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(contains sexual content)

I never planned to have an affair. I want you to know that. I’m not apologizing, because there was no affair. Looking back, perhaps, I went too far. Looking back, perhaps, I could have paid more attention to how I got to this point. Had I listened, truly listened, all of my actions could have been avoided. But I’m not apologizing for my actions. Not now.

When I first went to the strip club, I had no intention of cheating on you with one of the dancers. I couldn’t remember where I’d gotten the idea to go there in the first place. The bright purple building had always been waiting for me, less than 5 miles away, but hadn’t become an important part of my story until that night.

You and I weren’t getting along, so I wanted to do something vengeful. I wanted to be surrounded by darkness.

Well, the club satisfied that requirement, for the sunny day was swallowed by wall drapes and black paint as soon as the thick door sealed behind me.

Contrasting against the murkiness of the open room was a woman on stage. Her white skin glowed beneath the stage lights. She appeared painted, apart from her tattoos.

I took a seat between the catwalk and the door I’d come through and was practically attacked by a waitress. She forced me to purchase a drink. I did. I had cash, because I’d had the forethought to withdraw $40. Honestly, I didn’t want you tracking my location by way of credit card purchases. It’s not like I asked for 40 singles. I hadn’t put that much thought into where I was going.

I couldn’t watch the woman on stage. I felt sorry for her. I felt sorry for myself. I analyzed a few customers, and the swoop of depression got thicker and heavier. I quickly stopped assessing the audience.

My drink arrived with a dancer as if she were an attached prize. She told me she’d gotten off the stage just as I’d entered. She liked my shirt. I was wearing a normal button down, and the colors were lost in the dreary club, but she emphasized how she’d been drawn to the unusual pattern.

I know, she was playing me. This was her job. I knew it then. But you know what? I was attracted to her body odor. Her stink. Her armpit sweat. I’m sure she spruced up and sprayed something in the air and walked through the falling mist backstage, but her natural scent wasn’t concealed as it had been within my sinuses.

While sitting there, inches from her expensive hair, as I questioned what was luring me toward her – not perfume or shampoo – she stood up, staying within my personal space like a stray dog begging for affection. And as she left me, I was certain the aroma was not traveling up from her crotch. She had back sweat, trailing down from the nape of her neck. She would have to shower or bathe herself once she was home.

That night, I hadn’t stayed long. I hadn’t planned on returning.

That night, in bed, the stripper stink aroused my senses, all of them, and I awoke next to you, knowing I’d have to return to the purple strip club the next day.

***

She wasn’t there. Good. It was a sign to stay away. Vengeful infatuation is the worst and a waste of time.

The next day, day three, I thought I smelled her in my car. In a restaurant bathroom. Down the pet food aisle. During a tornado drill at work.

Perhaps, I was disappointed in not seeing her (smelling her) again.

I didn’t know anything about her. I wasn’t picturing her face or nude body. I think I wanted another whiff, in person, to make certain I wasn’t … missing out on a good smell? I couldn’t tell you the reason, because at the time, I was not comparing her to a summer rose or, for that matter, sex (with you).

I’m slightly embarrassed to say, I went back. And to hurry through my uncomfortableness at the time, I asked a waitress for the dancer’s schedule. This was easier to obtain than I’d originally thought. Each dancer has a theme, so I pinpointed her easily. Also, many visitors become obsessed, and the staff openly give out the dancers’ days on stage so they can encourage recurring customers and keep tabs on the weirdos.

I wasn’t a weirdo or a stalker. I was mildly curious. And, again, I wasn’t looking to start a relationship with this woman.

That weekend, I believe it was, I watched her do her thing on stage. You know what? She wasn’t one of the better ones. She was mostly distracted and appeared bored. I’m not sure she was coordinated for such a job.

Later that night, probably after a couple of hours, she came over to me and my tiny table. I thought she’d mention my shirt, because I took a few minutes longer in choosing one this evening, but she had no idea who I was. Not that that stopped her from flirting. She maybe took my leaning in for a closer sniff as a genuine interest in her, but it wasn’t. Either way, my mannerisms gave her an opportunity to ask if I’d like a private dance. How much? (Again, thinking ahead, I’d brought cash – no particular denomination.) I had enough to cover the cost.

