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Void Creation: Ode to a Sad, Scared Stripper


I watched her, shoulders clenched tight and jacked up to her ears, nervously teetering on her too-high clear plastic heels.

This is an ode to that stripper that I saw last night, that jittery bird: awkward, emaciated, fragile and fried. She was on an audition, it seemed, or whatever the protocol is at such establishments these days. I saw her come in, a scrambled egg. Glassy eyed, with jaw permanently agape, it took all the concentration she could muster to attempt an explanation for her being there to the bouncer, and why she should not have to pay the cover charge. It was, after all, "Rocking Monday" at Cheetahs, the night on which they create that star-crossed mash-up of musicians and strippers. A fine pairing united in the fine art of soul selling for measly dollar bills. Tips. Tip your bartender. Tip the dancers. Tip the bands.
I watched her, shoulders clenched tight and jacked up to her ears, nervously teetering on her too-high clear plastic heels. She paced between the DJ and the stage with a bewildered look, staring blankly at the band on the stage, surrounding one of the two brass poles, then the DJ, waiting for SOMEONE to give her some inkling of what to do. A few times she was told to get up on stage and dance, but it wasn't until the golden-throated DJ officially announced her that she accepted the inevitable and made the perilous trip up the stairs to the catwalk: Blanche DuBois in a Target-bought bikini.
We were all rooting for her, I believe. The first prayer was just that she would make it up those stairs without falling. Her body was so boney and malnourished that her tiny bikini bottoms hung baggy on her non-existent buttocks, which she shook in periodic tremors at the bar patrons. Her movements were not quite in time to the music, and not quite out of time; a sort of complex yet minimalist polyrhythm made up of amphetamines and fear. The stiff movement & garish makeup, combined with the gaping lockjaw maw (a familiar side effect I've observed from taking way too much cocaine) gave her the uncanny appearance of a partially deflated blow-up doll delivering a steady Brechtian silent scream: Mother Courage on meth.
She made it through the song. She made it down the stairs. She did not make a single dollar. Most of the "audience" was held in a mesmerized suspension of disbelief. Part of me wanted to throw all my money at her and howl as if she was the best stripper in the world, lauding her courage and resiliency, like a mother putting gold stars all over her child's chicken scratch essay that received an F, posting it on the fridge with a defiant, "The F stands for FOOLS, sweetheart!" Part of me wanted to kidnap her and take her to the nearest rehab, or just bring her home, like a found puppy, to give her a bath and some good meals and figure out where her family is or what happened to bring her to this place.
Evidently she didn't get the job. After the one song and some words with the owner, she was bundled back up in her coat and leaving the club: same blank stare, same confusion, tension, and fear. I stayed in my seat, cowardly, pretending to focus on the band. I felt ashamed to have witnessed such a thing. To live in a world where THAT can happen. Where we can all watch like cowards when the suffering are paraded before us to be disrobed their last vestiges of dignity.
O, dear lady! O, flower of the concrete jungle! I forgot to tell you that I love you. Whoever you are: you are loved. You are capable of glories and visions this world has yet to see. You are the hope and the handmaiden of our future. You are the measure of our humanity. Your suffering is mine. Your pain is universal. We are one. We are one.

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