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.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Take the Long Way Home

Back from my trip.
Thanks to all who wrote comments when I was away.

Amazed at how all that sumptuous relaxation so swiftly become stress again.
Second half of my excursion, was treated to a luscious, loving time in Cancun.
Unfortunately, the weather was pouty but the company made up for the lack of sunshine.
Without much else to distract us, my friend and I spent the four days together reveling in intimate chats.

He, of course, knows what I do for a living and because he cares so deeply for me, would like to see me make the transition out of my business and into something else at this point in my life. Not for reasons of disapproval, on the contrary, he respects what I do and admires what I seem to accomplish within it. But on our last day, I fell into an unshakeable depression at the thought of leaving the Paradise we were in, having to return to my ‘real’ life; and so he sensed my soul aching to move on.

"What would you do if you could do something else?"
I am always a bit stumped at this inquiry, even when I ask it privately of myself.

Here’s the question:
‘Once an Escort is entrenched in ‘The Business’, how does she ever get out?’

You know those metal claws at the front entrance of Parking Lots that come with a sign that reads:
"Do not back up. Your tires will be punctured."?
It’s a similar dilemma.

These are the issues:
I love what I do. True, it wasn’t what I dreamed of, nor planned for, but once I found myself there and looked up from the bottom of the Well, I worked to transform it into what I wanted it to be.
And the money affords me a life absent of poverty and gives breath to some of my dreams.

Then, of course, having a degree from a prestigious School of the Arts, I am trained for nothing else that would be financially as profitable on this planet.
(I could go work for Wal-Mart but I am afraid that would rapidly deteriorate into financial ruin, severe psychological disorders and perhaps early death.)

What I would love to do, is exactly what I started out doing:
Acting with a bit of writing tossed in.
Or, to go back to school to actually learn how to write.
Or get a degree in Cultural Anthropology.
None of which (neither School nor the Arts) paid rent or health insurance fifteen years ago, making me fairly certain they will not pay today either.

So, harumph.
How to leave my business?
No way out?
Or take the long way home.

What I need to find is something that uses my innate skills but pays well enough to pay bills and still live a little.
(Isn’t that what everyone is looking for?)

I could apply to major corporations, but as I mentioned before, I have a hole in my resume and the only skills I would be able to list are:
Loves people.
Unafraid of adventure.
Speaks in tongues. (Better stated as: Speaks many languages horizontally.)
Pleasant to be in the company of.
Gives good head. (Both.) (Heads.)

See? Difficult to explain the long absence from the job market.

My friend, always creative and on-the-ball, suggested a "Site Inspector". (Inspect-ress?)
Meaning: One who travels to destinations for a travel agency, writes a vivid detailed report on the location, service, amenities, activities, etc., and then charmingly relays the information to clients of the agency.

Sort of like what I do now except my explorations would be of locales instead of the terrain of the body, I would be mostly Vertical rather than Horizontal, and instead of writing alone in a blog, I would write for the eyes of the agency.

Seemed so ideal to me. All I ever wanted: A life of loving, of exploring, of creating and adventuring.
I dreamt about it on the plane ride home.
Although I’m not fond of flying, I have always yearned to travel, and am mysteriously enticed by anything ‘foreign’. (As you’ve probably ascerned already from some of the previous blogs.)
My very first ‘adventure’ came when I was about fifteen.
(I’m terrible with numbers and dates and ages. They never seem to match my remembrances.)
I packed my bags, and without my parent’s knowledge, boarded a plane bound for Germany.
I didn’t mean to go to Germany. I was actually aiming for France.
I didn’t run away to escape my parents. They are really nice people. There was no abuse; no alcoholism. On the contrary, they were innocents, simple, do-right folks who lived with their heads in the sand. Mr. and Mrs. Ostrich I used to call them.
And I didn’t run away to hurt them.
I was simply in a hurry to ‘become’.
As I always am.
It has always felt, as if there was so much Life to live, so much to learn and so many people to love, that Time has been my foremost competitor.

