I wouldn’t even be writing this novel if it wasn’t for the initial suggestion of one person. Though folks like Christopher Cervelloni, Angie Paxton and Lisa Blandford suggested I turn my writings into something more concrete, it was a specific woman who sat with legs crossed before me in nothing but her underwear and was bold enough to suggest to me, a down-on-his-luck pizza delivery driver at the time, to “write about this place”.
That place was The Den.
That woman dances by the name Bailey.
Here are bits and pieces of Bailey.
(NOTE: Names have been changed . Pretty sure they aren’t hard to figure out… and so everyone is clear, Riley is just the name I gave Bailey’s current boyfriend who is the same man who she waited to get out of prison and now he is and I wish them the best of luck together.)
(NOTE to the stuck up writer friends: Yes, the tenses switch between present and past because 1. I’m still trying to see which is more effective and 2. I honestly don’t give two or three or four fucks.)
“Are you going to visit him?” I asked her.
“No, nah,” Bailey laughed, mischief in her voice and face. Her cheeks fill with blood even beneath the black lights.
“You had sex,” Tessa teased, leaning forward in a pink outfit that offsets her open legged stance and rough voice.
“No!” Bailey exclaimed, “We can’t have sex in visitation. In the visitation room he kissed my hand- he kissed my hand! They dry celled him for two days because they thought we were passing drugs. That he had swallowed a balloon of some sort. Oh!” her voice grew dramatic like an offended socialite and she reclined in the chair, “We were ‘sexually inappropriate at the visitation so it got taken away from us.”
Bailey’s voice dripped with ichor and sarcasm and she searched our faces. There was a pain behind her facade and I wish I would have noticed it then. She wasn’t only searching for our pity. It was our agreement she sought.
Both Tessa and I were silent for a moment until I shrugged my shoulders.
“He’s, uh, he’s in prison,” I stated, trying to be honest.
Tessa took up after me in the same tone, “Prison sucks. I’ve never been there, but…”
Bailey is a beauty in that way where one must bypass imperfections not because she’s a stripper with a nice ass but because at her stage it’s as if she’s dancing just for you. As she caresses the pole with slender fingers and looks out from beneath auburn eyelashes, she’s no longer a woman dancing for dollar bills. With a tattooed garter on her long legs and the slow, sensual movements of her body, Bailey becomes the blushing bride on her honeymoon. A wife waiting for a soldier coming back from war. The cute girl at the campus bookstore sifting through psychology and law books.
Yet, when she sits down to talk to me the scars of acne mar her face and small lips purse to near nothingness when she becomes serious. And as she opens her mouth and smiles wide and her eyes narrow and I can see how a man sits in jail for years with only the thought of her as his anchor, the illusion is ruined and she becomes her real name, first and last, shouting above Nicki Minaj and Pusifer.
“When Riley[real name changed] would fuck me he would leave a mushroom stamp on my cervix,” she would partially whisper to me with a stale cackle and a grin.
As Hawkeye asked one of the unfortunate souls to be subjected to a Hot Seat to make barnyard animal noise, Bailey cupped her hands over her mouth and shouted like a rooster, “Any-Cock-Will-Doo!”
And up at the bar, with a fur-lined hoodie over her bra and t-bar, she would open up and the laughs would stop and she’d chain smoke with the fire from the cigarettes traveling from the burning tip straight to her honey-colored eyes.
“-but nobodies sitting up at the stages. Nobodies tipping you. Nobodies paying attention to you. But they’re all watching you, they’re all staring at you. It’s awkward just to be stared at.”
Words like that, sometimes humorous and frequently serious, make me think that at any time Bailey is as likely to flash you a smile as to stand up, flip the crowd off, give everyone a Miss America wave and walk out in nothing but her stiletto’s, pale skin and pride.