January 4, 2023

Whatever Happened to Helen

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“After only two months, Helen decided to become an exotic dancer.”

“You mean a stripper?” he says.

“No,” I say. “An exotic dancer.”

“Is there a difference?”

“Um, ya,” I say, trying to stifle my irritation.

I mean, I don’t actually know if there’s a difference, but I’ll be damned if I am going to give him the satisfaction. Jake has always been a know-it-all. He suffers from small dick energy, always trying to control the conversation, always mansplaining things to me that I don’t need explained.

I roll my eyes at him. “As usual you’re missing the whole point,” I say.

He shrugs, making it clear he doesn’t care. “Whatever. I always figured her for a stripper.”

“You did not.”

Now I’m staring at him, uncertain if he’s joking. “Wait, what, are you serious?”

He laughs, pleased with himself.

“You’re a dick,” I say, but he isn’t listening.

His eyes have become fixed on the stage, watching the stripper swinging her tatas. That’s why we’re here. So he can get drunk and ogle the strippers and their tatas. I can’t complain, though. I was the one who asked him out. He was hesitant until I told him he could pick the spot. I guess he thought I was going to invite him to a poetry reading or something.

When I told him we could go wherever he wanted, I knew he would use it as an opportunity to force me here with him. He’s been asking me to go to this strip club with him for months. Ever since it opened. So, I pretended to be annoyed, but really I was happy. It will just make everything easier. Being here. And I definitely could use the money.

“I wonder if I could do that,” I say.

He’s still not listening. The stripper is balancing upside down precariously on the pole in front of us, her legs spread in an awkward vee, the thin material of her outfit barely covering her crotch.

I slap him playfully, trying to get his attention. He tears his eyes away from the stage to look at me briefly. He’s annoyed.

“What,” he says. He takes a sip of his beer, his eyes wandering back to the stripper on stage.

“I was saying, maybe I could do that,” I say.

He turns his head slowly toward me, just enough that he can still see the stripper out of the corner of his eye. When she moves off to the other side of the stage, he grabs his beer to take a sip. I’m still looking at him, waiting. He stares at me, confused.

“What,” he says in the way he gets when he knows he hasn’t been listening. “What’re we even talking about?”

“I said, maybe I could be like Helen. Maybe become an exotic dancer?”

He’s midway through another gulp of beer and nearly spits it out. He wants to laugh, but I can see him looking at me, appraising me, deciding whether I have the body to be a dancer. He looks over at the girl on stage and back at me. Shakes his head.

“Your boobs are too small,” he says. “No one will pay to see a body like yours.”

He takes another sip of beer, swallows, still staring at me, waiting for my reaction.

“Just kidding,” he says. “Lighten up.”

I roll my eyes again. His response isn’t any kind of surprise to me. He’s been making these kinds of comments about my body since I met him. I know he wants to sleep with me but like I said, small dick energy.

He and his idiot friends all have it. It’s like a disease. None of them know how to have a hookup. Instead, they have this peculiar strategy for trying to attract women called negging. Their brilliant idea is to tell the pretty girl she’s ugly cause she’s never been told that before, and, according to these geniuses, when she hears it for the first time, she will be so intrigued with them that she’ll happily drop her panties in the backseat of the tiny Aveo they borrowed from their parents to get to the bar. I’ve hung out with Jake and his friends enough to know that they will be virgins for life. For me, that’s their best quality.

“Like I said, not a stripper, an exotic dancer. Helen told me she’d made enough money to pay off her student loans after she started dancing.”

It’s his turn to roll his eyes. “So she says. But with a body like hers, I’d wager she’s earning her money on the side, if you know what I’m saying.” He starts laughing and snorting. He fancies himself a real card.

“Ya, Jake,” I say with mock irritation. “I get it. You aren’t that subtle.”

He rolls his eyes at me again. I take a sip of my drink. He stops laughing and goes back to watching the stripper on stage. She’s wrapping up her set, which is good cause I need to get on with business.

I move just a bit closer to him, I need him to start paying attention. Jake looks over at me. He thinks I’m irritated with him. He tries to smile. He leans in as if he’s about to say something, but really, I know he’s trying for a kiss. Another dumb strategy. I turn my head to avoid his lips. He pecks my cheek. He’s disappointed. I need him to be more than disappointed. I need to him to be worked up. It works best if he’s aroused.

“Don’t be mad,” he says. “It’s nothing personal. I just don’t see you as a dancer. Plus, you’ve already got a good job selling real estate.”

Jake thinks I’m a realtor. When we first met, I was with a friend, and we were talking about real estate and property values, and Jake just made the assumption. I never bothered to correct him. The less he knows about me, the easier all of this will be.

“I do,” I say. “But it’s a lot of work. It’s grind. I’m starting to get bored. I’m ready for something new.”

I reach over to touch his knee with my hand. Guys like Jake love that kind of thing. The virgins are always the easiest to manipulate. A few furtive smiles. Lots of texting. The occasional night out, strictly platonic, of course, but with just enough intimacy to make them think they have a chance. But they don’t. Guys like Jake are just inventory to me. Just stock on the shelf that sometimes needs to be sold. Like a good piece of prime rib, aged to perfection.

