He is old as dirt, sitting at my stage in a worn flannel shirt and a faded pink and blue baseball cap. When I hold out my garter for money he is suprised, and then digs in his wallet for a ten. Later, after stage, after a few dances, I sit with him.
He says women are beautiful, he loves women. He loves all women, we are all different like butterflies, and if there was a woman so fat here that her hips stretched all the way accross the stage she would still be a beautiful butterfly. Women have hearts, you see, and men have lost them, he says.
I don’t tell him that we aren’t hanging onto it for him, that he should inquire within for his own heart. I call him sweet and look at the niceness in him.
Nine grandkids, he says. They live all around him, because he wanted all of his children to have homes and so he built them around his house, and now in his old age he enjoys the adoration of nine grandchildren. There are the neighborhood children, too. They all come to his house when the ice cream truck comes, and hell it costs him fifty, sixty bucks, but it’s worth it. The way he see’s it, a good childhood is priceless.
Did you know there were still people out there like this? Sometimes I do, but usually I forget, usually they don’t share their niceness with women like me.
He’s got a construction company, has for forty years now. His boys still work with him, and he doesn’t tell them what to do because they are so smart and he is so proud of them, but he can still outwork them. My mom can still outwork me, too. I can’t wait to be fifty. He’s putting up a building down here. Simple, fast. I ask him about reflectix and R values and he says one layer is enough, no reason for a second. Be careful of the seams, he says. Overlap just a little and use the tape that comes with it. I always do.
This is his first time in a place like this, he says. Well, once, there was another time. His friends took him to a club up in the big city, but it was awful. He saw a woman dancing for another woman, touching her. Horrid. So he left.
There was a comedian once. Margaret Chong or something, and she was funny but there it was a big homosexual thing, so he left. He can’t stand that shit, it sickens him to his core.
I shift in my seat, look over his shoulder, get ready to excuse myself.
It’s not that he minds what people do, he says, he just doesn’t want to see it. He was molested when he was a kid, for two years, by a man. He was eight and nine and he couldn’t breath with his face held in the pillow. Now, when he see’s two men, even two women, it’s like being punched in the gut.
I settle back into my seat, feeling something like a little punch in my gut. People are little replica’s of civilization, traumatised enough to kill the whole world.
His kids don’t know, he whispers, they just think he’s old fashioned. But he raised them right, and he ain’t never let them disrespect their momma, and he bought them ice cream every Sunday.
His son leans over, orders us all new drinks, tells me that his dad is his best friend.
Later, another chair, another man.
He doesn’t want a dance but he gives me forty to talk. Last Wednesday he got off work, and he’s been drunk since Thursday. He’s trying to sober up a little now, he says, sipping his jack straight.
I tell him I’m drinking tequilla and sing the funny tequilla song. He likes it.
Do I have kids, he wants to know? He has five.
Five kids, I say, wow. That must take sooo much time and work and energy. I’d probably go crazy if I had five kids.
Yeah, he squints at me, it’s hard to be a mother. Kids are pretty expensive, but he doesn’t mind, he makes good money. He thinks they peak out around age fourteen, as far as expense goes.
I hold out my garter and tell him it’s time to feed the meter. As far as conversations go, this one’s definitely going to be expensive.
He stares at me. Asks hey, what am I going to do with this money? Because the last girl he gave some money to went to jail for shoplifting.
I’m going to buy a boat, I tell him.
He laughs and tells me I don’t even know how to fish.
This conversation has just become priceless, but I don’t tell him, I just stand up and walk away.
Next chair, next man.