Wednesday, April 18, 2007

music for airports

I flew back yesterday, after an extended visit with my brother and his wife and their 9-week-old infant in the stale midwestern city where they make their home. My sister-in-law is a medical resident who works 14-hours shifts and my brother spends all day at the gun range practicing for the coming apocolypse. Besides which he is a disordered personality who probably shouldn't be entrusted with the care of a child. Enter Auntie Grace.

It was about time for me to get out of town anyway. My last shift at the club was a silent meltdown that ended with me on stage grinning-mad with hate, wishing I could rip my skin off and throw it. The DJ hugged me when he let me go early, and tried to give me back the $5 I was tipping him. I'd done one lapdance all night and made $11 on stage. Burnout. Burn. Out. So, time for a break.

My niece is a melancholy baby; she only smiles when she farts. I invented little tricks to hush her when she cried. Letting my hair down and shaking it around her face. Balancing her on my shins and bouncing her up and down as I did Pilates-inspired leg-lifts to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues." She had a strange, sweet scent, surprisingly strong. It soaked into everything I wore until I smelled like her, even at the airport, pre-dawn, after my brother dropped me off without a word or a hug.

The faces of men in the airport give me strange stirrings. Especially while I shuffle through Business Class on my way to the peasant's seats in the rear. These guys are flying out on business, or flying home. They will be in the titty bars tonight, or they were there last night. I can't help sizing them up as potential customers: the time-wasters, the ass-slappers, the ones who give you their hotel keys, the sad drunks, the angry drunks, the bitter drunks, the ones who tell you how much they love their wives.

I wasn't liking men much by the time I left town. My drains were clogged with tiny insults and little unpleasantries. The guys who try to touch my pussy don't bother me nearly as much as the ones who ones who waste my time. My last night at the club I had two fabulous time-wasters. The kind who flag you down and tell you that you're beautiful. They beg you to sit on their laps. They want you to dance, but oh, not just yet, just sit a minute. Their eyes get furtive and you have a sinking suspicison what's coming next, but the club is so slow, you stick with it a little bit longer, and they swear they will buy dances from you, that they just can't wait to see you dance. And then they have to go and make a phone call. That's the last you see of them, of course. I can't help feeling like it's personal. Like they must have set out to ruin my night on purpose. I don't like it when people fuck with me on purpose. The rage I feel reminds me that the gun-toting, blood-loving sociopath at whose house I stayed at all last week is really my brother after all. Half of that gun-toting, blood-loving DNA is mine.

I look at men's faces in the security line, and at the gate, and in the plane, and I don't see anything I like or want to know about. I lift my arm to put my bag in the overhead and smell my niece's baby-smell on my sleeve. When I left I told myself, based on no evidence, that when I got back I would be ready to dance again. It's a magic that has worked before. I don't feel ready, but that's why it's magic.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


March was not a good month, and the end of any month is never good. Last week was bleak. Mr. B's unlooked-for return has partially insulated me from the downturn, but back in the dressing room I can tell the lean times are upon us once again. I need to be careful.

Saturday was Mr. B's birthday, and he spent the evening with me. I was at the club a good three hours before he arrived, though, and in that whole time I did once dance. One. Now, once he got there, it was a party. I brought him a slice of sugar-free cake, bought him a few dances from one of his other favorites, and let him keep my panties as a memento.

At the end of the night I was back at my locker counting hundred dollar bills. There were a lot of them. Lily, who attacked me on stage several months ago and then decided she was my friend, peeked over my shoulder.

"How'd you do tonight?" she wanted to know.

Pretty good, I told her.

"Did you break $300?" she wants to know.

I nodded and smiled, because I was happy. Then I wanted to kick myself. You don't ever want to tell someone what you made. Especially if you had a good night and they didn't.

Too late. Her face flickered and changed.

"I got lucky," I say. "It was my customer's birthday. He's a great guy."

I was making things worse, not better, so I shut up.

"Ohhh, that's great," Lily said. She left and I knew I'd have to get one of my customer to tip her stage or buy a dance from her in the next few days, or some other bullshit political move. I don't need enemies.

Sunday night there was a fight in the locker room right before night-shift started. Some girl talked to some other girl's customer, and the second girl jumped the first one out on the floor in front of God and everybody. One of them got fired; I don't remember which.

By the end of the night, a little gaggle of girls has collected in the dressing room a few lockers down from mine. "I hate nasty bitches," says the girl at the center of the knot. "I can't believe that nasty bitch told a manager on me and I didn't do nothing. I didn't even take my shorts off tonight. I ain't taking my shorts off on $10 dance night. Fuck those nasty bitches that do that, anyway."

The other girls cluck and agree for a while. Then Marisa comes barreling past me. She's the thickest dancer on night-shift, easily -- not fat, but built like a tank. Caramel skin and caramel hair in a braid as thick as a rope. She bears down on the group's skinny ringleader at ramming speed. "CALL ME A BITCH YOU FUCK YOU BITCH," she's screaming.

The skinny girl lashes back. "How can you tell the manager on me?" she wants to know. "Bitch, you're fucked up. I didn't even take my shorts off."

"I fucking see you, girl," Marisa says. "You put your pussy in some guy's face for $10? You're nasty."

"You're nasty," shrieks Skinny. "And you're fucking FAT."

On cue, the door blows open again, and two floor managers and the DJ storm in like a Secret Service detail just as Marisa closes the gap between her and Skinny. What's going on, they want to know and Skinny goes into her spiel about her shorts again.

The Sunday-night DJ hangs back by my locker. He is a skinny, bespectacled fop who couldn't be less happy than being called on to break up a fight over panties. He'd only get rolled if he tried to break Marisa's fury, anyway. "It's $10 dance night," he murmurs. "If you don't want to take your pants off for $10, you just don't come to work."

The conflict at the other end of the lockers subsides, though it will never be resolved. I put my second shoe on, grab my purse and prepare to jet. On the way to the door, I have to squeeze past a thin blonde who appears either passed out or exhausted in her chair in front of the make-up counter. Skinny steams up behind me and gives the girl's chair a kick. "Move it, fat-ass," she says.

The girl looks up, bleary and scared. "What?"

I keep going. I gotta get the fuck out. It was a bad night for me, too, until I met a westernized Pakistani guy who liked having his arms pinned over his head while I danced. Even then, it wasn't great. It was the end of the month. It's like that.