Logs:An Absence of Poetry

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An Absence of Poetry

Characters: Slip & Luc
Date: 2020-03-25
Summary: A secret is exchanged for company. It proves weighty, with the pair disagreeing on the story's moral.
Disclaimers: Some challenging words and subjects in the course of discussing change.

The night's still young, and the doors to The Eventide have only opened within the last hour or so. Still, despite the midweek date--and increasing pressure for social distancing--the music is already going strong, and there's a decent crowd out on the dancefloor and dotting the bar. There are two bartenders currently on shift, one intermittently mentoring the other. Not that Slip needs too much coaching. She's been behind a bar before, and the POS system isn't that difficult to master. Between the relative quiet and her general competence, she has a little bit of downtime now and then. At the moment, the darkly dressed darkling is standing near an empty patch of the bar, seemingly watching the dancers. Shouldn't she be... polishing glasses or something?

Luc lingered awhile downstairs where things are more quiet. That's how he likes things: Quiet. He usually finds a stool at a bar, orders a whiskey (nothing extravagant or too expensive), and thumbs through a dog-earred paperback, sometimes for hours on end. Tonight though, he meandered upstairs, towards the thumpy-thumpy music. Maybe the quiet is getting to him. When something you appreciate becomes the 'norm' for everyone, it can, after all, become tedious. Perhaps that's it.

He's dressed in a pair of dark denim jeans and a black blazer over a form-fitting black t-shirt that welds itself well to a fine physique. Raking a hand through his long-ish hair, gliding those strands of ebon back from his eyes, he looks about and spies that empty patch of bat Slip is roosted behind, moving to take up a seat there. He'll smile at her, softly, in that 'making customer to service person' kinda way.

Slip's ear tilts toward Luc, the movement almost entirely hidden behind her hair, before her pale-eyed attention follows. Her smile's easy enough to suggest it might actually be genuine. Or she's well-practiced at this sort of service-oriented interaction. Either's plausible, really. Whatever idle voyeurism had caught her interest is abandoned entirely as she steps nearer to the stranger and asks, "What can I get for ya?" in an accent that places her farther east, but not quite properly southern.

She's lovely, and Luc appreciates that and she knows it by the way he looks at her. It's not lascivious; rather, it comes across more like the gentle tribute one might give to seeing a flower bloom after a long, long, winter. It's that sort of regard, and his dark eyes crinkle at the corners with it, over his soft, closed-lipped smile. "Are you feeling creative?" He wonders, his voice deep, his accent spiced with a subtle French-sounding patois. "What would you recommend for me? I shall leave it entirely in your hands."

Slip's smile sharpens at the corners with subtle acknowledgement of the gentleman's regard, dark lashes dip ever so slightly lower. Her expression flattens slightly with some wry amusement at his opening inquiry, like she's stumbled on this trap a few times before and isn't about to get snagged again. "I can work some magic," she promises, but the caveat is already pending, evidenced in her tone. "Just need you to answer three questions for me." She gives him barely a second to consider, not necessarily waiting for his buy-in before proceeding to ask, "What's your usual order? How are you feeling right now? And..." The slight tilt of her head, the way her eyes squint just a little? She might be making this up as she goes. "What's your favorite color?"

Well, now! Luc smiles. Perhaps coming upsides wasn't a bad idea at all, never mind the extra noise and the zing of sweat he can smell wafting from those few gyrating bodies on the dance floor. "Very shrewd of you," he compliments, meshing his long fingers and leaning in a bit against the bar from his side of it. "Well, when I can afford it, it's a good Armagnac. That would have to be my favorite. I don't really like to drink alone, so when I do, I prefer it summons up good memories for me. Taste and aroma serve well there." A pause. "But, I'm okay with a whiskey, since you did ask what my 'usual' order is." He wets his smile, eyelids hooding, then continues, "Right now, I am feeling intrigued. And... my favorite color is blue. But, not just any shade of blue. Blue like the sky on a clear day, or, blue like the robes of the Madonna."

