Stigmatic Strippers and Erotic Endgames
MEREDITH IS DOWNSTAIRS, watching an over-muscular black man having his g-string taken off by an overweight bride-to-be. The woman is having difficulty; Meredith wonders if the woman’s behavior will betray the color of her wedding gown.
For a moment she considers—as she does every week at some point—going back upstairs to watch Bill watch the women, but he has made her promise. A half an hour: alone time. She looks down at her watch—10:05. She left him upstairs only five minutes ago. She’s not jealous or worried; but she does [she thinks] love him more than he loves her. So she’d waited for the least attractive girl to begin dancing before she slowly descended the red carpet stairs.
† † †
BILL IS UPSTAIRS, having a dollar bill taken out of his mouth by a large set of surgically enhanced tits. He hears the girl thank him as he finishes off another bottle of High Life. He looks down at the watch Meredith bought him. It’s already been five minutes? Bill whistles. A pair of legs appears. “Another one,” he says, motioning to his empty bottle.
A couple minutes later he is nearly finished. The breasts bounce back into his field of vision, nipples the size of shot glasses searing his retinas. He smiles, holds out another dollar. This time the girl pulls her g-string away from her hip and allows Bill to slide the money in between. “Thanks, Bill,” she whispers.
He and Meredith have been coming here every Wednesday since September. Bill sighs, takes another drink of his beer, and looks down at the watch: 10:07.
~ ~ ~
MEREDITH LOOKS DOWN AT HER WATCH AND TAKES A DRINK. He’s still got twenty-three minutes. The woman is attacking Nantucket Nate’s g-string.
Meredith takes another sip of her gin and tonic and looks closer: every time the woman succeeds in pulling the elastic band of Nate’s g-string down an inch or two, he slyly spreads his legs (thereby increasing the distance from the outer edge of one thigh to the outer edge of the other) and the red, silky band of his underwear slides back into its original position. The bride-to-be seems to realize [thinks Meredith] that her success wouldn’t be quite as much fun. Her fiancé must be a special case. Meredith wants to ask her how they’ve done it.
Some of the women—women for whom passion has a finish line—await the unveiling anxiously, and one of the more aggravated spits, “For Chrissake, Barb, tear that fucking thing off!”
† † †
“TAKE IT OFF!” yells a man to Bill’s left. The girl removes her denim vest and places her cowboy hat on Bill’s head. “You like the Wild West, Bill?” she whispers. He smiles slightly and hands her a dollar.
That’s where Meredith wants to go. Wants both of them to go. Bill stands up and moves to a small round table a little farther from the stage.
A young man has been holding up a dollar bill for some time. He looks nervous, somewhat agitated. It might be the first time [Bill thinks] he sees an unrelated, three-dimensional naked woman. The young man reaches deep into the pocket of his drooping khaki pants and pulls out a five-dollar bill. He still seems ignored. “What, my money’s not good enough?” he says, loudly enough for everyone to hear. “Is my money not good enough?”
~ ~ ~
SHE’S HAD ENOUGH, Meredith thinks. Barb had worked Nate’s g-string down below his knees; she continued pulling down, down past his calves, down past his ankles—down until her chin hit the stage’s mirrored floor.
“Shit,” exhales the woman who’d been most adamant earlier. Her less than enthusiastic reaction confirms what Meredith had already guessed: she, at least, had never been here before.
Barb looks into the floor, looks at the reflection of Nate’s shoed foot. She follows it up, up past his ankles, up past his calves, up past his knees and finally to the g-string that Nate wears underneath the first to facilitate legal audience participation.
“Again?” Barb asks, raising her chin from the floor as Nate shakes his head and offers her a hand. The soft red glow of neon illuminates her teeth and shines off of her hair as she shrugs and fingers her engagement ring.
Meredith turns away from Barb, takes a drink, and focuses on her watch—10:15.
† † †
BILL WALKS UP TO THE BAR, orders a High Life, and looks down at his watch: 10:15. “Here you go,” says the bartender, removing the cap and handing him the bottle. “Enjoying yourself?”