This morning, while unpacking, putting papers and journals away, I came across my diary entry from that first trip abroad. It’s silly and child-ish but the same feeling still exists in full-bloom inside me today.

Dear Diary,
Guess where I am writing you from?
Shall I give you a hint?
Guten tog. Vie gates? Ich bin shun!
Are you surprised?
Actually, I am too.
I was trying to go to France—
(in that case, I would be saying Bonjour. Ca va? Je suis tres bien!)
I’m in Germany!
I meant to go to France I got a ticket on the wrong plane.
I thought Cologne was a French city.
(I guess I should’ve paid more attention in my geography class?)
I should’ve just picked Paris, cause I know that is in France for sure,
but I thought it would be so much more romantic to just go to France
and then take the train into the Paris station, like you see in the movies?
But then, if I did, I wouldn’t have been in Germany and learnt all that I have learnt here.

This is what happened:
I was really sick of Hoffman Estates.
This is how it felt:

You know how good soup is really complicated and has lots of ingredients in it? And you know how, if you put the soup in the freezer, all the fat goes up to the top like a big fat layer of white goop?
That’s what it is like to live in the suburbs.
The suburbs is the big fat layer of fat and that’s it.
The fat is really thick and if you just look at the container, you wouldn’t even know there was soup in it, buried under all that white.
And if you happen to be soup, there is no place for you and all that you are.
I wanted to go to a place where it is good to be soup.

Also, I had all these feelings in me that I wanted to be special and become a great actress, but at home, all I ever feel like is ordinary Lane-a.
Every time my mom says my name, I know I will never be anything more than that. She doesn’t mean to make that happen, it just does.

And they have rules that don’t fit me anymore. They don’t really know who I am inside so they give me all these stupid things I am supposed to want and when I don’t want them, they think I am being rebellious.

Also, I know Illinois isn’t my true home. I don’t think it is Germany either, (but I love it here!) and I don’t know about France yet cause I haven’t made it there yet, but I’ll let you know.

I didn’t plan it very much which is why I didn’t figure out we were going to Germany until we were landing, but I did plan a little.

After the abortion, I didn’t have many friends left so I started reading a lot.
I was reading about this lady who keeps a lot of diaries like me.
Her name is Anais Nin.
And she lived in Paris and she had all these friends who were writers and they formed this group and sat at cafes with actors and painters and they all became famous for their work sooner or later.

Then one night when I couldn’t sleep, (which is always), I was remembering a movie they showed us in school called, Roman Holiday starring Audrey Hepburn.
In it, she has this one life that she was born into, but she is like the soup and her life doesn’t fit her, so she runs away. She is in Rome and nobody knows who she is so she gets to re-create herself into the person she really is and wants to be. So I thought about that and I thought about Anais Nin and then I knew that was the answer.

I was going to arrive in Paris in a black dress and stockings –not pantyhose! And get a job as a waitress in one of the cafes where I would meet famous and not-yet famous artists and actors and writers—maybe even Anais Nin or Henry Miller.

I would be this dreamy girl with her diary and pen always with her who was very mysterious and people knew just from looking at me that I was going to be a great artist someday.
We would all become friends and they would write plays for me to act in and my French would get really good and I would have an axent for life.

We would read our stories to each other and smoke cigarettes and listen to jazz music (which I have never heard yet!) and watch the streetwalkers late at night saunter by on their way home, a patron tucked drunk on their arm.
Like in that Van Gogh painting.
Or was it Toulouse Letrec?
(I think I combine the two paintings in my head.)

I got my passport which wasn’t hard.
Then I found out that I had money in the bank! Mom slipped one night and mentioned that when I turn sixteen, I could use the money I got from my Bat Mitzvah, to buy a car. I didn’t even know there was any money!
There was $514 dollars! So I went to the bank
and knew better than to take it all out,
so I took out 200 of it and stashed it away until I could think of what I was going to do exactly.

