by T.D. 11th, (fiction)
I hate having to expose myself like this, I should be used to it after 5 years but I'm not, I may as well be naked but I have to make a living somehow. I hear the announcer call me to the stage by my stripper name. “Please welcome are beautiful, sexy Cici, to the stage!” He says my stripper name as if I'm a queen, as if I’m the most respectable lady about to do the most respectable thing, which couldn't be further from the truth. My stripper name comes from my name Cianna, I've never liked that name I knew it wasn’t professional. My coworker who is also my best friend, Ashanda loves this job and has been my biggest and only supporter when it comes to being a stripper.
“Go on girl, go out there and make your money.”
I just laugh at her but she's right I better get out there the people are waiting for me and I need the money. I have on such a revealing outfit that I refuse to even describe it, no wonder my mother is ashamed of me but when I complain to Ashanda how my own mother can't even look me in the eye anymore, she always tells me that I’m only 23 and I have my whole life ahead of me to make something of myself. I doubt it, putting former stripper on a resume doesn't really qualify me for any respectable work and it's not like I even have my high school diploma, all I have is a GED and it's not paying the bills so here I am. I walk on to the stage and do what I'm supposed to do to get them to throw money, no matter how degrading. Sometimes I decide to enjoy myself. I mean it is my life I may as well enjoy it but nights like tonight make me hate my job and sometimes even my gender.
I just finished my performance, I'm off stage and I'm in my waitress uniform serving drinks. The show wasn't enough for this drunk, middle aged, waste of space man. He starts off flirty and I just politely brush it off. “Hey gorgeous that was quite a performance you put on up there, how about you come home with me and give me a private show.”
I give him a little sass and kindly decline, personality is important when your a stripper they throw more money if they like you. He hits on me a few more times but it's always the same story and I'm starting to see his agitation with being rejected but I keep brushing him off. I've dealt with guys like this eventually they get bored and move on to easier prey, at least that's what I thought. I'm behind the counter now working as a bartender, I do a lot at this club and it pays off, he’s finally stopped hitting on me but he didn't go away. He’s sitting at a table to my near left it’s really late so there's not many people in here other than the usuals. He’s staring at me and I’m feeling really uncomfortable but my shifts over in about 5 minutes so I’ll be out of here soon. I grab my bag with all my stuff, clock out and begin to leave, he still hasn't taken his eyes off me and I swear I saw him get up to follow me from the corner of my eye. I leave through the back door where only employees can get through, it leads into an alley a few blocks from my bus stop. It's dark and the city is mostly asleep, I start walking towards the end of the alley so I can continue my journey to the bus stop on the sidewalk. He's here, as soon as hit the corner onto the sidewalk I see him, right in front of me. I try to walk past and continue without confrontation but he has other plans, he grabs me by the arms and angrily pushes me back into the alley.
“You think that you’re too good for me huh! You're nothing but a dirty stripper and I threw money so you owe me this!” He throws me onto the ground hard and I hit my head even harder, I'm disoriented for a moment and the things spilled out of my bag next to me. I weakly reach for it but my mind is foggy and my actions are slow, too slow. I try to scream and yell as loud as I can but he tells me to shut up and there's no use because there’s no one around to hear me and I'm too far from the club for them to hear me. He climbs on top of me and pins me down but I'm regaining my composure and I fight back, I knee him in the groin hard enough so that his grip on me weakens. I quickly look to my spilled items and my eyes focus on the pepper spray, I grab it as fast as I can and I mace him. He’s screaming and yelling and he's rolling on the ground in pain, I use this to my advantage and get up. I'm very light headed and I'm pretty sure my head is bleeding but I have to get away from him. I muster up the hardest kick I can and connect with his head, it wasn't extremely hard but it was enough to give me time to run. I race towards the back door of the club, which they keep locked so I bam on the door as hard as I possibly can and I yell as loud as I possibly can. When I turn my head I see that the man is not as hurt as he was and he’s starting to get up, his eyes are red but he found the water bottle in my bag, rinsed out his eyes, and now he’s not in as much pain. I continue to yell and bang on the door but the man is coming towards me and he’s getting closer. The door nearly knocks me over and I see the face of my savior, his name is Steve and he works here as security.
“What happened?! Your head?!”
I'm frantically screaming and pointing in the direction of the guy. I guess she heard all the commotion because I see Ashanda approaching and I run into her arms and begin to sob. Steve restrains him until the police gets there and I tell Ashanda what happened, I gave the police my statement and they take my attacker down to the station. My head needed stitches but luckily I didn't have to go all the way to the hospital, my injury was treated in the back of the ambulance. I'm really out of it now and I'm way too shook to take the bus alone so Ashanda eagerly and happily offers to drive me home. I don't live far and she drives pretty fast so we should be there in about 3 minutes. "Why didn't you say anything? This dude was stalking you all night and you thought it was a good idea to just walk out into a dark alley all alone?”
