I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together. - Marilyn Monroe
In my column of August 22nd I mentioned a girl I called Marilyn and promised to tell you more about her later. Well, I won’t keep you in suspense; today I’m going to tell her story because it illustrates a number of the things I’ve been talking about, and also for one other reason. You see, because of the use of stage names, the discretion inherent in our profession, the mania for privacy forced upon us by its suppression and the fact that we’re all independent contractors, it is essentially impossible to keep in touch with working girls once the business relationship has been severed. And of all the girls who have worked for me, it’s Marilyn I find myself thinking of most often despite the fact that I haven’t heard from her in a decade. Cynthia comes to mind frequently as well, but while I know her story had a happy ending I have no way of knowing what happened to Marilyn after she went home, so when I think of her it’s rarely without tears. Besides its didactic purpose, you may think of this column as a tribute to a girl who touched my heart, and a tiny bottle thrown into the vast ocean of human souls in the forlorn hope that by some cosmic chance it may wash up on her virtual shore and inspire her to email and let me know that things did eventually work out for her.
I have decided to call her Marilyn herein because she strongly resembled Marilyn Monroe in both face and figure, right down to the mole. She was a native New Yorker, complete with accent and attitude, and also had a problem of which she was terribly ashamed: She was a heroin addict. Since she hated talking about the subject I never knew in what order moving to New Orleans, taking up escorting and getting addicted to junk had occurred, but when I met her (while we were both working for Pam) all three had been accomplished for some months. Like many New Yorkers she did not own a car, but the Big Easy is not the Big Apple so it’s not always easy for a working girl to get around efficiently without one; since I did have one, I was willing to take her on calls whenever I wasn’t busy myself (or even on the way to mine when it worked out that way). If it wasn’t for that, I would probably never have discovered her secret; she had not been addicted long enough for her health to degenerate and her body fat to waste away, and though I don’t know where she used her needle it was someplace which left no obvious marks.
I found out a couple of months after meeting and befriending her; though I was fairly new to escorting myself I had taken to it so well that most girls perceived me as an old hand at it long before I actually was. Marilyn saw me as a sort of big sister; I was perhaps seven or eight years older than her, took her on calls, gave her advice, complimented her beauty and helped her to hone her skill at talking to men so she could get more calls. She marveled at the fact that I had more confidence in her than she did in herself, so I reckon it’s not surprising that she reacted as she did the night I picked her up from a call and she hesitantly asked if I could take her somewhere before dropping her at home. I agreed, and followed her directions to a nasty, seedy neighborhood in which I didn’t feel comfortable even slowing down, much less stopping. But she got out, knocked on a door and made an exchange, then got back in my car. At first she sat quietly, then suddenly said, “Aren’t you going to say anything?”
“What’s to say?” I asked; the nature of the exchange had been pretty obvious, even to one who had never seen such a thing before.
“Doesn’t it bother you?” she asked incredulously.
“It bothers me that my friend is suffering,” I said, “but I don’t think of you as less of a person because of it.”
“Well, I do!” she sobbed. “I never wanted you to know about this!”
“How long have you been doing it?” I asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“OK, I’m sorry. But I’m not going to stop being your friend because of it.” There was a lot more I wanted to say, but Marilyn was not the kind of person who could be forced to talk or listen; when she was ready to hear what I had to say she would let me know.
The weeks went by, and though she never again asked me to take her to get her “medicine” she did obliquely mention the subject a few times, and that’s how it went until the night I brought her to a call in Chalmette, a suburb east of the city. Within a few minutes of dropping her off my cell phone rang and I had a conversation which went something like this:
“Hi, the client has cancelled so I’m going home.”
“Oh damn, I’ll turn right around and pick you up.”
“No, Maggie will get me.”
“What? Marilyn, this is Maggie!”
“No, it’s late so I think I’ll call it a night.”
The light went on. “Are you in trouble?”
“Yes, but I’ll be on at the usual time tomorrow.”
“Do you think you can get away?”
“I think so, just let me know when you’ve got something for me.”
“OK, I’ll pull up and open the door; you run out and jump in.”
“Sounds great. Goodnight.”
I did just as we planned; she ran out and jumped in with the guy in hot pursuit, and I took off like the proverbial bat out of hell. “What the hell happened back there?” She explained that while she was in the bathroom, the sneaky bastard had rummaged through her purse and discovered her syringe, then when she came out he flashed a badge and threatened to bust her for possession if she didn’t call the service, tell them he had cancelled and stay with him all night for free. Luckily, she had more sense, but it wasn’t over; the dirty cop called Pam back spouting all sorts of threats (he had even managed to get my license plate number) and Pam demanded Marilyn go back; this was Pam’s last straw for me, and after that night I quit her agency.
But in the meantime I took the hit for Marilyn; I brought her home and called the sleazy prick myself, offering him a freebie if he would relent. He agreed, but only on condition I give him my phone number; he then became the first regular of my new service, and though I hated dealing with the son of a bitch I bided my time until he eventually made the mistake of offering to pay a girl in cocaine, upon which I told him if he ever called us again I would report him to both his employers and the federal drug authorities.
When Marilyn found out what I had done for her, she apologized profusely on the phone and sent me a dozen roses accompanied by a thank-you card. Then several days later when I was taking her on another call, I felt it was time to say something: “You know I’ll help you if you want to quit.”
There was no avoidance now. “I’ve been thinking of going to the methadone clinic, but you have to go every day first thing in the morning.”
“So isn’t it worth it?”
“It’s not that, it’s just that relying on cabs I can’t be sure I’ll get there on time.”
“Well, I’ll take you then.”
“It’s every single morning at like 7 AM!”
“You would do that for me?” she asked incredulously, through suddenly tear-filled eyes.
“Of course. That’s what friends are for.”
She was overcome with weeping, and promised to consider it, but several days later she called me. “I wanted you to know I went to the clinic this morning.”
“Marilyn, that’s great! Do you need me to take you tomorrow?”
“No, I have to do this myself, but I really appreciate your offering.” And she was as good as her word; a few days later more roses arrived, with a card saying “Thank you for believing in me.” As the months went by she weaned herself from the methadone as well; whenever she overslept she would get a couple of Vicodin tablets from her roommate, which eased the pain of withdrawal enough for her to tough it out until the next day.
Then came the offer from her musician client which I described on the 22nd, which she decided to accept. I drove her to the airport, and had never seen her so excited and happy. “What about your methadone?” I asked; “can you handle being away for three days?”
“I’ve got some Vicodins,” she said, “and they really do help, so I’m not going back to the clinic.”
“Of course, now you’ll get hooked on the Vicodin.”
“Just like methadone’s better than heroin, Vicodin’s better than methadone. And I only need a few a day, so it’s not like I’m popping them. And once I know I’m over the methadone withdrawal in a few weeks I’ll start tapering the vikes off as well.” Her voice was strong and confident, and I really felt she could do it. “And after this weekend, I’m going home, where it will be even easier to quit.”
“Going home!” I said in surprise. “Oh, I’m so happy for you! I’ll miss you, but I do think it’s the best thing for you.”
“Yeah, I’ve been really homesick,” she admitted, “but I couldn’t go back before because of…my problem. But now that’s over, thanks to you.”
“You did it, not me. You were the one who made the decision, got up every morning and toughed it out.”
“Yeah, but you convinced me I could by believing in me.”
When we got there, we hugged for a long time; she had very few possessions she cared about, and planned to fly straight home from Houston. I never saw her again. But before she walked into the terminal with her two tatty little suitcases, she said “I’ll never forget you, Maggie.”
And I’ll never forget you either, sweetheart. I promise.