With my little needle i will sew tiny stitches
in the gaping flesh that falls off the pole
when i dance.

And when you next see me and i am tethered,
skin and bone, to the steely rod, give me the
courtesy of a
“hello.”

And then cut me down
and lay me
to rest

in the earth where live things
will crawl inside me and breathe
maggot life
into this
forgotten
whore’s flesh.

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MORNING by Suzy Devere

July 24, 2008

“Okay, there’s the rub,” I thought, rolling over and trying to open my eyes. But the light was so fucking annoying.  Too bright, like an x-ray sizzling through my brain.  Louisa was pulling back the curtains and it was hellish.  I drifted back out to sea.

“Ms. Suzy, Ms. Suzy.  I’m sorry but chu tole me no to let chu sleep today pas lunchtime.”

Louisa’s voice was hovering and mothering, almost as annoying as the light, but for her I pulled it back to shore.  She loved me.

“Yes, yes.  Thank you, Louisa,” which, I can honestly say I meant, but not for waking me up; who gives a shit about getting up?  I could’ve slept till California sunk into the sea.  No, what I was thankful for was that she was there, making sure I wasn’t dead.  And if I was?  It was reassuring to know she’d be the one to find me first.  Louisa, my hero.

“Could you check with Anthony downstairs to see if a package from Rupert Flynn came?” I said, not very nicely, eyes still less than half-mast. I wanted that package.  Been waiting for it for days.  It was the Will with new appraisal values, blah blah.  I didn’t give a shit about the stuff, but I also didn’t like the idea of fuck-off lawyers and my uptight, slit-stitched, step-mother taking it all without a fight.  Fatty said his lawyers would take care of it if I wanted.  I told him to ask someone else because I wasn’t talking to him.  Couldn’t hear him. 

“Is that a dog I hear barking somewhere in the distance?” I’d said angrily, cocking my head to one side, pretending to listen to something far away.  He shut up.

The truth is I didn’t want him to see what I was all about.  He had his ideas about me, and that was fine, but they were only ideas.  In much the same way I had my own ideas about me, and I didn’t want anything—especially not facts—telling me otherwise. Lord, I didn’t want to have to look into Fatty’s eyes and see “understanding” or “empathy” or any of the other sad-sack things that show up in people’s eyes when they think they really have you pegged.

Ugh. It wasn’t his fucking business, my father’s affairs, you know? 

Money—the spending of money and the owning of things, any things, not just rich / poor bullshit—can tell someone more about you than you know about yourself.  This fact being the one true thing I felt sure of—that my father’s estate would tell others who I really was—made me feel sick. From the first day I’d heard he was dead I knew I’d rather lose it all, the money, the things, than have full disclosure to deal with. 

The other thing I knew was that people react to things in weird ways.  Fatty could read the Will and decide I should be on my own without his help, financially and physically, and that would be bad.  It was his constant bullshit and my hatred, channeled all towards him, that pushed me through the days. Lucy had long disappeared, and I hadn’t really done anything for years but fuck people, dance a little, spend a lot, and get loaded.  Didn’t want to rock the boat.

By the time Louisa dutifully came back, bulging brown envelope in hand, it was nearly two o’clock and I was still unwashed, undressed, and unimpressed by what the day could hold.  She looked at me strangely, like an investigator.

“He say hello to chu, and he tell me chu need to come to take a walk.”

“You tell him thanks for the tip, and to take his own walk.”  Louisa winced but said nothing, just as I expected.  Talking about the staff to other staff, no matter how different their positions, was always a bad idea.  They didn’t like it.  Made them feel insecure, even though for a moment they also felt privy to insider information, which made them feel superior.  It still was bad form, one of those no-nos of the elite.  I’d never been comfortable with having staff.  It was the staff that were high-maintenance. I couldn’t be bothered too much to watch my tongue for anyone, especially not the kitchen help.  Make me a fucking omelet and shut up while you’re doing it.  Is that too much to ask?

Anyway, Anthony was well intentioned; a good doorman but a little on the nosy side with a touch of desperation to him, a pleaser.  I hated kiss asses.  Therefore I really hated Anthony, but knew I shouldn’t.  He didn’t deserve it.  He was hired to fill a spot no one could win in.  No one was James.  Old James wouldn’t have made a comment on my personal habits, or anyone else’s in the building, for a thousand bucks, and that was his old-school training comin’ through.  Anymore the doormen in Manhattan were pompous asses with greasy palms, control issues and bad hair.  Could I blame Anthony?  He was just trying to look after the girl / lady / person who never came out in the daytime except with dark sunglasses and flip flops to go walk somewhere that always took the same amount of time:  29 – 36 minutes.  That’s how long it took me to get to the Food Emporium on Third Avenue to buy cigarettes, a Klondike Bar or Peppermint Patty, and the occasional E.P.T. Home Pregnancy Test.  Other than that, why travel?

