I can see myself fifty years from now, sitting on a porch—whittling and telling stories to the neighborhood children. Maybe I’ll already be a little bit senile at 78. I will at least pretend that I am a little senile—not so much that I’ll be committed or sent away, though.
I want to be that kind of senile that makes people say, “Oh! What a cute old man!” The emphasis there is on the word “cute” because what they really mean to say is “Wow, shit! That old dude is making me uncomfortable, and he definitely shouldn’t be telling my children these stories while he’s whittling! Where did he even get that knife?!?” But all they can say is “cute.”
This is one of those stories. In fact, I should probably save it altogether until I’m that darling age at which I am afforded certain free passes for shenanigans from my youth.
This story is about the time I made a football-related bet with a stripper named Roxy.
Now, certain people from my past will remember how difficult it was to get me to go to…gentlemen’s clubs, even if they were literally across the street from my house (I’m looking at you Peaches in Valdosta).
Others will tell you of the phase I went through when I became a bit of a connoisseur of the whole scene. Interestingly enough, though, I never paid for private dances for myself. I wasn’t really interested in that part of the experience. I was much more interested in talkingto the dancers. Don’t worry—I would tip them or buy them drinks just for talking to me.I get the premise of the club. You have to pay to play, even if “playing” means “talking about the NBA playoffs.”
Maybe you’re worried about me now. If you had known me then, you really would have been worried about me. It may not always be true that the men in those seedy places are looking for some sort of fulfillment that they are lacking in other arenas of life, but for me it kind of was. Since my rough break with Jane (a pseudonym), I had reclaimed my apartment and moved off of Darwin’s sofa. Externally, I guess it looked like I was moving forward. But if anyone could take a microscope to me they would have seen—I was a broken man.
Here is a tangent: The first time I kissed a girl after that break-up was a monumental achievement in my brain. I had allowed myself to be convinced I was weak and childish—incapable of being a sufficient lover for any other woman. It’s dumb, but I was flailing a bit for a while.
Back to Roxy.
I’m not even sure how I found the club. It may be close to the shithole honky-tonk, but I’m not sure. I just remember the obnoxious neon sign of a horse smiling like a jackass. Also, if you don’t think the last sentence is just a little funny, you’re free to go. A HORSE smiling like a JACKASS? That’s damn clever.
Once inside, I posted up at the bar and ordered a Jack and Diet. I was watching some basketball game, feeling like I was in a regular ole sports bar when this tiny little blond came up. She struck up a conversation, told me her name was Roxy (I didn’t ask to see the birth certificate), and we split a basket of fries.
She was wearing some kind of matching bra and panty set. Maybe they were yellow. If I ever mentioned liking a song that was on, she was quick to suggest a dance, but I didn’t really want one. And she wasn’t pushy about it. Maybe she sensed that what I needed most at that moment was for a girl to sit next to me and talk about nothing. And that’s what we did. We just talked about nothing. We talked about sports and music. She told me about her old life in California and what brought her to Atlanta.
My favorite element of clubs like this one is the part where clients have conversations with the girls. I mean, how does anyone have any kind of normal conversation with someone who is so obviously almost nude, and would actually be very nude for just $10?
By the time the bet came up, Roxy and I were beyond the whole “you’re a stripper, I’m a client” thing. She knew I was there for conversation and drinks, and she had no problem with being that person. The club was slow, so why not?
The TV was showing highlights from some football game. The bet concerned the Giants and the Cowboys. If you follow football, you’ll remember a few years back when the Giants got on a roll at the end of the season, beat the Cowboys at the end of the season to go into the playoffs as division winners, and ultimately they beat the Pats for the second time.
Roxy wanted to bet some VIP time on the final standings of the NFC West. We drew up the official terms on this napkin and we signed it. We both probably knew we would never see each other again, and we didn’t, even though I won. I didn’t want Roxy in the VIP room, though. I just wanted a girl to sit next to me, and laugh at my jokes again. She did that.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a place like that, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back. I think those are places where desperate men go, and the heavens know I’ve been desperate in my life—desperate for attention, for conversation, for compassion, for just a little healing. But all desperation wanes in time. All wounds will heal.