the blob. Within its solace I heal myself. The stink of Dany’s ephemeral tryst with Asshole and Titsy dissipates. I refocus. Sharpen my wits.
Next to me Train has artfully produced five lines of cocaine on a CD cover. It’s a Motley Crue album and Nikki Sixx’s face is on the cover, pensively looking out from behind the lines of blow as if he’s peering beyond the bars of an ice cage. Train makes the bars disappear with a sequence of experienced nose-whisks. Go free, Nikki. Fly.
I have a little laugh with fate’s phantom presence—some ethereal manifestation, skulking over my shoulder—because just as I lick the last of my wounds and my mind gets right Tania and Dany, from separate points of origin, arrive and pop their heads over the plastic wall of the DJ booth.
“I was looking all over for you, honey,” says Tania.
“I was…so was I,” says Dany.
The aftermath of the tryst has warped Dany’s very presence. I can see it in her face: the morose influence of the incident which had evaporated from my conscience the moment before is still ripe in hers, saturating her breath like a gas her lungs cannot escape, feeding the fire of her shame. Tania, I believe, can sense it too, and, being such a playful bird, cannot help but toy with its heat, like the child who cannot help but throw the matchbook into the fire.
“Where are we going after work?” asks Tania, smiling.
“My house!” says Dany.
I decide not to mention the tryst at all; instead I will let it brew, along with my nonchalance and Tania’s nearly pugnacious jocularity, in the alembic which will produce the manifestation of my desire.
There are around fifteen people at Dany’s apartment on Las Palmas—a confluence of rock and roll atoms forming a rogue blob away from mother Rainbow. I stroll in with Warden and Tania. The din of guitars screams out of unseen speakers. Alice Cooper’s madly grinning head is planted on a bookshelf, its neck mutilated from decapitation and its eyes leaking tears of blood. Train is chopping up cocaine in the kitchen like he’s preparing gourmet appetizers. He brings out ten lines on a ceramic plate.
And beyond the immediate madness looms a half-open door glowing with warm light. Instinctively I understand the potential of the room beyond: Dany’s room. Inside her apartment, my consciousness takes a new sheen. I’m sure my eyes reflect my desire like mirrors; I’m sure they reflect the glow of a man possessed. I want to cut you from the blob, Dany. I want you to use me. I have become a soulless instrument—debased, charmless, shameless. I am a cold unthinking reptile with glowing eyes. When Dany appears in the orange light, in the half-open frame of the door, I have the feeling she was born in fire, her incarnadine hair the lingering mark. The blob parts for her as she walks to me and takes my hand.
“Want to do some?” she says, indicating the cocaine.
For you, Dany, I will. For you I will tread at the foot of a cocaine waterfall and breathe till my lungs congeal. For you I will inhale a winter’s worth of cocaine tornados. For you I will snort until I become a middle-aged whore—brittle-boned, shrivel-skinned, spinelessly arch-backed with red eyes unable to cry. For you, Dany.
Now there is a palm-sized cloud under my heart. It lifts me, makes me stand on my toes. But it’s a dangerous elevation: one has the feeling one might slip away, like an astronaut floating away from his ship with nothing to hold onto. I’m dancing with Dany. My fingers explore the ambiguous region between her hip and her ass. I twirl her about the blob. I am exquisitely aware that the faces here are flecks of coagulating blood, shed from a long-dead movement. It appears as though a storm of beer cans had passed through. The speakers are crackling electric elegies. White ambrosia is being passed around to the chosen ones. There is calculated pandemonium in the air and Dany’s lips are on my neck. She twists and her ass presses against my groin and with a black fingernail hooks my shirt and leads me to the orange glow.
When the warmth hits me I stop. I have the impression everything around me is becoming liquid. The blob is a limbless beast, taking its last breath. The rogue atoms dissolve into water as their conversations wash away. It’s affecting Dany too. Her hand drips from mine, liquefying. The words she speaks float around me in atomizing bubbles. Her face is becoming something like an aqua Picasso. She is becoming one with the cataclysm.
I back away, escaping the drowning blob, and find myself back in my apartment. There’s no sleep because my mind is not merely empty of Dany; it’s full of someone else—an exhumed vision cast into the ground a month before by the now-liquid nymph.
The house I pull up to looks the same as it did when I left the last time—it was the same furtive hour—yet I have the feeling something is off, as if the sun had risen in the wrong place. I look at the time and it’s too early to knock on her door. I’ve been up all night and there is a wan light in the air. But I’m here and my eyes have lost their fuliginous glow. This is where I must be. I am not a trudging anachronism. I am not a torch-bearer. I have no purpose of rousing revolution or renaissance. I am not another face.
She opens the door, donning a great turquoise robe, her hair spilling over it like chocolate rapids. Her face is pale with sleep and morning.
“Scott?” she says, flustered. And such a striking ruddiness conquers her cheeks it incites a mournful wail in my mind. My ice-hearted sojourn was just long enough. She is newly lost to me.
I get in my car and drive, the princely sun growing bolder in the sky.