Horizontal Lives

True Tales of the Infamous Courtesan: Persephone N. Hades and her Horizontal Life underground. How she got there, her mis-adventures and her struggle to re-surface.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Work is Love Made Visible

August of 1989.
Two months after my first slip-n-fall into the underworld.
Cait and I sign the lease to the two-bedroom apartment in the busy, well-lit district of Murray Hill.

We are waiting for Ellen’s call. I’m hoping it won’t come too soon since I’m not technically ready. I’m in the bathroom with the hot curlers doing ‘hurry-up-to-wait’, aiming for something between Jane Seymour and Jessica Rabbit—accomplishable on a good hair/face/body day, however at the moment I look like a wet-feathered bird.

Cait—who looks and smells like a delicious, plumpish loaf of freshly baked Wonder Bread (with freckles), lolls in her usual position – flat on her back on her bed, dark auburn hair fanning out like a flame on her pillow. I can see her through the open bedroom door.

Our shared phone cradled between roll-y, billowy breasts barely contained by her black bra. She’s dressed in ready-to-wear puta gear: bra, matching panties and little stockings from Victoria’s Secret; "Pink Flamingo" lipstick already smeared on the side of her open mouth.

The TV that has hypnotized her is tuned to "Nick at Nite," (a new station!) and in between those sitcom scenes- Marcia getting repeatedly hit with a football ("Oh, my nose!") and Jeannie in a pink puff of smoke disappearing back into her bottle, ads bark out: "The Cellulite Buster! You too can lose two to five inches from your waist and thighs in less than five minutes a day! "

Cait reaches into her bra, unsticks her American Express card from the ass-like crack of her cleavage, dials the 1-800 number, and orders the thing. As she impulse buys with one hand, she flicks to Channel 35 with the other: "Do you want a hot girl like me baby? Ooo, aahh. Call 1-800-D-O-/M-E-/H-O-T-/E. With the extra E for the extra Heat!"

I am Persephone and this is my Hades.

I’ve escaped the horrors of living in Hell’s Kitchen and am ensconced in this Murray Hill cocoon. Two bedrooms and one bathroom, two TV’s almost always on and set to the same channel, a brightly lit BatCave humming with activity as the rest of the city sleeps.

Since Cait and I both work ‘underground’, there is no doorman to sneak by, no suspicious roommate to make excuses to, no dark empty apartment to creep into at 5 a.m. Here at least, in this comfortable launch pad, we nestle in the delusion of safety.

I’m re-setting the top section of my very uncooperative hair for the third time. (I say this through gritted teeth. Grrrr.) I’m now aiming a bit lower than Jane and Jessica and just hoping for a cock-a-too lift so when I comb it out it won’t fall flat, otherwise my face will look too long and I’ll be ‘the oblong head girl’.

Once again I hear the channel change to Bewitched. As usual, Samantha is sneaking her magical powers past Darren’s disapproving nose (tinka tinka tee).

"What would you be thinkin’ her problem is?" Cait’s singsong Irish brogue is thick like oatmeal.

I adopt my ‘Therapist’ voice- one of several we use to keep each other amused on these sometimes long waits for a nameless, faceless man to pluck us out of the dark and conjure us into being.

"I think she is in conflict inside herself. I think she is a beautiful woman with the magical powers every woman is given AND she knows how to use them BUT she is enmeshed in a world whose paradigm of thought about women and their roles are a little archaic."

Hair almost teased into submission, I struggle with the pin of a hot curler, letting the amateur psychologist continue,

"She wants to be loved by a man that she loves and trusts, and she wants the safety and security to be a mother."

The released curler dives to the floor, bouncing off cabinet, wall, and toilet as I fumble and grope to catch it.

"But in order to get that, she has to diminish herself and keep her powers hidden from the men in her life. For the sake of their egos, really."

"Right. I was after thinkin’ the same thing too. I like Jeannie better."

"No! I hate Jeannie. ‘Master this and Master that’."

"That’s cause you’re more like Bewitched. But don’t hate Jeannie. She knows what she’s doin’. I’m like Jeannie meself. Doncha think?"

"Sort of. I think we’re more like Ginger and MaryAnn. I’m Ginger ‘the movie star’ and you’re the ‘colleen’ version of at-home MaryAnn."

"Sometimes I’m wishin’ I was Mrs. Howell. Nothing more to worry about in her life, right? You’re definitely Marsha. I can’t decide if I’m Jan or Cindy."

Cait pauses then adds:
"Doncha hope it’s gonna be dead tonight?" she says, not really expecting an answer. "My kooch is still aching on me from Jackhammer-man last night."

