The Story Garden 5.0
We were in The Glass Slipper. I almost didn't get in because I had mid-back-length hair, a beard and a fatigue jacket on, bad news then when the homeless looked just like me but dirtier. I also had a cast on my lower right arm past the elbow, and a codeine high from the pain. I remember wanting to circle the place so none of my students would see me, as it was a Thursday night and they were all out. I didn't care if they saw me, necessarily, but I thought it might lose me my job even as it gained me points on their subconscious hipness scale, and thus wasn't worth it.
There were only six of us in the place, so we were in the good seats at the front of the stage. Somebody, probably Tyran, a friend of a friend, who later stole 300 bucks from my underwear drawer and tried to hit on my girlfriend when I was away, kept buying me beers. He used to describe how he liked mirrors, so he could check out his form as he fucked. There were no mirrors in the Slipper, but he kept glancing around waiting for someone to notice him and his form, and he threw much money my way to pay for the seven-dollar beers, and I appreciated his good form in that, if no one else did. People liked to buy me beers for some reason. I gave them a good listening ear, and for nothing in return, like a fair-weather friend or bartender. I hoped for something else free that night, but knew better than to try to get it from these nose-twitching, fake-boobed, handjob-for-ten-bucks women.
'Lovely Mona' came on, and Monroe yelled at her "we're horny college kids, show us some pussy." Only some of that was true, but she did, sat on the grimy floor and spread her bulky thighs in a practiced motion like a scissors, and we threw dollar bills at her until we only had large bills left we wouldn't waste. I noticed the cellulite along her thighs, and the clit-jewel gleam as she bent over, spread herself, her ass in each of our faces in turn, and was overcome by sadness and lust all at the same time, a combination of feelings that are no fun, even when there's an invisible wall of propriety between you and your goal. The stone in her clit was so large, you couldn't help but notice the whole; everything a pretty well-manicured package for somebody other than us, but for us too, at least for a minute or two, to pretend.
Tyran and Monroe ran out of G-string money fairly quickly, so we left and walked down the street to get some food at a Chinese place, and when we came out, a stubby-legged black woman, outsized cubic zirconias in each ear and in her nose, an orange dress, followed us all the way up to the 7-11 across the street from Charlie Flynn's Pub, where Tyran bought more dope from the guy who seemed to always be there selling it.
"I'll blow you," she said. "Twenty each. No, fifty for all of y'all. You young men need a stress relief."
"Fuck off," Tyran said. Then she opened up the paper bag she carried as if it was a present for us. The bag rattled in the wind.
"Look. Colored rubbers. No disease, baby. You want more we can talk. Got to get out this cold though. If you wanna."
Monroe gave her five bucks and told her to fuck off like Tyran had, but she kept following us, lowering the price the whole way, rubbing her arms in the February cold.
"You know you want some of this fine."
I wanted to give her my coat, felt compelled to, but also felt like a rube for even thinking it so, as Monroe and Tyran were negotiating exactly what she would do for how much, all the while never intending to do it, I was sure. We were almost back to the apartment on Beacon Street, half a mile and a whole universe away, when she finally gave up. We left her standing next to the statue memorializing the discovery of Ether. I figured later she stuck with us for so long, all across the long Common and Garden in the cold, because she figured Monroe and Tyran might actually buy it because they were black.
"Dumb slut," Monroe said. "Following us all the way over here."
"Cold booty," Tyran said laughing, and they slapped hands in the intricate way black guys do and white guys have to force or fake, unless they spend a lot of time on the pickup b-ball court. "How 'bout that Mona slut, though?" We went up and played darts for an hour or two, then crashed. Tyran called his girlfriend's pager at 4:00 AM when we'd fired up the last of the night. She wasn't awake for his booty call.
I want to think there was a difference between these women, the stripper and the whore, some gradient between the two, some way to compartmentalize, or judge which feeling I had was more correct, more apt: the turn-on or the pity, or both somehow. I had moral tunnel vision for a day or two after, whenever I closed my eyes, in the shower, grading papers, walking Arlington Street toward the café where I ate every morning I could afford to. I could recall everything in perfect clarity.
Tyran's girlfriend called me the next day around 11: "Tyran say he out with you last night. He dint have his hand in no stripper's guts, do he?" I covered his ass the way the code demands and thought about that huge jewel in the stripper's clit. I thought about going back again. Just to see if it was as impossibly big as I recalled.