There's two of them: Mimi and Mercedes. Two blonde babydoll strippers in frilly pink-and-white, pigtailed and beribboned within in an inch of their lives.
"All the guys who like me are perverts," Mimi told me cheerfully one night. "Dirty old fuckers like the little-girl thing. That's the only way I make my money."
Mimi is my age, or maybe a year or two younger. Tall and slim and graceful, with narrow hips and big fake tits. Nice ones, though. She wears her floppy blond pigtails way up high, right out on either side of her head in the style made popular by five-year-olds and Asian teenagers. Most nights she wears white booty shorts under her little pink dresses; when she strips down to them on stage they look for all the world like a pair of diapers. I can't really bring myself to look at her. But I saw her sitting at the bar the other night after work in her street clothes with her hair in a ponytail and she's really very pretty.
Mercedes I'd say is pushing forty, but she could be a hard-living thirty-two. She is pale as milk and the skin around her eyes is going to crepe. Still hot, but fading. She's not tall and her hips are spreading. Also, implants start to look weird as the skin around them softens with age.
Last night Mercedes and I sat at the same make-up counter at the beginning of the shift, getting dressed. I watched her curl her hair into tight ringlets and draw black circles around her eyes.
"I'm sad today," she told the waitress sitting on the other end of the counter, rolling silverware into napkins, and then she asked her to get her a Crown and Diet Coke from the bar.
The waitress, Amy, got up reluctantly. "You know Crown's not on the happy hour price, right?"
Mercedes grimaced. "I get four-dollar drinks. All my drinks are four dollars. You tell the bartender it's for Mercedes. Do I have to come out there myself?"
Amy left, and Mercedes snorted. She looked back at herself in the mirror, half her hair curled up tight, the other half limp as string. "She thinks I'm going out to the bar myself she can fuck herself," Mercedes said. "Takes me an hour to get my hair like this."
She pouted at herself, leaned her cheek into her hand. "I'm sad today," she said to nobody. "Today is a sad day."
I saw Mercedes again at the end of the night, after close. Her locker is near mine, one of the full-length lockers that mysteriously denote status. She's been at the club along time. She was changing into her street clothes -- jeans a T-shirt that said "Dior Addict."
"How'd you do tonight," she asked as I squeezed past her. Her voice wobbled up and down by full octaves, and the words came out in a sing-song snarl that might or might not be intentional. I said I did OK.
"Well, thaaat's niiiice," she said, same voice. I couldn't read her, didn't try.
She struggled to get out of her pink patent-leather heels without bending down. Her balance looked pretty shaky. She kicked one shoe off so hard it flew over and banged the locker next to mine. "Whoops," she said, unconvincingly. "Did you see that?"
The other shoe wouldn't come off, so she bent over further, and then she did fall. Collapsing onto her bottom, she sat there with the stuff spilling out of her locker around her like a frilly, pink-and-white tide. She looked lost.
The door to the dressing room swung open and Mimi wobbled by with a clutch of other girls who'd out on the floor dancing to the bitter end. Mimi was drunk -- shrieking and giggling and clutching fistfulls of money.
"I fucking hate everything," Mercedes said after they passed. She looked up at me pleadingly, and now I can't pretend I haven't seen her. "I hate this place and I hate all these fucking pervert men." She picked her other shoe up and chunked it at the wall, but it was a half-hearted effort and falls short.
"I'm not a bitch," she said. "I'm not a mean girl. Everybody thinks I'm a mean girl. I'm not. I'm a nice girl."
And you know, at that exact moment she really did look like a little girl. Just like a little old baby girl.