Excerpt from The Platinum Raven by Rohan Quine

by | indielit

So that was informative, he drily reflects. He halts on the stairwell and peers down off it to the tower’s main lobby, where the doors to the outside world are being opened. But whatever this mirror mist turns out to be like, it will surely be a cut above the drugs he knew before. For Scorpio, like many of this club’s clientele, came here from elsewhere. In his case, it was from pretty much as far around the globe as you could get from here—Los Angeles. It was only two years ago that he’d first arrived in L.A., on the run from his home town of Asbury Park (and that was a whole different story in itself), aiming for anonymity and a brand-new start. He achieved both aims, but at the cost of an addiction that saw him scoring heroin at seedy bars and clubs in Hollywood: at the Study perhaps, or at Tempo or Plaza with the drag queens, or at Blacklight with the derelicts. Or if he could get a lift, at other likely sources further away, like Scores or the divey Jalisco Inn in Downtown (he shakes his head involuntarily, to recall these old names that he’s not recalled for months, but here they are, still tucked away in his memory-banks and popping out now). Chico in Montebello, Suave in Carson, the Annex down in Inglewood—or Jewel’s Catch One, for a bit of scale and glamour. Oh, fuck… They were mean times, cut with flashes and jagged stabs of fun, but always followed by more mean times.

​He worked Santa Monica Boulevard with the other girls, in twos or threes if possible but often alone. Scorpio was just a working name at first, chosen on a whim to undertake this paying work, in place of the boy name Angel that he’d grown up with in Asbury Park; but since this paying work was the only kind of work he found himself doing, and these girls his only colleagues and friends, he quickly morphed into Scorpio for all purposes. How well he got to know that long, grungy strip of Santa Monica throughout those months, from Western to LaBrea after midnight: so much verbiage and congregation, business and action there at Highland, near the donut stand, perched on the grimy wall, just beside the bus-stop; or standing at Gower by the disused gas station, sitting by the strip-malls at Van Ness or Wilton, on the bench at Budget rental cars at Orange, or beside that sports field down at Cahuenga, a block away from that hustler who disliked all proximity… Then if the girls’ ships had come in that night, walking west, rich and hungry and closer temporarily, across the city limits into West Hollywood , where a plate of food awaited at the Yukon Diner. Or if no ship had come, then sprawling at the furthest ever-unwiped tables in the 24/7 drive-through burger joint beside LaBrea—covering perhaps for one another, as they shot up in the men’s or women’s room right there, in a grimy rush of over-yellow mustard and onion-rings.

​One night he had a fix already in his pocket, and he and another working girl met, both dressed in boy garb, and drove in someone’s clapped-out car, up to the Griffith Park observatory and sat upon the parapet above the wooded slopes and had their fix. So they sat immobile there; then sweetness, richness and losing track of time… Sitting there poised, poisoned, overbrimming with exhaustion and sensory overload, Scorpio scanned the City of Angels spread beneath him in the black, black heat. Pressed down by this heavy sticky night that never seemed to end—an L.A. night that sealed a day that always felt like the last day of all. The grid of bright darkness and points of coloured light stretched west and south and east to infinity, to suburbs that were so far, they surely wrapped around the earth and came back here, the neighbourhoods melting so together, fading on and on… Cars poured numberless and tiny on the freeways that sliced the flat enormity; then slower on the Avenues and Boulevards, from traffic light to traffic light, flicking north and south, east and west, north and south, east and west; then trickled through the darker grid of Streets from stop sign to stop sign, winking into shadow-view, glimpsed in the gaps between the buildings and the palm trees, residential stucco and security gates, where the lawn-sprinklers sprinkled…

​At last the friend had to leave, and offered a ride, but Scorpio said he’d stay there alone. They air-kissed as usual, and off the other went. Then he sat upon his hands on the parapet, right there, his feet above the hillside, aquiver and alone again and hurting with the rawness of a squirt of flesh and nerves among the concrete and steel and the plastic and the gasoline that threatened and addicted him, week after week. Blades, rocks, glass, edges; fists in the shadows of the city, cocked in wait for him, spying out of doorways at the shapes of the contents of his pockets, or to check he was alone; and the gayness of his body in the pools of the street-lights. Hatred and desire and indifference coiled and built around him, oiled to spring. A crackle lit the sky of a sudden in the west (black wires up the hillside, aerials on orange-tinged night above the canyon), but no thunder yet drowned the endless cricket-chirp.
​Looking down Normandie, he found the line of Santa Monica Boulevard—there. So further over, somewhere there, was Circus, the warehouse-sized club where that boy had danced who crackled when he looked at Scorpio. Nor had thunder followed then, just tightness and an ache and further crackle when their eyes met, and thunderous industrial music playing loud, then Scorpio’s knowing that the boy had gone. Then beside Circus was Arena where that blond boy, slumming it from West Hollywood, bearing ecstasy, had held him through the night, with his suntan and muscles, then had vanished in the morning. Then had been the thugs in the parking lot with baseball bats, seeing him and pointing at him, nodding at each other, laughing, shouting, veering by degrees across the parking lot towards him, their bats swinging, ready for him, all the while his blood pumping; lowering his head, slowly steering away from them, trying hard to walk with authority and strength, even striding. The thugs came closer—then a bus stopped in front of him, as if to deliver him, stopping just in time for him to hop aboard before they reached the bus-stop too and struck the closing doors behind him…

​His eyes refocused as he jumped at the sound of a gunshot from the east. His fingers gripped the parapet. The moon ahead was low, heavy amber in the haze, and suddenly he knew: he must leave L.A. and clean up at the same time, or else he’d never leave and would end up living Downtown, there on skid row, sleeping in a box on San Julian or Fifth Street, where once he’d gone to score and smelt the hopelessness… No—never.
​He swung his legs up, twisted round and dropped his feet back down, facing up at the observatory. “Angels, I’m leaving you,” he sweetly spoke, and spat upon the ground. “Thanks a bunch, and have a nice night.”

​He turned to the city, bowed once, then he skipped away suddenly: across the parking lot and down the hills into Hollywood; across a spell of months comprising struggle and transition; then inexorably here, to Dubai and the tower and its first night of mirror mist!

From The Platinum Raven
By Rohan Quine
Buy the book here!

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