(For some involved with sexual abuse in any way, or dealing with similar child issues, I do issue a potential trigger warning for this post.)
Some people look at me as if I’ve somehow sold my soul into slavery. That is, one believes a soul is a finite self, available to be sold in it’s entirety, or even at the “death of a thousand paper cuts” weeded and bled from a human in the continuity and drudgery of life.
Fuck off. Your soul is your own domain. To keep, nurture or destroy at will, or in my case keep close to your heart to rediscover through the breadcrumbs left behind in singular moments.
“Grace!” I heard her call as her heels resounded on the carpet, almost solid enough to be warning marker. My neck bothered to poke my head above the congealed mess of fabric and flesh I’d created in the elongated armchair. Flicking through the endless Foxtel channels of daytime American television I grunted acknowledgement.
“There’s a guy here with some sort of weird fantasy, you do that shit right?”
My nineteen year old self nodded and extricated itself from the folds of under washed blankets, old magazines and chip crumbs.
“Yeah I guess, what does he want?”
Her long blond hair boosted with extensions flipped back as her right hand flickered over the buttons of a buzzing reception phone.
“Fuck knows, seems your type. You other girls interested?”.
Two pairs of bargaining eyes flicked onto the haphazard arrangement of women in the girls room, all barely clothed under an assortment of rugs, coats, dressing gowns and casual clothes.
“If it’s a fucking weirdo you can have him. Fuck that shit.” A bundle of flesh under a mountain of conflicting patterned blankets snorted.
“All yours baby.” A hand casually rose and flicked in the air.
“Righto, Grace he’s yours. Waiting room 2.” I groaned as I rose from the armchair, fluffing hair, wiping the beginnings of sleep from my eyes. Barefoot I shuffled across carpet scanning for matching heels, my fingers separating curls, searching for that lipstick, mirror, powder, perfume. Shaking my hair out upside down I almost knocked myself out on the dresser, hands still fumbling, brain still re-arranging.
I always enjoyed doing the “Weirdos” – perhaps it was my penchant for stories, the unusual, the un-definable or the pleasure of dissecting psychologically another stranger in the night. I wondered if I could fit a smoke in before the introduction.
“Grace! Hurry Up! I need waiting room 2 – Go get him Tiger.”
I hated it whenever someone called me Tiger apart from my father. That was our pet name, to hear it in this environment unsettled me. Groaning to myself, I did my internal head slap. Focus. Client. Sex. Work. Game On.
My back straightened as I re-adjusted the underwire of my bra, shifting both palms so the weight of my breasts almost fell out of the tiny dress and lingerie I’d brought at a cheap store. Fuck them, I’d learnt long ago selling my “class” in a brothel was akin to attempting to sell a luxury holiday to a guy that just wanted a overnighter in Horsham on the way to Melbourne from Adelaide. I had little time for brothel clients, you paid less, you got less of my mind, my soul, my energy, my skill.
Shoulders back as an ex had kindly reminded me; I walked into the intro room, spinning on a dime to lean hip bent against a doorframe. My spine instantly turned to quicksilver. It was an inherent learnt life behavior. Strong but flexible, open but in-penetrable, strength but gentleness.
“Grace?” His head raised from his palm, nervously intent on a rather innocuous spot on the carpet.
“Sally told me you were looking for something….a little unusual?” I kicked my body weight onto my back leg, head cocked, curious.
“I’m, looking, for well, a role-play.”
“What sort of role-play?” If you let them, they’d evade the point for hours. In this job you heard everything either personally or through the grapevine; you often forgot what felt like talking about the price of milk in your case was a highly evocative situation for another.
“Can we move to a room?”
“Are you happy to see me?”
“I guess, are you good at role-plays? It’s, well, different.” I smiled.
“I guess that’s my specialty?” He nodded uncertainly, fumbling for his wallet whilst handing over a wad of fifty-dollar notes. I strolled down the walkway to the counter at reception.
