Thursday, August 30, 2007


The itinerant metalurgist I call John Wayne was in town and came to see me Tuesday night. He's a nice guy, not too grabby with the hands. He likes me smalltown and simpleminded so when I'm with him that's what I do. The only thing that bothers me about John Wayne, really, is that on $10 dance night he only pays me $10. That, and it can be a chore to can the sass and think of two or three hours worth of naive observations and girlish double entendres.

He likes me to talk, and when I realized this I tried to get him into the Champagne Room where I make an hourly for this kind of thing. He proved resistant. He likes to buy long strings of dances, though, so I always end up compensated for my time. I gave up pushing him on the Champ Room a long time ago.

But last night, for some reason, he brought it up. How private was it and what goes on back there and so forth. "I'd sure like to give you a massage," he said. "If we could find somewhere to stretch out." So of course, the couches in the Champagne Room are the best possible place in the world and I would absolutely love to get a massage for my usual hourly rate. This was my second night back since surgery. I was stoked to be making hourly.

So we went back there. He didn't give me a massage. He was really concerned with getting value for his dollar, sat down like the meter was running. "Show me what's so hot about back here," he said.

I straddled his lap to commence my Champagne Room dance, which is just about risque enough to justify the upsell. He grabbed me around the waist and pushed me down hard. "Hey," I said. "Hold your horses, big guy."

He thrust up against me. His fingers dug painfully into my hips. One hand grabbed the back of my head and pulled me towards his mouth. "Oh, baby," he whispered against my face. "Oh, baby, I can't beleive it." And then he came in his pants.

I got off his lap with as much haste as tact and we smoked a cigarette and composed ourselves. He got up. "Keep the smokes," he said. "I'll see you next time."

He paid me for the full hour.

I wobbled back to the dressing room and repaired my hair and make-up. I couldn't decide if I was mad at myself for not reacting faster to prevent the splooging, or for not getting more money. Now I'm not a good girl or even a good bad girl.

The DJ calls me to stage and this guy comes up over and over again to tip me. I know his face and even remember his name. Matt. But I don't know why. He asks me to join him at his table and after a couple of drinks and a few dances it clicks in my head that he was my lunchtime regular back when I was a waitress at a pizza place. I've been in this town too long. He never figures out who I am. At the end of the night I tell him and he says "Well, I'll be dipped."

Back in the dressing room all the girls are counting money and getting dressed.

"But don't you realize," thin blond Lily is insisting to some other blond girl who always and only dances to country songs. "Don't you realize that in the big bang there was all this energy and that energy is never created or destroyed, but it's a creative force inside all of us and every living thing. I'm not making it up. It's just physics."

The blond girl shakes her head. "I don't believe there's any creative force. I just believe everything is because of science."

"But this is science," Lily says. "Don't you get it? Everything is created. All of this." Her arms sweeps around and her gesture takes in the rows of beige gym lockers and the crummy carpet, the club out there and the night beyond that. "What do you call all this?

"Science," says the blond.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

speak of the devil

So after all that, B. sent an e-mail to my stripper account last week, saying that whenever I was ready to dance again he'd like to engage my service. I had doubts -- severe ones -- about letting the boundaries between my stripper and non-stripper lives get this soft.

B. hasn't even finished the site I hired him to design yet. I'll have to meet with him at least one more time in my professional mode and we'll sit across a table and pass papers back and forth, and that will be weird because, yes, I went to the club and spent the night with him in VIP being naked and lithesome. I needed the money.

Then again, money is a piss-poor excuse for anything. It's nice that I have a fat roll of bills in my purse again and it's nice that I can pay the electric company and buy down some of the credit debt C. and I incurred while I was in the hospital. It's nice that I can afford to keep working on the dayjob project a little longer now and it's nice that I can take my boyfriend out for breakfast this morning. I still feel weird.

Nothing untoward happened, mind you. That is to say, I didn't do anything I could go to jail for. For six straight hours I made cute faces and pretty conversation, listened attentively to whatever was said, and made positive, esteem-boosting responses while gyrating continuously in ways calculated to display my naked assets from the best possible angles.

It's not a completely mindless task, making sure someone else has a good time. I don't usually feel bad making the money I make to do it. I give good service for the dollar.

I was nervous as a cat all day the day before. At moments I really wanted to call him and cancel. I didn't, though.

My dance-bag has been sitting in a corner of my bedroom for nearly three months now. When I unzipped it to get my shoes, the smell of strip club seeped out -- stale cigarette smoke and the powdery smell of make-up, and the vinegar of a million random vaginas under a fog of fruit-scented bodysprays. That smell soothed me. By the time I was at the club caught up in the familiar ritual of curling irons and smokes and peanut M&M's I was in fine fettle again. I felt good, predatory and heartless. Strippery.

We had a nice night, except that I had to close my eyes to dance, like I used to do when I was a newbie. Customers always used to call me on it. "Why are your eyes closed?" Some of them thought it was cute shyness or that I was maybe carried away with passion or something. The truth was that the walls were lined with mirrors and I found the multiplicity of my naked self, repeated into infinity, distracting.

Still, we had a fun night. I got a little drunker than usual and enjoyed myself. B. must have a good time too, because he stayed till close and then gave me a large ammount of money, enough to give me my third best single-take night ever.

I got home and de-stripperated myself in the shower, peeling and rinsing off the layers of plastic and greasepaint. I got out of the shower and promptly felt awful. I got the money out of my bag, put it in an envelope, and left it on my desk. I would obviously have to give it back. I was ashamed of myself. Whore, whore, whore. I tossed around in bed for hours, imagining the awkwardness of the scene where I would give the money back. Maybe I would just put the envelope into his hand and run away. Find his house and poke it under the door. Something.

The next say I sought council with my wise stripper friends. The consensus was, don't give the money back. "You want things to be simple, right?" says my friend Jade. "Money makes things simple. You did your job; he paid you. If you give the money back, you upset the delicate balance."

OK. I let the envelope sit on my desk another day or two, and then I took it to the bank. My car needs work. I think it's the fuel-injection line.

I emailed him yesterday, just my usual little "thanks-I-had-a-nice-time" note. He replies: he had a nice time, too. But when he got home he was profoundly depressed again. His life is full of loneliness and he doesn't know what to do.

I don't know either. I'm not qualified to deliver therapy, though for what I get paid it feels like I ought to deliver something. I can give advice though, and I do: "Do what make you feel healthiest and best. The only reason to strip-club is because you enjoy it. If you don't enjoy it, don't come."

That's really all I've got.