This has been done for at least a month now, but I was holding it back in hopes of conducting some revisions that just didn't pan out. That, and I liked the idea of posting it on International Pirate Day. Derpy fluff with a little bit of icky.
The nightlife industry isn't nearly as exciting as you'd think. You tell people that you work in a strip club and you instantly become some kind of sex goddess, or else some kind of demon of debauchery. You get a lot of condescension, and a lot of bullshit, but you'll have a hard time convincing them of the fact that above anything else, it's just a job. It's got a routine, like anything else. It can get weird sometimes, but so can any other job. Sometimes people forget where the boundaries are, but it's not too hard to remind them. Besides that, most people get too goofy to react too much beyond the prescribed hollering. Some can't do more than stare. It's not the worst job I've had. It's pretty decent actually-you can get used to the flow. Sometimes it's even fun...the music, the attention. I guess I wouldn't keep coming back if it wasn't. I'm not gonna say that what we do is some kind of freeing dance of the forbidden, or any artistic thing. It's a game, plain and simple.
Well, that's not true.
It's a game and a business.
Not to be cold, though I guess I sound it. I mean, these are people we're dealing with and it's not like they're all the same. You just learn what works and what doesn't, based on who you're dealing with. It's not like I hate them or anything. We've had some good customers and some bad ones, and I have to say that I've liked some from each category. I can appreciate some well-placed disruption. There's one night that stands out to me now...It's cute, if nothing else.
Maybe just because it was an otherwise uneventful night, maybe some other cause on my part, but the heat and the darkness and the flashing lights were making me irritable.
We were between crowds at the moment; the early comers 'just curious' groups of loud obnoxious friends and the late-night weirdoes had left between them a window of stragglers, lonely guys, and just plain lost. We didn't pay too much attention to the house between crowds; most of the guys (sometimes girls) would lurk in the back and leave, wouldn't stay too long. The guys planted in the front towards the side however, seemed to be an exception-they'd been here longer than I'd noticed and it didn't look like they were going anywhere.
Shana had noticed them too. She nudged me with her still-clammy shoulder and pointed me in their direction.
"Do you want Mr. Bad Attitude or Mr. Looks-Like-He's-About-to-Shit-Himself?"
I looked over at them. The one on the right with the mussed blond hair and pointed face was fighting irritation as he was talking to the one on the left in a low voice, dark, overgrown hair that shadowed his fearful face and pale skin that practically glowed in the dark.
Not lovers who liked to watch, or else this would be one shit-ass date.
"Gimme the scared one," I sauntered over, conscious of the stage that had become slippery with drinks and...other things over the course of the night. "What seems to be the problem, big boy?"
"The problem," Blondie answered for him, speech slurred, "is that his wedding's tomorrow and dumbassherelet himself get drunk enough to forget and then promptly remember that he's afraid of anything with boobs while it's still warm."
A two-man bachelor party? That's a new one.
"I can't even deal with strange girls in their bras," dark hair looked up at me, "no offense. How'm I gonna deal with a woman?"
"Well, I'm guessing you've seen her in her bra. 'Less she's some freak who likes to do it with her clothes on." Blondie drawled, "Hey! Ow! That hurt," he was whining not a moment later. Dark hair had elbowed him in the ribs. Hard, from the sound of it.
"You're not funny. 'M a fuckup," he pouted. A grown man just shouldn't be able to pout like that. He looked at me as if he were seeing me for the first time. "Sebs, they're girls. And they look like girls. I can't dothis."
"So? Your fiancée's a girl and she looks like a girl. It wasn't a problem before now."
The dark-haired one slammed his head on the table suddenly. "You just don't get it," was the muffled groan.
"Is he...alright?" He must be stupid-drunk.
"Oh, he's fine. He's got a hard head. A very hard head." Blondie patted him softly on the thick mop covering his dome.
"Don't pet me, Sebs." he muttered "I'm not for petting."
"Maybe you'd be a little less anxious if you were," Shana teased, having come up behind me.
"Mr. Mopey here is having the pre-wedding jitters." I smiled.