Bill shrugs again and takes a drink of his beer.
“There’s a cure,” Ken offers, his eyes motioning to a few girls along the opposite wall. Bill recognizes the breasts.
“They haven’t cured me yet.” Bill says. After the first two weeks Wednesday night sex—if it is had at all—differs only in distance: now it is her. It isn’t working for either of us [he thinks] glancing again at the girls.
“They could, Bill.”
Tiffany meets his eyes and blows him a kiss. He catches it in the air and puts it in his pocket. Valerie turns her back to him and bends down to grab her spurs. “Wanna go West?” she mouths, upside down and backside up.
Meredith had asked him the same thing many times. But he’d never felt like saying yes then. He did now.
She’d dump me, he thinks; she’d definitely dump me. “They could,” he says, raising his bottle and making his way towards the bathroom. He reaches in his pocket, purses his lips, and closes his eyes.
~ ~ ~
“YOU LADIES DEFINITELY DON’T WANT TO GO ANYWHERE!” The announcer yells, quite aware of the anticlimax moments before. “Get up, get yourself a drink, and get ready. Because in five minutes Kid Cock is going to rock!”
Meredith watches Barb and the angry woman gather their things and lead the rest of the women up the stairs side by side. She will get herself a drink, she thinks. After she goes to the bathroom.
Meredith stands up and looks around the room. Completely empty, now; except for a woman in the opposite corner. Meredith sets down her nearly empty glass and walks slowly towards the bathroom, nodding at the bartender on the way. He smiles, nods back, and motions to the woman in the corner, silently saying, “Check it out.” Meredith does. The woman is stationary. She turns back, unimpressed. “Look at her hands,” the bartender mouths.
Meredith’s eyes follow the woman’s arm underneath the table. A necklace? She looks up at Stanley, then back to the woman’s face: eyes closed, head bowed, lips moving fervently.
“Crazy,” she says aloud, pushing the bathroom door open.
† † †
IT’S CRAZY, Bill thinks, pushing the bathroom door open. But it just might work. He checks the stalls, and, after finding them all empty, enters the one nearest the wall. He covers the toilet seat with a few layers of toilet paper and finds himself scanning the walls for graffiti. There are the normal obscenities and phone numbers, gay bashers and Christians—1 COR 11.9 is etched into the blue paint—but one in particular catches Bill’s eye. “Shit or get off of the pot,” he reads.
~ ~ ~
POT, she thinks. She wants to giggle at what isn’t funny and/or become, if only momentarily, emotionally apathetic. She places both of her palms flush against the mirror, framing the reflection of her face.
“He doesn’t love me,” she states as matter-of-factly as possible, before breaking down: “But why?”
She watches her lips remain stubbornly silent and tears tremble at her eyelids.
“Only one can…” a constipated voice seems to answer.
Meredith scans the mirror. Empty. She turns and looks around the room. A fluorescent light flickers. A pair of feet in the nearest stall. “Are you, are you talking to me?”
“Accept it,” says the breathless voice.
Meredith crouched down.
“Coming…” A grunt.
Meredith leaps up and pushes through the bathroom door. It closes behind her. In the bathroom a toilet flushes. The table where the crazy woman was sitting is empty; the necklace remains. “Another of the same?” the bartender asks as she approaches.
Meredith nods in confirmation as she checks the time—10:19.
† † †
ELEVEN MINUTES. Bill washes his hands and checks his breath. High Life, he thinks. My Life.
~ ~ ~
HER DRINK SEEMS STRONGER, the room seems darker. The music that started as Nate left the stage has stopped.
“Ladies,” says a voice. Meredith looks around. Don’t you mean lady? she thinks. “Ladies, are you ready?” Meredith doesn’t answer. “I said, are you ready?”
“Yes, I am ready,” answers Meredith.
“Are you ready for Kid Cock?”
“Yes, I am ready for Kid Cock,” she intones sarcastically.
The lights turn off; the music starts quietly:
“Bawitaba da bang a dang diggy…”
Her pulse rises with the volume.
