Being a sex worker is something I’ve always wanted to do. I grew up repressing most of my sexuality because of my strict family environment that made me feel like it was shameful. My sex drive was and still is insanely high. The job allows me to embrace it, take things to the extreme even. There are no rules, no boundaries, and no limitations. I can do whatever I want. And at this point, I’m totally fine with the idea of being treated like an object since I don’t think I can provide anyone with anything other than sexual pleasure.
All those years, I’ve been living the life of someone I didn’t really know. There were instances where I knew where I would end up and what I would end up doing but I never fully had things totally figured out. It’s because of the tumultuous experiences and the different directions life kept pushing me in. Finding purpose is never easy. I’ll never know if I was meant for something greater or if being an escort is what I was meant to be doing all along. There has to be a reason I’m sucked back into it. It wasn’t completely my decision. It was more like fate. Like it was meant to be.
Today, prostitution is still demeaning, and I knew getting back into it at this stage in my life was wrong. The thought of doing it all over again was a bit scary for me as it would’ve proved I’ve failed to move on from it on to better things, but after I’ve met Graham, everything changed.
I’ve never met a true ginger before him. It was a warm autumn day and I was planning on spending it out and about but ended up running errands instead. After scratching the last thing off my list, I started to rush back home to escape the heat. Half a mile away from my place, though, I got interrupted by a vibrant, taller but thinner young man. He had fiery hair and porcelain skin with freckles, and the reddest hair I’ve ever seen. He was trying to get to the lake but wasn’t sure where the underpass was located. I pointed him in the right direction, but he didn’t move. He said he was new in town and was looking to make friends. We exchanged numbers and parted ways. I wasn’t really keen on the idea of reaching out to him myself, but he did. Two hours later, we were sitting across from each other at a small independent coffee shop I’ve never been to before.
When we first started talking, he came across as the creative type; an artistic director, graphic designer or something in between. It wasn’t until we left the coffee shop and walked over to the bookstore nearby that he casually spurted out he used to be an escort. I turned around, looked at him and could tell he was waiting for a reaction. I didn’t really give him one. Instead, a curious silence occurred. As we strolled around the various aisles, I could tell he was studying me and trying to figure out whether my perception of him had changed. He wasn’t necessarily looking for approval, but it seemed as if he was judged in the past, and so he wanted to have the truth about who he is, or was, laid out in front of me. It takes a lot of gut and trust to open up to a stranger, but he seemed really comfortable around me. As he opened up more and more, I wondered where he was at now career-wise, and he said he switched to giving massages instead (with a “happy ending”, I assumed) without any sex involved.
Working as a prostitute only seems harmless at first. But a tormenting amount of violence comes with it. It’s not necessarily the physical and dangerous kind, it’s more about the energy surrounding it. My state of mind shifted with every client I met. Even with they’re respectful and easy to be around, it’s like there’s a voice inside telling you that what you’re doing is wrong. When I did it in the past, I justified the reason behind it as wanting to make ends meet, but then it quickly escalated into something more; I enjoyed being the center of attention. I enjoyed being worshipped and coveted as well as the sex. And the money was easy. I was very young when I started, and back then it totally made sense. However, now that I’m a grown adult, doing it feels like a choice, one that deemed threatening to my overall well-being as well as my reputation. After my unemployment, I wasn’t keen on the idea of going back to that lifestyle, but being around Graham was slowly pushing me back into it. I, of course, didn’t tell him I used to do it too, and he wasn’t encouraging me to do it at all, but seeing him spend his money without a care in the world made me envious, and so I started reconsidering getting back into that old habit.
