Lismore. Friday 9.20pm:
She's a very pretty woman. She playfully pokes me in the back and breathes on my neck. It's a hot breath.
If she and I were alone somewhere - say, on a beach under a full moon among the whispering palms, or even just upstairs in one of the rooms here at the Gollan Hotel, then it would be quite romantically exciting. But we're not.
We're lying on the floor in a crowded room in front of a small stage where a nearly-naked woman is being expertly smacked by a master percussionist.
You've got to love art, eh?
It's pre-apocalypse cabaret; it's non-virtual culture in a post-agriculture, pre-quarry society that is rocketing towards a Facebook future.
The pub is packed. Near the stage, where the burlesque woman's pearly skin is starting to show red blotches from the spanking, there is lying and sitting room only. I'm sprawled with this satin-wrapped, fire-breathing woman on the floor so close to the stage I can see the welts forming pore by pore on the percussed pale skin.
Behind us are people seated in chairs balancing wine on their knees, and behind them, people stand. Behind them some louder types, confusing burlesque with strip, are standing on seats, shouting.
I'm near the stage because I'm the MC. I'm trapped by the crowd in this small space in front of the stage. But, I must say, it's a pleasant entrapment. With a squeak of satin against my shoulder, an intoxicated throaty laugh in my ear, and a beautiful woman on stage being played like an exotic drum, this is exactly where I want to be. (Well, perhaps not... But enough tears already. It's certainly not a bad place to be.)
Sex gets a bad rap. It's used to sell everything from cars to phones, to exploit women, and to control men. Having been brought up in a Catholic school, I have some issues about sex. (Even now I don't trust men in long black dresses with wine on their breath and a crucifix in their hand.) The church taught me that sex is guilt.
Sex has been used as a manipulative tool by churches since the beginning of misogyny. Churches, and societies created upon their doctrines, have encouraged perversion, damaged children, defiled women, and yet still make pronouncements about sex and sexuality that are so out of touch with reality that it's a wonder anyone takes these cartels of pompous men seriously. But they do.
Sick societies will bomb children in the name of oil, but will condemn gays and the sexually liberated to hell in the name of God. Well, if hell is where the action is, that's where I'm going.
The performance is ending with some serious burlesque buttock bashing by the percussionist and some syncopatic breast beating by the gorgeous drum herself. With a final whack, applause explodes and splashes across the room.
I struggle to my feet, leaving behind the hot breath, throaty laugh and languid poking, and grab the microphone.
The woman in satin also tries to get up but whatever cocktail is running around that body is not so quick on its feet. She trips over a foldback monitor, falls into the bandstand and onto a stage light, narrowly missing a guitar amp.
So, here I am in hell's cabaret at the end of the world with a pretty woman in pink satin looking up at me from where she lies at my feet, a red light shining from under her skirt, a dazed smile on her pouty lips, and I'm introducing porno puppets featuring flying penises.
It's a strange life.