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A Failed Endeavour

By EdS All Rights Reserved ©

Poetry / Drama

A Failed Endeavour

Jahir  walked  out  of  Centraal  Station  and  took  in  the  landscape  of  Amsterdam  that lay  busily  ahead.  The  grand  Dutch  architecture  stood  draped  in  a  sunlit  distance, covered  with  both  natural  and  artificial  lights,  framed  by billboards  with a  web  of  black  tramline  wires  that  crossed  and  stretched across  the  sky,  guiding  silent  vehicles  and  their  noisy  occupants  inside.  Bicycles  were  everywhere  and  Jahir smiled  when  he  noticed  a  four  storey  parking  structure,  exclusively  for  them, adjacent  to  the  train  station.

 It  was  turning  noon  and  the  early  heat  made  Jahir  grateful  for  storing  the  bulk  of  his  luggage  at  the  hotel  between  the  airport  and  the  city  centre  as  he  watched other  eager  tourists  walk  heavily  away  with  large  rucksacks.  He  took  out  a recently  acquired  pocket  map, which  he  thought  gave  Amsterdam  the  impression  of  an  amphitheatre,  the  seating  carved  by  the  canals  with  Centraal  Station  as  the  city’s  stage.  It included  small  pictures  of  the  most  popular  destinations in  a columned  index­‐  conjoined  arrows  pointing  to  their  respective  locations.  Jahir  was  not  interested  in  seeing  the  Van  Gough  museum,  however,  nor  did  the  flower  market  or  Anne  Frank’s  house  intrigue  him,  he  only  had  to  glance  at  the  map  to  see  where  it  was  he  was  heading,  and  with  a  deep  breath he  made  his  way  forward.

Jahir  crossed  the crowded  area in  front  of  the  station, past a number  of tram  stops,  being  careful  to  look  in  every  which way  direction  out  of  fear  of  being  hit  as they seemed  to appear  noiselessly  out  of  nowhere. After this short and dizzying walk  he was  in quieter  streets,  a  postcard  scene  of  placid canals with arched  bridges.  European  culture  waved  over him as  he  paused  to  examine  more  of  the  old  buildings, cafes and sharply  dressed  people  who  walked  along  the  dark waters that glared  brightly  underneath  a  pleasant  blue  sky; ‘Amsterdam’, Jahir said  to  himself, and  he grinned unashamedly  to  himself. He  was gratified  for  making  the arrangements,    to  be  in  this wonderful  place,  if  only  for  a  night,  and  for  a  moment  he let the  pleasantly surreal look  of  this  city  envelop  him.  But before long  the  weight  of  his  task  quickly  and uncontrollably  set  in beneath his  enjoyment ,  the  whimsy  became  transparent  as he began  worrying  about  what  lay  ahead.

 He  gazed  for  a  few  moments  across  the  canal  at the tall,  colourful buildings  that  appeared  to  lean  into  the  very water  they  rose  above. The  canal  reflected  them  back  like  a  constantly  changing  watercolour  painting.  These  buildings  were  all  joined  together  but  varied  in  size  and  colour  and  some  had  sharp  triangular  roofs  and  other  simply  flat,  they  each  were  different  parts  of  a  grand  design  with old  window  frames,  their  slender,  rectangular  shapes  matching  the random  appearance  of  the alluring  city.

 Along  the  roads  couples  walked  by  arm  in  arm,  enjoying  the  bright  day  they  had  been  given  and  a  few  stalls  were  littered  on  the  pavement  selling  foods,  flowers,    or  promoting  tourist  sights, handing  out  maps;  Jahir  watched  for  few  more  moments  more  before  deciding  on  a  route.  Making  a  sharp  left,  after  the  first  of  many  bridges  he  was  to  cross,  he  took  another  right  and  found  himself  trolling  through  a  thin  street  with  ground  floor  windows  on  either  side  doubling  as  doorways.

 In  the  first  window  he  saw  a  large, middle‐aged  black  woman  wearing  a  leopard  bra  and  panties,  she  was  sitting  with  a  bored  expression  on  her  face  and  hardly  registered  Jahir  as  he  walked  slowly  by.  The  second  was  skinny,  too  skinny,  and  had  obviously  undergone  radical  breast  enlargement  that  did  nothing  to  mask  her  mature  age.  This  carried  on  down  the  entire  road  –  stretch  marks,  missing  teeth,  fake  lips  and  drooping  stomachs.  Some  were  eager  to  get  Jahir  off  the  street  and  the  rest  seemed  depressingly  uninterested.  Afterwards  Jahir  was  confronted  with  yet  another  canal,  filled  with  barges  and  lined  with  coffee  shops  that  sported  names  such  as  The  Bulldog,  The  Grasshopper,  Tantra,  and  High  Times.

