Sunday, August 30, 2015

BABY'S FIRST HOOKER by Jason Squamata






















It was the year 2000 or thenabouts.

I was younger, then.

I was living in a nondescript Massachusetts suburb.

I was a faux bohemian filling notebooks with gibberish and showing them to no one, calling myself a writer, working at a coffee shop (like you do), sharing the shadowy basement of a funny little ranch house on the edge of a cemetery with a good-hearted but dangerous quasi-criminal friend named Jim Grimm.

We'd worked on a film together, in that neighborhood and in the wilds of New Hampshire. The rest of the cast and crew had run off to LA, the film was in limbo, and me and Jim were languishing in the wake of it, under a house owned by his Aunt Betty, living without purpose and sleeping off our benders next to a garage filled with garish prop vehicles left over from the shoot. A volkswagen painted to look like a bumblebee with big wings that moved if you could get it started. A permanently inert yellow Chrysler K-car, like a souped-up plastic golfcart with dragon fins.

Jim himself drove a little baby blue and hot pink pick up truck with a portrait of a laughing cartoon transvestite named Monchichi stenciled on its hood. It ran pretty well and he had no shame about it. Jim had built these cars by hand with the film's director. He was proud to have worked on the film, even though it seemed, then. that no one would ever see it. He came from the kind of family where you work all summer at your Uncle's shady salvage yard, that Uncle it helps you to know if you ever go to prison. Jim thought the film would be a way to put that world behind him, but without the daily business of the shoot to give his life a certain structure, the crime in his blood and an unquenchable thirst for cheap beer would kick in and that good heart would get a little bit lost in his hunger for trouble.


He was about 6 foot 3 and built like a brick wall.

A brick wall with big fists and shamrock tattoos.

He had a fundamental decency that I never knew him to breach or overstep, but his drunken antics could be terrifying, from time to time.

In my little room at the back of the basement, where I'd be reading or scribbling or charging some witchy sigil by drawing it on the forehead of a magazine model and beating off to our imaginary love affair, in that little room I would shake sometimes when Jim came thundering home. I would pretend to be asleep for fear of what hijinks his need for drunken company would get me into if he saw fit to drag me from my chamber and my sad, solitary pursuits.

On the night in question, his reckless movements shook the whole house. It was almost one in the morning. Whether he dragged me into his delirium or not, my wank was certainly cancelled for the evening. Which was a shame. Because it was just starting to get romantic.

On nights like that, I'd be a little worried about Aunt Betty, too, but she never seemed to stir in her doll-haunted room upstairs, no matter how boisterous her nephew was. At more reasonable hours, she would sometimes sit in front of the living room TV, peacefully watching “Jag” and “the profiler” and “star trek voyager” as the china shook in sympathy with Jim's boozy tantrums.

But on that particular night, Aunt Betty was safely tucked in and tranquilized. Jim was in rare form, slamming and staggering in from god knows where, too excited and social to knock, drunker than I had ever seen him and waggling an unusually fat wad of blood money.

Jim had maybe done one of those bad things for his family that I didn't ask about (for my own good). Jim was drunk and Jim had money and Jim was lonely and I was his friend despite our differences and so I was involved and could not stay in bed and have that wank I mentioned.

Because Jim wanted a hooker...

and Jim was feeling generous...and so I would be having one, too.

Now despite my raffish charm and other portions of my memoir that might contradict this, I have never been much of a womanizer.

I'm a serial monogamist.

I love me some sex and I think I might be good at it, but the real draw for me in the fusion between lover and lover is the intimacy, the feeling of falling into an alien universe.

Someone exposing the fecund jungles of their inner life, memory, and anatomy...splicing skin and soul and psyche with a lady...unselfing myself, becoming her now and then and seeing my own self through the eyes of someone who loves me.

In between love affairs, I'm a wreck, my mojo all askew, a delight to be around unless I'm into you, then I reject you before you have a chance to like me in the first place and then I'm safe.

This goes on, me yearning and sulking and “sigilizing” until I somehow fall ass backwards into a new world of wonder.

But that's another endless series of stories.

The point is, it had never ever occurred to me to seek out a prostitute to slake my sexual hungers in these fallow times between harvests. There seemed to be complicated moral issues attached to wanting such things. Even hardcore pornography was a problem for me. I would always end up gazing into the eyes of the starlets, wondering about their childhoods and if they'd appreciate my work. The closest I'd come at that point was phonesex, and even then I preferred the primitive, pre-recorded radio play versions during the 900 number era, back in my teens. I lost my virginity to a prerecorded slumming voice actress who was swimming in black static.

