Night in the Underbelly of New Angeles. A reclaimed city that never sleeps.
Where sometimes, they call him Django.
So very long ago, these old streets he shuffles down were made by the deft hands of little girls traded to work-houses for a lick of smack bag. Walking on them is just a testament to the permanency of: Drugs, Trafficking, and the Human Stain of The Red Light District. The same cannot be said for those little girls with red clay under their fingernails. They couldn't possibly have known they would only be safe in those brick factories for so long; until their hips spread and their lips got that floral appeal that looks good in the shadows created by flashing neon of Love For Sale signage.
Insomnia gives the bawdy windows a reflective haze. Their pretty pink light bulbs give the baby dolls behind the glass a glow that beckons the passerby to stop and buy a taste. Django has a genetic tie to this place and a tolerance for the borough where pimps and prongs rule like Kings. Their Queens forced to suck and fuck just to appease their Royal Majesties. His mother had been one of those beautiful ladies in the windows, on the payroll pew for an overachieving thug at the altar. He thinks about her often. Sometimes he can see her in the mirror.
Flipping a coin and expecting it land heads up all the time if unrealistic. The Detective inside him waits for the day that he has a lucky streak and finds that girl with the vulpine air that stares at him from the haunt of an 2x4 glossy photo he keeps hidden inside his wallet.
Days of walking that beat turned into years, and he has yet to find anyone who even resembles the dark ardor of her eyes or that hint of an overbite that makes her look like she's pouting. No. His nights are full of bottle blonds and impressionable ginger fish who do nothing but get him to wish he stayed the hell home and drank this mood-swing under the table.
He passes by a door Haggler talking to one of the young guys come inquiring on having a girlfriend experience. The older, wiser local says around the butt of a cigarette, "They're all your girlfriends...if you wan' them ta be."
The coin flips from his fingers all slow and easy as you please; aimed right for the young man. As luck would have it, it lands right there for him to pluck. "Keep it, kid. It'll get you in anywhere along the waterway. And, you're welcome." Tipping the brim of a funky old fedora he swaggers down the rows of late night shops hawking all kinds of sins, finding no temptation to solicit his veteran attentions.
Call him a laggard by the way he drifts through the crowds of University students and Militia men on furlough. All of them out trolling for an authentic night of debauchery after cashing their stipend checks. You can always spot them by the eagerness painting their faces. The way they swagger arm, and arm with the whores in too much make-up. Trafficked girls who are trying to mask all of the pain they harbor high above the clutch inside sweet thighs. He'd be able to pity them tomorrow after they lose all their money, if they didn't yank his chain so hard. He tells himself if he had the opportunities those fella's did, he certainly wouldn't be here trying to catch the clap.
Crossing a bridge finds him on the west-end side of the street. Posh Prima Donna's that smell too much like their sugar daddy's favorite Eau d' Toilette give his lapels a tug-or-dare. There's one in particular behind the thick glass window who, try though he might, he just can't deny an appreciative lingering glance. He blows a hot breath against the cold pane and draws a heart into the fog. With longing, he carves a lightening bolt break down between the plush clefts of it just to tell her wordlessly what a romantic notion should. Begrudgingly, he waves goodbye and drags his sorry ass on down the street to the alley that leads to his offices over the Stop and Go 24 hour Market.
What he wouldn't give for that beautiful, sweet, young thang to come warm up his empty bed.
It takes a certain sense of self to walk away from her and back down the dark alley with a wallet fulla paper. Rent checks hidden safe and sound under an armpit and tucked under the leather sheath concealing the cold truth of his situation. Whistling his worries away, the sweet and lo' pitch matches the howl of the wind through the cracks in the windows.
The click clack of four horsemen's harem in cheap heels approaches, taking a wide berth around him; heading for destinations unknown. Their herd huddles together for warmth and a sense of safety when traveling in a pack. Pining ruefully with kisses from artfully painted, air-pecking lips as they pass. Portraying the perfect stereotype of this city he calls home. Sure he's been offered plenty of opportunities to travel abroad, but Django never seemed to be able to muster the guts to leave. Waxing nostalgia is dragging him down like a ball and chain, weighted with a lotta' shoulda, woulda, coulda. Culminating in the hope she'll come back alive and life will finally continue fifteen years later.
Growing old in this town was probably a mistake he should learn to regret. A place like this will leave you changed over time; much more than just the euphemism for saying you want to grow old gracefully. Harsh reality rips lines in your once handsome face, and leaves your soul haggard and damaged for the investment. He comes up to the fire escape that leads up to his second-floor offices between an all night liquor store and a laundromat fronting a gambling den. Beside the dumpster, he stops to finish his cigarette and watch the night breed its own brand of narcissism. Contrails of smoke head skyward as the only testament to him standing out in the shadows.
Time was, you couldn't meander the Red Light without running into someone you knew. Everyone was so free, living life to it's fullest and playing the weekend warrior in the only place where rules didn't ( and still do not )apply. Dashiel was just a kid collecting hush money for some two-bit scum-lord who happened to run the brothel where he was born on Fifth and Tenth Avenue. Just an altruistic boy trying to keep his junky mother from falling under the wagon and getting rolled over.
Years run by -- reminding us all that time is fleeting.
It's different now. All of the faces have an antiquated quality to them that never really comes into technicolor from the desaturated gray. The drugs are stronger, the people are crueler, and the environment seems less festive in the midst of this, his mid-life crisis. Turning that corner of fifth and tenth he remembers those good old days when his face was far more recognizable, and his hair was not salted with gray. He'll blame all the cold cases still filling his drawers, that and the night cap or ten he sucks down every night like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ducking into the corner store, he steps to the counter and wiggles the wallet out from inside trench coat's inner pocket, "Pack of Lucky's and a fiddy of gin."