He  watched glazed-eyed  patrons  go  back and  forth, wide smiles  or  vacant  expressions  across  their  faces.  It  had  been barely  thirty  minutes  since  he  left  the  station  but Jahir was beginning  to  feel  intimidated  by  what  he  had  seen.  He noticed  a  bar,  something  relieving  and familiar,  and  he  made his  way  toward  it.  The  sunshine  and  happy  drinkers  made  it all  too  inviting  and  an  unexpected  pang  of  relief  rose  inside as  Jahir  saw  a  set  of  empty  benches looking  upon  a  brightly coloured  flower  stall  in  front  of  the placid,  dazzling water. Jahir  couldn’t  remember  the  last  time  he’d  drunk  in  the middle  of  the  day  and  felt  a  sense  of  satisfying  disobedience as  he  ordered  a  large  Heineken  from  the  grand  oak  bar inside.  He  marveled  at  the  quirky  props  scattered  around  the old  place;  a  deer  head  was  mounted  above  the  toilets  and ale mugs  from  various  eras  were proudly  shelved  on  the surrounding  walls.  The  pub  was  filled  with  vintage  pictures of  Amsterdam  and  old  beer  advertisements  while  jolly  music played  just  below  the  noise  level  of  cheerful  conversation.  He took  a  large  sip  of  his  beer  and  habitually  left  a  tip  for  the barman  before  heading  back  outside,  hoping  his  vacant benches  were  still  available.  His original bench was occupied, but  he  soon  spotted  a  wide  space  beside  the  entrance  of  the pub  next  to  two  handsome  men, clearly  in  their  mid twenties.  

One  had  dirty  red  hair  and  matching  stubble  and  sat  with an air  of  cool  familiarity  as  he  drank  his  beer  and  conversed with  his  slightly  shorter,  but  more  muscular,  blond  haired friend.  They  were  speaking  English  with  a  Dutch  accent  and Jahir  picked up  on  a  discussion  about  a  film  he  had  never seen.  Losing  interest,  his  gaze  fell  forward; he  silently watched  a  group  of people  walk across  the  canal  in fashionable  tailored  suits.  He  then  noticed  some tourists stumble  through  the  streets,  laughing  hysterically, while huddling together  as  they  too  marvelled  at  the  bright, fascinating  city  ahead  of  them. He lost  himself  again in  the peaceful  waters  of  the  canal that  reflected  the  tall rectangular buildings  behind  him. They  waved  and  glistened  together  in cartoonish  design, all  different  in  size  and  colour,  like  a carefully  placed  collage.  The  dreamlike  scenery  was overpowering  and  Jahir  uncontrollably  went  within  himself, letting  the  thoughts  of  past  and  present  flow  together like the colours on the canal as  the lubricating  effect  of  alcohol  settled in.  Halfway  through  his  beer,  though,  Jahir  broke  his  stare from  the  canal  and  looked  to  the  two  young  men.  He  waited for  a  pause  and nervously, yet decidedly, forced himself  into conversation.

‘How  you  guys  doing?’  Jahir  said  and  the  two  men  calmly turned  toward  him  and  smiled. ‘Hello’  the  red  haired  one said,  ‘Hi’  followed  his  companion,  ‘how  are  you?’

‘Not  bad,  just  taking  in  the  city,  it’s  my  first  time  here.’

‘You  couldn’t  have  picked  a  better  day’  said  the  red  head, ‘you’re  American?’

‘That’s  right,  from  Buffalo,  my  name’s  Jahir,  but  everyone   calls  me  Jay.’

‘Jahir,  that’s  not...an  American  name,  right?’  said  the  blonde  haired  man  as  he  extended  a  hand  to  Jahir.

‘Yeah,  Dad’s  Egyptian.  He  moved  over  to  the  states  to  lecture  physics.  He  met  my  Mum  through  work  in  his  first  month  living  there,’  said  Jahir  as  he  gladly  shook  hands,  surprised  at  his  early  openness.

