I was sitting at the main stage at the Acropolis. Again. I was wearing my new hat, a short-brimmed, tall crowned fedora, in a snappy gray glen plaid. It made me feel hip, not unlike drinking vodka drinks in a dive bar. Everybody loves my headwear.
It was Friday night at shift change.
A cute Hispanic girl, short-haired and compact, was packing up her music at the back of the stage, while the night shift dancers clumped down the stairs in their 9-inch heels and made their way, each of them, to their stage.
S., my all-time favorite, wearing what looked like a black one-piece bathing suit, walked past me towards the back of the bar. I waved my fingers at her; she almost didn’t notice (she had her game face on and wasn’t making eye contact with anyone, just scanning the tops of their heads and smiling) but I waved harder and she turned back and smiled.
“Hey! Yay!” she said. “Nice hat.”
“Thanks!” I raised it, half to show my now-bald head, half as a gesture of courtesy. “It keeps my head warm.”
She laughed, then smirked. “But now I can’t rub your head!”
I mock-glared. “It just means you have to ASK first.”
She laughed and clomped away on top of her stripper stilts – I mean, shoes.
Later, in the private area, I sat in the chair and looked up at her. Her face was barely visible below the line of the brim of my hat. She reached for it, stopped, asked “May I?”
I nodded. She lifted it off my head and plunked it down over her long straight reddish-brown hair. She posed and pouted into the mirror behind me. It looked surprisingly good on her – gave her a 1930s-esque noir-ish look. Of course, wearing the hat, her stripper shoes, and nothing else, while standing in the open V of my legs helped, too.
She started to put it back, and the music for this song started at the same moment. In mid-motion she changed her mind and set it on the table next to me. “You can not wear it when I’m dancing for you,” she declared, and then bent from the waist, and dragged her long hair over the top of my head. I’d been cold all night, and her hair was warm and soft, and I shivered from the feeling as my private dance began.
I must have missed my opportunity, if any, to hang out with S. outside the club. I didn’t get the impression that she was interested any longer – though to be honest, my instincts when it comes to reading other people’s body language are poor even on a good day. With someone whose job is to send confusing signals, I should probably abandon all hope. S. isn’t a bimbo, isn’t covered in tats or piercings, has small, natural breasts and a Roman nose.
I’ve noticed, though, that people like her, customers and dancers and bar staff alike. Other dancers will joke and flirt with her. The rail is nearly always full when she’s dancing. She may or may not be a good person (whatever that means) but she gives the best show of friendliness and… connection that I’ve ever seen.
Fuck. This girl gives me a case of the “if-onlies” of epic proportions.
I felt the maudlin-y feeling welling up in me when I watched her on stage, later, after I was done with private dances for a bit. Figured it was time to leave before I did or said something dumb. What would Humphrey Bogart do? How would Han Solo have handled this? Fly away, don’t come back, raise some hell.
When S. came over near me again, I leaned over. “I’m outta here, toots, and I’m taking the hat with me.”
“OK,” she smiled. She squatted down and collected the money in two fistfuls.
I stood up. “I wish we’d met somewhere else.” Just like that, something dumb snuck out of my mouth.
Her smile turned a bit sad. Her dark eyes grew a little darker. She reached across the rail and laid her hand, palm up, on the bar. When I didn’t move at first, she tapped it against the wood.
I put my hand in hers and she squeezed it. “I’m glad you came in tonight. I’m glad I got to see you” she said.
“Me, too,” I said and walked out and home.
Surprisingly it wasn’t raining. Still fuckin’ cold though.