Rave at the Albuquerque Mining Company
When we get there, it’s already packed and smells like a fog machine mating with another fog machine. The DJ is playing a techno mix of Front 242 and human shadows mix with images on the screen; animals, politicians, cartoons, buildings covered with splotches of paint. There are bars set up all over, including a Smart Bar selling herbal energy drinks. As we walk by it, a straight edge boy with a big black ‘X’ on the top of his hand asks if he can buy me a shot of wheatgrass and a chaser of apple juice with bee pollen. ‘Will I get a buzz?’ ‘Maybe.’ ‘Thanks, but I’d rather have a clove.’ ‘My friend can give you one.’ He calls him over and this guy at the end of the bar wearing leather lederhosen comes over and passes me a clove. I say, ‘Not straight edge but you like wheat grass?’ ‘I’m bent edge and I like wheatgrass and plain old mota-grass.’ He pats his front pocket and winks at me. ‘Bent edge. ¿Qué chingados es eso?’ Roman butts in, ‘Who cares? I don’t give a shit. Do you give a shit, Elena…’ I nod. ‘…We don’t care. We’re down for some weed. I’ll buy you a shot of Jäger.’ Someone is walking around selling shots of Jäger in plastic beakers and Roman hands me and Lederhosen one. I hate Jäger but chug it down. Lederhosen says, ‘Let’s see if you can dance first.’ When we jump into the crowd Roman thrashes around creating a fire hazard. He waits until we’ve broken a sweat before motioning, Let’s go. Lederhosen returns it with the international just wait hand gesture. I lean into Roman, ‘This guy is a drag. I’m going to get us a round.’ Straight Edge follows me. ‘Quick—describe this joint in two words or less,’ he shouts into my ear. ‘Dark and raving.’ ‘That was three words.’ ‘What? You don’t count the and.’ ‘Of course you do. Two words.’ ‘Darkly festive.’ ‘Perfect. Let me describe you in two words.’ ‘No need,’ I tell him. ‘Uninhibitedly curious,’ he shouts again. I get a few drops of vodka and cran in two cups of ice and jitterbug into the crowd trying not to spill them. When Roman sees me, he strikes a pose up against a pillar. ‘Romanesque?’ he shouts. ‘Roman column.’ Before long, I need to pee and lean into him. ‘Take me to the Men’s?’ ‘Mami needs help?’ ‘The women’s line is insulting.’ He nods and turns to say something to Lederhosen. Straight Edge asks, ‘¿A dónde van?’ ‘The loo.’ ‘I like that you say ‘loo.’ I’d offer but…’ ‘Nope, nope.’ I shake my head. All three of them follow me. The line to the Men’s moves quickly and the hallway is the quietest spot in the theatre. Roman says, ‘So do you have to make pipí or did you follow Roman,’ he puts his hand on his chest, ‘and Elena,’ he gestures towards me, ‘so we could participate in a little event?’ ‘Maybe one, maybe both,’ Lederhosen answers. ‘Ay, don’t tease, papi.’ Roman flips his thick black hair, which falls to his chin, from one side to the other. Then he purrs and pretends to lick his paws and smooth it down. ‘Did anyone ever tell you that you have very firm…features?’ I turn to see my friend Mabeline about half a dozen people behind us. She runs over and hugs the breath out of me before kissing black lipstick all over my face. ‘¡Elena! ¿Qué tal? ¿Cuándo llegaste?’ We start to catch up while Roman and Lederhosen go back and forth about whether or not the guy even has any weed. ‘Look, either show us lo que tienes or stop playing.’ We’re up next. Lederhosen reaches into his pocket and pulls out an amber pill bottle. He unscrews it, reaches in and pinches out a joint. A guy leaves the stall and I slip into it. When I turn around to close the door, Roman grabs the joint, grabs Mabeline by the hand and they smash into my stall. Roman slams and locks the door. ‘¡Oye!’ Lederhosen bangs on the door. ‘Let me in!’ Roman tucks his boa into his shirt, grabs the nasty metal door with both hands and does a chin-up. ‘We’ll only be a minute, darling.’ He wipes his hands on his tight black shorts. ‘Histrionics are so dirty.’ Lederhosen bangs again and shouts, ‘¡Te parto tu madre!’ ‘Honey, did you see my arms?’ I’m unbuckling my pants and Mabeline shoves me out of the way and lifts up her skirt. ‘I’m squirting.’ Roman takes out a lighter and fires up the porro. I start shaking Mabeline this way and that and she dribbles all over the horseshoe. ‘Stop, Elena!’ ‘You don’t wear calzones?’ ‘I’m gonna pee on your boots.’ They’re green Docs that I call Crocs and I move out of the way. Roman passes me the porro. ‘Is this a primo?’ I shout to Lederhosen. ‘If I had a primo, you think I’d share it with you?’ I squat over the nasty seat and try to aim. Another knock on the door. ‘Open up now!’ It ain’t Lederhosen or Straight Edge. Whoever it is slips a thin metal bar into the stall and flips the metal lock open. Roman flushes the joint and a security guard shouts, ‘What the fuck is going on in here?’ ‘I’m just chupando on these two,’ Roman says. ‘What are you smoking?’ asks the guard. ‘Moi?’ says Roman. He pushes Mabeline out of the stall. ‘Us? We just had one of those Indian cigarettes. Do you want one, chulo?’ Chulo looks mid-60s, undeniably out of shape and like he wants to knock Roman unconscious. ‘I smell weed!’ he growls, ‘Do you know what I…’ Roman grabs my hand, yanks me out of the stall and we charge through the baño. The guard chases after us, but we split up and leap into the crowd, dancing like mad among Albuquerque’s finest.
