Stanley and I broke up two days before I started work at my new strip club. If there had been any doubt as to whether I’d end up behind the bar or out on the stage, it vanished with our agreement to end things. I had felt so trapped for so long, yet now when we’d both decided the relationship was done for I was miserable, devastated, even. For once in our long, tragic relationship Stanley had been reasonable and it was in part because of that, I think, that I so easily mistook my inability to stand alone for love.
Oh yes, now that I was free I was sure I loved Stanley again. For a long time my resentment had been growing and growing, and by the last month of our relationship I hated him with a passion I hadn’t realized I was capable of. Now that I was free, however, I could only remember the good times, long ago though they were. I forgot that for years now the only times I’d really had fun with him coincided with the times when I was too drunk to have a bad time. I forgot the way my eyes had begun to wander and only remembered that there’d been a time when he could make me scream in ecstasy, rather than the fact that I’d been using sex as little more than an outlet to wail in my great and terrible anguish. I forgot the way he knew how to make me tie myself up in knots of guilt and self-loathing when I hadn’t even done anything wrong, and I forgot the way I felt as if I were walking along a tightrope above a pit of upturned knives. I only remembered that I’d given so much of my energy to Stanley that I didn’t even know how to be my own person, doing things I wanted to do.
I knew, though, somewhere in my head, that this was wrong. Doubt nagged at me. “This isn’t right,” said the little voice in the back of my head, “he makes you so unhappy, he doesn’t care about you, he doesn’t care if you’re happy, and he only wants to take everything you have.”
I hushed the voice every time it whispered doubt to me, but I would give it one thing, I really, really did not want to love Stanley. I knew, somewhere in my heart, that he was bad for me and though I did mental gymnastics which would make an Olympian shudder I couldn’t escape the nagging doubt that the whole situation would end badly.
But I was going to start stripping on Friday!