“What does he want?” Her fingers counted the money, separating the cash for the house and the sub-contractor, handing me a black folder with my half.
“Fuck knows…I’ll find out soon.” The receptionists eyes glinted with the promise of a future story and I took my money to quickly deposit it in my pre-designated safe out the back. Returning I led him into my room for the night. I had a thing for Animal/African themes in brothels. The combination of oranges, gold, reds, faux fur and gigantic cheap Balinese statues always appealed to me. I fucked better in these rooms.
We negotiated extras.
“How about I just give you an extra $100 for the kissing and fantasy fee. You kiss right?” I nodded. Hand to wallet again, cash in hand I gestured at the towels, shower and toilet whilst stroking his arm.
“Take a shower, I’ll see you in five and you can tell me all about it?”. He nodded. Fumbling with his socks and shoes, I left him to his own devices.
Sitting out the back rocking in the cheap brothel Bunning’s outdoor setting I smoked and considered what exactly he wanted. BDSM? Golden Showers? My mind momentarily flicked to the guy who wanted me to be a lion whilst he fucked me channeling his own strange religion. The quicksilver flew quick and rapid through my veins, preparing, defending, protecting. It was like getting ready before a fight, highly intensely psychological, arming your defense mechanisms against the unknown, engaging your logic to triumph against all else. I had no idea how much I’d need these protectionist behaviors.
Strolling back into the room, spare towels in arms I watched him silently towel dry himself in the room.
“You’re very pretty.”
“Thank you.” He stood awkwardly, towel half posed between his groin and thigh.
Sometimes being a sex worker is like being a nurse or a doctor, you see so many bodies in various states of youth and aging, health and decay that they all become one, a shell for the mind and soul inhabiting below.
“So, this fantasy?” He dried off the last beads of moisture, awkwardly dropping the towel on the floor. He gestured to the bed. I sat, bra strap falling off a shoulder, legs crossed.
“I want to fuck my daughter.” My hands that were in my lap escaped and spread outwardly onto the bed defensively, shoulders pushed forward.
“How old is your daughter?” I cocked my head.
“Why?” the word sprung from my lips before I could think about them.
“I don’t know.” He sat next to me.
“There has to be a reason why.”
“She’s, I don’t know.” My left hand rose to his shoulder.
“There’s always a reason why.” He shrugged.
“I can’t get it out of my mind, it’s consuming me. I’m not a bad person. I’ve never done this before; I just I need to get this sexually out. I don’t know. I don’t even want to think about it.” The quicksilver in my arteries grew and spread and darted to the threadlike veins in my upper epidermis, strong, resilient, protect, capable.
“Well, do you want me to be your daughter?”
“Could you?” He looked at me.
“You’re like her you know.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not bitter like them.”
“Women. Older women.”
“Why are they different?”
“It’s like their souls gone. They’re bitter, angry, jealous and resentful. ‘Men are bad people’. They want money or security or children or sex and I don’t know. They scheme.”
“And she doesn’t?”
“Do you actually want to fuck her, like, your daughter?”
“I guess not really, she’s just the most beautiful girl in my life.”
“You ask why a lot.”
“I like understanding why.”
“You’d have made an annoying child.”
“My mother can attest to that.” He grabbed the towel for protection. I spoke again.
“Do you actually want to fuck your daughter?”
“She’s like a butterfly.”
“What do you mean?” He hesitated.
“There’s innocence, and naivety, and I just, I want that back.”
“Do you? If most of us go back to our childhoods, we couldn’t wait to be grown ups.”
“I just.” I placed my hand on his thigh.
“I don’t know.”
“Want to feel like that?”
“We all do.” I tried to sigh with all the nineteen years of wisdom I owned at that point. I failed miserably. I kept fingering, I wanted to understand.
“Is there, I don’t know. I feel uncomfortable.” I wanted to do this, I wanted to exorcise it, I wanted to protect her, his daughter, whoever she was.
