Megan put her hands on the table and looked at me seriously. Another dancer had taken the stage and a Katy Perry song started, with a thick bass thump pounding over the strip club's sound system. Megan leaned toward me and shouted over the thumping.
"The way I see it, you can go one of two ways, Nate," she said. "You can finish your beer and leave, and we're fine. Or you can stay and make a complete ass of yourself for coming to creep-and-peep on me. And if you're going to go that way, you're damn well going to buy some private dances, because there's no way I'm going to let you stalk me here without at least making you pay for what you're seeing."
"Wow," I said. "Okay, I can see I've made a big mistake coming here. Looking at it now, yes, I see it was a greasy move. So yeah, of course, I'll go. And we're cool, right? We're still okay to grab a beer or something?"
"No!" She shook her head. "Nate, there's no way I'm going out with you anyway. It was creepy as hell to come here. And you're - I don't know. I'm just not interested in going out with you. You bug me about music and stuff, and I don't think you really know shit. I don't really like you."
I leaned back in my chair and smiled at her. I took a sip of my beer, crossed my arms and smiled. What the f--ck do you say to that? What a kick in the ego to take from a girl in a naughty school girl uniform!
To hell with it, I decided. Maybe I could bring her around to liking me, but did I even like her enough to bother? Was she anything more to me than just a target of opportunity? I was trying to force myself to move on from Carrie Anne, but did that mean pursuing girls who didn't even like me?
On the other hand, I'd already made an idiot of myself. I figured I might as well push the situation to its most ridiculous limits, for no other reason than to see what hilarity might come of it. I might as well take this all the way.
"What if I stay?" I asked her.
"I'll tell everyone I know what a creep and an idiot you are."
I laughed. I had seventy bucks in my pocket. Okay, I was going to play this all the way. She was a verbal puncher. I knew I didn't have to worry about her sensitive feelings.
I stood up. "Okay. Let's go."
"Wherever it is we're going to go. I'll leave - but I'm going to have a dance first."
Her eyebrows popped and her jaw dropped. "You're serious."
"Sure," I said. "You don't even have to get undressed. But since we're never going to otherwise get closer, I might as well take advantage of this very awkward situation. I want a private dance."
She rolled her eyes and stood up. "Okay," she said. "Let's go."
Megan led me to the far end of the room and into the private dance area. It was a hallway of tiny doorless cubicles. Just like the front room, this area was also bathed in blue light. She guided me to a cubicle and directed me to sit on the wide chair. There was a small table and I set down my beer.
"Have you ever danced for someone you knew?"
"That's none of your business," she said.
She sat down on a small stool and crossed her legs. "It's twenty dollars for a song."
I nodded. The song ended and another started. It was bad pop, Nicki Minaj or something. I took a drink.
Megan stood up and stepped toward me. The song was a mid-tempo rap song dripping with autotune. She turned her back to me and began swaying to the beat, moving at the waist and hips, but moving without conviction. She was doing the minimum acceptable performance. I looked at her legs.
When the song reached its autotune chorus, she turned and faced me, but kept her gaze up in the unseen distance behind me. Her movements remained stiff and perfunctory. She was determined that I would get no pleasure out of this at all.
I kept my eyes on hers, smiling, waiting for the chance that she might look down at me there. She didn't look down.
The song came to an end, and she stepped back. "Okay then."
"You're not very good at this," I said.
"You said I didn't have to get undressed," she said, folding her arms.
"Not that," I said. "You can't dance. You dance like you work in a cement factory all day before coming here."
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It means you dance like you've got tired legs and a f--cked up back."
"Well, my level of professionalism dips significantly for stalkers. And I don't want to give you any wrong ideas."
"Right," I said. "You're worried that I might think you actually like me, because I gave you twenty dollars and you smiled at me. But I think you're just trying to get by on your looks and you're actually not a very good dancer."
"Nate, if you don't mind me asking," she said, "what the f--ck are you trying to get by on?"
"Right about now I would have to say my willingness to humiliate myself. Dance again. I want to see if you can actually dance."
She smiled and shrugged. She was willing to take my money.
The next song had already started. Megan looked down at me and an evil smile crossed her face. I had the idea that she'd taken the challenge I'd laid down, and she moved in toward me. The song was a slower number, and she started moving her shoulders in a grind. She kept staring into my eyes.
It wasn't a big leap forward from what she'd done during the last song. She swayed her arms, but otherwise it was just a waist and hip grind, except this time performed with a measure of intensity.
