hustle

Hustle* Box Cut

When I first started stripping, I had short hair –it was a boy-cut, really. I wouldn’t even say it was an attractive haircut, not like some of these avant-garde, cool cuts that other girls get. And definitely not a haircut a stripper would or even should have. Mine was the result of an end of the semester breakdown. With the female dorm empting out, much like my college funds, I slipped into the bathroom, tied my long hair into a ponytail and chopped it all off. The scissors were my roommate’s who was studying fashion design; they were big and chunky and not for cutting hair. What I was left with was something that looked and felt like my reality; chaotic and unfinished. I was in a panic. How would I pay for college? And how would I fix this hair of mine?

No one tells you that there are actual try-outs for a stripping position. I thought that it went something like this: you just go in and if you’re a girl or girlish, then you’re hired. But no, it doesn’t work like that. And I was as surprised as you. They want to see your body, first. And they want to see how you move your body, how comfortable you are with others looking at your body. I cannot recall feeling unready –as cliché as it sounds– I was born ready. I might have been more ready than most because something told me to do this. Plus, I had the pressure of education weighting down on me like the Codex Seraphinianus.

Without any clue what stripping involved, I brought in a bag with some gowns saved from my high school proms, I had attended three, and one pair of thongs, wine colored and lacey. Once I scanned the room and studied the girl’s outfits, I realized that what I had brought was the stuff I thought stripping was. Stripping was none of those things. It was not any item of clothing that fit into regular life –not at all. Women were in bodysuits, thigh highs, short tube dresses, skinny thongs, corsets, and some strange stringy things I had never before seen in my life. Later I would try to wear all of these and would settle on the bra and panty set –a real classic look. But it was clear that all of their clothing had been cut from the same cloth, some lycra-blend that clung to the body like plastic wrap, preserving them for as long as possible. I wanted to be cut from a timeless cloth; well, maybe not I, per se, but Marlowe. It took me a few months to learn my stripper style, but experimentation was all part of it. I tried men’s shirts with ties, I tried body stockings, I tried floor length gowns. It all felt too contrived, too of them and not of me. What I was looking for was a style that glorified Marlowe. And I knew Marlowe well. I had known her all my life. We had danced together in my adolescent mirror, we had studied our bodies under blankets at night, we had committed mutual masturbation.

Marlowe was a girl of very few frills, simple even. But what carried her through a shift would be her attitude not the pieces of fabric on her body. No one would fuck with Marlowe –that’s the standard she set for herself. And it worked. She was made up of one part sass, one part frankness, and one part focus –the rest legs, milkshake thick legs. Her decision to rarely smile was part of her character, too. She was the serious stripper, the one who sat in the corner away from the other girls. She was the one who decided that drinking or drugs on the job was a no-no. She was the one who was very particular about her music and make-up. She was the one that never smoked in front of customers. Marlowe wanted to get in and get out –all the while counting stacks. I had already planned this out in my head, way before I knew the try-out existed; Marlowe and I conspiring in the all-female dorm room back at university.

My try-out was, I’m sure, like any other try-out; however, I doubt any girl felt as comfortable as I did. Or maybe they did, what did I know. It’s possible that there were hundreds of Marlowe-esque types roaming the world on a hustle for study flow. But I was ready to take it all off for strangers. And in that moment, I came to understand myself more. I understood how sure of myself I had become even at a young tender age of 19. Years in the business would rip that to shreds and I would have to rebuild myself from the ground up once the stripping stopped.

I vaguely remember the shoes I wore, but they were not the platforms of the other strippers. I think I even wore my glasses on stage. I’m sure the perverts were into that nerd-chick thing. I didn’t get to pick the music, so the DJ somehow thought that ACDC would do the trick. The guys lined up around the stage once they heard I was a newbie. I was ready to fill my thong with dirty dollar bills; I was ready to rob people in a very legal way.

Looking back, it doesn’t even seem like my story –it’s a scene from a decent B-horror film. Later, I would get chopped up in one of the private champagne rooms, but not before grinding my way to an orgasm on top of a stranger who would be my lover slash killer. Something like that.

It never occurred to me that having short hair would make for a less than desirable stripper. I was so removed from the world of standard sexiness; I was a bubble-girl who had only known sex and sexy through my own experiences and not those of the outside world. That same year I had lost my virginity. But I quickly realized that short hair would not get me the paper I needed; I was on a mission to stack. So I went to a beauty supply store and bought a wig.

My wig, in a few words, was the replica of Cleopatra’s style, less black and more chestnut, reddish even. When I put on the wig and looked at myself in the mirror I felt a history of myself looking back –I was certain I had been this person before. And as quickly as I took to my new identity, I knew it had to be true. No one could tell me otherwise. It was a face I had seen but not seen –it was a face that had remained unseen until that moment. Somehow, I was following the footsteps of my past lives. Marlowe was just another name I attributed to a spirit I had known so well.

WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugre, jota cuadrada, &female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

Hustle* Other Dead Girls

girlsgirlsgirls[1]

*hustle*  Peek into a keyhole, search in a fragmented mirror, crack open a tinted door that could lead to a naked body –a collection of secrets & memories from Marlowe, a former stripper.

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The black box is taciturn, and cold all year round. Walking around for seven hours in an ice-tray, g-strings and nipple tape, produces goosebumps –permanent. We are ice-cubes, bobbling in a fountain of male squash, the first-press, the last-press, the only press –until they come back. We’ll juice them again, no matter. Try and get them before they get us first. That’s the trick. The hoax is an equal opportunity assailant.

If someone asks for special favors, which doesn’t happen as often as one might imagine, we are so outside of ourselves that the purged answer isn’t a part of who we are while inside the box. It’s attached to a we that can be seen in the mirror, but not felt. A we only recognizable by body, not name, and hardly ever face. We are frozen nails and hair. We are corpses twisting like DNA. What wavers is a soul that floats on ice pick heels. Animated corpses, animated meat. Pushing forward, but falling under. Living is a word we use in secret.

There is no discontent for we are disconnected. Strung together, yet despondent. Purgatorian shape shifters; ghost-like, whimsical, ethereal –we dwell in dynamic altercations and alternate currents. If only we could conjure Tesla. Light up the black box, highlight parts of a once preserved existence, perhaps charred or at the very least glowing. Scorch a mother who might or might not be one of us. Circle the burning witch, circle the once beating heart, circle the girl trapped in a cellophane wrapper.

Those flames extinguished before born. Sparks die like dreams on a drunken, blacked-out night.

The black box is frigid. Perfume spritzes freeze mid-air. They are dispelled by a customer´s breath; the molecules move around freely almost like us; some in structured spirals, some in chaotic curves, others in non-linear neutrals. They are unexpected whiffs of a sad girl’s story.

Despite its darkness we shimmer, golds and silvers sprinkled –eyelids, cheekbones, shoulders; faeries of the night, forgotten pixies searching the black box over for the one, anyone, the one that might take us away, or at least out of the box. And that happens sometimes, some of the girls go from this box into another where they will get paid to fuck or something like it. The belly crease or button drizzled with a glittery goo, it sticks to shirt tails or pants –the wife or girlfriend notices but says nothing. We are mythological; we don’t really exist until seen with the naked eye. The wife or girlfriend will find more clues, but until we’ve been spotted we can only be figments and fragments, faceless fables, fictitious forest fawns. It is with a wink we re-appear. Or the snap of fingers recently removed from a bank teller´s hand shake.

We travel on ice in the black box, clear platforms on which we skate. The costumes as glamourous and dramatic as any Olympic-status ice princess. The stage, our rink. We dismount onto piles of flesh and receive paper instead of points. We convert it all into self-esteem, revenue for creating envy, assets for staking claims. It’s our fantasy –we can make those stacks of bills anything.

Our moves, methods for garnering paper stacks, a peek into the center of us –not just some hole, like pussy or cavernous mouth. We all cling to our best tricks. We cling to the pole as if it were a life force or at least a source of heat. And yes, of course, because of its phallic appeal, we are compelled to writhe against it.

The box grows colder after the stage dismount. What cracks is not the stage or the mirrors surrounding our performance, it’s the heart of a heart we once had. We are empty pods, pods of shiny, twinkling iridescence with pearly mouths, and gem-colored eyes –we are like a velvet box.

Hangers to flesh, tiny sequined or florescent outfits. To hang ourselves above the crowd, a ceiling fan or a cobweb –to hang ourselves like spindles of flesh and fluid –to hang ourselves hands outstretched grasping for something. To hang ourselves onto anything.

Trickery thick, we keep looking at the door of the box as if there were a way out; as if the exit were an actual exit. But the reality is a box –a box we’ve hidden inside the heart, since forgotten or misplaced. We dream of a box-illusory. And we become the box. We are walking around inside ourselves. Beyond cold, unfelt and unfeeling; iced filigrees shivering against dejected blobs of men. They are flesh imitating our hearts. They are our hearts. And they are us; we –them. All the while, everyone remains still, frozen perhaps, for the triple axel dismount, that spinning madness that defies gravity.

We defy gravity, too, living inside one another. So close, but not touching. Touching so much, but not at all. There are no opposites, but plenty. There is confusion, but only always. All of it an alter unto a fetishized society, layered like loas, open like orishas –we are dancing dioses. Replicating and destroying, a torn knee, a bad rotator cuff, a broken hand, heart, head. Life-sized dolls, we are. Seen not heard, fucked and fondled, coveted then thrown away. We are reality ridiculous, we are dreams demanded. We are invented names. We are fruits and desserts and drinks –we are other dead girls.

WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugre, jota cuadrada, & female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.

hustle* The Black Box

girlsgirlsgirls[1]

*hustle*  Peek into a keyhole, search in a fragmented mirror, crack open a tinted door that could lead to a naked body –a collection of secrets & memories from Marlowe, a former stripper.

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From Indiana to Florida, chasing boys since I was a sprout, I follow yet another one.

Boxes filled with photos and other first love tokens are left to melt in the Florida heat. Two weeks of no eating; I shrivel under the pressure of being alone. And now, I have the entire bed to myself.

Except I can’t sleep. Not a wink.

This is what happens when I break up with my boyfriend.

I don’t break up with stripping. Not yet. If anything, I work harder. I go from one box to another via a box with wheels. Days, entire days, days upon days, weeks, I spend inside the box; they call it the day shift, but it could be the night shift for no one sees light –except the rays that cut the darkness when someone holds the door open for too long. The eye’s adjustment to the box.

My life is night. I only see the sun when I’m putting on my night face and even then it’s such an illusion; I call it transitioning.

I have more cash in my pocket than before. Yet while everything swells, I retreat.

At one point, I convince myself that it will only be a few more years. Me, living in this pinprick of a universe, wilting and shrinking to a squeak, squishing a prick into a pin, then taking freshly drawn bills from the hand of a wrinkled person. Time treads softly and without much indication. Time is a she because I say so. Time is a she because of fickleness. She has done so.  Tricked me, that is; she twirls like ice-skaters and ballerinas and circus tricks. Spinning –I bite down so hard on the bit to keep from falling atop the crowd, mouths agape. The height, a reminder of the pain of falling.

During the day-shift, the crack of the main door the only gauge of time. There’s always a door before the door. It’s like a story within a story; a box within a box. If the day shift is murky, then the night shift is an obscure abyss; a box so dark lives are conceived in shade like belladonna. The night shift girls deal with another class of drunks, night crawlers, and freaks –they leave a trail of mucus or some other wet gooeyness behind. Slug-like they move, slug-like they feel, slug-like they live.

On a few occasions, I have braved the pit, the writhing after hours. But the thought of wasting my days sleeping, tucked away inside another box, the real vampire life –well, I don’t have it in me. I leave it to them. Those experienced box-dwellers.

Night strippers deserve respect beyond their creature of the night status; those girls outhustle hustlers. They tentacle money from clients.  They lie like breathing.   They origami bodies.  They perform physical tricks that would shame any fitness instructor; more flexible than most professional dancers. They balance matches on erect nipples and light them on fire, they hang themselves with bondage gear and burn bald vaginas with candle wax, they do headstands, upside-down, backwards splits. In comparison, I am pathetic. The twinkling lights inside my head –the only lights I can hold onto -are my guide.  They illuminate the slowest, calmest beat. The only respite I have in this life, my moment on stage, naked in front of strangers.

I move deliberately because, duh, high heels, too. Despite sturdy legs, I wobble. Tragic is the naked girl who falls in stilettos.

Balancing on things, I make money and tuck all those bills into a box under my bed. Later, stacks of bills will go into a bank deposit box with a key; a drug-dealing boyfriend will steal that box from me. Cliché, I know.

Moving between boxes, I am the roundest thing I know.

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When I am in the back of the black box putting on my face and getting ready, I notice the faces, all the other ones. They are huddled around, closer each time –studying me; from my moves to my facial gestures, from my gait to my tongue. They box me in sometimes, asking me questions –the faces. They want to know my story. Who I am.  Where I come from.   What I’m doing here.   When I’ll leave.  Will I ever leave?  They pick at me. They prod. They lift an arm, a hair tendril, an eyelid. They are searching for something they might not ever find. They are them. They are also me. We are me.  I feel the panic, the sheer terror as I pencil in an eyebrow. This face is the only face I know –the others long gone, missing, or forgotten. This stripper face is me and will always be me. She will always be there –shading eyelids, drawing lips, fluffing hair. She is going to follow me into my 20s and 30s, she is going to laugh at me like a real bitch when I hit 50. She will cry when I turn 70. At 80 she will tell vulgar stories. One day she will forget me, or perhaps she’ll merely pretend she’s forgotten just to fit into a new box, that bitch. My last day on earth when I’ve learned, finally, how to put on my night face and release myself from a formative, box-like state into a new black box, eternal.

WORDS BY:  Jacklyn Janeksela

jacklyn janeksela, MFA is an artist and an energy. Find her work @ art mugre, jota cuadrada, & female filet. Her music with The Velblouds @ band camp.