A tiny blue bag of off-white powder sits next to tubes of lipstick and expensive non-synthetic brushes in Chalice’s open metal make-up case on the counter of her station in the dressing room.
She teeters over to my station in black vinyl six-inch heels, which make her tower over everyone at a total of six feet and four inches.
The silver glitter specks on her minidress twinkle like stars across deep space.
“Can I borrow your Skinny Puppy Last Rites CD?”
I smile. It’s 1999 and we’re the only strippers we know who have the guts to dance to industrial.
“Of course,” I say as I dig it out of my bag.
“Come over to the house tonight,” she says. “Let’s party”
She dangles the bag of MDMA powder from her long, manicured fingers, then sets it down.
Before I can answer, she runs up the stairs. Each step exhibits the grace of a cheetah.
I hadn’t done any variation of ecstasy in years, but I knew I had to join her.
We sit on the floor at the edge of the bed that’s now hers. My face flushes and my palms itch.
Chalice hands me a mirror with a thin MDMA line spread across it like a stratus cloud across an afternoon sky. I stare at it and fidget with my own cut straw in my hand.
“Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts,” Pharaoh says and bats his natural half-inch eyelashes. He’s my ex, and Chalice just moved in with him.
He’s right. I’m reluctant because I remember the last time we partied when he had a girlfriend, before our first failed—and brief—dating stint. Somehow we willed an orgy with our mind—so we thought—so that we could have an excuse to make out in front of his girlfriend at the time. Neither he nor myself partook in the evening’s sexcapades. Instead, we glanced over as we passed the writhing bodies in the living room and hall on the way to the bedroom, where his girlfriend found us. The three of us ended up in bed together, but his girlfriend fell asleep. He left her for me. Then he left me for drugs. I figured he and Chalice were a good fit since drugs was their thing.
I plug one nostril and plunge into the line. The powder burns my nose and tastes sour as it clots down my throat in bitter chunks.
“Good goddamn,” I say as I snort louder than a walrus.
Chalice grabs me by the hands and leads me toward the dresser. We stand together in the doorway of the bedroom.
“Do some magick,” she says. “Like you do with the O.T.O.”
I don’t respond with words. I close my eyes. So does she. We press our foreheads together under the door frame.
The Egyptian goddess Nuit arches across my mind as outer space bejeweled with stars and planets. In my mind, I recite the lines of the priestess role in the Gnostic Mass:
But to love me is better than all things; if under the night-stars in the desert thou presently burnest mine incense before me, invoking me with a pure heart, and the serpent flame therein, thou shalt come a little to lie in my bosom. For one kiss wilt thou then be willing to give all; but whoso gives one particle of dust shall lose all in that hour. Ye shall gather goods and store of women and spices; ye shall wear rich jewels; ye shall exceed the nations of the earth in splendour and pride; but always in the love of me, and so shall ye come to my joy. I charge you earnestly to come before me in a single robe, and covered with a rich head-dress. I love you! I yearn to you! Pale or purple, veiled or voluptuous, I who am all pleasure and purple, and drunkenness of the innermost sense, desire you. Put on the wings, and arouse the coiled splendour within you: come unto me!” [Liber AL, I:61] “To me! To me!” [Liber AL, I:62] “Sing the rapturous love-song unto me! Burn to me perfumes! Wear to me jewels! Drink to me, for I love you! I love you. I am the blue-lidded daughter of sunset; I am the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night-sky. To me! To me! [Liber AL, I:63-65]
Chalice pulls away with tears in her eyes. She slumps on the bed.
“I saw her,” she says.
“Who?” I ask.
“The goddess of space,” she says, although I told her nothing about who or what I was invoking.
“Her name is Nuit. She’s Egyptian. I said her prayer from the Book of the Law.” I say, and sit next to her on the bed.
“Thank you,” she says with her arms wrapped around me. She weeps.
Daniel from Cash Me Ousside Booking Agency hires me to book strippers when he finds out I’m eager to get out of stripping.
Some stripper shifts start as early as 7 a.m., if you can imagine that. A few steak joints in the ‘burbs open that early. The dancers are almost always late, except the older women, and by older I mean they’re in their 40s to 60s.
But I don’t deal with those problems because I arrive at the office at 9 a.m., and by then Daniel practically has three phone cords wrapped around his neck like a telecomm noose. His face a permanent beet red. His office desk covered in weed, post-its and empty water bottles.
“You want to work nights this weekend? Then get your lazy ass up and get to the club NOW,” Daniel says into the receiver and stands up, his eyes glazed and bloodshot. “You’re already 30 minutes late.”
He slams the phone down, grabs the bong, takes a hit standing up. He coughs for a solid minute, his face a bruised purple as mucus flies from his mouth. He sits back down at his desk and loads the bowl, hands me the bong. He grabs a pad of paper with a list of dancer’s phone numbers.
“We need to send someone else there, just in case. Start calling,” he says.
I take a modest hit. Exhale. I study the texture of legal pad paper between my fingers. I read the list aloud.
“Jasmine, Diamond, Star, Athena, Destiny, Amber, Gypsy, Rose, Luna, Misty, Brandi, Nikki, Hunter, Brittany, Alice, Hannah, Gia, Maddie, Shelby, Lily.”
We both laugh. The smoke still lingers over our heads.
“But what if the scheduled girl goes in?” I ask.
“We’ll have to either send whoever gets there second home, or convince the club to let them both stay.” He says.
“So I’m going to piss someone off, either way.” I say.
“Basically,” he says. “Welcome to hell.” He takes another bong rip as I dial numbers on the landline.
These stories originally appeared in Exotic Magazine, April 2017.