With a massive circle of hair of spray, enough to put down a Gregor Samsa size bug, I attack the ‘loop& twist’ that took me so long to create. I’m hoping for a busy, lucrative night and hair that survives any horizontal or upside down challenge that the evening may bring.

The phone rings loudly. The volume is up to eight in case we fall asleep. Cait yelps and fumbles. I hear the phone hit the floor.

"Jasus!….Helloooo? Yeh, she’s ready. Natasha?" Without taking her eyes off the screen, Cait hands the phone over her head to me. "Fer you."

No one in my ‘real life’ knows what I do or knows my working names so if it were a call for me from ‘real life’ they would have asked for "Lane", my real name. At the moment, Natasha is my expensive name and this call must be Linda already. I didn’t even have to sit around and get stale.

I wade into Cait’s room through a maze of still-boxed Ginsu Knives, Thigh-Masters and Abdominizers. Cait—that’s her expensive name, the real one is Megan--works so hard yet manages to shed her money just as fast.

I grab the phone: "Hello?"

"Listen, baby doll, I’ve got a call for you," Ellen rasps into the phone.

I picture her at her desk: a fierce Chihuahua of a woman shaking with energy, a lit Marlboro in one hand and a Newport in the other, ready to pinch hit me out the door. "He’s a regular and wants petite/busty - a cheerleader type, so just try to be your own peppy self, alright baby doll? Will you do that for me? Wait a sec, my Kung Pao’s here." She doesn’t bother to move the phone away from her mouth before yelling at one of the girls in the office. "Don’t be cheap! Give the guy a big tip! You make enough money."

A cheerleader type? UGH! I’ve only been working in this business for a short time but already I know that when people ask for a certain ‘type’, it means anxiety for me and frustration for them. Whatever specific image they have in mind, once confronted with reality they will inevitably be let down.

Ellen feeds me his name and location and tells me he pays by credit card. "Okay, baby doll, quick like a bunny. I told him you’d be there within the half hour. Kisses babydoll. Call me when you get there."

I brush my teeth. Again.

"Who’re ya goin’ ta see? Someone new?"

"Ray Rialto? Upper East Side?"

"Noooo…. Don’t sound familiar…"

I retouch my lipstick, again. It occurs to me that I have the mouth of a wide mouth bass.

"He asked for a cheerleader type." I lean backwards from the bathroom into Cait’s room. We groan, twist our mouths into various contortions and roll our eyes simultaneously.

I too am pre-dressed in standard puta gear, push-up bra, thong lace panties, (never ever pantyhose!), black stay-up thigh-high stockings and a watch to keep track of the time. I slide an easy-on/easy-off dress over it and pull on my shoes.

"How do I look?"

I drag my desk chair out of my bedroom to the doorway of the bathroom and climb on top. The mirror is too high up to see from the waist down so I do the half-and-half--- first making sure I pass from the hips down, then bending my knees and checking out the top part. There are too many sections to comprehend the whole.

My eyes, originally almond shaped with soft, heavy lids, have exchanged their natural vulnerability for a black-clumped armor of mascara. I now have Liza Minelli eyes but with her mother’s, Judy Garland’s, doomed look emanating out of them and my spirit is bouncing around in a too-round-for-the-era Sophia Loren body. I have fat ankles and big thighs (men say they are muscular-ha!) from actually having been a real cheerleader/gymnast, and a mouth not yet in fashion: more guppy than runway model’s pout.

"Do I look like a cheerleader?"

Cait heaves her torso up, props herself on her elbows and drops her head backward to look me over upside down.

"I’m not seein’ cheerleader directly. I’m seein’ more, oh, what was her name? From that movie we were after watchin’ last week?"

We rented ‘Blazing Saddles’. She means Madeline Kahn.

"You mean the ‘Teutonic Twat’? " ‘I’m so tie-wed…’ "? I’m Jewish. I can’t look like her."

"You remind me of her."

"I don’t mean my personality."

" ‘…they keep coming and going and going and coming…’ "

" ‘And always too soon!’ " We sing this last phrase together.

"Never soon enough, isn’t it though!" she says and we laugh our been-there-done-that laugh.

I grab my ‘working purse’, so named because it contains all my work essentials: condoms, Kama Sutra massage oil (won’t break condoms like regular oil will), KY, (and Astro-glide if it’s a particularly ‘dry’ evening), a credit card machine and credit card slips, Summer’s Eve wipes, more make-up, emergency hair spray, comb and mirror, cigarettes – always cigarettes – change for the pay phone (these are pre-cell phone days), a twenty for round trip cab fare, and mace – just in case.

