This is one of those things that is best done very drunk. One shot of whisky, two shots of it. Three, maybe. I don’t have anything to measure with. I was at a bar when a bartender was training and she was told to count to four as she poured, and that was a shot, but those bottles had those spouts.
Still. One, two, three, four – three times – I have 12 seconds of whisky in my coffee. Drunkenly alert, that’s the way to go. I need to be able to will my feet down to the subway, across town, and into where she works. Tony told me about it and ever since I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind, like a top 40 song. But a particularly good one, just a little more dirty and with slinkier bass than any top 40 song has any right to have.
What I’m saying is Julia Bell is a stripper now – or she’s one of those girls behind the glass that just gyrates erotically until you pay them enough to take it all off? There’s definitely a difference. Voyeurism comes in different flavors. It’s the difference between having a cup of ice cream or a cone. And I guess this is like having a flavor of ice cream at home and then buying it from a store. It’s all too much economizing for my liking, I’ve never liked the idea of paying to spend time with a girl, I don’t even like paying for all the date. We should both pay to spend time with each other.
I’m projecting, here. I actually don’t know. I’ve never been to a strip club before, or a glass window – not the type with a naked girl on the other side, anyway. If I need to look at naked girls, there are magazines and the internet and Cinemax. And I don’t need to be literally next to another guy or dozen guys looking at the same thing. But maybe strip clubs aren’t about the sex? This is a question I can ask Julia.
I briefly consider wearing a disguise so that Julia doesn’t recognize me, but Tony said she invited him to come over and watch her dance, which struck me as odd because that’s not the Julia that I remember, that’s more like Isobel Walker who lived down the street from me and would flash guys her boobs for a dollar back in fifth grade when no other girls had boobs but her. Again, I didn’t attend. Tony did. He said it taught him a lot, especially because he spent another dollar to feel them. She ate apple slices during the exchange.
I don’t need to wear a disguise because I doubt Julia Bell will recognize me. It’s been six years since I’ve seen her, and she wasn’t the type of girl who would see a guy like me. I remember her writing cheers for the cheerleading squad in iambic pentameter, and her making a scale model of the Bastille out of sugar a month before the project was due so that ants could start destroying it. I had a big crush on a girl with such great ideas. So I can wear my mask of age and my wallflower mask and it means I don’t need a big fake mustache or anything, no matter how cool that might look.
At the place, I pay the cover charge and go inside and sit down and there’s some girl named Paradise up on the stage, but she isn’t dancing, she’s nearly naked and she’s using an antibacterial wipe up and down the pole. Everything is sexual in here. I realize Paradise is Julia Bell and at the same time I wonder why it is I came here. I know that I had an idea when I left, but the whisky and the caffeine chased it out and now all I can think is, Julia Bell is going to be naked in front of me and I’m going to watch all of these sad men stick money in her g-string, which is probably some extended, disgusting metaphor for high school.
She starts to dance when a song comes on with bass so loud it shakes the glasses full of low alcohol content beer. She takes off her clothes, she gives sultry looks with her pouty lips that used to kiss Lee Blankenship. She finishes after a couple more songs and comes over to the table next to me and flirts with a guy, asks if he wants to spend some time alone with her. He says he’s looking for a girl named Veronica, so she comes and sits at my table. I take her offer.
We go to a room with a small velvet couch and I remember why I wanted to come here. Originally I had some sort of revenge fantasy planned out where I reveal who I am and then pay her to dance for me, which isn’t really revenge at all, it just points out how sad our lives are. What I really wanted to do was come here and just talk to her while she’s at work. As normal as if she were working in a coffee shop.
So I pay her and she starts to push her body against mine and my hands are pressed into the crushed velvet and then I say, Julia, it’s me. It’s Oliver, from high school. And she stops and puts her arms around me and says, Wow, Hi, I remember you. And I ask her how what’s up, how is life? and she says, just a second. I’ll be right back.
Then she’s gone and that image of naked Julia straddling me and smiling while she remembered who I was is burned onto my retinas, to be used whenever I like. Then a bouncer comes and throws me out onto the empty street. No touching, he says. No touching.