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Stripped In Pornland: Mr. Misanthropy

by Jaime Dunkle

Mr. Misanthropy checked IDs at the door. He rested one foot on the bottom peg of the stool he leaned on, with a crooked posture. He clicked on a flashlight to examine the state-issued plastic in his hand. Light from the flashlight twinkled on his shined shoes. He pursed his lips and studied the face of the dude trying to get in. He handed the customer his ID back and gestured him to go through.

Mr. Misanthropy’s pressed, button-up black shirt and black slacks were just as smooth as his pale face and obsidian hair. He sat, perched at the inside of the front door—the only door—of the strip club. He hardly spoke—just judged IDs and the sea of faces, as they rolled into the venue.

He offered no greeting. No smile. No small talk. Just a hand held out in cold silence. If the fool at the door didn’t know the routine, Mr. Misanthropy merely raised an eyebrow with his empty hand waiting.

The rush ended. Mr. Misanthropy angled his stool toward the club and the back stage, as I approached. I climbed onto the plexiglass tabletop, stepped over its lit railing and gave the backs of heads a long sigh.

Mr. Misanthropy must have heard me, because I glanced over and saw him smirk—a rare sight, but less rare when we were in each other’s company.

Tiredness hit me and my swollen feet harder than most nights, and since no one was paying attention to the back stage, I only did enough movement to not get me in trouble with the bartender or bouncer. I slowly shifted postures, in a mock dance, because it was the law for us to keep moving, always, no matter what.

I had never seen this law in writing, but I had been warned to obey it, repeatedly, at every club I had ever worked...or else. I figured it was really another way for them to control us, ensuring that their marionettes were in action and ready for whenever any guy walked into the club...a non-stop erotic cabaret, a constant illusion of seduction. I could gripe about such grievances with Mr. Misanthropy and he’d always chime right in, instead of telling me to suck it up.

Since it was slow in the back of the club, which was oddly at the front door, I took the opportunity to share complaints with the perpetually disgruntled doorman, instead of dance for free.

"It’s a stupid rule," he said. "You don’t even get a wage, I mean, you have to pay to be here. You should get to do what you want."

"Seriously. This wouldn’t even be a strip club, if it weren’t for the strippers."

A guy about 20 years older than us sat at my rack. I rolled my eyes and begrudgingly got up.

"Excuse me, I have to go shake my ass for a single dollar."

Mr. Misanthropy laughed—not to heckle me, but because he agreed it sucked to be interrupted in the middle of our bitchfest, for probably only $1.

The song ended and the guy left. I pranced over to Mr. Misanthropy, topless. I rested on my belly and kicked my feet in sync to the beat, to pretend I was dancing, while we shared our mutual discontent.

"The dancer before you asked me why I wasn’t watching her."

"Sounds like she has a crush."

"Whatever. Doesn’t she know I live here? I’m desensitized to naked women."

"Seems obvious to me, although you’re the only employee who hasn’t ever hit on me."

"I’m here to make money, not to get laid."

"Go figure. Same here."

"We’re surrounded by idiots," he said.

I let him vent. I thought it was funny, but I also knew what no one else in the club knew—he was dying and he didn’t know how much longer he had left to live. He wasn’t even sure of what was wrong with him—he just knew his days were limited. The doctors told him it could be anywhere from six months to six years. I could see the terror of death’s approach nestled deep in his eyes when we spoke, but I didn’t let him see I could see it. I knew how much time he spent in his silent scorn on that lonesome stool, checking faces to names and dates to visible ages, glaring with vacant eyes, leaning with one foot to shift the pain in his spine.

"At least we’re not idiots," I said.

We laughed. The song ended. I covered my breasts with my top and descended the stage. He moved his stool back toward the front door and stared into nothingness.