Green Eye

Joshua Idehen

art by Caroline Moore

Her tip glass is empty.
Maria; she has cold hands. She has hands begging for blood to return, to wash back into the shore of her fingers. She dips back into the ice sink. She carts the cubes into the glass. Her hands are trembling, trembling jelly. Customer bastard says lay off the Charlie yeh? It’s not drugs you stupid fucking chav, it’s the cold. But she doesn’t say it. She doesn’t. She smiles at him, forced giggles out her nostrils. Alcohol, sugar soda, stir, stir. A little serviette paper below the drink; routine, like sleep and waking.
One hundred and three, she tells him.
Customer bastard makes comedy face, says you having a laugh. Another giggle; her eyes shifting between ugly mug and beautiful wallet. Please pay with cash, please; she wishes for the papers of heaven. He brings out cash, she can’t control her smile. He counts the money. She watches the notes fall on the bar top. She counts. She keeps her hands, her wandering fingers, herself, behind her back. She can’t control herself, her lips curl back to be licked. Like Sesame Street, she counts along: eighty, ninety, tip, tip, tip, tip. No tip. The crash. Customer bastard leaves perfect change and slappable smile. She turns, sniffs once under the shadow of her hair, loads up the till with notes and coins, notes and coins. Disappointment; eyes are like stubborn children; they wander where they’re not supposed to go. They wander to the tip glass, and her tip glass is empty.
She fears.

Her tip glass has metal tender.
Customer bastard after customer bastard after customer bastard and bitch. Her till says seventy seven transactions. Her tip glass says six pounds. Her projection, the amount she would need to make in tips tonight to keep her life together, was six hundred and fifty, excluding food. She has done it before, many times before. Saturday nights long before she has made more with her eyes closed. She knew how to wine and dine customer bastards. She knew the right words to say, the right way to move. With her eyes closed, she made miracles. On this Saturday night; it was all going wrong. Her words were not smooth like new butter, rather stale, like old bread.  She had unbuttoned her top right down to the bra, but customer bastards weren’t looking. Flattery, singing, jokes, discounts on the cocaine dispenser, flashing, licking; all amounted to six flimsy sculptures of the King’s head. Happy hour ended at seven and she had made nothing during that time. Those with cash were with drinks and weren’t buying any more. Lovely Dee was doing majestic business with his Es. Lisa had a full tip glass. The only one it seemed having a terrible night, was her. When she really needed the money.

Minutes crawled on their bellies. The music chewed the ears; they refused to be blocked out or enjoyed, that terrible dance stuff. Customer bastards, glass red eyed, soaped on lovely Dee’s Es, didn’t want alcohol; they used her for water pints. The time was 11:15. The body kept working, her mind desperate for a plan B. she cannot pay the rent on six pounds.  She cannot borrow cash from anyone; Lisa was not her friend anymore, she still owed her neighbors, and mother was dead.
A popular song; the crowd applauds.
Customer bastard and bitch comes up to the bar, wants a single shot of Smirnoff neat. Cheapo. His bitch’s wearing her black eye with pride, gives Maria a I-got-a-man-what-you-got Look. She wants to bust out a laugh, point at the swollen circle and giggle till morn. But she doesn’t. She shrugs. She wants, needs him to pay cash. Glass, Smirnoff. Bastard changes mind, wants ice. Cold, cold fingers, no more blood, dip into the ice sink. She fixes her smile in place before she raises her head above the bar. White serviette, drink. Bitch wants a beer. Maria’s opens mouth to complain. Customer bastard launches slap on bitch, takes drink off bar and places credit finger on top of the bar scanner. A short, depressing beep accepts payment. Customer bastard pulls bitch to dance floor. Maria’s lip speaks with no support from the tongue:
Wanker; cheapo credit whore.
She could always love the landlord a couple of the days, but she was still on her AIDS medication, and he knew that; he had given it to her. He wouldn’t want to fuck her now; it’s such a bastard to get rid of. Maybe she could love his dick instead? Maybe she could psyche him into it, into letting her off for another week; he always says she’s his favourite. Now that she believed anything that fat, balding, ugly, leeching little piece of… fuck! Hopes bubbles away; his wife was in town. He would kick her out in a heartbeat.
Oi! Doll-face, hurry up with the fucking drink.
Eight more customer bastards pay with credit finger. She worries.
She fears.

A miracle; two hundred and fifty. Hope bubbles up.