I tell her that I didn't think much of his flirting and how I never expected anything like that to happen but she keeps fussing, I stopped listening when she started bringing up ‘what if’ scenarios. We finally pull up to my house and all her nagging made that 3 minutes feel like a lifetime, I know she’s just looking out for me and I really appreciate her always being there so I invite her to stay the night. It's not like I want to be alone but I will soon find out that being alone is nothing I need to worry about. I walk up the stairs and pull out my keys to unlock the door but something isn’t right. I look to my left and I see the glow of lights through my window but I'm almost positive that I turned out all the lights, I just shrug it off and continue to unlock the door. I unlock the bottom lock then turn the knob but the door is still locked, I never lock the top lock. At this point I know something is off and so does Ashanda.
I tell her about the lights being on and the door being locked, she suggests that it might be the landlord and I don't even voice all the reasons why that sounds stupid, I just give her a look of bewilderment that questions her sanity. She laughs and tells me that I’m probably just paranoid from all that happened tonight. I consider it and continue unlocking the door but I’m not convinced, when I open the door my suspicions of someone being here are confirmed because I'm positive I hear music that I don't even listen to. I step into the doorway and look back at Ashanda and she just shrugs her shoulders and gives me the ‘I don't know’ look. I walk down the hall and peep around the corner into the living and I see my little sister passed out on the couch, fully dressed, with the TV on Pandora, I forgot I gave her a key. I turn off the TV and walk over to the couch to wake her up. I shake her and call her name but she’s completely still, I shake her a bit harder and say her name but it's like she’s dead. I slap her arm and yell her name she stirs but she's still not waking. Ashanda comes from around the corner, from the direction of the kitchen and hands me a cup of water. That woke her up, she sits up coughing and rubbing her eyes then she looks up and finally acknowledges our presence.
“Hey big sis, Hey Ashanda, what are you guys doing here? Oh yeah this is your house.” She goes into a fit of giggling and it's automatically clear to us that she's drunk I go get a bottle of water and some pjs for her to sleep in and Ashanda gets straight to questioning her.
“How did you get here and why are you drunk?”
“I snuck out and went to a party I had a little too much fun and I couldn't go home to my mom like this you know she trips way too much. My boyfriend dropped me off here what's the big deal?”
“What’s the big deal Diana!? I'll let your sister deal with you.”
I help Diana put on the pj's and I make her drink the water, I tell her that we'll talk in the morning and then I tuck her into my bed. I’m super tired and I just had a very long night. I tell Ashanda that she can use the guest room and then I go to sleep beside my sister. I wake up to my phone ringing, and my head pounding, and I missed the call, when I go to pick up my phone I remember what happened last night and I look over my shoulder and see a sleeping, drooling Diana. I look at my phone and see that I have 5 missed calls from my mom and texts asking if I know where Diana is. I decide that me and Diana need to talk before I talk to our Mother so I wake her up and of course she groaning and complaining about a headache. I tell her that she can’t go down this path and that she needs to do better and be someone in life so she won't end up like me.
“Cianna I promise this won’t happen again last night was a mistake and I'm sorry. I'll do better I swear.”
I accept her apologies and tell her that next time I'm going to tell Mom. I call my mom and apologize for not answering sooner I tell her that I came by late last night with Ashanda, picked up Diana and brought her home with us for a girl night. After a few more minutes of fussing she calms down and concludes the conversation with wanting Diana back in her house within the next two hours. She didn't really want to stay on the phone to talk with me because of my lifestyle, she basically disowned me. She doesn't even trust me enough to have my own little sister at my house. She probably thinks being a stripper is contagious. It’s all really hitting me, I can't live like this and I just break down and cry because homework ruined my life. I wish I could go back, back when I was 16, back when I was a 4.0 student, back to High School.
Of course my hand was the first to shoot up, I know the answer, I always know the answer and I always participate.
“Anyone else but Cianna, no, well it seems that you’re the only one who knows the answer and the only one who did the homework.”
I give him the answer and of course I’m correct, I’m a 4.0 student I can't afford not to do homework or not know the answers. He gives the class independent studying time and I open up my well organized planner and find out all the upcoming tests, quizzes, and projects and start studying for them accordingly. I jump out of my studying daze, I see people already walking out of class and the bells automatically signals for me to pack up and leave for lunch, I meet with my friends.
“I’m really tired of school we never get a break.”
“We do get breaks, the weekends and a little after school, also the holidays.”