Now I was standing, Louisa pouring my coffee twelve inches from my face like I was a baby, and I wanted to throw up.  I’d been feeling sick for days but I always felt sick, except when I was high so who could know?  Fuck all, she was looking at my face closely now…

“Louisa, move back.  Spit it out already.  You’ve been staring at me for twenty minutes.  What’s the matter?”

“Ms. Suzy chu no look so good,” she said with an embarrassed shake of her head.  “Chu look…” she made a strange face I’d never seen before, “Chu look blue.”

Mother of God.  Blue?  What the hell was that supposed to mean?  Of course I look blue.  She’s brown and I’m “white” but we all know that means I’m blue when my skin hasn’t seen sun for a while. 

“I’m just pale.  You know that,” I growled.

She shook her head and her eyes got wide.  I could tell she was weighing her words carefully.  That was what began to freak me out.

“No, Ms. Suzy, chu look blue like something left chu.  In chour face.”

Shit.  Maybe this was the end?  Maybe I was finally gunna’ die?  Either that or I was pregnant.  Same thing, I figured.  I told Louisa to go shopping.  She asked for what? I told her to think of something.  She knew that meant I really wanted to tell her to fuck off but that I was behaving nicely.  She got the drift and got lost pretty fast; I think she knew that I wasn’t right in the head.  Well, I never was…but that this time something was really different.  Really wrong.  After she left I moved in slow motion to the guest bath where I proceeded to vomit blood and coffee, held an E.P.T. stick in my piss for five seconds and then laid it flat on the gray and white marble sink while I went back to bed.  Tomorrow Louisa would find it and tell me what it said.  Although she couldn’t read English, she read those tests better than me.  Happily, I washed three pink pills down with a shot of Woodford Reserve and hey, lights out.

—Suzy Devere

Everywhere was sore.  Sick of the pole, sick of the floor, sick of the cheap, blue-black of the muggy dirty room where I danced, usually alone.  My bruises matched the walls, except when they were fresh.  My heels were at least polished.  I never did like bad shoes.  There was no one in the house, but that’s how those gigs worked.  You just kept dancing and eventually some newbie drunk would wander in and sit down, then jerk off.

Amit, the manager of the place, said I could stop dancing ’til there was “a seat” as he called ’em, but I didn’t like the idea of standing around and performing only “on-demand.”  That gave people the impression that they were important to me. They weren’t.  I was dancing, performing—acting, as I called it—and I didn’t want anyone to think they could dictate where or when my act stopped or started. Power is hard to find so you gotta make your own…

Anyway, it was a day like every other run away day when Fatty showed up to take me home.  I didn’t wanna go.  I’d told him already I was sick of his shit and fat ass and I wasn’t stickin’ around for any more of it.  He’d made me good and restless, ready to get back to the real world and leave the air conditioning and mind numbing CNN behind. What the fuck?  People watch the News like it’s a fuckin’ porn show, with the market tickers in green the cock shots, the red the cunt shots, and the end of the day bell with the arrows up or down the cum shot, the MONEY MAKER.  Idiots.  Don’t know sex from money…

“Fuck Fatty Clinger” I yelled from the stage and kept dancing.

He kept walking towards me, but I could see Amit combing the back of the house.  He was always there to check the scene.

“Get yourself off that stage and put some clothes on” he said, loudly, like I was a child.

“FUCK YOU!” I screamed again, and stuck my tongue out.  Okay, it was juvenile, I admit.  Embarrassing even.  But It was an automatic thing,

I tell you, like screaming when you step on a nail. I just couldn’t fucking help it. How I hated him!

“I’m not coming back, Fatty.  Get used to it.  And by the way, you’re fucking ugly and you’re ruining my show” I said, now that he was up near the stage and his red pudgy face directly in view.  “I told you.  I’m busy.  I’ve got shit to do and it’s not with you.”

At that he grabbed my ankle but instead of stopping I leaned toward him and kicked him in the shoulder with my other leg.  I nearly fell over; it took all I had but it surprised the hell outta’ him.  I’d never hit him before, even though I’d wanted to lotsa times.  He dropped his grip and clutched himself like a disbelieving child, shocked his mama had clocked him.  Idiot. Idiot. Idiot!

“Dinner is at eight. Cocktails at 6.  I laid your clothes out.  The Missoni.  And I added something I think you’ll like…under the pillow…”

“I’m not coming to your stupid fucking dinner party with those piece-a-shits you call friends” I said.

“Yes you are” he said, then pulled out his wallet and dropped a $100 bill on the stage.  He looked at me and quietly said, almost in a whisper, “take a taxi, sweetheart” then turned away fast, so I couldn’t say anything else to his face. But I didn’t need to.  I was quiet.  The $100 was more than I’d seen in days.  He knew I was tired and a little hungry.  He also knew I was sorry to love him, a fat, ugly man, and sorry to be no good.

