Reno found himself walking along an empty street, only accompanied by the darkness and the fog. They were like omnipresent observers, carefully watching each of his steps. He was following a light he had spotted at the distance. It was a long and white, and looked as if it were suspended in the fog. As he was getting closer, the light started to form a shape. It was a big neon sign that said Little Paradise. He walked a few more meters, and reached a glass door. Another neon sign, one with the silhouette of a nude woman, was hanging on it. He stood there for a while, staring at the door. Then, as if he had just made up his mind on something, entered the place.
Inside was dark and empty. The only source of light were a couple of neon signs hanging on the walls. Reno glanced around the place. There was a bar in the front, a few seats in the center, and some others on the sides. Back at the bottom, was small stage with a stripping pole in the middle. Everything looked old and rusty, like old antiques deteriorated by time.
Reno walked towards the bar and sat on one of the stools. He took a package of Marlboro Red from his pocket and lit a cigarette up. Without knowing what else to do, he focused his eyes on the stage, smoking his cigarette and waiting for someone to come.
After staring at it for a while, he realized that there was someone lying on it. He crushed his cigarette in an ashtray, and slowly made his way to the stage. Once he reached a reasonable distance, he narrowed his eyes and he examined the person. It was a girl. She was lying there still, with her back to the absent audience. She was wearing a black bikini, and the upper part of her body was being covered by a black jacket.
"Hello?" Reno called out to make sure that she was conscious.
A silence passed. The only thing that he could hear was the sound of his own breathing. He never imagined that a drinking spot could be that silent.
"Sorry, there are no more shows," the girl said, without turning around. Her voice was weak and low, as if she had no more strength in her body. But it seemed to Reno that she was lying there by her own will.
He stared at her for a couple of seconds. "I don't mind. I—I just want to have a drink. Do you know where is the bartender?"
"He's not here," she replied. "Go to the back bar and get yourself anything you want. No one will mind."
Reno stared vacantly for a while. Then, with a bit of hesitation, headed towards the back bar. After reaching there, he started going through the variety of drinks. They were dusty, like they hadn't been touched for a while. He picked up a Jack Daniel's, searched for some ice cubes, and put them in a plastic container. After that, he walked to a seat near the stage, pulled out a chair and sat there, staring at the girl. She had barely moved from her previous position.
"Are you OK?" Reno asked after pouring some whiskey in a glass, and adding some ice cubes in it.
She remained silent. The roof started making a loud continuous noise. It had began to rain outside.
"I guess so," she replied, a bit unsure.
Reno took a gulp of his drink, feeling warm sensation as the alcohol moved down his throat.
"Were you looking for something tonight?" the girl asked.
He gave a thought to the question. "I didn't have anything particular in my mind."
"Is that right?" she asked with a neutral voice. "But, isn't everyone coming here looking for something?"
"Something like what?"
She kept silent for a few seconds. "I don't know. Something like a fantasy perhaps. Something they can see but can't touch."
They didn't say anything for a moment. The rain became slightly stronger.
"But you know," she said. "Fantasies are more fragile than we imagine. They are as fragile as bare skin, and can turn into ashes any moment".
"As fragile as bare skin," Reno muttered to himself. The words had shaken something inside his mind.
She let out a little laugh. "Isn't our existence sad and pathetic? We spend most of our lives feeding our desires with romanticized images of someone's body. Building lustful thoughts around a collection of bones and skin that are only held together by delicate stitches."
He stared at his glass, thinking about the significance of her statement. "Do you talk about this to every customer who comes?"
"Not really," she replied. "I just talk about it with myself, since none is coming any longer."
"No one is coming any longer?"
"The place is no longer what it used to be," she said, moving her head a little. "Not after that incident."
Reno narrowed his eyes. "That incident?"
The neon sign near the stage started to flicker, making the place dark from time to time.
"May I have a drink too?" she suddenly asked.
He stared at her a bit surprised. "Sure, what would you like?"
"Just the same thing you are having."
He grabbed a glass from the table, poured some whiskey, and added some ice cubes. Then, with the glass on his hand, walked towards the stage.
"Here," he said, extending his hand.
The girl turned back slowly, lifting herself with one hand and holding the jacket with the other. She had pale skin and smooth facial features. Her eyes were dark and deep, with a slight hint of sadness in them. She extended her hand to receive the glass, partially exposing the right side of her body. At that moment, Reno saw something that caught his eyes. She had a big burn mark on her hand that spread all across her arm. It wasn't painful to watch, but was quiet noticeable.
"This building caught fire long time back," she said, after noticing his reaction.
He stared at her with his eyes wide open. The neon sign next to the stage had stopped flickering. The girl sat with her knees pulled up to her chest, and with her back resting on the stripping pole.
"No one knows how it started," she said, holding her glass, and staring at it. "But well, that's not important. The thing is that it happened and no one can't undo it."
He glanced around, and then looked back at her. "Did anyone die?"
"Fortunately, no," she replied and took a sip of her drink. "But sometimes I feel that part of me did. That part of me died in that hell of fire, leaving me with this empty and useless body."
The club started to grow brighter. Dawn was near. Reno was looking down at the table, as if he were searching for something in his mind. The girl still had her eyes focused on her glass.
"You know," he said after a moment. "Maybe you are right, fantasies are more fragile than we imagine. They can be destroyed and forgotten anytime. But that's OK, reality has more lasting, and more beautiful things to offer."
The rain had stopped, and the place was in complete silence. They had reached the part of the day were light and darkness were indistinguishable from each other. She remained still, staring at him with her lips slightly parted.
"Wanna go for a walk?" he asked her, looking up at her.
She leaned her head to one side as a little smile formed on her face.