‘My  name  is  Alex  and  this  is  Ross’, said  the  red  headed  one and  he  too  shook  Jahir’s  hand.

‘What  you  doing  in  Amsterdam?’ Jahir  felt  comfortable  in  the presence  of  Alex  and  Ross.  They  were  younger  and subsequently  their  opinion  of  him  was  of  no  importance  yet simultaneously  more  desirable.  They  were  tall,  slim  and extremely  pleasant  and  this  Jay  respected  in  contrast  to  his small  frame  and  clearly  alien  demeanour.  This  chemistry  of desired  and  anonymous  approval  gave  Jahir  the  unexpected   urge  to  divulge  deeper  into  just  what  it  was  he  was  hoping to  achieve  while  in  Amsterdam,  and  with  the  help  of  a  beer he  unabashedly  told  them.

‘Well,  my  older  brother  married  an  English  girl  and  the wedding  was  in  London.  I  decided  at  the  end  of  my  two weeks  there  to  book  a  later  flight  and  spend  a  whole  twenty four  hours  in  Amsterdam,  instead  of  the  three  hour  layover I was supposed  to  have,  airline  booked  me  a  hotel  and everything.  You  see’,  and  Jahir  paused  at  this  moment,  ‘well, I  haven’t  had  sex  in  over  a  year.  I  broke  up  with  my girlfriend  a  long  while  back  and  haven’t  really  got  back  on the  horse’,  he  then  gave  a  nervous  laugh  as  Alex  and  Ross listened  patiently,  ‘so,  well,  I’m  here  to  get  laid!’  Jahir  then gritted  his  teeth  and  nervously  waited  for  the  verdict  of  the two  strangers.

Alex  and  Ross  first  sat  calmly,  and  then  they  exchanged  a small  smile  toward each  other.  They  looked  up  at  Jahir  and laughed,  Alex  giving  Jahir  a  firm,  but  friendly,  pat  on  the arm  while  Ross  nodded  his  head  and  clapped  his  hands. Jahir  was  expecting  a  strange  look  and  awkward  silence  but these  minor  and comforting  acts  put  him at  ease  and  he  gave them  his  first,  albeit  short  and honest  laugh  of  the  day.  

‘You  see  anything  you  like?’  asked  Ross  as  he  looked  over  at  Jahir,  who  still  remained  rigid  in  his  seat  as  he  thought  about  this  question.

 ‘The  girls  I  saw  just  now  were  pretty  awful.’

‘Yeah,  better  to  wait  until  night’,  was  Ross’s  answer  and  he  leaned  back  into  his  seat  and  looked  across  the  canal.

‘Is  there  anywhere  good  to  go  during  the  day?  I  don’t  want to  think  about  it  too  much,  you  know?  Feel  like  I’ve  waited long  enough  and,  besides,  sex  is  no  big  deal  over  here, right?’    

‘Maybe  some  good  ones  around,  just  have  to  keep  looking.  Further  down  that  ways  is  quieter,  near  the  end  of  the  Red  Light  District,  fewer  tourists.  I’ve  seen  prettier  ones  there  before’  said  Alex. Jahir  squinted  his  eyes  and  straightened  his  back  as  he  looked  to  where  Alex  had  gestured,  gazing  intently,  as  though he  had  the  ability  to  see  far  away  and  through  buildings  and  spot  his  ideal  girl  in  the  distance.  He  then  looked  at  his  beer  that  was  nearing  its  finish  and  took  a  deep  breath.  For  a  moment  he  considered  asking  his  contemporary  companions  if  they  had  ever  crossed  the  window  and  do  what  he  came  to  do,  the  thought  was  quickly  dismissed,  however,  as  he  glanced  at  the  young  men  with  the  sun  on  their  faces,  enjoying  one  of  many  a  leisurely  day  in  what  he  presumed  to  be  their  home  town.  Jahir  went  back  to  drinking  his  beer,  sadly  feeling  he  already  knew  the  answer.  The  three  of  them  talked  and  drank  for  another  half  an  hour,  Jahir  telling  them  of  his  time  in  England  and  his  job  in  America  as  a  sporting  store  manager.  Alex  and  Ross  continued  to  act  as  pleasant  company  and  found  Jahir  friendly  in  return,  although  slightly  wound  up,  as  it  seemed  to  them  that  he  was  never  fully  at  ease.  They  told  him  they  were  postgraduate  students  in  finance  and  the  course  was  having  its  toll  now  dissertations were  approaching.  As  Ross  was  explaining  the  topic  of  his  thesis  a  drunk  British  tourist  ran  past  them,  thinking  a  café  owner  who  was  simply  trying  to  return  the  wallet  he  had  left  on  the  table  was  attacking  him.  They  all  laughed  as  the  shop  owner  grabbed  the  man,  calmed  him  down  and  explained  slowly  that  he  was  holding  his  wallet,  pulling  out  the  driving  license  and  pointing  at  the  name  and  picture.  The  British  man  laughed  embarrassingly  and  offered  the  owner  twenty  Euros  as  both  a  reward  and  apology,  which  he  declined.  The  café  worker  then  walked  away,  shaking  his  head,  and  the  drunk  stood  there  for  a  minute,  looking  slightly  confused,  and  then  simply  stumbled  off  in  the  direction  he’d  previously  been  running.  ‘That  kind  of  thing  happen  a  lot?’

