Excerpt from a larger body of works about stripping and sugar dating, currently untitled.

by Christianna Clark

I meet Ed inside  Red Emma’s at 5. He is  talking to the barista whom I know  from an open night where I’d performed. He had arrived early and starts  beaming when he sees me. He talks in a shout. “I’m so glad to see you!” I feel awkward and don’t want to draw attention to myself. Ed and I go out to his car. It’s a very unassuming Honda. The inside smells sour like elderflesh. I look at him and try to be open, but I focus on a mole by his ear with long hairs. He tells me he wants to learn how to be hip. He tells me he’s a geeky nerd. I laugh because it’s true. We’re supposed to go to the AVAM and he starts driving us in that direction, but the museum closes at 6, and it’s 5:30. I tell him it’s not worth it, that we should just go and get dinner or generally do something else. When we hit a traffic jam he acquiesces. We turn around. I tell him we should go to Petit Louis. We drive up to Roland Park to a building styled after a large European country cottage. We enter and the restaurant is empty aside from an older white couple. We are seated and immediately receive great service from people with French accents and pressed uniforms. I want to drink. The waiter cards me and then becomes  very attentive. She is in her late 30s, perhaps 40 and has a diamond studded engagement ring and a plain wedding band. Her hair is in a ponytail coiffed in a single curl. Ed and I decide on our first two courses. I choose an eggplant dish and he gets the prix which is a “festival of asparagus.” Earlier in the car he had asked me about my parents, how I’d ended up in Oklahoma from Manhattan. It’s like Oklahoma is one thing and NYC is many intricate parts. I tell him about my parents’ whirlwind engagement and marriage. I tell him about my father’s abandonment and my mother’s abuse. I tell him about caring for my sister and being a star student. I don’t want my story to sound like a tragedy ending with me as a stripper looking for sugar daddies after a life of abuse. He tells me about his family. His parents stayed together until death. His sister is the eldest at 68, his older brother is 66, his younger brother is 54. His parents met in Hawaii at college. His father went to Cornell to study tropical landscapes. He became a professor. His work led him to travel to Monrovia in Liberia and the Philippines. He eventually moved back to Hawaii and taught at a college. He said his father was a big fish in a small pond. His mother had died this year in April. She was 96.

Ed had spent many years hang gliding. He stopped after his second major accident about ten years ago. In ‘83 he crashed for the first time. He had to get a tracheotomy. His hip was fractured. His face was disfigured. He had to get plastic surgery. He lost three days of memory. It took a week before he could move his toes, and then feet and legs. He crashed a second time, a decade later, and called it quits. He was part of a community of fliers, people able to intuitively ride the high and low pressure air pockets to rise and fall through the sky. He tells me there are fliers and there are people outside of the community. Now he is outside of the community. He tells me today had been stressful; he’s behind on projects. I ask him how many hours he usually works. He tells me usually 8 billable hours and then more depending. I tell him that’s a lot. He agrees. I ask him if he normally works  at this time. He tells me yes. I receive my dish of fried eggplant stacked on tablespoon hills of olive tapenade mixed with goat cheese in a runny pesto sauce. I receive roasted chicken on a bed of fingerling potatoes and brussel sprouts in a creamy mushroom sauce. The sommelier comes by and we request wine pairings. For dessert we both get rhubarb tarts with fresh dollops of whipped cream on top. We drink a sparkling dessert wine and I’d never had such a lovely pairing. I pretend like I know everything about wine tasting. With the meal wine I take the tester and swirl it around my cup, dip my nose into the glass, take a small sip and hold it in my mouth while inhaling. Then I exhale and swallow, exclaiming that “yes, I want that one.” I ask Ed if he’s happy. He tells me he hasn’t stopped smiling for three days. I smile at him. I’m very full. He asks to see pictures of my family. I show him a picture of my mother. He reads off her name. He still calls me Alana because I haven’t told him my real name. We go out to the car and I begin navigating  home. Before we leave the parking lot he tells me he has a white envelope for me now or later. I tell him either works so he hands it to me and asks me if $600 seems fair. The payment feels so strange. I don’t know what services I’m providing other than company and I wonder if he is very lonely. I accept the envelope gleefully. I hadn’t been prepared to negotiate money. At my house he does not ask for a hug or kiss, but I hug him and give him a peck on the cheek. Then I walk into my house feeling hoodrich.

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