Girls Needed $200/HR Weekends and Nights
The ad in City Paper says you'll model for gentlemen, and you like the sound of that. Modelling for gentlemen would be an excellent way to fuck with your ex-boyfriend. When your roommate Shawn is working at the construction site and your roommate Rachel is hanging her latest show, sit on the living room floor. Call the agency. Assure them you are only nineteen. Make an appointment for tomorrow, Sunday—"the Lord's day", the woman on the other end of the line says, which reminds you of your parents because they're religious freaks. Is she making some sort of joke? This woman is about to be your boss, so tell her yeah, the Lord's day, like you think she's funny.
Call your ex-boyfriend—even though you've already called him today and emailed him and sent him messages—and when you hear the beep let him know where you're going tomorrow. Say it's his fault, and a man whose girlfriend turns into a hooker should take a good long look in the mirror, then shoot himself in the head. This sort of talk might have something to do with why he dumped you, but you know what? Fuck that guy. Fuck him right in his stupid goth face at stupid Burning Man, where you celebrated your one-year anniversary. Say, "Fuck you so royally," to his voicemail, then hang up.
Walk to what you now know will be your last night of waitressing at the sushi-Mexican fusion restaurant on Mount Royal, but first, leave a note for your roommates: Got a new job. I know you guys have been worried about me. Thanks for being so patient.
It's sunny out. Smell the coffee wafting from the open door of Red Emma's. Everybody's sexy in their second-hand sundresses, because Baltimore people are beautiful and Baltimore is the most beautiful place on Earth. The greatest city in America. Charm City. The city that never sleeps alone. Syphilis is endemic.
Arrive at the restaurant three minutes after five. Your manager says, "This is the last time you'll ever show up late." Once you stayed out past seven and your dad threw everything you owned in garbage bags, and when you finally got home he was standing in the driveway surrounded by the bags, making the exact same face your manager is making right now.
Say, "You're right, it's the last time." Then while you wait for the first dinner guests, get wasted with your coworker Jay. The cool thing about working at a sushi-Mexican fusion restaurant is they have hot sake on tap.
Tell Jay if he gives you the lounge on the third floor tonight, you'll give him your shifts over Labor Day Weekend, because you'll be heading out of town with your boyfriend—you haven't told anybody at work he broke up with you. This trade would earn Jay at least four hundred bucks if you had any intention of following through, so he says yes, and you spend the night serving two- and three- and four-hundred-dollar meals to Ravens linebackers and city councilors and other rich people, the kind your father still works with. You make three hundred dollars in tips. Don't bother with the sidework—your manager can roll napkins tomorrow when he realizes you've bailed, and then he'll probably give all your shifts to his girlfriend.
Tuck the money into your sock and walk home in the dark, like the real dark. It's two in the morning. Men call from the lips of alleyways, from the shadows of trees. "Do you party?" the men ask, which means will you have sex with them in exchange for crack or heroin. You don't do crack or heroin, or you've only tried them a couple times, so tell these men you hate to party. "Shame," they say. The problem with the path home from your waitressing gig is it's also where the hookers go walking at night, so the men hope against hope that you're a hooker. Your mother used to say you looked like a hooker every other time you left the house, only the word she used was "jezebel". The pastor at Resurrection Baptist of Roland Park, which is your parents' church, gave her permission to smack you with a hairbrush handle, too, if she felt your skirts were too short. Now that you've spotted some real jezebels on your walks home you know she was right. They do wear short skirts. You wear pants to set yourself apart.
Reach the wrought iron gate to your apartment complex without incident. Trudge up the stairs and open the door; your roommates are having one of their drunken screaming fights in their bedroom, so don't say hi—they're busy. Walk to the kitchen, open the fridge, and examine your communal tub of Save-a-Lot cranberry juice. Each time one of you drinks from the cranberry tub you fill it with Popov, until the liquid starts to clear, then you pour more cranberry juice in there. Tonight the vodka-cran mix is a perfect fifty-fifty. Gulp down three tall glasses in under five minutes.
