Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel (Wednesday evening. The Man in the Pink Suit. With a Bum on his Face.)
But alcohol is not your friend.
The triples from The Commodore Club have made you drunk and when the assistant in the clothes shop holds up the suit you have requested to be shown, something suitable for a wedding, you see two suits and you become angry and you accuse her of trying to up-sell on you.
“If I’d wanted two suits,” you shout, “I would have asked for two suits but I only wanted one. One suit. Do you see?”
And you hold up one finger to emphasise your point but to your surprise you hold up two fingers and this makes you even more angry.
You are eloquent in your inebriation and you lay everything that is wrong with the world at the shop assistant’s feet until she is sobbing and the manager comes over to see what all the fuss is about.
The manager you have seen many times in the early mornings training in the hotel car park with Eusavio. He has the butterflyesque pomp of Mohammed Ali but unlike Mohammed Ali, whose face was kind and gracious, the manager has the face of a sociopathic, like the neighbour you once had at your halls of residence at university. Many a night you had sat in complete darkness pretending you were out enjoying yourself in the hope he wouldn’t come around to borrow a tea bag and then slap you viciously about the face, telling you you were a slut, the town bike, a good for nothing tramp and a bitch, and that if you weren’t so riddled with syphilis he would make you ride him on the floor right there and then like the cheap whore that you were.
Having once gone to a fancy dress party as a lady your neighbour thought you were a woman and nothing would divest him of this assumption.
Not even the sight of your penis when once he had come across you in the shower.
What are you doing in here? You strumpet. I should whip your pretty little ass. Now show me your pussy.
You are a coward.
You had shown him your pussy.
Under the hard glaring eyes of the manager you say you are sorry to the sales assistant and you tell her that it is not her fault that she tried to sell you two suits when you asked for one. You say that she was no doubt following company policy and that just the other week she had probably been sent on a training day in Oxford or Dagenham or somewhere like that and the name of the training day had been ‘When One Becomes Two. Or Three! Making Bricks and Mortar retail profitable in the Internet Age.’
You say that she had probably had to pay for the travelling expenses herself and that afterwards in the bar, having drunk too much, she had slept with another sales delegate who she has since found out is married and who is never going to leave his wife although, after seven years of marriage, he can no longer stand her, this wife, and even keeps in his wallet a picture of another woman who is not his wife and who is in fact Michelle Pfeiffer. A naked picture taken before she was famous and of which she is now ashamed.
Oh forgive me for what I have done.
You see the manager looking at you in a strange fashion and you think he is going to hit you and this is when you get down on your knees and say, ‘Pick a suit, any suit, and I’ll put it on my card.’
And a look comes upon the sales assistant’s face that you do not like and you know straight away that you have put yourself in the hands of a monster.
For once in your life your judgement is correct.
Your suit is pink.
It is skin tight across your buttocks and thighs.
It comes with a matching hat which is a kind of beret.
It sits unconvincingly on your head like a kind of cowpat.
When you arrive back at The Commodore Club it is filled with a heady throng of people and because there are so many people you are overcome with fear that Eusavio will tell you you are not needed as a witness after all. I’m sorry, he will say, there’s been a run on witnesses and then he will say, And anyway are you wearing a pink suit? Because we didn’t imagine any pink suits at our wedding. In fact Peggy-Sue is allergic to pink. And bright blue! Her chromotherapist said she had to avoid pink and bright blue at all costs! No hard feelings! But if you could leave straight away. Like fuck off, and you will return to your room alone and you will dream what might have been.
Smiling during the reception at the bridesmaid.
The bridesmaid smiling back at you.
She telling you you have nice nostrils.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
You find Eusavio leaning against the bar with a big glass in front of him which looks like it is filled with whiskey. His eyes are bloodshot and he has a sharpie in his hand and scrawled on a bar mat in big letters are the words IM A LOSER and sensing that all is not well you ask him where Peggy Sue is.