"Have fun."
"Rah rah."
"The minute his pricky hits your lippy he won’t remember what he thought he wanted."

We do the eye-roll/ lip-twists.

"See you later here or at the office."
"Careful, now."
"You too."

I throw on my coat. True to the Marcia Brady in me, I’m out the door in six minutes.

In the back of Speed Racer’s cab, we smash from side to side, lane to lane, whiz around corners, jerk forward and back, stopping and starting with jarring unpredictability.

Through all this I attempt a mascara application. Not easy. I am learning though. My left foot- ‘the solid foot’-and must remain firmly planted on the floor of the taxi while the right foot, albeit in ‘fuck-me pumps’ is the bracer - lodged deep in the backside of the front seat. My knee is bent just inches away from my chin, forming a stabilized ‘table’ for my compact mirror.

Holding the mirror firmly in place with my right hand, I feel around inside my makeup bag for the tube that is mascara. Once found, I put the long end in my mouth, hold it in place with my teeth and twist the shorter brush part out with my left hand. Keeping the tube in my mouth (which now resembles a hooked wide mouth bass), I press the elbow of the hand that holds the brush staunchly against my knee and begin to apply to my lashes.

It is very important to keep all the stabilizing bases strong: the left foot, the right bracing foot, the mirror on the knee, the mouth around the tube, the elbow on the lash-brushing arm, all pressed tight, and voila! Despite having been applied in a stock-car race, I have eyes that can soothe, charm, seduce, or at least make me look like I’m worth three hundred dollars an hour.

Minutes later (in fact, I am ‘quick like a bunny), I’m standing on the stoop of a pre-war brownstone, pressing the button for 5A.
"Yeah?" His voice crackles out from the old intercom.
"Hi. It’s Natasha?"
"Fifth floor." The door buzzes loudly.

The building is a walk-up, not luxurious, but bright enough in the hallways to feel safe, with semi-new linoleum in a not-too-puky color. I climb the stairs on my tiptoes careful not to make clanking heel sounds all the way up. I reach the second level, round the corner and pass several closed doors and head up.

It occurs to me, this is like the grown-up version of that board game "Mystery Date" we used to play as little girls. On the board was a door with a turnable knob. Underneath the door were cards, each depicting a different ‘date’: it might be David-Cassidy-date or Nerd-with-pocket-protector-date, you never knew. Each of us girls would take our turn at the door, squirming and squealing in desperate anxiety as we turned the knob to reveal our date, our fate.

But this is not the Mystery Date of girl-dom.

This is the Underground, rarely-seen-after-the-city-sleeps version, with stakes that are worth squirming and squealing about.

I reach 5A. I think peppy. I think cheerleader. I knock.


I wait a breath or two, toe tap-tapping on the linoleum. I look round nervously at the other doors on the landing, then lean my head against 5A and listen. My heart is crashing against my chest.

Will he like me? Will he send me away? I knock again.

I hear a toilet flush, then a crash like a door hitting a wall, and a muffled oath. I pull back.

An enlarged eye fills up the peep hole and the handle to the door turns. I take a breath in, straighten my posture and smile my warm, closed-mouth smile, tilting my head to give him my prettier, Audrey Hepburn profile.

An Ogre opens the door, clad only in droopy worn-for-days, used-to-be-white briefs. Rolls of pale green fat spread out from his arms and waist. Skin tags, dark raised moles and strange hairs sprout from places they never, ever should be. He hasn’t combed his Brillo-pad hair nor has he shaved away the needles that protrude from his jaw line, and there are several chins, waggling even as the rest of him stands still.

I’m frozen: luckily in my smile-y, tilty-head position. But I must get in the door. Get in the door, call Ellen and let her know this client likes me enough to let me stay.

I stare at him, my rictus grin guilelessly splitting my face, stomach writhing and clenching around what suddenly feels like a muddy sewer-soaked tennis ball.

"Hi! I’m Natasha!"
He pulls the door open farther and looks me up and down.
"You’re a cheerleader?"
"Well, I used to be a when I was in junior high." I tilt my head further and give a more open smile. "Want to see me do the splits?"
This surprises him. It surprises the heck out of me too. The things that come out of my mouth! Honestly! But he lets me in.
My stomach relaxes a bit.

Once inside, I smile and he stares.