In the morning that I left, I waited for mom and dad to go to work then I called a taxicab, which I am very familiar with doing as you know.
I took the taxi to O’Hare International Airport.
I paid the driver and lugged my suitcase into the terminal.
It was heavy because of all the shoes. I couldn’t decide which ones to bring and I couldn’t picture a day when I wouldn’t want to wear each different one so I brought them all.
And I brought you, diary.

I stood staring up at the big board with all the arrivals and departures on it.
Paris, London, Copenhagen, Oslo, Cologne—Cologne, hmmm.
Cologne sounded French to me.
When I asked how much a one-way ticket would be, it was only 126 dollars on TWA.
I was nervous a bit but I kept thinking how Audrey would do it so I just acted like her and no one questioned me.
I had all the necessary documents.
I handled myself well.

I bought a ticket at the counter, one way.

I had to wait a while in the airport cause the flight didn’t leave until later, but I just read my book, Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (it has loads of sex in it!) and watched all the people.

Oh diary, airplanes and airports are so romantic! All these people rushing around to get to places with more promise!

My heart was banging inside of me so strong when I boarded the plane.
It was my first time to fly (other than the other way!).

I wasn’t too scared of going. I knew that money in France was francs and how to speak enough French to get by until I was really living there and I knew how to waitress so I knew I could get a job right away.

My stomach did some flip-flops when my thoughts fell on mom and dad---what their reaction would be, but then I comforted myself by knowing I would be too far way to punish.
Also, I had left them a note to keep them off my scent for a while.
It said:

Dear Mom and Dad,
I have a really big test to study for so I went to school today and I am going to go to Michelle’s house after school and then we are going to study all night, Then I will go to school straight from Michelle’s and I’ll be home after.

My parents don’t have Michelle’s number so I know they can’t call me there.
That would give me enough time to get to France and then I would call them from there.
Also, they can’t make me come back, because
I only have a one-way ticket, and
b) my dad would never spend his hard-earned money to buy a plane ticket to get me home.
I knew I was safe once I got to France.

When the engines started to roar and we lifted off into the sky, I could feel the very marrow of my bones vibrating with excitement.
Then for a moment, I was a bit confused because the stewardess spoke English and then another language that wasn’t French.
It sounded like an axent I heard on TV on the show ‘Hogan’s Heroes’.
The people sitting next to me were speaking it too, so
I wrote it off by thinking that perhaps they had a lot of people on the flight that spoke this other language and so they were catering to them.
I stayed awake the entire flight.

About five or six hours into the flight, the strangest thing happened. I opened the window shade and it was bright. Like daylight.
But on my watch it was 2 o’clock in the morning.
The man next to me explained that other countries have different times.
Like it could be time for me to go to school in Illinois, but in Paris, the same girl would be eating dinner by then.

How weird, eh?
I didn’t know about time-changes.

I didn’t even know what people in France would look like.
I’d only seen them in movies played by English-speaking actors, or read about them in books.
Did they smile when they were happy? Did they cry when they were sad? Did they have sex?

It wasn’t until I came off the plane and into customs that it hit me.
None of the signs I passed on the way to Customs were in French.
Nobody was speaking French;

"Where are we?"
I asked the man in back of me.
"Vas ist das?"
Suddenly, I remembered that Hogan’s Heros guys were German.
"Is this Germany?" My heart stopped.
"Yah, dis ist Deutschland. Koln."

Oh-my-G-d. My mind went into panic-attack mode.
Koln? Not Cologne? Or yes, Cologne, but really Koln?
Oh my god. I’m in the wrong country! How did I do this?
This is bad.
This is very bad.

My passport stamped, I followed the herd in a daze like a good lamb to the baggage area.
As I stood waiting for my suitcase my mind began a mad swirl that went swiftly downward until I could barely breathe.

I don’t speak German. I don’t know any cities in Germany. I don’t know anything about Germany.

I don’t what I am going to do, where to go.
I don’t even have enough money to get a ticket to France from here and then have money left over.
And how do I make a phone call? What kind of money do they have?
How will I explain this one?