Call your ex-boyfriend and leave another message. Tell him how scared you are about tomorrow, how you wish he'd talk you out of it, but also tell him it's fine, you're aware he doesn't give a shit. Ask him, "Didn't you tell me she was a one-time thing? I can still get into your email account. I saw you bought her a new phone for her birthday." Tell him you were lying about his being the fifth man you ever fucked. He was only the second, and the first was just some guy who bought you a coffee at Red Emma's. You'd only been out of your parents' house for a couple weeks and you were feeling crazy.
Hang up because your roommates are shouting so loud, you aren't certain your ex-boyfriend will be able make out your words when he checks his voicemail. Lie down on the pillows you bought last month, after you and your roommates got bedbugs and had to trash your mattresses. Let the sound of screaming in the next room lull you, the thud of someone punching the wall. Wrenching sobs. Shut your eyes and imagine what it's like to be dead, which is something you've been doing for a whole year, since you stopped believing in heaven. Sleep. Dream of nothing and nobody. Let the pillows slip out from under you so the hardwood floor fucks up your back.
Wake when your alarm goes off at nine. You're burping up gas that smells like rotten eggs. You set the alarm because you were scheduled to work a clopen, a close-open, only you're never showing up at the sushi-Mexican fusion place again so the clopen is moot. Decide, since you're up anyway, to get ready for the escort agency, where you're expected this afternoon. That's in DC, a roundabout haul on public transit.
Stand and take a deep breath, only realize you can't breathe because you've come down with a cold. Hack up neon green phlegm and swear you'll start eating vegetables and drinking less so you're not always sick. You should have taken some miso soup home from work last night, but you were so excited to leave. Say, "Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck," to the empty room. "Fuck I feel awful."
"You up?" says Rachel from the hallway. "Want some pancakes?"
Say, "I would fucking love some fucking pancakes." It's true, you would. Come into the living room wearing your sweat-soaked waitress clothes, which you have now had on for sixteen hours. There is a single grain of sushi rice stuck to your shirt and taco cheese smeared across your right sleeve. Notice Shawn asleep on the living room floor, his coat covering his bare chest.
Rachel's in the kitchen now, heating up a frying pan. Her gaze lingers on her boyfriend, and she says, "We should think about getting new furniture." There are fingerprint bruises on her neck. Don't stare. There were sometimes women with bruised necks at Resurrection, where the pastor often read verses about submitting to husbands. Your ex-boyfriend was the one who told you how men get arrested for it, out here in the real world, and at first you thought he was kidding.
Rachel makes pancakes in all sorts of cool shapes, not just your basic Mickey Mouse but pancakes shaped like snakes and winged bats and those pin-up girls you see on mudflaps. While she's waiting for the first pancake to cook through, she takes out one of her Ritalin pills and smashes it against the counter with her thumb, disappearing the powder up her nose with a dainty snort. Then, because she is maternal, a nurturing presence in your life, she notices your cold and is determined to get some orange juice into you. "How about I make mimosas?" she says, and, "I saw your note. What's your new job?"
Say yes to the mimosas and tell her you're training to be a concierge at the Ritz in Georgetown. Bite into a pancake and feel smart for coming up with a plausible lie. Let Rachel congratulate you on this massive step up. Let her give you a baggie of cherry cough drops for your first day of work. Say thanks. She hugs you goodbye and walks out the front door, grabbing a scarf on the way to cover her neck bruises. She's going to sit in the student gallery where her paintings hang next to her classmates' and encourage visitors, if there are any, to support the arts.
Go to the bathroom. Rip off your clothes and shower until the hardened snot blocking your nasal passage becomes soft and loose and runs down your chin. Open your mouth to barf, but when the nausea passes give up and shave your legs instead. Get out of the shower and do your makeup in front of the mirror, then go back to your room and change into the only pair of underwear with no holes, the only bra with all its hooks, and your sexiest second-hand sundress. For jewelry wear the earrings one of Rachel's art school friends made for you on your nineteenth birthday—the Natty Boh man on the right ear and Utz girl on the left. Shove your feet into your dirty flip-flops and make faces at your mirror.
