In My Veins
by Faith Eirans
My woman is beautiful. She walks like she is thanking the earth for every footstep it allows her to take. She hates shoes, which I love, because the arch of her instep is like a bridge between my brokenness and her completion, and seeing her bare feet answers some of my eternal questions momentarily. Her hips are large enough to dwarf my hands, and her eyes penetrate rather than absorb.
Her name is Lillian.
She came by one day, a little too confident to mark her as one of my girls, a little too sexy to turn away.
“If you want them off the streets, get them off the blow,” Ian said to her that day. She blinked. He was leaning against the doorjamb of the building, low slung hips at an angle; angry eyes a little mystified by why a real woman would wander into our world. “They’re safer here than they are on their own. And anyways, Jake doesn’t treat them as bad as some of the other guys do, just knocks them around when they don’t pull their weight.”
She blinked again.
I had pulled up curbside just then, and I saw the tiny girl with bare toes peaking out underneath a pair of pseudo-professional corduroys. Curly hair clipped up on top of her head, she didn’t seem to understand that this wasn’t a place she should look quite so at ease.
The women were, as usual, too blown or wrapped around some john to notice her. Chin towards shoulder, she glanced at me. My cock twitched at the same time my chest seized and breath clicked through constrictions.
“I am Lillian,” she held her hand out to me. With her other she reached into her pocket and slipped out identification. “I’m not law enforcement. I am a student at the university. My graduate program requires fieldwork, and my interest is in the sex industry. May I have a few moments of your time?”
How does a man say no to eyes like those, that can probe into a human being and draw out all that is unrecognized? I led her through the lounge and office areas downstairs and drew her up the stairs into my apartments.
Her eyes flickered slightly at the clean simplicity of my living quarters, but she stepped over the threshold confidently, and sat with her feet tucked under her.
“What kind of time are you looking for, Lillian? I don’t do anything for free. If you want something from around here, you’re going to have to trade me for it.” I still hadn’t smiled at her. I was waiting to see how she would approach me now that we were alone.
“These women have a right to better lives. They need rehab, guidance, and opportunity. The institution that you perpetuate enslaves them to you.” Her voice was quiet, but her gaze held my attention. Her hands lay silent and slow in her lap.
“These women can leave whenever they want. I don’t keep them here against their will. Any physical harm that they come to is due solely to their request for something for nothing. Other than that, they are safe, protected, and given what they wish for – cocaine. The number of times that they have been in and out of rehab has got to be harder on them than just the submission to the addiction. I’d say that I run a fairly clean operation, given the situation.”
Lillian looked intrigued. After a long moment she simply asked if she could return that evening to observe.
“What is it that you’ll be doing for me, then?” I asked again.
“After I am done with my notes, we can have tea, and you can tell me all about why you work in a profession you hate.”
To do work in which one does not believe is a great affliction. As I go to my tasks each day, I am reminded of this, the burden of my disbelief in my own actions. But as I have found myself in this awkward and incredible profession, I come to view this disbelief as a challenge: how might I overcome the distaste I feel for these girls, dependent on me for their satisfaction as they are.
How do I administer their addiction without knowing myself for a fraud? How do I watch them slip into cars or saunter down alleyways with desperate and ineffectual men, lesser than I, without judging them, belittling them, denying them their humanity?
They come to me with wet eyes and slippery noses, lined up pretty and at odds with their chaotic lives.
That one, the one with the cutoffs and lacy pink bra – she has two kids in the system. Should I hate her for abandoning them? Should I cater to the disbelief, the lack of support, which was bred gently into me by harsh hands?
The one with the too-curly hair in the miniskirt, she’s blown. Too far gone to notice the clients anymore. She can barely see with pupils so swallowing, so consuming, her lids lie half-down to block the light of the dark nights. Should her world of internal visions disturb me so?
Over there, you see her? The one with the brassy breasts that shouldn’t be so proudly displayed, but are – she only comes at night. During the day she is a wife and mother to a fireman and their two little boys. She cleans, cooks, and creams herself waiting for her husband to fall asleep so she can slip out between the fingers of propriety into a world where legs are spread to both dispel and incite the darknesses that permeate humanity. She doesn’t do it for the drugs; her high comes from the strange men with their incompetencies that worship her for just a few moments at a time. She is the one I pity the most.
But then there is her, over there, who can’t really be my whore because she is a he; one whose clients don’t or do know it, cares or not. I tolerate her because she has such a pretty face; one that mirrors something of my own self-loathing.
My perch upon hypocrisy and white powder is as precarious as is my grip upon self-respect. I come to this work each day, angry, ready to slap them around because I believe what they do is wrong.
I believe that what I do is worse.
Hundreds of times I have peered into pairs of eyes unsobered by my handouts, looking to see if the truths behind the lies their bodies are telling them will peer back. I want to understand why it is that they continue to ravage themselves. I can’t stand the stuff that they’ve succumbed to. The very feel of it between my fingertips makes me vomit. But the little balloons pass from my safe to their hands as soon as they pay up in the small hours of the morning, and my boys watch over them as if they were worth more than what they are.