‘Never  the  same  thing,  but  just  as  strange  things,  yes.’

 ‘I  guess  it’s  nice  to  cut  loose,  right?’

‘Of  course.’  When  Jahir’s  second  beer  was  done  there  came  a  moment  of  silent  agreement  between  all  three  that  often  happens  when  strangers  meet,  the  conversation  had  taken  its  natural  course. With  a  hearty  goodbye  Jahir  stood  up  and  made  his  way  in  the  direction  Alex  had  suggested,  none  of  them  feeling  it  necessary  to  shake  hands  again.  In  the  wide-­‐open air  of  day  Jahir  felt constantly  hesitant  about the  task  he  had  set  himself,  which distanced  him  from  all  of  Amsterdam’s  other  distractions.    Numerous  times  he  felt  like  stopping  at  one  of  the  many  coffee  shops  that  he  had  heard  and  read  so  much  about, they gave  off  pungent aromas  like  incense  double‐barrelled  with  the  unmistakable  reek  of  marijuana.  They  seemed  far  more  casual  and  bohemian  than  he  was  expecting, with  young  friendly  patrons  having  heart  to  heart  conversations  while  passing  the  joint  back  and  forward  and  sipping  espressos.  Some  places  were  darker  lit  and  had  black  leather  couches  and  played  club  music,  some  were  simply  a  small  room  with  a  counter  and  no  seats,  Jahir  watched  a  slender  man  in  a  leather  waistcoat  expertly  display  his  latest  products to  a  pair  of  eager  Canadian  girls,  the  variation  of  coffee  shops was almost  as  impressive  as  the  city’s  legal  ability  to  sell  weed.  However,  as  interested  as  he  was he  kept finding  some  excuse  not  to  enter;  it  would  be  too  crowded  or  the  music  too  loud,  he  was  too  hungry  or  there  weren’t  enough  places  to  sit  inconspicuously–  the  underlying  and  obvious fact  for  not  entering  was  that  getting  high  would  deter  him  from  the  sex  he  had  promised  himself.  He  hadn’t  smoked  weed  in  years  and  yet  the  thrill  was  annoyingly  denied  to  him due  to  his  aim  of  breaking  what  he  considered  a  much  bigger  taboo.

So  he  would  stand  at  the  end  of  these  foreign  streets  with only  an  illogical  guess  of  whether  to  turn  left  or  right,  and some  would  bring  him  to  more  roads  with  girls  caged  within glass,  sometimes  sitting  or  standing  with  their  hands  pressed against  the  glass,  other  roads  led  him  out  the  red  light district  completely  and  into  larger  shopping  areas  with  big name  brands  he  actually  recognised as  well  as  fancy restaurants  and  Jahir  would  have  to  double  back  feeling   tired  and  deflated.  None  of  the  girls  he  saw  seemed  pretty enough  and  any  that  came  close  were  assigned excuses  much like  he  did for  the  coffee  shops,  only  in  these  instances  the reality of  anonymous  sex  was  a  much  clearer  factor.  He thought  the  experience  would  make  him  feel  more  like  some kind  of  royalty,  or  a  high  roller  in  a  casino,  but  it  almost seemed  like  choosing  a  wife,  a  commitment  that  had  to  be carried  out  and would  affect  his  life  forever  after.  Strangely, though,  this  fearful  hesitance,  long  walking  and  frustrating specificities  he  attached  to  all  the  girls  didn’t  push  Jahir  to give  up,  in  fact  it  spurred  him  on.  The  Red  Light  District advertised  sex  almost  everywhere,  aggressively  reminding  all who  walked  through  it  that  pleasure  is  readily available;  sex was  in  the  posters  for  live  shows,  ‘girl  on  girl’,  ‘guy  on  guy’, ‘three  guys  and  two  girls’,  sex  shops  selling  hardcore bondage material  on  almost  every  corner,  frightening  leather  masks shining  in  front of  neon  lights,  even  the  convenience  shops had  plastic  key  chains  shaped  like  genitals  and  postcards with  groups  of  beautiful  naked  women  gesturing  ‘shhh’  on the  front. 

