One day, I finished my eight hours of work in twenty minutes. It seemed to me that my boss was as adept at delegating as she was at expressing thoughts with words, reading with comprehension, or not spilling mustard on her clothes at lunch. Her abilities in these areas, particularly the latter, were not strong. Not strong at all.

In any case, I was finished for the day at twenty minutes past nine in the morning and I began to let my mind wander. I usually look for haute couture clothing that I can’t really afford and, after finding a piece I need to have, I begin thinking about how I’ll justify the purchase to Conor.

But this day I was thinking about my job. It was safe to say it was going nowhere. I fantasize about quitting almost every day. Conor has tried to be supportive, but nevertheless he’s started expressing the opinion that it’s important for me to have a day job.

“You want to have some sense of normalcy,” he says. I can’t blame him for not wanting to live with just a hooker. It’s okay to live with a technical writer who happens to be a hooker on the side. I can keep the jobs separate in my head. I imagine the same goes for him, too.

Every night I come home at 3 am aching for sleep, and I keep setting the alarm for 7 am, all for the sake of normalcy, because as I slid further and further away from it, with every sideways glance from a check-in desk and the gathering emotional residue of my clients, I need to be normal more than ever.

And as much as I hate to admit it, on some level, I know Conor is right. I need this shitty job. In the first place I fear what my hands and other appendages might do while idle. Secondly, I’ve wrapped up an almost certainly unhealthy amount of my identity in my “regular” life. So as much as I am jealous of my escort friend Kelly being able to sleep until noon, it’s better for me to be in an office with my spiteful coworkers—at least for the time being.

It doesn’t mean, however, that I have to enjoy my time at my desk. So I developed a plan in my mind to protect myself from letting work get to me. It’s the same mechanism I use as an escort: I just won’t care. If I don’t care, it can’t hurt me. Nothing can get inside.

So I decided I wasn’t going to going to care about being a technical writer. Every dressing down in a meeting or an email, or every time the mustard-splattered lady shot daggers from across the room, it won’t matter. Every time a lonely single guy winds up more miserable after a date than he was before the date, it won’t matter. Every time I want drugs, but instead find myself sitting in a car waiting for another girl to leave a weird apartment in Streetsville, it won’t matter. Detachment has become my salvation.

The problem is that work had become my life. It’s been the one constant, so I began to care about nothing, and distanced myself from everyone who was close to me. My friends were sad that my once bright future had come to this, and I saw Conor sparingly as he maintained his blissful, normal, regular-person schedule. I didn’t see the escorting as the problem, though.

- - -

So, there I was, sitting in a bathroom stall at work, holding my head in my hands. I wasn’t sad or distraught or even disappointed with the usual incompetence of a mediocre software company. I was just tired as hell.

I figured that no one would notice I was missing from my desk for 15 minutes, and I could catch up on my sleep Da Vinci-style with a series of short naps. In truth, I could probably have stayed in bed all day and no one would have noticed, except perhaps Toronto Hydro, if they checked the company’s usage for the day and noted the minor dip caused by my computer being off.

I had paid off the debt months ago, but still hadn’t quit escorting. There was always a new expense. There was always a new plan. I thought I would stay on to save up enough for a down payment for a house, and now it was looking more like we’d need a new car. I was going to get out after the next thing.

I was working that night, and as I rode home, I rolled the words, “I quit” around in my head. I wasn’t really sure who I was saying it to but, I felt like the words needed to come, needed to be said and for someone to hear them. I almost felt guilty about the idea that one day I’d have to say it to Adele. She was the best boss I ever had. The escorting job was becoming more unpleasant by the day but it wasn’t her fault. When I said I wanted a nose job, she talked me out of it, telling me how beautiful I was. She gave me jewellery and encouragement. We went out for coffee. I felt good working for her.

I had a call at 6:30 that night. When Laura in the office sent me the name and the hotel I knew exactly who the client was. Walt always meets me every other week at the Royal York. He is a gross role-playing asshole and I dreaded seeing him again.

Walt’s only truly redeeming quality is that he tips. Unfortunately, the majority of my clients don’t tip. They’re the same guys who drop dollars in the little cup next to the cash register at Starbucks. I understand that $300 per hour is a lot of money, but it isn’t all going to me. Why would you tip the person who pours hot caffeinated water from a tap into a paper cup more than you tip someone who sucks your dick? Perspective, dudes. Please.

