There are clips. They come and go as they please, without much regard for my emotional state; they interrupt many quiet moments or resurface in the bedroom. Some of them are reeling –projected on a brain screen, on repeat, and, almost always, in black and white. Others are twinklings of things that cannot be confirmed as real or fictional, but are there nonetheless. The majority of them creep into my dreams, sultry yet panicked. Half naked, I am unsure of my role as a human being, as a woman, as an object of desire, as a stripper, as creature. But all of them are me, a version of me, all of them are Marlowe, albeit a decade ago.
Clips in three parts, like a trinity, like a threesome, like multiple personalities. The beginning, the middle, and the end; like birth, crisis, and death –all swarming into something that makes me a complex person, all telling stories of once upon a time. Although in my dreams, there is no such concept of time. It’s all Marlowe, all the time, without time. No time no lapse, no time ticking, and no time to rewind or look forward to –just a time of Marlowe so many years ago. She streams in like a ribbon, hair tendrils, or a film reel. Marlowe, despite time ebbing and flowing, never ages –she defeats time and she defeats herself.
Innocence hoisted me forward in the business. A young thing, a doll baby with no clue about nipple tape and latex glue or how to walk steady in platform heels, I chose a niche to which I would affix myself. Chubby cheeks and lollipop tongue twirls brought all the pedophiles to the forefront, they were easy to spot and even easier to pickpocket. Some customers tried to get me to grind them saying things like, “It’s okay, don’t worry, you’re not doing anything wrong” to more aggressive tactics like, “I paid for this dance and I’m gonna get what I paid for”. And all the while the girl face was fooling them. Innocence was only a cover, a mask, a layer of make-up and cotton candy body spray. From day one, I understood the push and pull of customer versus dancer. I was tricking them before they could trick me. Parading in pigtails and white ankle socks, I pouted my way into private dances and cried my way out of finishing touches –wiping my tears on 20-dollar bills.
Just 19, I was ripe enough, just old enough. That same year I had lost my virginity. My first name choice was Cleo or Chloe; I was looking for a reinforcement of my girlish ways. Once I had learned how to maneuver the floor, the private dances, the stage tricks –I felt seasoned, bought a wig, and changed my name to Marlowe. In my second year at the university, studying Literature, the name change made sense to me. Christopher Marlowe was a rebel, he pushed limits, he was a bad boy; I was all of that. I was the title character and devils danced around me –the parallels were uncanny. My only fear was that I, too, would be stabbed in the eye; hence my infamous phase of wearing a patch over my eye while stripping.
Somewhere in the middle when I should have peaked, I retreated. While my pockets increased, inside I shrunk. Money spent, money coming and going, money filling up my breasts, money paying for bills and blow, money saved for someday.
Hollowed out bodies crowding around me, hollowed out spirits, hollowed out hearts. It appeared as though I was not alone. No one was real. Everyone was an apparition. And I watched as one by one apparitions grew hair extensions and boobs and bought cars and bags of drugs. As everything spun, spider-webbing designs of the designers, the rich, the famous, the superficial and the dead –I watched tears crystalize on a hardened face, mine.
Somewhere in the middle when I should have left, I stayed. I sniffed more cocaine in bathroom stalls with sluts and dealers. Getting bags for free, for letting a dealer do lines off my ass, I was just another ghost wandering a land that felt as foreign to me as my own body. Found the raggedy of raggedy of shit boyfriends –one a drug dealer, the other a Latin King, and another an abuser from a long line of abusers stemming from the Italian Mob. Sleeping was the most pleasant part of my day –it was a pseudo death where I and everything else vanished; Marlowe could be squished into a star and only seen, admired, from a very, very far distance.
A truth unheard and unseen strapped me down to see destruction. Never had I felt both confident and scared at the same time. Tricks I could pull, but without tricks where would I go? In street clothes and without make-up, I was just me. I was not a character. I was not a spinning doll. I was not a spotlight harlot. Stripping had glued itself to my identity or, rather, I had stitched it to me. And leaving would be like breaking up, breaking up with a part of myself that I had constructed, a part of myself that had taught me about the hustle and the grind, a part of myself that I could never get back. I would have to let her go. That alone, not the lack of attention or money was horrific. Oh, the horror!
After sticking my heels into the dicks of pricks, squeezing nipple clamps on elderly customers, and faking organisms with girls –what was next for me, for Marlowe? Marlowe would not get her eye stabbed; she would stab it herself. And so she, I, waited inside a black box for the knife to appear –waited to see the shiny blade appear in the dark and rush herself, myself, upon it.
WORDS BY: Jacklyn Janeksela