Mitchell and Natasha decided not to have bachelor and bachelorette parties. Be in the world and not of it, they agreed. It wasn’t even a fight. They were too eager to be married to worry about sowing their wild oats on their last days of being single. And the only wild oats they sowed up to this point was into each other.
Those kinds of events were just invitations to sin anyway, though there’s nothing about a stripper that attracts Mitchell. Gyrating and slapping of thighs in his face—he doesn’t want to see another woman’s behind; he doesn’t want to see how fast it jiggles, how wide it opens, how deep a dollar bill can fold into it. The thought alone disgusts him.
Why don’t they have more respect for themselves? Don’t they know their bodies are temples for God? He weeps for those women—usually underage, college students, deep in debt, struggling single mothers—who think they have no other option. But their bodies are meant for God, not the sexual fantasies of strangers. Just because they can do something doesn’t mean they should, doesn’t mean it’s good for them. Only God knows what’s good for them, and He won’t hurt them, He won’t objectify them, He will show them they are worth more than just sex.
Mitchell should remind Bryan of this, because the minute he said, “We’re going to an all you can eat buffet that serves breasts, thighs, wings and biscuits, all for a couple singles,” Mitchell knew where they were really going.
It’s dark. It smells—a combination of cigar smoke, musk, and over-fried chicken. The music is loud and heavy; it invades Mitchell’s ears, drowns out his thinking, beats against his heart within his ribcage.
It’s barely evening and already the place is packed. There’s a pole coming down from the ceiling every five or so feet, a dancer on each.
One has her thighs wrapped tightly around the stainless steel, as if in a wrestling position. She hangs upside down, and the man in front of her juggles her breasts, a wad of cash in his mouth.
Another holds onto the pole above her head, and standing knees slightly bent, feet shoulder-width apart, she grinds against the pole, as if it’s a man taking her from behind.
And right in front of him, Mitchell is startled by a woman who suddenly drops from the ceiling onto the platform underneath her with a thud, flips over, and spreads into an open split.
“Goddamn!” Bryan shouts.
The thin string of fabric she wears barely covers her, and the more she shakes, the more it moves to the side. She has attracted quite the crowd, and they surround her like vultures, some of them sticking out their tongues—thoughts of something more than just a show heavy on their minds—and they throw dollar bills that flutter above her in the stifling air.
Mitchell’s stomach turns in his gut. He blocks the scene from his periphery with his hand and taps Bryan on the back for him to move along.
“Where’s the buffet?” Mitchell asks. “I’d rather just eat and go home.” Hopefully the food doesn’t include a striptease as a side dish, and if there was a carry-out option, that would be even better. He doesn’t want to see any more than he already has, doesn’t need that flooding his thoughts when he watches Natasha walk down the aisle on Saturday.
“Nah, man,” Bryan says. “You can’t come to a strip club and not get at least one dance.” He takes Mitchell by the wrist, drags him to an empty booth, then leaves to find a girl who’s not occupied.
Mitchell looks around. Most of the women are wearing the same garb as the one doing splits, some even less. He whispers to Antonio. “I thought strippers usually wore more clothes than this.” Wasn’t there a code? A stripper could only strip down to so much, any more would be indecent exposure? Would lead to prostitution—if a man’s seen that much, he’s sure to want more, right? Wouldn’t leave without it.
But maybe it was only in movies, those crazy romantic comedies and tear-jerkers Natasha makes him suffer through.
“It depends,” Antonio says. “Some clubs are classier than others. But Bryan brought you to the bottom of the pits. This place is always getting shut down.”
Mitchell doesn’t bother to ask him how he knows this.
When Bryan returns, he holds two beer bottles in one hand by their necks. He tosses one to Antonio, who’s reflexes are so slow it nearly knocks him in the head. Bryan keeps the other for himself, and the girl with him, he pushes toward Mitchell. Thankfully she is the most dressed Mitchell has seen, wearing boy shorts of a reflective chrome color and the matching bikini top.
She pops on the chewing gum in her mouth, blows a tiny bubble that bursts immediately, and rolls it around her tongue. “Is this the one getting married?” she asks in the high-pitched voice of a child who hadn’t yet hit puberty.
“Yep,” Bryan says. “Make my boy feel good.”
“No, really.” Mitchell doesn’t want to feel good. Nothing good could possibly come from this place, unless they serve hand sanitizer at the bar. But they ignore his protests, and the girl jumps right into his lap. He sees his own terrified reflection in the shimmering fabric that covers her breasts.
