Friday, July 15, 2011

Day 18. Hookers, Bribes and Bus Babes: Beyond the Average Tuesday with Tripvan

Following a crazed (crazed being the operative word, after our endeavours at the Belarusian embassy) and lengthy night, we decided to cash what was left of our few chips and heave to the highway for the countryside: but it wasn’t easy.
Pulling ourselves together was like building scarecrows from spaghetti.
In our slumping stupor, we parked ourselves by the busted up bitumen at the wrong side of the bus station- and henceforth began a(nother) ‘crazed’ and unpredictable cyclone of proceedings.

We had sat, peacefully at first, watching the wildlife, the local working girls, turning tricks for the passing drivers. Well, at least they were trying to- the brow-beaten street strutters weren’t having much luck, as each battered car, even if it was on its second curious loop around the block, in a shop for a score, kept driving onwards without so much as a brief glance. Maybe the girls were overpricing for somewhat tarnished goods…no offence meant to the hard working hookers of Vilnius.
Watching these folks go about their business was somehow transfixing, and at the same instant, relaxing: like staring at a sleazy screen-saver.
The sun was packing it in for the day, slipping down the surface of the world, as if mimicking a metaphor of the poor pro’s hopeless existence.
We sipped away, equally empathetic in our hopelessness.
We had snuck to this secretive location so to sip away on cold ales unnoticed, for in Lithuania, street drinking is an outlawed sin, and authorities, or at least borderline stasis, don’t take too kindly to it: as we were about to find out.

Ready to whip across the flat plains, we were taking off on the bus to the resort town of Druskininkai- a gathering of shacks and shambled shanties, nearly smothered by surrounding forest. I was chasing a story of questionable viability, and was accompanied by an accomplice, Tripvan, a man of questionable morals (no offence Trip, but we did just watch street walking strippers for over an hour).
Our initial aim was to be onboard the 18.30, but as it ripped away from the station in scoff at our lateness, we wandered off unconcerned to graze on a patch of green and glass to laze away the hour.
‘We’d get the next one,’ we figured, cares were beyond our grasp for now.
For now.

Within the ticks of half a sunset, we had to move. We were being slyly eyeballed by an overworked, under-tanned loony, who judging by his tawny appearance and scars would have many a prickly pointer in his knapsack just waiting to call home to our guts if he got a chance to get close enough.
So, like dinosaurs, we made tracks.
This here, this immediate point in the history of this retelling, is where we fell upon the locale of the stringy sex-workers, and ogled their gaunt fly-bitten fleshes for an hour, as mentioned previously.
A blond in a tennis skirt previously utilised as Pat Cash’s headband, stomped past sporting sinewy muscles. She was winged by a trillion year old redhead with stitch marks like a puppet, sitting on slabs of horse meat for arse cheeks.
Tripvan raised an eyebrow in interest.

A parody of Bruno Mars strangled by a gold chain swaggered for a chance, down hooker lane, in such comical footfalls, he seemed like a moon man taking his first steps on ground with gravity. We tried to save ourselves from plummeting into uproar, but due to Bruno’s bewildering stature, we failed, briefly avoiding murder, due only to his unbridled embarrassment. We sat unhindered.
For now.
After conversing in dark shades about double teams and woodland abductions, all the normal barroom blabber, we marched off stiffly to the beckoning bus platform.
Of course, not without calling passed the drinking fountain for another frosty flagon for the road.
After all, what is a bus trip without a beer?
Like hell without water, so to speak. Boring, burning, sober, sombre, sad, infinite.
The visions of lush greenery in the Litho countryside were bound to liven under the burdens of the bottle, and opinions kept where your mummy made them, we were unanimous on our calling.
“Į sveikata!“ Resounded the celebratory catcall after a freshly cracked Lithuanian bottle cap.

The preliminary glugs slipped down our oesophagullies leisurely, as we mused over our spare change and checked our watches for time. The hooker catwalk was still crawling into conversation, though we realised we’d better not dally, as we had only thirteen minutes until the bus departed, with or without us.

