Wednesday, October 8, 2008

the champagne room

On the next corner down the block I saw club Vermelho 27. A bicep heavy bouncer in a cheap black suit asked us for I.D. Based on the neighborhood, it made sense. He let us in, offering me VIP passes, even though I had said that we didn’t have anything on us. I was in conversation with Rahul when we crossed the worn barroom floor, stale from old liquor and cigarettes. A I heard 70’s music and a disco ball hung low from the ceiling. I thought I saw a dancer in the recesses of the back wall. I walked directly to the bar, where the barmaid was ringing up her last sale.

I asked for bottled water for Rahul as I surveyed the choices behind the bar. I was thirsty for some Scotch or brown liquor, yet hesitant since we had an early morning and a fully engaged day ahead. She asked me to wait until she finished the sale, but told me it was $5.50. “Hmmmm,” I countered with, “Entao quanto é uma cerveja?” “$9.50” she replied brusquely. “

Turning to tell Rahul that we should find another spot, I saw his gaping eyes and turned to look behind me. A woman with a emerald tank top and hot pants was pole dancing. Occasionally she would lift the bottom of her tank to reveal the lower third of her breasts. With her fingers she suggested stripping her shorts off. I had been so lost in my own thoughts, missing the Candomble ceremony, the conversation we were in, tomorrow’s workshop; I had not paid close attention to what this worn out bar was really peddling. Yuck, I hate strippers, porn, etc. “ok, let’s keep moving Rahul.”

Through the foyer to the entrance, I was extending my hand to return the passes to the bouncer when I realized that we were being followed. Looking over my shoulder I saw a pale woman with lifeless platinum dyed curls, a silver pants suit displaying too much midriff and belly for someone of her age and girth. Badgering the bouncer with raunchy cussing, she lit into him without respite. Cooling down a bit, I made out, “How could he let in low lifes like us? Men who don’t want to stay? Didn’t he realize that we affect the girl’s self esteem? She will have to rebuild their confidence….”

I was so confused with their dialogue that I missed the point. Then a woman started stroking my neck behind my right ear. I don’t know where she had come from. “Stay with me, and I will give you a great evening,” she whispered. I imagined that her brothers were linebackers or truckers based on her frame. The filmy sky blue negligee top buttoned at the neck, revealed her navel, the matching brassiere and too tight shorts. I started to address the Dona. I apologized for not staying but, it, the bar wasn’t what I, we had envisioned.

Her catterwall switched from him to me. The woman behind me reached again to stroke me, now on the shoulder. I began speaking to her. She quizzed me, “Voce é de onde? Fala espanhol?” “Sim, os Estados Unidos; mas habl-falo Portuguese tambem.” I tripped over my words interchanging Spanish and Portuguese. Unrelenting with her potty mouth, I now realized that Dona was a madam. We were affecting the stable. I recalled that there was a two men sitting at cocktail table and a couple had been standing across the bar from me. She needed Johns, business was dead.

I asked the front desk clerk why he had suggested a whore house for soft drinks? Dipping his head forward he blurted, “I didn’t mean that place, I meant the store next to the gas.” When we returned with a Heinekin and a 2 liter water, we found Nathan standing in the lobby harranguing the same desk clerk.

Nathan had not written down my instructions nor confirmed them with Hannah. He had remembered military base, but not Amaralina. He had assumed that the hotel was named Atlantico, due to its proximity to the ocean. He had spent two hours near the other military base eating hamburgers and drinking beer, reaming anyone he could engage in person or over his cell.

Augusto had helped him locate the hotel. Unfortunately this same desk clerk said that he had had no record of Nathan, Scott Barton or Hannah Morris. Describing Rahul and me, had not helped either. Without many options left, he took a chance and came to the Villa Mar to seek us out. Rahul walked him back to the Quik Shop for more beer while I went to the roof deck to watch the surf. I engaged Edilson, the staff cook just off duty who was chilling before he went home for the night.

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