"We have a dance… in the brothels of Buenos Aires… tells the story of a prostitute, and the man who falls in love… with her."
First there is Desire.
You didn't feel it the moment you met him. Hell, sometimes you didn't feel it for months at a time. But one night, celebrating the newly-financed production of Spectacular Spectacular! at the Hotel Blanche, you can't help but feel a twinge of attraction to the comically-narcoleptic and disarmingly-handsome Argentinean currently eyebanging you from across the room, despite the alarmingly gorgeous woman he has pinned against the picturesque window to the balcony. You've fooled around with him before. You know better. You laugh as you shrug off the coiling in your abdomen, accidentally catching his gaze as Chocolat tackles you to the ground. You won't give in. Not again. But damn it all, after a glass of Absinthe or two (the Bohemian's beverage of choice), the Green Fairy has you doing backflips to be humped by him and his "artsy" facial hair against the rough brick wall of the alley at midnight.
You fall into the same old routine all too easily. He sneaks into your room after a client is finished, mere hours before the crack of dawn when Zidler and the other Diamond Dogs are asleep. There are no words as you breathlessly drag him back to your bed, or chaise, or floor, or whatever it closest when his lips smash against yours and you professionally gyrate your hips in a way not unlike that of a- well, a cabaret dancer. You don't know his name. And he sure as Hell doesn't know yours, always calling you chica or margherita or flor pequeña or ma minette or La Niña. You could never understand half the shit he said. But Niña was the closest he ever got to your name. Not your given name, of course- your stage name, Nini Legs-in-the-Air. Even when he came inside you and roared so loud that all of Paris went up in flames, he still never bothered with your God-damned name.
But you came. Every time. He was the only one that could ever do that to you.
Even in the beginning, he never offered you money. You wouldn't have accepted it, anyway; the Moulin Rouge provided all the safety and security that you knew a man could never give you. But you did offer him your real name; your birth name, that your mother and father had so lovingly picked out for you when they baptized you and still believed you had a future as a debutante or a lady of revered social standing- or so you liked to believe. You whispered it one night after he had blacked out in the middle of your lovemaking, collapsing atop you heavily like a bag of sand. You struggled to breathe, but you didn't move or adjust him; you simply adapted. It's what you were good at then. You laid there and watched his face twitch, gently stroking the cords of his muscle that rippled his bare back and tanned shoulders.
You told him your name. He snored. He never did tell you his. He was always the Argentinean, sometimes the Narcoleptic Argentinean, but always the Argentinean by some variation. Always winking at the women (and men) of the dance hall. Always smiling. Always so strong and broad-chested and smothered with makeup; his characteristic smoky eyes lined with dark shadow giving you long, hard looks when you stare at him from across the room, too engrossed in balancing a spiked black stiletto on one bony, pale finger to be bothered with anything else.
Though you had always known him to wear feminine cosmetics, you knew he never smeared red lipstick on himself of his own accord. The girls began talking of the absolutely-explainable rouge that began appearing on the Argentinean's lips with more and more frequency and it drove you insane.
You caught him sometimes, drunkenly rubbing his wide pelvis against the ovums of one of the Moulin brats. He even dug his nose into China Doll's hair right in front of you at a rehearsal, whispering sweet nothings in her native tongue of Mandarin Bullshit. He'd probably never even been to the Orient. The bastard. He kissed Harlequin and Arabia in succession before planting one on Pearly Queen's cheek and had a good laugh about it.
The more you heard, the more you saw; the more you saw, the more you knew; the more you knew, the less you gave. You turned him away from your bed in the middle of the night. When he was there, you were cold, lying there as he panted and thrusted and wishing he would finish and get off already so you could step outside and have a smoke. He would look at you, brows furrowed, with that quizzical look in his eye. You had sex with men. He had sex with women. Polyamory was like a pre-requisite for living an utterly Bohemian lifestyle. But you didn't see the point anymore. He stopped looking at you.
"You're a cruel puta, Nini!"
