Our new apartment was the finished attic of an old Victorian on the outskirts of Savannah’s historic district. It was one big open space with a bathroom added just to the left of the front door. This created a little notch on the opposite side of the bathroom that served as a kitchen. A large dormer on the front of the house was our dining room, which is to say that’s where we parked the table Jody’s mother gave us.
The table was one of the few furnishings we owned. The others included my drawing table and a couple of steel utility shelves, spray painted black and bowing beneath the weight of books, records, magazines, and art supplies. The last piece of furniture we owned was my parents’ ratty old hide-a-bed couch. We stuck this at the end opposite the kitchen. Above our heads was a window that looked onto a church steeple. At night the steeple’s stained glass lit up.
The walls hung at crazy angles, shooting up vertically no more than three feet then taking sharp turns to accommodate the roof’s pitch. Little trap doors led into the unfinished turrets. We hung a Jim Morrison poster and tacked up a doodle now and then when they came out okay.
We shared the one tiny walk-in closet located to the right side of the steeple window. I lived out of a couple of drawers and Jody took the rest.
Our housemates included Mark, the first floor resident who kept to himself; Air Force Mike; and our property manager, Kristi, and her three year old daughter. The basement was open to all residents, but nobody dared keep anything down there. The cellar door had been kicked in repeatedly and no longer latched correctly. The front door was pretty screwed up, too.
Jody made new friends quickly, but between school and my new job at Record Bar I didn’t want to do anything but lie under the steeple window when I wasn’t working. “You’re so boring,” she said. “You never want to do anything.”
“That’s all I do is something, all the time. I just want to be here with you when I’m not,” I said.
“Well I’m bored. I’m going down to River Street with Patty and Chris.”
“Just some guy Patty knows. You should go do something.”
The door closed, and I grabbed my guitar. Minutes passed and there was a knock at the door. It was my neighbor, Air Force Mike.
“Hey, Jody just knocked on my door and said you wanted to hang out. What do you want to do?”
“I was just going to hang out here. You want to come in?”
“Come on, man. I was going to go see my girlfriend. Come with me, it will be fun.”
We jumped into Air Force Mike’s car and drove into exceedingly more seedier territory. “Where does your girlfriend live?” I asked.
“We aren’t going to her house, we’re going to see her at work.”
“Cool, where does she work?”
“I’m not 21 yet,” I said.
“It’s cool, I can get you in. They know me there.”
We pulled up to a nondescript, windowless building. Dance music thumped against the cinder block walls. A human mountain sat on a bar stool inside the front door.
“Hey, Tony,” Air Force Mike said. “This is my friend, James.”
“Five dollars each.”
“Is Suki working tonight?”
“I don’t know. Five dollars.”
Inside the club was very dark. The dance floor was at the far end but nobody was dancing, just huddling around the small tables, looking bored. Air Force Mike bought us a couple of beers and said, “Come on, let’s grab that table down there.”
“All right,” the DJ said. “Let’s give it up for Sapphire,” and he cued up Janet Jackson’s “Nasty.” A curvy blond woman about my age stepped onto the small stage. She wore a sheer robe and high heels. I turned around and surveyed the crowd: all men. That’s how long it took me to realize where I was.
“Your girlfriend works here?” I shouted over the music.
“Hold on, just watch. Sapphire puts on a good show.”
Sapphire jammed to her nasty groove while the nasty boys were thinking nasty thoughts. She was thick and sexy, bookish with hardly any rhythm. It didn’t matter. She shrugged the sheer robe off or her shoulders and held it between her palms and her breasts. I was intrigued and titillated, but mostly I was uncomfortable. Sitting in a room full of erections was bad enough; sharing a table with my neighbor’s boner was too much.
The song neared its end, and Sapphire dropped the robe to her waist. She dropped to her knees, leaned back and whirled the sheer fabric around like Stevie Nicks. Right on the last note she spread her arms and held the robe behind her like angel wings, eyes toward the ceiling and fully nude. The stage lights went dark and she was gone.
“Oh, she’s going to be in so much trouble,” Air Force Mike said.
“You can’t do that.”
“Show bush. That’s illegal. Oh, she’s going to be in so much trouble.”
After the initial thrill of being in the same room as a nude stranger wore off, I sunk into the same boredom as the rest of the guys in the place. We stayed for the full rotation of dancers, but Mike’s girlfriend never appeared.
When Jody got home that night I leaned my guitar on the arm of the ratty hide-a-bed couch and said, “Have fun with Chris?”
“You hush. He’s just some creepy boy who hangs out with Patty. What did y’all do?”
“Nothing much. Just hung out.”
She turned off the light, took off her pants and slid into bed next to me. We curled up beneath our blanket of half-truths and fell asleep beneath the steeple lights.