“I probably shouldn’t say this,” I announced, and within an instant of hearing those lines, before I began to speak again I saw her face waver-ever so slightly-and placate her eyes. She did well to hide any shock before the shock. She could ballet through an earthquake, she could sign divorce papers on the bottom floor of a crumbling building as it came down.
I asked her fifteen minutes earlier, while she was on stage, which tattoo hurt the worst, and she pointed to the one on her sternum, right there in the center of her. I had thought her answer would come to find the one on her forehead, it was a blackish and blue outline of dangling beads with two upright anchors that met her hairline like strung-up Christmas lights. I imagined when she made that decision she was, sometime ago, signing up for something that entitled her to become a gypsy forever, and now, it was finally permanent.
“Today they announced the Doomsday Clock was moved up thirty seconds. Initially we’re closer-you and I are closer-to global destruction, than we ever have been.” I told her.
She didn’t flinch. I cannot tell you about her relief. I cannot write all of the wrong answers that could have come from my mouth. Evidently the apocalypse was not one of them. I wondered if she had any tells at all-if she was tempted-in the very least, to scratch the red, nickel-sized rug burns on the tips of her inner elbows.
She moved easily after this, and the lap dance became something reassuring.
“I probably shouldn’t say this,” is one of my favorite things to say; I love how loaded it is. I’m thinking it is one of the last statements an exotic dancer wants to hear from a customer. How often has, “I think I love you,” come after it, or “I never knew my mother,” or, “I quit my job and left my wife today.”
It is interesting how these loaded statements unload like heavy sacks slung over our shoulders, the words can nearly sore your throat, like a muscle, and these statements are the three hundred pound squats of language.
I kept on unloading on her; I didn’t know how to stop. “See I have this problem with anxiety, and the Doomsday Clock is just the wet dream of my panic attacks.” She is stoic, she is agile, pliant, and perfectly balanced; I’m thinking she could have made one hell of a ninja, if ninjas were still a thing.
She sat on my lap then, and with her back pressing into my chest, I remember wanting to know if I was smelling her hair, or the back of her neck where the scent of her skin dead ends as it collides into her hairline.
It seems to me when someone is sitting in your lap without any clothes on the polite thing to do is to whisper, not yell, but the club was so loud-and dark. After I did whisper what I said next I wished I didn’t say it at all, then I hoped she didn’t hear it.
“I figured, if the world is ending, I might as well give all my money to you.”
I do not know if she could tell I was shaking at the beginning of the dance, but I was glad when it subsided after roughly a minute.
“You shouldn’t give all your money away,” she said, smiling.
I had to laugh at this. I had to love it.
“I don’t think you’re supposed to say that, here, at this job.”
“Times up. Besides, you’ll always have tomorrow.”
“My name is _____________, by the way, I never got your name?”
“My stripper name is Penelope, and I’ll tell you my real name on Doomsday.”
And when she smiled, after she said that, she smiled real proud of herself, and it was perfectly silly.