For  Jahir this  one-­day sexual  buffet  was  even  more exhilarating  than  all  the  anxious days he  had  spent considering  this  trip,  gleefully  changing  his  ticket  online  and psyching  himself  up  for  what  he  considered  to  be  some much  deserved  fun  after  a  year  of  sheer  loneliness.  He wasn’t  sure  what  to  expect  and  the  vibrant  sleaziness  of these  strange  and  narrow  streets  were  an  added  thrill  to  his childlike  giddiness,  similar  to  his  teenage  days  when  sex  was a  foreign  experience  due  to  arrive  at  some  unexpected  time. For  each  window,  shop, and  show  he  passed,  and  sometimes examined,  was  a  brick  in  the  grander  wall of  his  urge, blocking  him  from  the  possibility  of  giving  up  and  protecting him  from  the  failure  of  his  endeavour.

He  was  getting  tired  though,  that  was  certain,  he  had  been wandering  for  almost  an  hour  after  leaving  Alex  and  Ross and  was  beginning  to  recognize  streets  like  Zeedjik  that  led onto  Nieumarket  and  the  bigger  coffee  shops,  ‘The  Bulldog’ and  the  smaller,  ‘Jungle’.  This  new  ability  to  gather  bearings added  much  to  his  frustration  and  he  considered  retracing his  steps  to  one  girl  he  was  partial  to earlier, wearing  a  thin yellow  shirt  and  a  g‐string,  straw  blonde  hair  and  crows  feet under  her  eyes.  From  what  he  could  remember  it  was  across the  entire  district  near  Madame  Tussaud’s,  where  he  had seen  a  group  of  teenagers  with  matching  dreadlocks  arguing over  who  had  the  best  weed,  ‘if  it’s  not  cheese  bro  it’s  not shit’  the  shortest  one  said  as  they  glided  by.  Jahir’s  feet were hurting  and  he  needed  another  rest,  he  slipped  into  a  quite café  with  a  pretty  waitress  that  he  had  walked  by  two  times already.  He  ordered  a  bottle  of  beer  and  sat  quietly  at  the back  listening  to  the  soft  clatter  of  acoustic  guitar  strings and  singing: I’ve  got  to  go  away,  away,  away... Jahir  sipped his  beer  with  no  desire  to  talk  to  anyone  this  time;  instead he  watched  a  happy  couple  converse  across  the  little  cafe, leaning  in  close  with  elbows  on  the  round  tables,  a  single tulip  between  them.  He  stole  glances  at  the  waitress  who like an  opposing  magnet  seemed  to  look  anywhere  but  his  eyes. He  wondered  what  his  brother  was  doing,  somewhere  on  a far  away  beach  in  St.  Lucia,  he  saw  him  and  his  fiancé sharing  their  first  dance  in  that  grandly  lit  hall  in  north London  and  he  could  see  the  proud  look  on  his  parents' faces.  He  counted  the  months  it  had  been  since  he  spoke  to Laura  and  wondered  where  she  was  and  constructed  an entire  conversation  between  them. She  had  been  hurt  by some  guy  and  Jahir  was  supportive  and  calm  and  his emotional  stability  made  him  all  the  more  appealing  until finally  she  admitted  her  mistake  and  they  embraced;  these imaginings had  become  annoyingly  frequent  after  so  much time apart.

