Monday, January 18, 2010
One-Night Stands--Part 1
Listen, my father drank himself to death, and shortly after, mama put a gun to her head. I was fifteen and was sent off by the authorities to a small town outside Armadillo, Texas to live with my aunt Dorothy. That’s where I met Bubba. Bubba was like one of those Greek looking Gods with curly brown hair and muscles that popped out everywhere. He was the slickest-lookin’ fella I’d ever seen, and I swear to god he could charm a saber rattle snake right out of it’s skin. I mean to tell ya, I carried a torch for that man. So when Bubba pulled into the driveway, after showing me the town on our first date, the cards were already stacked against me. His voice was smooth and serious all at the same time, and while his clear blue eyes traveled into mine, his hands were as fast as my heavy breathing. Rest assure, he charmed the clothes right off me in the back of his red pick-up truck . . . right smack in the middle of my aunt’s driveway.
On the outside, Bubba was like a big shinny ripe apple, but he was rotten to the core. When I told him I was pregnant, he disappeared into thin air. Later though, some folks down at the workout place told me he’d left town with some gym rat. Anyway, after six years of sinking to the bottom, working shitty waitress jobs to support my son, I applied at "Club Mary’s," up in the north side of town.
Club Mary’s didn’t exactly roll out the red carpet. In fact, Miss Mary told me: "Your bottom half looks fine, but your tits sag and saggy tits ain’t good for business." Talk about pouring salt into wounds!
Sooooo, right then and there, I knew it was sink or swim. Rumor had it I could earn some quick cash down at the Krispy Cream place, so I decided to take the donut job to buy me some boobs to work at Club Mary’s.
My first intimate stranger accidentally strayed into Krispy Cream late one night looking for directions to the Embassy Suites Hotel. Well, we got to shootin’ the breeze and I noticed how he was rubbernecking me and all, so I volunteered to escort him to the hotel. It’d been a long time since I had sex . . . and, I’ll tell you right now, I gave him a run for his money. After that I didn’t bother to separate the sheep from the goats or separate the men from the boys. I even helped to advance the careers of some.
Take Jesse, for example, who sold laptop computers to go to college, sweet young thang . . . Anyway, I helped him sow his wild oats, and because of this, his computer sales skyrocketed, and in turn he was able to pay me, as well as pay off his school loan within a year.
The local workers, y’ know, the scruffy beer guzzlers dressed in camouflage fatigues and blue jeans, sporting scraggly beards and ponytails, who have noting to offer except bad karma, well . . . as it turned out, they weren’t in short supply of money either. By the end of two years I was sitting pretty at "Club Mary's" with my 38Cs.
The roughneck bartender of Club Mary’s poured another shot for the two wide-eyed, frat-looking youths gazing up at the dancer sliding upside-down on a pole.
“One side of the track is equivalent to champagne, said the bartender. “Light, pleasant, and mildly intoxicating. But on this side of the track it’s straight tequila . . . a gift from the gods. She’s a much stronger spirit. I highly recommend her, but watch out boys, she’ll put hair on your chest.”
Austin was celebrating his twenty-first birthday with his college buddy, Craig. They were an anomaly alongside the potbellied, married middle-aged men in chest-baring shirts of synthetic blends. Austin yelled up to the young woman performing the athletic moves in spiked heels. “Is Tequila really your name?”
At twenty-two, even with her makeup thicker than an IHop’s short stack, Chloe Field stood out because of her fresh, innocent look. With her pale skin, silky hair the color of daffodils, breathless voice, pillowy lips, and a pout so inviting, she was a glistening object of male fascination.
The room exploded with cheering and whistling when Chloe finished her exotic gymnastics of climbs and spins on the pole. She stepped down from the stage and headed in Austin’s direction. “So, what do you prefer, honey, champagne or tequila?” As she spoke, every part of her face was in motion. An eyebrow lifted, eyes flashed, and her smile widened. This one needs encouragement, she thought to herself, and straddled the sandy-haired youth, preparing to give him his first adult-rated lap dance.
“If, uh, that’s your name, I definitely prefer Tequila, being how profoundly America values other cultures and all,” Austin stuttered in a Southern drawl.
Austin’s friend Craig slipped a twenty-dollar bill into the front of Chloe’s G-string next to her butterfly tattoo. She liked a captive audience. Chloe twisted her body inches above Austin’s lap to Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman”. . . Let me get a big Hell Yeah from the redneck girls like me . . . Hell Yeah. Austin reached up and touched Chloe’s bare breasts. She drew back. Then sensing his awkwardness, she reconsidered. She leaned close to his ear and whispered, “Happy New Year, Darlin’.”
After the song ended, Chloe studied Austin’s face. “How old are you?”
Austin knocked back the tequila shot, then looked at his watch. “I was twenty-one at one second past midnight.”
Chloe kissed him on the forehead, stood up, smiled down at him thoughtfully, and yelled to the bartender, “Bring out a bucket of ice and put two bottles of bubbly in it. We’re going to celebrate a birthday.”
The bartender, knowing Chloe’s penchant for picking up losers who run out on their tab, grumbled, “Is that right, bubbly; you want some caviar with that, too? Just who you suppose is going to pay for it?”
