By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“Don’t worry,” she says. “Parties are easy. Lots of cash.”
She carefully drops the lipstick tube in a side compartment of her huge athletic bag, and I see the collection of toys: whipped cream in a can, a metallic vibrator, a huge double-headed dildo in case another girl has been invited. You can never overprepare, Natasha assures me. She gets out, adjusts her outfit, looks at the nondescript stucco house. “Here’s what you say: ‘I’m the driver. We collect half at the door and half after, plus extras.’ Tell them you’ll be just outside.”
This is my first week as her driver. The guy from the agency, Manny — huge, with “Death” and “Mother” tattooed on opposing forearms — is away in New Orleans. Natasha doesn’t trust the other drivers.
In her 6-inch heels, she’s two inches â taller than me. We climb past a dozen cars and knock on the door. No one answers, and my stomach churns — maybe they’ve all passed out. Natasha tries the handle, turns, opens the front door to a blast of music and smoke. Fourteen men line the room cradling their beers at the neck, eyeing us. Pointing at me, one of them moans, “Ai, mi hijo!” His friend chokes with laughter. Natasha, forcing a sly smile, asks for the host. A short young man with a shaved head comes out from the kitchen, his hand in his pocket, his pupils enormous. “S’my house. S’is party,” he says, pointing to the other end of the room, where a man wearing a bra and wig is talking heatedly to his friends.
“I’m the driver,” I say.
“What?” he yells.
“I’m the driver! Half at the door!”
He considers me for a moment. He looks at Natasha, who squints her eyes and pouts, then laughs, hands on hips. The host pulls out a wad of 20s and gives me a hundred.
“There you go, kid,” he sneers.
“I’ll be right outside,” I say. Natasha touches my shoulder, then lays down her boom box and trots off to the bathroom. I push past two men coming into the living room, bumping into one of them in a way that I think is hard, but the man apologizes and keeps walking. No one looks at me, and I have nowhere to go but out. I close the front door, and within a minute I hear cheering. “Oooooh. Oh! Yeah, baby, me!”
I sit on the porch, stand up, sit back down again. One hour, and then I can knock. More cheers. I’m such a good boyfriend, I think, very understanding. They see her, they touch her, they watch her, they want her — but hey, she comes home to me. Isn’t loyalty sexy? When she began stripping, that thought was reasonable and even consoling. It was my mantra. Here’s another one: I’m young, and she’s putting herself through school. Or: What right do I have to tell her what to do? How can I insist she keep working at burger joints and fund-raiser telethons? Thanks to college, my friends are going to be in debt for a decade. Natasha can pay for it all in one year of stripping, but here we are in year two. No matter how often she comes home exhausted and smoky-stale, cavalier and hating men, she’ll be doing this for a long time. The money’s too easy, Natasha said today while we lay in bed. You strip till they won’t have you.
Another cheer goes up, and then a chant: “Go! Go! Go!” I think of the gig earlier in the week, the house of the widower in Eagle Rock, no porch light, blue TV light coming from the front room. He had Natasha dress up in his wife’s pearls and masturbated while she played with the vibrator. I know because I stood watching in the window, appalled at my excitement. The widower danced around the room with her in the center of it. She was moaning and he’d become a windup toy, begging Natasha, “Please, please let me fuck you.” She told me later she came for real.
I feel the car keys in my pocket and the hundred bucks. I think about how it took hundreds of men loving her wide hips, not just me, to make Natasha believe she was beautiful. I imagine myself driving away alone, now. I stay seated and my hands twitch.
More yelling and whistling. Then more. Then “Oh, honey!” and I know that was her yelling, know she’s come for them spectacularly. An hour is up. I knock. The host comes out grinning, looking back inside as the cheering continues. “Natasha says hang on, she’ll just be another 10 minutes.” And he closes the door again.
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