My heart is pounding, a stranger is knocking on the door, a woodpecker is hammering on the tree, the beats of my heart are intertwined with the spontaneous and neurotic sounds of the city. The sounds of sirens, ascending and fading, crazy loud neighbors from downstairs, the invisible couple behind the wall producing loud sex sounds, moaning, squealing until hitting an ear-piercing crescendo. Dogs, cats, endless action and drama, schizophrenic weather, overcaffeinated people, yoga devotees, jaded musicians, grumpy financial bros, tired artists, bums, cunning scammers, lunatics, stinky subway cars, fat raccoons and oversized rats. I am back in New York, back in a historical neighborhood in Brooklyn, Bedford Stuyvesant, or Bed-Stuy or simply Bed-Stuy – where to bullets fly. I am back to the grind. I brew coffee in a newly bought, made-in-italy coffee pot while listening to NPR’s Snap Judgment. There’s no pleasant scent than the scent of a freshly ground coffee. I love coffee. My daily life and productivity depends on how much caffeine I consume.
“Girl you sound as if you’d been blowing coke all morning.” My Brooklyn friend Jenny tells me as I rant and curse on the phone like an angry black woman, a mother of five, who frequently gets stuck on the A train, running local. I like my new neighborhood and those vocal rants about gentrification. Fresh, and blunt they sound better than the muted voices of obedient Hassidic wives from Kensington and Ditmas Park. I like Bed-Stuy Fly.
“I don’t do blow. I don’t measure coffee beans. I probably make a triple espresso instead of a single shot,” I say, catching my breath, remembering that I’d skipped my morning routine of coconut oil pulling, lemon water drinking, followed by yoga or running – all this is necessary to keep my chill together, until I will be able to afford seeing a shrink, like most of my fellow New Yorkers.
I thought I’d take a break from dancing when I returned to Brooklyn from New Orleans. But the reality was biting hard. I did not save anything partially because I’d been paying two rents the entire stay in New Orleans and whatever was left went to alligator swamp tours and bloody marrys. I was used to being perpetually broke.
The pieces of meat were stuck under my manicured nails and between teeth. I was bitting into fatty and juicy barbecue ribs, the apple pie was looking at me impatiently, a cup of coffee reflecting a toy-like statue of liberty outside the window. It was my favorite part, shopping in the IKEA Brooklyn. Ikea food is better than the Ikea furniture. I’d just spent my last money buying basic furniture for my empty room. Not everything was Ikea, I managed to buy a high wooden convertible fancy West Elm table which I’d found on craigslist.
What’s next? I thought. No client work. No freelance web design gigs. No copywriting gigs. Fucking resumes, recruiters, cold calls – all the things I hated in the over saturated job market scene of NYC. I am unemployable, I thought. The business woman in me was either deep asleep or idling or both. I guess I’ll have to keep renting my body for lap dances to pay my rent and bills, until I finally figure it all out, a way out of my impasse. One song for twenty. Just like a physical therapist delivering urgent care and attention to financial bros from Wall Street or corporate lawyers. There isn’t much diversity in NYC strip club scene. New York city strip club scene had been dying for years, there was only a few decent clubs left, one of them was Penthouse.
“Bring your ID, social security card, a long gown, bikini bottom and heels.” a woman said on the phone.”
I got off at 59 street Columbus circle and walked 15 blocks down Hell’s Kitchen just to avoid walking thru Time Square, which was giving me rash. After New Orleans I became particularly sensitive to the crowds of people queuing up to get into Shake Shack. I bet Holden Caulfield would do the same. What would Holden Caulfield be at thirty-one? Would he ever grow up? Or perhaps, like my ex-boyfiend, he would refuse to grow up and would join the Nihilist movement and would be a perpetually broke artist/musician, aimlessly ranting about politics, government spending and global warming. Or maybe like his old brother D.B. he would end up in Hollywood, riding convertible, writing for Arrested Development and surfing in his free time... And because Holden Caulfield had had a permanent place in my heart since the delicate age of sixteen I needed that comfort that eventually all Holden Caulfields grow up and grow out of seeing the world in black and white and become sarcastic and develop a good sense of humor and grow a thick skin. I needed that comfort to deal with my own weaknesses and being too sensitive and recognizing the fact that I was behind my adolescence. I could see myself being another character of Arrested Development where my character is perpetually late on everything. Mary-An shows no signs of remorse when she misses dates, deadlines, and events. She feels alright about it especially when her mom tells her she wasn’t even born on time…
“Show me, your SS!” A big bouncer said, looking stern.
I felt heavy. The dark grey sky seemed lower than usual. I could reach my hand into the sky for that mid-summer moister and humidity and wash my face with it. Why would he make me show it to him on the street? I took it out from my backpack. He let me in.
As I was led into the dressing room I sneaked peaked into the main floor of the club. Boobs. Huge Boobs. Boobs were all over, real and fake and hard to say. There’s no way I’m gonna make it here with my cute pigeon tits, I thought. Besides my boobs I was concerned with even a more serious matter, my SS card. My SS would have been standard, had it not been for a medium size print, Valid with a Work Permit Only. I changed quickly. I felt reluctant putting on a lot of make up. I never liked too much make up. I put on a nylon leopard dress, which I’d bought on Bourbon street, five inch clear heel stripper shoes and red lipstick. The surroundings were new but it was also a dejavu. Flack back to when I was fourteen, I used to spend summer weekends at my grandparents’s dacha. On the attic there were piles of old magazines and old soveit newspapers saved for fire pits. Anyway, among those newspapers was a big pile of magazines with ripped covers. These were european editions of Playboy, Penthouse, rusty, greasy but well preserved prints of nude female bodies. Each nude was spreading on two page sheet. Face and boobs on one sheet and bootie and ’80s bikini wild, untrimmed, untamed bush on the other. I was jealous of those boobs. Like many other slavic girls I was led to believe that if I ate cabbage and oatmeal, my boobs would grow big. But after years of eating cabbage and ‘porridge’ my boobs seemed hesitant to grow. And then I realized it was all lies, stupid tricks to make girls eat oatmeal. My frustration was mitigated by the fact that my behind grew just the right size and looked like in those magazines and was receiving plenty of attention. Apparently I’ve had round cheeks since I was a baby because my Siberian great grandma called me Siberian Shanishka (big buns).
“Go on stage and dance one song,” A house mom told me. I wasn’t trying hard, moving my hips reluctantly and twerking a little, impatient to get down and get out.
“Go down, put your dress on and meet me in the dressing,” the house mom of some exotic descent told me before the song ended.
“Let’s do your paperwork. You are hired.”
I rolled my eyes in disbelief. She took took a copy of my SS my without examining it. “Let’s do an orientation next time, and bring a long gown. We are an upscale and classy club. You can start any day next week.”
It was the beginning of a new chapter – of my new accidental career as an exotic dancer. And while most of my classmates were climbing up the corporate ladder and starting families, I was achieving yet another milestone – being hired by Penthouse Executive club. I couldn’t be more excited.