I hit the mother lode last night.
Not monetarily. Sigh. But when the universe knows you need something, it’s rarely filthy lucre. Money is easily earned. When the universe decides you need something, it’s usually something so hard to obtain it can only be gifted.
It had been a heartwrenching day. I have an incredibly volatile relationship with my deeply fundamentalist religious mother and my daughter, caught between two worlds. For years, I have been the wall to their battering rams, absorbing their rage from both sides, occasionally lobbing my own defensive volleys in return, because I, too, am far from innocent in this civil war. Decades of mental illness and abuse poisoning the family tree long before I was born have left us all so broken and bloody it’s impossible to tell who’s the villain and who’s the victim.
We have been spiraling for years, but yesterday left us at a breaking point. This Christmas will mark the first year of my life I will not be celebrating with my family. My family has always been painfully dysfunctional, but they’ve also always been my anchor. Today, I am adrift.
I cried all afternoon in my cubicle. I cried all the way to the club. I’m crying as I write this. I only stopped crying when it became necessary to apply my makeup. I plastered on a smile and headed out of the locker room, wondering how well and for how long I was going to be able to hold it together.
The great thing about the club is that it does help you forget about your problems for a minute.
The deejay called me onstage almost immediately. During my dance, a gentleman approached, awkwardly laid a bunch of bills in a neat pile onstage and returned to his seat. After I finished my rounds, I approached his table and thanked him.
He was with a woman who turned to face me as I knelt next to his chair. She was lovely, with soft brown eyes and a cloud of curly dark hair. She introduced herself as Isabella. “Just call me Bella. And this is my best friend’s husband, Bruno!” she told me brightly.
“Oh, wow,” I said sarcastically. “This doesn’t seem awkward at all.”
“What? Oh, no!” Bella laughed. “I know it looks bad, but we’re just having a bro date while my friend’s at work. She and I both used to be strippers. That’s how we met. I was hitting on her, and she was like, ‘Girl, I don’t fuck skinny bitches!’ And we’ve been best friends ever since! He and I have been here drinking and getting to know each other since 3 pm. It’s been SUCH an eventful day! You wanna sit down?”
She nudged a chair in my direction, and I obliged, realizing I was about to be entertained rather than be the entertainment. She then proceeded to detail a lurid story of walking into the VIP bathroom just in time to see a client kneeling at the toilet, cradling her head. The client’s head slipped from her hand and hit the toilet seat hard, cracking open her face from cheek to cheek.
“Ohmygod, there was so much blood!” Bella exclaimed. “I ran to the manager, and was like, ‘What do I do?’ And he was like, ‘Go use the other restroom!’ and I was like, ‘No, about HER!’ And he said he’d take care of it, and they called an ambulance. Do you wanna drink?”
I ordered a rum and coke, my usual since the alcoholic content of rum tends to be low, and over the next half hour, chattering with Bruno and me, Bella gave me a quick rundown of her life. She had been sold for sex at an early age and entered the sex industry almost as soon as she became legal. She danced at clubs in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, eventually becoming a showgirl and earning several titles, such as Miss Erotica 20something. Now she was a banker working as a dominatrix on the side, jetting all over the world for both businesses with clients in every major city in the US.
“I’m rich, bitch!” she hollered at the end of her story and plunked a pile of bills in my lap.
She showed me a meme on her phone. “When you date a dominatrix,” it read, “never ever suggest it’s time to hit the sack.”
Just then, Bella received a text from a client. “I’m coming for you next week, Don,” she wrote back. “I’m gonna kick you in the balls and beat your ass so hard!”
Her phone beeped right away with a response. “WTF, Mimi?”
“Oh, fuck!” Bella gasped. “I accidentally texted that to my godson. His name is Don, too! He’s only nine! Oops!”
I giggled again while she fired off a response. I’m not sure how one explains away a message like that to a child, but she seemed satisfied. She set the phone down and focused on me.
“Tell me,” she commanded, “Do you do well here?”
“Um,” I fumbled awkwardly. “I do okay, I guess.”
“Girl, when I first started out, I would have given anything to have someone show me the ropes. I had to figure out so many things for myself, you know? Look, how do you ask guys for dances?”
“I . . . don’t,” I said. “I usually just chat with them until THEY ask ME.”
“Girl, that wastes too much time. Here’s all you have to do.”
In front of my eyes, the beautiful, charming girl instantly transformed into a purring, seductive minx and did things to me within seconds that left me drowning in desire. The power she exuded was almost tangible, an ocean of perfume and tantalizing possibilities. For a moment, we were the only two in the club. She taught me things. Secrets. Tricks and traps and games and the art of mindfuckery and manipulation. I felt as though I were being initiated into a secret sisterhood of knowledge I’ve always suspected existed but had never fully been invited inside. It was truly heady stuff. If I ever decide to take her advice, I could be hella dangerous. HELLA.
“Now take what I just told you,” she commanded, “and go try it on that guy over there.”
She nodded towards the man sitting at the next table. “Go!” I was reluctant. “GO!” she insisted.
I gathered up my confidence and approached him, but my newly appropriated technique was raw and unrefined. The man looked at me, hesitated, and responded, “I’m good for right now.”
I returned to Bella a bit defeated. “Oh, look,” she said, “He already has a dancer with him.”
In the seconds it took to return to Bella and Bruno’s table, another lady had joined the gentleman. Like Bella, she was tall and stunningly beautiful.
“She’s no dancer,” I told Bella. “I don’t know who that is.”
“Probably an escort,” Bella snorted. “She’s WAY too pretty for him.”
Before long, the stunning lady approached our table, smiling from ear to ear. “Ya’ll seem cool!” she exclaimed, “and my friend just went to the bathroom. Can I join you?”
Bella warmly welcomed her, and we learned that this second lady was also named Isabella, D’Isabella, to be precise. A round of squeals accompanied this discovery.
D’Isabella joined us and eventually her friend, the victim of my failed seduction, joined us as well. We learned that he was her roomie. “I came over to you earlier because Bella sent me to try a new move on you,” I confessed, honest now that he was one of us. “How’d I do?”
“You didn’t stand a chance,” he replied. “I only like black girls.” He nodded towards D’Isabella to prove his point. The Bellas were making out like animals. The attraction had been instant.
It was time for me to dance again. The Bellas cheered me on while Bruno awkwardly tipped me again. He loves his wife, the voluptuous former stripper who doesn’t fuck skinny bitches. Strip clubs aren’t his bag.
At the VIP stage, I danced a second round of dances. A guest walked up and face planted directly into the crack of my ass. He only tipped me a dollar, so I didn’t let him stay for long. He wouldn’t go away, though.
“My name is Sam,” he said. “Do you like me?”
We JUST met, weirdo, and your face has been in my ass the entire time. “Um, of course.”
“Yeah?” His eyes lit up, and he buried his face in my cleavage. “What do you like about me?”
Three things were immediately obvious: Sam wasn’t the sharpest crayon in the box, Sam had very little money to spend, and Sam wanted to be coddled. Normally, I am patient with men like this, valuing people over profit as much as I can afford, but the day had left me drained. I was an empty vessel. I had nothing to give. I felt like an asshole.
My dance ended. I sent Sam away and returned to the Land of the Lovelies. Only D’Isabella remained at the once-crowded table. She welcomed me with a grin that consumed her entire face. “Sit down!”
I sat down, but I should have buckled up. I had no way of knowing it, but I was in for a wild ride. Where Bella had been a powerful, playful vixen, D’Isabella would prove to be a whirlwind, a force of nature, an act of God. And she probably changed my life.
To be continued . . .