Dara snuck into my heart through the back door. Cuban and Italian, she was dark like the wrong side of the moon, a devout coke addict who drank a pint of Scotch a night. She catered to my every desire, hugged me like a bear. It’s living hell to love a vampire when you’re a morning person.
When I first met her, I was not at all taken. She was trash. Dara was running around in tight briefs and high heels at this all-nude strip bar hidden beneath a heavy black iron door and a flight of stairs drenched in red light. Rita, the Amazon German, sold tickets at the bottom of the stairs. She greeted me from the window with an odd, warm smile, “Hello, Laura.” I was the house comic. Rita, mother to punk rock souls, knew who I was—an orphan seeking a surrogate life, a rainbow and a hallway to the Devil. I was welcome. Twenty women danced naked, one man breathed fire and I ranted anger into the mike. I was the orphan who needed therapy most. The girls smoked and nodded as they watched.
Dara walked right up after my set and pointed at me, “You were really good, I really liked your shit.” She stuck her hand out. “I’m Dara by the way.” Her shake was delicate, and she sucked on her cigarette like it was giving her the next sentence.
“Are you from New York?”
“You’re a dead ringer for this performance artist I know named Suzycide. She does the same shit, except different. I’m from Chicago, don’t hate me.” She protected her head, pretending to cower under her hands.
“It’s really cool, I walked in here last Monday, and Rita gave me a job. I hear she’s nice as long as you come to work. How long have you performed here?”
“A long time.”
“They used have places like this in Chicago, but not anymore. It sucks now. Now everything’s really uptight. Oops, I have to go on stage. Talk to you later.” She gave a sexy wave good-bye.
I thought she was kissing my ass—a victim with fangs. Then she stepped onto the stage and nodded to the DJ. Depeche Mode’s “Stripped Down to the Bone.” warbled. She was hypnotic as the unfolding of tragedy as she danced in her underwear and a pair of long gloves. She made large, slow gestures, like Martha Graham. Deliberate and unabashedly woeful, she stripped naked, reclined on her back and looked into my eyes.
That night she invited me out with everybody: Violet, five feet tall, with breasts as large as blenders; Suzette, husky, her face full of piercings, who moisturized her many tattoos like she was polishing a car; and Chris, a lesbian rave kid who dressed in baggy jeans and a baseball cap turned backward. I was not particularly honest with myself. “I followed because she made me, “I thought. Heavily drunk, she swayed in front of me at the dance club. “I don’t want you to think I’m this way, because I’m not.”
But Dara’s smile was so quick and her wit so refreshing that she felt like a long lost friend. We all ended up at a box-shaped disco on Avenue B. Homeboys loitered in the basement, where deep-house blasted. I stripped off my clothes, not caring who watched. I wanted to be naked too. “You’re such a good dancer!” said Dara, in awe. All the sudden, she swept beneath me, and we were nose to nose, her pelvis pressed up against mine. She held me like a pissed-off samba dancer. I had never danced with a woman like that before.
We got kicked out at 8 a.m. Rise and shine with the junkie sun. I was tired, but I couldn’t leave her. Dara leaned against my breasts and kissed me sentimentally outside.
Her kiss was sweet and fragile, not at all aggressive. She held me like a mother never held me, and I blushed inside, knowing it was no substitute for the real thing. “Can I sleep at your place tonight? I don’t want to go home.”
We camped out on my futon. Dara was preoccupied with a mirror decorated with lines. I was anxious because I wasn’t snorting, and I wasn’t a lesbian. She sniffed and pulled off her shirt. Topless, she leaned on one hand and smoked with the other.
“I’m married you know. But I’m getting divorced.”
“Yeah. One and a half years.” She explained the sadness she hid from the girls. That her husband was actually a good guy, he just had no job, beat her and drank. She really liked me; thought I was a genius. She noted I needed love. Eventually, she crouched on all fours and licked my clitoris lightly. She wanted to show me a new world, spoil me. Coke fueled her generosity. Then she giggled abruptly. “Excuse me, I have to pee.” Like a baby panther, she stalked into the bathroom, lean and tan. I was out of toilet paper. She stuck her hand under the cold running water and washed her pussy with a handful.
From that night on, I spent every waking moment with Dara. She was unbelievably fun and dissolved my worst moods. Whenever I visited the strip bar, she lit up like a child at Christmas and waved frantically. She would look at me and laugh while sitting with other men. Her sexiness was like a flock of doves escaping a cage; they flew out of her soul when she smiled.
One Tuesday night, Dara called me very late.
“Laura? I’m locked out of the house. Can I crash at your place?” It was not a problem.
She showed up in fur coat, looking French with her short brown hair and a cigarette. She pulled out drugs, shaking. I wanted to lick Dara’s spirit more than her flesh, express my awe of her body and enigmatic presence. Keep her as mine. I eventually licked between her legs, her vagina mignon and pretty, her lean body arched. But she pushed my head away, crying. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” She looked down. “I can’t go to my happy place anymore. It’s not your fault. I used to tell Matt, ‘I can’t go to the happy place, baby, something’s wrong.’” Her eyes were full of tears.
“Something’s wrong, baby.”
She paced naked and cried the rest of the night, asking if she could live with me for a while. She had no place to stay. “Matt’s flying in from Chicago tomorrow. We’re supposed to talk. I’m gonna tell him I want a divorce and he can’t hit me anymore.”
That morning, she backed out of my door and waved, “Too-da-loo!” Days went by, and I didn’t hear from her. A week and a half passed. Finally, I went to the strip bar and found out she had gone back to Chicago.