It’s an okay crowd for a Tuesday; everyone’s telling me the January lull is over, and anyway I’m more broke than I have been in years, so I’m back at work.
Leaving the lap dance room I see Autumn with two guys. She seems to be concentrating on the more attractive, less drunk one, so when his friend flails nearer to me I take my chance.
“A lapdance sound great! But I have to wait for my friend.”
“I think he looks busy with Autumn,” I answer, pondering my chances.
“He should be busy!” he slurs.
“We can be busy,” I offer. “Busy doing some depraved things in back.”
Autumn’s guy perks up at this and walks away from her, toward us. Dammit. Autumn hovers, indecisive. I sigh. But the friend helps me out.
“He should get a lapdance! I’ll get him a lapdance!”
“I do,” Autumn’s guy agrees. “I need a lapdance.”
This is too easy. “No, what you need is a two girl show.” I wave Autumn back and run my fingers through his hair, . “Right? What you need is two girls, all. Over. You.“
Autumn catches on and starts rubbing his shoulders. “Yeah, right?”
Friend comes back. “Come on bro! Do it! Two girls! Whooo! We’re from Seattle,” he confides.
“Seattle, huh,” I itsy-bitsy spider walk my fingers down his chest to linger at his navel, then belt buckle. “Then you need a real P_____ style lapdance because we’ve heard about the rules in Seattle and that sounds like such a drag.”
“We’re wild here,” Autumn agrees. “You need a wild lapdance.”
“I love redheads,” the guy sighs. I nod encouragingly.
“But,” he says, and I can already tell I’m about to be annoyed because “but” is like the most annoying word out of a stripclub customers mouth ever, always a precursor to something even more annoying, I realise this is a contradiction but you’ll see what I mean:
He continues. “I own my own restaurant. I don’t have to pay for a lapdance. I get free lapdances all the time. I’ve dated strippers before you know. I know how you are. I can have free ones whenever I want.“
(emphasis totally mine because see how it just got more annoying? I don’t want you to miss that fatuous and fallacious statement.)
I run my fingers back up his chest, stop at his nipple. Fiddle with it through the fabric.
“But you’re in a strip club right now,” I say.
“Yeah but I don’t have to p–“.
“You came here to our work place, and, as you say, you’ve dated strippers so you know how it works–” I pinch his nipple.
“Ow,” he says. I smile brightly.
“You’re in a strip club now, where we are working, and lapdances are what we sell.” I pinch again. “It’s a little like if we came to your restaurant and sat down and then refused to buy anything because, ‘Hey! We don’t actually want food’.” I pinch his nipple again, unable to contain my irritation.
“You’re being that girl,” he says, trying to smile.
“Yes, I am.” I let go and pat his chest. “Because I don’t like you.”
I hear Autumn give a scandalized gasp of laughter as I walk away.
I texted her to ask if she remembered any other parts of the conversation.
1- Kat used to say that nodding subtly sends a subliminal signal that they should agree with you. Strip and Get Rich echoed this. Sometimes it works and sometimes it makes the guys laugh but l can work with laughter.
I quit S____’s, I don’t remember why. I went to A____.
“You’re going to hate it,” the manager of S’s assured me.
Starting at a new club is like starting a new romance: you’re so happy it’s not the old one it’s hard to see the new flaws.
I liked the dressing room: after being squeezed–with five other girls!– into the tiny closet that was the S’s dressing room, A’s was exciting. It was the only room upstairs and it had a door to the roof where, from a rickety reclining lawn chair, you could watch the freeway or the creek. The whole club, more rickety and ramshackle than the lawnchair, perched on the bank of that creek, out of which the odd shopping cart poked. Picturesque! with the side benefit that if you needed to go outside and yell, let off some steam, no one could hear you over the noise of the water and cars.
No one expected us to leave the dressing room and hustle drinks when we weren’t onstage. As a newly sober person, one freshly woken to the fact that drunk people are infinitely more annoying than sober ones, this was a big deal. More time to read: I could run up to the dressing room after every stage set, pull out my book, and read for a blissful and uninterrupted twenty minutes.
And it gave me more time to devote to the other new thing in my life, an actual romance. I have a commitment allergy, and I’ve had it my whole life. I disappear on people, I can’t help it. Even friends. It feels like being being suffocated when people want things from me and I just can’t come through, so I stop answering calls.