“Tell me what you want, baby,” she says as she beings to dance right on top of him. Are lap dances supposed to insinuate sex? If so, it makes him extremely uncomfortable, because it’s not Natasha doing it. He’d rather this girl just take her clothes off— No, no he doesn’t. He turns to Antonio on the couch next to him, whose head bobbles watching them. He looks up at Bryan still standing, who motions for him just to relax, taps his pocket to let him know that he’s paying for it.
Mitchell’s not getting out of this, it seems. So he closes his eyes, tries to enjoy it for Bryan’s sake—a wedding can’t be a wedding in Bryan’s mind without the prenuptial debaucheries, he supposes. He wonders if Bryan’s ever been here before, if he’s a regular, if Renee knows.
As the stripper continues to hump on Mitchell, feeling herself, feeling him, he thinks of Natasha, how they were in this same position just last night the car parked on the side of the road. It’s easier to imagine her when his eyes are closed, when he’s not looking at the girl but at Natasha. When the spontaneity of her movements becomes the spontaneity of Natasha’s, her quick pecks on his neck Natasha’s. When the touch of her skin reminds him of Natasha’s naked body pressed against him after they’d undressed each other and warmed their limbs by the heat they created.
His tension releases. He slides down the booth to get more comfortable as the girl puts more thrust into her motion, he lets her touch him with her hands, with her body.
“Atta boy,” he hears Bryan say.
But the experience is short lived, because the girl incessantly pops her chewing gum. She bounces on him like a hyper three-year-old on Santa’s lap. She moans, “Oooh, you like that, baby?” in that baby voice, and it takes Mitchell out of it. He opens his eyes, and Natasha is gone.
“How old are you?” He asks.
“However old you want me to be, daddy.” She gives him the puppy dog eyes with the pout, making her look even younger.
Mitchell draws back. She continues to wind and grind on him. He puts his hands on her hips to push her off, then quickly lets go and holds them in the air, not wanting to be accused of foul play.
“You can touch me, daddy. I don’t mind.”
“Dude,” Bryan says, “this is kind of her job. Just enjoy the fantasy.”
But Mitchell’s fantasy has already happened, and it wasn’t here in this den of Satan, but with Natasha, his future wife. The only woman he wants to sit on his lap, the only woman whose breasts he wishes to lay his head on, the only woman he’ll rise to the occasion for. Even now he feels nothing in his pants.
“Get up, please. I need to use the bathroom.”
“Aww, already?” she whines. She gets up, tiptoes to Bryan, offering him a dance instead, but he just hands her the money in his pocket.
“Where’s the bathroom?” Mitchell asks.
“I saw it when we first came in. I’ll go with you,” Antonio says. He looks about as sick as Mitchell feels.
Mitchell hesitates to leave Bryan, who out of the three of them seems to be enjoying his time here the most, but hopefully he has more self-control that the other men here. Mitchell’s surely not sticking around for another stripper come over and “treat” him with a dance.
He follows Antonio to the front of the club, where a lit-up arrow points toward a corridor behind the main entrance. They walk to the end of the hall. The men’s restroom is on the left, and the women’s on the right.
“I just want to say this was all Bryan’s idea.” Antonio says.
Mitchell sprints to the first open stall he sees, opposite wall where the urinals are mounted, and dry heaves into the toilet.
“Do you think I can get those wings and biscuits Bryan was preaching about now?”
The bathroom door bursts open and in walks Bryan with a booming laugh. “I gotta say, Mitchell, I didn’t think you’d go through with it. That’s twice you’ve surprised me now.”
“When was the first time?” Mitchell’s voice echoes in the toilet bowl above the rippling water.
Bryan either ignores him or he doesn’t hear him, but Mitchell doesn’t think that’s possible in here with these acoustics. Maybe outside in the club, but in here he can hear his own head throb, and a few stalls down, he can hear someone’s heavy breathing, and he doesn’t think that person is alone.
“So y’all tryna hit up Applebee’s or something?” Bryan says.
“Wait, we’re not eating here?” Antonio asks.
“Are you kidding? I was just joking about the buffet. Their food smells like straight up pussy! I wouldn’t eat a peanut here.” Bryan walks out just as a gurgling rises from the other stall, and Mitchell and Antonio, recognizing what the sound could only mean, hurry behind him.
“Told you this was the pits,” Antonio whispers.
The pits is right. When Mitchell gets home, he plans to take a long hot shower so he doesn’t have to smell like it.