Armored bouncers were on their shift, kicking out the overdosed puking about or fighting or falling without a pulse to get up with. The janitor-machines did the cleaning, the dance floor is empty. More customer bastards are let in to plug the holes. Fresh, new, money/drug eager bastards. One of them turns out to be a regular. Oh does she thank her gods! She’s on him like a persistent little fly; smiling, dancing, winking, flirting. She’s desperate, he’s loaded. One happy time after, she’s halfway to salvation. Two fifty, in thirty minutes. Her tip glass isn’t an ugly beast anymore. It’s not yet a beauty, but at this rate she will pull out. She relaxes. The tension fucks off. Confidence is like an old friend; she on a roll. Ten pounds, twenty, thirty. Three hundred and ten already. Lesbian bitches tipped her, even lesbian bitches. Definitely on a roll. She lets herself fall into a forbidden dream; she could pull it off. She keeps on she’ll be safe for this week. And after that no more smoking, no more pills. Not til she stabilizes her finances. She smiles. She’s overjoyed, dancing to the music even. Giving compliments for no reason, serving everyone. Everyone’s happy, everyone’s tipping. It seems so easy this, making tips. Like breathing. Four hundred. Four hundred already! She’s almost there. More customer bastards! More, more, more!
Regular’s gone off with some bitch, she worries, but lets it go. She’s on a roll, with or without him. She can pull it off. She notices new customer bastard, one of the club patrons; old man in rich young suit with old bitch in lion fur. Cute. They’re on Lisa’s station, and she isn’t there. Maria helps herself. Hey gorgeous, she says. The old bitch stares her down. She wishes she never said that.
The man says, can I have a glass of champagne for the lady. Old, smoked out voice he had.
Yes sir, she says, and what about you?
He halves his eye, scopes the bottles behind her. She gives way so he can see. His eyebrow bends into a curve. He says, Bombay Sapphire and Tonic.
Yes sir, she replies. She bends over. Fingers launch at the ice sink. She doesn’t mind anymore.
Oh, he adds, can I have green eye with it?
She freezes, the ice bites her. She looks up. An eye sir?
A green eye, dear, says his bitch.
For a moment she cannot move, cannot think. She pulls herself together; it’s just a garnish, it’s just a garnish; she repeats the mantra in her head as she turns around, the one they taught her in training. She opens the fridge. No eyes. Fuck. Nearby fridges are clean of eyes. This looks bad. She looks back at the old customer bastard, and he is watching her. She knows she has to leave the bar, but that will mean the loss of her vibe. The customers will change. Her space will feel cold and unfriendly. The music will be different. She can’t leave the bar now! She’s in a roll! She was going to make it! Why of all times now?
 Lisa returns, just in time. That bitch, she must have planned everything, to fuck off her vibe. She knew the old bastard wanted an eye so she left when she wasn’t looking so she takes the order and has to go to the wash-up to get the cellar manager, leaving the bar and losing her vibe. She wants to shoot Lisa down with her look. Lisa serves other customers, ignoring the old bastard and his bitch. She smiles at Maria for a moment, just so Maria knew she’s been purposely fucked over. Four hundred, and now she has to leave the bar. She shuts her eyes; she needs another miracle. When her eyes open, she’s pulled herself together and ties down all the pieces of her mind with a tiny string of hope. She’ll just go ask the cellar manager to send her some. She’ll be back in no time. She can still pull this off. No big deal. She says We’re out of eyes, sir. I’ll have to go get another one. It’ll take about ten to thirty minutes; do you mind?
 Please say no. please say no. please say no.
 He says, I don’t mind.
 She leaves the bar.

 Worst fears never come without a party; she calls the cellar manager from the phone in the wash-up at the end of the bar, and he has no eyes left. At first she felt it meant one disappointed customer, her returning to the bar. But then she bumped into the bar manager. Did you call Tolik, asks Brian.
 You’re serving Lussen, yeh?
 The old man in the suit?
 Oh. Oh shit, she thinks. Yeah I am.
 Did you call Tolik, see if we have any eyes in?
 We don’t have any in. Can I go back to the bar?
 No.  Go upstairs, get your coat on.
 What? Words, like rain, wash away dreams. Where…  why … where am I going?
 To Soho. I’ll give you the address.
 The shivers inside, her ribs boogie and she’s not even cold. But… can’t we order some more or some-
 Hang on, he says, let me make a call.
 Minutes. Valuable tip making minutes flying by. She looks at the bar; there’s a customer rush, and she’s not there. She’s not there. Fuck. She looks at the time. Two. Fuck. Two hours left. The door busts open. Customer bitch falls into the wash-up leading a flood of music, drops to the floor. 
Blood trickles out every hole. Her face and hair soaked in seconds. Bouncers move in, move her. She chokes while on top of a muscled shoulder, green eyes glistening. Maria forgets her troubles to sneer; fucking cokies. Fucking cokies. Brian is back.
Our contact has run out of eyes, he says. He has something wrapped in a red cloth, he’s giving it to her.
 What’s this? She takes it. She opens it. A knife. No, no, no. I told Luke I don’t this shit okay? I don’t-.
 I’m not asking you, I’m telling you.
 For fuck’s sake man, how am I supposed to-
 Use your initiative bitch. Get out there or get out.
 She gets out. Upstairs. Staff room. Coat. Jeans. Pills. Gas mask. Travelcard. Petroleum jelly. Fuck! Fuck! FUCK! Tears. Sniff. Breathe out. She can do it, she can. Petroleum jelly on skin. Pills. She goes out the door.