"Well, we can't have that, can we? Cold feet?"
"She's the one who should be gettin' cold feet...What does she wanna stay with me for?"
"Because if she didn't by now, she'd be pretty much fucked," came the reply from the peanut gallery.
"Shut up. No one asked you."
"Cleary," he sighed, "otherwise I wouldn't have been sitting here for the last half hour or more trying to tell you that you're worried about nothing. You've got a great girl and and a great kid and they love you like there's no tomorrow and they always will.
Wait, he knocked her up? That's one way of doing things, I guess.
"How? How do you know?"
"Because I have eyes, dummy," he replied, rolling them.
The reluctant groom lifted his head up and looked at me with the most pitiful sad-puppy face that I had ever seen.
Shana smiled at me as she looked down at him and nodded towards the stage. I understood-we'd pull him up here, mess with him some, and get a few laughs out of him. He'd calm down a bit; maybe realize there are worse things in the world than a little bit of pressure. Now, most people are sink-or-swim when it comes to being embarrassed, tending towards performing under pressure rather than folding. They'd rather overreact than underreact. Most people are natural hams. This guy, however, took the cake. By the end of the night, we'd created a monster.
But I'll get to that later.
This wasn't his usual thing, a place like ours, or even something that he'd done before. He shouldn't be too hard to crack.
I reached over and ruffled his hair, like I'd seen his friend do.
"Aww, come on. You're not afraid of little ol' us are you?"
"No! I mean, yes. But only kind of..."
His friend snickered. Even Shana was trying to keep her composure.
He drew his head down in embarrassment.
"What makes us so scary?"
"Boobs," he answered almost instantly, his face suddenly rapt with attention.
"You don't like boobs?" I asked, shooting Shana a look.
"No, no, I do," he pondered a moment, "maybe too much."
I pulled the silk scarf out from between my breasts, making note of how he followed it with his eyes. Shana had made fun of me for using such an old-school prop. Did I think I was Mae West or something? Props are lame and boas are for Vegas...Some guys really go for it, though, a fact that she still refuses to acknowledge.
I looped it around his neck and worked it back and forth, slowly, totally able to see how his face reddened despite the dark. Shana had gotten a hold of herself and began to coax him.
"Nothing wrong with liking boobs. You wouldn't be here if you didn't," he shot a dirty look to his friend, who quickly raised his hands in an 'I'm innocent' gesture, "Hell, I like boobs too."
He flushed even darker.
"It's not just the boobs; it's the fact that they're attached to you."
"What do you mean, 'attached'? You some kind of Ted Bundy serial killer or something? You wanna dismember me?"
For a moment so quick I thought I'd imagined it, something dark flitted across his face. Something nasty and ugly that twisted the innocence of his features and his boyish blush into something angry and wrong, like one of those old French gargoyles.
But it didn't return and I sure as hell wasn't going to invite it.
He shook his head 'no' and tried not to make eye contact. I don't know if Shana saw what I did, but I don't think she could've, not the way she plowed on.
"Well then, what's the problem? You need us if you want the boobs. Somebody's a little frigid, if you ask me."
His friend opened his mouth as if to say something, but I cut him off on impulse.
"C'mon honey," he snapped his head up at the term of endearment, "we just want you to have a little fun."
He made a face.
"You'll see that we're not that scary after all," Shana said, taking my lead. I released the scarf and let it hang loose around his neck, grateful to move my hands away from his face.
My, what big teeth you have...
"What we do isn't so bad...it's just dancing. Why don't you try it?"
He looked up at me in complete and utter terror.
"C'mon. Just go with it and we'll leave you alone," I hissed
"Go for it," his friend called, "I need to see this."
"Didn't think that was your thing, Sebs," he growled, "Fine. Fine."
