Last night I sat on my friend Maria's couch, watching her coax her live-in boyfriend Arthur into getting her a glass of water from the kitchen. Her eyes were droopy and winsome as a sleepy puppy's, her legs curled listlessly under her in the cushions. "Please, baby? Please?"
I was fascinated. It was so foreign. The art of asking for things, making people want to tell you yes. I can pull it off sometimes, but I haven't mastered it, can't do it on command. And honestly, I've never liked the kind of men it works on best.
It's not working on Arthur. Arthur has narrow lips and pale eyes. Arthur is thin and wry. It's a hard type to coax. Coaxing works better on fleshy folks, full-lipped, dark-eyed folks. They like it. Arthur is kicked back in his chair, amused, watching Maria work. He likes the bedroom eyes, but he's not getting the water.
I like Arthur's type, the bloodless type with the cold blue flame. Last time I was at their house he and I hugged goodbye for a fraction too long. I think Maria noticed.
Mr. K has been to see me twice now. He's a U.S.-educated Indian, young and well-placed in the tech industry; handsome, wealthy, and sheltered; fanciful, sweet, and lonely. Dark-eyed. Full-lipped.
The first time he took me back to the Champagne Room he tried to put his hand in my thong and I told him no, and he hugged me and told me if I ever needed anything --anything--all I had to do was ask.
"I'm a giver," he said. "I'm a giver, not a taker. I want to take care of people. I love to take care of people."
His family wants him to get married. They would arrange a marriage for him. They are wealthy, and would find him the prettiest, nicest, most cultured girl money could buy. "But what if she doesn't really like me?" he wants to know. "What if she's just pretending to like me because I have a good job and live in the U.S. and have a lot of money?"
I nod understandingly. I do understand. At least, I've got a vivid imagination, and that sounds like quite a pickle. I don't point out that, of course, the reason I'm here is that he's got a lot of money, too. That would be tactless. Besides, he must already know. Isn't that part of what's so reassuring about paying a stripper to hang out with you? You don't have to wonder if she's doing it for the money. She's doing it for the money. And when you're sick of her doing it, or out of money, no hard feelings.
Mr. K loves to travel, and play tennis, and, apparently, take care of people. He really is a catch. Maybe. For a certain kind of girl. I don't know why he's chosen me, though, because I'm not that kind of girl. I have no idea how to let someone take care of me. I don't even know what that means, really, but the whole idea make me sort of suspicious. You don't get something for nothing, right?
"I won't ask you to be my girlfriend," Mr. K says. "I know that's not appropriate. I just want to come and talk to you once in a while. And I just want you to call me if there's ever anything I can do for you. Anything. Can I bring you presents? What kind of things do you like?"
Uh. I'm such a bad stripper. I don't even know what to ask for. Seriously, I have no idea. Pay my bills? Give me diamonds? Maybe I should work up to that.
Mr. K tells me he wants to adopt a child. He doesn't think he will ever get married, now, because he is too old. "My years are almost over," he says. "But I would like to pass on what I have to someone." He's 33.
I suggest he adopt a cat, and he really liked the idea. He asks if I'll go to the shelter and help him pick on out. "Then when I am petting it I will always think of you." I resist making a joke about petting the pussy. I say I might go with him, maybe. We'll see. I wouldn't mind actually.
My guilt and suspicion over accepting things from someone so (pathologically?) eager to give them are abating. If giving presents really, really makes him happy, why deny him that pleasure? He'll just find another girl to wax generous with if I do. Another girl whose better at accepting presents. And I don't want that. I'll just have to work on my bedroom eyes.