Now that I was gainfully unemployed, I made an effort to branch out and get out during the day. Luckily, earlier in the month, Conor and I had canceled our cable, so Ellen DeGeneres’ siren song had faded. I needed to occupy myself to ensure that my days weren’t shrouded in a pot haze leading into a hard day’s night worth of work in the sex trade.
I started taking more and more dance lessons. The people who took ballet during the day were approaching professional levels, and had typically received an arts grant, allowing them to free up their days to focus on their craft. I forged a friendship with some of the future ballerinas when we went for coffee after class.
It was pretty clear from my dancing that I was not pursuing a higher form of the art. A few of the girls were career bartenders who had free days and they asked me if I was the same. One of the girls in the ballet class had gone professional with her dancing: she was a stripper. She never joined us after class and the girls didn’t hold back when passing judgement on the recent Czech transplant.
“Ugh, so gross when someone does that.”
“Works as a stripper?” I asked, wondering where it was going.
“Yeah sex workers are so… gross,” another girl interjected.
“What if someone needs to get out of debt and get on her feet? What else are you supposed to do?”
A tall, slender ballerina who moonlighted as a model piped up, “It just seems like the easy way out. If you need money, work for it.”
The concept that being an escort is the easy way out of debt, or at least many perceived it that way materialized in my mind for the first time. While working as an escort and working on a novel I realized that sex is a lot like writing. You might have an interest in it, and you may even be good at it, but if you’re going to make money you have to treat it like a job. You have to put in long hours, do it when you don’t want to and meet people you don’t like.
So viewing escorting as the easy way out? Maybe. Definitely in terms of the time commitment, I can’t argue with that. If anybody is making $200 an hour at something, there is no way it could be 100% moral or non-compromising. After all, nobody in Doctors Without Borders makes $200 an hour.
Whatever I gained from devoting very little time to my shady debt-repayment plan, I think I lost in terms of mental health. For every good client there were five terrible ones, who I hated. I’ll admit it didn’t start out that way. I tried to find the good in clients at the beginning, but as I approached my year anniversary working for Adele, I could barely keep up the pretences anymore. I turned my head away when clients tried to look at me during sex now. I tried to be anywhere else. Maybe I didn’t want to be seen either. Maybe I didn’t want to be Bianca anymore. Maybe I didn’t want to be me anymore either.
I guess that was the easy part she was talking about.
I didn’t think anything could have made me feel worse than my visit to the nursing home. The part that people don’t tell you about hitting the very bottom of what you can take is that there are several levels below that. I thought the nursing home was the worst. But there was something worse, someone worse actually, and that someone was Wayne.
Wayne was rotund. He had a bright white beard. He had rented a room at the Marriott on Yonge. Wayne had the thick rural Canadian accent that television and films emulate to make fun of Canadians.
Wayne was from Muskoka, born and raised. He wasn’t someone from Oakville who’d had it with urban life and a two-hour commute, and laughably tried to start a farm or a B&B up there. Wayne was a country boy all grown up and appropriately time-ravaged. Like most rural Canadians, Wayne hated Toronto.
Wayne hated how dirty and crowded and noisy and big Toronto is. Of course anyone who has visited any major city in the states or Europe can tell you that Toronto is remarkably clean, often desolate, especially on long weekends, and hardly big. An outside observer will also tell you the hate that the rest of the country has for us is as baffling as it is misplaced as it is ignorant. But I digress.
Wayne had booked me for three hours, but he didn’t look like the kind of guy who had a couple hundred to spend on three hours worth of a good time. This must have been an investment. The Marriott on Yonge is outdated and unpleasant. It still has those weird scratchy, stiff comforters that I can only assume attract bacteria like a magnet.
Wayne was not going to take me out. Wayne was not going to buy a me a drink. This often happened because a lot of guys assumed I wasn’t a drinker. That was what they said, but I assumed it was because they were cheap. Is there an escort who doesn’t drink? It kind of pissed me off since I had to fight to ensure that my days weren’t mired in a fuzzy drug cloud. Of course I drink.
Anyway, I started my seemingly innocuous questions within the first 20 minutes of meeting Wayne. He told me where he was from and that he ran a logging business up north. I figured he was meeting with some important Toronto mucky mucks trying to negotiate a contract. Pretty common for far-flung businessmen.
