Man, it’s so dark out here. Driving up and down the track looking for some sweet little thing to pick up, take some place even darker for a fast fling.
It don’t hurt anybody. I wear protection, she gets some spending money. Win, win.
But then I go home feeling even more empty than I did fifteen minutes before. And then I thought I was all dried up. Didn’t think there was a way to feel worse. But there is. There always is.
First time was a year ago. I was out with my buddies, having a good time. We were drunk, I can’t lie about that. My friend was driving and we went past this group of girls. We picked them all up and took them to party in a pay-by-the-hour motel.
Afterward I was so sick. I wanted to die. How could I have done that? But I did. I swore to myself I’d never do that again. But I did do it again. Once a week turned into twice a week. That turned into every other night. Then every night.
I stopped being with my wife. You know what I mean? I couldn’t look at her face knowing what I was doing. Knowing that I was looking for a supplement for her. I just kept telling her I was too tired. That I was working late.
She knew something was up. She kicked me out. Won’t let me see the kids either.
I picked up a girl tonight. She was standing on the corner looking for a “date”. She was cute. I knew she was pretty young, but I can never tell how old. These girls are always trying look older or younger…or whatever. I think they just don’t want to look like themselves.
After we did our thing, she sat on the edge of the bed and put her clothes on. She started crying. I didn’t want to be nice to her. If I’d been kind then I’d have to realize that’s she’s real. She’s a person. I couldn’t live with myself if I thought about that.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“Yup,” I said.
I threw the money next to her.
“This was my first.”
She put the money into the pocket of way too short shorts.
“Well, you need a ride back to your corner? Or can you walk?”
“I don’t want to do this.”
“But you do.” I pulled on my boxers and jeans. “If you want a ride, you better just shut up about it.”
I drove her back. She sat in the back seat and kept crying. It was a deep, from the gut cry. I made me angry and shamed and nauseous all at the same time. Her pain reached into whatever was left of my soul and squeezed it, wringing it of any drop of emotion that remained.
“I’m sorry,” I said, stopping the car. “I didn’t know.”
“Didn’t know what?”
I couldn’t think of an answer. I didn’t know she was just a little girl in big girl make-up and clothes? That she’d cry because I’d just paid her for a couple minutes of pleasure? That she’d suffer for the rest of her life for what I’d just done to her? That I was so lonely and empty that all I wanted was to make someone else lonely and empty too?
“I didn’t know it was the first time for you.” It was all I could say.
“Now you know.” She stepped out of the car.
The police station was well-lit. Too bright for my eyes. I felt hung over, but I hadn’t been drinking. The man at the counter looked up at me. I expected a tall desk, like in the movies. This guy was more like a receptionist.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
“I want to turn myself in.”
“Man, I don’t know what it’s called. Hiring a prostitute. Many times. Statutory rape. Being a selfish idiot. Whatever. Just arrest me, okay?”
“Son, I think you got something wrong with your head.”
“You’ve gotta put me in jail. If you don’t I’ll do it again. I can’t stop.”
“Alright. I’ll go get the detective.”
I was ushered into an interview room. It was small and damp and smelled like urine. The chair I sat in was stained. I didn’t want to think with what.
A woman walked into the room. She had the fiercest eyes I’d ever seen. This was no cop. No, this was a different thing altogether.
“What your problem, boy?” she said. “You think you come in here and play a joke?”
“I, I, I. I nothing. You gonna sit there and listen to me a minute. You understand that?”
“You been picking up girls? Giving them a few bucks so you can rape them?”
“It’s not rape, really.”
“Oh, you think they like what they do? You think they ain’t controlled by no one? No, sir. They got themselves pimps who take every penny they get. And if they don’t make enough that pimp gonna beat them half to death.”
“Shut up.” She moved around the room like a tiger. “You think them girls is safe out there? They are fourteen, fifteen years old. That ain’t a joke. How old are you?”
“Right.” She shook her head. “And no sense.”
“I can’t stop.”
“You can’t stop? I promise you you can.”
“How can you promise that?”
She stopped pacing, stood with her hands on the table and put her face right in mine. “You ain’t a bad person.”
“No, you ain’t. I got a sixth sense about this stuff. Life on the streets turns a girl, makes her sense things like an animal. And I can tell you ain’t a bad person. There’s still good in you.”
“How do you know?”
“Boy, didn’t I just tell you about that sixth sense? I tell you, you got no idea what this all about.”
“What’s this all about?”
“Life. Death. Misery. Or joy. You got to choose, my friend. You got to pick life or death. Misery or joy.”
“It’s too late.”
“It ain’t never too late. I don’t care if you eighty-something years old, sucking in your last breath. It ain’t never too late.” She stood up straight, pulled the other chair out and plopped on it. “What your name?”
“Jared, I gotta tell you something. You been hurting those girls. It ain’t no game out there. They ain’t grateful to you for picking them up. You ain’t rocking their world. You’re taking something from them they can’t never get back.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“I am, too.” Her eyes were softer now. “I was that girl on the street. Ten years ago. You know how many times I got raped and beat and stabbed? Cause I don’t know. I lost count. And every time I turned a trick, part of me died.”
“I feel like that, too.”
“I know you do. Don’t you want that to stop?”
“I ain’t supposed to say stuff like this, but you gotta hear it, Jared.” She came closer. “God’s got a plan for your life. He’s had it since the day you were born. And you ain’t fulfilling it picking up little girls for a fifteen minute roll in the hay. You know that.”
I couldn’t answer her.
She wrote on a piece of paper. “Now, this the number of a friend of mine. He’s gonna help you. You better go see him or I’ll be checking in on you till you do.”
“Jared, we gotta get your soul filled back up. You been dumping it out. Can’t keep living like that, son.”
“You gonna spend the night in the hold. Then tomorrow you call my friend.”
I felt my soul burn within me. I wanted to believe I was choosing life and joy.
I called her friend the next day.