It’s a filthy bear den of an apartment. Just one room, the air a ripe mix of fart, poo-poo underwear and old milk. The only furniture is a scraggy, faded-to-beige, Salvation Army couch, an enormous, 1950’s ancient-but-not-antique wood-paneled TV, its cabinet-work all scratched up, and countless stacks of yellowed, torn, frayed newspapers. They sprout from the floor like giant, geometrical toadstools. Over against the far wall, a full-sized bed sags tiredly to the floor. Blankets twist across the mattress, and who knows if the sheets are navy or have just never been washed. There’s no art on the walls, no rack of LP’s or cassette tapes (we’re pre-CD here), nothing but a tartar-like build-up of yuck coating everything, coating him.

As I stare around, taking it in, the words of an old male friend, one who actually approved of this new career of mine, pop into my head:

"What a glamorous profession! Hell, if I were a pretty woman I’d do the same thing. Why not? Easy job. Lots of sex and money."

But the key word is ‘job’. There is no walking away if you aren’t into it, if the timing doesn’t suit you, if you aren’t comfortable. If you did, you could never make a living.

And who would do this for just for fun?

"So where are you from?" I ask, placing my bag next to the couch.
"Here." He snarls, hurling the word at me.
"Right. Of course. Umm, what type of work do you do?"
"None of your beeswax."
(Beezwax?!) Before I can respond he’s on the attack.
"I can see why you’re a hooker. You’re not smart enough or pretty enough to do anything else. Is that it?"
I’m stunned. My eyes water. My throat gets hot.
"Or did you have a rotten childhood? Is that it?"
I feel a rush of heat race up from my feet to the crown of my head. My scalp begins to sweat.
"Were you raped as a kid? Incest?"
I am paralyzed.
"Did you run away from home?"

Like in a nightmare, I want to speak but nothing comes from my mouth. ‘No!’ I want to say; "No to all of the above! I’ve auditioned for the RFDS. I’ve lived through four years of the RFDS. I’ve survived the aftermath of the RFDS. I have an incredible family, a happy childhood. I’ve had the great good fortune of being in love more than three times and even have met my soul mate. True, I’ve been disposed of in so many ways by so many different men that I could hardly recall them anymore…’ but nothing comes out of my lips.

"Bet this job pays for all your drugs, right? Is that it?"

I stand there blinking. What would Cait do? "I’m goin," she’d say, "and you can just shove it up your big lard arse!" Then she’d storm away and call Ellen from downstairs and later she would label him ‘the Ogre’ to keep his hurtfulness at a distance and Ellen would forgive Cait because Cait was a big moneymaker for her.

I was too new and too untested. If at all possible, I had to stay. I needed Ellen. I needed the money.

"I pick all of the above."

And then as if by magic, my inner comedienne comes suddenly to my rescue. I adopt a low, gravelly pirate voice.

"I’m a low down, no good, ungrateful, ugly, mercenary, alcoholic bitch, here in drug-induced desperation to take your money."

Then I smile and say ‘peppily’, "Should I call the agency and tell them I’m here?"

Again, we’re both surprised. Desperation, it seems, is good for my vocabulary.

His caterpillar unibrow crawls up his forehead. "Are you staying?"

"If you want me to."

The price for me as ‘Natasha’ is $300 dollars each hour as opposed to ‘Gwen’, my currant $200 dollar an hour name, but either way, the split with Ellen is 50/50. The $150 dollars I would make for this one difficult hour is more than I would make in three days of hard, demeaning-in-other-ways work out in the real world. I am buying my way out of debt. I am buying my way out of indenturement. I am buying myself ‘wings’ and purchasing new dreams. And finally, I can pay for health insurance.

"Let me see you do a cheer." He backs up against the wall and crosses his arms across his fleshy man-teats. His balls shift to a new position in his tighty-off-whiteys. It never ceases to astound me how men can be so unselfconscious about their bodies.

There is one cheer I recall from my days on the champion Truman Junior High cheerleading squad: "We’re going to the top and we can’t be stopped! Straight! To! The top!" The old routine comes back automatically - slicing the air with straight, perfectly aligned fingers, punctuating the words with my fists, slapping my thighs before sliding, in four inch heels, thigh highs and red dress down to the floor into the Chinese splits.

Arms stretched overhead, I grin and lift my shoulders as if to ask, "Well?" There’s a silence between us as he surveys me on the floor, my dress bunched up around my waist. His expression doesn’t change and he doesn’t offer to help me up. I blow on the ends of my fingertips, both hands - like I’m cooling the barrels of two smoking guns and wait, staring up at him with a wide-eyed Betty Boop face. He motions to a rotary-dial phone on the floor next to an empty pizza box.

"OK. Call."

Getting out of the splits gracefully is harder than getting in. The phone smells of pepperoni and I try not to touch the receiver to my chin.

"Hi. This is Natasha. I’m here."
"Great Babydoll. Is everything okay?"

