~This essay was previously published in Pivo (2003).
“So what do you do?” I ask, because he already knows what I do, we’re at my work.
“I’m a musician,” he says, and we both know that’s not all, that the twelve people in the private room and the tension in the dressing room on his arrival don’t have a lot to do with music. But we pretend it is, pretend we can have a normal conversation, pretend there’s lots to find out about each other and that we both care.
He’s nearly forty now, or perhaps on the far side, it’s hard to tell grey from blond. In the poster on the wall of my rented one-bedroom, over where the funky part of Dallas becomes a bad neighborhood, he’s thirty, or maybe a drugged-out twenty-five, fronting a band that will be famous always but always a little less famous than him. He’s drinking brand name gin and tonic, three green olives on a plastic sword balanced on the edge. I’m drinking champale, which is house code for a six dollar cranberry juice and ginger ale. I’m underage, my Poloroid’s on the Do Not Serve board in the back hall, but I don’t drink anyway. He’s either a boobs man or a brains man, because if he was an ass man, I wouldn’t be here, being a little softer around the backside than the rest of the Dallas girls. My bet is on brains. I’m hoping it’s brains. I figured out pretty quickly I wasn’t a Barbie body, was never going to be the tightest girl in the bar no matter how many reps I did, my money comes from conversation and climbing – they’ll pay twenty bucks for the fun of watching me climb two stories up, wrap my high boots around one of the cage bars, lean back and slide down, squeezing my thighs to stop short when my hair brushes the platform. Sometimes thirty.
We’re supposed to do two sets in the cages after two songs on stage, but he’s had a word with the manager, or rather, his manager’s had a word with my manager, and a girl who never liked me to begin with and now is into full-blown hate is taking my sets. Lock my locker for sure tonight, or better yet, take everything home, shoes, dresses, makeup, anything that can be ripped or cut with nail scissors or smashed on the tile floor. I learned in Florida never to leave money in a locker, as fast as you can make a hundred and eighty bucks it still burns to lose it. Dallas is better, there are house mothers who police the dressing room and iron and bandage and pass out cups of liquid latex in the clubs inside the city limits, where if the cops come in, your fake nipples have to peel off in one piece and be opaque to a dollar bill. Here outside the city limits, we’re bare up top, but in the Cabaret we’re also in dresses “appropriate for street wear” when we sit with the customers and we don’t cross the invisible wall in front of their knees, the barrier between us and their groins.