I’ve been thinking about prostitutes lately, as one does, right?
Whores, harlots, prostitutes.
Kind of like, “lions, tigers and bears, oh my.” But not exactly.
Yes, that is what has been on my mind: ladies of the night, tarts, trollops. And, besides the obvious reason, DEPRAVITY, I am not exactly sure why.
Perhaps it is because a friend of mine who will go unnamed (Michael) is buying a prostitute for another friend of mine, a woman, who will also go unnamed (Christel), who is doing field work in Guatemala for her anthropology thesis which deals with things of this tawdry nature. Interesting academic pursuit, this anthropology stuff…
As I understand the arrangement, Michael will procure a woman of talent for an entire evening and Christel will interview her about her line of work – turning tricks – after which Michael will spend the remainder of the evening enjoying the woman’s professional services.
I can already hear the more righteous and politically correct readers screaming that this is horrible.
Enjoy the story. The time for moralizing is over. We are in an era of wicked laughter in the face of an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it tragedy. GET WITH THE PROGRAM!
So, as I said, perhaps it is because of Michael and Christel that I have been pondering hookers, streetwalkers, brothels and such. I’ve know a few hookers in my day, not in the carnal sense, but as friendly acquaintances.
There was a brief while in 1979 when I lived on Forsythe Street which was fondly refereed to as Hooker Alley. Forsythe was a little street on New York’s Lower East Side that ran between Canal and Delancey, which in those days was the beginning of China Town, and what was left of Bowery bum territory. I was living there because I was 19 and I was broke. The apartment I rented cost $90 a month and was one long narrow tenement room with a claw-foot bathtub in the kitchen and thousands of oily cockroaches that treated me with disdainful omnipresence
All and all it was a lovely neighborhood that any mother would be proud to know her son was living in. It was across the street from a little park where heroin was sold around the clock. Junkies would openly shoot up on park benches while Chinese and Puerto Rican children played on rusty swings, smiling and laughing as their little bodies sailed over spent condoms and syringes.
On Sundays the street had a brief reprieve as an Hispanic rock-and-roll Evangelical Church took over the entire block and tried to save souls with electric guitars, tambourines, and empanadas.
The rest of the time the street was owned by pimps. When the sun went down they emerged, followed by the girls: mostly black, but also white, brown and yellow; beautiful and horrific; goddesses with skin like ebonite, or battered, haggard and pockmarked; fresh and youthful; or strung-out, gaunt and begging more than soliciting. Some were sheathed in leopard tights, electric blue spandex, black leggings. I remember one, who only lasted a few weeks; she was very pregnant, blonde and heartbreaking. They all wore high heels. The cackles of some terrified me when I heard their laughter bouncing up from the street into my bedroom on the second floor.
As night grew later and darker, the eighteen wheeled trucks pulled down this small street and hookers climbed up into the cabs. Men in business suits, construction workers, Hasidic Jews dressed in black with black beards: every form of man known to man would amble by looking for a girl to have either in the park or one of the hotels on Delancey.
Other cars would pass slowly and the girls would lean in the windows, showing themselves: Come on honey, you wanna go? I got something for you baby. All night long and into the early morning, for one year, I heard the hiss of air brakes as trucks slowed down, or the screams of girls fighting, or the whoop of police sirens and then the clicking of multiple high heels as the girls ran across the street into the park to hide. Whoop, whoop. Then taptaptaptaptaptap as they scurried out of site. This was the music I went to bed to night after night.
Eventually some of the girls and I became friends. They’d see me coming and going day after day, “Hey, white boy, you want some?”
“No thank you,” I’d say.
“You gay or getting too much of that free college pussy? Hey, you gonna eat all that Chinese food you got in that bag?”
We’d end up sharing Chinese food.
In the winter time I left the door to my building unlocked so the girls could turn quick tricks in the hallway instead of the freezing park. This did not endear me to the other tenants in the building.
On really hot summer nights, I’d sit on my door step and share a six pack of cheap beer with one or two. The pimps didn’t mind as long as they went back to work when a car passed down the road.
One night I headed back to my apartment from uptown. I was drunk. I had been mugged that afternoon across from Morningside Park. I got very drunk after the fact because I was so shaken up. I staggered, and fell again and again as I made my way down the street. Two of the girls came running over to me, took my keys from my pocket, and got me up to my apartment. They cleaned me up and put me in bed. The next afternoon, the buzzer rang and one of the girls was there to check on me. She had brought me a plate of eggs and sausage that she bought from the diner on Christie Street.
Thank you, Christel and Michael; your anthropological pursuits have me remembering a beautiful and special time in my life.