Strippers I Have Loved, v5

When she aborted her baby she felt like she was giving birth to her mothers hatred of her and killing her baby-self. She tells me this while we’re laying around on plush black leather couches in the VIP room of an empty club. The walls are painted lets-fuck-magenta and there are plaster casts of torsos on the walls, perhaps as allusions to Rome. Her own mother had hated her guts, had traded her virginity for a secure marriage in a crazyhouse. But she didn’t understand, back then, what was going on. She didn’t understand until later, until she’d almost been killed three times and she blames her mother for every one of them.

I don’t say much. I am staring at an alabaster white breast, watching the way her hands move when she talks in the fuzzy edges of what I see. Sometimes when I listen just right I can see the way realities shift and come together.

“I hear voices, you know.” She rolls over on her couch to stare at me.

“I know.” Of course I know. I heard through the stripper intelligence network before I ever got here, but even if I hadn’t there is that thing. The way crazy wise traumatised women are always drawn to me and I don’t know if it’s my purpose or my own trauma showing.

“If I’d had that baby it would be almost exactly your age now. My due date was two days after your birthday.” Her hands are dancing, still, a hundred times more graceful than she is swinging around the pole.

I nod.

“Do you think that makes you my daughter? The reincarnation of my daughter? Something like that?” she asks. “I probably would have killed her if I’d had her. You know. I have my mother’s voice in my head and she is so awful to babies.” Then: “You should be my mother, really. That’s what I need.”

“It’s all mixed up,” I tell her. A hundred years of arch-original trauma theories wouldn’t change this.

My friend Hat-ma always says we mother each other. We do. I have this in all my girl-friendships, and I try to remember what Davka has written about it. It is original, it is real, and I think that if we’d all had perfect childhoods none of us would give a shit about mothering or being mothered.

Later, in the dressing room getting dressed to leave, I watch her chug a fifth of Jack Daniels. When she lowers the bottle she stares back at me, eyes black like mine are sometimes. “I have the motherfucking right to kill myself with whiskey.”

I nod. I am a good daughter. This is the way it is.

I pull on my jeans and t-shirt, and sit staring at her.

“You be back tomorrow?” she asks.

“If the road doesn’t call,” I say.

“Yeah, you’re my fucking daughter alright.”

“Will you be back tomorrow?” Maybe I will stay here until I understand it all.

“Come with me,” she says. “Come party.”

I nod. This is right. Sometimes in the universe I just watch, and that is my only job, to watch things honestly without looking away.

I give her a ride to the after hours bar. It’s BYOB and bare bones dirty with a comfy old man feel. She tells all the men that I hypnotised her with my eyes, and she decides not to drink anymore because she really doesn’t want to kill herself. Not tonight, anyways.

When she goes to the bathroom I look down at the linoleum floor, yellowing like I guess we all do eventually. The edges curl up where it’s ripped, and brown down where it’s burned. A woman with red shoes is dancing with a man in bunny boots next to the big dirty window, and they are in love, and they are sober. I wonder if their realities change every day, if it’s hard to keep up, or if they are stuck in a reality forever static. They are sober and they are dancing in red shoes and bunny boots at four am in front of a dirty window.

This is what I’m thinking when she comes running out of the bathroom, naked and screaming. The whole bar moves towards her, follows her, fascinated but afraid to go to close, as she runs past that sober couple and straight into the window.

“Oh dear,” says the woman in red shoes, looking down at her laying naked on the ground.

“She’s gone crazy again, someone call the cops,” someone else yells.

“Fuck,” says the man with the bunny boots as he starts towards her.

“Fuck you! Leave me alone get the fuck away from me I know what you want!” she yells, leaning back and kicking him in the balls.

“Hey,” I say, using my words like spells of calm. “You’re okay. Look. Look at yourself, you’re okay.” I’m sitting next to her and she leans into me.

The bunny boot man slides his coat to me and she yells at him to leave me alone, I am her daughter and she will fucking kill him if he touches me.

“Yes’m,” he says, and I picture him as a cautious school boy, reduced to that by this crazy trauma drama that comes from three husbands worth of beatings and rapes and a mother who hates your guts.

“Here, let’s cover you up.” I hand her the coat and she pulls it over herself.

“Oh, Tara. My mother voice is so fucked up.” She sobs a little. I am so suprised she remembers my name. Usually people just call me by my stage name and I will go months without anyone saying my real name out loud to me.

“I know, honey.” I’m rubbing her back. I believe in touch. “Don’t listen to that bitch though. Listen to yourself.” A minute ago I was her daughter, and now I am her mother and she is curled up in my lap like a little kid.

“I know.” She is sleepy and she starts to tell me a story about her Mormon husband who kept her locked in a bathroom and beat her every day, but then there are cops standing over us.

Then know her name, and she knows them.

“This is my mother-daughter,” she tells them. “She’s come back to life.”

They don’t look at me. “Come on out to the car.” Two of them lean down with a blanket and hustle her right out to their car. She’s not afraid of them. She goes like a little child, like she must have gone with her Mormon husband. Straight into the back seat and they close the door behind her.

They are men and their flashing lights are everywhere. They laugh and say she is a crazy bitch, and then they drive away.

I watch it all.


  1. I read things all day long, week long, life long … and then I read things like this, and I am in awe, Tara. I am thunderstruck by the power of this. I’m an inch from crying at the sad, miserable, beautiful, hunger of your writing.

  2. you know, I first came to your journal to pick up tips on van living and dropping out…but I keep coming back for your writing and storytelling. It is just really, really satisfying in a deepdown way. I frequent a few different blogs where the writers have landed book deals based on the strength (and subject) of their online posts. It is doable and something to consider if you haven’t already – because you are *that* good.


  3. Tara, this is a freakin’ brilliant piece of writing. You need to submit this somewhere. Really, folks need to read this.

    That is one of the most amazing first sentences I’ve read since “My wound is geography.”

    I think you are pretty damn awesome too!

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