The first few calls I went on, I actually thought about my answer to this question, pausing and saying, "We-ell"—
"What!? Is he killing you? Raping you? Is he a cop? What?!" Ellen had barked. "If not, then everything is okay. Don’t fuck with me. Don’t cry wolf."
And so I learned my first lesson: Just because a client doesn’t smell good or you don’t like him is no reason to send for the bomb squad.

"Everything is fine."
"Alright, babydoll. It’s 7:46. I’ll call you at 8:46. Do a good job for me."
"I will."
And my time with the Ogre officially begins.

Even though I’ve only been at this a short while, I have found a little routine that seems to make these calls go smoothly. I come in, call Ellen, get the ‘business’ out of the way (cash or credit card), sit and have a drink, chat and charm and find something that both me and the client have in common, then move to the bed and give a long massage before we ‘do the sexy thing’. That way time and client come quickly to an end.

But Ray the Ogre doesn’t care about conversation—at least not with me—and I’m not offered a drink or even a place to sit (not that there is one.) Not without a struggle, he pulls off his undies, flops backward onto the already ailing mattress, rolls himself up to a sitting position, and pats the bed with his paw, motioning a fully clothed me to his side.

"Is it okay if I just run to the bathroom first?"

With his assent, I escape behind the closed door of the WC—the outcall escort’s haven, a two-minute time-out from the game, a place to let my energy momentarily sag.

I pee in a standing up squat, not wanting to get too familiar with the grimy, yellowed toilet seat, and flush with the toe of my shoe. The sink’s faucet is stuck in a perpetual, droning drool. Too little to actually wash with and no towel to dry on even if there was; so instead I tear open an Eve wipe from my bag, wipe my hands, tear open another and wipe my koochie. I take out the KY and, flinching at the sudden coldness, slide it deep inside and round my vaginal petals like lipgloss.

Back to the show.

As I come back into the room, he’s sitting on the bed staring at the bathroom door like a skeptical bulldog, a jowl-y snowman with bad posture - big white round head squashed onto big white blobby belly atop two smashed melon knees with two fat ham hocks hanging down.

"Would you like to start with a massage?" I offer as I remove my little ‘goodies’ bag from my purse from my working purse—and place it inconspicuously on the floor by the bed.

"Why? You want to kill time so you don’t have to blow me?"

What a gentleman. But he’s almost right; almost- I’m too honest, God help me, to renege on the deal. Anyway being new to the business, I can’t afford to offend him. So the actress in me musters up Cait’s elaborate brogue I answer dramatically,

"I’ll blow ya baby. I’ll blow ya hither and nigh. I’ll blow ya from here to eternity. I’ll blow you ‘til I hear ya crrrry out, ‘Tharrrr she blows!’
I laugh at my own goofyness.

He doesn’t even pretend to be amused.
"Yeah, you’re a real treat." His voice is dead-pan.

I stop playing: "I just thought a massage would be a nice way to start. I thought I might relax you that way and then turn you over and UN-relax you." I giggle at my own flirty suggestion.

He grunts, scowls. I take this for an affirmative.

"Do you want to lay back?"

He takes me literally and flops backward onto his back.

"Do you want to turn over?" I suggest.

In one slow, awkward motion, the man heaves himself over onto his stomach. The bedsprings grumble and flesh spills out from either side of him.

I slowly slide out of my dress hoping he’ll smile as he catches a glimpse of my pretty red lingerie but he has his eyes squeezed shut.

Good thing I have already warmed up with the Chinese splits- the kind where your legs go straight out to either side of you - because a repeat performance is required as I attempt to straddle myself across his splayed, mushy buttocks. Maybe this is why he wanted a cheerleader type. He actually needed someone with Chinese split capabilities.

I feel like I did in gymnastics when we had to use the apparatus called the Horse. I wasn’t very good at that piece of equipment and sometimes landed on it, straddled and stuck. The Ogre I am now perched atop is so wide and my legs are splayed so far apart I have no room to maneuver. Instead of the hardness of the Horse to push off of, his flesh is wobbly Jello-O that I am sinking deeper into and slowly becoming lodged in. I tighten the muscles of my legs and find that if I keep a tight constant squeeze inward with my thighs, I can keep myself ‘afloat’.

(I’ll have to tell Cait this part, I think to myself. This may get better results than the Thigh-Master.)

