The Last Dance

April 16, 2013
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“The Last Dance”

Finally no worries, I’m free. I lay back on the beach; the warm sand fills in between my toes, and the scorching sun hovers over my skin. The smell of burnt barbeque chicken tickles my nose; my husband stands tall over the grill flipping the meat with his muscular arms while the sun glistens onto-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- his dark skin. I hear my son’s voice fading in the loud crashing sound of the waves.
“Don’t go too far out in the water DJ,” I stand up worried about what he’s doing.
“I love you Chantel,” My husband smiles at me.
“Candy, you’re on in ten minutes,” says Tony, the club owner, pointing at his watch. I dread that name and the sound of it quickly evaporates my dream, and I come back to reality. My real name is Chantel, I don’t have an interesting story behind it but that’s what my mother named me, and I love it. When I’m here at the club I’m Candy, I didn’t even get the chance to choose my stage name.
“You’re so sweet, I think we’ll call you Candy,” Tony said the first day I came by looking for a job, and that’s all there was to it.
Before each show, I go off into my own little world: a magical, peaceful place somewhere safe and away from my miserable life. Everything is perfect here; it’s just me, my son, and a perfect man who seems to be nonexistent in reality.
“Candy”. My eyes slowly open; scared of what I’m going to see back in reality. I look into the mirror and quickly snap my head down, too embarrassed to look up. I see an unknown ; this face is unfamiliar to me from being caked in makeup and layers of blotchy powder. The cherry red blush, purple eye shadow, and hot red lipstick make me look like a girl on the corner. Maybe I am a corner hoe; the strip club isn’t far from it. I look around to the other girls to see if they feel what I feel. They’re all at their lockers; filled with pictures of family, their high heels and costumes, and their many purses. I glance back at my locker, the once banana yellow paint is peeled and marked up from prior girls claiming their territory. The big picture of my son playing little league baseball covers the rust and some of the writing on the locker. This is my first week at the club, and I don’t plan on being here for long, so I feel no need to have anything other than a picture of my son on my locker. He’s the reason I’m doing this. His heart problems are getting worse and the medicine isn’t getting any cheaper. My baby’s cost of living is going up and his chances of living are going down. I don’t know how much more I can do, but I’m trying. This is my last resort. Before every show I stare at his picture on my locker. He has a smile of child with no worries in the world, and that’s exactly what he was before his heart condition. The longer I look at the picture the heavier my eyes get, and I star to taste the salt on my lips from the fallen tears.
I sit and watch the other girls laugh, talk, and practice their splits and booty pops as if they really enjoy what they do. I envy this bliss they have; it puzzles me how content they are in this lifestyle they are living. They are nothing: females who take their clothes off for horny old men who they don’t even know.

The girls gather around Caramel’s locker after she comes off stage, but I stay at my locker because I don’t know them very well. One of the bouncers carries all of her earnings over in a garbage bag. Caramel empties the bag and pours the money on the floor. The folded and crumpled assortment of mostly ones and fives come rushing out like a pile of raked leaves. The money gives off a great stint of sweat men who haven’t showered for days. She starts to count. After about five minutes everyone is watching and excited to hear the number.
“$3,200 tonight girls. Who can top it?” Caramel high-fives one of the other girls. It’s a competition every night to see who can bring in the most money. Caramel usually wins; she’s the veteran around here.
“Ten years I been out here babygirl,” she said to me on my first day. It was obvious why she brought in the most money; her smooth caramel skin coats her body so finely. She has hips wider than a Hummer and she knows how to move them; everyone stops and watches when she’s on stage. She’s not just a stripper, she’s an entertainer. She flirts with the men, and makes them feel wanted. They love to stuff their ones down her bra just to feel her breasts, and when she removes her shirt they immediately toss all they have in their hand at her. I somewhat look up to Caramel; I’ve never seen a woman so strong and comfortable with herself before. Since I’ve been here she’s been nothing but nice to me: my first day after my show be bought me three martinis, and once when one of the girls tried to steal my phone Caramel made her give it back and apologize to me. She’s also very encouraging with what she says to me before I go on stage and she really helps with my confidence.

