Brevity Fifteen

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Bobbie on the Pole

By Alison Fensterstock

Sometimes Bobbie spends the whole night in the dressing room talking on her cell phone and smoking cigarettes and changing her outfit over and over again. She doesn’t like to sit in the bar and talk to the managers or the bartenders or the customers. She’s been here long enough that the front of her locker is plastered with stickers, the kind you get out of the fifty-cent vending machines at the grocery store. Mostly they’re cartoons of fairies that share Bobbie’s slim elfin face, cupid’s bow lips and wide-set, almond-shaped eyes. One says “Sorry, but I prefer GIRLS!” and one that has a black-haired nymph with wicked purple eyes on it says, “This property protected by fairies.” BOBBIE is scrawled on the locker in blue permanent marker.

Bobbie trades pills from a tin lunchbox shaped like a coffin, with a cartoon vampire on it. She sits on the dressing room floor with the other girls who do this and they swap round Somas and oblong Xanbars and fat whiteVicodin 750s and Percocets and and pale yellow Lortabs and tiny blue Valiums. Bobbie looks about fifteen with her clothes on, with her slight shoulders, narrow hips and small breasts. Her lips are rosy and her lashes are long and dark. She doesn’t wear makeup, or if she does, it’s just loose glitter around her eyes and collarbone that adds to the girlish look of a teenager playing with cosmetics. Bobbie is twenty-two and has a four-year-old son, and in the regular incandescent light of the dressing room you can see that the parts of her small blooming body that should still be plump with collagen and baby fat are limp and empty-looking. The loose skin that covers her flat, muscular lower belly is a crosshatching of deep ridges and furrows and the slash of a C-section scar. Her small breasts are puckered with the bleached-out lines of stretch marks. They hang off her chest and look defeated here in the unforgiving dressing-room light.

But Bobbie is pale magic on the pole. She is fair and slender and glows under her filmy white dresses, and her long legs melt into clear Lucite shoes whose thick platforms catch the stage lights, sending a blizzard of silvery light swirling around her body as she whips herself around the pole. She walks onto the stage with her head down, her long, auburn hair hiding her face, ringlets falling over her bare white shoulders, and then she touches the brass pole and her particular electricity whips her into the air where she swings and flips and spins and whirls through space, high above the ground, tricks nobody else can do, whirling around to the pole with one hand and centrifugal force. There are infinite reflections of Bobbie in the mirrors that line the club, but she moves so fast that she’s nothing but a blur of white and blue and silver and the whole club inhales and stops with breath full in their chests. Bobbie on the pole is nothing but a billion particles of white light in the dark air. Bobbie on the pole is their breath.

When the music finally ends, Bobbie touches the ground lightly. She picks up the dollar bills from the edge of the stage. She stands up and white light carves out the rounded muscles of her slim shoulders and the chiseled curve of her waist and her small, high, pink-tipped breasts. Bobbie turns and walks through the dark velvet curtain and the breath escapes all through the club as Bobbie is exhaled from our bodies, and the next dancer’s music starts.


Alison Fensterstock is a New York City expat living and drinking in New Orleans. She supports herself in the style to which she is accustomed by writing for various local publications and promoting events including the annual burlesque convention Tease-O-Rama. She is a student in the MFA program in Fiction Writing at the University of New Orleans, but plans to switch to nonfiction, as her mama didn't raise any liars.

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