Getting a client to start with a massage usually allows me to climb across his back in my lingerie and heels, and then he’s able to feel the heat from in between my legs breathing onto his naked bottom as if from a hot mouth. Most men find this kind of sexy. A really long deep massage not only relaxes both of us but also, if planned right, means that when I finally turn a client over to ‘play’, the digital clock will flip over the hour, the phone will ring, and a precise Ellen will be on the other end asking, "Are you keeping Natasha with you for another hour, sir, or sending her back to me?" My one hundred fifty dollars (my 50/50 split with Linda) could quickly turn into three hundred dollars in a second if I’m asked to remain, and if the client hasn’t ‘finished’ yet, usually he’ll have me stay for the next hour. But I’m not sure I want to work to extend my stay with Ray.

I warm oil between my palms as he shifts beneath me, complaining he can’t get comfortable with my ‘bulk’ pressing into him.

"You better not be wasting my time," he warns. "I expect you to make me cum."

I roll my eyes and twist my mouth like Cait and I do, although he can’t see me. I’ve rarely done that and when I do, I instantly hate myself for it. I’ve seen other girls do it while a client wasn’t looking—a little gesture of power in a powerless, adversarial situation—him vs. her.

Why is it like this, I think as I put my hands on his vast, fleshy back? Why is it adversarial? I seem to hear some silent, ‘Male’ voice saying: ‘Touch me in my most private places, let me touch you in your most private places however I choose, be sensual with me, be sexual with me and let it happen when I say so. Do it so I am convinced it is completely mutual. Have no borders, otherwise you won’t be the girl I ask back from the agency. And by the way, you mean nothing. You are a moving toy, something to scratch my itch. And you better scratch it, and scratch it in the way I like and by the way, I can’t stay hard so you might have to really work at it. And if you don’t fulfill me, maybe I won’t pay. What are you going to do? Sue me? I can even rape you if I want to. You gonna call the cops? You can’t rape a whore. I’ll find out who you are and I’ll tell your landlord what you do and you’ll lose your apartment. Even if I like you, talk to you, laugh with you, you are still here to service me and are not a woman, a person I would truly invest in. You are disposable, and when I have had my pleasure I will toss you back out to the night like a used rag."

How can I respond but with antagonism? An antagonism that’s been growing ever since I started in this ‘business’ a few months before. Maybe even since before that - based on a ‘Female’ rage that men are so reckless with our hearts and bodies, that they can touch us in such intimate ways and then just discard us, replace us. Based on a self-loathing rooted in not looking right, in a world that values us only for how we look. Based on a fear of not pleasing the great ‘Him’(complicated, since I started doing calls, by the fact ‘He’ might now withhold payment as well approval).

Is this innate antagonism the reason why the business exists – and also why is it illegal? It’s the background music, the bitter aria, to who we are, what we do – for all women, but especially those of the underworld.

All girls who start out in the business feel it. Many never shake it. For some it’s louder than for others. I hear it but try to ignore it. I feel, at some gut level, that this is only part of the story. That it’s really not about men or women, but about men and women – the loving alchemy, the magic between man and woman, that I know is there, just beyond reach.

And I know I must find it.

That's the reason why I stay sitting on the Ogre’s back. It’s not just about money: it’s about finding and grasping the elusive air-pocket of love within the great tidal wave of hostility.

"Don’t worry Ray. Just relax and I’ll make sure you’re happy, okay?" I whisper down in his ear, as I remove my bra and let my cantaloupe-round, feather-soft breasts drop tenderly onto his mole-y back.

He leans up on one arm nearly knocking me sideways. "How long are you gonna take with this massage thing?"

"Just long enough to relax us both, ok? Not too long. Just lie down…"

He does.

"…and relax. Shhh."

I discreetly grab my little bag-o-goodies, pull out a condom and tuck it under the blanket for later.

I start at the base of his back in the small tender area just above his buttocks and push my thumbs into his flesh in soothing sensual circles.

He doesn’t move.

I’m taken aback at how cold and hard in spirit this man is, how badly he wants to dislike me. But then why call an agency? Why spend so much money? Just to cum? It doesn’t make sense. I’ve had cold attractive clients before and kind unattractive ones, but this man is going out of his way to hurt my feelings, to make our encounter miserable. This can’t be about the sex. He hasn’t looked at me. He hasn’t tried to touch me. What pleasure will he be able to get from the sex? From anything?

I press deeper now with the heels of my hand. I close my eyes and roll the circles of oil into larger patterns and suddenly I sense with my hands that his muscles want me to go deeper. I do.

I feel that the muscle above, near to the spine, seems to hold a deep, gray grief-- years of it--- and my hands go there, start to journey along the muscle fibers. All of a sudden I feel like I have sight in my hands, that I am playing with an Ouigi board, holding on lightly, letting the muscles direct my touch. The base of my palm rides deep, with long strokes. The Ogre sighs.

