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Dark Entries, A Serialized Account: $1000 Wedding

May 29, 2018 | by Emma Falk Dennis Illustrations by Julian Dennis (@jlznns)

“If we were in Nigeria, I would have beat her. I would have beat her and then brought her home to her mother and told her that I was the one who beat her daughter. And her mother would thank me because, in my country, that is what we call looking out for each other. Everyone in the community looks out for each other’s children in Nigeria. And girls who act with such disrespect, such stupidity, should and would be beaten.”

“Well thank god we’re not in Nigeria, Samuel! Jesus! So she was drunk! How many drunk girls in short skirts do you see out here every weekend? Would you beat them all?”

“I would. I would if this were Nigeria.”

The Mongo’s six-foot-three bouncer was surveying the weekend crowd — incredulous over the swaying of one particular teenage girl exiting on her heels, stumbling as she went.

Samuel was a stone-faced man who liked — when he was on the clock — to act as though he had no time for the “godless” ways of the club patrons, and then hit on pretty women that were not his wife as soon as he was no longer being paid by the hour.

“Pff. Shameful.”

“That’ll be three pounds, please.” I said to a thirty-something lady in a sleek red dress making her way up to the door, hoping she’d not heard too much of Samuel’s ode to the lash.

“Okay.” She winked. “Unless this big handsome man wants to let me in for free.” Evidently she hadn’t heard a thing.

I could see the smile spread across Sam’s face. It was amazing really, how quickly his disdain would retreat whenever the subject of his ridicule paid him any attention.

“What do you say there, Samuel? Are we charging her? Does her behavior meet your standards of conduct?”

He was blushing. “Ah, you are a beautiful woman. Thank you, thank you. Lovely. If it were up to me, you would go in for free. But this is Daniel’s club. So pay the lady. Ah, thank you though. Thank you. Beautiful woman.”

He was nothing if not a rule follower whilst on duty, especially when the boss was just on the other side of the door frame.

Things had been quite copacetic between Daniel and I since my triumphant first Mongo performance. Things, for me, were copacetic in general at the Mongo. In exchange for a few hours in the cold collecting punters’ pounds each weekend I was gifted with plenty to drink and wonderful people to party with, more live music than I could take in, and ample opportunities to perform. It was, unequivocally, a sweet deal. And Daniel, at the time, wasn’t doing much to sour it. For the moment, he mostly just provided enjoyable, albeit occasionally perplexing company for our shifts. I tried to make sense of his tales, and found myself consistently amused by his logic.

“I’ve been really stepping up the diet. You can see the difference right? Schoop!” He said as he brought his hand down out past his quite prominent belly. “Staying away from the sweets. Those Mars Bars will get ya. Doing the baby carrots instead.” Not only could I see no difference in his physique, but I suspected the reason for this was the Mars Bars I’d caught him scoffing on many occasions in the pub’s kitchen. I became well practiced in my responses to these exchanges. It was clear he believed in what he was saying and I didn’t want to be the one to burst his bubble.

“That’ll be three pounds, please.” The customer in front of me had most certainly been doing a fair bit of pre-pub drinking, and her partner — clutching her coat and purse at his side — seemed to be the caretaker for the evening.

“Let me just get my wallet,” he said while trying to pry his arm out of her clutches.

“Oh no no, I am not paying. I know Daniel. You might not know who I am, little girl, but he wouldn’t have me pay. She put her hand on my shoulder in an effort to push past. But of course she was no match for Samuel, who, without laying a finger, easily asserted himself enough to get her to back up.

Considering her great friend Daniel was standing in full view right besides me, I suspected her story a tad far-fetched.

“Well, that might be, but seeing as he’s obviously not here right now, I am in charge, and I don’t know you from Adam. Samuel, what’s the price for entrance?”

“It’s three pounds each, pay the lady.” There was something wholly exciting in the power of being able to cross my arms and exert my will, or at least the pub’s will as expressed through me, with nothing more than a nod of the chin towards Sam. It really did come in handy to have such an imposing figure standing besides me. Though, I was glad we were safely operating from inside the parameters of English society. And as such, I knew I could just about count on him to be imposing, without, well, actually beating anyone.

Eventually, the soused lady’s keeper wrestled his hands free and six pounds from his wallet, and in they went after one last parting question:

“Is Daniel here tonight? I’m looking for Daniel.” I could feel her words falling down at my feet as if she were spitting on my shoes. As if I were in every way beneath her.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure he’s around here somewhere,” I said as she waved me off and stepped inside.

“Sooo... who was that then, Daniel?”

“You know, Emma, I’ve no idea. Just some fuckin’ crazy woman, I really don’t know. Why did you tell her I was here?”

“Well, you are! And anyway, I don’t think it matters. She doesn’t appear to know what you look like!”

He seemed angry for a moment, though as Daniel’s face always presented outwardly with the same exact stoic expression, I never could tell. But in any case, he soon moved on. “Do you know, that reminds me, I’ve been flirting with this woman at the Groucho — this waitress.” He said this with such an air of conspiracy, as if he’d just uncovered the secret to everlasting life and was slyly letting me in on it. “She always offers me this sandwich that’s not actually on the menu, but she does it for me anyway. Every time. And she knows I’m going to ask for it. It’s like she has it ready for me.”