No more pet names. But even in anger, he won't use your given name. Damn him. Damn him. You want him to screech your real name 'til his voice is raw and his coffee-bean eyes run dry. You've been called bonkers, catty, unkind, the works- but never cruel. Getting back at the Sparkling Diamond by spilling her little secret… well, that had been a long time coming.
You shout that it's none of his business, but as a proprietor in the importance of Freedom, Beauty, Truth, and Love, he makes it his business. He asks why you can't let anyone be happy. He asks why you won't let yourself be happy. You snarl, a high-pitch squeal that comes out sounding nastier than you intended. All the better. You are happy. Frustrated, but content, nonetheless. Working at the cabaret, a can-can dancer, flashing your knickers and having men fall all over you- you tell him that, if given the chance, you would choose the Red Windmill all over again. Unchanging, predictable, always reliable. Unlike the passions of men that steered North one day and then sharply West the next. He looks at you and you wonder why. Tears prick at your lashes. He always understood why you did what you did, why you had to do what you do. Why was he trying to stop you now? With a dilapidated sigh, he leaves your room and crosses the hall, disappearing into the folds of Antoinette's dress as he slams the door behind him.
You start handing out free fucks just to get back at him. You start at parties where you know he will be or will hear about the goings-on later. Casual one-on-one hookups in darkened bedrooms turn into sloppy three-or-foursomes in dimly lit public stairways. You make a show in the hallway at the Moulin Rouge, drunk and bragging about the men you shagged that night. Once or twice he's leaving the room of another girl as you kick a patron out of your own chambers, shouting for the Baron or Marquette or whoever the Hell he is to leave without paying because he made you feel so good. The Argentinean, of course, looks at you with disdain and pity before trudging out into the unforgiving city of l'amour with nothing but his wits about him. You wish you could say the same for yourself. But you love being a whore. You just love it.
You don't need him. You don't need anybody. Just the chance to dance and fuck all night.
"Where love is for the highest bidder, there can be no trust. Without trust, there is no love!"
You play his game, laughing as you walk out onto the floor, because you're too lush to realize what's going on. You've been self-medicating since he was in your bed last. He holds you and it's delicious. But as he takes your arms- forcefully- and drags you across the floor, throwing you from dancer to dancer, from man to man, like a fucking ragdoll, you sober up immediately. You don't like this. It's all too… real. His eyes bore into yours with a look that makes you want to shrivel up inside yourself and hide like a snail inside of its shell. You know your mistakes. He made you see. And you wish he hadn't.
"Jealousy- yes, jealousy- will drive you mad!"
You're jealous of the women. He's jealous of the men. You're jealous of Satine. He's jealous of the true, pure, untainted love between Satine and her English writer. He wanted that with you. You're mad, he's mad. He's angry. You're angry with him. With yourself. Everyone is watching. Cautiously, but not surprised. Trembling and shaky on your feet, you hurry back up the stairs and try to escape this newfound Hell-on-Earth but his eyes hold you back, and you stumble along the railing surrounding the dancefloor like a woman blinded. You steady yourself and sit with your head in your hands. He looks at you. You look at him. You damn the wiry fringe sticking to your perspiring forehead. Then he calls out your name, your legal name, your God-forsaken fucking name, loud and echoing and so heart-wrenching you think you're going to vomit but instead you rise and turn to leave, smoothing out the bodice of your dress and teasing him the way you did when you first met. Before the Desire was mutual.
He'll be sad to see you go, but he loves to watch you leave.
You see a vision of the Moulin Rouge long after the Duke and the theater, busted to shit and boarded up, all inhabitants having long since been evicted because you ruined everything. The nameless Argentinean left awhile before that. With nowhere to go and no one to turn to, you take to the streets like a common harlot, until one wintry night you find it rough with a couple of thugs and one of them slashes your throat. In your last breath you wonder what would've happened if you had asked him to take you with him. Maybe settle down somewhere in South America. Build a windmill. Grow sunflowers in the countryside.
It was entirely your fault. All because of your jealousy.
But you don't worry about the future now as the writer wanders outside, single-handedly destroying everyone's lives as the Argentinean sings out to you, and you wander upstairs to have a sleep, so tired and sick and bored of it all.
Vive la vie de fucking Boheme.