As Avenue de la Couronne nears its end at the cemetery of Ixelles, there is No 476 with a clandestine bar. Guy goes there because he is lonely and seeking women. Ute is young and brimming with womanhood. Diane is a huntress who kidnapped a baby to protect it from harm. The stories interweave, as they usually do.
The second virus attack hit harder than the first one and people´s tolerance to restrictions has restricted itself. Nevertheless, the Corona Bar on the Avenue de la Couronne 476 “tenait le coup”, as they say in Brussels. When all bars in town closed again in the middle of October, the message of a clandestine drink place spread around and the bar crew had hands full of work. The barred windows overlooking an enclosed yard let little light in. That was good, as the windows could easily give the clandestine place away. The bar had easy opening hours, almost any time Now. It was good for more reasons; several unemployed people have found here a way to earn some extra money to the meager allowance the state offered.
Guy has taken up a habit of coming over to the bar twice a week – on Thursdays and Saturdays, exceptionally of Sundays, too. It was an expensive pass-time. Nevertheless, a diverse one. In the course of months, more and more artists drifted to the bar: circus people, musicians and actors without jobs, and writers. Some of them alcoholics, some not. The place was reeking with existential doubts, it condensed the collective psyche into an essence of nearly-despair, but not quite, despair that is bearable when shared and that, to be honest, is better than boredom. Saturdays transformed themselves into performance nights spontaneously; Guy still remembered one of the very first on when he came to the bar on Saturday in the usual time. After a late lunch he had prepared for himself, a nap and a masturbation round to ease the swollen itchy crotch; he took his jacket, some fifty coronas, (the only cash that was used in the bar and that he changed for Euros when he run out of the stock). He put on a jacket, tied up the laces of his sneakers and walked from his apartment in Ixelles towards Avenue de la Couronne. He was welcome as a regular, with a casual nod. Georges, the bartender, was talking to a lean timid guy, Luc, who was sipping vodka orange looking melancholic, as usual. Luc was not a drinker, the one vodka orange lasted him for hours. They were commenting on how shitty city life has become; on sport and women, the usual topics. Guy took a seat at the bar and received the first beer of the night. No women in sight, but that could change swiftly. Sometimes, Guy was lucky and the evening ended up with a toilet blowjob or, occasionally, also with a female companion brought to his apartment overlooking the Flagey square.
“How is everybody?” Though usually timid, he fitted in with more boldness, as he considered the bar his second home already.
“What do you mean? Great, of course,” Luc responded. “Can´t be any better,” and, suddenly, he started singing a song in French.
Georges crossed his arms on the chest, Guy turned on his stool to get a better view of the singer, and the atmosphere suddenly changed, charged with music, with a human voice, it converted the place into a cabaret. Luc sang the song to the very end, added a few curled notes for a dramatic crescendo and final and got rewarded with an applause.
“Wow, haven´t heard a real-life music for many months now,” Guys said.
“True, all is online production these days,” Georges said and turned to a new customer who was eager to place an order.
Since then, Saturday started to be concert nights, and dancing nights and stand-up comedy nights. Good for Guy, because women tend to consent to sex more if they are exposed to the arts beforehand.
Towards the end of October there was Saturday again, an open-end one, Guy told himself. None of the fleeting acquaintances he found at the bar has transformed to something deserving the name “relationship”. Unless one agrees, “all is a relationship because we are relational beings”.
This afternoon, as Guy fell into a heavy slumber after having eaten a “carbonnade flamande”, he had a dream, a disturbing nightmare, one could say. Even though it was on autumn mid-afternoon. His mother appeared in the dream just when he was about to enter a woman. The woman had no face, the mother, though did, and with her hands she was suggesting a pregnant belly, a huge one. Guy looked better (in the dream), and really, the woman he was about to enter was pregnant at least eight months. That confused him and interfered with the arousal some more, the mother´s face had the same effect already. Yes, yes, take her, the mother was shouting without voice, mouthing. He was not able to. He woke up, aroused, surprisingly, as in the dream he was not able to perform. Better to forget the nightmare as quickly as possible. Guy made himself a cup of coffee, sitting in the living room, staring into the space with blank eyes, with the only hope to get out of the apartment, to get into the bar, into the dim space with friendly faces, with no ghost mothers, and perhaps, with a real-flesh woman who might console him. Non-pregnant, if possible! The concept of procreating, of a baby project was as far from his spirit as a career of a ballet dancer.
As he was sipping his beer and watching a man in worn-out 501s preparing an improvised stage for tonight´s show, he heard a tiny baby voice and almost choked. Is the nightmare still on? Crying has become more insisting but Guy calmed down: that is the chick with the baby; they are spending a lot of time in the room attached to the main parlour, hiding while some complicated procedure of adoption of the tiny one was on. He shook his head: chicks and babies.