Saturday, March 29, 2008

mad money

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.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

the wild one

He looks just like a regular guy, and talks like one, too. Glasses, shaved head. Overweight. He comes all the way from the back of the club to tip me on the front stage. It's my first stage set of the night, and I am getting tipped a lot. Later, for my third stage set, I will be tired, and will look tired, and will probably not be tipped at all. But fresh out of the dressing room, with my hair curled just so and a fresh coat of lip gloss, I am a hot commodity.

Shaved Head Glasses Overweight Guy tips me twice, then three times. He is smitten. He will be easy, so when I get off stage I go to him first. This is a Friday afternoon, after work. He is tired. I rub his shoulders. Then we dance a long time. I straddle his lap and he puts his hands around my throat. Not lightly, either. I feel each joint of each finger press into my skin. My throat constricts just a little. But I can see his eyes and I am not afraid.

After a few seconds, I sweep my neck in a circle and toss my hair. He lets me go. I turn my back to him and drape myself over his lap, head on his shoulder. He takes a fistful of my hair and pulls my ear to his mouth. "I'd like to have you on a leash," he says. "I'd like to make you crawl to me." I turn my head so I can see his eyes again. I'm still not afraid. Some people look at me and my guts knot instantly, but here I am and the skin of my stomach is smooth as a pond on a windless day. He lets go of my hair.

He keeps spending money, and I keep dancing. You want to know something? The really scary guys hardly ever spend money like this. The really scary guys sit in the corner like fly-fishermen and wait for you swim past their tables and sit on the arm of their chairs so they dart their thumbs up your panties -- strike -- before they tell you they don't want a dance. The really scary men don't like to pay, don't want to give anything back for what they get. They sit in the corner and wait to take, and take, and take, whatever little scraps of forced or stolen pleasure they can get, because deep down they think life owes them something and they're going to take it from this stripper's hide.

There are men who will hurt you, who feel entitled to hurt you. This guy isn't one of them. He is an odd one, though. I clamber up his chair and slide down his body until I'm kneeling on the floor in front of him. He leans forward, puts his arms around me. "Don't be scared," he whispers. "It's going to be OK."

I squirm till I can see his face again, and see that I'm still safe. I wonder what game we're playing now. There is some drama in his head, and I am acting in it, in a role I'll probably never know anything about. I smile at him, my kabuki face, which is whatever expression you want it to be. The blankest screen imaginable for the projection of whatever fantasy you like.

He puts his hands around my throat again. We look at each other. I wonder what he's seeing. "You're a wild one," he says.

You are wrong. I am nothing. I am not even here. I growl.

He smiles. "You ought to be chained up."