He pulled himself to his feet and Shana and I reached out to him, hoisting him under his armpits onto the stage that really wasn't that far off the ground. He was heavier than he looked, even with both of us holding him, but we got him on the platform okay. He was pretty sure-footed when we got him to support his own weight but he was standing so stiffly, his arms held defensively over his middle. Now that his face was illuminated by the colored lights I could see what his hair and the shadows had been hiding: a missing eye. The covering just didn't sit right, caving in a little, which made me think that it was more than just a surface injury. I fought a strange, sudden impulse to rip it off, to see what was under it, instead subjecting myself to the constant intrusive mental images of horrific scarring. The disgusting type of imagination-based images that I hadn't even seen on medical shows.
"Is there a story with that eye patch? You look like a pirate."
"Why do people usually have eye patches? I got hurt." He pursed his lips like he'd been sucking on a lemon.
"Fair enough," I replied, "Do you have a name, or am I just going to have to call you 'the pirate'?"
He pulled a face and crossed his arms, staying silent.
"Okay, then. Mr. Pirate it is," I turned to Shana, "Can we get a little more light?"
She wandered off backstage and I started speaking to him in a low voice.
"What's the big deal? Have a little fun, play along a little, and we'll let you go home."
"What's embarrassing? You'll never see any of us again. 'Cept your friend over there, but I'm sure he's seen worse out of you." I looked over to his friend, who was giving him a thumbs-up.
He flushed even darker, turning as red as the stage lights.
"She's the only one I ever...you know. And I'm not the only one she ever...you know...I'm not as good at this kind of stuff as other guys...This is her last 'out'. I don't want this if she just thinks that she has to...I don't want to make anybody unhappy."
"Oh, honey, lots of guys feel this way...If she's been with you this long, you know this is at least what she wants right now and if things change, then they change. You don't have to worry about it."
"But I do. That's the problem."
Shana came back to our part of the stage and I did notice that the lights were a little brighter.
"Mr. Pirate here's gonna do a dance for you all," she called out, to some interest from the audience. The club had filled up a little since we'd started playing with the two of them, and a fair amount of people turned looked at us out of interest.
"What's wrong? Don't you like dancing?"
"l like it just fine. I just don't like people watching me."
"We don't expect you to be a great dancer or anything, you know. Just make an effort."
"I'm a good dancer!" His voice became surprisingly defensive.
He started to move, a little awkwardly at first, but he found the beat pretty quickly. He was remarkably sure-footed for someone who was, you know, missing an eye.
"Aw, come on," Shana called, "What is this, the fifties? Show us a little skin."
"It's not like it's any different from the beach, right?" I asked, trying to be helpful, "We're more exposed than you would be. What do you have to be embarrassed of?"
Begrudgingly, he took off his t-shirt. He was even paler underneath his shirt, which seemed impossible. He was skinny, no two ways about it, but it looked natural, not unhealthy. He was also kind of...furry. It shouldn't have surprised me, I guess, considering the state of his hair.
He made some kind of jerky movement that he must have thought was sexy. He was floundering.
Shana handed me a little tin of powder.
"Hey Mr. Pirate," I called, "How do you feel about glitter?"
"He loves it," his friend jeered
"Sebs, I hope you realize that you're dead when we get out of here. Dead!"
"Look, it'll even match your pretty eyes," I showed him the sky-blue of the flakes. He stood stock-still as I dusted it on his collar bones and on his chest.
"You shouldn't be touching me like this."
"Why not? It's not doing anything for me, no offense. I touch lots of guys, every night. And guess what? I don't care."
He started pouting again.
"What if we lead you a little? Will it be easier then?"
I gestured to Shana and she went to his side, with me on the other. We lead him through a couple of basic moves (I had to relocate his wandering hands only once) and he seemed to loosen up a little. Even the other girls were watching him.
Suddenly, I heard a scream that was decidedly not one of the girls I knew. Apparently, a group of (most likely straight) girls had made it into the club since I'd last looked, probably as some kind of gag. They were squealing for him, which, despite the obvious exaggeration, made him smile. He went into something that looked like Kate Upton's "Cat Daddy" dance, which made me wonder what the hell he does in his spare time. They started cheering for him and even our girls started joining in. He moved forward, front and center, and started getting more flamboyant, gyrating and putting his own, well, flavor into it. Without warning, he took his pants off, throwing them who-knows-where. The girls just went wild and a few of the guys started clapping as well.