Again, I digress. The real point is I wouldn't have gone there if my friend the occasional leg-breaker hadn't bullied me into it.

I need to believe that.

Please indulge my delusions of virtue.

So Jim wanted to get us hookers, just as his cousin had sprung for Jim's hooker last year in Vegas. He knew just how to get them, he wasn't taking no for an answer, and he needed me to know that the one who pays gets first pick.

“That's fine”, I said, relaxing into anticipation now that it was clear that I had no choice.

I had brief unpleasant visions of me and Jim cruising streetcorners in the combat zone or seeking out strip clubs with secret V.I.P. Rooms. I pictured some girl or some bambino saying the wrong thing to Jim. I pictured the sun rising on a stripclub bloodbath. But it turns out that's not how it's done, not for men in our circumstances, in our apparent tax bracket.

You can order a prostitute like you'd order a pizza. We had to get a copy of the Boston Phoenix. It's the Beantown equivalent of the Portland Mercury or the SF Weekly or the LA Times or the Village Voice. Culture in the front pages. Escorts in the back. There were no metal boxes dispensing such filth in the suburbs then. In the horrific pink blur that WAS the Monchichi mobile, travelling through empty wee hour streets at the speed of drink (Jim behind the wheel, me screaming), we found a Phoenix box, we found a number to call, and we slammed back into the house.

We used the landline right outside Aunt Betty's bedroom to summon forth our whores, whispering so as not to wake her. I had to do the talking. Or maybe get clobbered by the horny brick wall in the basement. The vibes I got from the first two numbers I dialed made me hang up in mid transaction. Even as I oozed into more dubious ethical territory with every whim of Jim's that I indulged, I needed our dates to be working their way through college or something. The third number sounded like a very reputable service.

Business was conducted.

Two girls. Blonde, because Jim said so.

They'd be about an hour, but they were on their way.

My belly filled with dirty black butterflies. I had resisted Jim's wicked whim at first, insofar as you can resist a gathering storm, but now that it was in motion, I was curious. And a little bit scared.

In my current aged jadedness, I strive for hope and a born-again innocence, but back then I wanted to seem so much more worldly than I was. I could twist words and the facts of my life in such a way that my life seemed so much more sordid and depraved in conversation than it had ever actually been in the moment. I often felt bullied by Jim, but there was something empowering about having his respect, and I felt like his respect for me hinged on the idea that I might be a little intellectual, but I knew how to “party”.

In classic afterschool special peer pressure fashion, I felt wilder knowing that the street-scarred badass thought I was wild. In the midst of these madcap Jim Grimm escapades, I felt more “authentic”.

So Jim couldn't know that I was just a big baby in a fake goatee and a cheap satin smoking jacket, reading an upside down copy of the portable Marquis DeSade to no one in particular. He mostly just drank more and smoked and seethed with grumpy lust while we waited, but he gave me an incredulous look once (as I frantically tidied up the place) that made me feel like I'd given myself away. Yes, we were waiting on ladies of the night, but they were ladies, nonetheless, and I would not have them walk into a pig sty.

So an hour later, there's the sound of an idling luxury car outside the house and the phone rings. Jim and I almost knock each other down the stairs trying to get to the phone before it wakes Aunt Betty. It's Patrick. Patrick will be our pimp this evening and he wants to come in and have a brief tutorial conversation with us before we meet the ladies. He doesn't call himself our pimp, but he looks like he's run a family errand or two himself and he'll be waiting outside in the car while we're having our “dates”. We agreed to his terms. Jim gave him four hundred dollars. I noticed a porn mag on the lower shelf of the coffee table. I discreetly tucked it under the complete works of Shakespeare and adjusted myself on the sofa so as to look extra casual. I didn't want the ladies to think Jim and I were vulgar horndogs or something.

Just as my pose had achieved perfection, the ladies entered through the garage door, and I rose like it was a reflex. I'm not sure what I was picturing...but they were beautiful. And well-dressed. And apparently American. Canadian, at the very least. No Eastern Bloc guilt to deal with. And they seemed to be somewhere in their twenties. Their showbiz names were Sasha and Shawna. There was an awkward moment wherein they were trying to gauge how weird we were and I was fighting the totally inappropriate urge to offer them refreshments. The tension was broken by Jim, as he who paid, making his choice.

Sasha was curvier. I knew he'd go for her. I already liked Shawna better anyway, except that Sasha had freckles and the sick wounded male in me wanted momentarily to make them one person somehow. One person you pay double for. But Jim's door was slammed shut, his bedsprings were already squeaking, waves of testosterone were rippling like desert heat through the wall.

I asked Shawna if she'd like to join me in my own boudoir. “Of course” she said.