Slip's dark brows bump once in a subdued sort of waggle for the compliment turned her way, but her pale green attention remains expectant. The first answer seems like it might present a challenge, the bartender's brow knitting faintly while she listens. That knot resolves at the mention of whiskey, and the subsequent answer inspires the return of amused smile. And then he picks blue. That earns a laugh, a roll of her eyes, but she nods. "Alright." With that, and a shallow nod, she turns away to set to work.

She sets out an old fashioned glass, suggesting this might be a whiskey-based drink, then starts measuring out her ingredients: some ice, a couple dashes each of Peychaud's bitters and Angostura aromatic bitters; half an ounce of Benedictine; and equal parts sweet vermouth, cognac and rye. It all gets a good stir to chill the liquid before she adds a large cube of ice to the short glass in which the cocktail will be served then strains the amber cocktail over it. It's topped with a single, dark red cherry. There's not one little thing about it that's blue when she brings it over, but she makes no excuse. She just informs Luc, "Your vieux carre," in a second-hand New Orleans manner, more true to the local dialect than genuine french.

Luc watches with interest as she works. To be sure, the machinations of a proper mixologist do tend to hold one's attention, and Luc is no exception. He does seem familiar with the cocktail however, nodding with a smile as she delivers it after that great show of finesse. "Perfect," he compliments, holding it under his nose a moment before imbibing the smallest of test-quaffs. He crunches the dark red Luxardo cherry between that even row of white teeth of his, and nods towards the sparkling rows of libations behind the bar. "Can I tempt you into drinking with me?" He wonders. "There doesn't seem to be anyone around who might mind, and as I understand it, it's somewhat de regueur these nights to buy a tipple for the 'tender, too."

Slip doesn't look like she buys that appraisal of the drink before the first taste is taken. That which is intellectually perfect might still miss the mark. And so, she watches, smile growing a touch for his treatment of the cherry, whether she registers that as proper appreciation for the cocktail or not. When Luc looks to the bottles, she glances further down the bar to where her mentor for the night--this is likely a new position for her--is currently shooting the shit with one customer while refilling a beer for another. Nobody else appears to be vying for their attention at the moment. Is that likely to change all that much on a Wednesday night? She turns a thoughtful look back to the frenchman and nods. "I'll join you," has the same qualification as her magic had earlier. She wants something in exchange. "If you share something with me." As if the drinking doesn't count. "A story, poem, joke, memory." Lowering her voice almost soft enough that it can't be heard over the thumping, she leans forward conspiratorially to tease, "A secret," and waits, this time, to assure they have an agreement before acting.

There's some scrutiny in Luc's almond-shaped eyes as she presents her last, but it seems of the contemplative sort rather than the overly wary. She's interesting, this girl with the swan-colored skin, and this takes him off guard. He sits back, leaning, jacket falling open just enough to frame a thoughtful exhalation marked by the rise and fall of his chest.

"Stories are my whole life, sweet child. They take too long to tell, though. I'd require your company for a few drinks, to tell one properly. Poems, well... I lack the charm for them and it took me a long time to realize I was terrible at reciting them. And... I don't know any jokes. But, I do have secrets." His black eyes sparkle a little, just catching a bit of light from the dance floor beyond. "But you should choose what kind of secret you want, first. You shall have your choice. One of pleasure, one of pain, or one of enlightenment."

Slip doesn't retreat from the scrutiny, but she does straighten once that option is offered. Her eyes glint with humor at his word choice, when he indicates he'd require her company for longer, that amusement softening the grave nod which assures that, alas, she can't promise that sort of availability tonight. Luc earns a dubious look when he suggests he hasn't the charm for poetry, but she doesn't press. Probably because she's promised secrets. Really, why settle for anything else?