He paused and looked at me, as if searching for my response: my amazement at such a gesture from this nameless waitress. I must have looked blank, for he rolled his eyes a little and sighed in exasperation. When it wasn’t deciphering the words from his accent, it was deciphering the meaning from his stories.

He continued: “I mean, I’m fairly certain she’s in love with me. It’s a special singular kind of treatment. It’s a real sign. It’s the carrots. Shwoop!” The hand came down past the belly again.

It would have looked too obvious to glance over at Samuel for acknowledgement of this mad logic our boss was wielding. But I could feel him thinking the same thing as I, and I was sure we were sharing a silent internal chuckle.

“Well, well,” Sam said. “Spring love.”

It wasn’t long before our mystery lady of drink, with a new one in her hand, and her man friend, were back outside with cigarettes at the ready. It was then that I got a good look at her. Adorned rather than dressed in a gold lamé number — cut down to her belly button and sticking to her every curve. As if she’d simply gotten out of the shower and instead of dressing, poured a vat of honey over her head and called it good. She had some severe eyeliner cementing the three-foot long lashes sticking out from her face — a face that appeared not to move as she spoke. Perhaps it was surgery, perhaps she just wasn’t finding anything about this evening that merited a reaction. Staggering slightly to stay up on the spikes of her shoes, she looked like one of Degas dancers, bronzed in a state of undress. Held together by her adornments somewhere in the process of coming undone.

“I’ve still not found him. I need to see Daniel. Baby, hold my bag for me, and take my coat in case he comes out. I want him to see the dress.”

“Cigarettes on this side, please,” Samuel said sternly, pointing to his left. “Inside the barricade.”

He did have a way of making the patrons feel like cattle, rough in tone as he exhaustedly asked them to step inside the ropes. No doubt that’s how he viewed everyone who chose to spend their evening doing something as debased and lowly as imbibing. He himself never drank (whilst he was being paid).

“Yeah, yeah,” she said dismissively, staying exactly where she was. It was then, as she was swinging her hair around like a prize pony, that the lights of recognition snapped on inside her champagne-submerged eyes. Oh, oh my god, there you are! Where have you been? I’ve been looking for you!” She’d spotted him. I’d started to think she really didn’t know what he looked like, or perhaps his face had changed over the years as much as hers seemed likely to have done. But, the time had come. Whatever cloak of invisibility Daniel had managed to hide under up until now had slipped off.

“Daniel, hi!” She went in for a hug and then turned on her heels towards me. “We used to date.” It appeared to be a slice of extremely relevant information she needed to pass on to Samuel and me. Perhaps she was still trying to get her three pounds back. Around again to Daniel she spun. “Oh, it’s just so good to see you! You look hot. “

“It’s the carrots.” It had come up like an involuntary burp and as soon as I said it I was hoping neither of them had heard me. The woman just turned to look at me incredulously, before turning back to stare at Daniel and pause dramatically.

“I could kiss you.” She said, going in for the kill. Getting little more than his arm out pushing her away in return, she settled for another hug: limp on his end, zealous on hers.

“This is my fiancé, Matt. Say hello, Matt,” she urged as she held out her sizable engagement ring for us all to see. Matt seemed like an entirely appropriate name for the man with the coat and bag in his hands, watching his fiancé try to make out with another man. Drop a T and his given name would have provided an apt description for his position in the relationship. “We’re going to go in now. Find me in there. It is just so good to see you. ”

Samuel kept his mouth shut as our two guests went back inside.

“Do you know who she is now?” I pried.

“Yeah, I think so. Fucking crazy.” Probably just like the waitress at the Groucho will be, if ever she stops bringing you your special sandwich. “I do not want to get caught up with her in there. I feel sorry for that fiancé. What has he gotten himself into?” A flicker of enjoyment came into his eyes when he mentioned poor old Matt. I got the distinct impression that Daniel was enjoying this. He was the desired man — chosen ahead of another. The alpha. I wondered what kind of tryst he and this insistent woman had had. Had he been an alpha there? There was certainly something left over — a hook of some kind he’d buried in her, or perhaps just a scar from a hook.

I wondered if she’d left any hooks of her own. Perhaps one of them had lodged in his brain many years ago and hollowed out some of the sanity he’d had in there before. Who knows.

Enjoying the attention or not, it seemed Daniel was keen to avoid any further run in.“You know, I’m going to head round the back into the kitchen now. Hopefully she’s not waiting for me.”

“Godspeed!” Samuel and I looked at each other and laughed. Back to work: “Come on up. Three pounds, please!”

When the incoming crowd slowed and 2am rolled around, my shift was at an end and it was time to check my phone messages. I had felt the familiar buzz in my pocket sometime after midnight and I knew what the waiting missive was likely to contain:

“Want to come round mine later?”

I’d met him at a post-Mongo warehouse party in Manor House a few weeks before.

Yes. Yes, I did want to come over. “Yes, please. I’m just going to grab a drink at work, meet me here?”