When you work at a strip club, the last thing you expect to walk through the door is a slice of your childhood and a story of redemption.
Saturday night was a slow night. There was a UFC fight that night, and apparently, sweaty men duking it out is the only thing that can distract other men away from half-naked women.
There are few things worse than a slow night at the club when all your friends are at a huge party and all you can think about is how much FOMO you’re feeling. I asked my manager, Rocco, if I could leave early, but he said the club would fill up after the fight was over, so the answer was no.
Rocco wasn’t wrong, but most of the tables opened tabs, so I wasn’t able to serve them. The night drug on. I hustled for every dollar I made, but there just wasn’t much money to make that night.
On a slow night, the waitresses will line up at the entrance to the reception area and take the customers in order. On a very slow night, one waitress in particular will jump the line and wait directly in the reception area and steal your customers. This happened several times with clients who ordered bottle service, which took several 20s outta my pocket, and I seriously considered speaking up and being a bitch about it.
Instead I kept my mouth shut and made a mental note of the offending waitress. Perhaps I’ll have a gentle talk with her; perhaps I’ll pour bleach in her locker. I haven’t decided yet.
Shortly before last call, I was in the reception area chatting with my favorite manager, Avery, when a group of four men arrived. Avery became super excited, thinking I was about to make a big tip. I had, however, cut in line by being in the reception area, and the next waitress in line was Rachel, not me.
I briefly considered stealing Rachel’s clients the same way mine had been stolen several times, but Rachel had trained me, and I liked her. I told Avery that Rachel was next in line and watched as my large tip walked away, satisfied that my integrity was still intact. At least until I could get my hands on some bleach . . .
With Rachel gone, the next client who arrived was mine, a lone dude who was the spitting image of Reese, a very handsome man I had crushed on for years as a teenager.
I was instantly transported back to my days as an awkward adolescent being raised in a cult: coke-bottle glasses and cystic acne, a terrible updo with a frizzy 80s poof in the front, skirts below my knees and absolutely no make-up allowed.
Reese and Desiré were the exact opposite. Ten years my senior, they were a glamorous couple with movie star looks whose love was the envy of every awkward teenage girl in our cult. They were only barely aware of our existence, but we obsessed over them as though they were actual movie stars and cried like babies every time Reese sang sweet songs about Jesus during church services.
Time passed. Reese and Desiré moved away shortly after they married. I lost track of them for decades until a few years ago when Reese and I reconnected over Facebook. A few months ago, he had posted something about Trump’s immigration policies that made me angry. I left an angry response. Reese countered, his daughter weighed in backing him up, all his friends piled on and I stopped responding, knowing it was a losing battle.
And now there was a man in my club who looked a lot like Reese.
He told me his name was Tanner and ordered two drinks. “You look a lot like this guy I used to know, Reese Davenport. Are you sure you’re not that guy?”
Tanner laughed and said no. “Good,” I said, “because that guy’s a dick!”
“I’m kidding,” he said. “I *am* Reese Davenport.”
And that’s when I realized he was.
Fuckity fuck, fuck, fuck.
He paid for the drinks with a hundred dollar bill, told me to keep the change, and asked if I could sit for awhile.
That’s the first time I’ve ever been tipped eighty dollars for calling a man a dick. And probably the last.
I sat with him for the next two hours, catching up. He told me many stories I hadn’t previously known, stories of scandals and grand hypocrisy that had been hushed up and stories of sweeping sadness I’ll carry with me for a long time.
There are very few people in my life who understand the hell I went through growing up in a cult, and there’s a deep bond that forms with people who know exactly what it was like because they were there too. And now, here was Reese, no longer a teenage obsession on a pedestal, but a normal human like me, finally meeting as equals, conservative and liberal finding common ground in our shared history.
He told me he was in town with his daughter and her friends for a weekend on the lake. He told me that our Facebook altercation had bothered him and that he had come looking for me at the club that night to make it up to me.
“I could let my past cause me to dwell in negativity,” he told me. “So many bad things happened then that there’s certainly justification for it, but I’m so grateful for my freedom that I view every day as such a positive thing. And I always strive to be the kind of man who gives more than I take.”
He left shortly before the club closed at 4 am. I may never see him again, but damn, he made my night. Reese Davenport, you have definitely become the kind of man who gives more than he takes.
In hindsight, I’m really happy I didn’t steal Rachel’s clients. Or leave early to go to that party.