Oh, this is bad. Very, VERY bad.

The buzzer went off, sending the luggage out.
My bones started to rattle. I felt like there was a vibrator inside my skeleton. My face got hot

My bag was one of the first to come down the conveyer belt.
I yanked it off and dragged it to the side. I was afraid to leave the airport.
I sat down on my bag, which was terribly lumpy from all the shoes, and let my dreams dissolve with my tears.
In just a few minutes I went from a movie-star-to-be, to a lost fifteen-year-old girl in the wrong country.

"Hey, why you crying?"

I hear a voice with an axent. Above me is a girl just a bit older than myself. She is wearing a NY Yankees ball cap over her short, straight, shoulder-length dark brown hair, a blue-and-white vertical striped button-down shirt, and bellbottom blue jeans, no makeup and is speaking English.

"I’m in the wrong country."
"Where you want to go?"
"Yah. Den you in de wrong country."
"How did you know I speak English?"
"You don’ look like you from Germany. So why you don’ just go to France?"
"I had a one way ticket and I spent most of my money on it. Could you maybe tell me where I could go in Cologne?"
"What you want to do?’
"Well, first I want to be a waitress in a cafe where there are actors and writers and artists-people like that.
"And I need to know a good safe hotel that’s not too expensive."

She just stared at me. She shifted her weight to her other foot and said,
"How old you are?"
I lied.
"Me too." She said, shifting back to the first foot. She took her cap off, smoothed her hair, replaced her cap and said, "I think it’s better if you come home wis me."
"No, but thanks. I’ll be fine."
She didn’t look dangerous but I didn’t know who she was. Maybe she worked for a white-slavery ring. I had heard of those things.
"No. You come home wis me. It’s better."
"Where do you live?"
"In Lipshtadt. Near Soest." (pronounced Zoe-st.)
"Is that far?"
"Not very. Come, I help you." She grabbed my suitcase and I followed.

Her name was Gudrun Horstmann. (Pronounced Goo-drun.)
She lived alone with her parents. At one time she had had a little brother who died of leukemia. Her parents kept his room the way it was for him. It was empty now, for years. They could let me stay there, in her brother’s room, she explained as we drove away from the airport.

"What were you doing at the airport?" I asked.
"I have a class for social study. We have to go to crowded places like airports, places like that and make surveys on behaviors."

She had a straightforward nature. I believed her.
As we drove, I told her my entire life history. She told me hers.

Then we just stopped talking and I relaxed, and for the first time, took in my surroundings.
A tickle of joy, like a floating feather tossed by a rowdy wind rode up through my body. It was like nothing I had ever seen before.
I understood none of the signs and loved that feeling. I was a foreigner.
I felt comfortable being a foreigner.
I always felt like a foreigner but it was more comfortable to feel like a stranger when you really were one.

The houses were old, made of bricks that had seen stories and dramas and generations.
The roofs were orange clay tiles, not tar shingles like we had.
Stores were small and quaint. The streets were narrow and spare.
History was everywhere, so unlike the pre-fab suburbs where nothing has a history and none of the stories are meaningful.
Even the smell of the air was different, antique, rich and aromatic with nothing more than substance of history, heavier than I had ever felt.
There were no sit-coms here.
I let myself be embraced by the atmosphere.

"You come to Germany before?"
she asked me.
"No. I’ve never been out of the United States."
"I go in New York once. On de Foreign exchange program from our shuler—our skool."
"Did you like it?"
"Oh yah. I want to go back."
"Maybe you can come to Chicago and stay with me?"
"Hey Chicago. Dey have gangsters there! Al Capone! Yah. We go directly (she pronounces it: dye-reck-ly, axent on the ‘dye’), to my house, den I take you out, is good?"
"Is good." I say, smiling.

I look out the window and feel the Universe open it’s curtains and I experience my first epiphany. This is where I am supposed to be.
Maybe not in Germany exactly. I don’t know if this is home, but here, in Europe.
Somewhere in Europe.
I’m getting closer, closer to someplace I know is my spirit’s home.

