We danced in a red leather box like we were puppets. Our bodies coated in electric chains, hair dried out and frazzled. They told us to move our hips until we bled, until our breasts spit milk on the stage like snow. At night I ran a bath and dipped my legs in, they were dirty and sore, turned the water to charcoal. The stench of bile and stale smoke plastered my pale skin, made it heavy. My armpits had grown musty and wet, stained pink from hot wax and petroleum jelly. I wanted to tuck myself beneath the water, hoped my thighs would grow scales and I could slip myself down the drain.
We got paid every Thursday. Crumpled dollar bills filled our panties until we thought they would burst. I had to shave myself down to make more room. Men flocked to our boxes, surrounded us until we couldn’t breathe, their rough tired skin scraping at our stomachs. I veiled my eyes with plastic lashes, they made everything blurry, tolerable.
By midnight we always had a crowd. Men in their 40s, their families tied up at home in twisted bliss. We were what kept them alive. They kept pawing, voices muffled by the constant ringing of the stereo. They called me baby, salivated at the thought of touching me alone in their bed, with nothing but a sheet to hide their shame. We had to pretend our blood wasn’t red and sip cheap wine to fight the nightmares. Nobody ever taught you how to forget a nightmare.
I doused my body in glitter to cover my scars. Painted my cracked nails red, watched them slide up and down an old mans cock until the sun rose, until the rooster crowed and I stuffed a strap of twenties in my back pocket.
I spent it on groceries.