Hundreds more times I’ve found myself yanking back one of these girl’s hair, trying not to get too close to her unwashed skin and breath that smells like too many men. It is astounding to me how delicate women feel beneath my hands. Their bones are always so much sharper, finer, just so, at that angle so that I could easily slip finger through rib and flick open the cage; shatter it beneath my flesh-filled palms. Their neediness disgusts me, and when they come with nothing, no exchange other than their bodies to offer me, my fury flairs and I am relegated to the anger of my fathers and grandfathers. Perpetrating violence against women is my birthright and privilege. It is my greatest shame, as well.
Too many hands have forged me. My mettle tested and my metals misshapen; my forms are layered one upon the other with no soldering to harmonize them.
My mother weighed one hundred and two pounds. She was four foot eleven inches tall, with no hips to speak of; fifteen years old when she had me. I tore her apart, separated her pelvis and dislocated her tailbone on my way down. Her momma didn’t know what was going on, didn’t get her to a hospital because she was too ashamed of a teenaged daughter with no virtue left.
Somehow my mother survived. She never had any other kids, of course, but she was still alive…if that is what you’d like to call it. I never met my father, the man who was big enough to make me and destroy my mother’s womanhood all in one go. But I met plenty of other men through her addictions. It was they that taught me life. Should I deny them, negate their existence by eradicating their legacy of me?
I want beauty and purity. For something – anything – spectacular to take root and grow from seeds in filth. My upbringing does not allow for an absolute escape into a world of ignorant goodness. I cannot bring myself to leave off the heritage I have been bequeathed. But the lotus flower blooms from mud. Do my reprehensible actions negate the intentions I have slowly carved out of the filth I am surrounded by?
I turned sixteen in the summer of 1981, when the relative simplicity of the 70s were still permeating everyone’s comfort levels, and the recession and oil shortage was still in close memory. My grandmother had died the winter before, and since my momma wasn’t useful to anyone except her men, I looked forward to my junior year of high school as a time to ditch and gamble.
I learned how to manipulate and maneuver that year. I learned the difference between a good man and a threatened one. I learned how to stand tall enough to announce my good intentions, and how to step back and when. And I learned how to listen and look.
These two qualities kept me alive throughout most of my late teens and early twenties, and I became adept at eluding several sorts of sticky situations. Listening between the words to hear the things left unspoken allowed me to learn the ways of criminals and honest men alike, and to happen upon the fact that they were often not very different from one another.
Rory was my mother’s pimp. He is also the earliest man I remember in my life. He wasn’t kind, or gentle. He wasn’t thoughtful. He was cunning and mostly mean. Too prideful to look outside of his own interests and see how his actions affected others, he ended up teaching me how to look after myself in the harshest possible ways. But listening in on his transactions and watching him deal coke and blows to girls like my momma was some of the best education a boy could get.
It was the debauchery of this year that caused me to realize the potential I have, and in the end I was able to take over my mother’s pimp’s business only because of the realization that I was not a good man, but that I could look myself in the mirror if I did whatever work I chose honestly and thoroughly.
Lillian’s observation methods were unique. She came and sat with the girls, asked if she could observe their interactions with their clients. Calling them clients sounded absurd to me, but it made the girls feel respected. As though there was merit in their work. My derision towards them began to extend to her, and I began to feel angry. I wanted to see her fail in her endeavors because I wanted to keep her intentions all for myself. But she came that night and several more, and watched them defile themselves with men who didn’t deserve a woman’s love. She watched them hunger for the interaction because it was the only way that they could get what they wanted at the end of the night.
I am not a good man. My intentions are mediocre. I want to be a good man, but I cannot bring myself to deny the past. I cannot bring myself to ignore who I was raised to be, what was engraved into my veins throughout my childhood. When confronted with Lillian’s questions about why I persisted in work that I abhor, I could only answer honestly. It was work that made me wealthy, and so long as I didn’t ever succumb to the drugs or girls myself, I would regard myself with a modicum of self-respect.
We fell in love so quickly I was a little taken aback. I didn’t know that someone could make me feel anything other than superior.
Lillian made me want to be better. Lillian wanted me to recognize that my perpetuation of the illegal and debauched system was filthy; she wanted me to recognize my potential – the potential she understood when she looked into me with those eyes.
So my beautiful woman, the one who bridges the gaps between my completion and the brokenness of the world; the one who pushes herself to overcome her negativities in hopes of bettering the lives of those she feels to be less fortunate; the one who calls me her man, causes me to question my intentions.
How is where I have come from affecting me now? How much honor do I pay to the circumstances of birth that have forged me? My intentions are strong. Perhaps not always good, but they are clear and robust and well founded. I intend to be the best man I can be, given what circumstances I have been handed.
Lillian wants more.
A lover of letters, words, phrases, emotions, beauty, terror, love and hate. Faith writes stories to paint the pictures that only she is seeing. Although she doesn’t have an online presence, she does have another story in the Dungeon: Emotional Butterflies
Written for Walking With Intention. If you’d like to be a part of the challenge, find more info here: Walking With Intention. But first leave a comment and let Faith know how you feel about what she said.
Featured image via www.chinatimes.nl