We didn’t speak during. She tried initiating once. Neither of us cared to converse.

I knew, at that moment, I wasn’t attracted to her mind, body, or soul. But I was no longer bitter. I wasn’t lonely, either. So, what was I doing there?

I surmised there was an animalistic attraction.

To mount? To conquer? To procreate? To survive? To feel alive?

During the next dance, in the middle of the week, when you went somewhere with the kids, I wanted to touch her. I knew it wasn’t allowed. I’d gone over a scenario in my head, how I could get around the club’s rule. Could I persuade her? How would I come across? With carefulness and effort, couldn’t my delivery be original and candid? Was this the manner in which every man thought when they wanted more from a woman (a dancing non-entity)?

Before I could feel worse about my natural unnatural thoughts, I decided to ask her upfront about the touching policy. She said I could pay more if I wanted her to pet or brush up against me. She assured me how different this interaction was from, and not included in, the private lap dance (which I’d ignorantly thought I’d been getting this entire time).

She wasn’t favoring me. She responded to my question as if I’d asked for extra hot fudge on my sundae. (I’ll admit, I conjured up this hot fudge analogy during our discussion. I refrained from asking how we could incorporate it into the private, extra-expense dance.)

Even at this point, once I’d lost track of how many times I’d gone there in the past month, she hadn’t asked my name. I’d learned nothing of her beyond her stage name, and that information was only obtained because of the MC announcing it over her signature jazz music. I truly wasn’t overly interested in her.

The next month would signify something within me. I’d become a regular if I continued my visits. What was the end goal? Had there always been one? I hadn’t been attending the club in search of pleasure, had I? I was looking for answers.

Were the answers hidden somewhere inside the territory of sexual content?

Briefly, I thought of oral sex, probably because she seemed to reference it during one of our conversations. Yes, by this time, we’d begun talking. And I was right about the next month, it increasing the meaning of my conscious decision to spend more time at the club.

She also became friendlier and seemed to drop her guard. I wasn’t sure if this observation was associated with an overall rise of emotional significance or if her inviting disposition was part of a ploy.

I asked during a dance, and not a conversation, if I could touch her for her pleasure. She didn’t fully understand my intention. I said, I wasn’t interested in being pleasured. I’d like to give her pleasure.

This, too, wasn’t as rare a thing to say to a stripper as I’d thought it’d be, but I saw something in her eyes, even in that dim lighting – she was warming up to me.

For the rest of that month, she believed I was harmless. She now knew I was never obsessed or like the other weirdo regulars. And – I think I’m right about this – she was no longer grooming me for drinks or tips or to assure my return. We’d somehow managed to develop a significant relationship inside a strip club.

The day she said I was cute was the day she finally agreed I could touch her during a dance (without the extra pay).

I know you’re thinking I was being led on. Maybe I’d even end up getting mugged or tricked into a strip club mob story at this point. But it was the beginning of something else.

I mentioned her pleasure. Her needs. Her worth.

“Especially in a place like this,” I think I said. I said something aloud, something I thought was going too far, but she understood. She was empathizing with my empathetic outlook. And that, my ability to know what people need, is something you and I have never agreed on. In hindsight, you may be right about my misreading people.

On one evening, in the open, public area of the club, she allowed me to touch her under the table. Drink in my hand. Owner’s hawk eyes watching. The atmosphere nerve-racking and exhilarating. The danger of getting caught – she fired, myself escorted by a bouncer.

She seemed to enjoy my hand, mentioning its smooth firmness, finding ways to engage with it as if it were apart from my person, treating it as if it were hers but also out of her control and, therefore, pleasantly surprising.

And on the day I finally came to terms with my own needs, craving pleasure for my efforts, wanting a gratifying moment of reciprocity, even if I had to pay $1,000, I remembered how I’d gotten the balls to come to the club that first day.

Months before, I was encouraged to go to that very strip club by a man who had come to our party. He was the very man entering, on this very night, with you hanging on his arm. I’m not sure if you saw me before I slipped out of the dark and into the light, but I’m leaving you and this letter doused in my fragrance and that of Jazzmine’s.

Dan Jones

Author Dan Jones

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