Before I could even tell, a week had passed by and we had spent almost every hour of every day together. In between our hangouts, he’d be giving clients hand jobs which kind of messed with my head. But he needed me. Somehow, I was his anchor. After a long day helping random old men get off, he was eager to see me and get back into his comfort zone. I thoroughly enjoyed his company. Up until that point, I don’t think I’ve ever come across someone so pure, a well-rounded human being. It was only when I deeply looked at him and let my mind go that I’d picture him do what he does. When we’d lie down in his bed and he’d start stroking my cock, I couldn’t help but picture his hand on some fat guy’s penis. Then there’s the easy money part that comes with the lifestyle and how it was making it easier for him to navigate through life. Although I envied that part, it was the fact he knew how to keep saving it and investing in it that I found admirable. He was younger than me but way smarter. He was using the job as a tool to get ahead and turn his life around for the better. I was threatened by his ability to set goals and fight his way through all the difficulties. He was very ambitious, and his perseverance made me look weak next to him. He was definitely way more active than I was in the pursuit of his goal; an actual doer.
After I quit working at Rose, I’ve relied solely on freelance work and the money in my savings account, so keeping up with Graham became a challenge. He wasn’t materialistic at all. He actually dressed like any other normal person would, but he had a thing for life experiences and food. At first, I was like, “Fuck it, life is too short”, and went ahead and started to indulge myself but then my spending pattern started to coincide with his which made our hangouts complicated and a toll on me financially. Of course, I didn’t tell him that. I was too ashamed, not to mention it would’ve put a pressure on him to pay on my behalf whenever we hung out. I certainly didn’t want that to happen, so I kept quiet and went along with it… until I couldn’t do it anymore. He was making a ton of money and I wasn’t. I tried to be in denial about how he earned it, but every time he looked at his phone or withdrew to take a call, I’d stare at him from a distance and try to imagine who he’d be talking to. Seeing him get a lot of attention made me a little bit jealous especially as we got closer and closer to each other. Every night, he’d order take out and we’d eat in his bed. After clearing everything out, he’d spoon me hard and I’d completely let go. I remember how good it felt to rub my face against the sharpness of his facial hair, making myself completely vulnerable; like a young cub longing for affection which he didn’t hesitate to give me. He treated my body so sacredly and gave me sweet simple pecks every time I was in a bad mood.
Every time life shows me how cruel the world really is, someone special comes along and reminds me it’s not as bad as my perception makes it out to be. Those kind of experiences, I take deeply to heart; they also always manage to help interrupt hostile emotions and thoughts, making me want to become a better man. Graham was the nicest, most genuine guy I’ve ever met, and so I couldn’t help but slowly fall in love with him. Actually, now that I think about it, I was in love with the idea of being adored. With everything that’s happened to me in the past, it wasn’t easy to let go, and so I remained in hiding. I knew there was a permanent darkness within me, one that I couldn’t always control nor get rid of. Shielding him from the knowledge of the nature of the person I really am was hard which triggered an attempt to subconsciously self-sabotage my relationship with him before I allowed myself to get too attached. It all started with my refusal to reveal a lot about myself. My preposterous attempts to cover up the mystery of my past as well as the thoughts coursing through my head with light chat sometimes came across a bit too obvious I’d notice him stare at me with narrow eyes; however, he never ambushed me into opening up since he could relate to my inability to trust people easily which is something he used to suffer from as well and still does under specific circumstances.
What mainly triggered my desire to quit him was the pain threshold life had gained him. He was always optimistic, even with his terrible upbringing; his previous financial scarcity, his rough childhood and how his family disowned him when they found out he was gay. That wasn’t even all of it. He’s been poisoned by a client before and had guns held to his head, and I simply couldn’t understand how he managed to keep it all together. I didn’t necessarily want him to be depressed or see him drag himself down, but he was becoming a bit irritating with his continuous positive views on life. He was coming across as one dimensional which made being around him a bit redundant and deep inside, I was starting to resent him.
