Inscrutable

2005 December 3
by barclay

She smiles with superficial saccharine in her eyes. “Can I pull you pull away from here for a few?” I’m not even facing her, I’m looking across the club to another stage.

“Pardon?” I heard her, but I’m buying time, trying to figure out how to be polite in my refusal, trying to justify why I’m at a strip club when I’m not buying.

“Private dance, honey?” toying with her brunette curls.

“No, thank you though.” I make sure she sees me turn my eyes toward another barely clad girl, a blond one, to make her think that I have my eyes on some other prize. I don’t.

Another approaches, although in jeans and a button up. She’s off duty, just hanging at work in her off hours. “Are you bored or something?”

“No, just tired.” In a way I’m lying, in a way I am bored. But if I’m looking for something else to do, it’s going to bed. I’ve never been a fan of strip clubs unless you’ve got a girl you’re there with or returning home to. Since I currently have neither, I see no reason to be at a strip joint with four guys. If I drop twenty bucks at a bar, at least I might get some interesting conversation out of my investment. I’m tempted to get a private dance, and just retire for a few minutes in a secluded area to talk, to see what makes her tick – but I’m under no delusions that these girls are doing anything but working. This is how they pay the rent, appearing salacious through some invisible wall of detachment, and I don’t want to pierce that veil. It seems more invasive than grabbing her inappropriately, violating her mind as opposed to her body.

The question could have been innocent enough, however. Perhaps she thought I was bored because she was bored, because of her assessment as this place being uncharacteristically dead, because I have this implacable face when no muscles are being used. It’s a slick blank slate, unwilling to wear whatever emotion is painted upon it, the colors sliding off and down to my feet, but inviting the attempt. I’ve been told this by many people over the years – that when not smiling, frowning, or otherwise projecting, my expression when completely relaxed is a difficult read. You can tell there’s gears turning, but there’s no noticeable manifestation.

Of course, it’s closing in on 2 AM, we’ve been all the way from Del Mar (hoping to manually stimulate serendipity, but without luck) to downtown. The driver is sober, the rest are not, and I’m somewhere in between. I’m already looking toward tomorrow, toward the December Nights and a birthday party. I don’t really want to be here, so I’m not letting my eyes linger on the women as they saunter past, I’m not smiling invitingly in their direction from across the room. I’m trying to keep from wasting their time as I know I’m not spending any money. Keep walking ladies, some other guy will be paying your rent tonight.

So my mind wanders, I fabricate stories for the girls, I create pasts and presents and futures. I wonder whose in school and what they’re studying, whose on drugs and what kinds, whose married and divorced who has boyfriends or girlfriends. I wonder what part of me is in them, and vice versa. I’d recently met a girl at UCSD going for a Bachelors in Mathematics who danced for a living, and I scan the crowd looking for hidden contemplations of Laplace transforms and non-Euclidean geometries.

I think back to my first divorce – well, not my divorce, but the first time one of my married friends got divorced, nearly ten years ago. I look for the pale skin of a wedding band removed on the girls’ second to last digit. Could I be married to a dancer? Could I be married at all? Most of the unions I’d witnessed had fallen, the only people I knew that recommended marriage where those in their first few years of marriage. I recall a line from my second novel-in-suspended-progress, _Andre thought all relationships had a ten year shelf life. If you made it past that, at least half of the couple was privately despondent, or you married a Twinkie. I wonder if I believe that.

Is a lack of desire to get married closing out opportunities, sheltering oneself from the possibility of the pain of divorce? Is it a refusal to live and experience life? Escapism, a lack of maturity, a fear of commitment? Or, alternatively, is it merely a recognition that things will always change, that life is a serious of mutable experiences, and marriage an artificial brace attempting to stifle change, an insufficient force against the juggernaut of personal evolution?

The lights go up, the bar cleared, and we’re kicked out let our fantasies weave us home through the early morning mists. Tonight, I don’t dream.

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