From “Inside The Jolly Rancher”
I cried during the last lap dance I ever gave. Well, Lucy cried. I often turned the dances into full body hugs. I clung around the sturdy old businessman with the gunmetal and white hair like a koala baby, my arms around his neck, and my knees, gripping his hips. I did this because it kept me from having to push hands and fingertips from my breasts. And, the men liked it because it gave them the illusion of intimacy.
They just kept taking dance after dance, overpaying at times. My blond wig scattered its bristly ends over the shoulder of his suit jacket as my tears discreetly soaked a patch of his chalk-striped- wool. His two friends had also taken dances with me, passing me off like a little blond porcelain doll for rent. I think I cried because I would miss it all like a child misses a mean grandparent who takes better care of her than her own father and mother do. I had finally mastered the particular hustle of a San Francisco strip club. The old man and the blond wig were like my rich grandparents, indulging in my skewed sense of reality by paying for my rent, meals, and clothes. This man bought the most dances that night, all the way up until the club closed at two. The last man, the last night and the last dance.
I was going back to New York. I didn’t know why. I was loosing my mind, I guess. Nine months earlier I came to San Francisco with six grand of Time Square peepshow money, looking for a home; a real one, with blankets for the sofa.
The light in San Francisco was kind of clean like it had been filtered through a prism right out of the sun. I liked it because of that. New York had a lot of shadows. All the struggles that seemed fashionable in New York now seemed pointless. I wasn’t just tired of them, I was intolerant of them. I wanted to be somewhere that granted a bit of weathered skin. Some flaws. New York was for the earnest, jaded soul. I didn’t even know if I had a soul anymore. When I left New York I felt I was moving from the tunnel to the light at its end. I just didn’t realize there was a cliff on the other side of that light, at least for me.
I moved back to New York City at the tail end of the nervous breakdown. I didn’t even really know I was having one until I said with self-deprecation at my own sense of melodrama, “I had a minor nervous breakdown.” Then my boyfriend, who I left behind in San Francisco said, “Babe, MINOR nervous breakdown?” And, as I was coming out of it I realized that must have been what it was because I couldn’t remember gregarious portions of my life from the previous three months; the last months of San Francisco.
I was on stage when my boyfriend, Alex walked in. His first moment ever at a strip club at the age of forty, seeing me, topless, doing “exotic” movements. Some of these movements included spinning off the pole into a back bend, ass clapping and a simple stripper favorite, shaking your inner thigh muscles while lying on your back. It was cute and lewd all at the same time.
He sat right at the rail, looking up at me, this expression of forced grace under pressure, mixed with a bit of horror. When my set ended we huddled together in one of the bottle service booths, pretending he was a customer. My hands and body were rattled. I realized I was scarred as fuck. Was he going to now get it through his head what it meant for his girlfriend to be a stripper?
“I have to go to the bathroom,” he said.
My heart scorched further with trepidation. The only way to the bathrooms was to walk through the lap dance section. Lap dances; girls, dry humping men.
“Listen,” I said, “ A lot of the girls give really slutty dances. I’m way less slutty when I give them, but please just try not to look. The bathrooms are that way.” I pointed.
Alex stared at me like I just told him to go jump in a volcano while trying not to look at the lava.
“Ok,” he agreed.
I watched him disappear into the ether of groping and clutching, praying to the stripper gods that my boyfriend would not extrapolate all the mostly-naked women’s behavior onto me, even though it was all essentially the same fucking
thing. Was I hoping he would infer the nuance of how I stuck my tits in a guy’s face two inches further back than the rest?
Returning to the booth he sat first, then scooted toward me. I felt that I had
become a tainted object which he was attempting, with some benevolence, not to disown.
“Babe, calm down,” he told me.
“I can’t!” I continued shaking.
“I’m not going to stop loving you. I knew what it was.”
I kind of felt that he didn’t know what he was saying. All I can think now is,then why aren’t we together? He just stared at Paige, and Lucy stared back at him, an odd love triangle.