Lola Spencer had the sort of breasts that define a woman;
they were big and she was small, they were gorgeous perfect things,
pink-nippled, shaped like cantaloupes, firm and white. The rest of
her seemed to exist to accentuate her breasts; her hips were narrow,
her waist a tiny circle, her little pale legs ended in feet not much
bigger than a child’s. Her head was small and heart-shaped, her
features pale and slightly receding. Indeed, it was as if every
other part of her got out of the way to make way for her breasts.
Yes, Lola’s breasts were the sort of breasts that made a girl feel
special, feel as if she were not destined for an ordinary life. So
when she dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen and took a
bus from Detroit to New York City, she had high hopes. Vague hopes,
but high hopes.
It was 1986 and it was the end of June. New York was a shithole;
the filthy stench of summer had begun to descend. When Lola got off
the bus at Port Authority, she grabbed her duffel bag and the fake
white patent leather clutch purse that she’d held primly in her lap
the whole ride, and with these two worldly possessions, she snaked
her way through the dark tunnels until she managed to take an
escalator up to the street. The sun slapped her face with a hot
hand, and the air was rich with the fumes of urine and car exhaust.
She blinked and froze, momentarily. Large people, big people, loud
people, people towering over the tiny Lola—were walking and running
and standing and screaming and going in every direction. Blindly,
she marched forward. She had the address for a YWCA, but she also
had other ideas. Vague ideas, but ideas nonetheless.
She had five hundred dollars in her white clutch purse. She’d
made the money rather quickly, working the drive-through at a
McDonald’s in Detroit, where her enormous chest strained against the
polyester shirt of her uniform. Occasionally, she popped a button,
and the white lace of her cheap bra would spill forth. There had
been an older gentleman who came every morning for an Egg McMuffin.
He drove a beige Cadillac and when his window rolled down with the
touch of a button, the smell of leather and cologne wafted up to
Lola. It was the best smell Lola had ever smelled. It smelled of
money, of course, but of something else, too. He thanked her
solemnly and gave her a dollar tip. And in those two words, "thank
you", and in his dark eyes and dark skin and hair, she sniffed
something very exotic, very foreign. The dollar tip turned to five
and soon enough, she couldn’t wait to hear his voice in the telecom,
asking gruffly for an Egg McMuffin. She’d unbutton her uniform just
a little, and she’d wet her thin little lips. The months went on and
at Christmas, he said his thank you, his voice thick with
appreciation, and gave her two one hundred dollar bills. She never
saw him again, but by the end of June, yes, she had five hundred
dollars in her purse and was on her way.
As luck would have it, Lola just so happened to march downtown as
she marched away from Port Authority. Her little feet were encased
in tight, strappy sandals with four inch heels, her infantile
toenails were painted a cherry red. She marched and marched. A man
stopped and watched her walk by. A few blocks later, another man
yelled something in Spanish at her. Lola, a brave soldier, went
onward. A few more blocks later, an overweight man sitting on a
beach chair in his doorway said, "Nice tits." Yes, she was special.
She’d been special in Detroit, at her high school. The looks, the
lewd comments, the occasional grabbing. But what good was that,
being special at John Adams High School in Detroit? She was in New
York City. She’d come to the right place.
Her feet began to die on her. The sun had begun to set, the
endless stretch of asphalt darkened and cooled off ever so slightly.
She marched forward, more slowly now, but there was blood on her
feet and her arm ached from carrying her duffel. How long had she
been walking? At one point, she turned left, and she found herself
surrounded by the sort of people by whom she always imagined she
should be surrounded. Skinny guys with spikey hair and bad
pockmarks, weighed down by the metal in their belts. Girls with
breasts like hers, tightly encased in tank tops, their dyed red hair
the color of a clown’s nose. The make-up! The cigarettes! She was in
the East Village, but she didn’t know that yet. What she did know
was the she was going to cry if she had to keep walking and cry she
did not want to do. No, not Lola. She was tough. She wasn’t going to
cry just because her feet were bleeding.
On the corner of Second Street and Second Avenue was a very small
bar with a sign above that said "Mars Bar". Lola liked it
immediately; she liked small things, being small herself, well, for
the most part. She went in and sat on a barstool, dropping her
duffel bag to the dirty ground, her white clutch purse in her hands.
