Karen by Connor de Bruler

I used to visit Karen’s little house on Locust Ave. on Monday and Wednesday nights. Those were the only nights she had off from the club. She seemed to like my presence because I gave her personal space and I wasn’t judgmental. Karen stripped at the Gold Club out by the airport. She used to work at Ramon’s in the center of town, but her boss was an asshole and she didn’t feel safe with the more chauvinistic clientele who were always trying to slip her more money so they could finger her pussy. The people who ran the Gold Club were much nicer and the bouncers would buy them dinner sometimes. I was always a little interested checking the place out but I never ended up going. I assumed Karen liked me because I wasn’t part of her work life. Aside from me, the only people she knew were strippers and prostitutes, disk jockeys and bouncers.

She talked about her job a lot, but I never instigated the topic. Karen needed to get it off her chest sometimes through deep conversations that lasted for three or four hours. She told me about her ex-husband taking her to crumby motels and taking turns fucking her with his inebriated mother. She told me about getting thrown against a wall in the middle of the night when he was angry for some inexplicable and illogical reason. She told me about getting the rape kit at St. Francis Medical Center after the DJ at Ramon’s took her out for drinks and she woke up in a ditch with her clothes on backwards. She told me about all the weirdos who the bouncers had to tune up when they harassed her. She had more than enough emotional baggage.

There were good times too. She told me a lot of the strippers inner thighs were bruised from having to support themselves on the pole constantly, but any kind of scar or blemish seemed to disgust most of the clients. Karen’s best work buddy came into the changing room upset because a group of men wouldn’t stop commenting about her bruises. Karen impulsively walked out on stage, spread her thighs out, and started licking her bruises in front of the party of six middle-aged men.

“Bruises make me want to fuck!” She kept on repeating it obnoxiously until the manager made her get off the stage.

There were other times when she just needed to talk about the weather or how I was doing. I didn’t like that question because I was always doing well at Karen’s house. She’d cook me little apple cobblers and share a tub of ice-cream with me while we watched reruns of Family Guy or the Simpsons. I borrowed a few of her books and forced her to read my copy of Victoria by Knut Hamsun.

We ended up sleeping together only once and she cried in my arms. I whispered in her ear, as softly as I could, that I was there for her and that everything was alright. I told her I loved her and I meant it too.

Sometimes when I pass Locust Ave., I think about her and silently wish to myself that she was still alive.

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