Just over a little bridge, Gudrun pulls the car half onto the sidewalk in front of an old farmhouse-style home. We grab my suitcase from the trunk and she knocks on one of the two heavy-looking dark wooden doors.

"I forgot my key." She says giving me a silly grin. She must make that mistake often.
(That’s how my face looks when I forget mine.)

An older woman opens the door maybe in her late fifties.
She has a busy aura about her. Her hair is short, gray and uncombed; she has a softness around her eyes even though they race over me nervously.
An explosion of German words breaks out between them and even though I can’t understand a literal word, I understand everything that is being said.

Gudrun explains my story and as she does, her mother frantically ushers us in, touching my arm at the bicep and running her hand softly down to my hand in long strokes over and over as she pulls us into her home.

Her answers are ‘oh nine? O o o o, yah? O!’
She is shaking her head and nodding, taking it all in.
Suddenly there is a conclusion. Mama rests her arms across her chest
and stands nodding with a smile and Gudrun translates the outcome:

"Mama says you are to stay with us. She says you can’t go to France to become a waitress. That you must either go back home or go to the Arcigymnasium."
"What’s the Arckeegoomnasium?"
(I am pronouncing it the way it sounds to me.)
"That is de skool. That is what we call, like you call your skool."
"Please tell her thank you but I am going to go on to France as soon as I can. Maybe I will get a job here?"Another explosion of German.

Mama listening and then shaking her head furiously, holding tight onto my forearm.

"Mama says you should stay here for now, but we must call your parents. Do they know where are you?"

Mama walked me into the study.
A film of sweat breaks out over my body with the thought of calling home.
The phone was heavy and gray, with a fat base and a receiver that sat horizontally on top of it.
It made me so happy--the difference in everything--that I forgot my nerves for a moment and kissed the phone.
This tickled Mama causing her to flutter around the room in a wind of German words.

"Mama asks why you kiss the phone."
"I don’t know, it’s so beautiful. I love it."
Gudrun laughs. "Shun." She says to me, teaching me. "Shun. Say it dye-rectly."
she instructs.
I say.
"Yah. This means beautiful. Shun."

Gudrun hands me the phone and I dial.
A strange tone I’ve never heard on a phone line before comes on.

Peep. Peep. Peep.

I hold the phone out to Gudrun. She puts it to her own ear.
"Give me de number. I call."

I didn’t know you didn’t just dial. There were things such as country and city codes you had to dial first before you could dial your own number.
I didn’t even though there were area codes because I never even dialed outside my own area code at home.
Gudrun dials the operator for help in placing the call, then hands the phone back to me. Again, I hear those strange peeps, not the ‘prrings’ we hear when we dial at home. I hand the phone to Gudrun. She listens, hands it a back to me.

"Ya, ist good."

I put the phone to my ear. When my dad picks up there is a hollow echo like he’s talking inside a tube and when I answer, I hear myself twice.

"Dad?" I call into the phone and hear ‘dad?’ again.
"Listen young lady. You are in so much trouble, I’m so angry I don’t want to speak right now. Just get home and we’ll talk about it when you get here—"
"Wait dad?"
echo: (wait dad??)
He has handed the phone off to my mother.

"Hi mom."
(hi mom)
"Thank god you’re safe." She is crying. "Are you trying to kill me? Is that what you want? For me to be dead? I was up all night worried about you. I was going to call the Police."

"No. I’m not trying to kill you. (No. I’m not trying to kill you.) I’m very sorry Mom. (I’m very sorry mom), I left you a note. (I left you a note.) But listen, (but listen)."
"Where are you? The phone sounds strange."
"Listen mom, I’m in Germany." (listen mom, I’m in Germany.)

There is a long pause, then I hear her call, "Oy GOD! Irving! She’s in Germany!"
Then back to me, in all calm seriousness:
"Do you know what they did to our people there?"
"I know mom."(
I know mom)
"What are you doing in Germany?"
"I went to the wrong country."
(I went to the wrong country.)

