I heard about her before I met her in this little falling apart club in the middle of nowhere. “Careful, she’s a lesbian,” the local strippers said, and I didn’t bother to mention that I was too. “Careful, her girlfriend is HIV+ and she refuses to believe she can get HIV from oral sex. She isn’t here now, she went back to her girlfriend again, but she’ll be back as soon as her girlfriend beats her up again,” a more savvy woman named Karma explained.
Sure enough, three days later, a slow monday when I was the only dancer and there were no customers Amber stumbled in the door. Her face was swollen and the manager told her she could stay in the club apartment but she couldn’t work until her face went down. We hung out in the dressing room, trying to stay warm under blankets on the couch. She talked about quitting dope and about how intensely her girlfriend loved her to beat her so hard. She wanted to go back to rehab, back to Florida, back to her foster parents, or maybe back to her girlfriend.
The next day it was Amber, Karma, and me. It was dead again – the good thing about that club was that it could be completely dead most of the night but you could still make good money from the few customers thatÂ would come in for half an hour at a time. We hung out in the dressing room under blankets again, talking about intentional communities, western civilization, the importance of love and self love, and rubbing Amber’s back while she shivered and puked. For what it’s worth in life, I’m really good at being with people while they’re dope sick.
We started talking about self love as the basis for selfless love. “Sometimes I love the world so much it makes me cry,” Amber sobbed, half dramatic and half distraught. Karma explained Kali’s example, how it was only through loving herself and all of its possible misshaps that she was able to love her people enough to defend them. It was a twisted Kali story, but that’s the point of stories, they can be twisted.
Then a couple customers came in and Karma and I had to go up on stage. Amber came out and encouraged the guys to tip. She was leaning up to me on stage,Â laughing, a dollar in her mouth, when her eyes flew open. “Fuck this. I’m going for a walk.” Off she went.
Hours later when I left the club she was laying on the hood of my truck, naked and masturbating. “Look at the moon,” she said, “can’t you just feel it inside you?”
I laid down and we stared at the moon in silence.
“Tara, I’m gonna go back to myself, Tar… can you take me to Florida?”
I took her south as far as West Virginia. By then she’d gotten on my CB and found herself a ride the rest of the way.
A few weeks later there was an envelope from her in my mail box. No letter, just a ribbon, a feather, a pressed flower, some sand, and a mandala picture.