I wake, naked, on a warm bed in the dark, alone, the ghosts of golden whispers runnin through me. I rise like Lazarus, find a basin and clean myself down, and I look in the mirror, seein no one, which doesn’t worry me because I know I’m alive. Extinguished as I am I’ve never felt so fucken real in all my life. I mean, I’ve been down the river and have come back and know that I’m here, whole and alive.
There’s a gentle knock on the door so I get dressed, open it, and the madame’s there.
Your friend is waiting for you, she says, smiling, cause she sees me, knows how I came in and how I’m goin out a different man, sees me devastated and is proud of her girls who know how to destroy men.
Can I see the girl? I say.
I’m sorry, she’s not available.
Down the river and out to sea.
So I got out and Ducasse is there waitin, all blissed out like me, all man-who’s-been-across-the-ocean-and-knows-the-other-side.
He just looks at me, grinnin, doesn’t have to say anything, and I don’t really want to. Once we’re out the door and talkin, the spell ends.
But he gets up and opens the door, and we step outside.
Good day, gentlemen, she says, standing in the doorway, and I get a last hit of the heady perfume as she closes it behind us.
I look at Ducasse, he looks at me, and I just shake my head.
That was the greatest hour of my life.
We were in there for three hours, Ducasse says.
Nah, Ducasse man, I say.
He nods. Three hours.
I look up at the door, the house, placin it in a mental map in my head.
I’m comin back here tonight, tomorrow, and the day after, I say.
You can’t overdo it with Madame Zhu’s, he says. Gotta be like a rare treat, like lamb, or duck, somethin you only go to once in a while when the time is right. A man can’t be destroyed like that every day. It takes fortitude. Give it a couple of months.
Madame Zhu’s? Chinese place is it?
Nah. They say she’s from London, but nobody knows. ‘Zhu’ is just for the whole oriental vibe.
Madame Zhu’s. I’m not sure I can wait a couple of months.
Hold yourself, he says.
Fuck knows, maybe he’s right, but I know nothin’s gonna be the same again.
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