Time meandered within the decaying walls of the Pink Palace. The frosted glass doors were barriers to the real world of sunshine and respectability. The days merged one into the other, broken only by the rattle and clank of the doors admitting the various lone men who haunted the theater during the endless afternoons.
One by one the regular customers emerged from the shadows to make my acquaintance. They all seemed nice enough, but it was amazing they had nothing better to do than hang out in the Pink Palace every day. There was one old man, Hank, who brought food for us, and lurked silently by the soda machine. He'd been coming in every day for twenty-five years.
They all had their favorites, mostly the girls who would acknowledge their presence. They hung around and tried to talk to anyone who would give them the time of day.
I was no one's favorite. Though I tried not to let it bother me, it did. It wasn't that I wanted their attention; it was that they thought their flattery was so important.
“It's to your advantage to cozy up to Dirk,” Devon informed me.
Dirk was an attractive older man who dropped hundreds on the girls every day. I assumed he was independently wealthy, since he never seemed to go to work.
“He likes us all,” she said. “Some days if it weren't for him, we wouldn't make anything.”
Dirk Delaney. He would soon become Dirk the Jerk, my nemesis. I hated his pompous attitude, as though he was some benevolent Daddy Warbucks to us. I tried to play his game, but no amount of groveling endeared me to him. He went out of his way to praise and lavish his bountiful dollars on the other girls. When I took the stage he would sneer and hurl insults.
Thankfully, Dirk the Jerk was not the only patron at the Pink Palace , and I got wise to the fact that I had to let the guys think they had a chance with me. They had to believe they were better than me: Oh, you're such a sweet man. You are so smart. You're wife is so lucky to have you. No, I don't have a boyfriend.
But then I had to put them off: I don't know you well enough yet. We get in big trouble if we see customers outside of here. I'm so busy; it's hard to make time.
It seemed more demeaning to the men. They were the ones with the problem. I didn't have a life, but at least I didn't frequent strip clubs hoping to find a fuck, or worse yet, a wife. They paid us for putting up with their fragile egos. We earned our money.
this story is an excerpt of J.D. Riso's novel "Blue".
more about this novel, here
words: J.D. Riso, US / Poland (blog)
photo: Dorothee Lang, Germany (oil on copper)