As the weekend approached, we decided to go on a trip. I wanted to take him to Iowa City and show him where I used to live, but we decided to postpone that trip for later and pick a place we both haven’t been to instead. Our options narrowed down to New Orleans and South Dakota, and we went with the latter. The night before our trip, I came by his place with my duffle bag and helped him pack his. Then, I sat on his bed and stared at him pour me a glass of wine. A feeling of malaise hung on me like a leech when he played some music. I looked around me and wondered what I was doing with him; the pendulum had swung too far. He sat down next to me, brushed my hair with his fingers and kissed me. Soon, tears started to spread and the pain was too hard to yield, so I moved away and hid my face. He didn’t react or said anything. Instead, he turned away to allow me to comfortably wipe them away. They say the brain doesn’t like to remember bad things, that’s why bad memories are often forgotten or repressed, but in moments of vulnerability, they always find their way back. You make some progress and then you sink. You climb further up and then you trip and fall.
“After South Dakota, I think it’d be best if we stop seeing each other,” I regrettably said.
“No. That’s not going to happen,” Graham firmly replied.
“It’s for your own good. I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Stop. You’re not going to hurt me. Even if you do, I’ll take it.”
“You don’t understand, Graham. I’m unreliable, selfish and self-entitled. You’re really better off without me.”
“I don’t care. I’m not going anywhere.”
“If you don’t, I will.”
“I won’t let you. I’ll chase you all over the city and track you down.”
Our brief conversation foreshadowed what happened the next day. Our weekend getaway was supposed to be fun, exciting and filled with good memories exploring the beauty of the black hills and badlands. Upon our arrival, we noticed bikers roaming around the whole downtown area and after asking about it, we were told there was a motorcycle rally going on. Before checking that out, I stopped at an ATM to check my balance and took out a small amount of cash to make sure I don’t overspend. Graham then asked if we could stop for breakfast before heading over to check out the main spot the bikers were gathered at, and we did. One thing I’ve noticed about him during our travel was how much attention he gave magazines and books. Since he couldn’t make it through college, he was trying to become a self-made Renaissance man, spending his downtime reading art and travel magazines to educate himself and become knowledgeable; another thing I discovered was how his parents forbid him and his siblings from watching television or going to the movies.
Before making our way to the rally, we passed by an ice cream place and he decided he wanted to go in and grab some dessert. I couldn’t stand seeing how relaxed he was about everything, so when he went to stand in line to get ice cream, I dragged myself to the restroom instead. As soon as I locked the door, a wave of dizziness caught me out of nowhere. I swayed and shook my head to clear the overwhelming bitter thoughts, but the masochist part inside me wanted it. I hung on the edge of the sink and gasped for air. I became agitated, tense and extremely frustrated. I rested my shoulder against the tiled wall and stared at myself in the mirror. Slowly, I rotated my body until my head was facing it straight, pressed both palms up against it and started banging my forehead repetitively, shaking all the walls around me. When I stopped, I heard a group of kids walk in with their parents, giggling and happy. When I turned and looked back at the mirror, the middle area was red, almost bruised. My eyes were bulging and my pupils were dilating and contracting over and over again which worried me. But I was stuck in the moment, so I proceeded in harming myself. I switched over and banged both sides before punching myself. Five minutes later, I was back outside and sitting right by him. He was busy on his phone and didn’t even notice how fucked up my head looked. That’s how oblivious he was. His repressed past had caused him to overlook anything even the slightest bit negative. To him, nothing was ever wrong. His failure to behave and think like a realist made him less human in my view, and that pissed me off so bad I wanted to grab his head and furiously shake it.
Back outside, my mood was bleak as the sky above me and the urge to say the words I’ve been wanting to say to him since the day we met was slowly rising. Then, just like vomit, they involuntary came out, forceful and full of disdain:
“Being with you is unhealthy for me. It’s messing with my head.”
