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by Brad Cox

I moved up the street from the place about five years ago. I still remember driving south on Division and seeing the sign for the first time: The Pitiful Princess. As I drove by, I knew that this place and I would have a deep, soulful connection. I was living near 131st and Division, right next to a head shop and a market owned by an angry older couple, who didn’t speak English very well at all.

Things were just as hard then. Money was always tight, trying to survive with a Portland address, even before the rent crisis took hold. The lady and I would often argue. We were younger then—more susceptible to stress and expressing ourselves with anger. Who the fuck am I kidding? I was. She just never did put up with my shit much.

The first time I walked in the door, the place was mostly empty. There was a guy with no shirt on in the corner, at a lottery machine, with a cute, skinny blond on his arm for the shift. There were two stages about fifteen feet from each other; the place was tiny. Why two stages? I don’t know, but on each stage was a half-naked woman, sitting on the edge of the stage, texting. The music wasn’t too terribly loud, so, I figured this would be a good place to cool down. Her and I had got in another blow-up about this or that, and I needed time (and a drink).

I walked up to the bar and an extraordinarily polite young man wearing a shirt collar and bow tie came up and asked what he could get me. I looked up at the chalkboard sign where the daily specials were written, I said I’d have a PBR and a rum ’n’ cola. It didn’t take him long to get them, since the PBR was in a can and I was the only thirsty guy there. I turned from the bar and saw the best seat in the house. A weathered, old, blue easy chair at a table right between the two scantily clad young ladies texting. It was a comfortable chair. I enjoyed the soft texture of the worn arms. I drank my drinks, being left completely alone, as I politely tipped each girl now and then. There were three curtains in the back corner—two were dark and lit like you’d imagine a room in a brothel to be lit (but, not a nice brothel, mind you). The third was brightly lit from behind and sheer—I could see and hear everything going on in there, as I sat, drank and typed up another entry into my growing body of work about getting drunk and depressed.

There was a girl in there, crying. I don’t know why she was—I’d never be so impolite as to acknowledge I had been aware of it. It struck me deeply, through both the irony and the reality of where I was...where she was, where the young barman with the bow tie was. I was in so much pain when I walked in and as I numbed it with cheap booze, menthols and titties, there she was—in the place I ran to, feeling her pain too. I tipped her extra the rest of the night.

They had this fenced-in area you could call a patio, if you wanted to be fucking liberal with the word. But there were tables, a roof and ashtrays. That was enough for me. I went through a rotation of a round of drinks and a smoke out back. Every so often, one of the girls would flirt and talk to me and, of course, I’d offer them a smoke and a tip for their attention.

After a while, I ran out of money and I was getting pretty hazy, so I started the walk home. It was summer, but it was late and there was a cool breeze. I lit another smoke, as I walked the couple blocks home; one hand holding the cigarette, the other hand holding a pocket knife. I don’t know what I thought they were going to take, though. The chubby one got all my money anyway.

She was asleep by the time I got home, so I tried to be quiet (which isn’t quiet when you’re drunk—it’s "drunk quiet"—but, I didn’t want to fight in the morning, so I tried, despite my clear disability). The dogs whined loudly as soon as I walked in the door, so I put down my phone and other nonessentials and lit another smoke, before I put them on their leashes and staggered them down the stairs. They seemed to take forever and that cigarette seemed to be a forever smoke.

I eventually found my way into comfortable clothes and onto the couch. I didn’t want to disturb her by drunkenly falling into bed and grasping for covers. The dogs laid down and I eventually passed out.

We made up the following day. I was hungover as hell—I think she figured that was punishment enough. We spent the day eating leftovers and watching a TV series we loved. It’s funny to think, how sometimes we look back and wish things could be regular bad again.

Either way, that time and that place are gone. Someone else bought the place and changed the name to something else, in addition to vastly improving the club and bringing it up to Portland strip club standards. But the old place, in not-so-distant, Old Portland history, was still a pretty good place to lick my wounds and ease my soul.