Becoming My Mother

stripper“Lexii, you’re up in five,” Hank called to the back room. Looking into the mirror as I applied some blue eye shadow across the bottom of my brow, I reminded myself of someone.

“Alexandra, get a move on it,” my mother said as she pulled me by the wrist towards a dingy black building. I was exhausted. It was 11:30 at night and the babysitter had canceled last-minute meaning I had to go to work with my mom. The clacking of her bright red 9-inch heels echoed after each step on the pavement. Her grip grew tighter as we made our way to the back of the building towards a large muscled man who  sat on a stool puffing on a cigarette. We stopped in front of him.
“Hey Ursula,” he said to her after he took a deep inhale from the butt, “no sitter?” He peeked his head around her and caught a glimpse of me. Barely awake and a feeling a bit shy, I hid behind her bare thighs. She shifted her weight and dropped my hand.
“No, the sitter canceled last-minute, stupid bitch!” mom snarled as she reached towards the man in expectation of a draw from his cigarette.
He obliged. “Think Donny’ll give me shit?”  she asked taking a drag and passing the smoking stick back to him. ” Her useless father is on his way, but she has to stay here til’ then.”  I felt a sense of relief knowing that my dad would come for me soon.

“Not if I talk some sense into him,” the muscled man responded. He took a quick glance at me and then back at mom. “Will you have time to return the favor later?”
At the time, I didn’t know what favors my mom could do for this man, but I knew my lack of knowledge was probably best. She shifted her weight again, and adjusted the thin pink piece of fabric that covered the two grapefruit sized mounds on her chest. I sneaked another look at the muscled man who was now looking hungrily at her bare midriff. His eyes drifted down towards her cut off denim shorts and he licked his lips.
“You know I always have time for you, Jerry,” mom said, her voice more sultry than before. She brushed her long, straight, bleached blonde hair from her face.
I heard a train whistle in the distance. I had never wanted so badly to be aboard a locomotive until that very moment. I let myself imagine all the different places I would visit.
“Alexandra, snap out of it!” my mom uttered loudly, interrupting my image of myself climbing the stairs of the Eiffel Tower. She had been standing half-way in the building holding the door open for me to go inside. I scurried past the muscled man, pretending not to notice his wink as I hurried by.
I was welcomed into a room that smelled thoroughly of smoke tobacco, cheap perfumes and alcohol. The smell immediately reminded me of mom’s frequent house parties where she taught me how to light the cigars of the many men she called my “uncles” and pour them huge glasses of clear liquid called Vodka. After, she would send me to my room for the night to watch movies with the volume turned all the way up.
I followed her down a dimly lit, empty hallway that had crimson walls. The carpet had black stains and splotches of glitter on its entire length. We stopped in front of a black door where a tall woman with short purple hair stood. She had legs as long as the highway and the face of a Greek goddess. Her nipples were covered by two tiny black stars, and her middle shielded only by a pink fluffy heart. The black, strappy, 6 inch heels that held her feet were elegantly crossed as she leaned casually against the door. She perked up when she saw me.
“Oh my goodness,” she squealed at my mom, her southern accent taking me by an absolute surprise. “Is this Alexandra?! Eight year old Alexandra!?”
She walked over to me and stuck out her perfectly manicured hand. “Hi, I’m Toni!”
I shook it. She had the softest skin I’d felt since holding my baby cousin Jason a few weeks back.
 Her flawless caramel complexion reminded me of the candy bar I had stolen from the school snack store earlier that day.
“Hi,” I managed to say after a few seconds. She let go of my hand and curved her pink lips in the most genuine smile. I liked Toni. I wanted to know more about her.
Toni and my mom ensued in a conversation as we all entered into the room behind the black door. Wall to wall lockers covered the far left of the room, while on the right sat ten vanity mirrors and make-up stations. I walked along the row of stations, stopping only once I saw a photo of myself from when I was three years old; it was mom’s station. The picture that was taped in the top right corner of the mirror showed me smiling, holding a cupcake with a lit candle of a three. On the left of the mirror, three hallmark cards were posted and a picture of a man I recognized as one of my “uncles”. I pulled the stool from beneath the station and sat down. Cosmetic supplies and glitter was scattered all around the table, along with a few napkins that had phone numbers jotted down. Using my best knowledge, I didn’t touch anything. My mom hated when I touched her things.
“Hey, Alexandra,” Toni’s drawled accent escaped from her lips, “why don’t you scooch over two seats to my station and let your mom finish getting ready.”  She smiled her beautiful smile and pointed towards a mirror that had Christmas lights lined along the rim. I walked over to Toni’s assigned table, pulled the chair out and sat down. Her station was much different from my moms. She had organized her nail polishes, eye shadows, liners and perfumes all by type and shade. Fashioned along the wall next to her table was some kind of rack to hang her multiple styles and colors of wigs; and in a deep red lipstick color scrawled across the top of her mirror were the words ‘Its only temporary.’
“Trixie, you’re up in five,” a husky voice called from the black door that was now cracked. “Toni, let’s go,” he said after.
I looked back at Toni who was making her way towards the door. “It was nice to meet you, Alexandra,” she whispered to me before she waved goodbye and left the room. I turned around to face my mom who had taken my place at her make-up station. She dabbed quickly at the powder pink blush and brushed it across her cheekbone. Her normally blond hair was covered with short black wig and her former shorts and tube top had been replaced with a long black sheer gown that had a slit on both sides. Her crossed legs revealed transparent high-heeled sandals, ones that I hadn’t ever seen before.
She took one last look at herself, groaned and stood up. “Listen,” she spoke as she slipped two golden bracelets around her wrists, ” your dads coming to get you, so just wait here until he gets here.” She walked to the door and opened it, stopping in her tracks and turning her head back in my direction. “And don’t you dare think of touching anything,” she said threateningly before leaving me in the room completely alone. 

I applied the final touches of my eye shadow and made my way towards the stage door. I glanced at myself once more in the mirror, and slightly adjusted the plaid school-girl mini skirt that barely covered my middle. I wrapped a white feather boa around my shoulders and tugged on the ends of my pig-tails in a last-minute attempt to even them out. “Its only temporary,” I lied to myself as I opened the door and walked up the stairs onto the stage. The crowd went wild.


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