Pole Burn is an autobiographical series based on one woman’s experience as a stripper in New York City and Miami over a period of nearly seven years. Pole Burn traces her inner and outer misadventures as she is forced to confront people’s assumptions about sex workers as well as her own perception of others and herself. The format and tone of the series were inspired by the book The Dark Fields of Venus by Basile Yanovsky, M.D.
“Stop here, please.” I directed the cabbie to the corner opposite the bar. I felt embarrassed and didn’t want anyone, especially this creeper, to see me walk into my new place of employment. Your paranoia increases in relation to how much wrong you perceive yourself to be doing. Since I became a stripper, I’ve carried out all my daily activities flushed with the sense that the entire world knew I was hiding something. I was letting my family down, my education. I felt like Timothy McVeigh, but instead of lugging around a truckload of fertilizer, I carried the weight of stiletto heels and thong underwear hidden in my canvas tote bag.
“Ça va?” I paused to let Tony, the big, black bouncer in the big, black suit, lean down and kiss me hello on the cheek. Tony was from Senegal and trained as an engineer. He stood under the club’s brightly lit awning all night like a man on trial in a television drama scanning IDs and accepting bills when he could use help overlooking any incongruous details. Feeling alien in this sea of garbage, I was eager to feign a granfalloon with him based on the small fact that he wasn’t a total fucking idiot.
His black form was hardly illuminated by the acute white light. Only his outermost topographic features were outlined by it like a backlit storm cloud at dusk. To his right glowed a 1980s yellow-gold pizza joint, the back of which, I was told, housed a private room where you could get blowjobs. The girls tiptoed between the pizza blowjob room and the strip club by way of backdoors opening onto a shared outdoor space that was crammed with dripping, rotting garbage. To the left of the strip club was a row of three or four porn shops run by blank faced Middle Eastern men. Their towering windows burst with fluorescent lighting and busty mannequins poised with faraway looks and ready for fun in their day glo, fishnet garments.
“Make lots of money, Summer!” In this world that was like telling an actor to break a leg. Of course the goal of anyone working in any of the myriad roles required in the production of such a soul-sucking fantasy world was to make as much money as possible in as short a time as possible. Strippers, in particular, are aware that their careers have a timeline and as such apply themselves in order to get out of the game before the game gets out of them.
The truth was, I did need to make lots of money. Twenty grand, in fact. I just spent all of my savings in order to minimize my loan amount and graduate on time. Shit got fucked with medical stuff back home, so I am on my own. Actually, there is no back home anymore.
The way I saw it, all I needed to do was make $500 per night, four nights a week, for the rest of the semester. My regular day job would pay my rent and with dancing I’d be able to cover transportation and school supplies and pay off my loan when I graduated. Twenty grand in four months. That was my goal. Then I’d be out of the game for good.