The signs begin fifty miles out, teased-hair and heavy eye makeup above the slogan, “We Dare, We Bare . . . All!” Each Spring and Mid-Semester break at Syracuse University is a reason to climb into the car and take the twenty-hour non-stop drive to Miami, so my girlfriend and I have seen these signs dozens of times and never felt the urge to stop. Blame boredom, seven hours of flat pavement, the same scrub of tree, the same field beyond, the same strip-mall towns. Blame curiosity; my wife has dated a stripper, but we’ve never been in a strip club. Blame Colleen, our six-foot, bisexual, Puerto Rican friend who doesn’t care one way or the other, but whose presence pressures us to entertain.
It’s the middle of the afternoon on a weekday when we pull into the gravel parking lot of Café Risqué. The signs assure me six bucks is a snip for naked flesh (a fact copious amounts of free internet porn have rendered debatable, but perhaps they’ve updated it to Live Naked Flesh since we visited), but I’m the only one who pays. Colleen and Andi’s vaginas get them in free.
Inside, all the men are truckers traveling solo. I’m the youngest by decades. Andi and Colleen are the only women not putting their skin on display. If this was a movie trailer, a *needle-scratch-across-a-record sound effect would kick in and everyone would turn and stare.
The front room looks like Johnny Rockets, if Johnny Rockets featured blue lights and ambient trance music and nearly nude waitresses and very nude dancers on the counter behind poles. They dance only by a generous stretch of the imagination. Mostly they sway back and forth, managing to look bored and worried at the same time.
It’s all too David Lynch, so we duck into the side lounge. We sit on plush velvet and order burgers and cokes. We act like we see ass cracks with our fries all the time.
The women of Café Risqué change places a lot. We notice they’re gravitating toward our table. We’re their age, Colleen and Andi are their sex, so we’re something of a novelty. Do they find us attractive, or are they simply trying to turn a dead Wednesday into a money-maker? Whatever the reason, this attention stops being flattering and begins feeling predatory.
We’re musical theater majors. Paying naked strangers to gyrate in our faces would require a complete personality change. Not to mention that those faces are covered in salt and grease.
We share a look, scarf our food, throw some cash down, and get the hell out.
* Vinyl is behind downloads, behind CDs, yet reality shows feature this sound-effect all the time after an awkward remark. How much longer will people even know what it means?