The first time I saw Phoenix she was wearing a red g-string and highheels; her hair also had red highlights, though these were hard to distinguish under the lights. I had my feet on the stage, and my elbow on the table, next to Chris's beer. We both had Buds, as always, the cheapest drink in the bar.

Phoenix smiled down at us, said "Hi, guys," danced for awhile, and then swung off down towards another table. Chris and I were smiling.

Most of the other tables around the y-shaped stage were occupied by single men, most fat, many old. Only a few smiled back at Phoenix; most were somewhere between looking morose and looking mesmerized. Some of the older men, who seemed to be regulars, Phoenix talked with awhile, resting her legs on the backs of her highheels while they put bills in her g-string and made chit-chat. Phoenix laughed and nodded, occasionally making a small hand gesture, but their voices were inaudible from our table. Then she would dance off again, pausing by the speakers to unload her g-string tips. Unlike most of the dancers who had mascaraed eyes and sun-bed glossy skin, Phoenix was slender and pale. I worried about her tendons, wincing when she threw her head towards her knees, snapping into the full rear-view stance.

I hadn't seen Chris for months. He's twenty-seven or so, a professional cook, with broad shoulders, a mustache, and a good eye for pool. Every Christmas for the last few years, we meet and play at Rotten Rodney's on Lake Street in Madison, Wisconsin. This year my father joined us and we played cutthroat for a couple hours. My dad went to Harvard, before becoming dean of a string of law schools, Chris paid his own way through school, after doing time on the oil rigs in Montana, and I'm a smart-ass undergraduate, so we had interesting conversation. After Dad went home, Chris took me for dinner. Gyros, a shot of ouzo, and beer (Miller Draft; it was early, and Chris felt flush).

"So, what do you want to do tonight?"


"I don't know...I'm pretty open."

"How open?"

"I don't know. Open."

Chris finished his glass, smiling. "Ok. We'll go to Visions."

"Visions? Man, ok. I've never been there...Hah! I've always driven by--it's on East Washington right? ("Yeah")--I've always wondered what it was like."


"Yeah. I'll go."

The second time I saw Phoenix she had on a blue g-string and black cowboy boots; we were on a darker side of the stage, and I could see her redgold hair more clearly. My first love had redgold hair, reminded me of fire and roses. She also lives in Madison, with her three-year boyfriend. We talk occasionally; I'm lobbying to become godfather to her first child--she thinks she'll marry Marty. I don't know if I'm happy for her or not.

Chris and I had left to go pick up his friend Jim. Jim was friends with Jan, who also dances at Visions. We'd seen her before picking up Jim. She came on after Phoenix, and had an elastic brace on her left knee. Tendons.

She was a little surprised at first sight of Chris sitting there; we talked. "I've got a son to support." She danced with only a little embarrassment. She was pleased when Chris told her we'd go get Jim.