I sit down next to two noisy and wildly gesticulating men.
“Hi, what are you two arguing over?”
Big Ginger Mustache answers. “We aren’t arguing, we’re enthusiastically agreeing with each other.”
“With hand gestures?”
“With hand gestures.”
“And what are you agreeing about?”
“Girls, money, and how much we like tattoos.”
“That’s great! I love those things too!”
“Girls with tattoos and money?”
“Absolutely. And we can combine all three, here I am, a girl with tattoos whom you can give money to. Would you like a dance?” I itsy bitst spider my fingers down his chest, a mistake. He sucks his paunch in angrily.
“I don’t like dances.”
“Have you had a dance here?”
“No. And I don’t intend to start with you.”
Okay then. Trying to gracefully move on, I address his hitherto silent friend. Maybe he can add some charm to this tedious conversation and make it not a total washout. “you’re looking quite dapper this evening.” compliments: always a good bet for decreasing tension.
“Yes, he does, and he’s charming also, but you won’t find that out since it takes more than 30 seconds to discover it and you won’t stick around long enough.”
Dapper Man still has nothing to say for himself, instead allowing Bristly Carrot Mustache to rudely assure me of his charms. Seriously?
blink. “you’re being awfully snide for someone who hasn’t even spent any money yet.”
“It’s ok, I can, just between us gingers.”
“My grandfather had the same idea and I hated him.”
“you’ll hate me for different reasons!”
“you know, I don’t think I’ll stick around long enough.”
Shortly after that I had a similarly rapid-fire but much more amusing and sweet conversation with a banker on his way to Qatar for what he assured me would be an incredibly lucrative year. I wish I could remember what we talked about but he got dances before I could take any notes. Good conversation is such an ephemeral thing. I was really happy to rinse bitchy ginger out of my head.
What I’m doing now:
Last Friday night got off to a slow start. I hid in the dressing room with my friend and a few other girls and started showing her how to tease her hair out of boredom. The new redhead walked in. My club’s not exactly full of mean girls, but most everyone else is smarter than me: they don’t smile at new people til they’re sure the new girls are sane. Save the smiles for the customers, ladies. Smart.
She sat down next to us. I avoided eye contact, eye contact is a sure fire way to invite a long confessional. She launched into her usual stream-of-consciousness monologue anyway.
“I’m having a great night, and I need some drugs!” she announced.
No one made eye contact with anyone. The dressing room is in front of the office; I hadn’t looked in there recently, but usually the club owner is in there, puttering around with something. Sometimes I look in the mirror, adjusting a bikini and there he is, making a lascivious face at my back. It’s just something you gotta take in stride and work around. Like, by making a face back and going back out on the floor. Or by calling your dealer from the bathroom. You know. I studiously stared into my friends growing bouffant.
She snorted. “Whatever.” Got on the phone, made a call. “I made 180 right off the bat before I even got onstage! I need some drugs! YOU KNOW. Can you come by the club?”
We were all being deaf so hard it hurt.
“Great! Yeah, it’s going great! All dances!” She wandered out of the dressing room.
“That was indiscreet,” I offered.
Later, hustling a customer fresh out of prison (the conversation went something like this:
“Hey, how are you?”
“I’m great! This place is amazing, I love it!”
“Me too! Is this your first time?”
“No, but it’s my first time in a while. I’ve been away.”
“Oh yeah? Where did you go?”
“Oh, are you on leave right now?”
Patient. “No, I’ve been away.”
Totally blank but not really caring or wanting to get into it. “Well, that’s cool. How about a dance to celebrate?”
“I just got out of prison.”
Trying not to miss a beat, feeling kind of like a fool. “Then you reallyneed a dance, huh?”)
He wanted to talk away from his friends, and suggested we sit at the rack. I told him he had to tip for both of us and we sat down.
“Red!” I heard an annoying coo just before some long lacy legs and a bare vagina plopped down onto my bare lap. I flinched, looked up.
Other Redhead smiled at me, a smile that seemed full of malicious glee but maybe she’s just insane. She started masturbating furiously on my lap. My entire body cringed away from her before she could touch me with that hand.
“I’m not ready for this!” I shrieked, trying to pull away or squeeze out from under her. It’s a fine, hard line to walk, preserving hygiene and sanity and basic rules of health (and personal space) while still having customers think you’re just a fun lovin’ gal who wants to rub on their lap. “This is just–I can’t-oh my god.”
She touched my hair with her hand. I whimpered. She rubbed her hands in my hair and wrapped fistfuls of it in her fingers. I tried to smile gamely and knew that no amount of sanitizer was going to get me through this night. Only copious amounts of dances could possibly compensate for the outrage and horror I was feeling. She smiled at me, cooed again. “You are just so pretty!” Got off me. I told my customer I would be back, and fled to the dressing room for a baby wipe and sanitizer bath.
I was sitting in the poker room, thawing out–it’s the warmest room in the club with the most comfortable chairs, I think to encourage customers to stay there indefinitely and gamble,though some people don’t even need to be in the room to pour hundreds of dollars into those stupid machines, but that’s a different story and I digress–and the doll-faced new redhead walked in.
She sat down and smiled at me. I smiled back and kept scrolling through tumblr, trolling for good book blogs. “My feet are killing me,” she said. “What a slow night. Sitting near you is like sitting near a mirror.” Before I could think of anything to say to that, or even smile again, she continued, “I think I have diarrhea.”
I turned a bark of laughter into a cough as the one customer in the room twitched but pretended he hadn’t heard. She kept going. “I think it was something I ate.”
“I think I’m up next!” I rose, smiled apologetically at her, ran.
Later she found me again.
“Can I take a picture of you?” Without waiting she raised her phone. “My friend is just so mad that there’s another redhead! And you have the name I wanted! He’s like, ‘Who is this other Red?’ and I was all, ‘No she’s pretty’ and now he wants to see you!”
I ducked behind my book. “Um, I really don’t want to–”
“Aw come on!” She kept pointing the phone at me as I cringed behind my not-nearly-big-enough book. “Got you!” I flinched. She displayed the screen proudly and I saw a red blob next to a blurry The Ladies: Female Patronage and Restoration Drama. She looked at the picture and frowned. “Can I get your face, it’s not really in the picture.”
Horrified. “Um, no.”
She pouted, but finally left.