“Those are not breaks if the teachers still give us piles of homework to do. I know I don't get a break, at this point it's making me fall behind.”
"If the homework takes me more than five minutes I just don't do it because after a long day at school I'm way too tired to be worried about some homework.”
I'm listening to my friends complain about homework and I completely agree with them. Even I, as a straight A student, I don't see the point of all the homework the teachers give. It becomes overwhelming and really stressful and I personally think that it causes failure within schools, my friends are a perfect example of that. They're good students but just like for most high schoolers, homework becomes overwhelming and causes them to lose motivation and fall behind. Those few hours of free time after school and the two days of the weekend are truly needed for rest, studying and free time but homework takes over all of that and becomes stressful. The bell rings and it's time to go to class I easily get through the rest of the school day but of course by the end I have accumulated a great amount of homework from each of my classes. After school I get on the bus and get off by my little sister’s school, she's only seven so she needs someone to pick her up and my mom is working at this time, so I pick her up and then we walk home.
The first thing I notice is that my mom's car is here, I ask my sister if she knows why mom is home and she shrugs and runs off to play in the backyard. I take out my key and unlock the door, as soon as I step in I see my grandma sleeping on the couch and she doesn't look well. I frown and get ready to go look for my mom but she's already approaching me.
“Cianna I need to talk to you.”
She sounds serious and we go in the kitchen and sit down. I ask why grandma is here and if she's ok but she just gives me this sad look.
"Your grandma has a bad virus Cianna and because of her age it's harder for her body to fight it. She's here because her insurance doesn't cover her staying in the hospital until she gets better and I can't afford it right now.”
She pauses then looks at me as if that wasn't the worse part, as if that wasn’t the bad news and what she's about to say is.
“Cianna, well your grandma needs someone to look after her, give her her medicines, and nurse her back to health. I have to stay at work to provide for you and your sister, you're going to have to leave school just until your grandma gets better.”
Leave school, she wants me to leave school and play nurse I give my mother a look of pure rage, but then it turns to understanding and I say ok. I know that I'm the only one my grandma has to take care of her and I understand but I'm upset and I know that this will hurt my grades and my attendance. My mom lets my school know that I won't be there and she works it out so that I will still have to make up assignments and tests but it will be on my own pace and I will only have to make up a modified amount of the work. I still will be behind, I would have to teach myself the lessons to understand how to do the assignments and there won't be much time for that between taking care of my grandmother and watching over my younger sister. I prepare to lose that 4.0 gpa.
I’m finally back in school… and I have no idea what's going on. The teachers are on completely new lessons and I have tons of work to catch up on. I know that there’s no one to blame and that it's irrational to be mad, but a wave of anger washes over me at the fact that my grandma got sick. After 3 months she's finally well enough to take care of herself, so here I am, back in school completely and utterly lost. My teacher calls me to answer a question and for the first time I don't know the answer. It's embarrassing and I hate it, I hate him for calling on me knowing that I've been gone, knowing that I don't know the lesson or the answer. It's the same story all day I’m lost and confused and by the end of the day an overwhelming sense of defeat sweeps over me.
The whole week goes by and then the next and I have already had two meltdowns. I’m still struggling to catch up on work and I have so much make-up work that it is interfering with me completing my current work. Some of my teachers try to help by cutting my workload for their classes in half. It helps but not as much as they think since I still have to attempt to teach myself the lessons that I've missed to even be able to complete the assignments. I am overwhelmed with assignments and catching up, I’m ready to just give up. Through the mists of all this catch up work I had to study for the first make up test and today's the day I have to take it. My brain is fried but I have to meet the deadlines of the teachers, I take the test and I think I did well, at least well enough to pass which is still a very low expectation for me, I was completely wrong. I failed the test and that almost crushed my motivation. I was ready to give up in school and life but I tell myself that I can still get through this and pass my classes.
After school I go to the library and use every resource available to me so I can complete some assignments. After a few hours I feel like I get a sufficient amount of work done, so I go through my backpack to see all the assignments I still need to do and what tests I need to study for. My stomach drops and my face twists into a frown. I feel the lump in my throat begin to form, I feel the tears begin to moisten my eyes and I feel the overwhelming sense of stress, failure, anger and discouragement sweep over me. I still have so much work to do and I hardly understand the concepts and lessons that I need to know to complete these assignments. I'm so focused on trying to catch up that it's putting me behind on my current work. If I do everything I can to catch up on old assignments I'll fall behind and fail, if I put aside my old work and only focus on my current work, I would still fail. On one hand I fail. And on the other… Well you get the point. I grab my stuff and leave, I'm defeated, at this point success is impossible and I give up. For the next few weeks school was just a place that I went to to do nothing. My teacher's were concerned and they couldn't comprehend how I could go from a 4.0 student who never missed an assignment, to a student who seemed nonchalant and uncaring about her education.
