by Christina Dalcher
No Jews, no negroes, no single women after six. You can break all three rules if you hawk cohibas and candy from a tray strapped to your neck, so that’s how Miriam and I earn a buck. She became Marie. I bleached my skin. Doesn’t matter—at the Stork Club, men only measure your legs or peer down cleavage avenue while the wives powder their noses. They look harder when the wives stay home.
In our room, heavy trays and shoes kicked aside, we lie head-to-toe on a bed built for one. “Hurt, baby?” Miriam asks, rubbing the spot where too-tight heels made their evening marks.
Tuesday was our third time, and I’m leaving out recognizable names. You’ve seen them as giants on silver screens; later, they’ll shine on black-and-white sets, small as they really are. Only Miriam and I see the parts hidden under tuxedos and fedoras. We smell their breath—champagne-syrupy, gin-sharp. We feel their bodies stiffen and slacken before tales are told at ashtray-littered tables. You don’t know them like we do.
They’ll talk about our bell-shaped skirts and our smooth skin that, in dark rooms, tastes like girl—not Jewish girl, not colored girl. They’ll whisper about how my fingers find Miriam’s and we hold hands in the during and in the after. They’ll laugh.
Alone, we tell each other different tales:
Only a few more.
The money helps.
We’ll be fine.
And we tell each other truths that rhyme with I love you.
“Hurt, baby?” she says, kissing me everywhere, peeling the stockings off my legs, letting them fall in a puddle of fishnet on the bare floor.
“Not anymore,” I lie.
Then Miriam rubs the sore spots, even the ones she can’t reach.