We left the sushi restaurant and headed a few blocks east and south. To my surprise, we stopped in front of a large, old brick building which I couldn’t see well in the dark. It looked like it might be an old school that had been built towards the end of the nineteenth century, yet strange and foreboding. I believed we were going back to Slacker’s apartment. The street was lined with old tenement buildings. Was that what I had been expecting? We went through an old heavy wood door, which to my surprise hadn’t been locked.
The interior was dark, cavernous, with high ceilings. You could see and not see, like in a dimly lit night club. In front of us was a staircase with a trace of a dim yellow from an incandescent bulb illuminating the edges of the steps, but not managing to reach to the bottom. To our right, was more darkness. Was there more building that way? Another room? To our left was an opening. It wasn’t so much a separate room as a separate part of the entry way, itself larger than the space we had first entered. There were folding chairs arranged in rows, about half occupied by people who were staring into the light emanating from a stage. Actors were on the stage. There was a set, but it was sparse. There were costumes though. Rough approximations of medieval clothing. Old language. Shakespeare? We slipped into some seats.
The young man on the stage says he comes from France. Some others enter. Is one a king? Gavestone. Mortimer. Marlowe, perhaps? There is a queen, she is unhappy. This unexpected play. It is like entering a dream. Plots. Murder. All so strange. It feels not quite real. Of course, it is not real, it’s a play. But sitting watching the play is what feels unreal.
We must have arrived shortly after it began because we seem to see the whole thing.
“Are there always plays here?” I asked after it ended.
“No, this is the first,” Slacker responds.
We walk towards the stairs I saw when we first came in. A big, heavy, broad wooden staircase. The rest of the audience files out. We are the only ones going upstairs.
“What is this place?”
“It’s a former convent.”
The hallway is wide and lined with doors. We go inside one. There is a narrow bed and the room isn’t much bigger. The ceiling is high. There might be more volume unused above our heads than used at surface level. I like it here and I don’t. The building is interesting. I wish I could just wander around it. But there seems to be no locks anywhere. It makes me uneasy. I think to myself, I can complain, but if I complain then I should just leave. I resign myself to accepting it and I say nothing.
The next morning, I head down the hallway in search of the toilet. I find it. Like everything else in this place, it feels big, cavernous and empty and as if it was transported from another era. I have that strange feeling of having walked through some sort of portal into parallel universe where everything looks normal, but feels wrong. The bathroom looks like it could be in a dormitory built in the beginning of the century. Along one wall is a trough with some taps over it. Toilet stalls are along the other wall. A young man is washing his hands. He smiles slightly, says hello quietly and returns to washing his hands. I go into one of the stalls. I decide that I won’t shower here. I need a shower, but feel too insecure. Too much empty space. Too few locks. Too many strangers, but too isolated at the same time. I wouldn’t want to stand alone in here with my clothes off.
I return to the nun’s cell Slacker calls home.
There’s a light rap on the door. A young woman pokes her head in. “My boyfriend said you had a female friend visiting. I wanted to come and meet her.”
The boyfriend must have been the young man in the bathroom.
She walked into the room and plopped herself on the bad. She was very pale. There was something noticeably tactile about her flesh. She wore a loose fitting tee shirt. The neck was stretched out and the shirt was several sizes too big. She had a quiet voice, light brown hair and gray eyes and gave the impression of softness. She spoke quietly, but rapidly. She was saying something about Derrida. Derrida. Derrida. Derrida. Her boyfriend tells her about Derrida. Her boyfriend is so smart. Do I like Derrida?
I tell her that I have not read Derrida.
She says I must.
Whenever someone mentioned Derrida, I see her gray eye, her pink flesh.
She jumps up. She must get back to her room, she says. Her boyfriend will return soon and he’ll be so mad if he knows she’s been bothering us. Before she goes, she puts her hands on my shoulder and says that four of us will have to get together soon. I think she’s hinting at a foursome and when the door closes, I ask Slacker if that’s what she means.
“I think so, but don’t want to. It’s not the foursome. It’s not her. It’s her boyfriend. He creeps me out. Did you hear the way she talks about him. It’s like she idolizes him. It’s not healthy.”
He pauses for a moment as if judging how much to say. “She told me that during sex he likes to take a razor blade and cut her because watching her bleed turns him on. She showed me her breasts. They’re covered with small cuts. If it was just kinky sex… well, that’s not my taste anyway. But he dominates her out of bed. She’s sweet, but I think she’s naive. I’m afraid it will go no where good. I worry about her.”
I only saw her briefly one time after that. Soon afterward, something changed regarding the property and all the people who lived there had to leave.