This was one thing I was willing to commit to, however. My high school geometry teacher once called me monomaniacal, and she’s not wrong. I dedicated myself to becoming the perfect girlfriend with all the fervour I usually threw into hiding from my one night stands, and the more signs there were that this couldn’t possibly end well for me, the more I determined to remake myself into someone for whom it would. Part of this involved being available at times I would normally be at work: weekend nights.
There was an extra shift at A: 7-11am. All the drunk guys who’d been out partying so hard they hadn’t yet slept would come in, cringing at the music and begging me not to talk so loud. You wouldn’t have expected it (I didn’t, anyway) but they tipped very well.
Thus, Saturday morning, 9 am.
I sat in the corner by the staircase because the angle of the stairs meant there was only room for one chair, squashed between the mirror and the bannister. Someone would actually have to be deliberately snooping to get anywhere near my stuff, and after having both my iPod and computer charger swiped I tried to make any more thefts as difficult and obvious as possible. This tactic was only marginally successful (I had a g-string and a set of bikini bottoms stolen before I eventually hated the place so much that I stormed out) and it didn’t protect me at all from the real menace:
Orla and I worked together at least two shifts a week. On afternoons or nights she had a customer who would buy her drinks and he took the brunt of her conversation, but on mornings–when no one else wanted to be on rotation with her because the girl actually danced to songs like “If you like pina coladas”–we were in the dressing room alone together and Orla was just one of those people who cannot bear silence. Even if the other person is reading or watching movies on their laptop, as I usually was. And once she started talking, I felt compelled to bear witness. She was so fragile and weird! She had braces and the biggest natural boobs I’ve ever seen, and anxious blue eyes that made me feel guilty when I ignored her.
Sometimes I would go downstairs just to escape her, but the dressing room was the only room in the bar with central heat; as the winter wore on and the shiny newness wore off I found myself shivering more and realised that the rest of the club was heated by the solitary (though giant) woodstove. It didn’t heat up until around 6 or 7 in the evening, when the customer population hit a critical mass and started warming the place up through body heat. Before that you just had to shiver and suffer. Customers, wrapped in heavy winter coats, would irritably demand why I was wearing a hoodie and when it was going to come off. I’d flash them halfheartedly, try to explain how hard it is to get naked when every instinct you have is screaming for you to put more clothes on. They didn’t buy it.
“Dance harder,” the real assholes would say. This was why I liked the hungover customers best. In their hungover misery they were sympathetic to my frozen misery.
Plus once you were on the floor you were fair game for any time wasting customer to come up and talk your ear off and the management had very strict rules about what constituted acceptable conversational topics. Telling them to go away, I’m reading, was not within these parameters. I had to be very desperate to resort to that, most of the time it was just easier to listen to Orla talk.
Her two main topics were her boyfriend: a cheating asshole
and her roommate: our coworker, Flower Fairy
“She’s cut her shifts down,” Orla was complaining. “She won’t do mids anymore because that’s when her team goes on raids. She’s barely even working right now!”
Orla perked up at this sign of interest. “I guess it’s a World of Warcrafty thing. They all get together and raid? But they raid at five so she can’t be at work or they’ll get mad.”
“Flower Fairy plays World of Warcraft?”
“Oh yeah. Like all the time. When she doesn’t work she’s just online, like until four or five in the morning.”
“And… She can’t work mids because they raid?”
“Yeah.” This was more interest than I’d shown in weeks, Orla looked really happy. “She’s a sexy elf lady I guess and the rest of her team or clan or whatever is like a troll and a warlock and a thief? But if I make noise when she’s playing she yells at me! And she just got these new headphones so now she doesn’t have to listen to me.”
I’m jealous. “So who do they raid?” I asked, fascinated. I made a mental note to sit Flower Fairy down and have her tell me all about it.
“Other teams. Those are real people mostly, other nerds. It’s huge, they all dedicate their lives to it.”
“Ladies!” The bartender wasn’t happy. “I need music and someone onstage now, please, the song has been over for two minutes.”
“Ugh,” I said. We made faces at each other. “Do you want to do first stage again? I just want to sit and read.”
“Sure,” she agreed, one reason I liked being on rotation with Orla. She let me slack as much as I wanted.
1-I used to decompress by getting off work and mumble/yelling obscenities but A is actually the place where this stopped working. It beat me down so hard that just breathing became difficult. I developed a new and terrible habit of faux-whistling when I left work, puckering up and exhaling hugely, like my tension was some weight anterior to myself that I could just diffuse if I blew hard enough.
