I hardly ever get “date calls.” A date call or, as it says on our website, a “Girlfriend call” lasts for a minimum of five hours (and a maximum of twelve), but the client only pays for four. (I only get paid for four hours as well.) They were popular in Toronto during the good times when Bay Street boys had more money than sense. Occasionally, we’ll get a rich Japanese or American businessman who wants to treat himself, but these were few and far between.
Dr. Raoul called me, or rather called for me about a week in advance. We usually only give Adele our schedules a week in advance, so it was fairly usual for someone to plan ahead that far. He had asked to meet me at the Four Seasons for five hours on a Saturday night. I was thrilled. It meant that I only had to take one call that night, for which I would make around $700. Also, considering how that week had gone, some cash and escapism could serve well.
Earlier in the week, as I followed my boss into the board room, my heart pounded in my chest. This is it, I thought, this is the meeting where I get fired. The constant threat of being fired had hung over my head for the past year. Considering my boss had the communication skills of a coma patient and the people skills to match, I never knew exactly what was coming down the pike until it was too late to do anything. Combined with the ulcers and tension headaches the job had given me during that time, I was a nervous wreck.
This is bullshit, I thought. The idea flickered behind my eyes momentarily. The fluttering stopped. It was almost as if the sweat about to bead down my face slipped back into its glands. I was calm, ready to accept what was about to come next. Looking forward to it even.
She sat on the opposite side of the conference table. Not a good sign.
“Bianca, do you know what the meeting is about?”
“I think so,” I said, looking directly at her, “and it’s bullshit.”
If I could go back in time, bring my phone with me, video record her reaction to what I said and play it every time my day wasn’t going well, I would.
“Excuse me?” she flustered, likely being called on her bullshit for the first time in approximately ever.
“It’s bullshit. This is bullshit. You are bullshit. Fuck this.”
“Um… Bianca… um… you need to uh,” she started, “I need to explain why we’re letting you go.”
“Nope. You really don’t. I’ve never been more miserable than I was here. You’re fucking incompetent. Fuck you.”
I was already taking my work key off of my key ring. I contemplated throwing it at her, but calmly left it on the conference table. I walked back to my desk, grabbed my purse from my drawer and walked out.
I reached into my bag and removed my phone.
I texted Conor: “Fired.”
“Really?” he sent back almost immediately.
The next move was for him to call, “Are you okay?”
“I’m… great. Really, I’m fine. This was coming one way or another anyway.” I thought about it and let the words flow, “I wish I’d done it sooner.”
“Okay, I just want to know that you’re okay.”
“I can be an escort full time now,” I said.
He didn’t answer that part, just saying, “I’m sure everything will work out.”
Out in the sunlight I got on my bike and rode home. I had been so terrified of leaving that job, so terrified of getting fired I couldn’t sleep. My neck ached from knots and my fingernails had been chewed down to the nubs. I was a stressed out and angry person with that job, perpetually exhausted. I took it out on Conor and my friends and my family. It was a lousy $39,000 a year.
I was just worth more than that.
Conor and I talked a long time about the plans we were going to make over the next few months. I was uncertain about looking for a new job right away. The BIG NOVEL still needed to be written. Maybe I could take this time to focus on myself. Maybe it was going to all work out. Maybe I was going to follow my dreams.
While laying my back.
Being a mediocre and passionless technical writer, I hate to admit, was getting in the way of being a professional prostitute. I was limited in the time I could spend with clients. When you have to be home by 2 am at the latest, you miss out on a large swathe of the market. Not everyone, particularly not everyone with money works 9 to 5. Doctors, for example, are loaded and can be available at 5am or 2pm. Eccentric CEOs who can make their own hours sometimes work best in the wee hours and call escorts to relax themselves before heading to bed just as the sun comes up. When it comes to prostitution, not having a traditional day job is a good business move.
