Claudia made herself into Cherry and went to the strip club just because. Green eye shadow. Black eyeliner. Red lipstick. A face painted to imitate the likeness of another face, a wanting face, a grave tablature, a motherland face veiling new-old eyes, virginally ancient eyes.
Cherry entered the strip club. First thing she did was to go into the restroom. The floor was sticky. Paper towels crumpled and strewn about. The walls a corroded lime color, algae in a dreamless cave kind of greendark. Cherry inspected her face in the mirror. Green eye shadow black eyeliner red lipstick reflected back to her in bronze mortuary light. As if the world were ending inside the bathroom. Cherry tried on a smile. Her smile in the mirror snapped back at her, a boomerang with barracuda teeth. The strip club is going to be fun, Cherry heard the words in her head, repeating, it’s going to be fun, repeating, it’s going to be, a loop pleasing to the ear, how small your ears she noticed in the funereally tinted glass, your ears are much smaller than I remember, and they’re not pierced, maybe one day … it’s going to be fun, the words kept muscling in, with Cherry understanding this was how reality worked. Chant like vibrations assumed precedence. Things happened because they had to happen, they were insisted upon repeatedly and reality was established as something happening. Before exiting the restroom, Cherry flushed the toilet once, wanting to hear the legendary whoosh of a toilet in a stall, echoes of an old man’s cough ground up in a compactor.
The stage was a wooden plank, its perimeters adorned by frosted white bulbs, a runway spanning about twelve feet in length upon which a voluptuous woman with dark braided hair and monumental breasts was parading back and forth her feet squishily packed into glitter-sequined heels back and forth backed by disco western grooves blaring from house speakers.
Cherry thought about sitting. She continued to stand. She watched the men watching the woman on stage. Their eyes … the whole thing like glazed over gluetraps. Cherry wondered what they saw. She was certain they weren’t all seeing the same thing. That wasn’t possible. Cherry saw what she saw through Cherry’s eyes. And wondered. Why? What was it? How was it? Was there sincere passion aroused by this ritual, or was it rigged, a simulacrum of passion generating its own cause and effect through the agency of rote standards: if doing A. you will feel B. Whether or not you felt B. didn’t matter. It was a B. which belonged unequivocally to its preceding A., a marriage contrived in calculus. Cherry wished she could interview the eyes of the men staring, wished she could ask them questions, hear what they had to say, listen to each set of eyes speak off the record autonomously and honestly about what it was they were taking in, being taken in by, no judgment, she just wanted to know the eye’s impressions in relation to the brain’s shifting perceptions. And somewhere, of course, the desert of lust had a say in all this.
Cherry watched in silence the men staring at the woman. The song ended. Scattered applause. The woman waving, as if to soldiers leaving for war. Her smile was pure candy. The woman left the stage. Another woman came on, a gartered snake with a budding parasol. Cherry, mirrorless, forgot who she was, where she was, and considered taking home one of the men, whichever one would best fit in her purse.