This week, a woman fends off a customer at the strip club by flashing him a fake wedding ring: 30, Single, Straight, Harlem.
11:00 a.m. Champagne hangovers are the worst. After an inconsistent autumn at the strip club I dance at, work is picking up and I’m finally getting consistent Champagne rooms again. I put away several bottles of Cristal last night, and I only vaguely remember the Uber ride home. I roll out of bed.
3:00 p.m. While I consider fleeing my hedonistic lifestyle to teach English in a remote Vietnamese village, my phone buzzes. It’s A, texting me back to confirm yes, he’d like to get together this week. I met him years ago at a bar in my hometown, went on a handful of memorable dates, and recently reconnected when I moved here a few months ago from Chicago. I’m leery of his avoidant attachment style but, like my weekend shifts at the club, the promise of pleasure lures me back again and again. I dance out of necessity, for quick cash and the ultimate flexible schedule — as an independent contractor, I come in when I want to work, not when they need me to. I also dance because it’s what I know — years of gymnastics and figure-skating lessons taught me how to move on ice and a balance beam, so a stage seemed like a natural progression.
5:00 p.m. I text R, a friend I’ve known since college whose flakiness is annoying me more and more with each passing day. Are you still down to meet, I ask. She texts me back seconds later with a heart emoji and then proceeds to ask if I can Venmo her 40 dollars for some mysterious purchase. She is one of the few people who knows I dance and definitely takes advantage of that. I’m happy to give her a MetroCard or cook her dinner but she assumes I’m balling and has all this cash to spare. I roll my eyes, take a deep breath, and tell her I can give 20.
8:45 p.m. I’m trying desperately to finish coding homework for an ass-kicking computer-science program I recently enrolled in. I keep thinking about A and it’s driving me a little nuts. I decide to wait a day or two to text back.
9:00 a.m. I wake up to a good morning text from B; we met on Facebook. He produces podcasts, does a lot of drugs, is sexually fluid, and California-cool with his surfer hair and dreamy blue eyes. I like his vibe and we get along effortlessly. We banter back and forth, swap some memes and he invites me to see an Almodóvar film later. I have class and usually am too drained to do anything but seeing B always enhances my day.
2:00 p.m. I hit the gym, procrastinate doing homework, pop an Adderall, and power walk to campus, where I sit through a three-hour lecture on cryptography.
7:00 p.m. I try on three different outfits and look bloated in all of them. Logically I know its my pre-period bloat, but I end up crying hysterically while painting my toenails and texting B that I’m running late. I end up pulling myself together, sliding ice cubes across my face to depuff my sad bullfrog eyes, and get to the theater an hour late.
11:00 p.m. We’re back at his place and he’s so happy to see me that he lets me know by eating me out for 20 glorious minutes. He does the finger-slipping-in-and-out thing I love while he slurps and licks and my eyes roll back. The sex is quick but intense and he comes loudly, which I find really hot. I love when men make noise. I like you so much, he keeps saying. I like you too, I tell him, unsure of how true this is.
10:00 a.m. I am sitting at a café drowning in Python modules when my phone buzzes. It’s A setting up a rendezvous for tonight. Despite his shitty communication skills, he always plans great dates. Divey comedy club, gin-and-tonics, karaoke — how can I say no?
1:30 p.m. I have so much homework to do today but can’t focus and am sluggish from last night’s Adderall-induced insomnia. I’m also beginning to realize I’m torn between A and B. B is reliable, empathetic, open, everything I am not used to in men — but deep down I know I am not as into him as he is into me. I find myself drawn to the 10,000-piece puzzle that is A. Even though he is evasive and maddeningly frustrating, I realize that I am in love with him.
9:30 p.m. I feel slightly guilty as I make my way downtown and walk into the bar. Solange is playing, candles glimmer, I see the back of his head, glossy black and tousled. We stay for the jokes then head to a karaoke place around the corner. We’ve never heard each other sing before and I’m really nervous. I chug a few gin-and-tonics before I pass my song to the bartender. A sings a Sky Ferreira song, which is really hot. His singing voice is like his talking voice: measured, smooth, confident. When “Roxanne” comes on my inner rock star activates, I belt out the chorus and feel him watching me, the heat of his gaze makes me bold and I squat down to the floor for the last few verses. I go back to him all relaxed and casual, like I just came back from fixing my hair or something.
11:30 p.m. We go back to his place and fuck passionately for hours, in every position. I love making you come, he whispers, kissing the back of my neck. When he’s about to finish he asks, can I come in you, but I hear, can I come on you, and tell him of course. I am shocked when I feel myself getting filled with something. It’s been a long time since I let someone do that, for me it’s as intimate as it is risky. I haven’t been taking my birth control regularly, and silently freak out when he rolls off of me.