“It’s bad luck,” he says, “for the groom to see the bride before the wedding but anyway,” and here he lets out a sob, “she’s over there.”
He points into the distance and you see Peggy Sue sitting by herself. She has a cigarette in her mouth and another three on the go in the ashtray in front of her. Her thick make up has run as if she has been crying and her hair looks like it has had a fight with a pair of hairbrushes, one Viet Cong, one American GI.
And your heart is filled with joy. It is the moment you have been waiting for.
Where there is disunity your will bring unity. Where there is discord you will bring harmony. And in return you will be loved.
“Come with me,” you say and taking Eusavio by the hand you lead him out to the bins where sometimes you stand with Deadeye Dave, smoking a cigarette, dreaming of Angela, the kitchen manager, or any other woman who might have you.
Felicity on reception.
Vietnamese Denise, who works in housekeeping, and who once stole a baby from one of the guests.
You were there when she was talked down from the roof.
You still remember the little baby’s face.
It was an ugly thing. But you wanted to tell it something. Run for the hills. This might be the best day of your life. Something profound. That it would never forget.
In the sharp security light of bin store Eusavio appears more handsome than ever, like Superman before he sets off to save the world, or the lollipop man from your senior school who the girls used to fantasise over and then pretend to pass out on the crossing so they could be given mouth to mouth and who was later arrested from his caravan having been seen masturbating in the swimming baths changing rooms, and you are wondering what possible problems Eusavio can have when he gets down on his knees, puts his arms around your waist and starts sobbing into your crotch.
Your suit is pink and tight and you worry that the tear stains will make it look like you have had an accident in the toilets and so you pull Eusavio up and you ask if anything is wrong and he says yes there is plenty that is wrong, and then he tells that he doesn’t love Peggy-Sue and that he is only marrying her because of Jean-Paul’s feet and because you are still drunk you think Eusavio is joking about the feet and you point at your own feet and you point at Eusavio’s feet and you howl and you are still howling when Eusavio jabs you in the kidneys and takes you down to the ground, but you are still howling, the tears running down your cheeks, and you only stop howling when Eusavio sits on your face so you can’t howl, an old Puerto Rican schoolyard trick he tells you in passing, and recounts to you the history of Jean-Paul’s feet.
Peggy Sue’s brother John-Paul had been a member of the karate class that Eusavio taught to men with anger issues.
“John-Paul wasn’t particularly angry he was just misunderstood.”
“And I had understood him!”
“After we had finished karate-ing each other we had begun to hang out, shooting pool, going to casinos, dancing and picking up women whom we would screw on the same bed but without touching each other.”
One night when they had been out drinking Eusavio had had the great idea that they should go down onto the train tracks and walk to the next town where there was a bar that stayed open until dawn.
“I was going to tell Jean-Paul he was the best person l’d ever seen to do karate and if he played his cards right and trained hard he might one day make the Olympic team.”
“That was when the train came out of nowhere.”
“One minute Jean-Paul had feet and the next minute he had none.”
“Sliced clean off.”
“And with a footless brother unable to support her Peggy-Sue was all alone.”
“Do you see?”
And even though Eusavio has his bum on your face you can see. And what you see are those severed feet lying lost and lonely by the side of the train tracks. They are found by a pair of wild dogs. The dogs have recently lost a litter of pups. They gather up the feet in their mouths, the smell of blood reminding them of their dead babies and they take the feet back to their den.
The bitch swaddles the feet with an old ship blanket she found discarded by the side of the road. Then she nuzzles them, placing them up against her teats.
But they don’t feed.
Day after day they won’t take her milk. The feet become rancid, the flesh peeling away to reveal the raw bone underneath.
And gradually all hope fades.
When you come back from the toilet having washed the taste of Eusavio’s bum from your lips you find Peggy-Sue at the bar. She has too much forehead and too little chin to be considered magazine quality pretty but even so you add making love to Peggy-Sue to your list of things to do before you die.
