obeisance   1 : a movement of the body made in token of respect or submission : BOW  2 : DEFERENCE, HOMAGE

The living room lamp shudders, dims a moment, then glows steadily (if glumly) through its make-shift burlap shade. Michelle sits in an easy chair (a relic retrieved from the ally behind her apartment complex), its stuffing bloated tumor-like, its floral pattern faded, its tassel fringe stained brown from a hundred unnamed spills. It does not stink, however, while embracing its sole occupant. Michelle has stretched her nightgown over bent and drawn up knees—which kiss her barbell breasts under threadbare flannel—encasing her like an asymmetrical chrysalis. She thumps closed Webster's dictionary and takes another look at the dealer's poem.

why, when they confront us
with our own depraved reflections,
is it them
we claim to see
and not ourselves?


I've been studying this; what he wrote. Took me a while—I'm a bit slow, sometimes—but I got it. Mostly, I would have to say, it's true. All I've ever thought about is what I get from stripping, which is money. What men get, I've left to them. Except I somehow sensed it had to do with their illusions. What they see is what they want to see; we're hardly there. Funny how parading nude, for a crowd of horny cowboys, is the best way in the world to be invisible... and alone.

This other thing he wrote is also true. Where is it? Here. Claiming our flirtations are "on tap." It's only showmanship, of course, to get the fellas tipping. But even so, if they don't hoot and holler, I feel bad. I do; me, Michelle—regardless who, or what, they think I am. They're whacking off, is all; we're greasing one another's palms. (She laughs.) That's good. Morgan might approve. He's sharp. Too, sharp, for my taste. And when he casts those eyes my way, I really feel undressed. (She folds his poem to form a paper airplane.) Pretty cheeky. I mean, there he sits like a judge, or something, Holier Than Thou, and damns us girls to Hell for looking ridiculous. Who is he? I should write a poem about him, exposing how he watches. Probably gets his rocks off back at home, where life is safe. (She sights along the airplane's nose, sends it through the air. It arcs, performs a flip; it crashes to the carpet. She stares at it a moment... then snatches up the dictionary and opens it to the Bs.)

bawdy 1 : OBSCENE, LEWD  2 : Boisterously or humorously indecent

Just like I thought. I knew I knew that word.
She claps the dictionary closed, her self-respect restored. She shuts her eyes. It is late. She lets her train of thought derail toward sleep.
Maybe I'll apologize... Maybe not... Maybe he's not worth it... Bridget?... Bridget, are you happy, sweetheart?... Maybe he and I won't ever... Day I started searching I was desperately unhappy... What was I just thinking about? Helene... At work... She's gone... Or lost... Do people lose themselves? Without a word; no trace? That rhinestone garter belt she wore was such a rum-touch turn-on... Sure could shake her booty... She had stretch-marks... Wrinkly folds... A little scrunched up face, it looked like, frowning from her belly... Bridget?... That was it; I have to say I'm sorry... Sorry, baby. I didn't mean to give you up. The nurses, sort of, made me... Nurses in their nasty milk-white stockings. Legs like sausages. Ugly. No one likes an ugly nurse... an ugly baby... an ugly dancer shaking milk-white breasts so full they ache... Helene was almost flat up top... Just nipples. Big fat purplish ones. Earned her lots of tips, though... Tips on tap; who said that?... Him... Don't forget to... What? To say my prayers? To pray for Bridget? Yes. And don't forget... to tell... the dealer...

 

 

"Sorry."

Michelle, with Morgan's poem outstretched (re-folded, sealed in an envelope) is standing outside his (i.e. Gillian's) front porch door. So shockingly out of context, does she seem, he hardly recognizes her. Dressed in a bulky sweater and a loose-fitting pair of jeans—her makeup at a minimum (if carefully applied)—the contrast in appearance is remarkable. Morgan, at a total loss, accepts the letter clumsily, blushing like a juvenile caught with a smutty magazine—its centerfold having just popped out to indict him. Accordingly, he fails to invite her in.

"Wonderin' how I found out where you live?"

He does not answer... momentarily flattered by her making such an effort, embarrassed by her uninvited presence at his home, and mortified by her brash familiarity. 

Michelle gets the message.

"Well, I won't keep you. I only came to apologize and give you back your poem."

She starts to leave.

"Wait." He steps outside. "If the house weren't such a mess, I'd ask you in."

His lie is lame. Attempting to conceal that she is utterly unwelcome, does little to assuage its sting. Michelle retreats, humiliated, as if she has not measured up, as if her class, her station, were somehow lower, unrefined, substandard, cheap, contemptible... while Morgan, feeling trapped by pride and unacknowledged longing, hates himself for acting so superior, so effete, for wanting her despite himself, for sneering at her commonness, for deeming his life cultured, hers uncouth, for seeming brave, when inside he regards himself as cowardly.

Michelle, with downcast eyes, regrets having come.

"Well... Be seein' ya, Morgan."

Conscious of her every jar and jounce, her every jiggle, he watches as she turns and walks away.

 

 

The bill of Mikey's...

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