I wait tables. Customers come, customers go. A dollar, two dollars, more, less, sometimes none. Black pants, polo tucked into a black belt, white t-shirt, black socks. After a group leaves I kneel half way in the booth, half way out, looking out the window. The sun sets into the interstate causeway. Trains bearing the same graffiti I saw months ago pass by, headed west, headed east. Dead flies lay on their backs, black husks arrayed into a dust covered insect graveyard.
In another universe we might have met somewhere else. I would have noticed her curves, her eyes, her lips, the way both work together when she wants your attention. She’s not a beauty but there’s something pretty about her. A realism to her. I meet Aurora and it doesn’t take me long to realize I want her. I want her body because I know I shouldn’t. She’s a dancer, a stripper, a mother, she’s someone’s wife, someone else’s girlfriend. Still, I want her.
“It’s complicated,” Aurora tells me as we speak of her husband, “It’s a pain.”
“But you guys are technically together,” I inquire.
“We’re separated. That’s about as good as it gets right now. But let’s not talk about him.”
“What about you and Suit?”
“Life is good. He still gets irritated he’s not allowed in here. So.” A few weeks prior Suit was kicked out of the club for his actions regarding a situation with Aurora. Now he’s only allowed in when she’s not there.
“People don’t really seem to like Suit.”
“I would imagine. I don’t care,” Aurora giggles.
“Other people bring their boyfriends in. Autumn and them.”
“I have no idea. Should I know why? Should I care why? When I’m not working it’s time for relationships and- do you have the ashtray?” she asks another girl.
Whether she was meant to be or not, Aurora’s crafted herself into a unique sexpot. Five thousand dollars worth pumped to make already impressive breasts larger. Tattoos line her waist and back like ink-jewelry. Microdermal anchors go from her collar bone down to the middle of her sternum. A necklace of sparkling aurora-borealis colors. In the semi-darkness, beneath the black light, the eye might make one believe it is a standard decoration instead of gems punctured into her skin.
“How do you feel for these poor assholes who, don’t want to take a stripper home but, genuinely fall for [them]?” I ask Aurora.
“There’s a big difference there. Yeah, I don’t feel bad for guys who come in here expecting to go home with a stripper. I, I think they’re arrogant and have the least chance of getting a dancer, stripper without money outside of the club.
“Now, a guy who comes in with the intention of spending a little bit of money and locking eyes with a girl and going ‘Oh my god, there’s no way in hell I’ll ever have her’, I would feel more sorry for him if he doesn’t get her than I would for a guy who’s like ‘Oh yeah, I’m built, I have a six pack, a twelve pack, I’m bad ass, I’ve got the tips of my hair dyed’.”
“What do you mean ‘feel sorry for them’?”
“It would make me feel bad because it’s-” Aurora pauses, touches her feet in pain, “Stripper shoes.
“It’s sincere. Their feelings are sincere. They’re not in it for the sex. They, you know, they honestly click with the conversation, you know? That makes me feel worse than some guy coming in here and going ‘Oh yeah, I’m taking one of you home tonight’. Fucking no you’re not. I wouldn’t date you if you were the last guy on earth. Simply because of [their] attitude.”
Some people would like to demonize strippers, create succubus out of them, say that any woman willing to take her clothes off must be willing to go further for a couple more dollars. Whores, trollops, harlots, sluts, hookers, every term, any term, a human being willing to go to great lengths to remind everyone, including themselves, that someone else is seen as greater trash.
And a dancer will be offended by the mere idea that they’ve ever gone home with a customer. Never meeting for dates. “Only whores do that” and sometimes they imply the “whore” is right across the room. Ask the “whore” the same question and they’ll accuse the real “whore” at the bar. An endless game. There is an animosity towards these “whores” that is as fierce as the misunderstood hatred of those outside the nighttime world.
Yet most of the women meet their male counterparts for life or the moment in the club. When your existence revolves around a place it is bound to happen. Isis, Trouble, Satin, these women all met their husbands in the club- some of the men were co-workers, others customers. Brooklyn, Vanessa, Sadie, Belle, Shie, Tessa, Nightmare and others have met and dated a customer or someone they work with at some point. Some instances result in love, in children, in long term investments. While others burst into proverbial flames, leaving both parties bitter, eager to let loose the injustices they feel were thrown upon them.
For the most part the girls are tight-lipped about these romances. Secrets guarded beneath the plates of their psychological stripper armor. Aurora is an exception. The other dancers look at her situation with up-turned noses and speak of it with disgust. Still married but separated, Aurora dates Suit, a man she met at the club. In a world where their skin is for sale in limited amounts, many of the girls attach great pride to fidelity and monogamy. Prostitution is weeded out, disgraced, put on display and then eradicated. Extra-martial relationships receive similar treatment. And flagrant showings of male-female sexual interaction between the dancers and any male, customer or otherwise, triggers a reaction.
“What they do is their business,” a girl tells me, sitting straight in her chair, “but when [Aurora] is blowing [Suit] out in the parking lot when we all get out of work, that makes us all look bad. Separated or not, that’s fucked up.”