Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball
As I think back, I see the tell-tell signs of mania in places and times I never acknowledged then. Mania often brought out a side of me that some might consider sleazy. My on-again, off-again girlfriend had a similar predilection towards risk-seeking behavior, one likely encouraged by her best friend’s self-destructive lifestyle. An aspect of danger has been very attractive to me at times. In the proper circumstances, we may all feel the same sway, the same tug to break the rules. I just took it to another level.
According to my research, a one-time encounter with escort cost $300. I usually never spent this much for anything, but I was curious to experience it for myself. My opinions of sex work were influenced by stories of soldiers visiting prostitutes in wartime, or of inexperienced young men having their first sexual experience in this way. I’m afraid I had a rather incorrect, gauzy sort of concept of the whole thing. Regardless of what I may have believed, the actual experience could not have been anticipated.
Though what I was about to do was a misdemeanor offense, I didn’t feel especially afraid of the potential consequences. If the legality was that much of an issue, then why were escort services allowed to advertise in the yellow pages? My eye scanned to one listing out of several, then I dialed the number. I would learn later that this particular service specialized in working-class country girls.
Having consented to the transaction, I now began nervously cleaning my entire apartment. I recognize that most men probably wouldn’t have bothered, but I found the process calming. I wanted to make a good impression and I was excited. The implications are almost comical, I admit. There’s nothing especially logical about scrubbing and beautifying one’s personal space for someone who will stick around a maximum of an hour.
After thirty or forty minutes, she showed up, her car parked in the driveway. I led her into the bedroom. We spoke briefly before the process got underway. She’d been recently divorced and was mother to a small child. After she’d had him, she treated the entire world as though it were one of her children. It was especially true for those with whom she was sexually intimate. She was stuck in mommy mode. This treatment has never been an a turnoff for me, though at times, I’d prefer to be treated like a lover, not a surrogate child.
Everyone asks how a person can be satisfied and not repulsed by the world’s oldest profession. For her, in her own words, she provided a service to lonely, needy men. One might view this as a rationalization, but I’m sure there’s truth present, too. And the money is good, particularly if you’ve got a kid to support. There are a thousand lies and half-truths present one must consistently maintain. Alongside them are a thousand empty promises based on flattery.
Shortly before we got started, I put on a Janis Joplin album for background music, one that proved, purely by coincidence, to be extremely conducive to the act itself. I wasn’t expecting anything more than a sexual release, but our lovemaking somehow took on a tender quality towards the end. Sex had been gentle, not impatient. I was more than another face, another destination elsewhere on an out call.
I found myself staring directly into her eyes. When can I see you again?
Whenever you like. She smiled.
We began dating. I knew to expect that she’d often work unusual hours. I knew also that the child’s father was still very much in the picture. He was jealous of me, I was told. She relied on him because he supervised and cared for their kid when she was working. The biological father still had feelings for her, it seems, though she no longer did. It was an arrangement of convenience, as I imagine explaining what it is that she really did for a living to others wasn’t easy.
Oddly enough, it didn’t bother me that she had sex with other men, and on occasion, other women. Once, she invited me along, strictly for my own gratification, when a client was another woman. I accepted the request in the spirit in which it was intended. We both had a good time. All of the rules that society usually places around sexuality were thrown out the window with us. I found this thrilling and anarchic, particularly because I’d often had a difficult time conforming to these sorts of boundaries myself.
What I found most challenging were class divisions. I’d been raised solidly middle class, with middle class values and priorities. The rural dwellers of the state had often won my derision as backwards, conservative, and uninformed. Now I was in a relationship with someone whose beliefs were often opposed to my own. In time, I would move away from the South because I couldn’t tolerate the constant resistance against progress and good sense. And yet, for now at least, love and affection were the glue holding the whole thing together.
We learned each other’s patterns. When I wasn’t preoccupied with work for grad school, we’d sneak a few minutes in every now and again. I didn’t really have the time for a conventional relationship, being that my life was full to the brim with reading books and journal articles, writing papers, and trying to sound generally informed about the most current topic during seminars. I’d hired a prostitute because my life had been overtaken by my studies. As always, I craved and needed, but balancing a busy workload was an unanticipated major challenge.
This relationship was something I could keep to myself. If pressed, I said that my girlfriend was a bartender or a waitress and worked late, which was a plausible explanation. It won a lot of sympathetic looks from others. They often said, I’m not sure I could manage what you’re doing. I wasn’t always sure I could, either.
She went missing for three excruciating days. I called the service in desperation. Speaking to the madam who ran the whole operation, I asked if she knew what had happened. I was informed, politely, that she’d had a car accident and was recuperating at home. That was news to me. Why hadn’t she told me herself?
I resolved to visit her. The problem was compounded by the fact that she’d never told me her exact address. I knew roughly where it was, but it was out in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately, neighbors in the area I asked eventually steered me in the right direction. The entire process took well over an hour.
I knocked at a very small house with, at maximum, three rooms. Her former lover came to the door, suspicious and belligerent. She was here, yes, but was resting in another room. He wouldn’t let me in and I didn’t want to start a fight. I began to wonder whether he’d lived here full time since I'd known her. And again, I was forced to question whether staying with her was a wise decision.