So, this is what I was about to publish when all the crazy people from the Internet showed up and I got paralyzed by self-consciousness. Oh, well. Here goes nothing.
C. and I woke up so suddenly that for a flat second we didn't know what was waking us. Then we heard the sirens all around the house, so many of them, and deafening. From the bed, I pulled the curtain back and saw sparks raining from the sky. We hauled ass into our pants and I snatched the money from the special money drawer and stuffed it in my bra before we ran out into the street.
Fire was rising from the next block over -- a column of it, spiraling into the sky forty or fifty feet, whirling and throwing off sparks which were landing all around us, but thank God it was also raining and the ground was moist.
"It's that house they just renovated," said James, the neighbor we share a wall with, who was also standing on the porch and had had time to put his shoes on and light a cigarette. Fire trucks kept arriving, and showers of sparks kept blowing. Then there was a whooshing sound as the trucks turned the water on, or the foam, or whatever it is. And just like that, the chimney of fire collapsed out of the sky and there was just a red glow.
C. and I went back to bed, where I tried like hell to fall asleep because I had to get up at 9 a.m. to go to work. That's right. After four years of working whenever and wherever the hell I felt like, I had a job to get to. I fucking hated it.
No, not a "real" job, and I know what you mean when you say that, even if I don't agree. Just cocktailing at another titty bar. It's the kind of job you can walk into and make money that day, plus my friend Valerie worked at the club, and she's fun. If this dayshift was anything like the dayshifts I remember dancing through, it'll at least be nice to have a friend around during the long lull between the lunch crowd and the Happy Hour crowd.
So I drove there in the morning in a white top and a black skirt, asked to talk to the manager, and was clocked in to work by 10 o'clock. That part was awesome. Having Valerie trotting around in a Victoria's Secret camigarter and feathered hair like some kind of sexed-out Sixties go-go pin-up girl was also awesome.
Everything else blew. I'd almost forgotten this about the dayshift -- it sucks. Well, it sucks for me. For a certain kind of dancer it is like candy from babies, because all you have to do is sniff out the handful of rich old dudes who come in every day, and avoid the wannabee gangsters who wander in after lunch and sell or pretend to sell drugs all afternoon. You find those couple of customers who really, really like you --because they like redheads, because you remind them of some other girl, or maybe, just maybe because the two of you really get along. That happens, too.
Then you give them your phone number and call them every couple of days and they come to the club and give you a bunch of money to sit with them all afternoon and do whatever it is you do. Which is sometimes nothing. I have literally seen willowy blondes fresh from high school prom sit next to old men with banker's faces all day long, saying nothing.
Some girls are so good at this that they dance for the same five-to-ten guys for years. Not me. I'm really bad at this, it turns out. I have had a few loyal customers over the years, but there's a point in the pseudo relationship where I have to draw a line. I can't chat on the phone. I can't go out to lunch. I can't depend on any one guy too much, because if you do, they know it and they pull the plug. They can't help it, almost. They have to know if you really love them, and of course then it usually turns out that you don't, but if you want the money, you have to find a work-around. You DO go to lunch, or you swear that you will but then you cancel at the last minute, or you DO but then you immediately try to get him to go to the club with you afterwards and give you a bunch of money. It goes from there. I hate that stuff.
Sometimes you don't want to be anybody's fake girlfriend. You just want to take your dress off and be sexy and fun for a few minutes and get a couple of bucks and on to the next.
But this new club is not an on-to-the-next kind of establishment. Most customers who spend any kind of money have their favorite waitress up in VIP already. If you don't have one of those customers, you are stuck in the rotation where you simply get whatever customer walks in the door next, and if it's the homeless guy who comes in and buys an iced tea (the only drink that comes with free refills), tips you fifty cents and crouches in an empty dance booth all afternoon rocking back and forth and oggling the stage, well that's your fucking luck.
In two days I made $72. And on the third day I called the manager and told him I appreciated his help and wouldn't be back. I didn't really have to call. Most girls just disappear without a trace but for some reason I was inclined to be professional.
I spent the day aimlessly, but not a peacefully. I'm like a cow dog. If I don't have enough to do I chew on the furniture. Finally, around midnight, after a solid day of watching me pace the floor and whimper, C. got sick of me and threw me out of the house. "Come back when you've worked it off, whatever it is," said my sweetie, and locked the door behind me.
I rode my bike around in the dark for a while, and then I called the Satanist. He was home and said I could come by, so I tooled over through the steamy streets and we sat in his midnight garden and smoked a joint. It hasn't been the simplest thing to make a real friendship out of our stripper/customer relationship, but we have made some progress, and it's been worth it.
I like the Satanist because you don't have to downplay the drama in things to get him to take them seriously. He believes in karma and chi and magic and the collective consciousness and all that shit. So I can tell him about the apocolyptic vision, fire falling from the sky, and see it catch in his eyes behind those Grandad glasses. I tell him how my mother stood dumbstruck in her yard one day last month and saw the funnel of a tornado lift into the sky and pass over the farmhouse in a rain of leaves. We talked about the storm that tore through town a few weeks ago, blowing over trees and plowing up graves in the cemetery, cracking the plot-stones in half and up-ending them.
I lay on my back on the patio playing with the leaves of the rubber plant. I said, "Is the world ending?" and he squinted at me like a medicine man and said, "Dying people always think the word is ending."
So I told him I couldn't dance anymore, and I didn't know why, and it wasn't dancing that had changed, of course, but me. I couldn't blow the bad stuff off any more and my compassion was exhausted and I didn't think I gave a damn anymore about a single person in the whole world. And he said "Garbage in, garbage out, honey. How much shit can you take in without putting some of it back out?"
"It didn't used to bother me so much. I thought I could take in all the bad and make it good."
He nods. "You did," he said. "You did have that. But it's gone."
I tell him my chest is so tight it feels like a fist is squeezing my heart, milking my adrenal glands into my bloodstream till my body is a factory that never shuts down. I haven't really slept in days. And he doesn't ask me what I mean, because he knows what I mean, and he doesn't say he's sorry, because this is just life.
And then we smoke some more and he takes me around and shows me the holes that the hail made in the garden. He doesn't touch me once, and I am so grateful I could cry. For a minute I get confused and try to tell him how much I like him and why, but he frowns at me and things get weird for a second. "What are you doing?" he says. "Why do you do that? Why do you tell everybody what they want to hear? You're so transparent it's ridiculous."
It's too late to argue and I'm too stoned. I try to smile and not too long later he kicks me ever so gently back out into the night so he can get back to the work of whatever it is he does in his haunted house all night long. I take the hint and hug him and go. He locks the door behind me and I point my bike back towards home pushing myself up the hills and sweating and when I get home I feel so quiet and good, it's like it rained inside of me.