Dig your phone out of the pocket of last night's pants and look at two missed calls from your manager, five texts from Jay. You quit on me didn't you. What about Memorial Day you slut? Jay asks. The next four messages are one word each: I, COULD, MURDER, and YOU.
Turn off your phone and go back to the kitchen. Shawn is in there, awake and wearing only his boxers, working his magic on an ancient coffee machine that won't start for anybody else. When he hears you walk into the room he asks, "Where you going, you whore?" Then he turns around and sees your face. "Sorry, thought you were Rachel."
Say, "She already left," then, "I got a new job. I'm a concierge."
"Your bra is showing." Shawn hands you the first cup of coffee. Drink it in your room, in front of the computer, while email your ex-boyfriend a photo of your best duckface. Now you can leave. Forget Rachel's cherry cough drops on the floor next to your window.
Take the light rail to the BWI stop to the airport shuttle to the airport, where you switch to the other airport shuttle to the Green Line of the DC Metro, then transfer to the Red Line for three stops. By now, you've been in transit for hours. You're hungry, but also gassy. Burp uncontrollably, that rotten egg smell again. Taste something salty and realize your nose is running, the mucus dripping into your mouth. The man sitting next to you says, "Here," and hands you a tissue. Give him a thumbs up because sometimes you still like to imagine that strange men are your brothers in Christ.
Ride up the station escalator and into the sunlight. Smile at everybody you see on the cobblestone sidewalk. Notice tourist families picnicking in a park the same way your family did before you informed them you needed a break from their lifestyle, their Lord. In three blocks, reach the building where the woman from the agency told you to meet. Turn on your phone to call your ex-boyfriend one last time, but freak out instead, because you see another dozen threatening texts from Jay and a voice message that's either from the detective your parents hired or from your manager at the sushi-Mexican fusion place or from God only knows who else. Turn the phone off and knock on the door to apartment 4B.
A woman answers. "Are you Johanna?" she asks. Recognize the throatiness of her voice, the accent. This is the one you spoke to on the phone yesterday. She's middle-aged, overweight. The bridge of her nose is spidered with the telltale burst blood vessels of a long-term alcoholic. So you've got that in common.
Say, "Yes. I'm Johanna."
Show her your driver's license.
"Okay, but when you're here you'll call yourself Julia."
Only after you have put your license back in your pocket and agreed to the new name does the woman let you inside. "I'm Mimi," she says.
The living room is airy and white. White curtains open out onto a white balcony. Another woman who looks like she might be related to Mimi sits at a white table, drinking yellow slush from a mug. She looks up at you and whistles. "Gringa, we're about to make each other rich." Find that reassuring, because you'd like to be rich. So rich you could buy your ex-boyfriend's rowhouse and make him pay you rent. So rich you could waltz into your father's office and he'd tell you how to invest your wealth. So rich you could donate a new building to Resurrection's preschool.
"Suck in your gut," says the woman who is not Mimi. "Straighten your shoulders."
Suck in your gut and straighten your shoulders.
"You got a nice face," Mimi says. She wags a finger. "But you're skinny-fat, like I can tell you drink too much beer. That beer's gonna give you a belly." She's not wrong.
"Want a smoothie?" says Not-Mimi.
Say yes, even though you've begun to fart with abandon and you're sure a smoothie won't help. She asks if kale and strawberries is good. Say sure, but actually, kale and strawberries sounds like the worst possible combination. She disappears into another room while Mimi looks you up and down.
"Why are you here, Julia?" Open your mouth, but she interrupts you. "You're already slouching again." She reaches out and grabs your hips, pressing them back, then she goes behind you and applies pressure between your shoulderblades so your chest pops out. Squinch your ass cheeks while she's back there so you don't fart on your boss. "Better," she says. "Now tell me."
