Stephen House

Le Dep is at is darkest, its maddest, its meanest, as one would expect it to be just before dawn, when the worry of those that seek is at its most agonizing. Romano’s eyes scan the room. I close off my mind and dance. Here in a club in Paris, I dance. 

With stranger’s eyes and solitary souls, with a ghoul in a corner and a crying friend. Are you a friend, that friend of the friend from just before? Didn’t I meet you here another time, another life? Don’t laugh at me! Are you just another part of some funny game we play? I dance with him and her and they and them; I dance with nothing and all for more; in Club Le Dep I dance for dance. Even when no one else does, I dance.

And I have spent a thousand lost nights in the Le Deps of cities in the universe of the lonely lost, like we are here, locked together by fear and hope. 

Romano saunters on his floodlit stage to a pack of other twenty-eighters, and I decide that I will stay at the bar tonight, today; not descend into that place below of no hope where Romano will soon go.

There is no time in Le Dep; no night, no day; no rules in wonder world, no restrictions or limitations, no dream impossible. The life of night is not all forlorn.

I am sure now I have become homeless again. I know this anxious state like I know walking in wet socks, eating from a bin, and waking up from a mindless three-day bender. “Am I homeless, Romano?” He laughs back at my call, kisses a Chinese boy, and gravitates towards some other young men not unlike himself. 

Because I have my bag with me now I must be homeless. It is usually a very clear indication when it is always by my side. Some clothes, and the almost diminished brick. “It was a brick of blonde hash,” I say to a ghost next to me who doesn’t blink, doesn’t even seem to breathe. “The best you can get in Amsterdam, that I bought here from Amsterdam to sell in Le Marais. I’ve done it successfully before, three or four times, maybe even five. Are you listening mate? Outlay five hundred, take the train to Paris and sell it off, and have around two thousand after I have my daily quota. I mean one day I will finish writing another play or a fucking book, whatever. One fine day I will paint the brightest picture on this planet!” 

Romano comes back and tells me to stop telling everyone my business, to keep the noise down in here. “Remember why we are really here,” he mumbles above the din. 

“I do know what’s going on. I’m no fool, Romano; and I can drink at the bar now with this fifty. Of course I know how I got the fucking fifty, remember the just before, on the way here, but I am too ashamed to remember, even to myself”. You got to do worse and worse when lose your looks, when that face you so relied upon as a boy has fallen flat into a pit. Yep, the game is certainly no fun anymore for a fifty. Sometimes I hate you so much Romano I think, as he goes downstairs into that dungeon; and the ghoul next to me still doesn’t blink. “Hey what is it with you? Are you dead or alive?” 

I don’t need to go down to the dungeon anyway, for a look or a turn, for a trick or two to fill the nasty void. I know that hole down there, and I can smell the stench from here. I’ve paced those corridors of lonely gait and seen those lines of desperate men; I can hear the groans and pants of starving animals twisting together from behind those flimsy doors; I can smell the sweat and cum and chemicals they sniff up as they pair up to play that empty game; I know exactly what’s going on in that putrid pit right now, I’ve had a lifetime peppered with it, and I don’t need to be another one on that used by date shuffle, not now, not here. I’ve got self-esteem tonight! 

The ghost stands, shakes his pocked marked face from side to side, and slides to the stairs to descend into the bottomless hole of himself. I watch others come upstairs from the dungeon all fucked up and sucked up, sweating from rejection, or puffed up from a bit attention; and I know every single one of them. 

Romano is down there longer than usual, but he comes up eventually. He sits on the stool, leans across and kisses me; and as he does, he sneakily pulls out the haul concealed in his clothes and slips it expertly into the bag; and he’s scored lots tonight; wallets and glimmers of gold and a watch or two, and a bag of powder, and some weed. And he puts the goods into the bag, my bag, and then whispers, “Tonight it’s looking risky; we will do it differently this time,” and he takes the bag and says for me to wait awhile, and then meet him at the river, at our spot, his and mine; and he goes with the bag, my bag… 

Romano leaves Club Le Dep. 

Stephen House is an award winning Australian playwright, poet and actor. He’s won two Awgie Awards (Australian Writer’s Guild), Adelaide Fringe Award, Rhonda Jancovich Poetry Award for Social Justice, Goolwa Poetry Cup, Feast Short Story Prize and more. He’s been shortlisted for Lane Cove Literary Award, Overland’s Fair Australia Fiction Prize, Patrick White Playwright and Queensland Premier Drama Awards, Greenroom best actor Award and more. He’s received Australia Council literature residencies to Ireland and Canada, and an India Asialink. His chapbook “real and unreal” was published by ICOE Press Australia. He is published often and performs his work widely.