Time for a bit of a confession, nothing too out of the ordinary. I was married 40 years, and traveled on business more than 20 of them. Although lots of opportunity, I was always faithful. That said, in the policy of “look but don’t touch” I did permit myself ample opportunity to visit “gentleman’s clubs”, back in the days when they were dank, trashy, smoke-filled men-only caves, reeking of smutty dark secrets. Everything but saying “Joe sent me” to be let in.
With the internet replacing the back page of the local indie paper, it was easy to become an expert. Turns out these clubs now have a large on-line community (even larger with regular attendance by bold, modern, sexually fluid women). Some are now even owned by publicly traded companies (as “Hospitality”). Yes, it’s an actual economy, and was transitioning to such during my day. I needed to mentally unwind mid-week, and to give myself incentive to get on the next plane Sunday. The smokey rooms and loud music fit the bill toward the end of my many years on the road.
To keep out of trouble, I brought a sketch pad with me. It kept my eyes open, and my hands busy, and followed my moral code. Just a series of 3-minute art poses, I’d say to myself, and to any dancers that stopped by my table to chat me up for business. The girls were mostly flattered, flirted with me, and I ended up with a book of horribly drawn memories which I shredded immediately upon retirement.
After the conference in Columbus ended, I kept my room an extra day. I had all summer ahead of me so why race to check out? Where was I going? So with an extra night and nothing else to do, I drove the city and enjoyed riding in the cool air. I stopped for a coffee and found there was one “fully nude” club in town, out near the casino. I toyed with my other vice for relaxation, getting a roll of quarters and seeing how long I could make it last in the slot machines (while drinking comp orange juice) but I headed instead to the nearby club.
I settled in quickly, with a newfound confidence that my separation and pending divorce afforded me, trying to embrace some new nebulous personality. No sketch pad tonight; I intended to spend the evening chatting with dancers, making eye contact, seeing what I would instinctively talk about in Year One A.D.
As a positive omen, upon entering, I cast eyes immediately upon the stage at my favorite dancer archetype; pale skinned, brunette, short hair, barely tattooed, in shape without being a “gym rat”, artistic in her dancing rather than crazy gymnastic pole work (which actually frightens me). Demure not pornographic in her movements. I thought “there is my coffee date tonight”. So like always I sat in a corner feeling everything at once; young and free, old and perverted, in command of my world and about to be fleeced like a chump. Ahh, strip clubs.
Immediately a young blonde woman set upon me, like a vulture to roadkill, taking the second chair on my side table. She carried a big smile, and sparkling eyes and patted my hand with familiarity asking to sit. To this day we both joke that my first words to her were: “Ahh, umm, sure, a blonde, *sigh*, why not”. So we talked, and we talked, … then we talked some more. The young brunette came down and worked the room for business and her physical affect was disturbing to me: young and shallow and boy was I getting old.
My unexpected date, however, carried herself with a grace and confidence and had self-effacing humor. She wasn’t the type to go in back and gossip about “johns”. She actually didn’t have many dancer friends, she said, they were too young and crazy. We both played “guess my age” and each missed by 10 years (God bless Miss Clairol). We talked divorces and kids and ex’s. Oh dear, I was becoming enthralled (and with a blonde!) So weird.
I had been retired over 10 years and was no longer sitting there wired tighter than piano wire. I wasn’t urgently processing to be mentally loose for work in the morning, doing mental yoga on steroids. Instead I was just in the moment, relaxed; aware of our words and eyes and body language; studying the curve of her ear, the blink of her eyelashes, the scent of her perfume. I was out to understand who I was and who I wanted to be. Yet, I still was married so with no interest in anything extra curricular. It was a profound experience.
As the evening ended and we were due to part company, she volunteered her cell number and real name. This was once considered a difficult peak to scale. Yet, in just four months this was the third one entered into my phone. I actually had to create an icon and group code just for dancers. From the parking lot she watched me suit up and mount my red cycle. I hit dial, she waved her lit smart phone in the air, and I drove off. All warm inside, and totally weirded out.
With her blonde hair, snow white complexion, and blue eyes, she resembled a painted porcelain doll. I nicknamed her Ivory and could not understand our connection.
Over the next couple days we exchanged texts. Talking more about the odd turn both our lives had taken over the years, what we were doing today so next month and next year fit into our personal goals. She was behind the eight ball in several ways, some of her own but many foisted upon her. I wanted to make some positive impact in her world and the easiest way was to simply stop at a random Wal-mart and deposit a couple hundred dollars into an exchange account for her to pick up back in Columbus. I texted her it was available and that it was a gift, with no quid pro quo, and to say thank you for a wonderful evening and for her kind thoughts. While flowers or chocolates or a special gift would be nice, in her tough situation cold hard cash was just the right size.