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carnal flow

image by cellar fcp
waiting on the trade – image by cellar fcp

There was never a busier couple of narrow laneways than those that spread off the Palmer Street brothels in Kings Cross on any Holy Sunday, in any season of the year.

Dozens, scores of men of all ages and nationalities crowded the narrow lanes and footpaths all the day through, walking this way and that in the harsh daytime glare, and all of them alone, alone on some harsh errand. Other quieter men stood in their loose directorships on the street corners watching the carnal flow, judging the commerce.

Hideous gargoyles these corner-men as they calculated, appraised, threatened and measured the traffic of lust that crossed from one side of the laneway to the other as it peered into the open doorways stretching along the alleyway’s length, examining the women who lounged in the small rooms there, each woman to her own small room, each room set two steps down from the footpath.

Women lounging on a small couch down there, or on a kitchen stool, or a threadbare armchair.

Women almost dressed and half dressed, women undressed. Constantly shifting their legs, crossing and re-crossing them. There, the wound.

We would slowly drive down this heat-struck and narrow roadway on the way back to Bondi from a day surfing the northside beaches, and we stupidly gaped at the women at their work and wondered at the private passion of so many men made so distressingly public. Crowds of men, single minded, away from home – whatever poor place that must have been.

The ladies smiled and pouted up out of the gloom of their dens, seeing only the black silhouettes of men who sometimes stopped in the doorway, or didn’t, or who hesitated a moment there, or who climbed down the few steps and closed the door behind them.

There be utter desperation. These shadowy men without names, men with hard brutal hands, unwashed men fouled with alcohol who threw their money down and were gone in ten minutes leaving the women to clean themselves of the murky waste and lay themselves bare for whoever may be next.

Once a young girl waved up at us from one of the rooms as we passed by, her face all lit up by the sight of an old panel van stacked up with eight balsa surfboards and rolling by so slowly, with all of our young faces pressed hard against the windows.

Somebody’s sister.

There was some serious discussion in the van on the way back to Bondi that afternoon concerning the rescue of this girl. Half of us wanted to take her back to her parents, wherever they were, and the rest of us wanted to marry her.

Four years later in a crowded bar in Lisbon she rested her hand on my leg then she moved it up a more personal space. She was a girl of fifteen with the grasp of an old whore and her colleagues all looked over to see the reaction. Two big men were standing in the shadow of the bar, over by the wall, watching us – They had already called the taxi.

previously posted at Kurungabaa

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