“Candy, let’s go. You’re up,” Tony yells to me. I look at him and nod, and I try to clear my mind of all the thoughts telling me not to go: what my mother would say, and how my son would feel to know his mother is a stripper. Noticing me struggling, Caramel yells out,
“Don’t trip baby girl; you got it. Remember, look them in the eyes.” I smile and whisper, “Thanks,” back to her. I fix my posture and seductively walk towards the door to get on stage.
“Here, take this,” Tony hands me some water and a white pill of some sort. I gulp it down without question. Immediately the music gets louder, and I start to sway back and forth, feeling the rhythm.
“Now up, the sexy Candy,” a loud voice triumphs the music.
“Go get em,” Tony as he slaps my butt. I walk on to the stage and look out to the crowd; everything is a blur. The fluorescent lasers run up and down the walls throughout the entire club. The glow in the dark 3D stars on the walls and the ceiling look like outer space. Two girls stand on a box at the east and west end of the club and dance seductively with their tops off. The bartenders at the back of the club rush around with bottles of Grey Goose and Ciroc in their hands, pouring shots into the small glasses. The unbearable smell of alcohol fills the room. People pull their phones out as if they’re about to record me. Draven, one of the bouncers, walks around and makes them turn them off. I smile at him, and he starts to blush. He’s had a crush on me since I’ve been here. I asked him to not allow anyone to record me because I fear one day my son will see what I do and no child should have to go through that. The old men sit right in front of the stage waving their money in the air, signaling for me to start. I start to dance. Moving my hips back and forth, the men whistle like owners whistle for their dog at the park. I think of Caramel and her advice:
“Look them in the eye…act shy at first.” I walk around slowly and modestly with my robe on for as long as possible, and then one of them yells.
“Take it off sweetie!” “Yea, come here!” another one chants. I close my eyes and start to slowly drop my robe while I walk towards them.
“Take it all off! I paid for full nude,” someone says from the bar area. I look up at Tony and he nods his head at me. I feel very uncomfortable being completely naked on stage; I won’t allow myself to do it. Although what I do is already disrespectful to woman, I would feel ultimately disrespected if I was fully naked on stage.
A cold, rough hand touches in between my thighs; my teeth cringe and my fist tightens but I can’t show that this bothers me. Draven rages over like a bull, grabs the man and escorts him to the exit. Men always feel the need to touch us, and they’re not allowed to. I feel a bit more comfortable knowing I have Draven to protect me. I strut towards the first man in front of the stage. I look into his eyes with swagger and confidence like Caramel does when she’s on stage. His eyes are red and his face loose from all of the tequila shots on his table. I grab his tie and pull him closer towards me, and then I whisper in his ear, “I’m yours.”
A look of shock hits his face and he fumbles into his pocket for dollar bills. I turn away from him and start to dance in front of his face. I feel the dollar bills fall on me like confetti, tickling my back. He stops throwing them; I turn around and look at him with a surprised, fake face. I then pull the strap of my underwear away from my thigh tempting him to place his money there. He hesitates then places a twenty dollar bill there. I finish off by giving him a lap dance, and at this point I’m in the zone and nothing is on my mind. I go on to the next man and the next until I dance for everyone in the circle. I try to seduce them the same way, but they all don’t respond how the first guy did. Finishing off my set I walk towards the pole, the icy steel pressed against my legs. I bend over and look up into the crowd. At the back of the club there is a huge mirror. I see that unfamiliar face again, scared and broken; and the body of a hooker in lingerie and heels on display for horny men who can’t find girls in the real world.
How did I get here? Why am I doing this? The thought of what I’m doing, and my image in the mirror put a ball in my stomach. My body jitters, and I feel something rising up through my throat. I run off the stage like a zebra running from a pack of hyenas not worrying about my money or after-show appointments. I go directly to my locker, ignoring everyone on my way there.