Then we caught sight of the heavies. The police shunted by, accompanied by two heavy-handed, greased up security thugs, who eyeballed us with beady pupils: scoping the scene like Robocops.
It spelled Eastern European complications all over, and we should have paid more attention. They were hurrying a long-hair in a pink shirt away, no doubt for him to rot in solitude for his life’s remainder.
“They frown on the wearing of pink in this country,” we agreed solemnly.
We checked our faded apparels for traces, but other than dried blood and skin blotches, we were pretty much white and brown all over.
We judged that perhaps, under the murky circumstances, it would be best to disengage ourselves from our beverages.
We hid our beers: a couple of David Copperfields, Tripvan placed his arm in front of his, me, mine underneath a hat. Genius.
Needless to shout it, we’d been spotted. The first half of the rent-o-cop Robocops, shaped like a security brick-house, approached us and lifted my hat off the evidence.
Whoops, you got us.
Eight minutes until the bus.
Last bus of the day.
He tapped his walkie-talkie into awakening. It began to fuzz and crackle:
“Protokalus,” he stated, (which in retrospect I figure was code for ‘two suckers, red-hot’) “Protokalus…”
The transistor mumbled and tweaked, then switched off. Robocop towered menacingly.
There were no cops to be seen, just this security bozo, this overbearing thug and his gun, holstered to his hip.
Tripvan was eyeing me telepathically in fear, mind-messaging, “don’t say fuck you this time, don’t say fuck you…”
Six minutes until our bus ignition ignited.
Passengers were already beginning to hobble on.
We realised it was transaction time- now or never. I thought about those poor sickly hookers down in the parking lot, and gulped along with them.
We had to field a bribe, or else potentially lose something more important- just use your imagination, and don’t stop at limbs, livers or lungs.
The thug’s skinnier twin appeared, sentenced to a life of red cheeks and acne slashes. He sweated as if interrupted from a marathon masturbation session, and taking a swamp mug like this out of a trance like that, could only mean murder for us.
“Protokalus,” must have sounded like sweet ecstasy to his pinking eggplant ears.
He spoke enough English to let us know the deal.
“One hundred euro,” was his proposition.
For two beers?
From two deadheads?
Not likely.
I began to make the haggling stance, for ‘let’s get this over with,’ shuffle, when he grabbed me, and shoved me toward what would either be his office or a back alley.
“Don’t touch me, or I’ll call the police!” I uttered lamely.
Five minutes until the bus.
Tripvan rose to follow, but as luck was his lampshade tonight, Thug the Second ordered him to stay plonked and puzzled on the bus bench. Tripvan had a wallet full of Swiss francs and euros. I had 60 Lithuanian litas (the equalivent to about 20 Aussie dollars) and black holes in my pockets.
Talk about a bad choice of travellers by the Thug Brothers.
It could be seen at this stage: they wanted us on the bus and outta there, as nobody wanted the situation to linger.
A seemingly standard procedure unfolded: he took me to his cupboard posing as security post.

He was sweating, stinking and rose-coloured, his hands outstretched.
He opened the middle draw of a stripped-wood desk.
“Put the money in there.” He waved a slimy digit in my direction.
I whipped out the disintegrated remains of what was once my wallet, muttered melodies about the holes in my shirt, and threw the sixty rubles in the drawer.
“What, you are joking me?” he winced, visibly, as if in abdominal pain, at the minimal amount.
“Sorry, man, that’s all I got!” I led him on the tour of my rotted, gutted purse, and gave him up to grievance.
A piece of lint hovered between our unbroken glare.
Two minutes until the bus left us behind.
“Ahh, okay, just get out of here.” Annoyed at picking the pauper over the prince, Thug One abandoned himself to the reality of my poverty, opened the hatch and hustled me out and running.
Hopping back to Tripvan, I waved the bus driver as the air blower in the doorway breathed the sigh of closure.
“We’re coming!” We bolted like savages, bearing our tickets like spears.
“WAIT!” Tripvan suddenly turned, springing back to where Thug Two had been babysitting him. “Mind if we take our beers?” This brazen exhaling dashed from out his jaws. The guard brushed the air in perplexion, swatting at microscopic insects of annoyance of the ordeal, as if saying,
‘Just take ‘em and go! You’re more trouble than you’re worth! Literally!”
So somehow, still clutching our near full beers, the cause of all the trouble to begin with, we clambered into the awaiting sanctuary.

We were aboard the bus with but seconds to spare. We were off.
But then we realised: our sanctuary was missing something.
The bus driver mulled over his pipe curiously, as he gazed upon our tickets.
“hmm.” He seemed to have made a slight oversight when counting passengers.
He had oversold the seats.
Our passes were valid, though there wasn’t a chair to spare. Smokey driver motioned that we find an empty slab of floor, at the buses rear, alongside a panting middle-aged drunk, soon to be our buddy, who had scuttled on in behind us.
We sat and started to cack in disbelief.
A gold toothen old lady who we leant on screamed in hysterics, at us and our situation, and unknowing any of each others languages, she started chanting,
Which translates fluid into “TOTAL NIGHTMARE!” as we later learnt.
Suddenly half the bus was in a tatter of hilarity, chaos and disorder, as the Australian duo began to introduce themselves around.
Six heads, perched on two bodies, smiling and holding out painted fingernails in pleasant greeting, suddenly took us by surprise.
“Hi!” They both sat grinning in all their 21-year-old glory.
“Shit,” murmured Tripvan. ”Maybe this evening is starting to get interesting.”

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