Lunch with Caroline, my old boss. We settle in and I ask about her kids and then after they bring us drinks I ask her how things are at the studio. She shrugs. "Drama," she says.
"More trouble with the police?"
"No. No more police. But it got broken into. Well, not really broken in. I gave this guy a key, this guy I was dating for a little while. When we broke up I didn't think to get the key back and he broke in and stole my laptop and tore up all my lingerie."
"Jesus. Are you serious?"
She nods. "You remember that kimono you liked?"
"The blue one? With the cranes?"
"No, the black. With the little red flowers. He tore it right up to the hip. What a freak, right?"
"So I changed all the locks. I think he was stealing money from me, too. Anyway, other than that things are good. What are you doing now?"
I tell her I'm working and going to school, and she says, "You're so industrious. Not me. I'm not what you'd call motivated."
"That crazy. You work all the time." She is always changing her website, tinkering with her advertising, maximizing profit margins, justifying charging the highest rates in town and flipping the bird to the hobbyists in the adult review boards.
"Well, it's different when you're making a lot of money. I don't think I'd roll over in bed for ten dollars an hour. I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't do this. I've had tons of other jobs and I always end up quitting."
"Well, I know what you mean. I mean, I do miss it."
"Sort of. I do OK right now, though. But being able to, you know, turn my body into money whenever I felt like it. It was like a super power. Do you know I mean?"
"Yeah. Like, you can wake up in the morning with nothing by the time you go to bed you'll have a grand in the bank."
Because you can lose it all, over and over again, and make it all back, and you're never stuck in one place. You never have to keep your mouth shut and do what you're told, never have to be anybody's idea of a good sport, a sweet girl, a little trooper, not ever again, not for more than a few hours, anyway.
"It's not just the money, though. I mean, I really miss it."
"I mean, not specifically, really. But yeah. I don't know if I was really helping people or whatever, but I did feel like I was making connections with people. They come in and really show themselves to you and talk about stuff they can't really talk about with anyone in their lives, and I would hear them and not judge them. And that means something, you know? People don't have that many chances to talk about that stuff and be heard and not be judged."
"Well, I do think that helps people," Caroline says. She would say this, of course. This is exactly the kind of service she advertises, with some more stuff about goddess energies and ecstatic bliss states, but in the end it really all boils down to this."
"I think so, too."
I miss feeling so close to the raw nerve centers of things. I am not very social, and small talk makes me tired. If I'm going to engage with someone, it might as well be real. People are never casual or superficial when it comes to their sexuality, not really, or if they are that in and of itself is fascinating.
And then, there was a kind of grace in being a fallen woman in my own mind. A set of questions I didn't have to ask myself anymore. Like, Am I normal and Would people like me if they really knew everything about me? because No and Not all of them, probably.
I remember back in high school after some new bout of experimenting how I'd curl into myself thinking, "Oh God now I've really done it, really gone too far." Feeling terrible, and also relieved of the awful weight of being good.
I put my spoon down on the table harder than I mean to. Throw it, really. I say, "I work in a bakery and teach yoga to children. How fucking wholesome is that? I don't have any secrets anymore."
I'm shouting, but in a normal tone of voice, because you never know who's listening. Caroline chews a bite of food and swallows, staring at me the whole time with her habitual expression of mild surprise. "Well," she says. "You know you can always come back and work for me. I'd love to have you back. My little strawberry blonde."
I knew she'd ask me if I brought it up. I didn't know what I'd say. I still don't. I spread my hands and shrug.
She's warming to the idea now. "It'd be so easy, love. You wouldn't have to lift a hand. Someone would take all your calls and make all your bookings for you and all you'd have to do is show up and do what you do."
"I don't know. I don't even know if this make sense. It's just this weird feeling, missing it. I wonder if I'm -- I don't know --addicted or something."
"Well, how long has it been? Six months?"
"Six or seven. Maybe eight."
"You're not addicted, honey. Me, I'm addicted. I told you, I couldn't do anything else. I mean, I've even been thinking -- " she leans forward and lowers her voice even further, "--I've even been thinking about doing full service. And you know I've never done that, never offered that. But I feel like if I'm going to have the kinds of experiences I've been having with men -- I mean, if men are just going to drain me dry anyway, at least I could be getting paid for it. Know what I mean?"
"Anyway, you should really come back. I mean, you can't pay for school working at a bakery, can you? I can have clients for you right away. Tonight if you wanted."
I'd never work for Caroline again. She's careless. She makes enemies who call the cops, and she gives keys to the studio to sketchy guys who rip up lingerie.
"I don't know. I'll think about it. I'm tempted. But."
She pouts. "I don't think you're tempted at all."
"I'll think about it. Really."
"Well. I'm a bad friend, aren't I? Here you're telling me you think you're addicted and all I want to do is seduce you back."
"It's OK. I like being seduced by you."
And I let her pay for lunch, because she can turn her body into money any time, and I can't anymore.