Every night is a good night now. I was sick of bad nights. I drive to work and tell myself I am beautiful. At the last stoplight before I merge onto the highway, I check my lipstick in the mirror. I am hot. I look good. Making money is easy.
I check myself again when I hit the sludgy traffic slow-down coming out of downtown at rush hour. I am hot. Hot. Hotter than a fast check. Money will fall on me from sky. Money, money. Money. It doesn't matter if I believe it. It doesn't matter what I beleive. I say it and I make it true.
I have good nights now, and better nights. Men flag me down, buy me drinks, take me to couches, unbuckle my shoes and kiss my stockinged legs. They hand me bill after bill. Yes, money falls from the sky. Other girls sit in the dressing room and frown at themselves in the mirror.
Hot as a two dollar whore on the fourth of July. Hotter than a stolen tamale in a Laredo parking lot. So hot I make the hens lay hard-boiled eggs.
On Monday I saw the doctor and I asked him please to give me more meds. That's fine, he said. He doubled my dose, and I got a little bounce for a few days. I saw we were in the middle of spring, and the oak leaves are big and soft and light, bright green. I saw the light come in the windows like a gentle hand.
I don't really feel beautiful. But it doesn't matter how I feel. Men give me money anyway. They stand by the bar and wait for me to pass so they can grab my hand. My skin is a marvel, my hair is a haven. My ass mints money.
Hotter than a red-assed bee, folks. Hot. So hot I might just burn.
C. isn't interested in me anymore. Not at the moment, anyway. He might be again, one day, later. At the moment he walks around me in the house. We sit together at the table, having dinner and later on the couch, watching TV, not saying anything. He doesn't reach for me, doesn't touch me, or look at me. We've been together five years. I didn't think we would get bored with each other. I'm not bored. But maybe this is what happens.
I find his porn on my computer. I learn that these days he is interested in sweet-faced teen girls taking big dicks. I suspend judgement. Suspending. Suspended.
He still paints me sometimes, after work, and I am tired, but I let him do it because I'm glad he's looking at me. The paintings are strange and terrible. Me, as a mermaid, waist-deep in swampy water, with a wry mouth and one hollow cycloptic eye. Naked on the couch, plucked-chicken skin and make-up streaked from the shower, but he asks me not to wash it off. Smeared lipstick and a raccoon mask of mascara, like a used whore. My body, stretched, limbs disarticulated, a beat-up doll. He paints me melting into surfaces, disintegrating, dissolving, coming apart at the seams.
What have you done to me, darling? What are you doing? Does love always take us apart?
Sometimes I fall asleep while he paints and he paints me sleeping, passed out, dead. I wake up at strange hours and find my way to the bed. I curl into his warmth. He is gone when I wake up.
I live through the afternoon. I put myself together. I do my hair, my face, get in the car. I check my lipstick in the mirror. Hot, baby. Hot.