Wednesday, June 04, 2008

the light in the afternoon

I am on the phone with Scarlett. It is 99 degrees outside and humid; clothes are impractical in this weather, so I am in my underwear in the middle of the afternoon, on my back, on the couch, on the phone, sweating.

I hate how dark this apartment is. There are no windows that face the sun, at any time of day. The light is always murky, and you don't know what time it is. Scarlett's voice sounds like it's coming to me from the moon, and my own voice sounds that way, too.

"I don't want to be touched anymore," I say.

This is not kind of me. Scarlett went to New York City and went straight, got a straight job and an apartment and some friends, and came back to visit this winter looking sleek and blooming. But things can go downhill fast in a city that big, and this week she started at dancing again, at a "private club" with beds in the VIP.

"I convince guys I'm going to fuck them for fifteen minutes for $160 and then I don't do it," is what she says.

Fifteen minutes is a long time to spend in a closed room with someone who thinks they just paid to fuck you. Everything about that sounds bad. Body-in-a-dumpster bad. I don't want to be that bitch who gets out of dancing for three weeks and comes back and tells all their friends they are Ruining Their Lives, but I am scared for my friend. I want to put a fence around her eight miles high.

I noticed the strain in her voice as soon as I picked up the phone. She launched right in, talking fast, spinning plans for the future, and I hear how she is pushing herself. I know my friend. I hear her brain scrambling in all directions, heart burning at a high heat.

I soothe her, like I know how to do, and when she simmers down a little she asks me what I'm doing, and I say I've left dancing, which is no surprise. I told her my reasons months ago. I try to be cautious about what I say, because there's too much tinder on the ground to go throwing out sparks. But like the good friend she is, she puts her finger right on the sorest spot and presses down.

"What does C. think?"

I tell her I don't know. I tell her he's playing along, but that I'm not sure he really understands, which might say more about me and my lack of faith than it says about him. He hasn't said a harsh word to me, or even rolled his eyes. He tries to live peacefully with me, the hurting monster lurking in the bedroom. He doesn't complain.

But I don't know if he understands. I don't know if anyone who hadn't spent too much time in titty bars could understand how you know that it's been too much time. I don't really understand it myself, not the exact mechanics of it. I don't know why a few months ago it was fine and now it's not, or why I can't conceive of getting my things together and driving to the club. The whole routine -- the coffee I buy at the drive-in on the way there, the parking lot I pull into just at dusk, the front desk where I pay my house fees, the dressing room where I apply my make-up ritually, every stroke, every day, the same -- seems foreign, like something I've heard about but never done myself.

I'm sure C. wishes I could suck it up and go back and make a thousand dollars in a weekend like I used to do. I am sure that he wishes this because I wish it myself. If there were just some actual reason why I couldn't do it anymore. Like, if my leg were broken. If I had a reason to give him, one that I'd know he could understand.

Scarlett understands.

"It's a tough job," she says. "You've done it for a long time. You got a lot of good things out of it. You're tired. It's OK."

She sounds pretty tired herself. I should stop, change the subject. We don't need to talk about how much stripping sucks right now, when she has to get off the phone and shower and shave her snatch and catch the subway to the private club with the VIP and it's waiting beds.

It feels so good, though, to know that someone understands, to be sure of it. And that's when I say it, about not wanting to be touched any more.

The pause is taught.

"Well, it doesn't get any simpler than that," Scarlett says.

"I can't do it. I really can't."

"I know. I know."

Her voice sounds tired. More tired than before? I wish I could see her face. I want to hug her, and be hugged. I wish she were here. There's not even a phone line between us, in a proper sense, just two thousand miles of electrified ether. It's not really quite enough.


FAU5TU5 said...

Stripping/Dancing should be looked at and considered in many ways a professional contact sport. Very close to prize fighting in many ways.

It takes skill and training/conditioning etc.. (if done well) and you're body is your main commerce. There can be alot of wear and tear, both physically and mentally/emotionally, sometimes slowly, sometimes suddenly.

But just like any athletes and fighters, there comes a time when you have to hang up the gloves. Some have to hang them up sooner than others for various reasons,..

There will always be the desire on some level for the surreal rush and thrill and ego boost that come from the good times.. Fighters and athletes NEVER SHUT UP about the old days, when they used to play, or fight,.. It's often looked at as some of the best times of their life, as well as the most trying.

But then the question comes; "So why don't you fight/play anymore??. Why'd you quit?" Almost always; "Couldn't take the punches anymore.. couldn't take hits." or " I just didn't enjoy getting hit anymore." Or "My body couldn't take it any more."

They still get excited seeing someone else doing it and enjoying it,.. And part of them still years for the good parts.. And often wish they could still go.. That's part of life.

There always comes a time, for some sooner, some later,.. where pain punishment and fatigue outweighs the fun and rush and payoff that make it worthwhile.. And it just isn't fun anymore..

"They just don't want to be touched anymore", "they just can't take the hits".

There's nothing to be embarrassed about. And it doesn't need to be any kind of statement about the industry as a whole or other dancers or their choices.. Boxer's and most athletes.. still love their sports, and respect the people playing.. It's just no longer for them. I would imagine this is the same.

Just like when we are young we want to date, and play drama, and breakup and "go with" other people every couple of weeks.. We get older, or something changes.. and it ins't fun any more.. we want other things..

Maybe that's just where you are.

Oh. And I'm sure C. understands. Or perhaps its better if he doesn't need to understand and just supports you.

If he doesn't.. that'd be really bad news, and he wouldn't be anything like the person you've though he was for years now..

And he'd need a righteous ass kicking.

But I doubt that's the case.

Babbit the Rabbit said...

yes. Craving touch is basic, human... the loss of that triggers something. Put on some music in your apartment and dance free for yourself. dance like an indian.

Pamela said...

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven."

You don't need anyone else to validate your feelings. They are what they are. Listen to them. You are the only you you have, and your experience is yours alone. If it's time to move on, it's time to move on. Only you can decide, and it appears that you have. What more is there to say?

If C. says a word crosswise, tell him to go make $1,000 next weekend if he wants it so bad. Dammit, he didn't get engaged to a stripper or to $1,000 per weekend. He got engaged to you. And if you think it's time to move on, that's it.

Anonymous said...

Grace, what do you like to read?

Frank said...

That part where you talk about the things associated with going in (getting coffee, the parking lot) to dance is great. For some reason, it evokes a certain sort of... alcoholism. I'm not an alcoholic. I have no idea what it's like. But I've always thought that somewhere in the mind, before that person takes that first swig, there is a feeling like that, "Here I go again, driving in to work." And there's nothing you can do to stop it because, god damn it, someone's gotta pay the bills.

Anonymous said...

Great post as always. It's "taut," not "taught."

You'll come out of it. (((hugs))) or ... good wishes, since you don't want to be touched.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a comment and it disappeared...basically it said,
I can relate to what your feeling.
When clubs went from table dances to lap dances-
I ran and hid in a bikini bar till I was strong enough to wear blinders and command my own game in a room full of women doing way more (physically) than I would, for way less than I was asking.
the first paragraph here is about the blinders I wore:

Anna said...

Electrified ether is never enough, even when it's great.

I agree with Pamela about C. I hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does, do tell *him* to go get naked. I feel a little weird even saying this, since it's not my call at all and I have no say in it, but I do feel better saying it once than not at all.

It seems like you are growing Grace and these are the pains and doubts that come with it. It's a good thing. This time, I think the pain might really be telling you you are still alive.

Love from Zurich,