A girl walks down the street in Varanasi, the holiest of the Seven Sacred Cities. People traverse the globe to study its music, language and poetry. Many cross the country to die by the Ganges or send ashes of loved ones floating down it. The young woman isn’t one of them. She marvels at scattered ashes, pieces of cows and even people floating down the river. Too squeamish to get in, she stands at the bank watching people wash clothes, bodies and teeth. They stand in it praying, chanting and pouring libation, offering Her to Herself. The walking woman writes letters to tell people she’s prayed for them at the dirty, sacred river, weeping with the weight of her mortality. She can’t describe the smell without comparing the Ganges to something else. And, as it smells like nothing else, she neglects to mention the odor rising from the riverbank, like so many prayers. Instead, she talks about reading Indian classics and studying a language she’s too shy to speak. In Hindi, people ask where she’s from. England, she answers, and no one seems to hold it against her. Her eyes are a shade darker than her skin and her hair one shade darker than that. No one mistakes her for Indian. She wears t-shirts inside out and her hair isn’t always disentangled. Women on the street are in purple and yellow saris, orange and blue scarves. Their hair is tied back and shiny with oil. They wear nose rings, bindis and bangles. The married dab a swatch of crimson where the hair parts. Women’s opinions of the foreigner are harsher than the men’s. After six months, the woman begins to understand this. And feels betrayed. Her room has a fan and a window facing the ghats. Glass panes open to the street below and she recognizes sounds of sitar, tablas, veena and harmonium. Before she started to watch videos at the lassi shop, she thought all Bollywood tunes sounded similar. With the heat she can’t eat until the sun sets and she visits the same restaurant, eating with her right hand, even though she’s left-handed. When not studying, she sits at her window watching children play, dogs run and bodies burn. She scribbles in a journal, noting bodies don’t smell vastly different from other things when they’re burning. It didn't take long to become accustomed to seeing vibrant colors, cattle in the streets and corpses being carried through them. But the heat is overwhelming. Despite cold showers between sunrise and sunset, she’s developed miliaria where her thighs touch and she’s too embarrassed to get cream for it. She recalls reading about nuns who wore cilices in attempts to conquer concupiscence and who also suffered in silence, albeit by choice. Painfully, she walks past the paan, water and fruit and vegetable wallahs. Red, yellow and green wares sit on a blanket on the ground. The water wallah squats just next and says, The foreigner always seems to be doing something, but only she knows what. His companions joke that doing nothing is preferable. Water wallah says, Buddhists believe even doing nothing is doing something. The girl pretends not to understand, makes a mental note to put the comments in her journal. When she reaches the jewelry and bindi wallah, the toothless chap points at a clip and the girl’s messy hair. Though the heat drapes over her shoulders like a shawl, she laughs and shakes her head. After going up and down both sides of the street twice, she can’t find what she’s looking for. Approaching the chai wallah, she points to her Hindi-to-English book. He shrugs a thin shoulder and turns away from her and the molten sun. She taps the shoulder, holds up a finger. He pours a small glass of thick, milky chai. Turning the glass so its crack faces away from her, she uses thumb, middle and index fingers to pick it up at the lip, where there’s nothing to burn her. The thought of swallowing hot tea in the heat is revolting, but she manages a sip before setting the glass on the stall and some paise just next. The tea wallah gestures to keep going in the direction she was heading and flips his hand to the right. She nods more than bows over pressed palms and walks away. Sweat cascades down her neck, below her collar. When she enters the post office it’s dimmer and cooler inside. She waits at the counter while a man with Stalin’s moustache takes a drag from a bidi and a sip of tea before approaching the counter. The fan above lazily spins in the same direction over and over. The young woman mumbles, Poste Restante, and hands over her passport. The postmaster pages through it before walking away. A beggar enters. He has no legs and carries himself with hands covered in rags. The postmaster hands the woman a letter. She smiles just perceptibly before slipping it into her bag. As she turns to exit, she pulls it out again and leaves without looking at the beggar. Outside, she wipes sweat from her nose before putting the white envelope in her mouth and twisting her black hair up into itself. A rickshaw driver approaches in a bicycle-pedaled chaise with an awning. He motions that the ride will provide a breeze. They bargain. He, with four fingers. She, with two. He counters with three and she climbs in. His head is covered in a white headwrap and he’s thinner than she is. She imagines how this must look to the wallahs. After wiping behind her neck, she leans back. The letter was stamped and sent overseas three weeks ago. She opens it and closes her eyes, smelling the pages as if they were a new book. She begins to read, oblivious to people in the café across the street talking about the heat. The driver stands up to pedal. A few cattle lurch along the side of the road.
MARCY RAE HENRY is a multidisciplinary artist, una Latina/x/e de Los Borderlands and an advocate/member of the LGBTQ community. Her writing has received a Chicago Community Arts Assistance Grant, an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship, a Pushcart Prize nomination and first prize in Suburbia’s 2021 Novel Excerpt Contest. Writing and visual art appear in The Columbia Review, BathHouse Journal, PANK, The Southern Review, Arkana and The Shore, among others. DoubleCross Press will publish her chapbook We Are Primary Colors in 2023. Though M.R. Henry is a digital minimalist with no social media accounts, she can be found at Poets&Writers and marcyraehenry.com
Artwork by Austin Veldman.
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