This list you keep on a roll of shiny toilet paper you stole from Paddington train station toilets after you had been chased there by a gang of angry skinheads and it has over two and a half thousand items on it.
Sometimes you take it out at night and weep. But other times it gives you hope.
You have a dream that when you are dead the toilet roll will be found and the list on it taken for a kind of extended prose poem. You have put some effort into the descriptions of the things you would like to do. Beautiful sunsets, dancing girls, marvellous church buildings on verdant hillsides etc. etc.
The toilet roll will attain a certain cult status, like the roll of paper on which Jack Kerouac typed the original words for On the Road.
Eventually it will be displayed in its entirety in the Museum of Modern Art, New York. A special room will be commissioned. People will flock to see it from all over the world; young hipsters, hoary old academics, hot off the press producers who will want to purchase the rights for their break-through movie.
Your name will be synonymous with all that is cool.
This is your best hope.
Other times you imagine the toilet roll will be found by a fat man who will use it to wipe his arse.
Peggy-Sue asks you if you have seen Eusavio and you say that you have and that he is by the bins and then she jokes that she hopes he falls in a bin and is taken off by the bin men and is incinerated and you laugh and her eyes go narrow and you can see she is not joking and then she tells you to wake up and smell the roses and that the goddam child she is carrying is not Eusavio’s. The kid the great lummox thinks is his is actually John-Paul’s. Only since John-Paul lost his feet he’s run off somewhere in a dull funk and if there’s one thing she’s not doing is bringing a kid up on her own.
You are not often shocked but you are shocked at this and you can’t help but mouth the word “incest”.
“Jean-Paul ain’t my brother,” Peggy-Sue says morosely. “It’s just something we call each other. You know? I’m Peggy Sue. He’s John-Paul. We’re like something out of that tv show The Waltons.”
When the wedding march pipes up it drowns our the sound of the TV which is on above the bar and there are angry shouts from a group of travelling salesmen who have been laughing at an episode of The Simpsons.
It seems there is going to be a riot but glancing at the screen you recognise the episode as one you have seen and you quickly give the travelling salesmen a synopsis.
Homer is a doofus. Bart is an arse. Marge is hard done to but the rod that holds the family together. In the end they all love each other.
“And let us now all love each other,” you say as the wedding march reaches a crescendo.
You make dance shapes in the air. You are a phenomenon.
Like Gandhi, bringing peace.
As the couple walk towards you squeeze your buttocks and feel the comforting resistance of metal.
The wedding ring you have placed there for safekeeping, a habit that remains from your youth when the other boys would regularly steal your lunch money.
This was the one place they would rarely look.
Except for Garçon LeBouche.
The son of a coal miner Garçon would often come to school sporting his hardhat with its accompanying light.
“Down the mine,” he called it when he and his henchmen, a pair of idiotic twins, would spy their next victim.
“Now if there is anyone who knows of any lawful impediment…”
It is right at this point that the door to The Commodore Club swings open.
“Peggy-Sue,” cries a voice. “Don’t do it. I’m back. That goddamned child is mine!”
The man is haloed in light from the car park spot lights.
You watch, breathless, as on crutches he moves unsteadily forward.
“I have an appointment at the hospital next week,” he says, “for prosthetic feet. I will be able to play football with our son.”
“Or daughter,” says Peggy-Sue stepping into his arms so that both are enveloped in the cloud of smoke rising from the Embassy Number 1 in her mouth.
It is beautiful.
This is how all weddings should be.
But then you catch sight of yourself in the mirror behind the bar.
A drunken disheveled man in a pink suit who looks like he has recently had a bum on his face.
And you see Simon the bartender smiling cruelly at you.
And you remember how he told you that Peggy-Sue and Eusavio had only chosen you as a witness because you were ‘a gay’ and although you now know this was a lie you still feel crushed because you believed that it was true.
And you had stood there all the same.
The man in the pink suit. With a bum on his face.