Dancing on Ashes (Amsterdam)

A few months before she flies to Java
To die on the land of her ancestors
(Well not exactly her ancestors but this is another story)
A land she never visited before
Or doesn’t know much about actually
Yu is in Amsterdam
She just had the confirmation that her Jonson syndrome
Has reached the lethal point she feared all her short life
Since her parents’ restaurant on Zeedijk closed
She hardly goes back to the Red Light District
And not at all since the dance studio on Koestraat closed as well
That was a couple years ago, and things changed a lot since
The new city council, under the pressure of EU
Started the gentrification process of the area
Now at least a third of the famous windows
Are rented to fashion designers
Who probably think they are so cool and daring
To share the district with prostitutes and drug dealers
Like on American TV series
Now the only guys dressed like pimps in the place
Are hyped young trendsetters and art students
Between their flea market phase and the minimalist one
Yu also used to wear layers of 1€ clothes from Waterlooplein
She wore hideous woollen skirts over Adidas pants cut knee-high
Over ragged jeans stuck in big flashy leg warmers
And AFC Ajax scarf and ski cap she was particularly fond of
Today for the very first time she wears heels and a miniskirt
(It’s springtime in A’dam)
Because on the list of what she has to do before dying
There are a few things related to sex
First Yu passes by Oudekerkplein
To see this renowned anonymous ground sculpture
Of a hand grabbing a tit
Today she takes the time to really look at it
And slowly she feels the bronze hand
Holding her own bronze breast
First she expects to sense nothing
Like usually
Dreadfulness and excitement cancelling each other
But today in this sluttish outfit
Yu catches something different
Something violent
Rising through her shielded perception
As she stands over the sculpture
A fat black woman in a white lace basque
Looks at her from her window, smiling
Strangely she reminds her of these Matongué mamas
Who board Euroline coaches at the Brussels bus stop
Then she remembers this trip a few years ago
When she first met this girl with the tattoo on her face
Who called her Buddhaface
Like Yu was the special one
By then the stone Buddha had already started growing in her
And had already taken control of her heart
And brain
And body
And face
Now, before the weight of the mineral Buddha
Drags her to the tomb
She must start her own quest
And experience… well, everything
Or at least something else
But there’s nothing she can share anymore
Neither with friend or lover
She was never deprived of either
She was always eager to bathe herself in warm feelings
But now she’s beyond that
Beyond the illusion of love and friendship
Now it’s time for the body to be crude and raw and free
Yu walks by the sex-shop windows along the Voorburgwal
As a teenager she used to come around with her gang
Pointing at giant dildos, crotchless panties and riding crops
Bursting into laughter and squeaky screams
Hissed away by half-irritated half-amused hookers
Alone she’d usually just look straight and walk slightly faster
Today she stops and looks for good
She looks to see and see beyond
The whole city revolves around merchandised sex
And later in school when amongst a group of foreign students
It’s understood that you talk casually and slightly blasé
About sex toys, porn, prostitution, group sex and stuff
But kids have a way here to develop selective blindness
About grown-up matters, and later on it’s simpler to go on like this
So today she really looks
For the first time
She tries to imagine manufactured objects loving her
How their technological indifference would be stimulating
She tries to imagine herself attired in fishnet and rubber
Warmth underlaid by cold and soft by hard
Being exposed in this ineptly inverted intimacy
Would somehow feel right again in our upside-down reality
Yu checks around if people noticed her staring at a window
But here it’s all very normal, and it looks mostly
Like a cheap souvenir shop window
For loudmouth Russian businessmen who couldn’t come home
Without a penis-shaped crystal bong and a few salacious stories
And aroused French couples on extended weekend trips
Yu wants to get inside one of these shops
But not a cheap one with plastic day-glow gadgets and pink lace
So she walks around to find a more attractive place
Until she remembers
That the only shops that are not targeted at philistines
Sell fetish clothes and bondage accessories
Then she knows where to go
Yu contemplates a wall-display covered with leather masks
Surgical steel butt-plugs, handcuffs, anal hooks, ball-gags, whips
Corsets, slave collars, hoods, chain harnesses, chastity belts,
Cock rings and cages, nipple clamps, leg-spreaders, straps, ropes
Strap-on dildos, spanking skirts, love balls and designer sex toys
Slightly high with the heady smell of rubber
A part of her feels overwhelmed
But mostly she feels distant and a little bit sad
As if all this belongs to a past that never occurred
She can’t be burdened with objects
She can’t be hidden or disguised
She’s standing there for a long while in front of this love weaponry
As if entranced
The shop hostess leaves her alone
A pretty, sexy and seemingly crazy Asian girl
Staring at the complete paraphernalia
Meant to turn her into the ultimate sex slave
This is good for business
Yu knows now what she was looking for in the Red Light District
She wants to be looked at
With nothing between her and the viewer
No clothes, no dance, no love, no feelings
She wants to be freed from saṃsāra
She doesn’t want to think too much because she will be scared
She has to do it right now
She remembers this club on Warmoesstraat
A kind of underground place mixing sex shows and cabaret
One or two girls from school have been dancing there
For the thrills, quick money and street credibility
It is open 24/7, but you have to know how to find it
They pretend to be illegal, that’s the best advertisement
This strong stench of beer yeast and sweat
People have to get used to since smoking is forbidden
Rises from the descending staircase
In the hall there are big photos of live sex acts from the 80s
And black and white posters announcing the current show
“Dancing on Ashes” aka “the Lumpenkabarett”
The room is very dark but the stage is brightly lit
A half-naked girl in kabuki make-up just stepped in the spotlights
Yu sits at the table closest to the entrance door
And waits for the end of the sketch to try to get noticed by the crew.