“So, do you come to Toronto often?” I asked.
“No, I hate Toronto. It’s too dirty and crowded and noisy and big,” he told me.
“Are you here on business?" I asked.
“No. I’m going to Princess Margaret Hospital for some tests tomorrow.”
“Oh my goodness, is everything alright?" Feigning concern.
“Yeah, I might have a second bout of prostate cancer.”
He said it like a punch to gut. Again, I assume this was the easy part my fellow ballerina was describing.
Before Conor embarked on his glamorous career of mechanical engineering, he had another life as a home care nurse and internal medicine researcher in Ireland. He still has the remnants of a fairly extensive medical background at the ready for any random Jeopardy question. After all of the unpleasantness unfolded, I told him about Wayne’s possible diagnosis.
The first case of prostate cancer might go away. The second case usually doesn’t.
Wayne was horribly inept at sex. I tried to guide him through it, which was met with fervent resistance. He didn’t know what to do and didn’t want to learn. But this was a normal shortcoming. It definitely occupied the least amount of real estate in my mind for the three hours we were together.
Wayne couldn’t get it up.
The more he (and I) tried, the more it didn’t happen. The more it didn’t happen, the more it really didn’t happen. The more it really didn’t happen, the more I (and I assume he) thought about the looming diagnosis the thorough physicians at Princess Margaret would give him while sitting down in a room with the door closed.
After two-and-a-half hours, I walked into the bathroom, turned on the shower and vomited in the toilet immediately. What a tragedy. An abject, abject tragedy.
The next day, Charlene, the daytime phone girl called me.
“I wanted to check with you before I make this booking.”
“I’ll pretty much take any booking.” Despite how my heart and stomach had been wrenched the night before, the rent wasn’t going to pay itself. I had sent my thank-you letter to Archer at the advertising agency a week ago and had yet to hear anything back. As I often did, when waiting for something good to happen, I gave up hope almost immediately.
“It’s for seven hours.” She stated.
“Absolutely.” It couldn’t make up for last night. But things could still turn around. I was nothing if not an optimist.
Doug was a slight geologist from Calgary. He was shorter than me with fine Asian features under his scrupulous hair. Doug shook my hand and gave me a quick peck on the cheek and brought me into his room at Le Germaine, complete with small bottles of Molton Brown unguents lining the bathroom shelves.
“You’re so lovely,” Doug said, warm and genuine. Aww, so sweet, “I have made reservations for us at 7 pm at Zucca on some street. It’s Italian. The street is like, a major one.” Doug was close to my age, by which I mean my real age, not my escort age. Probably late 20s.
He handed me an envelope with my escort name written on it.
“I didn’t know how to spell your name, so I tried.” He blushed.
“I think it’s on Yonge Street, actually.” I had been there before. The tiny yellow restaurant shrank in the shadow of the TVO building. Closer to what a select few in Toronto insisted on calling “mid-town.”
We jumped in a cab heading north. Doug paid for it with a $100 bill. Zucca makes their own pasta and is so authentic Doug couldn’t really understand the menu. Doug quickly professed that he didn’t know wine, but offered to buy a bottle just in case. His social ineptitude was acutely endearing.
We talked for hours about Calgary and what he was doing. I tried not to talk much about myself. I always try to keep the focus on the client. I had some amazing olive tagliatelle with rabbit, Doug had the steak. It was a great date.
On the cab ride back to Mercer street, for the first time in a long time I felt my muscles tighten up. I didn’t want to have sex with Doug. He was too nice, too sweet. Doug made me laugh and he tried to impress me. Doug was giving me a girlfriend experience.
We entered the room and Doug began to kiss me. He took off my clothes and we both sat on the bed. It seemed everything was going to progress as usual when his mouth moved away and he rested his head on my cheek.
“Bianca, I have to tell you something” Doug said, by now down to his underwear himself, breathing heavily with his arms around me.
“Go for it. I don’t ever want anyone to be uncomfortable. That is the exact opposite of what I do.”
“I don’t really want to have sex. I just…” he paused and sounding like he was choking back emotion, “I just wanted to be close to someone.”
Whatever the opposite of a tragedy is, this was it. Someone wanting something so simple so badly and getting it. Maybe Dr. Raoul had been onto something. Maybe escorts could help people.
Maybe that was the hardest part.