Cardboard Box

Submitted into Contest #179 in response to: End your story with a kiss at midnight.... view prompt

1 comment

Fiction Romance

The line of people snakes and writhes through State Street. The cold bites through my gloves and pierces the joints around my fingers. I have no cigarettes.

Luckily, I’m allowed to the front—I’m always allowed to the front.

The bouncer doesn’t smile or nod. He just lifts the rope patched with electrical tape and lets me through. I push and weave my way through sweating bodies glittering underneath the blacklights. It smells like booze and body spray, and it’s only 10. That’s good.

I press the code on the door, it greets me with a small “beep,” and I’m in. The chaos is equal to the crowd outside. The lights are bright, the bustle is rigid and metallic—lockers slamming, bottles spraying.

And it’s only 10 o’clock.

I’m wearing everything I need under the sweatshirt I walked in with. Despite this, I know there’s something dangerous about walking into a club wearing day clothes. It’s the unflattering way it hangs off my body, the stories the stains tell. Everything about my appearance threatens to break the illusion of my job. I glance at myself in one of the dozens of mirrors, and my reflection is so painfully human that I need to look away.

I strip down to my bra, glittering for the occasion. I’m cold.

My first customer tonight is in love with me. Well, he likes me a lot. He tells me he loves me once or twice a week. He greets me enthusiastically, and I smile with no teeth.

I bend over, touch my toes, and stick my ass out. He tells me he loves that. I run my hands over his chest, shoulders, back. When I reach his neck, he howls that my hands are cold.

He cups them in his own and blows on them. His breath is hot and wet. His hands are veined and wide. He lets go, and I find bills folded crisply between my fingers. I don’t count them. They’re damp, still, and they make me shiver when I tuck them close and away.

I smile my thanks, lips still closed. His fingers tickle the back of my thigh, inching me closer. He guides my hands toward the front of his pants, and I don’t fight it.

We’re interrupted by a quick succession of, “Hey, hey, hey.”

There’s a man, and he’s waving my hands away and pushing each of us back. He says we’re getting too handsy.

It’s New Year’s Eve.

What the fuck?

The client looks equal parts furious and humiliated. I don’t think I’m either of those things. Just tired.

The bouncer has a patchy beard and a glittering earring. He’s got a walkie, and I’ve never seen him before, which either means he’s new or important. My gut sinks at the possibility of the latter.

He starts after the client instead of me. Thank God.

The music is too loud to hear over, but the bouncer’s face is stern. The client’s lips morph into a scowl, and he crosses his arms. The interaction looks like a teacher scolding a student. It makes me feel embarrassed, somehow. I walk away.

I’ve already been paid, so it doesn’t matter. The client will be pissed at the next visit, but he says he’s in love—he’ll keep coming back until he runs out of money.

I continue that way for a while, wandering, waiting to get called over. More people flood in, and the heat and volume of the room rise. I get a good spread of clients, some old and some new.

Then, there’s a lull where everyone around me seems occupied. People are chatting, drinking, dancing, none seem willing to pay for some time with me.

I hear my name being shouted over the music, and it’s the same bouncer from before. He seems unsure. He’s trying to apologize, I think. I can barely hear him.

I rake through my memories for any sign of his name and come up short. It’s 11:50, and the bouncer whose name I don’t remember is talking to me

The veins in his neck pop as he screams to ask me how my night is going. The way I say “good” hurts my throat. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a man alone and try not to think of money wasted on conversation.

I pretend to hear him while he talks. He knows my name, says it—screams it. When he does, his eyebrows raise, and his mouth opens wide enough so that I see the gleam of his teeth. I see the wetness of his tongue and his huge, blown-out pupils. I can smell his cologne. 

We talk about the crowd and the money. He says he’s saving up for a condo in the suburbs. I ask if it would just be him living there, and he says he has a cat.

This strikes me as odd, but it piques my interest; he’s a single bouncer who cleans a litter box. Warmth spreads across my shoulders and crawls up my neck when I imagine it. 

It’s 11:59 on New Year’s Eve.

I’m tired, I’m cold, but most of all, I’m bored.

The thought pushes me up on the balls of my feet. It guides my hands to his shoulders, and I pull him down until we’re at eye level. His eyebrows raise impossibly higher, so high that I wonder if they’re going to disappear into his hairline. 

From here, I can smell the thick scent of smoke and nicotine. I gently knock against his coat pocket, and my knuckle meets the stiff cardboard of a cigarette box. I knock the other, and it’s the soft leather of his wallet.

I’ve taken too long, so he comes at me like a shot. His mouth is wet and messy, but he keeps his tongue tucked away in the back of his throat—polite. The stubble of his chin scratches at my skin, and I feel my gloss spread to my upper lip.

I kiss back, and I’m polite, too. I keep my mouth small and jaw loose.

I slip the carton out of his pocket and behind my back before he can pull away.

Something to look forward to later.

January 07, 2023 04:08

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1 comment

Wendy Kaminski
01:22 Jan 13, 2023

Very interesting sketch, Ally! I liked that you didn't give away too much information, and the reader is left to determine what is going on. Really solid writing, and I enjoyed reading your story!


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