Hi. This is a fairly intense story that takes place in the middle of my prostitution career. I have never publicly shared anything this personal. Please be gentle.
Oh, and FYI: I am not a prostitute anymore. I have not come remotely close to doing sex work for the past three years.
Motel with a Pool
I wake up, still drunk, on a thrifted couch in a punk house living room. Aaron and I shake off the sleep in the shower and when he touches me, I feel like vomiting. He always wants to have sex. I always have sex, but rarely want it.
“Aaron, cut it out.”
I dry myself with someone’s damp, mildewy towel and brush my teeth with Aaron’s toothbrush. His five-year-old son, Leo, taps on the door.
“Papa, I’m hungry.”
I try to pretend Leo doesn’t exist. There can only be one child in the house and I claimed it.
Aaron and I met at the Thug Mansion, an insurrectionary anarchist house in Bloomington, Indiana, two months before I turned 19. We had sex of the pullout variety on the pullout couch with our friends on the floor a few feet away and stayed together because I am homeless and Aaron, at 28-years-old, is halfway between a boyfriend and a father.
In the spring and summer, we live in a farmhouse in Havre, a quintessential Indiana nothing, nowhere, no one town 20 miles outside of Bloomington. Aaron agreed to care for the property in exchange for free rent, but hasn’t so much as plucked a weed in months.
I feel like a hick in Havre, but Aaron thinks we’re revolutionaries. He dreams of surviving off the land, building a teepee in a forest preserve, eating animals shot with his bow-and-arrow, and waking with the orange-pink sun. He doesn’t see that his kleptomaniacal tendencies contradict his life mission, but I don’t say anything.
The only human company we have in Havre is the FedEx man, who drops off packages of stolen graphic novels and American Apparel hoodies from our out-of-town shoplifting trips. When I hear the truck tires spit gravel on the lawn, I take Leo in my arms and trot barefoot down the walkway, craving some semblance of modernity. Aaron takes the packages and thanks the delivery man, whose gaze settles on my bare feet. He shakes his head, spits in the weeds, and drives away.
The farmhouse is terrifying. Feeling like the mother of a five-year-old who isn’t mine is terrifying. I am terrifying. We live without heat or electricity and when the sun sets and leaves me alone in the dark with my 28-year-old boyfriend, trapped inside my shivering 19-year-old body, I want nothing more than to disappear.
Aaron leaves the Thug Mansion bathroom to fry bacon for Leo. I lock the door and spit blood in the sink. My reflection disturbs me. I apply mascara and eyeliner I stole from Walgreens, button up the pink shirt I’ve worn every day this week, slide into blue jeans borrowed from a friend, and strap on high heels from the Salvation Army. At noon, Aaron drives me to work in our broken blue station wagon and Leo mumbles about hemlock and Inuits from the backseat. My insides twist. I hate them both. I want to go home — home to Chicago, home to my brothers, home to tree climbing and songwriting and virginal bodies. I want to play immature folk punk and talk about philosophers I don’t understand like Heidegger and Derrida but I’m trapped in a tendency to apply Freudian analysis to everything OEDIPUS OEDIPUS OEDIPUS. It’s too late for me.
Outside of my workplace, Leo points to the pool and begs me to take him swimming. He thinks I’m a lifeguard and I don’t have the heart to correct him. Aaron pulls over by the dumpsters. I kiss him on the cheek, pat Leo on the head, and stumble across the gravel walkway in heels that feel alien on my feet.
A bell dings when I open the door, but the receptionist refrains from greeting me. I lean over the counter.
“A single room, please. One night.”
I give her $48 in cash, she gives me a key, and I turn left at the desk, holding my breath to fend off the smell of stale booze and cigarettes. Room 57. I turn on the lights and sit on the bed. For the next ten minutes, I’ll neurotically adjust myself, smoothing unruly cowlicks and examining my breasts.
Professor Mike knocks at 1:15. He’s a theater instructor at the university who insists I use the professor part of his name. He’s squirmy like a ferret and always showers before saying more than “hello.” I sometimes think he’ll spring from the bathroom and stab me.
Professor Mike has a thing for young, blonde college students, but, at the risk of being fired, settled for me, a Craigslist catch with a mohawk and baby fat. He is partial to blowjobs and takes the full hour-and-a-half to cum and when he finally does, he spasms like a water mammal. At the end of our session, I cure the stiffness in my neck with strong alcohol.
I met Sarah the night after I first slept with Aaron. She was whiskey drunk and balancing a Marlboro Red between her lips on the front porch of Thug Mansion. I asked her what she did for a living. She said she was a lesbian who had sex with men for money.
