The curse


            Sometimes knowing too much is a curse.

            Even for girls like me.

            And that’s what pisses off old Harry who wants his dancers to mingle so the men will buy drinks.

            “I don’t make no money you sitting alone like you do,” he keeps telling me.

            Men buy me drinks anyway, hoping I’ll slide over to where they’re sitting, then get angry when I don’t.

            I got into all this because I needed a job that didn’t make me too tired for school.

            Of course, it scared me – a suburban brat getting up half naked on a stage in front of a house full of drooling men.

            And these places were never located in nice neighborhoods.

            Yet I thought I could handle it. I thought I could run in, do my dance, collect my pay, then run out again.

            I found out it didn’t work that way.

            And owners expected me to mingle, dealing with the drool close up as well as their wandering hands.

            I went back to the dorm after some nights with black and blue marks all over me, stinking of cigarettes and drinks I didn’t drink.

            I tried hard to ignore the offers of money these men made, encouraging me to go with them to a local motel for an hour or so.

            When I told them to get lost. They got mad. And so did the bar owners.

            “They expect a little something in return for their tips,” one bar owner said.

            “They get a lot,” I said. “They see me nearly naked.”

            But that’s wasn’t all.

            Several owners told me they had “special” customers they wanted me to dance for in a private room in the back of the bar.

            And warned me if I refused, I wouldn’t be working for him again.

            Again, I thought, what difference did it make if I danced in front with a bunch of men or in back for one or two.

            Talk about walking into the lions den. These young thugs were on me the moment I walked through the door, trying to pull off even the little I had on, asking me to do things I never even did for my boyfriends, offering me more for it than I could make in a month at dancing.

            That ended me working at that bar.

            So I went to another. And another. Until word got out and almost nobody hired me, and I wound up working at a fast food place on the highway flipping burgers.

            That was almost as bad. Not only did I wear almost as little as a sales pitch to get drunken men to come in for burgers and coffee after the hours closed, I had to fend off the manager who wanted as much as the men in the back room did, but only offered to let me keep my job.

            I was so desperate for work, I gave him what he wanted. I didn’t like it. I still don’t. But I kept my job, even though it left me so tired during the day I could hardly do my work.

            Then, I figured: if I could do it for an asshole manager why couldn’t I do it at the bar and get paid well.

            So I gave back the skimpy uniform and went back to the dance circuit.

            At first, bar owners didn’t want to hire me because they thought I was the same girl as before. But once I got one gig, the rest got easy.

            As I said, word gets around.

            After a while, I would do just about anything as long as the price was right.

            And I became popular and made a lot of money.

            And spent as much as I made, snorting it up my nose in order to silence that still suburban girl in me that kept saying all this was wrong.

            I lived high, and began to think that I could do this forever, and didn’t need to keep on plugging away at school.

            So I gave it up. Danced every day I could, and did whatever else I needed to do, closing off that inner voice whenever she warned me against it.

            Dancers don’t stay dancers long. They come to this like I did as if walking through a gate.

            So after a while, I danced less but performed more, mostly on my back or knees, the coke keeping me from minding too much.

            Then one day – I don’t recall after how long – I woke up in a strange motel room, black and blue from some strange man beating me, and I knew I couldn’t go on like this, that I had to get back to where I was, to what I was doing, to how I thought before.

            I started to dance again. I mean just dance – doing the other things only when someone made me do them, hoping I could do them less and less until I didn’t have to do them at all.

            I kept asking the other girls how they managed things, but each of them thought I was crazy. Most of them were just coming through the gate headed towards where I had been, not yet aware of how bad it gets when everything you do is on your back. Most of them had dreams, talking about Hollywood or Broadway as if this road led anywhere else except for hell.

            So I stopped talking to them at all, realizing that they didn’t know any more than I did. I stopped talking to the men except to say yes or no when they asked me to go into the back.

            “You have to mingle,” the bar owner said, a friendly sort who didn’t mind an old whore like me hanging around his place as long as I didn’t cause trouble and did a little something for him when all of the other girls were busy. But he needed me to mingle, to make the men drink.

            “I’m not asking you to screw them, just talk and be friendly,” he kept telling me.

            But to tell you the truth, I’ve forgotten how.


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