Raven and I became friends because we both liked Red. Escorts and prostitutes don’t have support groups, they have each other. They are their own support group. There’s no one else to turn to. We needed each other to vent, to lean on, to warn each other about certain clients, to ask for advice. The job is disjointed, and we had to feel connected to something and someone. Being “on call” is a cold feeling made colder by the city outside. It’s hard to never know where you’re going to go, and who will be waiting for you. Red made it seem not so bad. She laughed at everything and made me feel like I could laugh, too. I know Raven was jealous of our friendship, at first, but she and I finally bonded. We bonded over a bout… of “iPod War”. … (cue boisterous music)
We were killing time in Red’s room, revolving through our iPod picks, trying to one-up each other with every new selection. Red played acid rock, then I played jazz, Raven played retro, and on until we dug deeper into our musical arsenal, waiting for the next loud acknowledgment from each other when something truly classic hit the air. We were getting pretty ripe with our stuff when I pulled out The Sex Pistols. I started mock-slam-dancing and had them in fits. The energy was wild and belligerent, at that point, and we were howling at each other. Nearby tenants must surely have been pissed. Then Raven hit play and we waited for the inevitable smack down, a real dose of regal audio supremacy! Would it be Bob Marley? Siouxsie and The Banshees? Robert Johnson or an obscure Elvis tune like, In The Ghetto?
The New Kids On The Block started playing. Red and I looked at each other. We waited because we didn’t know what else to do. Could either of us be lame enough to even act like we had the faintest idea why that group deserved to be anywhere outskirting the vicinity of Jane’s Addiction, Iggy Pop, John Coltrane, The Righteous Brothers? Then she started dancing like a “New Kid On The Block”, and that was it. I was in mortal pain from laughter. I thought I was going to suffocate and die. I have never seen someone usually so serious become that silly, so fast in my life. I fell in love with her!
Everyone has their rules, their “code”, if you will. Like a hit man that vows to never, ever, under any circumstances, kill women and children, I had one strict rule I tried desperately to hold onto. I wouldn’t work in Los Angeles. Los Angeles was my home. And I didn’t work in my home. It was my safe haven. I worked on the other coast, because it kept things separate. I’m also lazy. I need long bouts of relaxation to calm my naturally jangled nerves, and the thought of those people calling me in the middle of the night, expecting, made me want to shoot myself in the face. I couldn’t do it! I needed the detachment. I needed to clear my head.
I was single, so I needed my friends. I had one regular physical relationship, but it wasn’t much of a relationship. “Stephan” was a strange presence in my life that I’m still not sure I can completely explain. Emotions are confusing things when you don’t recognize them and therefore don’t know what they are. I didn’t know what love was until I met Doug. I thought I knew what love was, but it’s impossible to really know until it happens. I guess I thought I loved Stephan, but that was not love. It could have become love, but there was too much shallow game playing for anything substantial to grow.
There is a breed of man and woman that plays with people and they have no idea what havoc they wreak upon their victim’s souls. I’m convinced this person did not know he was killing me emotionally, or he would have just left me alone. I probably deserved it, though. I have been guilty in my past of being a kind of Dorian Gray. Almost completely unaware of another person’s feelings because it didn’t seem to concern me even though I knew I was involved in something emotionally overwhelming that was happening to them, and because I liked them around I pretended at some feeling to satisfy what I thought they wanted. It’s not a premeditated coldness, per se, but it is cold. It’s torture to care about a cold person, yet I allowed the torture to go on for three years because I was too proud to say that I was hurting.
Chloe and I were friends then, but we were growing in different directions. I can use her real name because I know she wouldn’t mind. She was moving to San Francisco and entering a serious relationship. I had just had my first sexual experience with a female and embarrassed her by announcing it in gory detail at the outside patio of the Starbucks in Sherman Oaks, close to where I lived. It’s funny now that I think about it. We had completely exchanged our roles. I had filters but was losing them as my boundaries dropped away, and she’d had none but was rebuilding them to construct her life to accommodate only one love interest.
Red wasn’t available for friendship in L.A. In fact, I discovered that was why she had so much fun in New York, she could escape her married life there. When I did try to visit a few times, her husband would meet me at the door, all smiles and conversation, talk to me non-stop for up to an hour, and finally I’d look around and say, “Where’s Red?” “Oh, she’s doing the laundry downstairs.” “Oh, she’s at the grocery store.” “Oh, she’s cleaning the kitchen.” She was virtually nonexistent in her home. But her husband was very much there because he never went anywhere else, and so was usually starved for attention. He was nice enough, but he reminded me too much of my ex, and she of me in my marriage with my ex. It was too painful to watch her personality dissolve around him, when she was the reason I was there in the first place.
And then there was Raven. Raven was a fickle friend. She was married to the job. She really had the gift for turning a buck, probably still does. She embodied the creationist spirit you read about in books like The Secret and What The Bleep Do We Know? The idea is that you create your reality. You focus on what you want, and you make it happen. It is simple and it makes sense. It’s what we all do even at the most basic level. If you want a ham sandwich, you get up and go wherever the ham and the bread is and you make a ham sandwich. She wanted money. She made money happen all the time just by focusing on it. If we went out, I shared her with her PDA. We agreed to meet at Starbucks once, and so I arrived on time and got a table outside. I watched her sit in her Escalade for twenty minutes. When she finally emerged? “I was talking to a client.” There was never any doubt in her mind as to what her priorities should be. I didn’t know it at the time, but “friendship”, the way it is defined by myself and some others, was never a consideration. To her, you were either a commodity, or a waste of time.
She called me late one night, just days after a week in New York. It must have been midnight and I lay in bed watching a movie I owned because I didn’t have cable television. I was hungover from the work, tired, totally spent, I’d ripped my fake nails off because I hated having those things dangling from my fingertips. It wasn’t me. I was always jamming them into things because my fingertips naturally rushed to meet things with tactile fascination.
I thought maybe she was bored, so I answered the phone.
“Hey, did the agency call you?”
Pause. I should have seen what was coming. The agency had just called moments before. … “Yes.”
“Did you answer?”
“There’s a guy in Malibu, he wants two girls for four hours.”
I took a breath. “Well, that’s great. I’m sure you and Red will have a good time.”
“She can’t go.”
“You can go…”
“No, I can’t.”
“So wake up! It’s four hours!”
“I was just about to fall asleep!”
“Drink some coffee.”
“I took my nails off.”
“No one’s going to care.”
“They’re raggedy! They look like shit!”
“It’ll be one o’clock in the morning before we even get there! He’s probably high. It’s four hours!”
“I haven’t showered.”
“I’ll pick you up in half an hour.”
This went on for the next half hour. My emphatic no’s turned into desperate whines and I finally gave in because it was more exhausting to argue with her than to just haul my ass up and get in the shower, put on make-up, perfume, fresh clothes and high heels. I’m grouchy when I’m tired, so I carefully crafted a plan to tear her a new asshole when she arrived.
…to be continued…