The Monthly : 2018-12-01

FRONT PAGE : 63 : 63

FRONT PAGE

skin in the game dance, which was big money at $50 for 10 minutes. But it also meant constantly having to rebuff uncomforta­ble comments: lips. I made the sort of mental gear change into “Roxy”, detaching myself from shame at my own unfamiliar behaviour. “Hi,” I said, and curled my mouth. His head sunk into his shoulders, and he nodded again. The door swung open and another man rolled in, short and beaming, with a shaved head and projected chest. On seeing his friend in the corner, he growled humorously. “Hidin’ out, are we, Matt?” He looked at me. “Here, love, show my mate a good time, will ya?” With a flick of his wrist he opened his wallet and whipped out a long green note. “Seriously?” The decision to spend a hundred dollars on his friend had taken this guy all of two seconds. He thrust it at me, laughing, and waltzed out. Matt and I looked at each other awkwardly. It was my job to put him at ease, but he was a grown man – probably 20 years older than me – and I felt like a little girl in a costume. “Uh, this buys 20 minutes – is that okay?” “Yeah.” We sat down in a lounge area surrounded by sheer curtains, and I asked whether he minded if I took my shoes off. He shrugged. “It’s Matt?” “Matthew.” “What do you do, Matthew?” “I’m a garbologis­t.” Come home with me tonight. Let me fuck you. I’ll pay anything. A drunken cube of a man with a thick Aussie drawl put his enormous hand on my arse at the bar. I removed it gently, then threw my arms around his neck and stuck out my lower lip, pretending to hate the “no touching” rule. When I offered a private dance, he reached into his wallet and handed me a wad of notes for a service he was too drunk to claim. In the bathroom I counted my money, then dampened toilet paper and wiped his sweat off my neck. Sometimes men bought me, and at times it seemed that I bought them. My bared skin could be a mask; my near-naked body kept them from looking me in the eye. They were so easy, these guys. I’d drape myself over them, laughing, accept with gushing gratitude the drink they bought me and then leave it in the bathroom. A sweaty, pot-bellied man from India bought me a shot of expensive vodka and asked if I liked his body. “Yes,” I cooed, and poured the vodka in an ashtray when he looked away. When I spoke to a few people on the outside about my new job, they all asked the same thing: I gave different answers. I told two girlfriend­s that the guys were just foolish and easy. They came into the club with their eyes popping and paid obscene amounts of money to look at tits. I said. Are the men disgusting? I’m protected, When I’m Roxy they don’t know me, really, so they don’t affect me. In truth, I was being affected by these men in a way that surprised me. I picked a fight with a guy outside a bar because he sauntered up to me and my friends and fixed us with a sleazy eye. The memory is foggy; I think I suggested he was insecure about the size of his dick, because he grabbed at his crotch and yelled back, “You wanna see it?” I’d recently had a few bad experience­s with boys, and I completely lost it. He was every sexist arsehole in the world. I shrieked at him as one of my friends pulled me away. When I started working at the club, I expected to see men this way. But I was taking their money, so I was willing to shut up. Arrogant and complacent men exist in abundance. You can pick them at once. There’s something in the way they walk: the swagger that comes from a lifetime free from being stared at, assessed, propositio­ned and grabbed. At the club, I began slinking off to the secluded smokers’ area every so often to gather my thoughts. I was constantly nervy, and it was the only place where you could get fresh air, albeit through a window covered by a thick grate. One particular­ly dead night, a man walked in after me, surprising me a little. He was a hulking guy but moved nervously, like an inexperien­ced driver trying to operate a truck. He glanced sideways at me and nodded before sticking a fag between his Once, years ago, STREET PHOTOGRAPH­Y EXHIBITION OPENS 8 DEC | MUSEUM OF SYDNEY slm.is/streetphot­os PRINCIPAL PARTNER 61

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