Be careful not to shift your spinal column as you sputter out something about how you don't want to work weekend clopens for a couple hundred bucks when you know other women are out there making the same money in an hour, setting their own schedules. Do not mention your goth ex-boyfriend, that you plan to call him up and tell him you're a prostitute now, and he's just some idiot who wears black and makes women miserable. Do not mention that summer in middle school when your family went to Montego Bay. Your parents kept trying to take you on these boring tours of the cathedral in Spanish Town, then things came to a head because you flirted with one of the resort lifeguards. You winked at him and ran into the surf, and that may have been the first time your mother called you a jezebel. Your father dragged you by your hair back to the hotel room, where you were grounded for the rest of the trip, only you got even by drinking a whole bottle of rum from the minibar.
Don't breathe a word about this, because Mimi doesn't want to know. She points at your tits and asks, "Would you ever consider implants?" Tell her you'd be into it if you were sure the surgeon was safe.
Not-Mimi comes back and hands you your smoothie. It's brown and grody-looking, but when you hold it to your lips, your whole body tingles, the pit of your stomach and the lonely backs of your knees, the hollow you fill with booze and coffee and whatever food Rachel cooks for you. A tickle in your chest, which you hadn't even noticed until now, subsides.
"Good?" asks Not-Mimi. "We'll take care of you, see?"
A phone vibrates on the table. Mimi picks it up and says, "Hi! Yes, she's free." She meets your eyes. "Okay, see you then." She hangs up.
"Julia, gringa," she asks, "wanna start today? We just had another girl cancel on us and this guy's on his way over. Help us out?"
Say you understand, because you do. You understand there is no girl who cancelled, just a staged emergency, an opportunity for Mimi and Not-Mimi to make sure you'll really go through with it. Your stomach does cartwheels.
"Ten minutes. You can finish the smoothie," says Mimi. Then she tells you the condoms will be in a drawer in the nightstand. She tells you you've got to use one. She tells you how much she's charging this guy and how much you get to keep.
Sit at the table while Mimi and Not-Mimi converse in Spanish. Don't pull out your phone because you can't call your ex-boyfriend with people watching. Don't pray because you've decided not to, not ever again. Hold the smoothie up to your mouth because there's nothing else to do.
Eventually Mimi gets a text. She walks over to the entrance of the apartment and lets in an older guy in a grey suit, bringing him to the table and asking him if he wants a beer or anything. He says no, he's in a rush.
"I understand," Mimi says to him, touching his arm. "Then let me introduce you to Julia. Julia just turned seventeen two days ago."
Grey Suit eyes your legs. He looks at the straps of your dress like he's trying to figure out if he can eat the material. Then he takes your hand, and he must be a regular because he knows exactly where to go.
There's another room, behind another door you hadn't noticed. Here the floor is hardwood with an oriental rug, the walls are brick red, and the curtains are gold. There's a bed in the center of the room with a gold comforter on red sheets. There's a nightstand with a gold fringe lamp, the kind of lamp your mother would love. There's a TV mounted to the wall playing hardcore porn, a gangbang scene, on mute. This room is tiny, barely big enough for the bed and the nightstand and the TV and the lamp. Yellow light spills from a bathroom off to the side.
"You plan to stand there all day?" says Grey Suit.
Tell him no. Try not to think of your ex-boyfriend but think of him anyway. Then give up and pretend Grey Suit is your ex-boyfriend. What would you do if your ex-boyfriend wanted you again, the way Grey Suit surely wants you now? Move your hands down to the hem of your sexiest dress and lift it over your head while Grey Suit watches. Reach behind your back and unclasp your bra—one of the hooks pops out—then let it fall to the ground. Wiggle out of your underwear. Step forward, leaving your flip-flops on the floor where you just stood. Grey Suit breathes heavy. In your mind's eye, superimpose your ex-boyfriend's face over his, your ex-boyfriend smirking with that purple lip ring and the smoky eyes he sometimes wore to clubs, back when you'd just met and he was showing you how to do things like dance with your hips, like change a tire and live as a heathen. Step forward and kiss Grey Suit passionately, the way you haven't kissed anybody in a while. Ignore the fuzziness of his tongue. Tell yourself that's your ex-boyfriend's tongue. Do not puke.