My bedroom looked a bit like the prison cell of a lifer. Half a bunk bed. A crude wooden desk, stacked with books pertaining to fringe cinema, beat literature, occult philosophy, and apocalypse culture. A discrete smattering of photos on the wall. Nothing from my own life. Just bits and pieces of lives I wouldn't mind living.

She seemed to be getting her bearings. I didn't want her to be afraid to be alone with this strange man in this strange room. Without yet knowing her well, I found her very friendly and, again, in my sickness, I imagined what it would be like if our paths crossed outside this strange scenario, if we'd hit it off, if I'd be okay with her line of work while we were dating, if she'd even want to date the kind of guy who'd get bullied into renting a hooker.

She removed her coat and exposed what in retrospect I realize was a magnificent physique. At the time, I didn't want to stare. I just wanted her to be comfortable. I asked her what else she did with her time, aside from being a hooker. I assumed we'd have some time to get to know each other, taking baby-steps towards a very special transaction while morning broke and her pimp waited patiently in the car outside. I admired Patrick's patience and devotion to the safety of these women.

As long as we were finishing up and had them on their way before Aunt Betty woke up to go to work, we'd be fine. I think I put some music on, not sex music but music that I hoped would make me seem interesting, like aphex twin or squarepusher or momus or something. In my head, remembering it, I can only hear the ironic strains of “getting to know you, getting to know all about you...getting to like you...getting to hope you like me...”.

It turns out she was going to school. An art history major, she said. I thrilled at the thought of how much we'd have to talk about before we felt comfortable enough to get jiggy with it. She did seem interested in the books on my shelf. She picked out a book of erotic poetry, not coquettishly, but with a kind of frantic anxiousness. Like she was trying to speed things along. Which hurt my feelings, a little, but it excited me, too.

The whole house was shaking from the life cycles of the animal planet that Jim and Sasha had become in their heat. Maybe Shawna just didn't want to be outdone. She had special oils and tools of the trade in her chic little bag. She offered to give me a massage. I agreed, envisioning soft focus, slow motion hours of her hot hands on my back and shoulders. Then my arms and legs. Then my buttocks, perhaps. Then, well, who knows what we might get up to?

She'd been applying her expert ministrations for a mere minute when an abrupt and terrifying sound of deep impact erupted from Jim's room, like a car getting crushed in a scrapyard. I froze and Shawna froze. Had Jim crossed that line inside? Had forty gallons of bud light and lustful frenzy and criminal genes driven him to snap that poor hooker in half?

Then, an urgent knock on the door, Sasha peeking her head in, hair unkempt, skin flushed with that just fucked feeling.

She was done. It was time to go.

Jim had taken a little longer than the industry standard, I guess, but these were nice girls. Obviously. Shawna started packing her things, thanking me for a lovely time, suggesting that maybe I could ask for her by name and we could skip the getting acquainted stage and I could maybe get my money's worth. Or the money's worth of whoever was buying. It seemed uncouth to ask for a coupon, all things considered. They were gone as suddenly as they had been decided on and summoned. The pimp car screeched into the distance.

Jim was unconscious, the beast in him milked of its poisons. Sitting in the aftermath, I stared mutely into space, first to the tune of tweeting birds rising to greet the day as if nothing sleazy had happened here, then to the tune of Aunt Betty rising and collecting herself for an ordinary working day at the travel agency. My thoughts drifted from my squandered opportunity to the night lady who'd lit up this room mere moments before.

I wondered what she was thinking at that very moment.. Probably not that she had narrowly missed being ravished by a libidinous beast. Maybe that she'd touched the weird babyflesh of a stillborn serial killer, a strangeling too timid to ever be dangerous. Maybe she gets by by forgetting. Maybe I was entering her diary as a scribbled list of cruel observations and she was not any kind of dialled up succubus or sleazy dream but was, in fact, the writer I was pretending to be. In that weird, faintly rippled silence, I wondered if I'd ever actually seen a woman through my many veils of desperate projection. Maybe I'd only ever known the echoes of my lovers.

The shadows congealed briefly as if in prelude to some hideous epiphany.

Then I caught a wiff of something.

Not the sickly sweetness of a smashed taboo. Not the dank man-smells of my loneliness.

I could smell Shawna's massage oil. Not just on my skin, but on my pillow. She'd spilled some, apparently. Enough to decorate my prison cell with fleeting wisps of her ambience.

My response to her specter made a mockery of all philosophies.

I conjured Shawna from that slick puddle of luxury, another flickering echo in my harem of ghosts. I buried my face in that pillow and kissed it, sobbing slightly while I finished my interrupted wank.

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