I wait outside with the girl hoping we might confabulate and get a bit closer, but we barely manage to crack even the most generic conversation.
“So… what’s your name?”
“To you I’m… the girl.”
“You live around here?”
“Are you always this lonely?”
Taciturn and withholding, the girl wears an anxious expression on her face that is one size too small even in this pressing darkness. If I treated her more like crap she’d probably be eating out of my hand. Problem is I’m too nice and polite. So I change my tactics and pull viciously on her hair.
“I asked you a question bitch!”
In reply, she slaps my face with her open hand, much like K had done that time in the park with the Readers, or Sophie Calle did to K that time at the bank. Thank god she’s not wearing any large rings.
“Let’s get one thing straight,” she talks evenly through her teeth. “You never ever talk to me like that again. Understand…? You can think whatever you want, but as far as talking and touching goes, you learn to keep a lid on it.”
For emphasis she offers a studied frozen smile that soon thaws into something more inviting, warm, even genuine, as she happens to spot K emerging from the bar in one piece.
Quickly she runs to him as if he’d just returned from fighting overseas. Kafka as the last surviving Jew to escape Masada - the legendary Jewish Alamo where everyone elected to kill themselves rather than surrender to the fascistic Roman Empire. And when she hugs K I notice that one of her legs - I’m pretty sure it’s the right - inveterately lifts up and folds at the hinge of her knee, just like in all those vintage reunion war photos we’ve all seen a million times before.
“You okay, baby?” She touches him all over. “Did he hurt you?”
“I can’t believe you made it out in one piece,” I say with a bewildered touch of disappointment.
“I’m just glad baby is okay.”
“I’d have bet a 1000 shekels to 1 you’d be decimated in there.”
Kafka clears his throat; I cough.
“Let me just say one thing: Kafka can take care of himself thank-you-very-much.”
He gives a mild bow, or maybe it’s a curtsey, and the girl claps excitedly.
“So. What did you do?” I ask.
“What did I do…?” he parrots slowly, luxuriating in the suspense it creates. “What. Did. I. Do…? I pulled down my pants down, showed him my pecker, and told him I’d circumcised myself with my own teeth. That’s what I did.”
“A scary thought. But I’m serious.”
“Let’s just say I took care of him good.”
“Come on. The guy was twice your size sitting down.”
“You really want to know?”
“Shhh…” the girl intercedes on K’s behalf. “Baby needs to rest.”
She’s all over K, administering to his split lip and calling him baby so often I think she might start lactating any minute now. I shudder to think that if this is how it’s going to be he can have her - good riddance - legs and all.
Again he clears his throat, once more I cough.
“Ok. I told him I had stage 4 of incurable TB and coughed at him.”
“But you do have stage 4 Tb.”
“I know.” K says and cracks up laughing. “That’s what made it so convincing. Although I’ve never felt better in my life.” He inhales deeply, an expansive show of health. “You know, I think death might have actually cured me.”
He and the girl find this extremely clever (although I think it sounds like my parents) and commence laughing incontinently. Their laughter, however, is soon overtaken by a convulsive fit of coughing that’s been triggered in my own chest. Next thing I know I’m spitting out blood. But it’s dark and, at first, no one notices.
“You got to make the most of your weaknesses,” K advises. “Otherwise what’s the point of being sick?”
More laughter begets more coughing. Blood speckles my shirt and shoes. It also hits the girl. Of course it looks like ink, especially at night.
“You shouldn’t have had those cigarettes,” K chastises.
“I don’t think it would’ve mattered.”
“Aw shit! You got my skirt dirty.”
She stops to inspect the damage under a streetlamp.
“Is she really coming with us?” I ask K quietly.
“She is all alone now,” he replies under his breath. Then in mock tribute adds with falsetto, “Lenny is no more!”
I look at the girl standing beneath the carbonate light of the lamp as she spits on a handkerchief and tries to wipe out the spot of blood on her dress. In a halo of insects she seems much more isolated and preoccupied than before.
“I think you’ll need soda water for that,” I say.
“It’s the last thing Lenny bought for me.” She sounds oddly sad and nostalgic. “Poor Lenny, I’d like to stop by my place to pick up a few items, if that’s okay.”
As she slips into the snooded night, so norisihly attractive, I spy a few more drops of blood on her skirt, but can’t be sure if it’s from me coughing or her alleged period.
“I also need to change one of my female accessories,” she says, then genteelly mouths the word - tampon.
This girl might have a shine for K, but at least we’ve got something in common, I think, smearing the blood off my hand onto my trousers, at least we have that.
“Can we walk any faster?” the girl complains. “There are bugs feasting all over my legs.”
I aim for one of the pesky bugs drilling into her thigh, and take this as an excuse to smack her.
“Not so hard!”
“Don’t hurt her.” K criticizes. “You’ve got to be gentle, but firm. “ He swipes a slow hand across her thigh. “Like this.”
“Sorry,” I say, thinking how those bugs must be god’s luckiest creatures. Sure, they might have a short lifespan, but at least they’re sucking high octane ambrosia, living it up while they can.
“Make a right here,” the girl instructs. “I live right above that bus stop.”