 There are bodies piled on the side of the club, waiting for the morgue bus. Maria can’t believe her luck. On the top of the body mole-hill was cokie customer bitch, coughing white foam out her mouth with her head upside down. Green eyes, bright green, the best kind. Maria bites lip. She looks at the bouncers. They shake their head. What? She looks a those juicy eyes, calling for plucking.
Why not? She asks.
Them druggies you bitch, you wanna get this place closed down, passing druggie eyes without customer consent?
 She stews. She wants to blow their heads off with her looks. It doesn’t work. She walks to the bus station.

 Attention all passengers on bus 38. We are now approaching Tottenham court road station. Please put on your masks now.
 Maria isn’t listening. She’s watching everyone on the bus. The rubber hilt of the knife burns her skin, she’s holding too tight. She needs to get back, she needs to get back on the bar. She only has an hour left before closing time. Two hundred more, she can do it. One green eye. Who has green eyes? Her eyes begin to sting, she can taste, see the smog. Oh shit! She wears the mask. There’s no way she can see them now. Fuck.She hides the knife. Couldn’t do it on a bus anyway. Gets off at Shaftsbury Avenue.

 And she stands at the bus stop. The bus goes off, there’s nobody, no bodies in sight. She’s never done this before. Fuck what does she do now? No idea. It’s freezing. She hates Soho. Too many fucking cokies, and there’s nobody now. Running out of options. Doesn’t even know where to start. Maybe someone’s selling eyes here? Tears. Breath. Her mask’s getting fogged up. She looks at the watch. 2:30. Shit. Pills kicking in; no adrenaline, no happiness, no fuckness going on inside her, so the drugs heighten her desperation. She cries. It’s quiet. No buses in sight.
 Hello there, love. You alright?
 Maria turns around. Old woman. Seventy, by the looks of the fingers. Gas mask too big so there’s cello-tape about the neck. One of the filters on the gas mask’s got a cigarette on it, which is a cool idea. Five foot something, thin blond hair.
 You alright love?
 And the greenest eyes.
 Maria plucked out the knife stabbed the woman through the mask into the head took out the knife stabbed into the cello-tape neck she gurgles smoke comes out took out the knife into the tummy out the tummy in the tummy out the tummy the woman screams the woman falls Maria falls in the chest out the chest woman screams in the chest out the chest the woman screams Maria screams in the chest out the chest Maria screams Maria screams Maria screams.

 Bright light showers over her, only her. She thinks it’s the moon, but it’s really a searchlight on a helicopter. She screams at it anyway. She throws her anger at it. It speaks back to her, via gamma phone.


The lights goes away.

 Maria is in work clothes. The bath was cold, she shivers. She goes through her normal clothes, dips her hands in her pocket. Something squishy. Oh fuck. She must have sat on one of the eyes. Fuck. One more eye left. She walks downstairs. She must blow the landlord. With four hundred and a  good trouser clean he’s sure to let her for the week.
 She cries.
 Brian catches her before she gets on. Did you get it?
 How many?
 I sat on one.
 What? God, you stupid cunt. Where’s the other one?
 She gives it to him by the vein on its back. He picks it, looks, and shakes his head. I cannot believe you. I cannot believe you. You fucking idiot.
 What? What did I do now?
 Do you know what colour these eyes are?
 Wha? What do you…? She looks again.  Worst fears never come without a party; blue eyes. Speechless.
 Brian says fucking useless. Storms off with the eye. Maria sees the world through smudged lens. Her mascara crumbles into rivers on her face. Brian returns. Fucking useless, he says. One hand is the eye; the other is a contact lens. He fastens it onto the eye, and voila! Blue eye is green. Don’t stir the drink yeh? Don’t fucking stir the drink. Now off with you.

Customers shooed or tossed out. Machines work faster on the empty dance floor. Lisa and the rest of the girls count their tips. Maria drops the eye into the rock glass. Almost, almost stirs, her mind is broken. White serviette. Drink. Sorry it took so long sir.
It’s okay. One hand ushers credit finger, the other picks out the eye and gulps. Customer bitch hisses, Maria turns, hides under the shadow of her hair.
Excuse me?
She turns.
Customer bitch has an open purse. She pushes bastard’s credit finger away from the bar, gives Maria five thousand.
Ma’am, you… you don’t have to pay
Don’t be silly, girl. Take the money.
The manager said
He said. I insist.
Maria wants to kill this woman. It’s only four hundred and twenty
Then keep the change.
Keep the change. The club must have gone dead silent. Lisa, girls, bouncers turn to look. Keep the change. The words chop her apart with their delivery, like rhythm in poetry.  Four thousand, four hundred and eighty. She cannot begin to imagine what she no longer has to do to live with a roof under her head. The debts she can settle. The flowers she could buy for mother’s grave. The clothes. The shoes. The food. Real food. The drugs. Real, un-recycled drugs. Un-recycled pills. The Stuff.  She needs stuff.
She cries.

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