The stripper has taken her bow, collected her cash, and moved off stage. The DJ is announcing the next girl, a new stripper, every 15 minutes. The music switches to suit the new girl’s style. It’s loud, slow, and throbbing. That’s my cue.

“You think being a stripper is easier than being a realtor,” he says.

My hand is still on his knee. He’s enjoying the attention. He’s become animated, waving his beer bottle around as he speaks. As expected, he’s so excited that he knocks over some of the empties on the table. The bottles make a clatter as they hit the floor. The music is still throbbing. My hand is still on his knee. I can almost see the hunger in his eyes, his pupils have started to dilate.

A waitress hustles over to try and clean up the mess. She bends over to pick up the bottles. I watch Jake’s eyes fixate on her breasts. This only increases his arousal. I help it along, moving my hand up to his thigh. I don’t mind him looking. I can’t begrudge him one last look. Twenty minutes from now, he’ll wish he had done more than look. Life is full of regrets. Seize the day, Jake. Seize the day.

When the waitress is done, he looks over at me. I start rubbing his leg softly now. Steady, in time to the music, up and down, my fingertips so close but so far. His breathing is shallow. I slowly look down at my hand. He follows my eyes. I keep rubbing, my hand is like the arm of a metronome, back and forth along his thigh. We both know his pants are getting tight. He tries to shift himself, hoping I won’t notice. He looks up at me. I smile. He blushes.

“I was thinking,” I say. My hand caressing his thigh, still moving with the music, my fingers insistent. “Do you want to maybe…”

I giggle softly, knowing I’m fulfilling his idea of how all of this is supposed to unfold, how he thinks shy girls behave. He’s so hungry now. So eager. He swallows. My hand hasn’t stopped, up and down, he shifts again, his pants are so tight now he’s regretting his fashion choice. My hand is high enough on his thigh I could just reach out and squeeze him. He’d like that. But I don’t. I’m not interested. I have never been interested. This is just the job. Like he said, it’s nothing personal.

He takes a last sip of beer. Swallows again. I can see the lust. But also the fear. He’s scared. He’s never been with a woman. I know that. It’s one of the reasons I chose him. Contrary to lore and fable, in my experience, harvesting a male virgin is just easier than trying to harvest a woman.

Take Helen, for instance. The amount of effort it took to me persuade her to become an exotic dancer. And the fight she put up when we harvested her for parts. My lord, what a ruckus. She was something else. Not like Jake, here. Jake is as gentle as a gazelle. He reminds me of an article I read once about how young lions herd gazelles toward the older lions who lie in wait. When the gazelles get close enough, the old lions roar and startle the gazelles back into the jaws of the young lions behind them. It will be the same with Jake. His arousal will lead him right into the jaws of the waiting lion.

It’s a shame, really. Harvesting men like Jake used to get me excited. It used to get me as aroused as Jake is now. But not anymore. Now it’s just another job. A grind. So predictable. So tedious.

But feigning excitement is part of the job. So I stare at him intensely and wait for him to suggest we get going. He’s excited and nervous. But his small dick energy is preventing him from making the move. So useless. I stop stroking his thigh. He lets out a kind of grunt in frustration.

“Come on,” I say. “I’m going to make this night special for you.”

“Ya,” he says as though he doubts what’s happening. He’s a kid in the candy store now. His hunger has made him docile. Submissive.

“Ya,” I say and giggle again. “You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for this.”

I stand up and take his hand in my own and turn to leave. He can’t believe this is happening. I’m laying it on a little thick, but he doesn’t notice. His motor is revving so high a dancing gorilla could walk on stage, and he wouldn’t notice. He’s so wired and heated he isn’t thinking at all.

But I’ve learned you can never be too certain. So, I take a few short steps, and just as he starts to follow me out the door, I stop short and let him bump right into me.

Of course, I push back a bit with my hips, push myself into him, the heat from our bodies is electric. I can feel him pressed into me. His hands reach out and find my hips as he tries to stop himself from falling over. I giggle again. I push myself into him a bit more, a move I know will ignite his imagination of the night he thinks lies ahead. He is holding my hips so tight I worry he is going to explode right there. We can’t have that.

I look over my shoulder at him, tilt my head just like all the girls in his fantasies, and giggle again. And before he can try to take control, I playfully slap his hands away from my hips and start for the door again.

“Follow me,” I say. And just like the little puppy he is, he obeys and falls in behind me. There’s no turning back.

As we clear the door and move out to the parking lot, I look over to see Gary standing with his back pressed against the wall, smoking a cigarette. I’m still holding Jake’s hand. The physical contact will help with the next part.

Jake’s right, I really shouldn’t complain. It’s Gary who has to do all the work. It’s Gary who has to do the actual harvesting of parts. I’m just the collector. The gal who stocks the supply and keeps the inventory fresh and full. It’s Gary, the young lion, who has to cut Jake into appropriate pieces and ship him all around town. Gary’s an efficient guy, part butcher and part distributor. But still, it’s a lot of work.

I look over my shoulder and watch Gary shadow us to the car. My job is almost over. I few fake screams to fool any onlookers into thinking that Jake and I are being abducted, and that’s that. Later, I’ll check my account for payment. Another successful harvesting. I guess it isn’t so bad.

Still, I wish I had the body to be a dancer like Helen.

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