Call Girl

CONTENT WARNING: DRUG USE, SEXUAL ABUSE, CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE

 [Image description: photograph of a skyscraper at night, taken from beneath. The pink building stands in the centre of the image, reaching up into the clouds above, with darkness on either side.]   Dave Doe  / Creative Commons

[Image description: photograph of a skyscraper at night, taken from beneath. The pink building stands in the centre of the image, reaching up into the clouds above, with darkness on either side.]

Dave Doe / Creative Commons

I was 16 and homeless in New York City. I thought it would be a good idea to become a call girl. I had just broken up with my 26-year-old live-in boyfriend and needed to make more than the $280 weekly gross as a retail sales girl. I was burnt out selling drinks in nightclubs, Azzedine Alaia clothing wasn’t getting any cheaper, drug dealers were starting to request payment, and I was too young to understand the statistic my childhood sexual abuse was turning me into. Call girl. I liked the sound of it - it seemed professional somehow. Like a power-woman who carried an expensive attaché and got stuff done. Like I could freely call my own shots. Yeah, that’s what a call girl did. Called her own shots. I’d figure out the rest as I went along.

The woman on the telephone gave me a 9pm appointment for an interview — I guessed that meant to see if I was pretty enough. I found the hour strange, but then again, many call girls probably worked at night. 

The address was an office building 9 blocks from Times Square. When I was a kid, Times Square was known for prostitutes. Streetwalkers. I chose this agency in the phone book listings because it was the furthest from Times Square. And yes, escort agencies were listed in the yellow pages back then. It was on 33rd street. Call girls weren’t streetwalkers, so 33rd street seemed an appropriately business-like location. 

As the taxicab spat me out and sped away, I was enveloped by the lonely sidewalks lined with dark, after-hours shop and office windows, no signs of life for two or three blocks in any direction - an unusual occurrence in the city that supposedly never sleeps. Something inside of me screamed Don’t go in there! I tried to think it through, find a reason to go back, but my curiosity was too strong. I wondered what kind of office stayed open when all others in the area were closed. But I was so coked up. I still couldn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t do it. I would see this through if it meant I could get the money I needed. I decided I would just go and see what this was about, and make up my mind later.

I walked into the second floor office to find a tired-looking, middle-aged black woman in a short bronze wig sitting behind a desk. The lighting made her and everything in the room look yellowed and tweed, like the set of a 1970’s cop show. The carpet was puce green and old and used, like I’d feel after everything was over.

Blondie seemed surprised to see me. In a split second, her eyes became dull and non-committal again. Professional? I was surprised to see her, too. Was she also a call girl? Retired, perhaps. In my mind I was expecting something more 80’s yuppie-posh; the whole place would be modern and over-the-top, and she would be a skinny white woman with a severe bob, sauntering around in a black pencil skirt over high heels.

She greeted me in a fatigued way, hardly looking at me again. Then a burly man in a wife-beater appeared in the doorway behind her. He wore saggy jeans. A greasiness pervaded him and the air around him. Sort of like the Pigpen character from Charlie Brown, except instead of dust, this man was surrounded by grease. His eyebrows were round furry caterpillars on his chubby face. He was maybe 50 or so, or maybe he was 40. What did it matter? When you’re 16, every balding person over 30 is simply old.

There was no formal introduction or anything like that. He just took over the conversation. Told me to come with him for the interview.

I followed him to the doorway behind the desk and realized the entire office was basically just two rooms. The doorway led to the second room, which was furnished with a single bed, a nightstand with drawers, a table lamp, and piles of cigarette butts in a large green ashtray next to that. Across from the bed sat a small TV with a coat hanger sticking out of the top. The screen showed a grainy baseball game in progress.

He walked into the room and said in an absent-minded way, in a thick Eastern European accent, “Take off your clothes.”

I was like, what? “Excuse me?” 

He said, “Well, you want work? I sell? My clients. I want to check the merchandise, see what it is I am selling.”

My heart sank into my ankles. 

“Come on, you not afraid of me? I won’t hurt you. But if you can’t show me, how you gonna show customers?”

He did have a point, the logic of which made the events that followed possible. Like my being there all made perfect sense.

He pulled off his pants (I caught a glimpse of off-white underwear!) and left them in a pile on the floor. Hair covered his body, from his feet to underneath his sagging t-shirt, which he left on along with his socks, and lay on his back, patiently watching me remove my clothes while amicably fondling his dick. 

“Turn around, so I see you.” He made a spinning motion with his hands. I spun.

“Okay,” he said, unwrapping a condom and handing it to me. “Now put it on…with your mouth.”

“I - wha?”

“Okay, I tell you how. Must know this.”

He gestured throughout, “Like this. Put it between your teeth and get it around dick, then smooth it with your hand.” After a couple of fails, he did it himself and said, “Practice with banana ‘til you get it right. Clients don’t like to see them plastic. Now suck it.”

I’d been watching him closely the entire time for signs that this was a joke, or in any way unusual. I felt like if it seemed “usual” (I don’t want to say normal), then it was necessary for this business, and I therefore had no right to ask for something different. He was mechanical, like it was indeed just business. So I too continued, robotically.

“Now, sit on it,” he instructed, like this was a driving lesson. I got on top of him and then he fucked me noiselessly with his greasy dick. 

He squeezed my tit softly, absentmindedly, and laid there fucking me with a straight face until he came.

I was so horribly embarrassed, I didn’t dare think of this until many, many years later - let alone tell anyone. What if someone found out I’d slept with this boss hog? It was easily more embarrassing than the actual reason I was there!

“Good,” he said when he was done. “That’s good pussy. Now get dressed and go get ready for work. You are hired. The rules are,” he said as he stood to get dressed, “Answer the pager in 10 minutes. Call us back and we tell you where to go. Important men. Dress like you work in office. Always use a condom. Never kiss. You can say no. Bring us our cut.” 

I’d finally found all the reasons to turn around and never go back. The reasons I couldn’t find thirty minutes earlier when I entered the building. 

“Oh, but I can’t work tonight. I have to do something. Can I start tomorrow?”

We were standing on either side of the desk now. “Yah, sure kid. Brenda, give her stuff she needs to start.” Then he turned and went back to his baseball game.

Obediently, but weary as ever, she handed me an actual credit card machine. It weighed my handbag down like a brick.

I thanked her and walked out the door. I never went back.


Mary McBeth is an African-American writer, editor, and advocate for Sexual Assault Awareness. The founding editor of Memoir Magazine, and the creator of The #MeToo Essay Award, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Nervous Breakdown, *82 Review, Awakened Voices, and various others. Find her at MaryMcBeth.com.