It was the eyes, though. She had a cutting pair of eyes, and I felt like she was digging right into me with her stare. She had so much raw aggression in her stare that I started feeling uncomfortable, like she was probably fantasizing about stabbing me in the chest as she danced.
Such are the dangers of getting private dances from girls who profess not to like you.
I smiled up at her as she danced. She smiled back, although ironically, but as the song wound up she moved in closer. She turned and lowered herself onto my lap and leaned back against me, pressing the length of her body against mine for one long heartbeat before standing back up. The song ended.
I stood up as well. "That was a tease," I said.
"Sure," she said. "Do you want another?"
We stared hard into each other. There was a challenge, and it went both ways between us.
I smiled. "All right," I said, and I slowly eased myself back down.
The new song started. The dancer had changed again, and this time the girl was choosing rock material. "Americanarama" from Hollerado started, and Megan moved in, this time with abandon, sliding in close, her smile and energetic swaying highlighted by the vicious look in her eye.
She lowered herself onto me again, grinding fully against me. She was up on the bench, up in my lap. My hands remained immobile at my sides. Her back was against my chest, her head on my shoulder. I could smell the thick vanilla scent she was wearing. Her blonde curls brushed my cheek, and the weight of her sitting on my lap was starting the involuntary engines.
Megan turned toward me as the song progressed, staying tight on me, until finally leaning back so we could face each other. She smiled as she put her hands on both sides of my neck and squeezed.
She was squeezing my neck-meat but not my larynx, so I didn't cough, but I felt a swoon. Megan slapped me gently on the cheek.
The song ended and she climbed off me. I stood up. "Well, that's as far as I'm willing to go," I said. I pulled out sixty dollars and handed it over to her. She took it and slipped it into her tiny school backpack.
The announcer mentioned a name, instructing a dancer to be ready to take the stage.
"Okay," she said. "That's me. I've got to go."
"Hold on," I said. "What was the name he called?"
"Candy Flowers," she said. "That's my stage name."
"That's hilarious," I said. "That's the best stripper name I've ever heard."
"Well, everything about this environment is fake, so I picked a fake-sounding stage name. And what's faker that candy flowers anyway?"
"Yeah, I can see there are a lot of layers at work. In your stripper name."
"I don't think you respect me," she said.
"Actually," I said. "I think you're pretty awesome."
"Maybe," she said. "But you don't respect me."
"I think you're awesome," I repeated. "And yeah, I respect you."
She looked at me intently. "Then you should go."
I smiled. "Okay."
Megan walked me out of the back room, but then cut away and disappeared through another dark doorway, leaving me alone in the strip club. My beer was almost finished. I'd spent a ton of money in only twenty minutes, and now I was going to have to eat plain noodles until payday. And Megan was probably going to tell everyone who would listen what a douchebag I was.
I exited the little club and started walking to the bus stop. What a waste it had been. I'd wasted the bunch of cash, and I'd totally destroyed any chance I might have had with Megan. And she was certain to talk, which would poison the well for Carrie Anne as well, although I'd pretty much handled that by myself already.
The whole situation seemed dour, except for one thing: Terry was going get me playing guitar again, and that was something. How the hell else was I going to meet people? I was wasting opportunities, and I was becoming too isolated. I would need to start meeting more people, and playing would be useful.
It was a long, lonely ride back into the city, but as the bus and then the subway carried me along, I began to find myself humming a riff. At first it was a simple two-note back and forth thing, but then it grew to a four note descending progression. And then I started to think about words, which was unusual, since I'd never made any attempt at songwriting before.
The words were a jumble. I tried to organize a thought about getting a private dance from a stripper that hates you, but then I tried to broaden it to a non-specific intimate encounter with someone who hates you. But then I thought about that Puddle Of Mudd song "She Hates Me," so I changed directions, and started working on a line about how a girl would never grow to like you.
"It's not even me, it's just your perceptions of me," I quietly hummed, trying not to draw the attention of the other people in the subway. "How can you pretend to know me when I don't even know myself?"
I hummed out a bunch of grim lines like that, and decided I would have to try and work it into shape on paper. But I came up with a simple refrain: "And you will never ever ever find a way to like me," I hummed. "You will never ever find a reason to see me again."
I sang a rough chorus a few times, thinking it over, first with Carrie Anne in mind, and then with Megan. It seemed to work either way.
|"I Sing When You Shut Up" is the fourth novel Nolan Whyte has written for Ultimate-Guitar.com. Tell him your favorite album at @nolanwhyte.|