I wondered if I was the first monk to sneak out to strip clubs. I mean, no one was perfect. Every monk had their thing. Harry always took two desserts instead of one. Miles slept through his pancake shift on the weekend. No one wants cereal on a Saturday. Phil took like eight paper towels when he dried his hands in the bathroom (talk about wasteful). But the first monk to sneak off to strip clubs? I think I took the cake.
I created a new persona with the strippers. I was a carpenter, I told them. I worked crazy twelve-hour days. The city inspector had to come to my job site and remind me that it’s illegal to work after dark. Ever since I was in the army, I’d been training myself to go without sleep. I only needed two hours per night. I worked out incessantly, but I had a hormone deficiency—that explained my average physique. Without all that exercise, I’d look like one of those starving children on the infomercials. They cringed as I said this, and a few girls checked their phones and then walked back to the bar. I didn’t mention starving children again.
I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately. Mostly when I’m meditating. Or taking a shower. Or sweeping the prayer room. Okay. I think about my dad all the time.
I remember him lighting a cigar in the smoking room growing up (only later did I learn the term living room). He would hoist me up onto his denim lap and I’d cough and the smoke smelled rotten and sweet. Like an overly ripe apple.
“Why do you smoke those, Daddy?” I said to him.
“Look son, smoking is not the question.”
“What is the question, Daddy?”
He pondered this and scratched his chin then grinned. His teeth were stained yellow. Like rotten squares of cheese. Then he picked something out of his ear and rolled it between his fingers and flicked it across the room.
“A man is a man in any circumstance. Do you agree?”
What’s a circumstance, I thought. This was one of those questions I learned was better not to ask. Who knows when he would talk to me next.
“A true man, holds his chin at the same height whether he is president of the United States or strapped to the electric chair.” He poked me with a fat hairy finger. “Nothing on the outside can change a man’s disposition on the inside.” He pushed the finger into my chest and I coughed. Dis-po-sition. I sounded it out in my head.
My father left a few years after that knee-top talk. I wanted to make him proud, so I decided not to let anyone change my disposition. Not even him. He’d be so mad if I let him ruin my life.
The private room in the strip club was dark and I carefully lit a cigar and a woman twerked her back in the glow of the flame. The smoke smelled rotten and sweet and she danced in front of me and slowly sat on my denim lap.