Lelethu climbed out of the taxi and started walking down the main road. The address was on the main road and she thought it would be easy to find. It was already after 5 p.m. and the taxis would stop running in an hour.
If only Pholisa were here, she thought, I wouldn’t be nervous. She picked up pace and, just as she was about to give up, she saw the sign.
The entrance to the place was a stairway leading down. She rechecked the address on the paper and was sure this was the place. She took a deep breath to get ready for the performance.
The place was a club, dark and dingy inside. She stood at the entrance until her eyes adjusted to the light. There was a dance floor, a bar at the far right of the stage and at the centre of the stage was a pole.
She noticed two girls sitting on the couch by the stage and went to sit with them.
“Relax, it’s a lot of fun once you get used to it,” one girl said, seeing Lelethu looking at the pole nervously.
“I’m here to see the manager,” she said to the girl. This was not as she had imagined.
The girl pointed her to a door on the other side of the room that had MANAGER printed on it in big red letters. Lelethu got up and walked to the door. She knocked, but no one answered.
“You here for the auditions, sweetheart?” a woman’s voice startled her from behind. Lelethu nodded. The woman handed her a clipboard where she had to write her name, surname, address and contact number. Lelethu filled it in and handed it back to the woman.
The woman was tall and slender, with a long weave and too much make-up. Lelethu was distracted by her huge cleavage that sat, almost like a dish, under her chin.
“Go sit down, you’ll go after Lolly,” she said and walked into the manager’s office. Lelethu returned to the sofa.
“Here, drink this.” The girl – Lolly, she guessed – handed her a metal container, smaller and flatter than a bottle. “Go on, drink. It’ll help with the nerves,” Lolly said.
Lelethu opened the small metal lid and sniffed. The smell was strong and stung her nostrils. She knew what it was – whisky – she had drunk it once with Coke. But this was not diluted. The liquid ran down her throat like hot lava. It left a burning path down as it made its way to her tummy. Even the fumes of the drink choked her. She coughed as she handed the flask back to Lolly.
There was a girl on stage, swinging slowly around the pole, her legs stretched out like a gymnast. Music began to play and the girl swung off the pole and started gyrating her hips to the rhythm. The song was slow but had a good beat.
I could dance to that, Lelethu thought. But then, as the song reached the chorus, the girl started taking her clothes off. Each item of clothing was being removed seductively from her body, one by one, until she was dancing in just her panties and bra.
Oh my God. Lelethu felt as if she had been punched in the stomach as the girl’s bra landed next to her. She got up and ran to the toilets. She leaned against the sink to steady herself. She couldn’t faint now. She had to get out of this place. This was a strip club! How could she have been so stupid. What was she thinking? All dancers knew there were dodgy people out there and the first thing you did was to check them out.
She had been a fool to think this was a proper dance company, putting on a production like the ones on Broadway that she always heard about. A fool, that’s what she was.
Her stomach heaved and she vomited in the sink. The strong whisky burned her throat. Lolly walked in and laughed at her. “Can’t take your alcohol!” she said, pulling off her jeans and sliding into a tight checked red-and-black mini skirt and white tank top. Her bra and panties were a matching red silk. She looked at herself once more in the mirror, pushed up her cleavage, and smiled.
“It’s show time,” she announced, more to her boobs than to Lelethu, who stood stony-faced over the sink.
Lelethu wanted to go home. She splashed her face with cold water and rinsed the sink. Then she forced herself to take three deep breaths. That cooled her down and calmed her. She went back to the sofa, picked up her bag and walked out of the club. She looked straight ahead, focusing on one thing only – the door leading out onto the street.
She didn’t see the short man leaning against the wall next to the manager’s office, looking at her from across the room as she left. He was round and bald, wearing a blue silk shirt with silver chains round his neck. His gold tooth glistened as he smiled at the woman with the dish chest next to him.
“That new girl, she’s young. We need new flesh like her – we have to get her back,” he said to her and walked into his office. The woman made a tick next to Lelethu’s name.
Lelethu checked the time on her phone. It was already after six. The taxi rank was deserted.
What to do now? She sat on the pavement and put her head on her knees. All she needed was one taxi; she could beg her way to getting home with the money she had on her.
She took out her phone to call the one person who could help her think straight.
“You have reached your call limit. Please recharge …” the woman’s voice sang a song she hated. She couldn’t afford to buy even R5 worth of airtime, because that would mean she would be short on taxi fare.
Just then a car drove up, music pumping. It slowly pulled up across the street and men started wolf whistling at her. She looked up and saw the unmistakable dragon on the side. It was Matchsticks’s car. Just as she was about to run, the back window rolled down and Masixole looked out of the window.
Even in the evening light, Lelethu saw he looked different. What was he doing in town at this time, and in Matchsticks’s car? But still she felt great relief to see him. She smiled at the thought that, once again, her best friend’s hot brother had come to her rescue.
“Bhuti, akukho taxi – please drop me at home,” she said.
“Uyasazi esisfebe?” Matchsticks asked from the driver’s seat. His window was also rolled down.
Masixole gave Lelethu a once-over and shook his head. “No,” he said. And the car drove off, leaving her standing there.
Lelethu was confused. Why hadn’t they given her a lift? Maybe Masi was protecting you from those skollies, a voice in her head said. Yes, that was it, Lelethu thought. Masi was protecting her from the others. But why was he with them?
Ten minutes later, just as she thought she would have to try to walk home, a taxi pulled up across the street. She ran to it. It was the last one that went around to the nearby shops, delivering people who worked late. She sighed, relieved when she climbed in. She just wanted to get home where she felt safe.
Tell us: What do you think of these sorts of strip clubs – would you go to one? Why/why not?