Chapter - 5
Jim parked his car a couple blocks from the nightclub where he worked. He walked the darkening residential streets. Hitting the main drag was like emerging from dark tangle of jungle into a blinding shoreline. The flickering sheen of the neon lights reflected sickly off his skin. The lights drove away the darkness and with it the stars. He descended the stone, semi-damp basement steps and opened the club door. The club’s décor was Hindu Religious symbolism mixed with Tribal iconography. Jim referred to it as“religion in a blender.” There was nobody in the main hallway. He pushed back a tapestry to reveal a hidden closet door which held the broom for him to sweep the steps. Jim walked out the door and back into the night. He swept the stairs quietly and quickly. He swept away the fatigue of his body. He swept away the anger at this being the best employment he could find and it wasn’t enough. The past due bills hung heavy on his conscience. It was a slow burn. Falling ever further behind. It wasn’t a question of if the bottom would drop out, but when. Everything untended eventually failed. Jim thought of his house. The were several repairs past due. Leaks that began as a small dot of stain on the ceiling became larger with each passing week. He thought of his old furnace and water heater. Either one of those going out would finish him. Jim thought it would be justice for a life misspent. The economy failed and took the working class with it. It was his responsibilities to his son that made him hang on. Failure was the eventuality. Jim chose the graceful collapse, instead of the hard and fast implosion of many in this area. His work finished, he walked back into the club. Jim peeked around the hallway to nod to the bartenders and servers who were congregated in the main bar area.
“How are you doing man?” One of the bartenders smiled and waved to him.
“I’m good,” Jim said. I’m going to open up.”
“Okay,” The bartender turned back to the others. Jim was by far the oldest member of the staff and felt an inability to relate to his younger colleagues. They looked at him with a kind of dread. To them, this job was a stop-gap. It was a cool college job they could get nostalgic about in later life. Jim was a walking nightmare to them. He was their reminder to go home after closing and finish homework, complete degrees or marry well.
Jim went back to the safety of the empty hallway. He flicked on the lights and put out the dress code sign. He turned to see the girl who collected the cover charge skipping down the hallway. Her spike heels clicked loudly on the concrete floor. Jim thought she look like a walking skeleton. Her pale, stretched skin was further accentuated by a slathering of harsh bright whorish makeup.
“Hi!” She said brightly as she snapped open the door to the small closet sized room that would serve as her spot for the night. She flipped open the cash-box and counted its contents. She finished and snapped the box closed. She turned toward Jim and drummed her lacquered red fake nails on the ledge of the half door. He could already feel her boredom beginning to darken her exterior. He couldn’t help but take it personally. Jim knew he was hard to talk too. He never had anything to say. The more he though about something interesting he could say, the less came to mind. Every night was like a first- date failure with this girl.
“How are you doing tonight?” He asked her.
“Fine,” She said. She stared directly at him and continued to drub her fingers. She left her mouth hang open after saying “Fine,” Waiting for Jim to expound on the conversation. Jim thought she looked like a cow who’s forgotten a mouth full of cud.
“Did you have a good day off yesterday?” Jim said. She nodded and gazed off longingly down the empty hallway toward the main bar where the interesting people worked. She shut down. Jim shut down. The both of them waited in silent awkwardness for the customers to begin arriving.