“But, is it really sexually attractive she doesn’t know anything? Is naivety really that it? Once you ruin it, it’s gone. You can’t get that back, do you really want to decimate that, hurt it?” He shrugged, uncomfortable. I didn’t know what to do.
“I don’t know. I just, just want that. Like, she’s physically beautiful, and perfect, and, budding but, there’s, it.”
“No, that goodness.”
“Goodness isn’t always innocence.”
“I know, but she’s, good. Like beautiful, inside.”
“People are like that.” He laughed.
“Wait until you’re my age girl, it gets harder to believe as life goes on.”
“If it’s not naivety, then what is it? Goodness?”
“Yeah, but what is Goodness? People can be good and bad, both simultaneously.”
“Is it idealism?” He turned to me.
“The belief good exists. Goodness without reason. Belief in people. Idealism. That the world is a beautiful place.” He snorted.
“Idiots believe that shit.”
“Idiots have a shit life.” He smiled. Our conversation continued, we fucked in the role-play he’d enacted and I hoped he’d never lay a hand on his daughter. He saw me a few times after that. I hope he never did hurt her, I would and couldn’t ever know.
I split that night. My mind started to spread across at all nineteen years of my self and acknowledged I’d decimated my innocence and naivety willingly. My idealism though – still ran as strong as the quicksilver in my veins. It was my youth. During that conversation I saw her first, as my mother still sees her.
She’s waist high, almost four foot. The sharply cut bob bouncing around her face. The Asiatic eyes haven’t grown into her cheekbones, the finely shaped lips haven’t filled out yet. A blunt fringe belies a challenging stare.
Her hands move as quickly as her mouth, gesturing, running, restless. I see her eyes dart across anything with words, reading, comprehending, analyzing. Limbs fat with health, hair thin but thick with abundance and glossy, skin almost perfect from protective motherly layers of sunscreen, rash vests and endless vitamin D.
She scrambles up a tree, muttering to herself. Fingers challenging footholds, feet kicking bark. “Shit!” she yells at a immoveable stump looking around to see if anyone heard her. That’s still a naughty word, only for uttering against impenetrable objects.
Her body swings and I still crave that feeling of coherent strength in muscle. Clean blood, clean mind, energy limitless as she clambers to a branch and straddles it.
“What you up to ratbag?” She giggles, picking bits of stringy bark off a section of tree.
“Stuff.” Her mouth and hands and mind dart at the speed of light, she doesn’t realise that won’t change as she ages.
“What are you doing now?” For once, I am speechless.
“Stuff.” She squints her eyes at me.
“Sex stuff?” I laugh.
“Yeah.” I know she understands as she continues to fly and fling across the tree.
“I know about sex stuff.”
“Read it in the dictionary.” Our minds snap together over dimensions, I’ve always had a fascination for the illicit. I watch the chubby yet strong legs lengthen and dangle lower as my memory shifts. We’re both closer to the ground.
“What happened?” She’s more direct now, her gaze a little less unwavering, she knows more.
“What do you mean?” I’m sitting beneath her on the grass, pushing away ants, plucking at grasses.
“Of Africa. Remember?” She looks at me like I’m retarded. Less monkey, more agitated sloth her body moves amongst the tree, challenging me. We’ve always entertained ourselves, child self, adult self. From running micro-businesses within a household, charging poor family members to move from one room to another, to sheets of erratic writing hidden under the bed, to complex and infinite daydreams with my favourite blanket as our Pièce de résistance in the epic theatre that was our lives.
He, as a client, drained my soul, in a way. I eventually stopped seeing him after multiple times because I could not bear any more guilt. I hope he never touched her, but I couldn’t not bear the brunt of it any longer. Ultimately, he forged a bond with my child self and soul that I have refused to relinquish.
I can hear her banging her fists on a desk.
“We were going to write & help people remember?”
Yeah kid, I remember.