“…up jump da boogie…”
† † †
“A HIGH LIFE,” says Bill, answering the silent inquiry of the bartender as he walks away from the bathroom door. Tiffany is slightly closer now; she seems to be working her way down the bar. Slowly. “Actually, Ken,” he says quickly, “give me a kamikaze, instead.”
Ken follows Bill’s gaze and smiles, “Bill, my boy, this drink’s on me!”
Tiffany laughs. He watches her raise her left hand to her blond locks. He can tell her armpit is smooth. If she doesn’t make it to my end of the bar before 10:30 [he thinks] I’m going to her. Meredith will see us. And when she does—
“I know plenty of veterans who’d sleep better if kamikazes kept that still,” Ken says. “Drink up!”
Bill raises the glass to his lips and throws his head back. When his vision clears he looks at his watch: 10:20.
~ ~ ~
MEREDITH HAS STOPPED CARING WHAT TIME IT IS. The moment the light came on she understood.
He stood, arms perpendicular to his body, legs crossed at his ankles, chin resting against his bare chest. Long, brown, stringy hair fell over his face. A large crucifix hung around his neck, and a 40oz bottle of malt liquor was in his right hand. He wore red wristbands on each of his wrists.
Sacrifice, Meredith thinks, closing her eyes. But would Bill give something up?
She opens her eyes. Another one can. Kid Cock slides to the front of the stage; for a moment the mirrored floor makes it look like he is walking on water. Meredith takes a drink, rises from her seat, and walks towards the stage.
“Thanks, Kid,” she says, dropping a five dollar bill. “Goodnight.”
“Thank you,” he replies, “but please, don’t leave. I hate to dance for no one.”
“I’ve seen what I needed to see.”
“But I haven’t even taken off my pants yet,” he says.
“You didn’t have to,” Meredith says, turning towards the stairs.
† † †
TWO MORE MINUTES. And then he’ll go to her. Tiffany is caught up in a conversation, and time is running out. Bill looks at his watch: 10:25.
“Another shot, Ken,” Bill says.
“You got it, Bill. But you’ll have to pay for this one.”
“I have no problem with that.”
Ken walks the length of the bar and, on his way back, stops and whispers something to Tiffany.
“Thanks,” Bill says, taking the shot. He sets the glass down a little too loudly, and looks over at Tiffany. She looks up, smiles, and starts to walk towards him. Here we go, Bill thinks. She can do it.
Her high-heels bring Tiffany slowly nearer, her bright lips part to reveal her bright teeth. He wills himself erect. The decision will be made for him. He begins fabricating and rehearsing lines silently:
I’m sorry, Meredith. Please, forgive me. I’ll try not to do it again.
It’s only been going on for two or three months.
She only ties me down when I ask her to.
Bill likes the sound of that one.
The young man who was so aggravated earlier steps between Bill and Tiffany. Bill clenches his right fist and looks at his watch. No time. He takes one step forward and stops.
The boy has one hand on Tiffany’s ass and one in his pocket. He extends himself, stands on his toes, and whispers something into her ear. She looks down at him, seemingly waiting for something else. He brings his hand out of his pocket and shoves something between her breasts. Tiffany looks down for a moment, looks over at Ken, turns away from Bill, and escorts the boy out the door.
Bill hears Ken yell after her: “Be back in twenty minutes, Tiff!”
Bill quickly checks his watch: 10:28. “High Life, Ken. Now. Please.” Ken quickly brings him his beer.
“You know, Bill, she’ll be back—”
He turns away angrily. What was he thinking? He hurries over to the table where Meredith had left him and attempts to regain his composure. She’ll be up here any minute. She’s good; I’m lucky.
Bill takes a drink of his beer and checks his watch: 10:29. One minute. Thirsty. Another drink. Content.
10:30—where is she? We synchronized just before she went downstairs. Bill feels weak but stands up.
Stay with me Meredith. Don’t leave me alone, Meredith.
He runs through the room, down the red carpet stairs, and stops on the threshold of the quiet room. He looks in; and sees no women. The bartender is emptying ashtrays. The stripper has a rosary in his hands.
jeremy bebeau ©2003