Sometime around midnight Georgie stepped outside the
bodega and stood at the corner opening the cellophane
wrapper on a pack of menthol cigarettes, looking out
over all the unused buildings and the dive bars in
He'd started coming down to this part of town looking
for a connection to something and instead came away
with a head full of cheap drugs and a little less of
The plate-glass windows of the corner building across
the street that housed the club Universe had long ago
been boarded over and painted. Someone had put iron
gates over the boards for good measure. It was the
kind of place that if you walked by during the day you
wouldn't know there was anything inside.
Georgie stood under the lighted yellow awning of the
bodega waiting for some familiar faces. The foot
traffic on the street was mostly a mix of Dominican
kids from the neighborhood dealing drugs. The rest
were the stragglers from nearby clubs and bars who
were their customers.
Georgie had once thought this the most exciting place
he'd ever been, which didn't say much for his short
life so far.
The last time he'd been down here he snorted something
with a guy in the bathroom of a nameless bar, then
went outside to the guy's car and got his dick sucked.
Afterwards Georgie could hardly admit this fact to
himself, though he was untroubled by the fact that
he'd had a sexual encounter with another man.
He felt that as long as it was his knowledge only, he
could deal with whatever it said about him. He'd
stayed away from the club for a few nights, not
wanting to run into the guy, but there was a slim
chance that he'd even be recognized since the guy had
been more stoned than Georgie that night.
He remembered how in the car afterward he'd had to
turn the key in the ignition to unlock the doors,
since the guy had passed out against the steering
wheel after sucking him off. The guy seemed to wake up
a little when the engine kicked over, but Georgie just
let himself out and walked to the subway. In the pale
light of the sunrise he felt only hazy and numb.
Tonight he would dance on the crowded floor, moving in
a way that the music enabled him, watching the regular
crew of Puerto Rican girls, inviolable in their black
bras and jeans with wide black belts turning their
bodies in a public seduction that was somehow private
at the same time.
That's how Georgie felt inside the club, inviolable,
the music some kind of protection against whatever it
was in the air outside that constantly seemed to be
pressing down on him.
A very thin girl with black bangs covering her
forehead walked towards him. Georgie looked at her
face and she stopped.
"Hey what's up."
"It's fucking hot out tonight."
Georgie realized then that all night he'd been seeing
more cops around than usual.
She told him that there was a demonstration in the
park about something, that the cops were out in force
in case of trouble.
"Man the fucking cops are trying to close the park
Georgie couldn't fathom people getting it together for
anything like an organized demonstration and couldn’t
think what to say so he took out a cigarette and
handed it to the girl.
He took out a lighter and she leaned in close to him,
cupping her hands around the sparks glowing within
their cupped hands.
Georgie couldn't see if the lighter was lit. She took
it out of his hand and looked at him.
He looked away, then to the front of the club, looking
for the doorman to come on duty, the one who knew his
"Dude, shit is going to be hectic tonight," she said,
lighting her cigarette.
"How can they just close a park?" Georgie asked. "I
mean, it's a public place right?"
"Cops have been trying to close that park for years
dude. Fucking people in this city, fuck."
They both looked at the front door of Universe. The
girl looked away, shook her head and let out a hiss
with some smoke.
"You going in?" Georgie asked.
"Fucking Universe is lame."
"I'm heading to Gloria'a apartment. Her boyfriend
Gideon just came back from North Africa and they got
some killer hash."
"Fuck yeah. She played me these records he got there?
Fucking amazing shit man. We're gonna smoke up and go
to the roof and watch and see what happens with the
She folded her arms and let out more smoke. Then she
looked at Georgie and began buttoning up the jacket
she was wearing, brushing some ashes off the Chinese
lettering woven in red threads along the collar.
"You going in?" She asked him.
"I guess. Maybe for a little while."
Georgie tried not to look at her. He could hear the
music coming from the radio inside the bodega and the
low thump of the sound system across the street.
"See you later Georgie."
"Take it easy."
Georgie watched her walk off, feeling himself wanting
to go with her, wanting to sit in Gloria's apartment
with her and listen to the stories Gloria's boyfriend
Gideon would tell about North Africa, wanting to smoke
some of that hash, maybe sit with his legs crossed on
the floor looking up at the walls lined with posters
of paintings he didn't know the names of, listening to
strange, beautiful music playing on the stereo, music
he'd never heard before. But he didn't know Gloria. He
couldn't even remember the name of the girl he'd just
been talking to, or if he'd ever known it at all.
Georgie watched her as she walked down the street. If
she turns around I'll call to her, he thought. I'll
wave my arm maybe, too far away to yell anything.
She made the next corner and turned out of Georgie's
sight. Two Dominican kids walked by him, one of them
brushing up against him. Georgie stood straight up and
stiffened himself, knowing they wouldn't turn around
anyway. He looked across the street and noticed
Chinese lettering underneath the fading paint above
the gated windows of Universe, and felt himself step
off the curb and walk toward the front door.
Charles Sweeney was born and raised in Brooklyn, New
York, where he is currently living and working on a
short story collection. His story 'Raela' was selected
for inclusion in the fiction anthology 'In Our Own Words:
A Generation Defining Itself, Volume VI' to be published
this fall by Evenstar Press. His work can also be found
on www.Thieversjargon.com and www.3711atlantic.com.
© 2005 Underground Voices