listen to this story
I am a good girl. I go out because I love dancing. When I dance I’m one with the music. I have always danced. Since I was five. That’s why I became a stripper, because I loved to dance, not because I needed the money. Because of course I needed the money for me and my kid, but I could do sex work or wait tables, but I danced because it made me free. I’m not working anymore, that’s true, but once a stripper—always a stripper. A dancer is always a dancer. It’s tattooed in my heart, just the way my heart is tattooed on my ass.
That’s why I go out every Saturday. My husband doesn’t want to go out. He stays home and listens to Verdi, and it makes him feel alive. He’s older, and he loves me, but he doesn’t want to go out and he doesn’t mind me going. Live and let live, he says. I love him because he understands. He wants to stay home, listen to his fucking Verdi and then fuck me when I’m back home, all sweaty.
So I go with girlfriends. Men come to dance with me. Music flows into dance, dance flows into kissing. All is one, one with the music. I don’t do bad things. I just love music. I feel alive when I dance, and I feel dead when I don’t. One thing leads to another and before I know it, I’m kissing somebody. It doesn’t feel wrong. If my husband were here with me, I’d be kissing him. It’s not men I’m kissing. I don’t like men that much, my husband only, because he understands. I’m not kissing men. I’m kissing music. I’m kissing life.
Last Saturday my husband stayed home to listen to Verdi, and I went to the Split Room. It was all Italian and Russian, full of mafia men in black with golden chains around their thick necks. Then this Sicilian boy came to dance with me. He had a big cross around his neck. He was cute, wore a crisp white shirt, his waist was thin, his eyes were wet like a puppy’s, his eyelashes were girly. So I danced with him, and then he kissed me, and he kissed me more, and he kissed me all over. I danced. He said: “Dio Mio!” I danced. He said something else in Italian. I danced. I felt alive. And then it was time to go. I went home to my husband and we fucked all night long to Verdi. “Divine,” said my husband. “La Forza Del Destino. The Force of Destiny.”
“Fortuna Destina,” I whispered. I liked it.
The next day a friend told me about the photographs on the Split Room website. The photographs did not look good. You don’t hear music. You don’t see the dance. You don’t feel life. You only see hands—all over my ass. It didn’t look right.
And then the mafia men started to blackmail me. They wrote emails and texts to me, they said they knew me, they knew my husband and what he did, they knew we had money, they knew I had a kid. I didn’t want my husband to see the pictures. It wasn’t right.
Then the Sicilian boy came to my house. He probably knew that my husband was out, and my kid was in school, and my help had stepped out to a store. He probably watched them leave, waited around the corner, hiding, looking at the black cars leaving, one, two, three. I was alone, doing my nails and listening to my husband’s Verdi. I like doing my nails, it calms me down.
So he rang the door bell, and I looked at the camera, and there he was, in his crisp white shirt. I didn’t open the door, just looked at the security monitor. He said he had news, he had done something, and the bad pictures were gone, off the web. He knew how important it was and he needed to talk to me. He said he knew how to make the bad guys stop.
So I buzzed him in, and took him to the living room, and he sat down and I made him an espresso and I had some myself. I shouldn’t have given him espresso, and I shouldn’t have drunk espresso, coffee makes me nuts, all jittery and weird and nervous, but he said he knew something important, and the pictures were off the web, and I just thought I’d give him coffee. And then he drank his coffee and said: “I did it all for you. These pictures, they were inappropriate. These pictures, you know, where I had my hands on your breasts, and I kissed you, and…”
And I said, “Stop it. What do you want?”
But he didn’t stop, he kept talking about his freaking hands, and my freaking breasts, and this and that, and he wouldn’t stop.
“Do you want money?” I asked. “I’ll pay you—how much do you want?”
And he said he was a student, and that he had no documents, and it was hard because he had to send money back home to his mother.
“How much?” I said, and my hands were all shaky from espresso.
He wanted five thousand, and I told him three, and we went back and forth, and finally I said four, fine, four, and I told him to wait and went to get cash from my lingerie drawer, but he followed me to my bedroom, and I told him to step back. And I didn’t know if he wanted the money, or he wanted me, or what the fuck he wanted. The music was playing louder in my head, and then he came over to my desk and pushed me, and knocked over my nail polish bottles and I got so mad, I told him to back off and let go. But he didn’t, he breathed into my neck and whispered, “Cara mia, I want you, I love you,” and his whisper got louder than the music, louder than the smell of the nail polish. He shouldn’t have pushed me like that because when they push that way, grab my arm above my elbow I have pictures in my head, exploding pictures, my stepdad pushing me to the wall when I was little, I was only ten, and I was afraid to tell my mom, and those pictures make me dead, white with anger. So the music was exploding in my head, and the pictures, too, and it was me but it wasn’t me just like when I was little it wasn’t me against the wall and that other girl, not me, grabs my gun out of the