Life’s Up and Down

Time was a hurricane with Bianca: weeks and months of snorting and fucking; more former than latter. Then silence. She ignored me so I stripped more, moved on to a bigger and better strip club called Crazy Horse. We stopped talking. We grew chilly from the speed and the neglect that happens when two people love each other plenty but love their drugs more.When I wasn’t at Crazy Horse, I worked part-time at a used clothing store, Wasteland, sorting clothes and arranging shoes with all the local punks. Marya swaggered in one day to shop for a belt buckle. She was the Rhinestone Cowboy of dykes with black leather motorcycle pants, steel horns pierced through her chin, and spurs on the heels of her black boots. She passed me her number on a torn piece of binder paper, which I wrote on the beam upstairs in the break room with a black Sharpie. I called her on my lunch break.”What are you doing later?” she asked. My heart flopped out of my rib cage and onto the floor, begging for water.”Not much.””When are you off work?””I live with my girlfriend,” I said. The next day, she came into Wasteland again. She brought me a six-dollar burrito and a huge orange soda in a white cup. I crossed and uncrossed my legs in a plastic chair that wobbled and made a farting sound when I shifted. We made each other laugh, and I realized it had been months since I had been touched by someone who wasn’t paying me.”I’m one year sober,” she said with one hand on my knee. “I’m going to a meeting on Capp Street at ten o’clock. You could come.” I was snorting a quarter of speed every couple days. I’d soak the baggie in my morning coffee to get out of the house and on the train to the Haight.After work, I walked to the empty apartment Bianca and I shared, uncorked a bottle of red wine that was on the kitchen counter, and took a swig. I found a ripped red and black slip and put it on with fishnets and platform boots. Then I walked across town to the AA meeting where I knew Marya would be. The AA meeting was in a tiny, bleak, dark room. Marya glowed under an old, dusty fringed lamp. The coffee tasted like dead water but I drank it anyway, listening to addicts complain about their rent being raised. I sank into a stained couch that smelled like pee. Winos and hookers wandered in from the dim streetlights and doorways, looking for cookies and shelter from the relentless night. The guy reading from a white paper said that anyone who had consumed a drink or drug in the last twenty-four hours should not share but just listen. I bristled with anger and guilt.Marya tapped me on the shoulder. “I’m sending a driver to pick you up from Crazy Horse – Friday at seven.” She put her arm around my neck and looked down my slip.”I can’t. You should leave me alone,” I said, jutting my nipples out at her. Bianca and I chose meth over sex. Marya woke up something else, something that scared me. I went home and snorted a fat line of speed, praying it would save me like a God.Friday at Crazy Horse, I piled my costumes into my locker and faked a headache when Marya’s truck showed up with the hazards on out front. I got into the truck. “Hi,” I said. The girl who was not Marya drove in silence with a smirk on her face until we got to the top of a hill, across from a park where gay men sucked each other off in the bushes. She parked and opened my door and pointed toward tiny cement steps leading down to a basement apartment.Marya opened the door and nodded to the chick, then she grabbed my arm, tugged me inside, and slammed the door. She held a long knife to my face. I wished she would. “This is what you’re gonna get if you say anything but yes,” she said. Her grin was greedy.She pushed me toward the black leather sling in the middle of the living room. She flogged me for a long time with a leather paddle, then fucked me with a huge black silicone cock while choking me. It was so much better than doing meth and listening to Joni Mitchell with Bianca.”You’re mine now,” she said.Hours later, I took a taxi back to work at Crazy Horse, covered in bruises and hickeys, bloated from the maple sugar candy Marya had fed me. I made my usual lap dancing dough, which I brought home to Bianca.”I made a mistake,” I said.Bianca’s eyes were closed. Her stomach was concave and her hip bones poked out of my favorite flannel plaid boxers. It was rare to see her sleep. She was still and quiet. She had been up for three nights, swallowed a couple Zanny’s, and crashed hard for twenty-four hours. Her breath was shallow and slow. She was my favorite Bianca when crashing. “I slept with someone else,” I said. I rolled over beside her and faced her.”You slept with what?” She shot up and leapt across the room. She wouldn’t look at me.”She came into my work. I slept with her.” A fat line, the burn down my throat, to get gone. I wanted to fall inside her and fill the space between us with speed. I wanted to fix her, fix us.”I want to stop. I’m going to AA,” I said.”You’re one of them now.” She was right. I was one of them. An addict, a coward, and an AA clone quitter. On top of that, I was a cheater.I knew how to stop all this. I grabbed a serrated knife from the drawer and held it in the air. She looked at the knife, and then me, and cried, “No, no,” in a nasal voice that seemed to come from the next room. I held it up. The knife was something we could agree on. I hurled it at my left wrist. I didn’t feel the cut at first, but I knew it was there. I collapsed to the floor slowly on my knees. I felt dizzy, light-headed relief and there wasn’t pain exactly, just a floating. I stared longingly at a bottle of Jameson. I heard The Pixies CD on shuffle and imagined dancing in PVC buckle boots. My limbs buzzed. The knife was bloody and must have dropped from my hand because it was on the floor, too. Blood squirted onto the yellow tiles. My right hand drifted over to my left to cover it up like a piece of paper over a random turd. Bianca tied my wrist together with a faded blue bandanna that she had tied around her forehead earlier. I watched her lips say, “Don’t look down. You’ll freak out.” But I saw the inside of my arm, the veins and tendons and deep red river, paused, not flowing.The voices stopped.

Praised by such figures as Jill Soloway, Cheryl Strayed, and Jerry Stahl, Antonia Crane is a prolific writer based in Los Angeles whose essays have appeared in the New York TimesCosmopolitanSalonPlayboy, and many other publications. She is a Moth SLAM winner and co-author, with Silas Howard, of the screenplay The Lusty, a San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Screenwriter’s Grant recipient. Her memoir, Spent, chronicles her time as a stripper and sex worker; it is now available from Barnacle/Rare Bird Books. Crane is currently at work on an essay collection and another memoir. Learn more about her at

**A version of this article appeared in print in Honeysuckle Magazine’s HERS issue, summer 2017 edition.