When the announcer calls my name, I march onto the stage. I make sure to sway my hips in long motions, jutting out my rear slightly. I already feel eyes following me. I smile in response, hiding my teeth from their hungry eyes. It’s best not to flaunt too much before starting the tease. If you do, the men will get bored of you soon.
I reach the center of the stage with my hands on my hips. My fingers brush against the ruffles of my removable red skirt. I dress in all red, from my scarlet red corset, to my matching skirt and thigh-high stockings. I feel like a goddess on a pedestal in front of the men below me.
Latin music turns on. It's quick and fleeting. I sway my hips to the bongos in the background. Men scream my name, and I know for sure that I'm doing it right.
I shimmy my butt against the long pole before me. It's cold but the warmth of my grinding body heats the unforgiving metal, and I begin to climb. I twist my core inward and extend my legs and begin to swing.
The men hoot and holler as I pull my oldest tricks. I flip myself on the pole so that my head points to the direction of the stage and swing again. I force myself to smile despite the pressure of blood flooding my brain.
A hundred dollar bill flies beside me and motivates me to swing faster. More bills fly my way and I hold out for as long as I can.
A clear voice cuts through the commotion and tells me, "Strip!"
I slide down smoothly onto the stage and land on my knees. To entice my audience, I move my shoulders in waves and make my first eye contact with a man in the front smirking at me. He has wads of bills in his hand and I smile, bitting my red stained lips.
As I roll my shoulders, I wink at him and blow a kiss. He catches it with his free hand and throws a fifty with his other. I reach my five minute peak. It's time I make the strip.
I march to the edge of the stage with my five-inch stilettos and reach my arms to the sky. My body shakes to the increasing rhythm of the song and I don't miss a beat.
A man in the very back removes himself from his seat to run to the front and throws a bundle of fives. "Take it off!" His voice dies in the outrageously loud music and I turn myself to the side, bending down low to pick the wad up and run the wad across my breasts seductively. Then I remove the band from the bundle and toss the bills above me as I dance. I shift my feet and unwind underneath a shower of green.
The men screech. The drool at the corner of their lips tell me they want more. Throughout my session, I have kept track of time and now realize that I have reached the end of my session. I need to perform the grand finale.
I tear my removable skirt and toss it into the crowd. A group of men catch my skirt and begin fighting for it. I don't mind. I'm almost done.
The men have gotten impatient. They chant, "Strip! Strip! Strip!"
Before I turn my back to the crowd to commence pulling on the strings of my corset, a startling pair of eyes captures me in his gaze. A man I have not noticed before greets me at the stage with a five-dollar bill and places it courteously at my feet. He winks, but I can't tear myself away from his eyes. They're abnormally gray and cloudy with a sort of emptiness about them. Is he blind? I wonder.
We stare at each other long enough for the buzzer to sound and my audience groans in disappointment. The announcer dismisses me casually.
"Give it up forrrrr Laylaaaa!"
A few more bills appear on the stage and I quickly collect them, trying my best to maintain my flirtatiousness while collecting the bills as quickly as possible.
I make my way into the dressing room to change into my regular clothes. That is my last tease for the night. When I'm all dressed up, I hear another stripper gossip about me from behind the door.
"Ugh, look at Rosa. She thinks she's too good to strip. Why would you be a stripper if you're not willing to show a nip or two? Am I right?"
I sigh and count my money. $657 dollars. I count that with the individual teases I had with clients and that totals up to a little over a thousand.
I open the door to find Rebecca chatting away with her crew of girls and they sneer at me.
"Hmm, grandma just finished changing. About time!" Her friends laugh and I meet her face. Her laughing stops abruptly and she stares back intensely. To her surprise, I pull out my earnings for the day out of my purse and slip a twenty into her hands.
"Treat yourself to something nice. Or maybe pay off that tuition I heard you complaining about."
Her cheeks downturn into a grimace. "I don't need your charity."
"Then what do you want?" I ask. "You complain that I make too much and you complain about your debts, so what did you expect me to do?"
Rebecca turns her direction to a wall besides us and hides underneath her blonde hair.
"Excuse me, I'll be heading home."
I waltz out the door and my smile slips. Now that I'm out, I'm no longer Layla, the sexy and always-smiling stripper. I'm Rosa Rodriguez, a tired college student swimming in debt.