A pause, then, upward slide of the inflection to a nice Yiddish-sounding finish:
"So when you coming home?"

Gudrun got on the phone and explained the situation from her end, gave my parents all her contact information. She said I was going to go to school here, (I would talk to Gudrun about that later, I thought.)

Then I told them I would get a job here and earn enough to come home, and the situation was cleared with my parents.

I was right. My dad was not going to buy the ticket home.
It was a tumultuous (ß -----that is a Henry Miller word) two days and I was feeling really tired but really jittery.
Gudrun said that is what is called jet lag. It is normal because of the time change.

The next day, Mama took me into the study and from a drawer in the phone desk, she took out a package like candy.
Then I had a second epiphany. (Germany has been filled with epiphanies for me.)


I had only tasted American chocolate like Hersheys and stuff like that,
but when I put this on my tongue and let it sit there melting,
I actually groaned, it was so good.

Like the mountain and the honey pot--but in your mouth!
And then it made me sad for a moment because I realized, in all my fifteen years, I had never really ever had chocolate before.
And in all my parent’s lives, they didn’t either and we were all fooled into thinking Hersheys was the real thing.
And if I never came here, I never would have known and I would have lived my life and died never having eaten real chocolate!

I am staying with Gudrun and her parents, The Horstmanns.
I am signed up at the Arckeegoomnasium even though I am just learning German.

But the Germans are very smart. They learn English in school from when they are little.
And school and learning is very important to them.
Not just boys and girls and who you are going to marry and being pretty.

Girls here don’t even dress up and try to look pretty.
Here, it is good to be smart.
Kids my age sit around discussing and arguing about things in books and in history.
There are no cliques and popularity contests. It’s very different.
You actually get judged by who you are really, so you can just be yourself.

I feel much better inside not worrying about having to be like everyone else and not having to be an outside so different from my inside all the time.
I get a lot more done.

(Two really good things: all the guys here have axents! AND they all think I’m really pretty cause I look so different than the other girls here. Someone said I look exotic! Wow! I feel like the Barretta bird—the one with the white feathers and the yellow crown? Who flew away from it’s country and is in the wrong country as the bird they never saw before. Pretty cool, eh?)

Next Entry:

I didn’t get a job, but the Horstmanns feel it is best for me to go home when the semester ends and I think it is time too. They bought me my ticket home and I leave next week. (boo hoo)

I am taking loads of chocolate with me. That’s one good thing I can do for my family for putting up with me!

So I am going home, never quite making it to France. I guess it wasn’t in my destiny.


So it seems, Time passes, and I think I change, but I'm still the same--just the scenery is different.

Taking the long way home, as usual.

But actually, glad to be back. Thanks again to all who wrote. It was so nice to come home to.


At 6:02 PM, Blogger Skarlett said...

Welcome home-

At 9:12 PM, Blogger Samurai Warrior said...

Willkommen zu Hause Fraulein!

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

so you were in Germany for approximately 2 weeks?

When was the last time you contacted the family?

At 1:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess my writing was a bit unclear,,oops! I was actually in Germany for about 10 months and it was a loooong time ago, when i was 15..so I have lost touch since then. sorry for the lack of specifics!

At 10:33 PM, Blogger Nils T. Devine said...

Hi there. Skarlett introduced me to your blog a little while ago and I've been following it faithfully since. Though you've come a long way since then, today's (Feb 28) story reminded me of this earlier post about how, as much as you may love your job, you can feel trapped by it at times.

My girlfriend recently changed careers. She chose her new line of work for many of the same reasons you have mentioned for enjoying your job. She was an IT project manager, working with computers as much as people. Now she is an Esthetician, pampering people with facials and body treatments, and fixing their skin while she's at it. I really can't do justice to her craft with words, so I invite you (if you're on the west coast) to make an appointment at the spa where she works and get a facial. Perhaps you'll find inspiration in knowing that there are other careers in the field of making people feel good.

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