Raoul was not a doctor or a CEO. Well, he had a PhD, probably a few in fact. He was an Ivy League professor who also taught at U of T, which put him in Toronto often. He was planning his next year of guest lectures. Raoul was like me, a planner. Maybe a little too much.
The phone girl, Laura called me early on the Saturday after I was fired. I was going to ballet class down at the Walter Carson Centre and about to step into the Pape subway station when she sent me a cryptic text.
“Are you okay with overweight men? This guy is very specific.”
This necessitated a conversation.
I got her on the phone, which was difficult, since the agency re-routed all incoming calls to the cell. She said that Raoul had emailed her earlier in the week to outline exactly who he was and what he wanted.
“I have lost over 100 pounds in the previous year from a gastric bypass surgery,” she read. “However, I am still quite overweight. I want to stress that she should never do something she doesn’t want to do and if she is not comfortable with this then it would be best if we did not meet.”
It was nice for him to give me the obese heads-up. I wish more of my clients did this. I told Laura that it was fine, that there was nothing that she could throw at me that I couldn’t deal with. I wasn’t going to turn down big money just because the dude was porky, especially now that my brilliant technical writing career had flamed out.
I met him at the Four Seasons at six. I was going to be done by eleven and had already arranged to meet some friends at the bar. Raoul greeted me, fully dressed, smelling radiant. He led me into the hotel room and explained the situation to me.
“I was hoping that I could get you something to eat and drink from room service,” he said.
“I would love that,” I cooed, “what are you in the mood for?”
“Oh, I won’t be eating. After my surgery I prefer not to eat in front of people.” Okay, this was going to be awkward, but whatevs.
“Sure, a glass of wine and the salmon would be lovely.” He picked up the phone to call room service. “And what do you do?” I asked.
Raoul was probably the most educated client I’d met. He had served on the International Panel on Climate Change right before they won the Nobel. He was well versed in politics and social issues, not having tunnel vision for science of the average lab rat.
He spoke to me a little bit about his research and what he was doing in Toronto. I asked him if he preferred teaching more then research. He spoke about politics and society with great aplomb.
“What I do should not be politically motivated, but it is,” he explained. “There will come a point when any poltical debate will be over. There will be a point further down the line when we will all look at how silly we were and laugh.”
I asked him about his family. He talked eagerly about his daughters. They were like him, high functioning geniuses. One was working as lead on a big engineering project in Hong Kong. The other had just started in Computer Science at MIT. His wife stayed at home. They hadn’t had sex in five years.
The salmon and white wine arrived. We both agreed that it had always made more sense to us to have red wine with salmon. A color scheme issue, we agreed. I ate and we discussed. He talked and talked about himself. He was his own favourite subject.
An hour after I finished my dinner we both moved to the bed.
“You,” he started, “are a very special woman.”
“I am?” I’m not. And I really didn’t feel like one that week.
He nodded and started to kiss me. As he grew more passionate, his hands started to move over me. Eventually he ran his hands forcefully through my hair and held the back of my neck decisively. Raoul was so overcome he seemed out of his body, nearly out of his mind.
He broke away suddenly, devastated.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He said, not looking at me.
“It’s fine. It’s really fine,” I said, lying. “I like that.”
“You are so special. Such a wonderful woman. You don’t deserve to be treated like an animal.”
Okay, I thought, that’s going a bit far.
“If you enjoyed it, then I enjoyed it,” I said. “I want to make you feel good. I want to make you feel better.” I touched his hand and moved closer.
The evening progressed. For the next few hours all of that bullshit melted away. I threw myself into Raoul and his happiness. I was Bianca the escort for a moment and the other messes of my life didn’t matter. Making him feel better made me feel better, with hardly any effort at all.
As I grabbed my coat at the end of the evening, Raoul slipped eight hundred dollars into my hand. He had already given me the required donation in cash in a crisp white envelope. The cash, the guts of my rent payment was a tip.
“Thank you, Bianca,” he said, “don’t worry. Everything will work out.”