We both knew I would show up, back at home just in time to be a strung-out hostess.  His friends would call me “wacky and irreverent.”  Fatty knew I could eat with the right fork, talk politics and East Hampton Star.  So I’d leave the show—my show—to go home and use the new works he’d put under my pillow. I’d shove some stage make-up on my bruises and have Luisa help me dress and do my hair.  And from all this?  It was like magic.  Voila!  My acting career gave me another night on Park Avenue and another reprieve from myself.

 

 

It was like Tourette’s in reverse:  “Baby, you’re everything.  Gorgeous and smart, sexy…I bet you even cook.  I love you.”  It was horrifying.

“What am I gunna do with that?” I said, my face pinched with disgust.  “Just grab your shit and go.  I thought we had an agreement.  I should have known you couldn’t keep it together.”

He’d always been a liability, a clinger.  There’s one in every bunch.  Years ago Lucy and I’d been booked for this bachelor party, Park Avenue.  He’d been there, the clinger.  A bunch of fat ass perv. bankers with big guts and fat wallets.   I knew Park Avenue from the inside out but men, except for my dad, were new to me. And Chapin was an all-girl’s school, so that didn’t help.  But the street sense I was missing Lucy had in spades.  One look in her eyes sitting in a booth at a downtown club and I knew all those years of bullshit French, Violin, Soccer and Riding my parents had pushed me into were worthless.  She was thrilling but as I found out later, cheap girls always make you break your own rules and fuck-up your life…but anyway, back to the story (although maybe that is the story?).

Bachelor party, Fatty Clinger.  He’d followed us around all night.  He wasn’t our main concern, and girls don’t work parties to please random guests, but $50 here and there a few times an hour kept him a little closer than the rest.  By the end of the night, Fatty swore he was in love.  He begged us to let his driver take us home.  I wanted to go it alone but knew we’d be saving ourselves time and money by going with Creepy Crawly.  It was a risk I wasn’t happy taking.  We excused ourselves to the ladies room.   Bigger than our apartment, we spread our bags out and tried to come to a decision. We both were drunk and not that quick to start with; two drugged birds in a mirrored cage, fisticuffs.

“He’ll know where we live!” I said emphatically, like the world depended on it.  “And he’s gross.  Did you see the way he ate that cheese?  Licking his FAT FUCKING FINGERS and touching everything! Touching YOU!  Where do these people come from? And he thinks $50 bucks…”

Lucy cut me off.  “What the fuck’s wrong with you?  You just don’t want me to get a regular john out of it.  He likes me and he’s loaded. Don’t you get it, Stupid?” at this she pulled a wad of money out of her red bra and held it in front of my face like a Baptist preacher, pushing the Bible.  “Put your head on!” she slurred, her Lower East Side Latino coming through loud and clear.  “Jesus Christ” she went on “Why do I take you?”

“Because I’m smart,” I said.

“No, Stupid.  Because you’re pretty.” She leaned in and grabbed my crotch hard, nearly ripping my panties and shoving her fingers inside me.  Then she pulled me close and kissed me.  We made out for a while, like we were back at our place already, then remembered Fatty John.

“Let’s get outta here.  I’m so tired,” I said, and I was.  I really, really was. Working since the night before, there hadn’t even been a place to shower between gigs.  And now this bullshit hooker party…

I grabbed her by the hand and out we went.  He was waiting just outside the bathroom door.  He looked even fatter and more disgusting.  Sure, sure, he was the same but in that kind of jarring scene, everyone always looks worse.  That was one of the hazards of the ‘bathroom break’ in the business.  Coming out always meant something worse than going in.  A girl could never get used to it, or at least I couldn’t. The men were always nastier and more demanding, the girls always more insipid and pathetic, and a rabid-kinda-mean working its way in equal parts over both.

Finally out in the hall after saying our goodbyes to the belligerent men, Creepy told Lucy to get in the elevator.  He promised her we’d meet her down in the lobby in a minute.  I shook my head “No” but she smiled and did as he said.  Stuck in a nightmare, I couldn’t run, couldn’t speak, and suddenly wished I hadn’t popped those Valium and had all those drinks.  My heart was beating out of my chest and my neck was starting to sweat.  When he was sure the elevator had gone and we were alone, he got up close.  His breath reeked of cigars and Lucy’s cunt.  “Baby, you’re everything.  Gorgeous and smart, sexy…I bet you even cook.  I love you,” he said.

I never did wake up.  That’s Mrs. Fatty to you…

~~~

Suzy Devere is a prostitute, a drug addict, a Dr.’s wife, a mother, an intellectual, an academic, an athlete, a painter, a drawer, a photographer, a performance artist, and writer.  She’s lived all over the world, but right now lives next door to you.