We stared with wide eyes. We clinked octagonal glasses above the plastic leaves of plants that fronted portions of two stages. Julie told a joke, but before she could finish, Mark stood and jabbed a folded bill into a dancer's g-string. "She's not always close enough to reach," he apologized as he resumed his seat. On the other stage, a man bent down, legs spread like two pieces of a tripod. He had apparently packed dessert in those leather briefs, a banana and plums.
"Well, it's certainly different," Cindy said. "I'm glad we decided to come." Her nipples stood out beneath a sheer blouse. That was so unlike her quiet personality, and I thought how none of us matched ourselves. We were all copying what we thought we should be in this context. Take Mark. He's prim and proper, hair never out of place, yet here he was, leering, pawing, papering a stripper with dollar bills. She wasn't even that good, no smile, windblown hair, awkward transitions.
"I want to climb Mount Rushmore," I said. It seemed the thing to say after three Rum and Cokes. Julie scratched her ear. Cindy's face twitched involuntarily as the guy's leather brief came off. That was certainly no banana. Lights doused on his stage, leaving an instant of utter dark. Rock and roll blared. "Did you hear me?" I shouted. "I want to climb Mount Rushmore."
"Are you sure you're up to it?" Mark said. He shot me a disinterested glance. "You've not exactly kept in shape."
My mouth snapped shut. I thought of my paunch, or pooch, or whatever it should be called. Shape is a discordant thing. I found my eyes going to the stripper's body, the play of muscles beneath her fat, the motions of her seduction. I wanted to understand. Was it the undulation or the flesh that made her sexy? And then I saw her listless eyes, and my curiosity collapsed. Mark was making an origami crane from his next dollar bill. A ceiling fan turned above our table, lacquered red blades slapping shadow.
"Do you ever wonder what it would be like to dance?" Cindy said. "I mean, like them? Night after night after night?"
"It's just a job," Julie said. A waiter set a drink before her, and she smiled. "We all have a job to do, right?" Sweat rolled from the glass onto white tablecloth. I could see its whiteness in the light splashing from the near stage.
"I wonder," Cindy said, and for a moment I thought she might rip her blouse off and join the other girl. I didn't know if I wanted that. Maybe I did.
published 2 January 2013