When I went to the bank to deposit my stack of dirty singles, it took the teller forever to count all the bills.  I felt like a whore.  I felt like shouting out, “Yes, I’m a stripper!  I stripped for every one of those bills!” I felt like everyone could tell where all that wrinkled money came from.

Humiliating as the transaction might have been, it was still intoxicating to get that deposit slip.  Another two hundred dollars in my bank account—just like that.  It seemed so easy.  One more night of stripping, and there’d be two hundred more dollars.  And I’d be getting better at it, so I’d get more money.  How could I not go back?

I hurried home to call Joanne, but when I got there, I hesitated. I hung up the phone, scared off by the dial tone and my second thoughts.  I felt like a prude. I felt afraid and weak—and I hated myself for it. I was scared by the prospect of getting up on that stage again.

You’ve got to do it, I told myself.  Do it. The money may never come so quickly. Did it really matter where the money came from if it got me to New York City? New York City was where I planned to go after graduation. I only had a few more weeks left of college and small town America. Soon it would be me, alone, in the Big City, searching for a job. I was excited and terrified. I knew I needed every penny I could save up.

Maybe I’d even get used to this stripping thing.  Maybe it would get easier. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, telling myself to stop being a baby and to think of the money.  The cold hard cash in my bank account. New York City.  New York City.  New York City.  I picked up the phone.

This whole thing might have started as a sociological experiment, but it was quickly becoming something else entirely. What that was I still didn’t know. All I knew was that I couldn’t walk away.