The Lady at the Bellagio Bar
BY JAMESON RADER
When I overheard she was a prostitute, I knew she wasn’t easy. I mean, shit. At first you’d only assume a prostitute is easy. She’s there, at the Bellagio bar. She leans over a martini glass, posed in cool condensation on the pine, her blouse is loose and I swear I can see her navel through between her tits. That itself, I mean the seeing her navel though her tits, should make one presume to have interpreted the visual insinuations correctly, i.e., that the prostitute is easy. But it’s just a sort of advertisement. You have to out-skank the other skanks in Vegas if you want to make it immediately known to the cluelessly transient tourist that you are for trade or sale and will sleep with whomever, really, with no preliminary first-date Q&A or quasi application. But I had won last night’s pair with some sappy sonnet on a whiskey-damp Flamingo napkin, and my last go-steady quote unquote Friend With Benefits, i.e., fuck buddy, with a few strung G and C chords on an out-of-tune Fender. But this one, the prostitute with the pierced navel, she wouldn’t come so cheap. She wasn’t easy like those other two, who gave it up for free.
So the man there, either a coming or going customer, I can’t tell, he tells the pair that she has her priorities straight. She laughs with her mouth open. Not so much a young man tells her this as an older, graying man. He wears a wedding ring and you just know he’s seen his wives’ eyeballs between their wrinkling lids and over growing periorbital dark circles, how the lover’s gleam faded to glare, and he says who’s to say that good looks or a stellar sense of humor is a more suitable or stable foundation for a symbiotic romantic relationship than cold, covert cash. And if he doesn’t articulate it this way, that’s what he means when he says, Fuck Me, Doll—that he’s always been more confident in his sort of pocketbook finesse and financial success, something he can actually control, than futilely trying to keep his hair or sideways smile or whatever cliché romantic trope of a trait he possessed in his dying adolescence, which persuaded his wife to marry him but by now has disappeared but still wholly supports the marriage with its hollowed-out foundation and residual shell. You know.
But I’m at my end of the bar, drumming my fingers, and the pair’s at hers, now alone as the previous customer, who as it turns out had been a going customer, i.e., a previous customer or regular customer rather than a coming customer, left. I know I’m going to approach her. It’s unavoidable. She’s the hottest pair in the room. Vegas prostitutes, those who work the parts most people see, all are, but they can be four, five hundred. Easy. More if you’re in to anything but plain straight up vanilla sex. So even if I empty out my pockets, remove the bill from my sock, and count my change, I’ll still come up short. She’s got a tattoo of a pair of red loaded dice between her shoulder blades. Her navel piercing is a purple feather.
So I approached her end of the bar. I buy two drinks, thinking I can play dumb, that I can pretend I don’t know she’s a prostitute and see if I can sink a deal. Maybe the pair’d do this sort of thing for free. It’s like shoplifting: playing dumb, and I start to stroke her bare thigh, since her dress rides up almost to the crease between her torso and leg. She tells me straight that she “doesn’t do that sort of thing,” i.e., sleep around with men for free, and refusal from a prostitute has a well-defined sting, like it has edges.
I play with an olive like a man who didn’t just get rejected by a prostitute, trying to save face, etc., and call the pair a whore, but she says she knows better which of us is what. But you shouldn’t read into what a pair like that will say, really, a prostitute. So I head in the opposite direction with an eye out for other women, those that sport some sort of garnered indignation for the standards that for now kept this one chaste.