The cafeteria lunch every Thursday is turkey chili beans and cauliflower. Cheetah eats, stores her energy in her sleek little tummy that swells every time she has turkey chili beans. Love her. They love her when they see her, whoever sees her. “Cheetah honey, why do they call you that? Cheeetaaahhhh.” She ignores the cafeteria aide and sips her chocolate milk. The baby needs her protein, she is just a baby.
All men love the innocent. She sucks on her straw and he is mesmerized. He waddles his pudgy legs over to her, close as he can without looking like a perv. He is penguin like and smells of ketchup. He leans on the table, bug-eyed and greasy skinned, “is it because a yo’ yellow hair?” Cheetah sets her blue-jay eyes on him and smiles. Pink lips puckered around a zippy straw. She remains silent.
She rises, long legs swagger over the bench and she leaves him to gawk. Cheetah walks out of the cafeteria, out of the building and sachets over to the group of teenagers that stand outside the school all day smoking cigarettes and marijuana. Boys layered in denim jackets under leather MC’s, big black boots with metal toes. The Plain Janes crowd around them and wait to become someone’s babe, to kiss a cigarette-tainted mouth. They offer the divinity of perky breasts and little, inexperienced wombs that will hold the salty prize of macho dropouts.
“Hey Cheetah, where ya goin?” The Plain Janes stare with fascination. Dead. They want her dead, or at least severely deformed. Cheetah lights a cigarette, blows smoke into a tall, lurking face. “Someplace,” she says, “just someplace.” “You want some company? Ya’ know, like an escort?” “No thank you.” Smile. She smiles for them as if she harbors a dark, rich secret. She walks away and they flounder, poor little crabs knocked onto the rocks from a heavy wave.
On the A-train, Cheetah stares at the ads lined along the train. Acne cures, abortion clinics, drug and alcohol help-centers, born again Christian-Baptist church for true believers with ‘Kill Islam’ scrawled over it. She wants a Snickers bar, loves chocolate more than dancing. Once the garbage man saw her come home in the wee hours in her little blue sequin halter top and silver satin shorts. She waited outside the Bodega until it opened for chocolate, a Milky Way and Snickers. She sat down on a milk crate and devoured both, hungry child. The garbage man wanted to know what such a young girl dressed like that was doing out so early in the morning. She looked up, angel eyed baby, lips smeared with chocolate, and smiled. An imp with a pocket full of money and a daunted garbage man left with a flagpole in his pants.
A sweet taste in her thoughts and sleep romancing her brain, Cheetah dozes as the A-train delivers her to the porn center of New York City. Along 42nd street she sees Matghetti, the sex queen from Zimbabwe. Six foot two, tight and black with yellow-gold eyes, full on Grace Jones look. Matghetti does things to her customers, unexplainable feats that possibly defy gravity. Snakes, satin rope, potions that evaporate into heat and pills that extend orgasms. She finds the men that want to be paddled or held like a baby while getting a blowjob. Matghetti stops and stares like a hungry wolf, looks Cheetah up and down and touches her soft skin, strokes her cheek. Her finger lingers by Cheetah’s lips. “Light Angel, I saw you dance last night. Come to see me when you are a little older and even more beautiful. We should not stay strangers for long.” Cheetah smiles, dreamy-like and watches the tall Tiki walk west down 42nd street.
Cheetah stops at the newsstand to pick up her Snickers and a magazine with Anthrax on the cover. She heads straight for Willie’s. Her Momma used to dance at Willie’s when it was called Cheetah’s. At twenty, Momma gave birth to her and called her little Cheetah. Willie waited just eighteen years to snatch up the product of a Goddess and place Cheetah in his kingdom. The money. It’s all for the money. But there is something about the way those men rise and fall and plunge as Cheetah moves all around. Power, her momma told her. It’s the power of being female. You always act like you’re on a stage. Do it on stage, and off, it don’t matter, just always do it and you’ll always have it honey. Only time you lose it is when you get fat or die. All men want to be king of their throne and you put ‘em there. It’ll come natural baby, don’t worry, you’ll see.
Cheetah gets ready to work the rush hour crowd. She sits in front of her stage-light vanity with all those bright bulbs lit up just for her. Makes her feel like Elizabeth Taylor or Marilyn Monroe beauty queens from back in the day. She puts a red push-up bra on with red pleather shorts and long, over the knee red pleather boots attached to sky-high stiletto heels. No makeup, Willie wants her naked-faced, a little baby girl dressed like a slut. No man will ever turn down an angel face with long legs, flat stomach and a chest budding into creamy, round breasts a little too large for such a tiny frame.