"Tell me what I, as a teacher can do to help you. It's like you lost all ambition to succeed. I know you've been out of school for a while and you feel like you're very behind but you're so smart. I believe that if you really dedicated yourself you could catch up."
I explain to him that I've really tried and that success seems to be impossible. I try to make him understand my frustration but he doesn't get it, no one gets it and I feel so alone in my failure. I quit trying to make him understand and I just give up in school all together. Not that my grades were even that great but now I’m pretty much failing everything and I'm ready to drop out. I've lost all motivation and there's a lot of good jobs that don't require a high school diploma. I have thousands of dollars that I have been saving since I was able to talk, it was for college but now I'm thinking it can be for rent and food because I’m ready to drop out. I know my mother wouldn't support this at all and I would have to get out of her house, my father’s a dead beat and I know that if I were to rent a place he would let me put it in his name. It's not like it would be costing him anything. I'm convinced, I'm going to drop out.
I've decided that I'll suffer through school until the end of the school year and I'll move out during summer this gives me the time I need to find a place, contact my father, get a job, and finally the hardest part, tell my mother.
I do all of this successfully, my father as suspected didn't care, I’ll be 18 in a few weeks and getting a job as a waitress wasn't hard, I got a place under my dad's name and I've already paid the first 6 months of rent, I've slowly been moving my things into my new house, now all I have to do is tell my mom.
“No! No! No! I know it's been hard but no child of mine is going to be a high school dropout. I don't know what your idiot of a father was thinking but ABSOLUTELY NOT!”
My mother, as expected, has gone into a rage and believes she can stop me from dropping out. I stay calm and let her know it's too late I have a place and a secure job, I have enough money and I don't need her help or her permission.
“THEN GET OUT AND DON'T COME BACK UNTIL YOU REGAIN YOUR SANITY.”
So I leave and I guess I never regained my sanity, because I never go back. I have the summer of my life, parties, hanging with my friends, making money and my 18th birthday. School rolls around and of course I don't go back, my life is great without it.
I get a call from my boss, also the owner of the small restaurant I work in, I don't know why she's calling so I assume she just needs me to come in early.
“Hi Cianna, I am so sorry to tell you this but we're experiencing low wages and I have to let a few people go. I'm sorry but your position at the restaurant is terminated. If you have any personal items at the restaurant please collect them. Bye, have a good day.”
Well that was unexpected, I'm still shocked when the mailman comes by. I get up and get the mail and I see my phone and PG&E bill. I can afford it but I won't be able to if I don't get another job soon. I don't have a car so I look for places in my area and I must have applied for at least 8 jobs. I wait about a week and all the hiring committees have emailed me and the emails look almost identical, all of them deciding not to hire me. I still have money from my savings and I won't have to worry about rent for a while but I have bills to pay, groceries to buy and this money won't last forever. I find more jobs in this area and apply for them but it's still the same story, I need a job so I start applying for jobs even further away. I still get turned down by all of them and I'm just in shock out of at least 17 jobs not one of them wants to hire me.
It's been almost a month now and I really need a job. After the bills and the essential living materials my money is slowly starting to run thin. I look for things I can do to make money at 18 for a few hours, I take a break and go on Instagram. That's when I see videos of strippers holding stacks and stacks of money. At this point I'm desperate for a job and I look for hiring strip clubs in this area. I find one and I'm old enough to work there which is a plus, I don't know if I'm qualified, I have thick, curly auburn hair, sharp and attractive facial features and golden brown eyes. I'm thin but I have curves, with a nice shape. I guess that this is a nice body for a stripper and I'm a pretty good dancer. So I apply and they get back to me within the next week, for the first time in a while the email looks different and I've landed an interview.
I get off at the bus stop a few blocks from the club, I walk the rest of the way and when I approach it I notice that it's a pretty nice club. Security greets me at the door and he introduces himself. His name is Steve and even though he looks pretty scary he's very, very, polite and kind. He shows me to the office of where I need to be for my interview and I see that there’s another girl here waiting to be interviewed as well. She’s has welcoming kind eyes, she’s attractive and she looks about my age.
“Hi I'm Ashanda and I just wanted to let you know that I love your hair and you’re very pretty.”
I smile, thank her, introduce myself and compliment her as well. She tells me that she’s here to apply for a stripper position and that this club is very popular so the pay will be good. She continues to make conversation with me until I get called in for my interview. I can tell that if we both get the job and become coworkers, we would be good friends.
And I soon find out that I was very right.
Oakland | East Bay, CA