A long pause occurred as we both walked through a trail serving as a shortcut to the rally’s starting point. He sped up the hill, his face collapsing into anger and resentment. We walked in silence, him way ahead of me, leaving me behind like a dog. After witnessing the start of the rally separately. I knew I was losing him at that point, and seeing how he was ignoring my presence made me extremely want to rip my heart out. I eventually ran up to him and stopped him; I urged him to allow me to explain what I meant by what I said and he wouldn’t listen. Then, I cried. I cried actual tears. I didn’t fake it. When my heart started beating fast, I wasn’t in control of it. But then, once it was over, when it was all behind me, I didn’t care anymore. I still don’t. Yet, I hurt. I hurt because for once, I allowed myself to feel something real. I put my guards down and tried to embrace it. I hated myself for saying the things I said to him; part of me always will. I longed for his forgiveness and he never accepted it. I broke down, cried, begged and apologized over and over again and he wouldn’t even look at me. I gave him my heart and he stomped on it.
“This whole past week was a lie”, was the only sentence I managed to get out of him.
When we stopped at a diner to grab dinner, he ordered his food and sat at a different table. At that point, my dignity and self-respect were on the line, and I couldn’t tolerate his rudeness even though I completely understood it. I was at fault, admittedly so. But I needed to get that off my chest because I was hoping for an actual reaction. I just wanted him to react and stop saying everything was going to be okay. He was swimming from one set of delusions to the other, and I wanted him to see the bigger picture. But talking to him was impossible after that. He was no longer there. It’s like I had been completely erased from his life. My resentment became even greater then; I got up and walked out of the lounge and for a second, I thought he was going to stop me. He wanted to, I felt it, but he didn’t do it. So, I left.
On the way back to the city, I couldn’t believe how a beautiful day could turn into such a complete and horrible mess. I tried to brush the feeling off but it was still fresh I couldn’t even allow myself to turn the page like nothing happened. Graham had managed to become a part of me, an actual part of me. I’ve gotten so used to him I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I couldn’t drop him like that because he’s shown me love, kindness and what it was like to genuinely care for another human being. He opened my eyes to a selfless kind of love. One that I wanted but didn’t know how to have. And I know, if I actually appreciated him I wouldn’t have said the things I said to him, but it was out of my control. I just wanted him to be patient, to understand that unlike him, I needed time to adapt and allow myself to be with him the way he wanted me to.
I don’t understand who I am, or what I am. I don’t understand why I exist, what I’m here for, what benefit I am to the world. I’m a riddle to myself and no matter how far I try to go to crack it, I never seem to succeed. All I’ve ever wanted was to be approved and appreciated, to be seen. I wanted to prove my worth by doing something substantial with my life. I wanted to fall in love and not fuck it up. I wanted a lot of things. But apparently, those things don’t want me. It’s like I’m stuck on a ship in the middle of a storm, and all I can do is try and weather it, avoid the irreparable damage. But I can’t fully control it. I’ve decided to finally give in and let the waves take me back to a place I once was. Going back to being an escort wasn’t totally up to me. I did it out of anger and spite — out of revenge. I wanted the life Graham had, and I intended to get it. And now I’m in it.
The name I’ve decided to give myself this time around is Julian Dimitriades.
Since Oak Street is known for being the ideal place to find clients and rich men, I decided to dress up in a nice expensive suit and head over to the fanciest restaurant. I sat at the bar and ordered a whiskey on the rocks. A little before midnight, a man elegantly walked up to me and rested one hand on the bar and the other on the lumbar support of my chair. I couldn’t help but notice his shiny gold necklace, bracelet and ring. I turned and looked at him, and he said:
“Excuse my straightforwardness, but a guy like you deserves a watch nicer than the one you’re wearing.”
“It belonged to a dear friend of mine,” I answered.
“That’s admirable, but you need something that suits your personality,” he continued. “Come on, let’s go get you one you can make your own.”
And just like that, in the midst of my vapid, worthless, dark life, a revival came to me suddenly, like a shining ray of sunshine. His name is Landon Armstrong.
Notes About Graham:
– He’s always hungry; his addictions are tacos, wine and ice cream
– He likes to pull his tongue out while taking selfies
– He can smother you with too much attention
– He has a thing for brown leather shoes and bags
– He’s a hopeless romantic and a total optimist
– He falls in love with every pretty thing