I think that's the Egyptian. I've seen him here twice, at my favorite downtown coffee place, the one I stop at on the way home from meetings with my Dayjob Project partner and her team. Meetings start early and run long. I'm tired by the end, every time, but excited. Things are going so, so well. On the bike ride home I stop for coffee to balance my thrill out with my exhaustion.
I've seen him here twice now. I think that's him. He's quite distinctive. Tall, with a ridiculous, matinee idol face. Dark eyes and Rudolph Valentino lips. So nicely dressed, too. Lovely shirts, expensive belts and shoes. We met at the old club, when I'd been dancing for a couple of months. He doesn't look any different out here in the light. I wonder if I do.
"You should be called Layla," he used to tell me, and his accent reminded me of heavy perfume. "Layla means night. Not just any night, but a night in the desert, under the sky. A beautiful night. A romantic night." He really talked like this.
His fingers were always digging into my crevices, trying to creep between my thighs, or my ass cheeks, or my armpits even. Like he was going to put his hand right into me, the way you thrust your hand up in the warm guts of a freshly-killed chicken and neatly twist them out. He didn't stop when I asked him to stop. He didn't even stop when I would grab his wrists and try to force his hands off of me. He was stronger than I was, much.
He would come in in the middle of the afternoon lull when there had been no customers in the doors for an hour or more, and it was sit with him and make money or sit by myself in the dressing room and go home broke. I sat with him every time. And I didn't scream. I didn't go and get the manager. I didn't do the things that I'd tell any other girl to someone else to do if they were me. I stayed and silently fought his hands, and then I took the money and went back to the dressing room and folded and straightened all the bills and put them in my locker. I took his money, and so, I am sometimes reminded by voices in my head and commenters here, I have no right to complain.
Who's complaining? I'm just remembering. I sit here at my table with my coffee and remember. I remember everything. I remember pulling at his fingers and saying please stop, and I remember the obnoxious strength of him and the hairs on his wrist like black wires. He was a big man, with big arms. It was one of the things you would find attractive about him, if you met him somewhere.
"Baby, you're beautiful," he would say. "Your face is a doll face." And he would brush his hand across my cheeks, finger-tips jabbing lightly at the openings of my ears and eyes. "I love you so much, you know that? Run away with me, darling." Then he would laugh fondly. He had a wife. He told me he had a wife. But there was...something. Some real or imaginary problem. I don't remember, if I ever really knew. Then he would dart for my crevices again.
I took the money. I sold my right to be shocked. Some people would say it wasn't worth it, but those people put a higher price on innocence than I do. I'm not sorry I know the things I know now. I'm not sorry I know that there are people out there who will touch you even if they know you don't want to be touched, and that some of those people are attractive, well-spoken, wealthy, and nicely dressed. I always had my suspicions that this was true.
I sold my right to be angry, too, and that's OK. What I feel now isn't anger, anyway, just a great and unbridgeable distance. Such distance that I don't care if he sees me or not, if that curl of lip is recognition of me in particular, or just of the woman-shaped thing I also am, with eyes and hair and a mouth.
I don't care.
I don't care. He is just a shape. There's nothing he could say or do to me now that would matter to me at all. He could stand in front of me and block my way and I would walk right through him, because he isn't really there.