It was the best of places. It was the worst of places.

It was a dirty little biker bar in West Virgina. I was a hard working college student, driving eighty miles to get naked someplace no one knew me. The bar was a long, narrow room: a bar, seats with barely room to walk behind, and a little stage in the corner. There were no lap dances, and before you went on stage you went down the bar and collected a couple dollars from every guy “for the jukebox.”

Late on a Thursday night it was pretty dead. Just an old one legged miner, a random guy in leather, and a red-headed no-toothed mechanic who was sweet on me. I was on stage, leaning back on the pole and absent-mindedly undulating my torso, when the door opened and a literal bus load of college guys poured in.

“Hey,” the bartender stood on the bar, yelling. “I need to see ID’s.”

There were a lot of them, and it was a small club. They packed in like unruly sardines, pushing each other and joking at the edges of the stage. I got happy and halfway naked with hope, but they didn’t tip. I’d never seen so many people in there at once, and I stood up to survey the crowd, which stretched from stage to front door. Some of them were even spilling into the utility closet next to the bathroom, which was strange. Still, I didn’t quite grasp the relevance when one staggered out of the closet with the hose. Not until the water hit me.

I kicked off my shoes and winged them at his head before beating a hasty retreat. Nikki looked up at me as I stepped through the tiny door down into the dressing room. Nikki had rolls and rolls of smooth golden tanned fatty flesh, which she greased up with lotion on stage. For a dollar she’d slip her nipple through the customers mouths, and for some unknown amount she’d leave with a customer “to get some cigarettes from the gas station.” When drunk, she cried in the dressing room about how lonely she was. I was horrified at her existence.

“What happened?” She gave me a hard look and figured it out before I came up with the words.

“Oh, hell no.” A look came over her face, slowly, settled into a hardness in her eyes and jaw. “Oh heeeell no. They done fucked with my girl.”

Out of her seat, she moved fast for the dressing room door. “You motherfuckin fucked with my girl, fuckers,” was her battle cry.

I stared after her, not sure what to do with the innocence that was still new to me. I was a pacifist and this girl who’d always been rude to me was probably out there kicking some ass on my behalf.

I stepped tentatively into the hall. It was absolute chaos, Nikki yelling and fists flying everywhere. The closet was still open, and I slipped into it and turned the hose off. That’s where I was standing, in the moldy closet, when I heard the bikes outside and realized the building was surrounded.

I’d been told to go to the dressing room if the bikers ever had to show up and handle a situation like this, so I did.

Soon Nikki and the bartender joined me. We gave Nikki aspirin and pressed ice against her bruises, ignoring the sounds of twenty something bikers beating the shit out of forty something college boys outside the dressing room.

I never did get those shoes back.


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