The Ogre sighs!

Years ago, as a student of the RFDS—‘the’ school in the United States for Music, Dance and Drama—as a hopeful young actress wanting to become a ‘great artist of the stage’, I would try all sorts of experiments and exercises to increase my awareness of energy. Hoping to harness it so as to become the best actress I could be. A little woo-woo, perhaps, but I knew that cultivating openness and sensitivity would make me a better conduit for any character that I wanted to express on stage.

One of these adventures included meditating with crystals.

I know I know.

But there was this New Age store near where the RFDS is housed, and it carried crystals the way Tiffany’s carries diamonds. Each crystal was marked with its name and the properties it exuded. The sales-staff were experts on the subject. Their claim, that a crystal had the ability to transform energy, to act as a conductor if you like, seemed to make some sense. After all, I reasoned, quartz crystals were used in watches to control energy flow, so why wouldn’t they work just as well with human energy?

I would lie on my back in my bed and place a large quartz crystal on both up-facing palms. I’d lay an amethyst one (purple) on my forehead pointing upward, an amber one on my throat, a green one on my sternum, and one just below my navel (there was a method to this madness though I can’t remember now what it was, something about shakras).

With my eyes closed I would imagine a hoola-hoop of white light running from the palm of my right hand, through my arm, up around my head, back down the left arm and through that crystal, down to my feet and back up to the right hand. Once I got that light circulating, I would start a second one that ran up the front of my body and down the back.

This was not unlike that act you see in the circus where they start all these loops spinning, and then juggle them. When the lights finally stopped, I would surround myself with pink light - as that was the healing color, the energy color of love.

I used to do this often, and often with slept with my crystals in the bed, like mineral teddy bears. In fact one of the few times I had a man stay over I was horribly embarrassed when - as we crawled in bed- he laid down on a pile of pointy-edged rocks then jumped up, howling.

Not very sexy.

One afternoon, I was lying in my bed spinning my lights--

(ok, very woo-woo!),

when all of a sudden I began to feel as if I were vibrating like a hummingbird. The next moment I seemed to swoop up in the way you do when riding a roller coaster.

I opened my eyes and seemed to see myself, in the late-afternoon, dusky-dark room, lying on my bed with the crystals on me. Looking down at myself I thought, "There’s my body!" And, "Here’s me!" Floating on the ceiling like Uncle Albert in Mary Poppins.

It was very bright up where I was and I was vibrating with a joy so ecstatic that it felt like an orgasm, but maybe an orgasm with God. It was glorious until I realized that, like Wile E. Coyote walking off the cliff and about to go Boing!, I was in midair. I hit back into my body with that feeling you get when you crash land in a falling dream, only I didn’t quite go all the way back in.

Not properly.

I think my feet landed at about my ankles and my eyes were just above my head and I walked around with the spiritual bends for a few days.

Now, sitting astride the Ogre, I remember my jaunt to the ceiling. My hands begin to pick up his energy and – eyes shut - I begin to imagine a ball of pink light pulsating and growing out from my heart, getting larger and larger until it fills my body. I invent an ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ puff cloud of pink that funnels out through my fingers and into his flesh, leaving a pink trail of love and tenderness as they travel. The flat of my hand follows his energy to the muscles on his back that seem somehow dark to me, kneading there to break up the blackness and pressing in hot pink to disperse it, dissolve it, replace it. My eyes are closed. My fingers are listening. They are antennae following the trail of his sadness and stress. The room is silent but for our heavy deep breaths and the clicking over of the minute numbers on his digital clock. The massage I give to him is deep, gentle, focused on his every fiber, emanating all the pink love I can generate.

I travel across the wide terrain of his back until there are no more ‘black areas’.

I open my eyes and glance at the little clock. The number clicks over to 8:08. Almost half an hour has passed. His head is lying on the pillow in jowl-y left profile. He is breathing heavily through his mouth. Beneath his face is a round wet stain that encircles his head like a halo. His eyes are shut but a tear is perched on the bridge of his nose, waiting to plummet. He is crying silently. The tear drops, spreads and another takes its place.

Oh my God.

This is all about nobody loving him.

All about him not loving himself.

All about nobody ever touching him kindly. Nobody ever touching him at all.

I lean forward and kiss the new tear. He is startled.

"Ray?" I whisper.

He ‘garumphs’ in response.

"Ray?" I whisper again; "Do you want to turn over for me?"

It is like Mohammed moving the mountain, but when I turn him over, something inside me shifts. I no longer hear the background hum of "I need to be good on this call. I need him to like me." It has stopped.

He brings both palms to his face and pretends to rub himself awake to disguise his wiping away of tears.

