“Ain’t No Barbie”- BORDERLANDS Excerpt #7

I see Madison and she is beautiful. Not beautiful in the way where I fall in love with her at first sight but in the way where I want to avoid eye contact and creep to the other side of a room so I don’t embarrass myself before her. Beautiful in that way where if she were pushing a carriage down the street with an infant I’d stop and tell her “Your baby is going to be lovely,” knowing I can’t tell shit from the lump of new pink flesh swaddled in blankets.

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Though, I did make the mistake of calling her a Barbie. It’s not that she’s got long blonde hair or a body that defies physics. Her hair is colored shades of artificial but spectacular gold. When we stand face to face without her heels we’re even, a few inches above the average man or woman. You can see where children drained her in the stomach and breasts, loose skin showing beneath the black light. What makes me think of Barbie is how her lips pout and the arch of her impressive eyebrows. It’s not what Barbie is, but what Barbie means- you want her for a few minutes? Well, ain’t no way in hell unless you’re willing to spend the cash.

Fuck off.

When Madison climbs the stage people crowd the plush seats. A man who seems a cross between a hippy and a lumberjack sits and puts twenty dollars bills on the padded tip rail like they’re Washingtons.

“The girls like me because of the poetry I write her,” the Hipjack tells me, alcohol wafting from his throat to my nose. He stares out from thick rimmed black glasses with bulging eyes behind.

Madison removes her top to reveal nipples hard and erect on small breasts, the flesh responding as if it knows that it is time to work.

“What do you mean I’m a Barbie?” Madison says while a drunken dancer who tells me to ‘call her Sparkles’ and Hipjack heckle me. I fumble for words and have no real response but half-assed reasoning. I falter. I fail.

“What is this?” Hipjack asks me, drunk and smiling, “Gonzo journalism?”

“You ain’t no Thompson,” Sparkles shouts over the bass, “You ain’t no Thompson.”

I float around the club, embarrassed. Sparkles. What a cunt. All I want to do is leave. To run. Why stay? Such a stupid idea? Who do I think I am, anyway? They’re right. This isn’t my world. I ain’t no Thompson and this isn’t Gonzo journalism. I should go home.

“And now to the stage is the beautiful Sadie,” the DJ drawls. Sparkles prances up onto the stage and dances to “Pretty Fly For A White Guy”, twirling her dyed red hair.

Liar.

Sadie reminds me of porn stars the way her facial expressions form for customers. Her teeth remind me of Europeans. She’s wrapped in leg warmers and lace as her g-string sinks into her hips, camouflaged in flesh. Hipjack comes to the stage and drops a twenty.

“I was hoping you’d come sooner,” Sadie says as she moves from some Mexicans to the drunken amalgamation, nuzzling and dancing against his aging, flannel-clad body.

I end up sitting with Aurora and Suit in the back by the pool tables, sulking and talking with less heart than earlier. As the night wanes Madison comes and finds me and sits down. Aurora makes room and is quick to leave, looking the two of us over, telling me she’s going to dress out. Madison apologizes for Sadie and Hipjack. All that’s left is her and I, four inches from each other, and it all feels too close. I want to be on the other side of bullet proof, prison-grade glass with guards and shackles and then I’ll feel as if we’re separated enough. She intimidates me.

Articulating my Barbie comment comes out even worse with us one on one, but Madison waves it away with a manicured hand and tells me she understands. Her own words are broken. I can tell she wants to be clear, but everything comes out chopped up. She fishes for words and starts one sentence only to begin a new one half way through. Regardless, she lets me know she’s never seen herself as some unapproachable beauty.

“Well, yeah, but I’ve always hated the girls who sat in the mirror [and were like] ‘I’m so hot’,” she tells me as she moves her hair from her face, “I don’t see myself that way and I never have, nor will I ever view myself that way.

“I kind of prided myself in a way too, like, to seclude myself. I always had a lot going on as a kid and I was not involved. I don’t know, really, I’ve always be an individualist. And for the most part I look the same as I did when I was [younger].”

Hipjack comes up while the other girls are up on stage doing Platter, where most of the girls dance as a singular organism, vying for tips and interacting to get the last bits of cash from the pockets of drunkards and number-one fans. Madison excludes herself. The older girls tend to do so on occasion, though some are willing to slither in the pile for a few extra dollars.

“Hey,” Hipjack interrupts, “I got- I threw out a bunch of ones up there,” his voice gets quiet, tones of inebriation overtaking him.

“Do you ever,” he pauses, “dance?”

“I don’t ever [do platter]. I let them do platter,” she motions to the stage and smiles at Hipjack, using his real name. It sounds so proper, so out of place here on the ripped leather with cigarette smoke filling our ears and eyes and noses. “Go home.”

“They broke my eardrums with their tits.”

“Oh yeah?”

Madison ignores Hipjack’s presence and lets her words form into sentences more concrete than before. In her little black dress with her tangles of golden hair she looks tired, disinterested, only here with me to clarify her existence.

“I never really, uh- I know this sounds funny but I’m good at this. It’s something that I was good at from the get go, so I kind of, I dunno, when you’re good at something you stick with it.

“It’s not really socially acceptable. It’s very age sensitive, but-” she let’s the words linger, disappearing into wisps of smoke as if whatever the ‘but’ is she expects me to get. To just know.

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