“Is it hard?”
“Nah. I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s good money, man.”
With Aaron’s permission, Sarah and I started working together a few weeks after meeting, having discovered that I’m a good hustler and she’s good at indiscriminately spreading her legs. Before jobs, we lie on the bed, laughing about the fluids we’re probably rolling in. Sarah draws pictures of me and I count money. We joke about previous Johns, like the one whose cum shot three feet in the air, causing us both to laugh out loud and quickly press our lips together to stifle the sound.
I sometimes prance around in the long black wig Sarah wears to cover her dread mullet, blowing kisses to the mirror and pressing my childlike breasts together, lost in a daydream of stripping instead of having sex for money. I like being someone else, concealed beneath think, synthetic hair. If I’m someone else, my real self can hover above the body that’s licked and kissed and groped and broken. I’ve learned to live in my head. While Johns mold me like Jell-O, I compose mental grocery lists, plan shoplifting trips, and play dead.
Aaron picks us up when we’re done and I spend the remainder of my evenings getting drunk and high and telling stories from the day, trying to attach humor to them. I need to make sex work sound easy and rewarding. I play the feminist card, desperately attempting to convince myself that prostitution gives me power over myself and my body. I am my own boss. I have no pimp. I am strong and in charge and if I worked at McDonalds or Starbucks, I would still be metaphorically whoring myself but for $290 less per hour. I tell myself I’m special. I cherish my secret — it creates distance between me and the people I find threatening. I am powerful. I am powerful. I own my own real estate.
I hate myself. I hate the farmhouse. I hate the darkness and the Fat Tire and the grape-flavored blunts. I hate the fat men who sweat and grunt when they fuck. I hate Professor Mike. I hate blowjobs and anal beads and high heels and my bruised body. I hate the motels. I hate the tattered couches and the insurrectionary anarchists and their glorification of hooliganism and shoplifting and prostitution. I hate Aaron and his flank steaks and his organic sugar-free bacon and his complacency and ignorance and immaturity. Aaron is nothing but another John. He’s the house, the family, the food, and the money. I give him sex in exchange for safety. The shame, the shame, the shame. I’m trudging through life with half-smoked Newports dangling from my lips and thousands of secrets swirling through my head, half-dead.
It is morning. I run through the field behind our Havre house with tears cascading down my cheeks. I hop one fence, two fences, three. I am outrunning my reflection, the reflection of myself in Aaron and Leo and the empty farmhouse. I run until no humans are in sight, until I’m sure no one can touch or possess my body.
I crash into tall grasses. I lie like a fawn. I curl up like a fawn. I am a fawn. My mother is in the distance somewhere, grazing. She loves me. I can hear in the wind and the trees that she loves me. I stroke my own hair with her hands. I whisper that I’m safe in her voice. Nothing is hurting. I dig my fingernails into the dirt. I feel the dirt fight back. I pluck the grasses from the ground like hair. I pluck my hair from my head like grass. I think of murder. I think of rape. I think of motel rooms. I look at the trees. The trees look back. I look inward at myself. I choke on my own vomit.
I will finally dig to China. I will throw my life away and live beside the creek. I will eat berries. I will sleep outside. I will be friends with the animals and plants and no one will ever leave me because no one will have feelings. I will be purified. A virgin. I will be the little girls in the story books I idolized as a child — little girls for whom sex and rape and pain don’t exist. I was never that little girl.
I am impenetrable. I am sealed. I am unbroken. Ican’tlivelikethisanymoreGoddoyouhearmeyoufuckingassholeIcan’tdothis
I pinch my cheeks and feel nothing. I slap my face and feel nothing. I break a branch off a rose bush and drag the thorns up and down my arms and feel nothing. Somewhere, I feel everything. Somewhere, I feel the loss of my brother, my mother, my father, my innocence, my childhood, my purity, my sanity. Somewhere, I know that letting my demons loose will destroy me. Somewhere, I decide that my only option is to keep fucking. Keep filling the hole. Keep mending the void. Keep running from truth.
I brush the dirt from my thighs, wipe the tears from my face, hop back over the fence, and meet Aaron inside. He is shirtless. His cap is on sideways. His shorts are pulled high. I run my fingers down his bare chest. I bite his ribcage. I clasp his pointer finger and lead him to the bedroom. I lie like a fawn. I curl up like a fawn. I am a fawn. I wrap my arms around his waist. I breathe in his musk. I see the trees. I see the creek. I taste the berries. I drink his sweat. I kiss him hard. He gets hard back. I close my eyes. I think of death. I hop the fence. I suck his neck. I am the trees.