Cinnamon. Honey. Cat. Lola. Who am I? Irina or Ava? I can’t remember. At first I serve drinks. Diet coke and apple juice. No liquor or beer. It's all nude. Only topless places serve alcohol. I wear a blue and white checkered Swiss Alps outfit. White knee socks. Black patent leather heels. Two braids. Girls dance. Men watch. I take orders for juice. I stop serving soda. Start giving lap dances in the back. And shower dances. I don't like being hosed down. I have a routine at Club Ecstasy. Go to 24 Hour Fitness at noon on Gower. Go home. Get ready for work. Hair in rollers. Shave legs. Dark eyes. Glossy pink lips. After a summer I move onto The Gentleman’s Club. Prettier girls. More money. More competition; Celeste with her little tanned bum. Big auburn hair. Fake boobs and black patent leather thigh boots. Beth. Blonde hair, boobs, long legs. Lily, the tiny Asian. Looks fourteen. Wears bobby socks, pleated school uniform mini skirts. Dusty with her nude splits, back flips and tricks on the pole. Taylor and her fishnet skin suit. Candy just walks out onstage nude with her bare feet and boobs.
Amy hated being Karl’s PA. She hated the way he said “let’s ramp up the PA system” when he was about to give her a pile of work; how he laughed at his own cringey jokes; how he always seemed to be buying a new Jacuzzi. The only good thing about working for Karl was that it meant Amy had time to do what she really enjoyed doing: writing. Not the sort of writing that started with a Dear and ended with someone else’s signature; Amy’s pleasure came from watching a scene unfurl on her computer screen. Casting characters, setting up positions, injecting dialogue. And… Action! Amy liked her stories to have a climactic ending.
She walked toward him, letting her skirt drop back down as she came past him into the narrow hallway and on into her small bedroom. She turned to him with an expression of innocence and said, “Am I attractive to you? “Silly question. Of course you are,” he said.
Flora is very small. She only reaches the elbow of her grandmother as they stand in the old, dusty shop. A string bag dangles from her grandmother's elbow. That's what she carries her loose change around in when she's out shopping, notes and coins tinkling and fluttering on the pavement behind her like Hansel and Gretel leaving a trail through the forest.
Birdie Wallace said he wanted to fight me for the hand of Ann Marie O’Hare. And it wasn’t as if her hand was mine to give. ‘He knows he won’t win me over,’ she said when I showed her the scroll. ‘But this will restore his self respect - he thinks.’ She was impressed by the trouble he had taken to write on parchment. ‘Is that blood?’ ‘Red ink.’ She said, ‘He’s humiliated that I left him, so he wants to thump the other man. It’s straightforward really.’ I had to grant her that.
The classroom is modern and large, a rectangle of concrete and smooth featureless plaster bounded on two sides by glass windows. There is a long counter along one wall with locked storage cabinets under it, and at one end a sink that is usually splashed and stained with rose madder, Payne’s grey, burnt sienna and yellow ochre; the surprising palette that when skilfully applied to paper make up a body’s flesh and heft and shadows.
Sun Dan, my oldest friend, is a reflection of the former me. She’s content to take whatever this place has to throw at her – thick clouds of smoke; a kid pissing right beside her sandaled foot; the guy at the next table sneezing into the back of her head as he turns round to spare his lunch - all without standing up and shouting: “This is not fucking good enough!” Right now, though, I need Dan to understand; I need her to see that this restaurant, these people, this city – none of them are good enough.
There was something about her that grabbed me. Actually, there were many things about her that grabbed me. One was the way she inhabited her body so easily. There were plenty of attractive women on this ferry run, but they had the pinched beauty and tight bodies of professionals. Their bodies were walking catalogues of spin classes, Pilates, and expensive moisturiser. This woman, though, walked with the rolling ease of a dancer. Her ass was high and tight and gorgeously round. I had imagined doing all sorts of things with that ass. Her face and eyes had a look that was distant and inviting and bemused all at once, as if she was remembering something sweetly sad or delicious.
We nod at some monks hanging out their laundry, the long red robes like banners against the green foliage, and go up the steps to the temple hall, spacious, calm, shabby. We kick off our shoes at the door, me thinking, these over-designed North Face clown strollers costing a year’s salary for an average Burmese.
He stands there, his knees trembling, his hand gripping onto the sink. He lets out soft moans, the occasional gasp. A vein begins to push out from his neck. His body tenses. His belt buckle rattles around his ankles and he looks up at the mirror to see himself – a thirty-two year old man, masturbating. He does it and barely hears his wife call him.