Last night a woman writhed on stage wearing two sand dollars and a swath of cloth no larger than an eye patch. This morning she’s seated on an airplane next to me.
She looks so different now, not just because she’s wearing clothes, but because she’s entirely without makeup, her hair tied in a ponytail, and she’s dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.
At first I thought I might be mistaken. I didn’t want to stare. But, there on her wrists were the familiar tattoos—We Are on the left, The Same on the right—written in florid scrolls.
I’d gone to the strip club alone. It’s what I do every business trip. I’ve convinced myself it’s a harmless activity, brought on by road-weary loneliness and my obese wife’s frigidity. Back home, attending church services, I ask for forgiveness, promising God I’ll face down temptation in the future, though that’s never possible, and most likely, God doesn’t really believe me to begin with.
I’m surprised she (Gigi is her stage name) doesn’t recognize me. She hadn’t exactly looked my way while settling into her seat, and, of course, I was wearing sunglasses last night—to hide my shame, more so than my appearance—but I was also seated front row, doling out five dollar bills at an astonishing clip.
Game playing, I figure.
I face the window to my left, angling my eyes so as to get a glimpse of what she’s up to. Gigi withdraws a magazine from her bag. Cosmopolitan would be my guess, but, no, it’s The Economist. Somehow this makes her not only mysterious, but sexier than when she was nearly naked. Every so often Gigi dog-ears a page. Once in a while she takes the pen she sucks on to jot notes in the margins. Watching her is maddening, and I’m about to explode.
After we’re in the sky, I ring my service bell. The attendant sneers at my request, saying I’ll have to wait until the drink cart comes by.
“When is that?” I ask, but she’s passed down the aisle.
My nerves have me terribly rattled. I keep fidgeting. Finally I can’t stand it anymore. I ask Gigi, “What’s a guy got to do to get a drink?”
She turns to me without a hint of recognition, then simply looks back at her magazine having not said a word.
I take it a step further. “You really don’t remember me?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Last night? At the club?”
Her face twists in a way that tells me she thinks I’m creepy.
“It’s all right,” I say. “It’s different now. We’re different people than we were last night.”
“Wait,” she says, her face lit up anxiously, “did you see her?”
“My twin. She ran away six years ago.”
I tell her I’m sorry. I say I was mistaken. I turn back to the window, keep my face there the rest of the flight.
published 14 June 2013