He'd taken all the attention off me and Shana completely-I couldn't get the audience back if I wanted to. Instead, I moved off the stage quietly, making my way to his friend-Sebs? Weird name...-who was nursing a bottle of water that he'd seemingly pulled out of his ass and watching his friend fondly.
"You sure you don't wanna join him?" I asked, smiling in what I thought was a friendly fashion.
He scoffed, but returned the smile.
"I don't dance. At the very least, I'm not nearly drunk enough to try." He took another sip of his water.
He seemed receptive enough that I didn't think I'd be prying if I indulged my curiosity a little.
"How'd you guys end up here, anyway? This doesn't exactly seem like your scene, either of you."
"It was a joke, sort of. And then it wasn't. I just wanted him to relax, you know? He was freaking out and I just wanted to give him a break."
"So what's the story with him? I don't see a lot of two-man bachelor parties."
"We're quiet people, he and she and I."
The pirate let out some kind of "wooo!" I looked at him pointedly and then back to the other.
"Okay, then. Private. We're privatepeople. Things can pass without a whole lot of acknowledgement, they get underplayed more than over and the wedding...it's not a big thing, but at the same time, it is. It's really important, for both of them.
"He seems pretty lit right now. Is he gonna be okay?"
"Believe it or not, he drank till he was sober again. Seriously. He can drink beer like water and not even have a headache the next day. It's that Irish liver of his. It's like I said before. He's getting married tomorrow and it's a big deal, not just because of the kid. It's what you'd call extraordinary circumstances. As in, it's extraordinary that he's getting married at all. Especially after...He's shy to begin with. Obviously. And he's been through some shit."
"Does it have anything to do with how he lost his eye?"
"That's not my place to tell you. It's his business. It's not exactly a secret but don't mention it to him anyway. Just... This is a big deal, more than it is for most people and I wanted him to have fun because he's earned it, if anyone has. I'm talking too much l, aren't I?"
I looked over at the pirate, who was currently trying to figure out how to use the pole.
"Looks like he's having plenty of fun, to me."
He followed my eyes and smiled.
"I guess this wasn't a total bust. This is a pretty lame party, though, either way. We kinda suck, huh?"
"Not nearly as much as some people who come through here. Besides, he's got a room full of people cheering for him. That feels pretty damn good, take it from me."
He nodded, but said nothing.
"If nothing else, he's got some real talent," I joked, "He could have a new career, here."
"He's always been a pretty good dancer, actually. I'm not sure why. It's how he met her, as a matter of fact."
The cheering started to slow as Shana dragged him over, his face flushed and his ridiculous hair all over the place.
"I figured that with his wedding tomorrow, he probably shouldn't be trying to break his nose."
His friend got up, taking the cue and started to lead him out.
"Aww, I was just gettin' into it," he moaned, "Oh, god..."
His face went from red to green so fast, I thought I was looking at a traffic light.
"Oh, god, I'm gonna...Sebs, I think those blue things from before are commin' back up. Either them or the yellow things. Or both. Maybe they'll come out green..."
His friend grabbed him around the waist and quickly turned him in the other direction, before he lost something that came out a rather ugly shade of orange.
"Sorry 'bout the floor," he called weakly, "and your shoes, Sebs, oh wow..."
"It's okay, I didn't like these shoes anyway," he handed his friend another bottle of water, already opened for him.
"That was awesome! We should do that like...all the time!"
"I don't think your wife would be too happy with that."
"My wife. Yeah, my wife." he smiled contentedly. "Next time we'll get you to do it. Aren't your people supposed to be good at that?"
"My people? We're not a race."
"We'll get you some pretty green sparkles...they'll look nice with your hair."
"Hair! Shit, we were supposed to...we'll get your haircut in the morning. Nobody would let you in looking like this anyway."
The pirate was playing idly with the t-shirt that Shana had given back to him.
"Hey, Sebs? Were're m'pants?"
"I got 'em, buddy."
So, yeah. It can be a weird business and it gets old sometimes, but that's what I like about it. Sometimes you're the show, and sometimes the audience is.