Her skirt is so short, she has to bend carefully at the knees to deliver
free drinks to her customers. The flashing lights, the ringing, ringing, ringing, and the buzz
of the casino render her almost invisible, a small part of sensory overload. Some see
the hand with polished nails, Dior Red, place the glass with the pink stir stick
in front of them, others stare at the cleavage, and some gaze
upon the legs up to there. But most are hypnotized by the slot machines, busied
with three fingers: a cigarette in two and one hovering and striking
the flashing buttons, hoping for the big win. Everybody knows the booze is
on the house. Tip? Well, eighteen percent of zero is zero. Some think that a wink
or pat or a thank you is enough. She’s used to it now. She is used to the blue-haired ladies with
gravelly voices and good fortune, the clueless tourists, the lecherous conventioneers. Still, she
hopes when a patron wins big, he’ll remember her. Most
of the time he doesn’t. Once in a while, someone is generous. It lifts
her hopes, at least for a few fleeting moments. She no longer notices the lack of natural
light or the recycled air that seems low in oxygen but high
in optimism. Every day second-hand smoke fills her lungs, hope invades
her brain for that next show audition.
What are the odds?
This poem came into being as I watched a beautiful young woman serving drinks in a Vegas casino. I was reminded once again of the wide range of indignities and sexist expectations women face every day, especially as they pursue their careers. It is an invitation to see, to discuss, and to work together for change to create an equal and just world for all women.