Ethics of Eve
The Ethics of Eve
The smell of sweat and Old Spice curls into Anne’s nostrils mixing with last
night's smoke and perfume. The candles illuminate the altar, reminding her of the bar last
night. Her dress is plain like everyone else’s in the pew, but it clings to her athletic body
in a way that makes married men stare and the virgins shy away. A middle-aged woman
stands next to her and glares openly at the long, manicured red fingernails that hold the
hymnal. The woman’s husband focuses ahead, reciting the Lord’s Prayer—undaunted by
Anne’s presence. He trusts Anne and knows—as they all know—that she will keep their
secrets. Anne doesn’t need to look around to know that many Christian married men who
have shared her company surround her. She swallows hard and tries not to think about
the female eyes that burn into her from every angle of the church. Anne does not come
here to be righteous. She needs to come here. This is the only connection to a past she
pretends to have forgotten. Her mind wanders back to when she was a child sitting on the
hard wooden pews in dainty dresses with her grandmother. They never missed a Sunday.
The usher interrupts the thought with a hand gesture; it is time for communion. Turning
toward the aisle Anne’s hymnal catches the middle aged woman’s shawl.
“Excuse me,” Anne apologizes meekly to the woman. The woman does not
smile, but instead turns to her husband's back and follows him out of the pew. Anne’s
stomach twists with a hint of shame. Reaching up, she gathers her long blonde hair and
tucks it behind her ears. With conscious effort Anne lifts her head and follows the
woman down the aisle.
“Body of Christ,” Father James says, handing Anne the communion wafer.
Lifting her cupped hands, she looks into the priest's eyes. Anne often wonders if she is
worthy of this ritual. Often times she comes here to find stability in the the silence of the
empty walls. It is a comforting place where she feels safe and pure. The body of Christ
feels hot in her hands. Panic begins to overtake her as she tries to say Amen.
“Amen,” whispers Anne as she places the wafer on her tongue. But instead of
going back to the pew, she walks past the familiar man holding the wine and straight out
the back door.
The sun feels warm on Anne’s skin as she walks the few blocks to her apartment.
Breathing slowly, she calms herself as she has learned to do. There is a faint smell of lilac
in the air. It reminds Anne of her childhood, all those summer days at her grandparents'
house. If she allows it to, the memory of running barefoot through the mowed grass
might comfort her. She never takes off the necklace with the small golden cross for just
that reason, comfort. Most of those Christian men could tell you that sometimes in the
night it is the only thing she wears. But they won’t speak it, not even to each other.
As she opens the door to her apartment, a smell of stale beer greets Anne. It
lingers on her ancient locked suitcase. Her fingernails click on the cold metal lock as she
puts in the combination. Inside there is leather and lace, make-up, and money. It all
reeks of sweat and survival, and alcohol that never will touch her lips. She gathers the
money stashed in the corner pocket and straightens it. If she was similar to her
coworkers, she might notice the writing—phone numbers and remarks on Washington or
Lincoln. But she is oblivious to this, more focused on the need to wash her hands. She
places the stack of uncounted money in the safe and takes the red mesh dress, the one that
compliments her fingernails and lips in the glow of the stage lights. The forbidden
secrets of many men’s desires and needs to feel alive lace its fabric. Anne doesn’t see it,
but her secrets are too woven through the mesh.
Anne looks around well-decorated living room. The glaring eyes from the church
can’t burn through these walls. She is thankful that when the glares become too much
she can choose to work at bars away from this town. It is at those bars she befriends
strangers and provides a living for herself. There is nothing like the feeling of the power
of walking onto a strange stage with wanting eyes fixed upon your body. It is this
addiction that forces Anne to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes. She cannot
fully understand the other dancers' need for intoxication—not when there is such fear in
losing control and such a high in the satisfaction of a hard night at work.
Wherever she goes, the people who meet Anne quickly want to befriend her. Her
kindness and modesty are best-friend material. There is easiness about Anne that draws
strangers to tell her most intimate details of their love and tragedy. If she had any
downfall in her employer’s eyes, it would be that she spends too much time letting the
men talk about their marriages. But it brought them in, and that brought money.
Excluding the jealous dancers who think that Anne acts too good to be one of
them, most admit she is good at what she does—but she is not Anne to them. In her sexy
thongs, high heels, garters, and lipstick, she is Eve. It is Eve that entices the horny men
to spend hours watching her undress on the wooden stage. But it isn’t that simple. Her
easy undemanding conversation draws the men in. Her appearance is confident and
seductive. Her easiness makes everything seem uncomplicated, even if for only for a
moment. Because she is hardworking, the bar owners respect her. She also doesn't have
those habits that get in the way of showing up on time—like drugs or family.
Anne sits down in her overstuffed recliner and closes her eyes. Her mind wanders
to last night and how the husband of that demeaning woman in church found comfort in
Eve’s dance—his eyes full of sexuality and manliness. His fingers were gentle as they
lifted Eve’s garter to slide tips underneath. He never took his eyes off her body. There
was no shame to either of them in her nakedness, nor in his desire. He was not unique in
that he would go home to his wife feeling like he betrayed her. He was not unique in that
he would return to Eve and find comfort in her movement and conversation. But because
of him, when Eve becomes Anne and goes to church on Sunday, she will feel a little less
fear when wives whisper. There is power in knowing that she understands the quiet
upstanding male Christians in a way that their wives won’t take the time to.
Two days later a sleek black dress and lacy black thong replace Anne’s jeans and
t-shirt. Eve is born again. She rubs lotion on her body and slips on her high heeled
shoes. There is a hint of lipstick on the straw of her ice water. Before she leaves the
dressing room, she glances in the mirror. She is pleased with what she sees, pauses, and
touches the cross on her neck with a silent word to God.
Through the words of Guns-N-Roses a voice asks “Would you like a drink?” His
wedding band resembles the others that come to this establishment. The bartender winks
at Anne in acknowledgement that 7up is drink of the night.
“That would be fine,” Eve says sweetly and slides onto the bar stool exposing her
smooth bare legs. She watches the bubbles crawl up the inside of her glass and her
fingers caress the condensation. If she were to glance up, she would see the bartender’s
eyes resting on her crotch.
It occurred to Anne a long time ago that her dancing is much more than sexual to
these men. But that doesn’t take away the security she feels in the power of her sexuality
when Eve is sliding her hands around the smooth metal pole under the flashing lights of
Melissa Etheridge’s voice fills the air, and Eve politely excuses herself to take her
place on stage. The taste of the soda has refreshed her. As she climbs a few stairs, her
hairs stick to the sweat in the crook of her back. She stands with her back to the
audience. In the mirrored wall in front of her, she can see men creasing and recreasing
their dollars in anticipation of the fallen black dress. Eve smiles at herself as she steps
unexpectedly out of her thongs and a roar of applause drowns out the music.