31 May 2009

Center Stage

[I've already told this story about a dozen times and I think I've gotten a grip on what it should be--that is, how it should be written down. Sometimes I have to wait a while, sift through things, see what stands out in memory, before I can really understand the point of some of these stories, before I can reconcile the differences between what really actually happened and what would best convey what really actually happened. Events may contract or expand to encompass their overall importance in the big picture; minor characters are compressed into composites; subplots are developed or abandoned. It's just a process. Everybody does it all the time and calls it "memory." I try to call it "research."]

Sitting facing south means sitting facing center stage but sitting back against the wall means sitting in shadow, protected from the center stage lights and reflections of lights. It's a popular part of the room, especially for the fellows into table-dancing. Center stage attracts a different kind of guy, a guy who doesn't mind everybody else watching as he slips bills into the dancers' g-strings. That kind of guy likes it when the dancer slips her arms across his shoulders or flips her hair against his face and everybody who wants to watch can see. The guys who like the table-dancing, though, they like a little privacy, the chance to spend a little one-on-one with a good looking girl with hardly any clothes on and it's really not a good idea to look at a table-dancer when she's dancing on someone else's dollars. She's not supposed to pay attention to anyone except the guy who paid her to table-dance but, if she gets the chance, she might throw a wicked, eye-rolling smile at some other table-dancer in another part of the room. It happens a lot.

Sitting next to center stage means sitting in bright lights and having a good time and not being like the sullen, quiet guys back in the dark part of the bar buying table-dances. Not that sitting close to center means table-dancing is out, but the whole focus shifts that much more to a public mode of behavior, the performance aspects of drinking a lot and having a really good time. There is laughter out loud, there are larger groups of guys sitting together and having fun together, there are bachelor parties and stag parties the closer to center it gets. The DJ's booth rises up stage left and the DJ looks down on center and down on the floor full of tables around center and he supplies the music that supplies the dancing for the entire club. The wall behind the center stage is mirrored two stories tall and it reflects the entire club back in upon itself with the hot locus of center stage like the stage in an amphitheater, the reflected rising catwalks surround the white platform of center stage on all sides, two DJ booths and the same tables back and forth in the mirrors and twice as many lights and twice as many girls dancing with hardly any clothes on (or at least twice as many views of the exact same number of girls dancing with hardly any clothes on). Center stage is cool.

The center stage lights go down a little bit and the CO2 fog starts up and the music finds a dirty groove and there in that whirlpool there is suddenly a girl and she has some clothes on but they will be coming off. She's a professional dancer and she's been working since the first lunch show at noon and this is her last show at midnight and that's a twelve-hour day in anybody's book, with or without much clothing. It's her job and she's doing it extremely well, the shine on her dark skin is real sweat and the dollars on the stage floor, the dollars in her underwear are real ones. She's been learning names and, as she struts and kicks around the edge of the stage, she's leaning out into the audience around center stage and she is calling them up by name. She opens her arms, she smiles, she's glad to see everybody, she's been missing everybody and is happy when they come up to visit for a while. It's a delicate line she dances: a minute here with Jeff before she moves over to Tom but Jeff knows she likes him, too, and will be back if he can just wait, just be patient for a little while until she finishes with the others. She holds her breast in her hand and leans her entire self, nipple firstmost, into Dennis' face, really close to Dennis' mouth. Her hair falls around George's face and, for a tiny instant, it's like they're under a tent together, just the two of them, and there is nobody else around and nobody else is watching and her lips move as she says something to him and he just nods, up and down like an amusing novelty toy for the rear deck of an automobile, he just nods like that and doesn't say anything back but when she dances off he stays at the rail, another dollar creased to a point in his fingers and he waits there because he knows she will be dancing back to him soon. And she does.

At the edge of the stage, she is crouching on the balls of her feet, on the toes of her high-heeled shoes, and her knees travel apart, her hands on her thighs are pushing her knees apart and she is smiling and somebody out there at the center stage tables (Richard? Mark? Larry?) seems to have forgotten something important, something crucial, and he rises out of his chair a little wobbly and walks the two steps to the center stage rail and he reaches out for her breasts, he reaches out to put his hands on her, which is just not done and she's there at the edge of the stage with her legs open and her g-string covered vagina a few inches from his face and her shining breasts a few inches from his face and his hands are extended and the fingers are flexed open and he's trying to grab her. She makes her face just beam and, hitting the groove with which the music has draped the entire club, she clasps his hands together and using all the tai-chi wisdom she's learned, she throws that negative energy to the ceiling and he tries to grab her again and she clasps his hands together and she's smiling and moving to the beat and she just throws that aggression to the sides of the room and he tries to grab her again and she's getting a little pissed that the bouncer's don't even notice she's struggling there on the edge of the rail at center stage and she brings his hands together in front of her face and she's smiling and she throws all that frustrated longing away and out of sight and finally a bouncer sees what's happening in the middle of the room where everybody can see and he comes lurching over to put a five-pound paw on Richard?Mark?Larry's? shoulder and pull him back from the rail and throw his dumb, don't-you-get-it-asshole? self out into the parking lot. But everything is clear at center stage, all dark energies have been harmlessly deflected and there are no hard feelings and there she is at the rail again only this time she's on his side and she's pleading his case to the bouncers; she's saying don't make him leave and let him sit back down and he'll be good and he knows how to behave and she's smiling really big and on her knees with her hands clasped between them and she pleading for the bouncers to just leave them both alone, that they don't understand, that things will be different now and Richard?Mark?Larry's? wallet just tumbles open and all the cash comes tumbling out in a pile around his feet near the rail at center stage.

(La Ventana, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1993)

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