With  dull  determination  Jahir was  walking  again  through partly  cobbled  streets, past  now  familiar  sights  of  red  velvet curtains  covering  red‐lit  windows,  signalling  either occupation or  absence  of  a  girl  on  the  other  side.  Nearing  an area he had  had  in  mind  Jahir  noticed  a  street  to  the  right, extremely  narrow,  even  compared  to  some  of  the  thinnest  he had  already  explored.  It  was  not  surprising  he  had  missed it given  the  angle  he  spotted  it  now,  the  same  as  the  last  time he  tried  this  route,  it  was  a  slender  entrance  between  two darkish  brown  buildings.  Jahir  walked  down  it  without thinking  and  noticed  a  single  red  glow  at  the  far  end adjacent  to  a  busy  road  with  high  end  shops.  He instinctively followed  the  glare  but  near  it  were  a  group  of  Chinese tourists. Awkwardly  Jahir  paused  just  a  meter away from the window to see what was  on the other  side of the glass.

There  stood  a  statue  of  a  woman  in  black  latex  that  was only  a  shade  lighter  than  her  long,  thick  hair.  She  stood swaying  and  caressing  her  body  to  imagined  music,  looking neither  at  Jahir  or  anything  else,  it  was  as  though  she  was staring  into  sheer  blankness.  Jahir  stood  frozen  in  this bizarre  mating  ritual. The  moment  became  all  consuming  and terrifying  because  Jahir  knew  that  this  pale  and  proud creature  with  lips  brighter  and  redder  than  the  neon  lights around  him  was  the  woman  he  had  spent  the  day  looking for, perhaps his entire life.  He  stood  isolated  in  the  anorexic street  that  led  onto  the  bulkier,  pedestrian crammed  high street,  panicking  about  how  to enter  this  intimidating chamber without  being  noticed.  The  Chinese  tourists  were still hanging  around  taking  pictures  along  with  a  number  of other passing  crowds  that  would  undoubtedly  see  the  leap  of faith he  was  about  to  make,  but  that’s  how  he  came  to consider it, a  leap  that  they  would  observe  before  he disappeared  into the comical  sexual  anonymity  Amsterdam provided.  Moments turned  to  minutes  before  Jahir  walked forward  and  grabbed the  handle  of  the  glass  door,  he  did  it the  way  a  child  might close  their  eyes  and  pinch  their  nose before  taking  a mouthful  of  medicine,  and  before  he  knew  it he  was standing inside  and  in  front  of  the  latex  woman  who quickly  stopped her  swaying  and  closed  the  curtains  around him.

‘Hello’  she  said  in  a  thick  and  husky  voice.

‘Hey’  Jahir  said,  avoiding  eye  contact.

‘I  am  Veronica,  where  are  you  from?’

‘America.’

‘I  am  from  Romania,’  Jahir  took  a  look  around  the  room, which  was  far  more  spacious  than  he  had  thought.  The  walls and  ceiling  were  covered  in  mirrors  and  the  shelves  around the  velvet  covered  bed  contained  sex  toys  of  a  wide variety. ‘A  lot  of  toys’  Jahir  joked.

‘You  like?  I  can  put  them  up  your  ass  if  that’s  what  you like’,  she  said  with  accepting  eyes  and  Jahir  was  taken  back by  this  easy  response.

‘Er,  no,  I  mean,  I’m  not  into  anything  like  that’,  and  he  gave  a  hollow  chuckle.

‘Oh,  ok,  well,  it’s  fifty  euro,  suck  and  fuck,  ok?’  Jahir  pulled out  his  wallet  quickly and  fumbled  through  its  pockets to produce  three  twenty  euro  notes.

‘Hmm,  I  hope  I  have  change;  everyone is  paying  in twenties today...ha!  Here  we  go.’  Veronica  then  extended  a  ten  while simultaneously  leaning  down  and  putting  Jahir’s  money  into a  draw  by  the  bed.  ‘Ok,  the  basin  is  there,  please  wash yourself,  especially  armpits,  and  get  on  the  bed,’  she  then looked  up  to  see  Jahir  nervously  looking  either  side  of  the room,  ‘unless  you  just  want  to  talk,  we  can  do  that  to.’