8:30 a.m. R we still meeting, the text reads. It’s my … well not exactly sugar daddy. T is very religious and thankfully can’t consummate our “relationship.” He’s recently divorced and I predictably met him at the club — I call him my sugar uncle. Sometimes he takes me shopping, pays for dental visits, and meets me at velvet-booth restaurants where I order diver scallops and glasses of 40-dollar Riesling. Tonight I need money — a lot of it. Between manic spending sprees and slow nights at the club, I woke up to a low-balance notification.
11:00 a.m. After an anxiety-melting power walk through Central Park I text T back to meet me at a certain restaurant. He wants to meet at a hotel first. In my desperation I agree. We’ve never fooled around before, but I need the money and know it’s easier than going into work and hustling strangers for dances. Bring cash, I tell him, tacking on an extra 60 for the Plan B I took. I’m shameless.
5:30 p.m. I head to the hotel, an acceptable but by no means glamorous building in midtown. We talk dirty, I pinch his nipples and power through a ten-minute hand job. He tells me to show him my pussy and I give him a brief glimpse before sliding my thong back firmly in place. He’s not seeing shit until he gives me more money. I tell him to finish because I’m a diva and want to retain some semblance of power. Plus I don’t want to touch his dick anymore. It’s easy work when you can compartmentalize, but I still want to shower the last 45 minutes off of me and when I come out he’s asleep. I watch CNN, listening to impeachment news and counting twenties so fresh they’re still stuck together. I wake him up to say good-bye.
12:00 p.m. Not looking forward to spending eight hours in six-inch heels convincing strangers to give me their money. I got hired over the summer while I was scoping NYC for a potential move. I had to audition along with four other girls on a tiny stage; each of us had ten seconds to take our tops off and impress the two managers eyeing us with a mixture of boredom and intensity. They took us all back to the dressing room and said, “We aren’t really hiring, but we will take one of you,” and pointed to me. I blushed out of shame and relief, feeling the hate from the other girls being directed toward me. I got dressed quickly and tried to avoid eye contact until they all left, then triumphantly signed a contract, punching the air like a boxer when I left, a huge smile on my face.
3:45 p.m. B sends me a link to a playlist he’s made. I listen to it before work and realize it’s a love letter. I am flooded with conflicting emotions. He knows I dance and thinks its “fucking badass,” which is a rarity; he’s a feminist, a real one. We are compatible on so many levels but there is something missing for me. Before heading in to work I switch my moonstone ring from my right hand to my left. Whenever I don’t want to deal with advances from annoying customers I just tell them I’m married and they (usually) back off.
12:00 a.m. I have successfully convinced a customer to buy a half-hour in the Champagne room. A half-hour is $700; the club takes four, the girl gets three, but we’re encouraged to push for tips. This particular guy is actually handsome even though a wedding ring glimmers predictably on his finger. I always feel so guilty entertaining married men, but when I count my cash at the end of the night, it’s a different story. He asks me for a blow job for good money. It’s technically not allowed, but money talks here. I show him my ring finger. “I’m married,” I lie. “So am I,” he laughs. We both chuckle and I manage to dance good enough for him that he forgets to ask the question again.
3:00 p.m. I get out of my Saturday lecture feeling overwhelmed by the pace of the class and the night shift I have ahead of me. I wish A texted me more than once every few weeks. I’d also love to get fucked hard later tonight.
12:00 a.m. At work. The DJ calls my name and the best part of my night finally starts. There’s nothing I love more than hopping on the pole and doing drop splits and spins, syncing my moves perfectly with the beat. I love when strangers watch me. I get turned on when I dance by myself up on stage, my presence commanding attention, the ultimate erotic currency. I do things to the pole that simply isn’t possible to do to a body, losing myself in the euphoria of rhythmic movement, no thoughts in my brain, dropping upside down and spinning as the bass throbs and the spotlights wash over my skin.
1:00 p.m. I wake up and decide it’s time for a hard reset. I make some tea, throw on my coziest sweater and head to the park. I call my dad and we talk about plans for Thanksgiving. Home is a relatively short train ride away, and everyone is still there, mostly content with their lives and not questioning any other way of living. I’m the weird black sheep living in the city.
8:00 p.m. I oversaturate my entire week so I can just sleep through Sundays. They’re fucking lonely, and I hate them. I text B and invite him to dinner. We end up getting drunk at a bar in Bushwick and I go back to his place, where he eats me out with even more gusto and expertise than he did last time. The sex is also better too: He lasts longer and I end up coming, which is rare for me. “I like you so much,” he says again. I don’t say anything this time, just hold him tighter and close my eyes.
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