Updated: Dec 23, 2019
Reflections from the bevy of mirrors and glitter showed the workings of sweaty, scantily-clad women and their clientele looking for a release from repression. The lights were dim and the smells of luxury perfume, cheap cologne, and the afternoon buffet danced around the room just as exotically as the dancers that inhabit it. Rihanna's "Skin" serves as the lead to the soundtrack of seduction to complete the mood.
Louis Markham is a man who wears his passion, daily. So it may come as a shock to you to find him at my place of work, The Velvet Petal. His initial presentation was completely jarring. He swung the door open with such a force that the light erupted from the outside and was magnified by all of the reflective surfaces.
There are many things about him that intrigue me. My coworkers thought he was some kind of strange man dressed in a dark suit and a floppy, well-worn hat. They thought he was scary because of the mass of unkempt hair all around his head. His appearance speaks to me, though, because he reminded me of a writer I studied when I was working for my liberal arts degree.
Louis walked toward the stage with such a loose, free-flowing attitude, as he could be in a meadow. I approached in my usual way to not disturb him. "Hi, I'm Hibiscus. How would you feel about a dance?"
"That would be great," Louis responded with a mix of exasperation and relief. "Could we adjourn to a private room?"
"Whatever you like, sweetheart," I obliged as I would with any other client.
I led Louis into one of the rooms at the back of the club. The carpet was well worn and reeking of the remnants of the last few dances. I started my dance slowly so that I could get a chance to ask more about him.
"So, what do you do for a living?" I asked while maintaining a voice of allure.
"I'm not Colonel Sanders or Mark Twain, If that's what you are thinking," he gruffly asserted. "I get enough shit from people about this."
"But you shouldn't be in here with me," I said gyrating in front of him. "There are people who should know who you are out there. Out in nature, not in this dim room dedicated to uncontrolled DNA expulsion."
"You had better not work in retail," Louis said. "Because you're not selling this fantasy to me very well. I'm very much in the moment and all you're doing is talking."
He was clearly getting frustrated, but I didn't want to sell him a fantasy. I wanted to go with him to the reality that he longed to present. But I had to play along, so I mounted myself on his lap and threw in some extra hair flips for good measure. Louis was still playing a part in the life he wanted, barely, but maybe I could bring him back to fully live the life that he wanted.
"Like what you should be doing," I told him as my body overtook his. "I want to give you what you really want because you are a special man. You have the potential to do more than what people are willing to pay attention to, you just have to realize it."
The electricity of what I was saying and what I was doing seemed to change him. I knew that I wanted to wade into this situation, just like any other dance. In order to give a client what they want, you have to start slow and leave them wanting more. He was frustrated with me because all I was being a tease, despite giving him exactly what he thought he wanted. The song was about three-quarters of the way through, so it was time to bring out the big guns.
"I sing the body electric..." I started to recite while raising and lowering my body on top of his.
"What's going on here?" Louis asked as I put my finger to his lips to silence him.
I carefully removed myself from his lap and spun into a casual dance before continuing. "The armies of those I love engirth me and I engirth them/They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them/And discorrupt them, and charge them full with the charge of the soul."
Once more I turned to Louis and shot the most seductive look I could. His face appeared to have a look of pleasure that was a combination of those that usually come from gratification, and as a realization of salvation. So I moved closer without touching him so I could finish the verse.
"Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves?" I recited. "And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?/And if the body does not do fully as much as the soul?/And if the body were not the soul, what is the soul?"
His eyes brightened with joy. He never thought that people would think of him other some sort avant-garde Elvis impersonator, let alone a dancer at The Blossom Lounge. I had given him the kind of release that he needed, and not the one that would just be a temporary fix.
"Hibiscus..." he said softly.
I spun into his line of sight so I could see his face. He was happy. Not for having someone dressed in a manner to reveal Victoria's secret, covered in body glitter, smelling like a synthetic batch of exotic flowers. He was happy because someone actually understood him. Maybe all it took was for a girl like me to break that stereotype that women who take their clothes off for money can be more than just titillation who whoever wants it. I turned again to continue the dance as I reclined into his beard.
"My name is Renee, let's talk 'Leaves of Grass.'"