One ear cants to the approach of a couple a few stools down, the pair earning a nod of acknowledgement a second later before her eyes return to the frenchman. Her gaze dips for a moment, thoughtful by all appearances, but she might be checking him out rather than simply weighing the presented options. When she looks up again, she declares, "Pleasure," without any hint of lasciviousness or overt flirtation. It's almost resolute, the way she delivers that word, as if it were sacred. "I'll give you a minute to pick one."

As if attending to her work were an act of benevolence. It doesn't take too long. A beer for one, a vodka tonic for the other. And then a second vieux carre for herself, drawn over and sipped as she returns to her spot in front of Luc, regarding him expectantly.

He doesn't need to take time for this one, though he's allowed plenty of it while she produces drinks for two new patrons and the arduous alchemy required for another Vieux Carre. Instead of having to use that time to think, he luxuriates in simply watching her move about amidst her work, his eyes contemplating her form. But they focus less on the normal feminine wiles, lingering more on the way her wrist moves as it cants for a pour, the number of times she blinks amidst any concentration applied to her duties, the measure of her breath and the way her hair moves. He watches her like a lover that's been with her long enough to know the usual things, but always and ever appreciates those finer nuances.

When at last she returns to him, he sits up again, sips at his toddy, and scoots as close as he can in a lean against the bar. Then he says, "When I was a young man, I knew many women... but I had little pleasure by them..." This sounds the beginning of both a story -and- a secret.

Slip works with an amiable efficiency, though it takes her a few seconds here and there to find something she hasn't yet had to work with since starting this new position. Her smile holds steady, even when she isn't turned toward the couple, reinforcing its sincerity. Her dark hair, occasionally, moves in ways it shouldn't, guided by an overlarge and oddly shaped ear just below, a strange metallic glint visible past dark strands to those able to see past her mask. She keeps one ear canted toward Luc as she moves, a thread of her attention still his even as she sees to others, as she slides a cash tip into her pocket, fingers squeezing the bills a little tighter than necessary, as if grateful, relieved.

When he straightens to make good on his payment, she shifts her weight, bellying up to the backside of the bar to rest her weight a bit, to settle more comfortably into the conversation. The way he begins, implying that he's not young now, earns a hint of curiosity, but no question. She says nothing at all, despite the easy pickings, opting to simply sip and listen, her luxardo cherry as-yet-unplundered.

"You see... I had money then. Not just money but... power. Humans today that have money have power, but back then it was much more... tangible. I could have reached out and choked any neck I wished and no harm would come to me, no matter what anyone discovered about my misdoings. And the unfortunate side effect of all that power was, for me, a distinct lack of sexual emission" He shrugs a little. "That's right.. try as I might, and try I most certainly did, I couldn't achieve a proper climax. There was no geyser, no grand eruption, no great torrent of release."

He settles a fingertip against the large cube of ice in his drink. It doesn't melt. Doesn't so much as dimple inward. Then he stirs it around and lifts the glass for another swallow. "So... I traveled out into the world without my usual trappings. I went with no money and no name. I took a boat to Europe and ended up in Paris and it took some time, some being spat on and beaten and made to eat my own shit, before I discovered where pleasure truly resides..."

Slip listens almost entirely without judgment. She doesn't so much as bat a lash when Luc suggests he might just choke people for no reason beyond wanting to. His description of his absent orgasms, on the other hand, elicits a quiet laugh which makes her most recent sip difficult to swallow, requiring that she glance away for a moment, covering her mouth behind her hand for a delicate cough, a slight clearing of her throat. When she looks back, a glance spared for the unmelting ice cube, she teases, "And you said you had no poetry in you." It takes another sip, another of those clearing sounds to get back to her attentive normal, and tat steady curiosity holds as he speaks of his venture. Her nose crinkles only faintly for the worst of it, as if the mention had elicited a memory of similar smells. When that leads into the promise of realization, her expression turns slightly dubious, but she doesn't prompt him verbally. She just leaves the space open for him to continue.