"What can I getcha?" Said a muscular, black-haired girl.
"I’ll have a peppermint schnapps, please." This had often been
the drink of choice in the backseat of a Camaro, cruising the strip
The girl raised her eyebrow, literally. Lola noticed it was a
very thick eyebrow, thick as a cigar.
"How ‘bought a bourbon?" Then she leaned forward and whispered,
"I’m helping you out here. You can’t drink peppermint shnapps."
Lola sat up a little straighter. "A bourbon, then."
It was a welcome burn and Lola quickly had two more. Her feet
were feeling better already. Men came into the bar. Women, too.
Occasionally, Lola waved at someone who looked interesting, but
nothing seemed to happen as she thought it would. Four more bourbons
later, the bartender had taken her upstairs to where she lived and
layed her out on her futon couch. Lola had never seen a futon. She
immediately threw up, but the bartender handled it well.
The next morning, Rebecca, the bartender, made some tea and
"Where you from?"
"Detroit. Thanks for the tea."
"You can stay here until you find a place."
Lola sat up. "You know, I’m not hungover."
"Great." Rebecca got down on the floor and started doing sit-ups.
"But if you keep waving hello to strangers like you did last night,
you’ll be dead before you’re ever hungover."
"Strangers are all I have here. You’re a stranger."
"You’re not in Kansas anymore, Lola."
"Detroit ain’t in Kansas."
"You know what I mean."
Lola thought for a minute. "No I don’t."
Rebecca was silent, finishing her sit-ups. When she did get up
she went to Lola on the futon, and held her face gently in her
hands. "You don’t know what I mean, do you?"
"That’s right. I don’t know what you mean."
Rebecca kissed her gently and Lola felt a fluttering. She’d had a
boyfriend briefly in high school, but nothing much happened with
him, so she got rid of him. This felt different. Rebecca picked up
Lola’s swollen, blood stained feet and began to lick them. This went
on for a surprisingly long time, until Lola began to get very, very
sleepy. Then, carefully, so as not to disturb Lola, Rebecca removed
Lola’s shirt and pulled down her bra, leaving it hanging there
awkwardly, around the bottom of her breasts. "Damn," Rebecca said,
and then she was lost in them. Lola, stretched out on the futon,
flung her arms over her head and let the fluttering feeling go on.
Lola worked Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Rebecca
worked the rest. It had been easy to get the other bartender, fired;
he was rude, stole from the register and drank a bottle of vodka a
night. All Rebecca had to do was tell the owner the truth.
The first thing Lola did was buy a pair of sneakers, but this
proved too painfully realistic; she didn’t look like a lot of the
other East Village hipsters who wore high tops, she just looked like
she was five with huge breasts. So she found a pair of boots with a
nice sized heel on them and that did the trick.
Mondays and Tuesdays she made around a hundred dollars. Wednesday
weren’t much better. That first day she walked from Port Authority,
when she felt she’d brought her breasts to the right place, had
faded to a quaint memory in little over a month’s time. She was glad
to be where she was, but she was surprised she wasn’t getting bigger
tips, better offers. Men had looked, men gave her money, one even
offered her a job to dance naked at a dive in Tribeca. But nothing
felt right. Nothing had felt right since the day Rebecca took her
in, and she was getting restless. Lola appreciated Rebecca, very
much. But she knew it wasn’t forever.
Four weeks into the job and it was heading toward August, the
July heat giving way to a numbing, stifling hotness and filth that
was, well, August in the East Village. Mars Bar had no
air-conditioner and the two fans in the window whirred on in
astonishingly loud fashion, blowing hot air everywhere. Lola tied
her pale hair back in a ponytail; otherwise, it whipped around and
stuck to her moist face. Clear, tear drops of sweat dripped into her
cleavage. It was Wednesday; the beginning of her shift, but her mind
was already on the night being over. She’d have four days off to
read magazines and shop. She’d clean up the apartment, too, which
Rebecca liked her to do.
"What do you have on draft?" He said and she stood up right away,
as if she were in the military and he’d just barked an order.