Grey Suit picks you up onto the bed and sits beside you. "Undress me," he says. Take off his grey suit jacket but then just sit there holding the thing, because you don't know where to put it. "The floor is fine," says Grey Suit. Drop the jacket on the floor next to the bed. Unbutton his button-up shirt and drop that on the floor too. Struggle to unhook his belt and pull his grey slacks down from his ample ass. The floor for that as well. Yank on his boxers until they're free. The floor. Wrap your mouth around his wrinkled penis and bob your head up and down for a minute, two minutes.
"Why are you shaking?" asks Grey Suit.
Lie. Tell him you're not. You're still pretending he's your boyfriend, so call him hon. Say, "Hon, I'm fine."
"Why don't you shave that pussy?" He points at the hairy patch between your legs.
Say, "If you promise to come back to me, hon, I will shave my pussy." Tell him you've been wanting him so bad, and ask him where the condoms are because you already forgot.
"Nightstand," says Grey Suit. "But I'll give you an extra hundred not to. An extra two hundred."
"I don't know if that's a good idea." Shake harder.
"You want me to come back to you, right? I'll only see you again if you let me go natural. It can be our secret."
Don't stop him when he pulls your head up to his head, your groin to his groin. Don't stop him when he lowers you onto his short grey dick. Let him pump his flabby body up and down in a way that makes his thighs jiggle, and admit to yourself that you are no longer picturing your ex-boyfriend. The jiggling has ruined that fantasy. Look to the wall and the TV and the bathroom while he moves underneath you. Turn your head to the side and try to make out the pattern on the rug.
"Say you love me," groans Grey Suit.
Say it. Say, "I love you," to Grey Suit.
His eyes are shut tight with concentration. He pants with his tongue sticking out. "Say it again," he tells you, so you open your mouth and say it again. But you don't love Grey Suit, obviously. Hope you're not giving him the wrong impression.
Feel Grey Suit moving up and up inside you, the rebellion of your organs, the slope of your shoulders because you're slouching again, a waterfall of blood behind your eyeballs. Feel the slow turn of your stomach, full of smoothie and mimosa and pancake. Feel your heartache and your headache and your nose stuffing up again and the air passing through your chest wetly, in a full-blown rattle. Focus on your rising internal tide, half-digested junk working its way back toward your throat. Know that you are definitely about to throw up on your first-ever client.
Grey Suit is still jiggling away, moaning "oh God oh God oh God" and huffing so you know he's close. Clamber off of him and make a run for the bathroom while he bellows, "What? Come back. Jesus." Ignore him. Locate and embrace the toilet bowl. Think about how sorry you are for everything, for calling your mom a dumb bitch the day you moved out, throwing a full Coke can at your dad. For saying you'd become a Satanist just to see the looks on their faces. For bothering your ex-boyfriend every few hours of the day without fail, even now, even a month after he asked you to leave him alone. For showing up late to work all the time and stiffing Jay on those shifts. For being so conspicuously helpless that the people you live with feel compelled to feed you. For drinking too much.
Hover above the bleach-scented toilet water and feel it, your place in the universe. You're tiny and you'll never matter, so don't take your problems so seriously. Hurl in spasms that wrack you from head to toe, empty yourself of all the stuff that was weighing you down. You're dredging up the muck and abandoning it here, in this apartment, in DC, an appropriate city in which to leave your garbage. You're a new void, a daughter of the God who isn't there, a check no man can cash. And you're ripshit and fucked in every possible sense of the word, and this is not your day. You're well and truly lost, you're wandering, but have some perspective—nothing is forever. Not even this.