Christmas, 2001 / No. 7
Art by Ian Phillips
Ian Phillips

We’re circle girls, standing shivering in the closet in the washroom of the club, smoking our dope.

We’re the cold bodies leaning against stone walls that scratch our backs.

We’re girls who make time go faster by making our heads go in slow motion and our bodies feel like they’re floating.

We got it down like clockwork; Terry rolls it, I light it, and Mona fans away the smoke. I take a deep breath so that my lungs fill up with fire, and pass it to Terry. I stare hard at her eyes. I wanna copy my makeup like that; she looks real tough and sexy-like. Terry and Mona, they used to not talk to me much, but now we all get along fine and I don’t think it’s cuz I always got a stash on me. Both of them know that I’m not legal and they’ve never said nothing to nobody. My name’s Theresa, but everybody calls me Thalia—my club name. Mona starts rabbit talking like she always does when she’s high. She’s going on about some new club where the girls are getting paid twice as much to do shows as we are and how unfair it all is and how Marcel is ripping us off and that the Château du Sexe would be a dive if we weren’t all working here.

Terry is giving Mona this look, which means it’s time for her to shut up, when the door flies open. Stupid Mona with her babbly rabbit talk forgot to fan away the smoke from the vent. Busted. It’s Marcel. He gets red in the face yelling at us that he isn’t paying us to get high, and to get our asses back out on the floor. He likes to yell.

We all shuffle out of the bathroom-slash–boiler room and I do a quick wander-by of the new guys that have come in. None of them want me to dance for them, so I order a beer and sit at the girls’ table. There’s a new girl from the States there telling anybody who’ll listen how great it is in the clubs down there. It’s like a law or something that you gotta have plastic tits, but it’s easy work. Most places don’t make you take everything off and you make more money than you do here.

Dominique slides by onto a box to dance for some guy. She’s got this funky, long brown hair that hangs down straight and a roundish body that you can just tell from looking is soft. We used to tour together. I watch her watching herself in the mirror; eyes half closed and kinda fogged over. She’s the only one seeing what she’s seeing—magic—or she’s really stoned or she’s doing her pretend sexy look. It’s funny what guys think is sexy. She’s watching the clock just like all of us, waiting for eight o’clock, when the night girls start and we’re free.

I have a boyfriend. His name is Chris. Chris has got these hands; that’s what got me about him—not that he has hands, but the way his hands are: beautiful, thin, milky white fingers. Hands that don’t grab. He shows up every day at eight to take me away from the girl haters.

Tonight, we go to a club where Chris has got “connections”: a sweaty motor-mouthed dealer who, when he’s in the mood, gives us a fair deal. We slip into a backroom of the club that hasn’t really started for the night yet and Motormouth gives us a test drive. It’s good. As I suck it through my nose to slap my brain, it doesn’t burn so much, and the drip down the back of my throat is clean and tasty. Chris starts talking money with him and I pretend not to listen, cuz they don’t like it when chicks get involved. So I’m pretending not to hear Chris answering how we can’t do that kind of money and Motormouth talking about the quality of it all and how, for an arrangement, he could help us out. I know he’s looking right at me and I don’t like the way it takes Chris a second to say, “No. It wouldn’t work,” like he’s almost thinking about it. I don’t think sex is that great to begin with, so the idea of screwing a fat, sweaty, motor-mouthed pig doesn’t exactly turn my crank. Chris works out the money part and we cut it down the middle so we can go our separate ways if we want to. It’s no good when one person holds the stash; makes the other person dependant on them.

Chris heads out to the main club with Motormouth and his group. I stay behind and start my own party. I don’t like it when a club isn’t living yet. I hate waiting. See, out there, people are just beginning to show up. They’re looking around, just waiting for something to happen. The place is just a skeleton with this empty rib cage dance floor that the curfew kids stare at. One of the busboys brings a bottle of water so I can swallow the secret E that sexy-eyes Terry slipped me and I go about my business, slamming my brain through my nose so it swells up and feels good, and I’m all right. Now I’m just sort of meditating on the whole scene, listening to the rising and falling beats, the voices packing in beside each other, and I get to this point where I just gotta get out and dance, like if I don’t dance this wave out I’m never gonna land back on this planet.

