Friday, November 16, 2012

Sex Work

Another unedited excerpt of Wrecking Ball

Sex Work

One girl tried to steal you away from the first one who called.

A man, probably of middle age, worked the switchboard. It was him you talked to when discussing payment options and ordering the sort of girl you wanted. I’d received a call from one young woman about my age, then a second call from another ten minutes later. Later, I was told that most men who requested these sorts of services were usually middle aged and paunchy. To be with a younger man was an infrequent treat, and something coveted.

The switchboard operator apologized profusely and said that someone would soon be on her way. I’d figured that something was up, but wasn’t especially picky, all told. Partially lonely, partially seeking sex, there was something that appealed to me about the whole process. There was novelty present in having a stranger arrive at your residence, one who you had never seen before and would never see again.

A few weeks prior, one woman, best described as rode hard and put up wet, encouraged me to circumvent the system. Though we’d had relatively satisfying sex, she stood to gain more monetarily if I called in to claim that I’d changed my mind. Sympathetic to her situation, I lied over the phone so that she’d pocket three times more money than normal. She promised to return later in appreciation, but I didn’t take it seriously. When her empty promise was proven to be as I had suspected, I felt no bitterness.

One couldn’t help but be drawn into the drama a little. One woman arrived in a car with her boyfriend. He sat in the car, outside, to protect his girlfriend, should he have the need to physically intervene. Immediately after we finished up, the two pulled a power play the envy of Bonnie and Clyde. He punched the madam in the face, stealing several thousand dollars from her. The two of them quickly fled the scene.

The madam could not report the crime, as that would make her complicit in a felony offense. Though prostitution is illegal, the more upscale version is shrouded in plausibility denial and euphemism. Escorts are advertised openly in the Yellow Pages, and the police are not stupid. By contrast, the commonplace streetwalker advertising services on a street corner makes no pretenses about what he or she is doing.

I never paid for a male escort. I always saw those as vanity purchases, for those who wanted brief company with a beautiful man. Most of the time, I could usually find sex with a man when I wanted it. I was seen as a tough guy, very masculine, fulfilling the desires of many who had once felt the impossible attraction to a heterosexual man. This was not the case with women.

The one service I used kept me constantly aware of class distinctions. No one I’d have known in school or in town would have ended up in my bed. Or, at least not this way. These were working class country girls, usually, with the occasional wandering out-of-towner passing through. I was honest with them and they were honest with me. Some had drug habits, both past and present. Most had some history of childhood sexual abuse.

One woman told me that the same thing had happened to her five-year-old child. She shrugged her shoulders, as if to say, I tried. I can’t imagine what her current living arrangements were like. I imagine they were dangerous and noxious, but that she had long believed that these were the risks one took. She’d been roaming the country since her teens and had rarely stayed in one place for very long.

She was a kept woman in many ways. Her most frequent customers paid for new clothes and other presents. Once she called me from a department store, where a client had insisted she drop several hundred dollars to please him. She liked the way that expensive clothes made her feel and never seemed to register any impatience with the demands of her clientele.

Keep calling me, she said.

I kept our phone conversation going for months afterwards. She was never annoyed if I called several times a day, in the hopes of finding her at an odd moment. That sort of persistence was necessary because of the nature of her profession. Forever rushing from one place to another during the day and early evening, we had to find time whenever it was available. We might only have five minutes to ourselves every day, but she always seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

Why do you do it?

She answered that the money was good and the work easy enough, once you got used to it. Previously a heroin addict, she was forever seeking funds. Now that she had put that aside, she still enjoyed the substantial cash flow and all that it bought. In her mind, the service she performed was no different than a psychologist. She genuinely felt sympathy for all of her johns and sought to please them.

We conversed for several months. One day, her cell number was mysteriously out of service. It remained out of service for days at a time. That’s where I lost touch with her completely. Fearing for the worst, I nonetheless hoped that there was a perfectly plausible explanation. We never spoke again and I hope she is still alive.

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