I was temporarily blinded when I walked out of the bright light of the parking lot and into the darkness of the club.
Once my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I saw a woman on the stage wearing nothing but a black lace thong and a pair of heels. She wasn’t dancing; she was swaying a bit to the music, running her fingertips slowly down her sides and then back up again.
She was prettier than I expected to see in a rundown Akron strip club. Her youthful face seemed incongruous with the experience suggested by her almost bored expression. Her body was thin but not angular, and the stage lights exaggerated the whiteness of her skin. She turned and revealed a tribal tattoo on her lower back. I paused and watched her run her fingers through her blond hair.
I made my way to the bar to get a drink—a Diet Coke—not because I was thirsty but rather to break my twenty dollar bill. Instead of sitting at the bar, I took a seat at a table alone. Although the showroom was only sparsely populated, there were more people, both customers and dancers, than I expected to see at such an early hour of the day.
The song that was playing, not one I recognized, ended with patchy and unenthusiastic applause. The woman seemed not to care about the overall lack of recognition for her efforts and expertly managed the steps off the stage. She walked deliberately toward me, stopping in front of me, easily breaking the personal space barrier. I sat, Diet Coke in hand, looking up at her, speechless.
I wanted to say hi.
“Do you wanna tip me a dollar?” she asked, sweetly. Her voice suggested that she was a smoker.
“Yes,” I replied, fumbling for my money that I had put in my front pocket. I sorted through what remained of the broken twenty to find a single, which took a few seconds longer in the poor lighting than I wanted it to, adding to the awkwardness I felt. She pulled the thin lace of her panties away from her hip so that I had a place to put the dollar.
“Are you interested in a private dance?”
She instructed me to go toward the back of the club to a line of unoccupied chairs against the wall. I saw nothing private about this set-up.
“The black one is the most comfortable one,” she said, pointing elegantly toward the black chair on the right side of the row. I headed to the chair, leaving my drink behind, and sat. She followed me.
“Pull the chair away from the wall a bit,” she commanded, and I complied. She sat on my lap like a high school girlfriend would do, knees together, and put her arm around my neck.
“We’ll wait for this song to end,” she said, as she made herself comfortable on me. It was ten dollars for a private dance, I found out, and she wanted to make sure I got an entire song to be fair. I looked into her blue eyes and wrapped my arm around her waist. I wanted to talk to her, but I didn’t dare, fearing she would hear the nervousness in my voice. I decided it would be better if I remained quiet.
“What’s your name, sweetie?”
“Jeff,” I managed to get out. With that, the song finished, and a new one—my song—started. The woman stood up, straddled me and sat back down on my lap, this time facing me like a lover. She put her hands on my cheeks and looked into my eyes, studying me momentarily.
What she did next surprised me.
She put her arms around me, pulled me close to her, and held me tight. In return, I wrapped my arms around her, hugging her. As the song played, she swayed and moved slightly to the music, rubbing her cheek against mine, pressing her lips against my neck. My left hand slid down her back just below her waist and my right trailed up to the nape of her neck. Slowly, rhythmically, she moved to the beat as we embraced. Finally, she pressed her forehead against my forehead as the song ended.
There was no dancing, just flesh touching flesh, closeness, a simple connection.
“Thank you,” she said, indicating that our arrangement was complete. We let our hands slide off of each other’s bodies and shared a smile. “You’re the first guy I danced for today; you’re nice, you smell good, and you’re cute. I think it’s gonna be a good day.” She turned and walked toward the bar, greeting a few of her co-workers.
I got up and walked out of the club. I sat in my car for a moment and experienced the strangest sense of well-being. It wasn’t love that I felt for her, not in the romantic sense. It wasn’t lust either. It was connection to another human being.
We touched. I felt happy.
The dark cloud of isolation and self-doubt cleared for a bit, and I was happy for the reprieve.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Apprentice Editor: Pamela Mooman / Editor: Travis May