Out on the dance floor the skeleton has got guts and blood and flesh now. It’s hot and crowded and fierce, like you gotta work hard to keep up. Sweat slides off everybody and is airborne—rain—yours mixed with somebody else’s. Toxic shit released from our body, but it can’t hurt us no more cuz we have consciously chose to let it go. We—this big collective we—have the power. I get distracted for a second cuz I catch a glimpse of Chris with his tongue down some chick’s throat and his hands all over her. Laugh on the inside, cuz I don’t even have to tell myself that I don’t care, cuz I don’t. Then I wonder if I look just as stupid when he’s grabbing at me.

I come back to the collective we in the beat and forget what I wanted to. I’m thinking how the DJ’s cranking us up, and he’s doing it nice and smooth and it’s going to be such a good ride for everybody, when I see her. Dominique. Dominique dancing away. I knew she’d be here. She and Chris have the same “connections.”

It’s like she’s this impossible thing. Like I can look but not touch. It’s like when I see her my mouth stops working. A girl with spiky blond hair pulls her aside and holds her close as she hands her a bottle of water. Dominique’s lips touch that bottle and the water slides through clear blue plastic into her mouth, and spiky blond hair is resting against her cheek and there’s a hand running up and down her slick, smooth back, and my heart drops into my stomach. I’m not moving anymore. I watch as Dominique’s lips touch this other girl’s lips, and I feel like I’m watching something I’m not supposed to be watching, like I’m seeing something all wrong and private and I don’t belong, and I feel guilty for just being there when someone elbows me from behind, but this ride is over and I can’t get back with the collective we. I’m too crowded out by the sweat and my skin itches with alone, and I need a couple more lines to seal up the scary stuff that wants to leak out of my head, but I’m out of money. Motormouth is there by the bar, and he’s looking at me with his slow look, and I figure I will take him up on that arrangement he mentioned. A few lines for a blow job in the bathroom. Fair deal.

I start to become real again when I’m at my apartment door. Only problem is, I can’t remember how I got there. My shaking hands fumble with the keys. When I get inside, first thing I do is turn on the light. I hate the dark but love the night. Night is where you can hide or pretend. Dark is where you wait for whatever’s out there that you can’t see. In the bathroom, the mirror shows me the face I’ve been trying to forget. I think we all have faces we want to forget—like sweaty motormouths that grab the back of your neck till you choke, or eyes that watch you with hate when you’re naked. I get my Immovane and Rivotril from the medicine chest and take them together, even though I’m not supposed to. They give me sleep without dreams. Bliss.

In the morning, my apartment is too hot and thick. I need to escape. Chris came in at some point and is in the bed, stuck to me with sweat. I pull myself out of the stickiness and head to the park where they’ve got these crazy bongo players on Sundays.

You can hear the park before you see it. Coming down the street you hear this big thrum going on and then the first thing you see is this big statue where all the bongo players sit and play. Below them, people dance and there are kids walking around with coolers of beer for sale.

It’s good out here today. Lots of kids and dogs running around. I lie in the grass thinking maybe I’ll get some rest, but with my eyes closed all I can do is think about Dominique, so I couldn’t wish her away even if I wanted to. But I don’t want to wish her away. I want to touch and taste and smell. I want to share this small thing of hot that’s burning in my gut, share it with a spoon. I want the sun to make my outsides feel the way my insides do. Or better, I want to lie here and bake, turning from white to yellow to that creepy fake-and-bake bronze, till finally I’m burnt crispy black. I’ll just lie here charred till the night comes, but see, it’ll be a night without dark, and this night will have a wind that wakes up faces, and this wind will blow slowly over me, blowing the black crispies off of me, and I won’t need skinny-fingered boys to make me feel safe in the dark. I won’t need to have dream girls or impossible things cuz I’ll be slimy-baby new, and I’ll slip along so fast that I’ll slide right through the want and the wish and there won’t be any hands that can grab me.