Walt answered the door on the Fairmont Preferred Guest Floor in his usual manner, by lunging at me and sticking his slimy tongue down my throat. When I arrive I have to get into the bathroom within the first five minutes of every call so I can text the driver to let him know that he doesn’t have to call the hotel or the police. The driver also starts the timer after I text him, so he knows to call me back when the hour is up. Walt, for some reason, likes to delay this process as long as possible.

“Hello, Bianca,” he finally said after I gently pushed him away.

Walt and men like him are funny ducks. On paper there’s nothing overtly creepy about him. He’s average in every single way. Balding, hairy body, not too overweight. Mid 40s, probably. He’s clean, usually wears a shirt and trousers. There’s absolutely nothing about Walt that makes you notice him. He fades into the background.

Until he opens his mouth, that is. Walt has that creepy voice. Low and slightly quivering, that makes me feel dirty. His greeting felt dirty, and to be honest those innocent words have nothing on the filth that usually comes out of him over the course of an hour.

The first time I ever met Walt, after he had gotten his money’s worth, we talked about our lives. What creeped me out was his job. He was a high school teacher. Ugh. Just ugh.

I can’t justify why I think teachers shouldn’t be allowed to see hookers. I’ve seen a lot of public servants, who, one could argue, were spending tax dollars on my service. I get that they’re just people. God knows they’re stressed, but it just. Squeaks. Me. Out. It’s not that we need to hold them to a higher standard; they should hold themselves to it.

But it didn’t change that I was stuck in the pseudo-sophisticated, actually-quite-cheap-looking room. Walt had very specific tastes. The first time we met he asked me if I did Greek. This was early in my career, so I didn’t have any of my anal sex disqualifiers ready, which are:

  1. Do you have your own lube?
  2. Are you a jerk?

My disqualifiers are effective about 90% of the time. I had my own lube. Of course I had lube. Sex with condoms all but requires it. It wasn’t about requiring lube; it was a way to gauge the client’s preparedness. It let me know if he had actually put some thought into this or was just trying as much as he could with a hooker. It also let me know his experience level with anal sex. Anal sex is different from just vanilla sex and takes a while to get right. I wasn’t really interested in teaching anyone how to be safe and good at it. Maybe it was wrong for me to limit fantasies. Maybe. Maybe it was also my ass and I could do what I wanted with it.

More than once a client has suggested using some kind of massage oil or hand lotion as lube. That always makes me worry. Any kind of oil breaks down latex. A client not concerned with his own safety is a client to worry about.

Walt would have passed, though. I couldn’t say he was a jerk; just creepy. And he always had KY. And hilariously unnecessary Magnums. Walt had big aspirations.

Walt always started sitting in one of the chairs in the room that looked like they came from my grandmother’s lake house. He would sit there and demand a blowjob. I couldn’t even go to my happy place, because he demanded that I look him in the eye.

“A lady always looks a gentleman in the eye," Walt said.

Vomit. Vomit. Vomit.

Once Walt had had enough of that, he went for what he really wanted. I usually cried out, not to turn him on, but because he wasn’t really good at it and was a little rougher than people aware of what they’re doing would be. It wouldn’t last very long, thankfully.

That night, though, I couldn’t live up to what he wanted. Whenever he would spew something disgusting and creepy into my ear I would just roll my eyes. Noticeably. I couldn’t play that role. I couldn’t play any role anymore. I was slipping away with every face I had to put on. I had to make a change.

With 15 minutes still left on the clock, I excused myself to the bathroom to shower. I didn’t usually short clients but I needed to get away. I needed to not be touched. I needed to be as a alone as possible. I wanted to have my shell back on. I wanted to not care. The hotter I felt my face get, the closer I came to tears, the louder I told myself nothing could get to me.

“I’ll get through this. Nothing can get inside me. I don’t care about this. I don’t care. I never care.”

The words stopped when the hot tears hit my hands. There I was, in the bathroom alone again. Just to get some peace.

Walt gave his usual tip and stomach turning kiss goodbye. I went back out into the night. After three more calls, three more early showers and three more fits of tears I fell asleep in the driver’s Infiniti until we reached my high-rise.

- - -

Something cathartic propelled me on my bike from Riverdale to King West the next morning. An unseen force pushed my pedals down the city, skipping over curbs and streetcar tracks, the silver veins of the city.

After I sat down and checked some emails my boss walked over to my desk.

“Can I see you in the conference room, Bianca?”