Looking Down

By Raph al Guul

In essence, that’s exactly what the world is; a tiny apartment next to a giant strip club. Blurred boundaries, the strippers almost intruding into your living room. Through the kitchen window you can see the neon lights and the men underneath, sucking down the smoke from their cheap cigarettes. The world is a place where you can stare through the glory-hole and feel good about yourself for being better than complete strangers. You can silently judge them while masturbating behind locked doors.

The tiny apartment has walls of mirrors that only reflect yourself, over and over again, like a maze of who you are not. You roam the two and a half rooms wearing an excessive amount of expensive clothes; even your face is covered because their nakedness looks worse that way.

You are the undisputed sovereign of the world in your third-story apartment above the luminous ground-level entrance to the public gathering place of rotten souls. You are alone here, but you will not be lonely as long as you have the mirrors. A greasy stool next to the kitchen window is your throne; the curtains are your guard.

If you wait long enough, until dawn of a new day, you will be able to catch a glimpse of the most despised breed of human beings, those upon whom the entire world hinges. Some call them strippers, some dancers, but all – even they themselves – agree on hating them for what they do and the power they exert. And so you do, too, at four in the morning, looking down on the street as they leave the building in heavy, dark coats. They are hoping no one will recognize them and their profession, but they won’t fool you or anyone.

And you hate them and they hate themselves and they pass and leave in black cars or yellow taxi cabs. Sometimes they’re on the phone and everyone wonders who could possibly want to do anything more than look at them. Who talks to strippers when they are not naked? And even as they leave, others arrive, because the club is never empty and vice never sleeps.

And sometimes when you lie in the dirt and sweat of complacence, someone knocks on your door; and you know you don’t have to open, whoever it is, however incessantly they pound their fists against your door. You’ll wait for it to go away and the longer you wait, the clearer it becomes who is knocking. You remain silent because you don’t want to admit your presence in this world, still hoping they’d go away.

Staring out the kitchen window you see the people go into and out of the palace of sin, knowing that you are better than them. And the knocking continues, louder and louder, but as long as that door holds, you are safe.

On the other side of the door the strippers and smokers are lining up, waiting to be let in. Reality is waiting, but you don’t need it as long as you have your throne.

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