“You got a name, honey?” asked Chloe.
“Um-hum, it’s Austin. And this is my friend Craig.”
“For God’s sake, Joey, it’s Austin’s birthday, just take it out of my fuckin’ pay,” shouted Chloe.
Craig reached into his pocket. “It’s okay . . . I’ll use my credit card.”
“Now aren’t you sweet.”
Craig, taking in the woman who stood topless before him, wiped the perspiration off his brow on the sleeve of his shirt, and twisted his hands together. “Have a seat, Tequila.”
Chloe laughed, “Tequila is my stage name. My real name is Chloe. My mama named me after some girl on a TV soap opera.” She winked. “Now, you just keep that under your hat. I don’t want to blow my cover. It’s bad for business, if you know what I mean.”
“Oh, sure. We understand,” Craig laughed nervously.
“Now if ya’ll excuse me for a few minutes while I change.”
Ten minutes later, bursting with confidence in a snug black dress with a good deal of her chest exposed, Chloe sat down at the small cocktail table and shared a number of beers, several glasses of sparkling Cold Duck, and a couple of lines of blow with Austin and Craig. They joked and toasted, laughed, made bold gestures, and got very drunk. Before the frat boys staggered to their car and drove away, they boozily said their goodbyes to Chloe and the other two scantily clothed dancers who had joined in the celebration.
The boss, Miss Mary, left before the lights shut down in the club, leaving the bartender to close out the register. “Hey,” the bartender shouted to Chloe, “that dude left his card here. What’d you want me to do with it?”
Chloe liked the two boys, and knowing how things mysteriously disappeared around the club, she said, “They’ll be back; I’ll hang onto it for safekeeping.” She placed the card in the pocket of her faux fur coat.
The orange and blue neon light of Club Mary’s shone blurrily on the damp asphalt. Chloe plucked the cigarette out of her mouth and dug through her purse in search of her cell phone. She placed the cell in her coat pocket before stumbling along the cracked sidewalk beneath the crisscrossing telephone wires. The night was not darkness to her. She did not own a car, but her spirit rode in the open world, under the naked light of the stars and moon. Pulling the collar of her coat tight around her neck, she was aware of the snow flurries swirling as she walked home. It reminded her of her eighth year when she received a snow globe from an anonymous donor at the orphanage. She shook and shook the globe and was charmed by the fake snowflakes swirling around, and by the jealousy that the trinket provoked in the other children.
As she walked, she mused, and as she did, she failed to notice the black SUV closing in on her. The acid stench of the exhaust and whine of the engine shattered the white silence of winter. The car crept alongside of Chloe. She averted her eyes and lengthened her stride. Before she knew what happened, a guy in a hooded sweatshirt jumped out of the passenger’s side, knocked her to the sidewalk, and snatched her handbag. The car shot away with a squeal, leaving a cloud of bluish-white smoke hanging over the street. Chloe lifted herself up from the gritty concrete and fumbled for her phone. Her heart was racing. She shivered. Her mind was in a drunken daze. Should she call the cops? What if the police found her purse, the thieves, and the half-ounce of cocaine lodged inside the Tampon box inside her purse?
It was a full five blocks to her apartment from the club. She reached the long grim stretch of low-rise apartments pocketed between an auto body shop, a razor-wired vacant lot harboring high-strung dogs, and a church, Zion Baptist, that featured a Sunday morning “Apocalypse” service. There were no cars at three o’clock in the morning, with the exception of the noisy junkyard where metal was being squashed. Like an automaton, she marched up the outdoor stairs until she came to a halt in front of her apartment door. Trembling, she thought, How the hell am I going to get in. Her cold finger pounded a few numbers on the cell phone pad and then snapped it shut. She decided against calling her married lover at home. “Shit.”
Shoving her phone and freezing hands into her pockets, Chloe fingered the credit card the birthday boy had left at the club. Fishing it out, she slid it into the crack of the door and jimmied it until the lock sprang open. “Thank you, Craigie.”
Once inside, Chloe bolted the door. She tossed her coat onto the bed, turned up the heat, went to the refrigerator, grabbed a Coors, and drank half of it in front of the open door. She sat down at the small kitchen table and slipped off her boots.
Flicking the light switch in the bathroom, Chloe groaned when she saw a creepy bug crawl from behind the toilet and scurry into a crack in the baseboard. She made a mental note to buy some bug spray. Sliding her dress down over her narrow hips, she tossed it, along with her pink lace thong and bra, on top of a pile of dirty laundry. After twisting her hair in a ponytail, Chloe splashed her face with warm water. She worked the cleanser into lather and massaged it into her skin. There was a fundamental sweetness to her without makeup. She looked at once wise and vulnerable, but her body suggested otherwise. The flattering mirror attached to the back of the door reflected Chloe’s long legs, 26-inch waist, boyish shoulders, and enhanced breasts. The last part of her nightly ritual was to open the bathroom cabinet and fumble with a plastic bottle. The prescribed mood-stabilizing drugs she took had been scientifically proven to stun a horse. She washed it down with the remaining beer.