She was young, black and sleek, the lines of her long, slender body curved and flowed. She moved like water. I don't know what her name was. She was a dancer in a topless bar.
It was the middle of the afternoon. It was dark in there. The contrast between the sunshine outside and the darkness inside the bar caused me a moment of blindness - it took my eyes a minute or so to adjust. The only real light came from above the dancer. She performed on an elevated platform bathed in golden yellow light.
I was there because I was madly in love with Stephen and places like that don't card their patrons. The company I kept also put my age in doubt. Stephen was a house painter who was fifteen years older than I was and had some problems. I was one of them and drinking was another. He was an alcoholic with a 17 year old girlfriend. There weren't many places we could be seen together.
The topless dancer was probably just a year or so older than I was. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. She was oblivious to the voyeurs in her audience. Even though she had to endure the occasional whistle and cat call. With her eyes shut, we didn't exist. I was fascinated, felt akin to her. Such grace and style, her body feeling and interpreting the music. Poise like that is unusual in one so young but it emanated from her, making me watch her.
When it was time for us to go, I slipped off the bar stool and went over to her platform. She had a tip jar and I wanted her to have the crumpled up five dollar bill in my jean pocket. It was my last five dollars but she had earned it. I was surprised when she opened her eyes and smiled. I was surprised by her smile, in stark contrast to the sadness I saw in her eyes. Then the moment passed. The music began to play and the dancer closed her eyes and danced.
image source: public domain photos - Alfred Noyer Studio, circa 1920