by Agri Ismaïl
Premise: Go to a brothel, any brothel. Find the woman you find most attractive and observe her from afar. Watch this tiny pixie-looking thing with cropped hair and knee-length stockings stare into nothingness with eyes that themselves contain nothing, drawing on a cigarette as if she holds a grudge. Wait. Wait until someone comes and chats to her. Notice how her smile doesn’t reach her eyes. Watch her leave with someone, anyone really, but especially an old, overweight man.
Q1. Think about how this makes you feel. Explain why.
Now, observe the fat girl. There is always a fat one or at the very least an ugly one. Watch the smile she projects towards strangers gradually fade throughout the course of the night, until finally she gives up and leaves alone.
Q2. How does this make you feel? Is the feeling different from Q1 above? If so, why?
Q3. Think about all the things you have presupposed in order to answer Q1 and Q2. List them.
Corollary: Imagine that she walks back in. The pixie-like one from premise above. She walks back in less than an hour after leaving with the old man. Why you never find out, although this is your means of introductory conversation. She waves the matter off and gives you a nice smile. Could almost be real. More real than the one that she gave the guy above, that’s for sure. Think about how what ultimately persuaded you to approach her was something different than the desire to fuck, as though you were pleased, genuinely pleased, to see her again even though you don’t know anything about her aside from what you have imagined and projected. Yes, you are pleased, maybe not as though you were old friends but definitely acquaintances. Imagine part of you always wants to pay her whatever these guys are paying her just to come home and sit by the bed and do nothing but sleep and you could maybe make her breakfast, save her from this if only for one night. Now, imagine that she takes your hand and does a tracing gesture with her index finger on your palm, a gesture you suspect that she does nightly to a multitude of men but it still melts your heart and makes your cock twitch and you know, at this very moment in spite of all your good intentions you know that your ambition of paying her to do nothing but rest in your nice hotel room (as opposed to the dingy squalor in which you imagine her to live) and maybe talk for a while will not be met this time either. You know that you are, as always, ruled by the sadness between your legs. At the hotel, imagine that she drinks several overpriced bottles of alcohol from the minibar without asking your permission, which makes you like her just that little bit less and then, before leaving, she asks you rather brusquely for extra money for the taxi, money that you give but that you feel you shouldn’t have to give. You had agreed on a price, after all, and you feel that this is a breach of that agreement. Remember that you never exchange names, not even fake ones.
Now imagine that the following afternoon, at the mall, you see most of the girls from the previous night. Imagine that you recognise all of them and that none of them recognise you.
Q4. Upon your return home, you sit in a bar with the guys from work. Do you mention your experience at the brothel? How do you describe what happened?
Agri Ismaïl is an Iraq- and Sweden-based writer whose work has appeared in the White Review, Al Jazeera and the Swedish art journal Glänta among other places. He can be found online at abstractmodem.com and on twitter.