2- Because if I wasn’t around on those nights, who knows what could happen or who my date would have hooked up with. This is not my paranoid mind, you understand, this is what I was told as an incentive to get me to stop working nights. It worked.
3- And if you sat too close to the stove the soles of your shoes melted.
4- Everyone gets a pseudonym here, although Flower Fairy is sort of close to her actual stage name.
(my last term ever as an undergrad and at this university!)
and you know I always update more when I ought to be doing anything but. And a real update is overdue. First it was finals and I had to study, then finals was over and the last thing I wanted to do was spend a lot of time in front of a computer, then I got my grades back and I passed and am set to graduate and was too busy celebrating and working to write, then I went to Vegas. Which deserves an update all for itself so more on that another day.
But this is my last-hurrah term, my term to take two final good classes to rinse the last few abysmal months of underachieving undergrads and uninspired instructors (I think one of them may have been basically brain-damaged, if not -dead) out my brain. One class with the Peripatetic Professor of my Middle East classes last year (this one is imperialism) and the last with the Beautiful Professor. I have to redeem myself with him too, his commentary on my last paper still burns. Entertaining but sloppy. It was, but knowing he’s right only makes it worse.
By Sunday night the only people who’d posted responses to the discussion thread were his fan girls (that’s me included) and a random guy. I was still in Vegas during the first class, but that seemed absurd, and also likely to get the class canceled.
Texted my friend and fellow fangirl, as his grad student advisee she ought to know.
She concluded that the rest of us were invisible to her, as lowly undergrads. There’s three of his fangirls in the class, plus a smattering of senior auditors, two guys looking to take an easy A, and a sociology major whose look of baffled pain has us placing bets on whether she drops this week or next.
K gave me my birthday present–late, but not as late as mine to her:
“I wonder if I’m the only grad student.”
“I think we had already established that you are. Yours is a high and lonely destiny.” I tried to channel as much Uncle Andrew as I could.
K rolled her eyes. “Nice Narnia shoutout, nerd.”
But you note that she caught it! Frenz.
Promise to update with salacious stories about Vegas and all the pictures I haven’t posted yet next.
1-They’re wrong, but entertaining. One of them put his hand up and asked “What about the salt?”*
*-the course is Yiddish film and the movie was Ost und West, and the salt in question was something to do with a ritual (I can’t remember because I wasn’t taking notes, I was too busy comparing it to Twilight 2–benighted lover sees wavering phantom head of beloved in front of them, see what I mean? equally hilarious as a device in 1923 or now–and there you go, I’m entertaining but sloppy)
the question itself caused a flashback to my seminar on Early Modern England last year: My friend was giving a presentation on women and sociability and the role of gossip/slander; predictably enough the accusation of whoredom was very common. She finished up and,
“What about the bastards?” said Awful John. Awful John deserves a better descriptive, something like Halfwit, Stupid, Vacant, but my New Years resolution was to be kinder, so.
I choked back a laugh.
Emily looked a little stunned but explained that, though “whore” was a common pejorative, it didn’t necessarily mean that the woman in question was indeed a whore or having crowds of wee little ones out (or in, plenty of married whores) of wedlock. &c&c&c
“But, what about the bastards?” he asked again. “There weren’t any?”
We all had to give four presentations a term, and Awful John’s were the highlight. He strang together words chosen apparently at random, with key words that would be repeated throughout (the key words changed from presentation to presentation) but none of which cohered into a full sentence. I transcribed one of his presentations so I could do a dramatic re-enactment for the girl I was seeing, a stolid and deeply matter-of-fact water sign who thought I was prone to exaggeration for comic effect (I am, but). That didn’t last (romances based solely on bone structure never do), but luckily the notes did:
Redefined freedom. Faith. Prosperity. Revolt in the revolution, fascinating. Radical ideas. Throughout the text it emphasizes a lot of aspects of you know, things that were happening around.” (I guess that one is a full sentence.) “Thus the title. A struggle for power. First revolution…”
Here my notes broke in to comment on prof. “Dr L looking increasingly severe and prune faced. Now doing her nails. !!! omg”
“Movements substantially up until the Restoration Hill emphasizes the English radicalism that ensues as the result of movements. English radicalism. Radicals like Gerard. Emphasis. Authority of church, social superiors.”
See? School is fun. I can only hope What About The Salt is as entertaining as Simple John.