He watches her face, observes her snicker. It doesn't offend him. In fact, if anything, he seems to take it with the ease of an old comrade at arms, and he just continues on in the flow of his telling of this secret, "And so I learned that the penultimate pleasure is found in the greatest degradation; the seizing of the self and the dragging of it to the lowest of all places. To places beyond all reckoning, to beyond all imagination." He reaches then, for her free hand. If she lets him grasp hers she'll find his is cool and very strong, and soft-fleshed behind bone so tense it seems it could spring from the confines of skin at any moment to do desperate things. He smiles again, that same soft smile, "True pleasure lives in that place you never imagined you could go. It is the rape of the spirit and the skinning of the soul. It dwells in that place where you are naked beyond any idea of nudity."

Slip's curiosity is not without limits. A stranger speaking of abject surrender of self reaching for her hand may well be one of those lines given that her digits withdraw, index finger lifting to tick a gesture of denial side-to-side, as if there were some rule against touching employees that the might both breach should that contact be made. Who knows if such a rule actually exists. She takes no offense, shows no irritation, no loss of interest, but her hand slides into her pocket all the same. Her smile dims as he continues, her drink drawn down, nearer to the bar, the cherry still caught between the edge of the ice cube and the side of the glass, no longer in contact with the cocktail. With a slight cant of her head, she asks, "When that violation is imposed on you by another or when you surrender yourself completely of your own volition?"

"Will is important, I think," Luc tells her, in all earnest. "Because there is power in initiation and that cannot be entered into without choice. For me, well... I simply had no other choice to make. I have always been decisively clever; too smart for my own good, some may say. I needed to overcome my own mind and all its trappings. I ended up finding myself rather intensely programmed -- by my wealth, by my circumstances, by my own submission to those ideals. True change cannot occur without Will, is my summation." He sits back, studying the lines of her face with his eyes. "Even James Joyce, as verbose as he was, knew the power of 'Yes'."

Slip's easy mirth is gone, replaced now with pensive consideration of Luc's understanding of pleasure and personal evolution. The only visible response he earns comes around that summation, a faint tightening of her jaw, a subtle detail that most might miss, that he catches all too easily with his continued study of her features, of her shifting expression. She sets her glass down properly, stealing a look aside as a group sidles up to the bar, but the senior tender on duty seems to recognize them and sets right to taking their orders and catching up, allowing the new girl to continue her own conversation. To tell the customer who's getting all of her attention, "You're wrong," with a gentle certainty. "Not about the power of yes, and not about the significance of will, but that no true change happens without it. We get to choose what we do with who we've become, but we can't always choose the circumstance of our change or what we are when we break free of it."

"No, chere, you're wrong. And maybe that's the true secret I'm imparting to you. There are always nuances to choice." He slides from the stool, leaving his barely touched glass of all that heaven she put into a glass. "My name's Luc. Luc Rappaneau." He reaches into his pocket and out comes a few twenties and a business card with a picture of an open book and a phone number on it. "I'm here in the Marigny. If you want more secrets, that is. Never any poetry, though. I am decidedly bad at poetry."

Slip's eyes narrow, and it's difficult to be discern whether she's trying to work out where those nuances might be or if she's weighing how much she likes this new job against how very wrong she thinks this very nice patron is on this one little philosophical point. It could be both. It's probably both. But Luc, blessedly, knows how and when to make a graceful exit, his descent from the barstool inspiring her to straighten as well, to let her thoughts settled, her expression softening. She accepts the business card, looking it over rather quickly before pocketing it so she can take the cash and ring up the transaction. "Slip," comes with a gesture toward herself to make clear it's her name. "It's been interesting, Luc." A shallow resurgence of her smile gives that descriptor a more-pleasant-than-not inflection. "Maybe next time we'll try this the other way around." With that, she turns toward the register to ring everything up and get back to her work.