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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

It was another summer afternoon when the only thing I had to do, because of the pandemic, was to go to work. Right as I was racing out the door, my roommates asked me something that made me pause. 

“Do you want to come to Café Risqué with us tonight?” they said. 

My first response was no, an unequivocal no. But, when I was walking out of the apartment door, they urged me to reconsider while I was at work. As I hurried to my car, I shook my head and chuckled about my outlandish roommates.   

Café Risqué is Gainesville’s local mystery. We all know about the small strip club found right off the Micanopy exit on I-75. I passed it what seemed like 100 times over the last two years on my drives home. To me, it was a strange place nestled in the corner of a country road. A taboo dive that I didn’t dare enter.

Or, at least I hadn’t dared to enter it before. The longer I thought about it, the more convinced I became that maybe this was something I should do. I told myself I was going for my roommates, to make sure they came home safe. In actuality, months passed since I had been on a new adventure.  I was grasping at straws for a new life experience. 

I convinced myself to go to Café Risqué by the time I opened the door to the apartment. My roommates were excited. The end of their senior year had come and gone, and they felt they owed it to Gainesville to give one of its local landmarks a visit before they left for the real world. 

They wore running shorts and T-shirts. Envelopes filled with one-dollar bills sat inside their purses. I wore torn jeans and a black top. We piled in the car and sang along to 3OH!3 on the drive there.  Before we went in, we ensured our masks covered our faces. I once again asked myself if I was really doing this. 

Right before we entered, my mom texted me and asked what I was doing in Micanopy. She liked to track me when I was away from home. I had been hoping she wouldn’t do it on tonight of all nights. I told her I and my roommates decided to try out a local place to eat. Which was kind of true. 

My ID was out, and I was ready to enter the Café when I realized I hadn’t brought any cash to the strip club. Who doesn’t carry cash to a strip club of all places? Apparently, me. Luckily, my roommates, who had been eager to attend, had enough money for all of us, and I proceeded to Venmo them for the rest of the night. 

Once we were inside, we found a socially distanced table in the joint corner and sat down. The crowd sparsely speckled the sitting area on the fringes of the two stages. Two bins sat six feet away from the stage so that dancers could receive tips without having customers get too close. Masks were required. 

Our waitress approached us with enthusiasm. I ordered fries. One roommate got French toast, and the other got a burger (which she claimed was one of the best she had ever had). While we waited for our food, we also waited to see what would happen. 

It was a slow night. There were no dancers on stage for the first few minutes of our attendance, just music faintly playing in the background. 

Once we had our food, our waitress strutted up onto the stage and started dancing. Her moves demonstrated pure athleticism, and we were in awe as we tried to figure out how she had trained her body to move and contort in that way. When she came back to our table, we asked her. She talked about how she had been working the club scene for years and how it had kept her body in shape. Before the pandemic, she had frequented the gym with her husband, but months had passed since that happened. 

I learned a lot about our waitress during our time there. She talked about the many clubs she had worked across the country and their differing laws. I heard about her grandmother, her usual clients and her views on mental health. It was one of the most open discussions I ever had with a stranger, and it happened in a place I never thought I would be. 

The unabashed conversation didn’t end there. After my roommates tipped one worker during her dance, the woman came over and talked to us. She asked about school, and I told her about my studies being a journalism major. She then told me how she hailed from the United Kingdom, where she went to school for creative writing. She felt she needed to see more of the world before she could have material to write about. There she was, across an ocean, in Gainesville of all places. 

While we sat, stimulated by our company and our environment, a few men approached my roommates and me. They mostly thought that we were off-duty workers and wanted to chat. We politely informed them that we were not, and they left us alone. Other than those few conversations and a few sideways glances, it felt like an oddly testosterone-free environment. I gained a sense of liberation as I sat with my friends and talked to these women. Maybe it’s something about the minimal clothing between us, but without the walls of fabric to shield us, our mental barriers came down and conversations ran free. 

The pandemic damaged business. The workers told us that usually, nights offered more excitement and life with drunken college men stumbling in and out. There was always something to watch. Since the coronavirus had taken residence, the crowds had thinned. This meant fewer people the workers came in contact with, but also, fewer tips. We did our part by wearing masks and distancing ourselves, but the pandemic hit the café’s finances hard. 

With our stomachs full and minds entranced, I and my roommates reached for our food bills. We went back up to our waitress, thanked her for her wonderful service and company and handed her the rest of the money we hadn’t given to her and her co-worker while they danced. She told us to have a great night, and I could hear the smile in her voice under her mask. 

When we jumped back in the car, we all agreed that Café Risqué had been an enlightening experience. The phrase “We bare all” was more than physical. The women I talked to were open, warm and genuine. I learned that good things come from pushing my boundaries. I met some wonderful women, had great conversations and ate some delicious fries all at Café Risqué off a small country road in Micanopy. 

Growing up I attended three elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. I moved a total of six times altogether: I have lived in Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, Florida (twice), Missouri and Indiana. Each move taught me to love the new experiences that the world has to offer. It was the constant moving that sparked my interest in travel. Ever since I was young, I enjoyed spending hours in new places, trying new foods and collecting new stories to tell. Besides my six moves, much of my time is spent traveling to other cities within the United States. So far, my favorites have been New York City and New Orleans. The beignets from Café Du Monde made me want to cry tears of joy. My ultimate travel goal is to one day visit France. I desperately want to see the Palace of Versailles and walk through the Hall of Mirrors. While experiencing the world thus far, my taste buds have developed an affinity for coffee. Since the age of five, I have been an avid drinker. My body calls for coffee first thing in the morning and sometimes at night. I am a firm believer that all coffee needs caffeine. I also have a wicked sweet tooth and am willing to try any number of milkshakes, ice cream and doughnuts. My great loves are traveling, coffee and sweets; I also love to write. I hope to one day use my degree in journalism to tell other people’s stories in an entertaining and informative manner. It is also a part of my plan to attend law school. I look forward to experiencing all the adventures (sweets and coffee included) that life has to offer!