If There Is No What

Ruth Blank

We got out of the cab at a place called Ministry of Sound and didn’t have to wait in line, maybe because it’s Wednesday or maybe because Bruno and Paolo are regulars. Bruno put his hand on the small of Meggie’s back to push her through the crowd. There were a million people inside and it was louder than I’ve ever heard anything before, with a thumping beat and a synthesized girl’s voice singing in a foreign language. It was hard to tell the dance floor from the rest of the club. Everyone was facing the two story DJ booth waving their hands in the air almost in unison. The beat invaded my body, not in a good way. Was I the only one?

I looked around for just a second to get a feel for who was there. Most people seemed to be in their twenties and particular about their clothes. Just within my line of sight, there were dozens of pretty girls, but at least that many, if not more well-dressed guys. Then I looked on either side of me, and Meggie and the Italians were gone. I guess I didn’t really expect to spend the whole evening with them. I can’t say I was sorry. Yes, I was supposed to keep an eye on her, but what was I going to do if I saw something? And what was I supposed to be looking for? What if he started kissing her and she kissed him back? It made me sick to even think about so it was better not to have to see it.

I walked around, or I should say, I squeezed my way through people. I sort of kept my eyes open for Meggie’s red dress, but just about every girl was wearing red. And half the guys looked like Italian soccer players. The air smelled spicy, like Sandalwood or Patchouli. I bet the scent was shot through the ventilation to mask the sweat because a lot of people were drenched. I managed to get a beer and stood near the hallway to the restrooms where there was a little bit of space. Not far from me, a few girls were dancing at the edge of the crowd. They had their hands in the air and watched their feet as they danced. Something about them didn’t seem British, but most people in London weren’t British, so I tried to figure out where they were from by their clothes and the way they danced. One of them saw me watching, a girl that would have been exotic except that her hair was so wiry it looked like it could slice you up. She elbowed another girl who looked up from her feet and followed her friend’s pointer finger to me. The friend looked like she might be pretty. The exotic girl waved me over. I walked toward them slowly. They kept dancing but I just stood there.

“Hey, boy,” the exotic girl said with a thick accent. “English?” She wore a tight t-shirt with writing on it which I wished I could read so that I’d have something to say. Of course, even if I could read, it might not be in English so I’d still be lost.

“Yes,” I said. She kept dancing. I saw that she wasn’t really all that exotic; she just had a lot of makeup on with thick black eyebrows that had to have been drawn on by pen. When Meggie was little, she put on our mother’s makeup once in a while when our parents were out, purple eye shadow and mascara that ended up all over her face. I put some on, too. No big deal. It was just for fun, back then when Meggie and I had fun together.

“Dance?” The girl asked me.

“Nah," The prettier girl grabbed my arm and crushed herself against me. She was damp. The music was awful. It vibrated in my head. My jaws were aching because I guess I was grinding my teeth again. The girl felt good enough, though she seemed to be wearing spandex or something under her clothes that kept her body from spilling out. I stood and moved with her a little bit but I know I must have looked stupid.

“Hey boy,” the girl with the eyebrows said and they sort of danced with me in the middle of them. Some other girls that they were with were laughing and trying to yell above the music in what could have been Turkish or Romanian. They all smelled of flowery perfume and when they spoke, I could smell the liquor they had been drinking. I thought I picked out the word fuck in what they were saying to each other. It must be part of a universal language. Of course, I use it myself, but I hate it when it’s used to describe actual fucking. I only like to use it to mean “very.”

After a minute of dancing with me in between, I saw one of them nod to the other, and the pretty one grabbed a tall thin guy who was coming from the restroom. He wore a black shirt and black pants and started dancing with them immediately, and I had to find a way to remove myself without seeming like an idiot, but they really didn’t notice me leaving. I walked around the club a little more and by then my head was full-out throbbing in pain. Everywhere, there were couples grinding against each other, not like dancing grinding, but actual grinding grinding. They didn’t seem to care if anyone watched. I could have stood and watched, but it made me feel a little sick to think about Meggie seeing these people and that ruined it for me.

Before I left, I went up to the balcony area and worked my way to the railing so I could look out on the dance floor. My eyes picked out all of the red and then I realized it was ridiculous to try to find anyone in that club so I left. When I got out into the cold, my head was still noisy. I asked a cop, a bobby, which way to Piccadilly because I could probably get back to the hotel from there. I couldn’t understand a word he said and I didn’t want to ask him to repeat himself, so I just started walking in the direction he was pointing.

It’s supposed to be summer but it’s cold here. I pulled up the collar of my jacket and walked, staying on big streets. I walked for a really long time and for all I knew, I could have been much farther from the hotel than when I started walking. I guess I could have gotten into a cab at any time but it would sort of feel like cheating and it would get me back to the hotel too soon. I was really trying to figure out if the guy in Hyde Park made any sense or not. Because when you think about it, he was right. If there is no what, then you have to ask what is what? It’s nothing. Right? But, he was starting from the premise that there is no what, and maybe he’s wrong about that. It may be that everything he said was meaningless. How do you figure that out? You’re a doctor. Explain.

I walked for a really long time. You might think I’m crazy for walking around all night in this cold fucking city. You’d never say I’m crazy, not to my face. But you might think it. I don’t care. I didn’t want to go back to the hotel. If I can walk around and talk to you, it’s almost like being with someone—though I still haven’t decided if I’m going to erase this. Maybe I’ll erase it and tell you I never made any recording, or maybe I’ll erase it and tell you that it has lots of stuff on it that I know you’d turn into more questions that I might not answer. And maybe I’ll save it for myself. Probably not.

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