I have a regular customer who is more of a friend these days. I’ve known him for five and a half years and I never would have thought that I could develop a relationship like this with someone I met at work. We aren’t particularly close but I have a real soft spot for him. We easily go six months without speaking but I truly care for this guy. I don’t know when his birthday is or if he has brothers and sisters. The small stuff doesn’t matter.
The first night we met, I remember seeing him go for a few dances. So I asked, and he accepted. Man, I thought he was the biggest weirdo. He was SO into the dance. Like, holding-onto-the-bar-grunting-and-groaning into it. His would push out his chest, and his eyes would literally roll back into his head. I’m thinking, ‘Is he taking the piss out of me?‘, ‘Does he need help? Should I be checking his wallet for some kind of epilepsy card and calling an emergency contact?‘, ‘Did he just cream his pants?‘
Granted, my lappies did used to be more graphic. For the first year there were spreads and boobs in faces willy nilly. By the time I got home from London in mid 2007, I’d switched channels from XXX to Disney. And so it was that as my dances became less centrefold, he became less strange. He would come in occasionally and spend up to $100-200. Never any more than that.
My ex-boyfriend was just the kind of guy that people imagine a stripper would be with. Charismatic though rough, extremely intelligent but very lazy, incredibly abusive, manipulative and riddled with drug and alcohol addictions. Made me feel like dirt about my job, but more than happy to be jobless for 6 months at a time while I supported him, or on the odd occasion that he helped himself to my cash savings. In 2008, on my first night back at work after breaking up with him, this particular regular came in to see me.
He sat next to me in the back room, on a sunken old chesterfield with his arm draped over my fully clothed shoulder. He paid $700 to sit there and listen to me while I told him my sorrows and cried my face clean for 3 hours. It was beyond raccoon eyes. That much salt water flowed down my face, that there was not a spot of makeup left on it. I was such an emotionally battered and withered person, that I wanted to move back to my home town and make it work somehow. I wanted to quit dancing because my ex told me ‘You’re nothing but a piece of pussy. You’ll never be happy and you’ll never make anyone happy. How could you? So many guys have seen your cunt it may as well be your face. Look at you. Who the fuck would wanna be with you? I don’t fucking want you. You’re a fucking piece of shit bitch.’
To this day, I remember these words. Verbatim.
I thought if I quit dancing, that it would fix everything and he would love me. My customer listened to me tell him all of this. Every single word of it. I could see he was so sad for me. His brow was furrowed with worry as he said, ‘I don’t know that he’s right for you. But if you really want to go home and stop dancing, I’ll lend you $10,000 so that you can afford to take time off, and get better, and work things out. I know you’re good for it. I know you’ll pay me back when you can.’
His offer was not accepted. But has always been appreciated. I will never, ever forget his kindness. When I think about him my heart swells a little with a mixture of warmth, sadness and affection. I still dance for him, once or twice a year. We’ve been out for dinner. I think he just comes in so I don’t feel discarded. We know each other well now. I still dance for about the first 2 minutes but I know he’s not into it. Gone are the groans, the eyes no longer roll. I always end up sitting and talking. We are both indifferent to the dancing, but we respect the tradition of where and how we met. It’s almost a homage. It was the beginnings of our unexpected friendship.
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