‘No,  um,  sorry,  no  problem,’  Jahir  shuffled  over  to  the  basin in  the  corner  of  the  room  and  bashfully  undressed,  using  the paper  towel  dispenser  and  soap  provided  to  scrub  his hunched  body.  He  looked  at  himself  in  the  mirror,  at  first contemplating  how  much  weight  he  had  gained  during  the last  few  festive  weeks  before  catching  Veronica  behind  him, unfastening  the  bottom  section  of  her  latex  and  revealing her creamy  thighs ‐  her  perfectly  rounded  breast  still covered with  the  top  half  of  her  costume.  His  first  sense  of  arousal started  to  take  over;  it  was  a  strange  excitement,  detached from  him,  signaling  a  task  both  simple  and  unknown.  ‘OK, lie  down’  Veronica  said  from  across  the  room  in  a nonchalance  tone he  knew  mainly  from  plumbers  and electricians.  Jahir  diligently  obeyed  and  lay  rigid  on  the  bed with  his  palms  either  side. Veronica  crawled  over  him  and conjured  a  condom  out  of  thin  air,  which  she  expertly unwrapped.  She  slid  the  warm  rubber  down  and  before going to  work  glanced  at  Jahir,  who  had  his  chin  down  to  his chest  withan  expression  of  worried  excitement  and  intrigue. She stiffened  her  eyebrows  confusedly  and  said,  ‘relax'.    

The  sensation  was  warm  but  coldly  familiar  and  Jahir  let out a  constrained  gasp,  being  oddly  mindful of  a  reality,  which before  had  only  been  sheer  contemplation.  His  hands grasped the  velvet  sheets  of  the  bed  and  at  first  he  had  no  choice but  to  lookup  at  the  engrossing ceiling  mirror  above,  he  saw his  body  both  familiar  and  alien,  a  wilderness  of  thick,  dark hair, a  strange, rubber  body  with  snowy  white  legs  spread across  the  rest  of  the  mattress.  He  had  never  seen  his  face during  any  sexual  act  and  the  vulnerable expression  he  was exhibiting  forced  him  to  look  back  down to  his  bare torso and the  act  that  was  being  performed  on  him.

As  though  a  set  timer  had  run  out  Veronica  stopped  and pushed  her  hair  behind  her  back  as  she  got  on  her  knees and  mounted  Jahir. He let  out  a  deep  sigh  and  watched  her move  forward  and  backward.  This  went  on  for  few  minutes, of  which  Jahir  remained  unmoving  and  merely  observant, scared  that  he  might  disrupt  some  procedure  he  had  not been  given  proper  orientation  to  beforehand.

‘OK,  you  want on  top  of  me?’  He  felt  a  degree  of  control  for the  first  time  in  the  whole  experience. He  started  to aband on thought  and  instead  surrender  to  primal  sensation. He looked up  to  the  thin,  horizontal  mirror  that  lined  the wall behind the  head  of  the  bed  saw  himself  and  Veronica. He saw  sex and then  felt  it  truly, feeling surrounded and  open he melted. All  physical  existence went away and was  dragged drudgingly back  to  the  strange  velvet  room,  the  reek  of cheap  perfume and Veronica’s  voice  saying,  ‘good  boy.’

Jahir  rose  from  the  bed  bewildered  like an awoken coma patient.  He  mindlessly  dressed  feeling light  accomplishment, as  though  he’d  finished  moving  a  friend’s  furniture.  It  took him  some  incomprehensible  amount  of time  before  he  fully surfaced  to  the  reality  of  his  situation.

 ‘Oohh  baby,  you’ve  got  a  good  dick.’

‘Err,  thanks.’

‘Just  let  me  know  if  you  want  to  go  again,  baby.’  Jahir  was puzzled  at  this  offer  and  soon  realized  that  this  odd exchange  of  words  was just a for more money.  He  finished dressing  silently  and  gave  a  grunt  of  a  goodbye  before pushing  the  curtain  and  stepping  out  onto  the  bright  street, so  glaring  after  his  short  time  in  the  velvety  dark  room,  and closed  the  door  to  the  sound  of  Veronica’s  loud  instruction to do  exactly  that.

Crowds  surrounding  him,  shopping,  laughing  crowds,  who pushed  past  him  as  though  he  didn’t  exist,  carrying  on  as though  the  last  fifteen  minutes  hadn’t  even  happened. It  was done.  The  city  seemed  less  fantastical,  less  alluring,  it seemed like  a  buzzing  and  vibrant  city  he  just  happened  to  be standing  in  and  without direction  he  wondered  on.    


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