“How’d you do doll?” Caramel asks me.
“G-good. I did good,” I stutter.
“You ok?” she looks at me worried.
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine,” I put my head down.
“You need a ride home or anything?” Caramel asks.
“No, my friend is picking me up,” I replied knowing I had no friends to pick me up.
“Girl, stop, we both know you don’t have any friends out here,” Caramel laughs. I didn’t take the joke how she expected. Noticing that I wasn’t laughing she comes over and hugs me.
“I’m joking baby, get your pay and get dressed. I’ll take you home,” says Caramel.
I go to my locker and change into my sweats. Draven brings over my earnings in three grocery bags. My eyes light up when I see him carrying the three bags, usually I only have one. I sit up quickly like a kid waiting for candy, excited to get the money from him. Then I realize how dumb I look and quickly slouch back into the chair.
“Good job tonight Candy. You looked great out there… Well, uh, I wasn’t watching, but you know,” Draven puts his head down embarrassed. I giggle and blush at his comment.
“Thanks, it’s ok, and call me Chantel” I give him a slap on his shoulder.
“Chantel, I like that name. Ok well goodnight. See you tomorrow?” he asks.
“Goodnight, and yes, I’ll be here,” I put my head down somewhat ashamed.
It’s around five in the morning when Caramel and I leave the club. We go through the Burger King drive through.
“You want anything?” she asks me.
“Yea, get me one of those,” pointing at the kid’s meal on the order menu.
“A kid’s meal, for real?” she raises her eyebrow.
“Yea, I’m tryna watch my figure,” I pat my stomach.
“Your figure? Girl you nothing but sticks and bones. You need to be getting you a whopper meal,” Caramel jokes.
“Yea whatever. And tell them to make sure it’s a boy toy,” I play off her comment.
“So now you like playing with little boy toys?” Caramel asks sarcastically.
“No stupid. It’s for my son, he likes them,” I giggle.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had a son?” Caramel is shocked.
“I don’t know, you didn’t ask,” I shrug my shoulders.
“Whatever, is that why you wear that bracelet? Let me see it,” she says grabbing my wrist, looking at the white bracelet with hearts all over it.
“Why does it say Children’s Hearts?” she asks.
“I got it from the hospital where he’s getting his surgery; he has heart disease ,” I say as my voice gets quieter. Caramel looks at me shocked and with great sadness.
“Is that why you came to the club?” she asks.
“Yea, the doctor says things should get a lot better after the surgery, but I don’t have twenty thousand dollars. I’m going to be at the club for a few months.” My nose starts to run and my eyes glossing. I feel bad for putting all this on Caramel; I don’t want her to feel sorry for me.
“Oh my gosh, come here love,” she grabs me and holds me tight. The earth stands still, I feel loved. It feels great to have someone who genuinely cares for me and in this moment all my stress deserts me.
She reaches back into the backseat and grabs a black bag. “Here take this,” she hands me the bag. “It’s my earnings from tonight”. I’m shocked; my words fumble in my mouth. I can’t accept this, but DJ needs it.
“Thanks, but I can’t take $3200 from you”
“Don’t be silly, you need it. Your son needs it. His health is nothing to play with,” Caramel responds. My heart pounds. I look at her and the tears find their way back, coming from my eyes like a dripping faucet.
“Thank you so much Caramel,” I wrap my arms around her and squeeze like a scared baby hugs their mother.
“No problem at all baby, and I have a name to you know. It’s Sharde,” Caramel smiles, and I smile back.
She drives me home and we talk about everything. I never thought a girl like her could be as humble and down to earth as she is.
“I don’t want to see you in the club any more… no one deserves to go through this; this is not a job for everyone.”
Caramel is right, this isn’t a job for everyone; especially not someone like me. she doesn’t deserve this either, a woman of her caliber could be doing much greater things in the world.
“You don’t have to do this either; you’re smart, beautiful, funny,” trying to convince her.
“What else can I do? No one is hiring and uneducated former stripper,” she responds.
“That’s not true; I was looking into going back to school after I paid for DJ’s surgery. You should come with me,” I tell her.
She looks at me and smiles: “Babygirl I’m perfectly fine with what I do, it’s who I am, all I ever was and all I ever will be, and I’m ok with that. But you, there’s more in life for you. All the schools, fancy jobs, and family; that stuff is for a girl like you; and you can’t get those things if you’re in the club.”
This makes me feel like new, like I was given a restart button on life and I’m starting with a clean slate. I feel a new purpose in my life that I’ve never felt before. I stare smiling at Caramel for five seconds; I open her car door to get out. I glance at my apartment then back at her.
“Thank you Sharde, thank you,” I say to her.
She smiles and nods her head. I shut the door and walk to my apartment with my chin up and excitement to start my life.
“Hey!” she yells from her car. I turn around to see what she wants.
“You’re going to be somebody,” she yells out to me. A chill runs through my body and my cheeks start to hurt from grinning so hard.
“I am somebody,” I yell back with my chest pointed to the heavens.
She smiles, “Yes you are baby,” she waves, puts her car in gear and drives off.

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