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The Astral Plane Nail and Waxing Salon


I looked out the window as I drove down the crummy streets of locked-up stores and overflowing trash containers. I felt so outside of things. There weren’t many people on the sidewalks; a few guys trudging home from late shifts; an overweight couple, holding hands and carrying lumpy bags; a dejected guy with a sign on his hat saying, “Obama condoms” and a whole tray of them hanging around his neck. We drove past a bus stop with no one at it. On its beat-up side was an insurance ad that said, “You have the car keys. You have the house keys. I have a deal.” The words were printed on the big gray face of a guy who looked like a client I’d had a few years back. He’d talked to me about his son in college, and when I looked at the ad, I had this feeling of house, car, children, security; a life that I could have no part of, but was fated to glimpse flying past. Yet this life, these lives have passed through me too, through my body, in the words and touch and cum of many men with places in the world; these little pieces of other people’s lives, stories about their children even, embedded in my body; joined with dirty things. I am part of it but have nothing to do with it.

Before “Client 9” this wasn’t true. I could’ve worked for however long I wanted, then found a way back to the world without anybody knowing. Now that will never happen. I can raise myself up; it won’t matter. In the eyes of everybody, I will always be a whore.

Then I saw the weirdest thing: a synagogue that had guys with machine guns hanging around outside of it. Seriously! These zhlubby guys! Two of them were laughing and joking together, but then there was another one peeking out from behind a bush, pointing his gun and staring at us as we drove by. Really, the world is so absurd, why should I even give a rat’s ass about it! It’s true what I said about the women of NYC! A client even said it to me once, he said: “You girls don’t do anything that all women don’t do—you just do it better and with a lot more class!”

Anyway, when we pulled up at the salon, I saw the side door immediately; it was the only lit part of the building. I told the driver to wait. As I approached the door I heard Top 40 radio coming from it. My heart beat. I looked back at the driver; he was watching me, but when he saw me look, he went back to reading something in his lap. I opened the door. There was a brightly painted alcove with a little table with a vase of artificial flowers on it, and a stairway. I began to walk up it.

And as I did, the music began to change. It was a song by Céline Dion, I think, I’m not even sure. Whatever the song was, it was like somebody grabbed it and pulled it like taffy. Céline’s voice got pulled way out of shape, got a hundred times higher and more powerful and … the music got split into hundreds of strands, each with its own sound, each strand like a river of electrical power running through my body as I walked up the stairs. There were words but I couldn’t understand them. Suddenly, too, there were pictures on the walls on either side of me, whole murals depicting what seemed like dozens of things at once: a beautiful naked woman with long black hair and a giant snake wound about her; another naked woman, holding an apple, angels, devils, winged creatures carrying children away … it was frightening, but I was not afraid. The stairs suddenly seemed miles long, but just walking normally, I was going up fast, toward a glowing platform at the top.

And then I was at the top. There was a woman in a long white sleeveless gown, and the light behind her was so bright that at first I couldn’t see anything but her. She looked like she didn’t like me at all, but still she said, “Lilith, enter by special invitation.” I tried to say, “That’s not my name,” but what came out was, “Thank you.”

And then she just wasn’t there. She evaporated. I was standing in an incredibly bright, posh, intergalactic nail salon, with several customers, all of whom looked weirdly familiar. But I couldn’t focus on them at all, first because the salon had no walls or ceiling, and second, it seemed to be in outer space, with darkness outside the circumference of the electric lights, huge planets and stars all around us. As events happened through the night, other things would appear in the sky, giant people and creatures, but they made so little sense that my mind couldn’t take them in and I can’t remember most of them.


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