Courting Permission

It had been raining all day, and not the normal English rain that halfheartedly spits at you. This was great big spring rain; thick, pregnant drops. There was a warm haze in the air that seemed to have bounced up from each shattered drop. I was soaking, almost to the skin; I could feel the trickles running down my warm, clammy back as I parked my bike in the hallway of the strip club.

Ed was on the door. “Is he here today?” I asked.

“Ask the girl behind the bar,” he said.

I had a big smile on. I love cycling in the rain. I was coming from my life class up in deepest, darkest Hackney. I have been in this club a number of times, courting permission; each time asking and each time being told to come back and ask a different person.

I stuck out like a sore thumb with my tousled wet hair pinned up haphazardly and my spring coat that I got from Reiss, two-toned from the storm.

“Is Tom here?” I asked the girl.

“The one in the suit.” She pointed to the end of the bar.

There weren’t many people in the strip club on a Wednesday night. I walked up to the bar between two guys in suits; one guy had a girl in green draped around his neck like an overgrown medallion. She was taller than me. I could see the downy blond hairs on the small of her back.

The friend was unsure what to do with himself, looking as if he was at a tennis game between three players: the girl in green; the now completely nude dancer on the pole, all slithery and creamy white; and me. He was smiling.

The first time I was here was in the bright sun of afternoon; it had seemed then both safer and seedier. I asked an older lady with a great, broad east-end accent. She had told me to come back in the evening. It gets busier in the evenings, she told me, but it’s still not too full.

The first time I ever went into a strip club was for my twenty-third birthday party. I had it at Cheaters on Hollywood Boulevard. All you could see of the club on the outside was the blue lights flooding out onto the dusty pavement. It was a great party. And my boss at the time, a very well-behaved graphic designer, bought me a lap dance. The dancer was a pretty brunette with big, hard boobs who smelt like very sweet soap. It was all a bit weird for me but my male friends still say it was the best party.

Tom the elusive owner looked like a very nice guy, smart in a well-fitting suit. He had two guys flanking him. They were cute, the kind who used to skate in the concrete parks in the south bank a few years ago before getting a job in a design firm. They smiled too.

“Can I draw in here?”

He looked perplexed, not sure if he had heard me.

“I have a studio round the corner and I really want to do a set of drawings in here.” I smiled, he smiled. “Of the girls.”

“Is that the place with the big black doors?” He paused. “It’s got graffiti on it. What dose that say?”

“Showreal?” I asked.

“Yea, that’s it. I never knew what that was,” he mused to himself. “It’s an artists studio, is it?” This idea of a building full of artists confounded him in the same way this converted pub full of beautiful girls enticed me. He considered me for a moment. I could feel him looking at my wet clothes and my shiny face. “When?”

“In the daytime if I could. I find it a bit daunting in here for me at night.” I do. The men stand differently and the women are intimidating in the way that the big girls were at primary school. They are all taller than me in their massive see-through plastic stilettos.

“Sure thing.”

And that was how I made these.

Amy Bernays Image 1

Amy Bernays Image 2

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