As celebratory as the atmosphere is at Da Club, I hear a lot of sad stories. For every millennial celebrating his birthday or bachelorette party, there is an older gentleman mourning the loss of his 30-year marriage, the death of a loved one or a terminal illness in the family.
On Saturday, I tried to comfort a regular who was broken up about the recent suicide of his friend. He was worried his friend wouldn’t be allowed into heaven.
There are few things that make me angrier than a bullshit religious belief causing fear and anxiety at a time when peace and comfort are needed the most.
I drew upon decades of militarily efficient Sunday school training and quoted Psalm 34:18 for him:
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
I reasoned that suicide is the final symptom of a crushing mental illness and that surely a merciful God who was attracted to broken hearts wouldn’t turn away someone in that much pain.
I spoke softly to my client while stroking his hair. On his other side, an enchantingly beautiful dancer with glittery nails and eyeshadow nodded somberly and quietly said, “Amen,” like we were at church. Our combined efforts seemed to soothe him. I doubt many strippers quote scripture at the club, but I sometimes do, and I like to think Jesus would dig it.
But that client’s story was nothing compared to Jonny Pullam’s.
I’ve noticed there are three main types of clients who are attracted to my brand of down-home southern charm, authenticity and a big heart only eclipsed by even bigger tits.
The first kind are the ones who only want to see Grade A, premium tits. This is a given.
On Monday night, I even had a client from a prominent business family in Austin who identified my breast augmentation doctor based on how they look.
“I’d know that doctor’s work anywhere,” he told me. “He’s done all my sisters, aunts, cousins, wives, girlfriends . . . My family would never go anywhere else for boobs.”
I often get asked if they are real.
“They certainly aren’t imaginary,” I drawl snarkily. (All credit goes to my friend Isaac Shazbaz Boyles for this brilliant response.)
The second kind of client I attract are the gentlemen looking for intelligent conversation and genuine connection and feel weirded out about paying for it. They wind up dropping hundreds anyway, slowly and reluctantly, as they succumb to my charms.
The third kind of client I attract are what I refer to as the Forrest Gump types. This isn’t meant to be derogatory, because we all know how charming Forrest was. In fact, this type of client is my favorite. They thoroughly enjoy my company, always ask for consent, have a genuine concern for my comfort and buy a lot of dances.
I first met Jonny when he shuffled into the club one night, slightly bent and walking slowly with a cane as though he were in pain. He was smiling, however, and his face was bright and happy. He chattered like a little bird the entire time I spent at his table. I imagine the club is probably one of the few places he goes where people have any interest in what he has to say, which is a shame because Jonny’s words are a treasure trove of kind wisdom. Encountering him at the club is like feeling your way through a dark, cold, muddy cave and accidentally stumbling onto a pristine beach bathed in sunshine.
After each round of dances, I had to help him get back up, and he’d involuntarily squeak from the pain and exertion.
“Just make sure I don’t fall forward,” he’d instruct me, and sometimes it would take all of my strength to keep him upright.
He told me that he’d been in the military rappelling down a steep cliff when the belayer above him dropped the rope. He fell over thirty feet, pinching two nerves in his spine. The doctors told him he’d never walk again, but, “Here I am, nine years later, doing just fine!” he said, beaming.
He proudly told me of his job of five years driving a school bus and how much he liked the kids, but his face darkened a bit as he told me that sometimes the kids tease him by stealing his cane. He can’t go anywhere without it and is stuck helplessly on the bus until someone intervenes on his behalf. It has sometimes taken hours to get that cane back.
I tried to change the subject. The next day was Sunday, so I asked him about his plans. “Normally Sundays are my “days off,” he said, his fingers forming air quotes, “but tomorrow I have to take care of my mom while my dad works. She recently had a stroke and is in a wheelchair.”
My eyes widened as I tried to picture someone so frail caring for someone even worse off. How on earth does a man with a cane push a woman in a wheelchair?
He left me with a lot of mixed emotions. I’m a single mom working two jobs, trying to function on four hours of sleep most days, living in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with a teenager riddled with panic attacks, anxiety and depression who needs to be properly counseled and medicated but can’t because even my employer-sponsored insurance is too expensive – but godammit, watching Jonny slowly shuffle out of the club that night, I felt like the luckiest person in the world.
Jesus, people. We have it so good.