Like Mohammed climbing the mountain, I straddle the mound of his stomach, feeling it roll and wave beneath me. Keeping my inner thighs tight to control my movements and the pressure of my body on his, I slowly lean forward, kissing the sharp center hairs of his unibrow. My lips, held soft and tensionless graze down the bridge of his nose, feeling the rocky topography of his skin. His eyes - wide and open like a child’s - slowly close in surrender.

I reach his lips with mine and let my lower lip’s inner warmth and wetness stroke his. I feel his cheeks with mine and nuzzle down the length of his neck.


He is still.

I drift to his chest and stomach in this way until I reach the end of the great roundness. I have to lift and crawl underneath the massive overhang to get to his penis. It is small but hard and wet with sweat and emits a pungent wet-diaper odor.

I hold in my breath for a moment, exhaling slowly before I suck in a quick gasp of air, giving myself time to adapt to the smell. I slide the condom out from its hiding place under the blanket, tear the wrapper softly and roll it over him, following quickly with my mouth. The non-lubricated latex (no spermicidally coated condoms or my mouth will be numb for hours), with its white powder and bland plastic taste is almost a relief from the biting odor of his sex.

It’s a bit of a juggling act holding his belly up with one hand and his cock steady in my mouth with the other but he comes very quickly this way. I’m ‘underground’ only a minute or so. We lay in the quiet aftermath for a moment.

Suddenly bolts upright, leaping from the bed with surprising sprightliness for one so large, condom dangling from his pee-pee as he flees to the bathroom.

Peeking his head out from around the bathroom door, he holds up the full condom like a trophy and yowls in dead earnest: "Woah! Look how much I came! Look at that! There must be a gallon in there! Do you think there’s about a gallon in there?"
Caught off guard I explode into a huge guffaw and can’t stop.

"Really," Ray says, "I think you milked me dry. Look at that. Look!"

I look. I nod in a very serious face and then explode again. And then…a miracle.

He laughs too.

He laughs at me.

He laughs at the situation.

He laughs at himself.

When Ellen calls to tell us the hour is up, he keeps me for a second hour - but not for sex. Instead we spend the entire time talking, telling each other about our lives. I tell him about my long struggle to stay an artist, about my years in poverty and all the real world jobs I got fired from. I tell him about the time I lived on the rooftop of a YMCA waking up to find pigeons settling on my chest, and the time I lived in the basement of a theatre. I tell him how I was a failure as a bulimic.

He tells me how he too had loved and lost, worse in fact – loved and never had. How a colleague and partner betrayed him, causing him to lose his company. How his weight began to spiral out of control, pushing him away from himself, cutting him off from the man he had been before.

His story wasn’t so different from mine, just set in a different arena with different characters in the lead roles.

In the cab home, I think how to tell this to Cait.

Could I tell her how the Ogre Man became Epiphany Man?

No, I can’t tell her. She would just say that he liked me because I made him cum.

I’m listening for that familiar, angry-woman theme to play in my head, but it doesn’t.

Instead I hear a voice that says what just happened is simply that, he is a human being and I am a human being. We are both scared and we are both two very little people on a very big planet and both in need of love and both have the power to give it to each other and we did.

We did.

But I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do so if it weren’t for this business. I wouldn’t have met him if it weren’t for this business. I wouldn’t have been naked with him if it weren’t for this business.

I had thought this business was all about men’s gluttony, about their thoughtlessness and hedonism, their immodesty and immaturity. About their ability to dispose of women.

I had thought it was about women’s allowing themselves to be objectified. About women’s emotional revenge. About women’s weakness and desire for security above all else.

But sitting there in the late-night, New York traffic, I realize that this isn’t about man versus woman, this business. This is about being an instrument, a conduit, a friend and a guide.

This is about taking people to places inside of themselves they didn’t know they had or could reach.

This is about going to where there is a void and filling it with whatever it needs. Sort of a spiritual nurse. (I know—woo-woo.)

The equipment is the beauty and charm inherent in femininity.

The equipment is intelligence and intuition.

The equipment is a big loving heart and a playful imagination.

The equipment is faith and the ability to see beyond what ‘appears to be’ to ‘what truly is’.

And the instruments are sensuality, joy, laughter, touch, sexuality.

(Finally, a job I have some tools for.)

If I relax and let people ‘show up’, then God shows up with them.

This is a job about living in the moment.

About saying ‘yes’.

About truly feeling.

This is a job about love.

Love as a creation.

Love as a Verb.

After that first time together, I saw Ray through Ellen on a regular basis for years.


At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

you find the good in everything...


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