He sat and drank and looked at her breasts.
"Wipe that lipstick off your face."
Lola took a white bar napkin from the neat pile she’d just made
and rubbed at her mouth.
His name was Christopher. He was six feet three, thin and with a
hairless face and arms. He had a crewcut of black hair and black
eyes and a tattoo of a dragon on one forearm and the name, "Marcy",
on the other. His father was in jail, which he was grumpy about, he
had a motorcycle and he smoked filterless Pall Malls. He took her
home that night and it hurt, but it was the right thing to do, she
knew. She woke up the next morning in an apartment very much like
the one she shared with Rebecca, and only a few blocks away, but she
knew her life had changed forever.
He left that day, without saying where he was going. She got to
work cleaning up his place. It wasn’t too much work, he didn’t have
much there to clean. When he got back around four in the afternoon,
he did it to her again, but this time it felt good. Not as good as
Rebecca, but it didn’t matter. She was his now and that’s the way
she wanted it.
Lola sat next to him on the couch where they both held bowls of
canned raviolis on their laps and she let her knees gently touch
"We’re going to rob that bar you work at. Tonight."
Lola thought for a minute. The only thing she could think was,
"Rebecca’s working tonight."
"Who fucking cares? You got the keys, right?"
"Well than we’ll have to do it before she closes."
They drank on Avenue B, about three blocks away from Mars Bar.
Occasionally, he leaned into her and she thought that he smelled a
lot like that man in the Cadillac, the man who made her move
possible, the man who helped fuel her dreams. Where was he now?
Driving into his driveway in Grosse Pointe, or some other posh
Detroit suburb? Going home to a family? A wife who loved him?
College age children with futures? The music in the bar was loud and
someone was singing, "Yeah, yeah it’s alright, yeah-ah, it’s
alright. Baby, it’s alright, oh oh, baby it’s alright." The bar they
were in had air conditioning, which felt delicious to Lola, and she
could feel a thin film of salt dry on her skin. Her nipples hardened
up into little stiff puckers of kisses and she leaned against the
bar and arched her back a bit. Yes, Christopher had that smell, the
smell of a man, a real man, the smell of something exotic, someone
foreign. He’d told her he was part Cherokee and that was why he was
hairless. It was destiny she told herself, it was out of her
control, just like the size of her breasts.
It was nearing four in the morning and all the bars were closing.
It was only three blocks away. Three blocks and everything would
change. She’d have that future she always dreamed about, vaguely,
but dream she did.
Lola skipped along behind him, trying to catch up with his long
strides. She was wearing her boots and it still wasn’t easy catching
up with him. But she liked the view from behind, yes. His filthy
black jeans, the nunchucks sticking brazenly out of his back pocket.
The way he stooped over. Did he have a gun? She doubted it. It was
all about his hands, his large, hairless hands. A few feet from Mars
Bar, a seemingly homeless black man with white spittle around the
corners of his mouth, the stench of rot wafting forth from his body
and a tiny little crack vial in his hand, tried to stop Christopher.
"Man, man, can you spare some change, I’m hungry, man…"
Christopher hit the man and Lola watched him fall to the
They were seconds from the bar. The lights were out. For a
moment, it was as if New York had gone dark, and the only thing
glowing were the whites of the black man’s eyes, staring up at her
from where he lay injured on the sidewalk.
"Help me," he said and Lola stopped for a moment before a
crashing noise jarred her attention away.
It was Rebecca pulling the gate down, the metal scraping loudly
as the gate fell to the sidewalk. But she hadn’t locked it yet, no,
not yet. Christopher was a bit ahead now; she scurried to catch up.
She saw the nunchucks come out of his pocket and for a moment, she
wasn’t the woman she thought she was. She was afraid. She looked
away, in fact, she looked down, and she saw that she, too, was
glowing, not just that poor man’s eyes, no, but her pale breasts
were glowing, and with a little effort she could hide her face in
that whiteness, with just a little effort, she could close herself
up in all her luck, in all that beauty.
Paula Bomer grew up in South Bend, Indiana and lives in
New York. Her fiction has appeared in Open City, Fiction,
Nerve and Global City Review.