Striptease

Chelsea Stickle

The first penis I ever saw was my father’s. It was an accident. He called for my mother, and we opened our bedroom doors across the hallway at the same time. My eyes fell instinctively to the unknown part of him. He shut the door. Later I felt I’d done something wrong. 

A hot pink opera glove drops to the stage.

My first kiss was the boy from across the street. He perched on my bed, and I was so hopped up on watching Grease that I grabbed his face and climbed on top of him. He didn’t come over after that.

The second glove falls like a freshly laundered sheet.

When I was eleven my mother’s cousin leaned close and purred. “You have such beautiful, full lips,” he said. I knew it wasn’t normal, but my parents didn’t object. They just stared at the table. So I thanked him. When I went to retrieve my book, I heard footsteps behind me and turned. It was my father following me down the hallway. “I can get a book on my own,” I told him. He didn’t say anything. I knew what he meant. I never saw the cousin again.

My heel slips out of a stiletto. The shoe dangles from my toes before I kick it backstage. The second one follows the first. 

Greasy cotton candy lip gloss smeared on my mouth and my carefully lotioned hands in his short hair pulling at the roots. The school bus hit a bump, and my knee crossed his. I was practically in his lap. That was the only time we interacted. On the bus to and from school. We ignored each other in the hallways. Even when his mouth was still pink and sparkly from mine. 

Reclining in a chair, I roll down my stockings one by one until my legs are only covered in baby oil sheen. 

There were a few boyfriends in high school. Whatever. Grab ass and posturing. I was looking for something impossible: someone who understood me. Not that I’m-telling-you-what-you-want-to-hear bullshit. Something real and inviolable. Then my junior prom date made a pass at my best friend. I ripped my orchid corsage into tiny pieces and blew them away. 

Back to the audience, I slowly unzip my hot pink strapless ball gown. I step out of it in just my underwear and push the dress into the audience. I stretch and let my hands land on my elbows, framing my face. 

When I was a freshman in college I decided to lose my virginity. Downing Jell-O shot after Jell-O shot to loosen up, my mouth tasted like a cherry-lime catastrophe. Not that he minded. Tall, crooked smile, smelly feet. It was fast, boring and full of friction. I figured that was the hard part. Doing it the first time. It wasn’t supposed to be good anyway. Now I could do it whenever I wanted. 

Next my enormous crystal necklace goes into the audience. My clip-on earrings follow, grenades into the faceless mass.

My college years and early twenties passed in a blur of unremarkable boys. Mostly satisfying an itch. It’s hard to get to know people beyond the surface of profiles and dick pics. No one wants to be who they are. They only want to be who they pretend to be. And if they fake it long enough, they just might phantom feel what they’re supposed to. But they didn’t satisfy me. 

My black strapless bra unhooks easily. Pressing it against my chest, I shimmy forward before holding it up by a cup and dropping it into the surging crowd at my feet. 

I came close to the real thing only once. We hooked up for so long that it seemed impossible for us to not have feelings for each other. And we did. He made me text him when I got home, so he knew I was okay. I baked him brownies for his birthday. It seemed like this was what people did now. Sort of fall into it. But then he stopped texting, and I didn’t notice. And what does it all matter if you aren’t dying to put yourself, all of yourself, on the line?

Black heart pasties and a thong are all that separate my body from the pressing, hand-reaching audience. I take a bow. My short, curled platinum blond wig slips off, and I shake out my wavy brown hair and smile. 

And that brings us to you.

     
Chelsea Stickle lives in Annapolis, MD with her black rabbit George and an army of houseplants. Her flash fiction appears in Cleaver, Pithead Chapel, Hobart, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, matchbook, and others. She’s a reader for Pidgeonholes. Read more stories at chelseastickle.com/stories or find her on Twitter at @Chelsea_Stickle.