She pulls out the magazine and flips through it. She eats her chocolate bar and takes a quick look at the photo of her Daddy stuck into the mirror frame. She’s never met him, but she loves every crevice, beauty mark, line and bone on his face. Not like him at all, but maybe just his dream-like blue eyes stolen from a fresco angel that sits on a cloud all day and sleeps in the breast of Mother Mary at night. Maybe the eyes could be why she loves him. Went away when her Momma was pregnant with her. A big drug bust and he was sent to a federal prison in the mid-west. Twenty-five years and then he’ll be coming for her and Momma. Then what?
“Almost time Cheetah”, Willie stares at her, almost father like. She feels a little silly dressed up and stuffing a Snickers bar into her mouth smiling at a beautiful man called Daddy in a photo preserved for her. They’re all daddy’s, every one of ‘em, Momma told her.
Cheetah glides out, swerves with each step to Madonna’s Erotica. She changes as she moves, turning and bending, touching herself. She smiles, looks through the scores of men who all want to be her daddy. Cheetah pouts her lips and unhooks her bra. She never stops twisting and touching, pouting like a baby. She licks her lips and lets her breasts fall right out into the freedom of smoke and strangers. She rubs her nipples, just a little. She watches the men drool and call her, money streams out of their wallets. They wave it at the little angel lighting up the stage. A red light, warm and pulsing, then hot as hell as her shorts fall down and the red G-string frames her hips like a fine gold chain around a rich woman’s neck.
“Over here darlin’, come right over here honey and dance for me. I got you spot on honey, come on baby right here.” A fifty dollar bill floats back and forth in front of her. Like chocolate, Cheetah thinks and oh, how she loves chocolate. She struts over to the fat, well-dressed man drooling his vodka and orange juice down his chin. A lonely Wall Street desperado in need of a touch to linger in his boxer shorts as he brings himself to climax in a lonely one-bedroom somewhere on the upper east side.
Cheetah pulls on the paisley handkerchief that matches baldy’s tie and it is hers. He is hers, as she mesmerizes him with the handkerchief. She pulls it under her crotch and rubs it to and from, with one hand behind her, as if she were sawing herself in half with it from the crotch up. Perplexed by the dirty eroticism that spews out of this baby bombshell still in high school, money pads her G-string and another Wall Street junkie eyes her. She jumps off the stage, hands on hips, hankie hanging off her G-string. She carries her perfect little ass hauled up in red boots over to her Thursday evening regular.
On her knees, her red-booted wrapped legs laid out across the carpet, she moves softly. She purrs like a kitten and licks one of his perfectly shined black wing-tipped Bally shoes. Oohing and aahing everywhere, time stops for a touch of tongue on leather and she knows she has put him on his throne. Two hundred dollar bills come at her and she takes it, greedy child, stuffs it into her boot and dances, her face to him. She moves sinewy and watery. She flows around him, above him. Cheetah hovers, saint-like, martyred over the men for sins she may have committed in a past life. Only on Thursdays for him. Cheetah Banana will love him, the twelve minutes he rightly pays for. Sometimes longer, sometimes less and sometimes less is more.
Matghetti walks in, svelte and panther like, ready to pierce with her body, her mouth. She is a wild animal no doubt. She finds her regulars and disappears with two men to her room a few doors down on 9th avenue, upstairs from Mona’s Triple-XXX Video. Matghetti glanced up at Cheetah before she left and smiled a wicked, licentious smile that left a chill frost over Cheetah’s entire body.
Cheetah gets up on the small stage, her post for the rest of her shift. She moves, groves, touches and turns, all with that dreamy quality that takes her far off, past Willie’s, past chocolate and money, past High School. She thinks of her Daddy away and if he wasn’t, would she be up there on that stage? She thinks of things to spend her money on, but all those pretty things don’t matter much. She thinks of sex and the dirty men that bore into her with their eyes each night. She wonders what she will do after her dance is over, after child birth, gravity, when her skin turns jelly-like.
Cheetah wonders how long before some man comes in for a drink and sweeps her off her feet, like her Daddy did to her Momma. Matghetti says that Cheetah is like a banana after you peel it. Creamy, off-white, the palest of yellow, the deepest of cream, ripe and swollen. “Come back sugar, come sit right here on daddy’s lap.”