I put my two dollars on the table, and it begins.
I always wonder how I’m supposed to get your attention, although to be truthful, that’s probably selling you short, now isn’t it? Perhaps the young ones, the rookies, the ones who stick to one side of the floor, or one group of suitors – perhaps they miss a new set of bills every so often. Not you. Of course, you make your money by being two steps ahead of the crowd, of the other dancers, of everyone. You make sure the customer at hand is getting his (or hers) money’s worth, but you know where you’re headed next. Even if the money wasn’t meant for you, it’s rare that someone is brave (or callous) enough to pull the bills back once they’re on the table. And let’s be honest – it’s a late night, another cold and crisp day in the endless New England winter, and with the booze flowing and the lights dim, there are few suitors in this place that are willing to be choosy.
It’s the reason why I’ve learned to keep my hand on my bills until the one I want – you – makes eye contact. I suppose I could be poetic about it all, speak to the inner beauty of all who have graced the stage on this night, but isn’t that what the money is for, anyway? To strip away all of the pretense and heartbreak that goes along with reconciling physical attraction with desire and emotion. On the outside, lyrics and poetry are the standard currency, and even then the money hits the table, through the indirect costs involved with first dates and initial meetings. I’m here tonight to take a break from all that, to put the Hollywood drama aside, and that’s the service you provide. Perhaps on the outside I would have to apologize for my desires, for my wants and needs – but not here, not now, not in this place. If I want one over another, so be it, and as quickly as the bills hit the table, my hand covers them up when one of your coworkers saunters by. Nothing personal – as if anything that takes place here is personal.
But you see all of this, don’t you? Out of the corner of your eye, even as another man’s hands tempt fate and wander as close as they can to the curves of your hips. It’s why you moved right on over to me once you were done – skipping the few others in between who were still deciding whether you were worth the pocket change. You saw that I wasn’t just there to take in the scenery, I was an active participant – and you know that a good show will get you a few extra bills in the bargain, won’t it? It won’t even take that much extra work, because I’ve already shown interest; maybe an extra wink, or smile, or a stray hand caressing my cheek, and you’ll double your take. And then I’ll be set up for the real sales pitch, the one that makes this your career and not just your part-time job. You’ll wait until I’m lost in the smell of your perfume, the feel of your skin, the fullness of your breasts and the curves of your legs, and then you’ll pop the question.
Imagine having me all to yourself, you’ll say. Just you and me, away from the crowds and the noise and the stale air and the spilled beer, where there won’t be any table between the two of us, there won’t be any other eyes taking in the show because it will be all for you, just you and only you, because you are in control, you are the reason why I am here, why my hair is long and flowing and my eyes are sparkling and my smile is bright white and clear, so why waste another moment here in this world when we can escape to our own little fantasy, just you and me, forever and ever, amen?
I have to admit, you almost had me. It was right when you leaned over, on your hands and knees, your long hair surrounding my face, speaking in slow and hushed tones into my ear as if I was your first, last, and only lover. Was it perfume? Some sort of body spray? Whatever it was, it was perfect. It was a pure and innocent scent, one that spoke of canopy beds and satin sheets, of early morning sunlight piercing through the curtains, of that first kiss when you’re half-asleep and still floating somewhere in the ether of dreams - of intimacy. I wanted to wrap myself up in that scent, close my eyes and let all the pain and stress disappear. For once, I wanted the fantasy to be real, and I knew that all I needed to do was to close my eyes and believe, just like some cardboard Disney storyline where everything is made perfect again with a song and a dance.
But it’s not that simple, is it? Because this isn’t a fantasy, it isn’t a dream, it’s nowhere near perfect or intimate, it’s a hole in the wall in the middle of nowhere on a cold and bitter New England night, and this is nothing more than a business transaction, buddy. Supply and demand. There’s a price to be paid, and if you’re not interested in providing the capital investment, someone else will. And the more time I spend trying to convince you, the less time I’ll have to convince the drunks in the corner to make their wallets thirty dollars lighter. So what’s it gonna be?
Of course, I smile and politely refuse. After all, honey, my money won’t buy me that canopy bed with the satin sheets, will it? That’s what I’m really in the market for. Nothing would change in the private room, you know that as well as I do. Perhaps you would let a little extra slip, or your hands would get a little bit of the wanderlust – but what would come of it? At some point, our time would be up, and you would go your way and I would go mine, and no amount of dancing or teasing would ever come close to that one perfect moment when I was lost in your scent, lost in my own private world where you were there for me because of me, not because of the money in my hand. Nothing you could do could top that – and I’m old enough now to know that for sure. So I smile and politely refuse. And you smile back, as if you knew exactly what was on my mind, as if you shared the exact same moment with me. But I know better – you’ve seen the same dopey smile on thousands of men who have come and gone over the years.
With a flip of the hair and a wave of the hand, you’re off.
Under my breath, I laugh at myself as I finish my beer.
I put another two dollars on the table, and it begins again.