Friday, 19 July 2013

Chastity by Richard Meredith

Performed by Alex Milner

The first time I met Chastity I was drinking a whisky-soda that was light on the whisky and heavy on the wallet, and she was hanging upside-down with her nipples a foot from my face.

This was at the Kosy Kitten in Soho, a place just expensive enough that most of the strippers could pass for 25 under blacklight and didn’t sport too many scars – Caesarean or otherwise. I suppose you could say it was love at first sight, for me at least; for her it was all in a day’s work. I doubt she saw much of my face, or made much of what she saw: not only was I wrong way round, but she was shortsighted and preferred to dance blind.

She didn’t tell me that until much later; I don’t think she ever told her manager. She’d do her makeup in the dressing room, then deliberately and carefully remove her contact lenses before striding out onto the tiny mirrored stage to wind and grind and sling her stuff around that pole.

Stamping her Perspex heels so her little buttocks shook in time with her tits, swaying and swinging to some cock-rock anthem a WWF star might use for his theme tune, shimmying and sliding, flashing her UV-white teeth and tossing her nightblack hair, she looked like the Goddess of Fucking Everything.


And she could only do it because she couldn’t see a fucking thing. Shapes and colours, yeah; the flash of a gold card or a diamond-studded wristwatch, the rosepink of a £50 note, she was sharp to those, but detail was mercifully blurred. The wrinkles on a client’s face, the deadfish look in his eyes, the white rim on his nostrils were invisible to her in her soft-focus blind bubble.

Did I mention that she could dance? My God, could she dance. It was a beautiful thing to see, like a sexy snake doing a slinky samba, which sounds a lot less erotic than it was, but believe me you couldn’t stand up for a while after watching that girl on the pole. A beautiful mover she was, too good for a place like the Kitten, and I told her so.

After that first dance I bought her a glass of whatever strippers drink when punters pay for champagne, and we talked in a little booth over beside the stage. She had this faraway look in her eyes that at the time I thought expressed the dreaminess of her soul, rather than the defects of her eyesight. I asked her her name.

“Chastity,” she said, fanning her false lashes and sipping her applejuice and soda.

They all have handles like that, the girls. There are the cutie names: Bunny, Honey, Cherry, Roxie; the jewel names, Sapphire, Jade, Amber, Crystal, and the abstract nouns. Chastity was in the latter class, along with Destiny, Liberty, Charity and all her sisters. I even met a girl called Serendipity once: I said I’d give her a hundred quid tip if she could tell me what it meant. She did, too: never underestimate a stripper.

“Come on,” I said, “what’s your real name, though?”

“Why?” she said suspiciously. She narrowed her eyes to spiky black Venus flytrap, and I shrugged, playing it cool.

“I wanna take you out, don’t I?”

“Why?” Again. They know never to give a john an inch.

I leaned a bit closer. “Fallen in love with you, haven’t I? I want to know what name to cry out when I’m sobbing into my pillow later.”

Now she recoiled, looking disgusted despite her training. “Doing what into your pillow?” The music went dush, dush dush, as Lychee or Diamante or Fraternity twirled around the pole stage behind us. Maybe she hadn’t heard right?

“SOBBING!” I yelled, smiling, and she jumped and looked around nervously, then broke into giggles. She had a gap between her front teeth that you couldn’t see till you were up close; it was cute, made her look like that Vanessa Paradis. She was saving up for orthodontics, she told me later. I never would’ve let her do it, though. It made her even lovelier, that one little flaw you had to look hard to see.

“Sobbing’s all right,” she said, “but Chastity’s the only name I’m giving you.”

I kept on though, night after night, week after week, month after month in the end. I got her to dance for me, I got her to drink with me, I got her to go out with me – outside the club, I mean, on a proper date. I got her clothes and jewellery, though never a ring, I admit. I got her a flat, rented cheap off a mate. I even got her to love me. But I never got her to stop dancing and I never got her trust. Or at least I didn’t think I had until it was too late

She’d never tell me her real name, see. That was my problem; that was my obsession. Nobody gives their baby daughter a stripper name, especially something like Chastity. Nobody looks at that tiny blue-eyed gurgling bundle and says to themselves, yeah, this one’s a Candy, a Rhapsody, a Chanelle. Name a girl that way and you might as well book her first boob-job and biker boyfriend while you’re at it.

So I didn’t believe her when she told me it was her real name, when she insisted and swore and promised. I didn’t believe her when she showed me her bank cards and passport – I know people, I could’ve had Swiss Sam knock me up a passport said I was Mickey Mouse. And even if it was legit, she’d obviously changed her name and I wanted to know what from.

I couldn’t introduce her to anyone as Chastity with a straight face. I certainly couldn’t let her meet my Mum. And more to the point, I wanted her to give me the one thing she’d never given up to any other man – her secret.

Long story short, matters came to a head. She insisted, I resisted. Things were said, and done, and thrown, that couldn’t be taken back or fixed. Chastity left and she took my heart with her, but I thought it was good riddance to both till a fortnight after when I answered the phone in her empty flat. The voice on the other end was just like hers, but cracked with fags and laughter. Nearly made me lose it then and there, just hearing it.

“Is Chastity there?” the voice asked.

“Who’s calling?” I said. I’d been taking messages, just in case she came back.

“It’s her sister,” she said, “tell her Purity rang, yeah?”

I put the phone down, put my coat on, and I’ve been looking for my darling ever since. Problem is, there’s a lot of strippers in the world and hardly any of them use their real names. I’ve been to London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, New York, and I’ll keep going till I find her. Dark hair, gap tooth, shortsighted, dances like a dream. Dances in my dreams. I don’t know what she’s calling herself these days, and I don’t care any more: she’ll always be Chastity to me.

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