Debby and I were now unofficially living together.
She often disappeared, sometimes for days at a time. At first I used to question her. But she always shut me down, and I soon realized I would have to accept this.
No doubt she was off nodding with her junked up punk friends.
She was deep into the hardcore heroin lifestyle. I was a drug dilettante at best. If I did indulge with her, I usually snorted it.
I hated that bruised inner arm look that junkies sported; always having to wear long sleeves, even in the summer.
Of course, years later, I would stop caring about those bruises – unless they signified a collapsed vein and a hunt for a new needle target on my body.
I really loved working on 51st street. This group of women became my little dysfunctional posse. It only took me a week before it hit me like Ike did Tina –
these women were THE poster children for “Daddy Issues.” They had enough absentee father issues to fill several Lifetime Movies of the Week.
They were strong, independent, tough talking but underneath, fragile. They either looked to men to validate them – or mistrusted and rejected men altogether.
There were some repugnant aspects to the job.
We did receive our share of degenerates calling. After all, we were advertising in Screw Magazine, the preeminent and spectacularly tasteless hard-core porn newspaper.
I learned to hang up on the heavy breathers, who were obviously calling so they could masturbate while I described “a leggy blonde with D cup breasts.”
And every few weeks, I received at least one heartbreaking phone call from a wife, denouncing me as a slut and a whore.
After calmly explaining that I was just a receptionist, I would suggest that this was an issue best discussed with her husband.
I tried to be as consoling as possible.
What woman wants to find out that not only is her husband unfaithful, but a whoremonger?
I reassured them that it had NOTHING to do with them and everything to do with the fact that men are dogs. And had I known he was married, I NEVER would have booked the appointment. (This part was a lie; most of the clients were married. But these women were usually crying.)
And then there were the customers who wanted to book a session with ME. Chiefly, because I WASN’T available.
He’d chat with all these sexed up women, who were pouting or giving him seductive eyes.
I’d ask, “Okay, so and so. Who would you like to see?”
He’d look right past Kathy, her D cup breasts spilling over a leopard bra that her tangerine baby doll dress barely covered, her long gorgeous legs clad in thigh high stockings that ended in leopard fuck-me pumps.
And look at me, In black jeans, baggy black Ramones tee shirt, Converse Hi Tops.
“You,” and point at me.
“I’m not available.”
“I only want to see YOU.”
Did I forget to mention the geeky glasses I wore?
What a perverse thing the male psyche is.
One busy Thursday, Kathy, Nicki and Gail were all on the schedule. Those were my favorite days, when all my girlfriends were working. The shift flew by, with us making wisecracks and acting silly in between the steady flow of customers.
A client who’d been there before came in to see Kathy. He was a big, beefy looking Irish guy and he brought 2 friends who I thought looked familiar. They had a drink in the reception area, and all three disappeared into bedrooms with a girl.
After a few minutes, Kathy came out.
“He doesn’t have enough money. He wants to go to an ATM machine and come back.”
“Tell him to put it on a credit card.”
“He doesn’t want it showing up on his card. He’s married.”
Most of them were. It’s not like the statement listed “51st Whorehouse.” It was a dummy entertainment corporation. Still, he wasn’t the first married customer to be skittish about using his credit card.
But no one had ever come in and left to go get more money.
I immediately became VERY nervous.
“Was he naked when you discussed this?”
“Yes! Of course!”
Although I gave rates on the phone, money was never discussed or changed hands until a client was “completely comfortable.”
Theoretically, undercover police officers are not allowed to be naked. It’s much easier to construct a case for entrapment if the police office is nude.
But now he was going to get dressed and leave and come back?
I heard him in the hallway. Now his two friends were out of their rooms, as well.
Did all three of them come inadequately fixed for cash?
Something was VERY WRONG.
My first thought was, I’ve GOT to hide the session log. I was shoving it in my bag when the three of them came stomping in the reception area.
“WE’RE THE POLICE, AND THIS IS A RAID!”
Could this be a practical joke? Please let this be a fucked up prank.
One of them flashed his badge at me and said,
“There was an offer of prostitution made here. You’re under arrest!”
I answered him,
“I didn’t make anybody any offer of prostitution.”
He answered angrily, “What do you think is going on in all those rooms?”
I answered, “Those are consenting adults.”
He became enraged and yelled in my face, “You’re under arrest! Now face the wall and SHUT UP!”
They stomped through the townhouse, snatching the women from the rooms.
They sat them in the reception area huddled together. Several of them were crying.
I would NOT cry.
I looked at Nicki. Her face was a dispassionate mask.
I set my face the same way.
An officer led me into the kitchen and handcuffed me. They interrogated the two clients who had been in session when the raid started. They were issued tickets and sent on their way.
Now they began to lay siege to the townhouse. They tore through the desk, through the closets where the girls kept their street clothes and belongings, flinging things every which way.
Watching them unnecessarily ransack our place made me more angry than scared.
I got mouthy. Demanded to see a warrant. Challenged them as to what evidence they had.
They ignored me and continued to tear the place apart.
A female officer accompanied the girls into the bedroom, where they were allowed to change into their street clothes. And then, we were led out, handcuffed in pairs.
I was handcuffed to Nicki. Thank God. She said “Well, if I have to be handcuffed to someone, I’m glad it’s YOU.”
I was relieved Debby wasn’t working that day. She’d never survive a day in jail, with her heroin habit.
The back of a police car is quite odd looking. There are no handles on the doors or any window mechanisms. There’s a grill separating you from the front seat.
It’s basically a cage on wheels.
We were driven to the local precinct, where they fingerprinted us, and took all our belongings. We had to remove our belts.
We were allowed our one phone call. I dialed my boyfriend’s number and got his answering machine.
I was put into a postage stamp sized cell. I tried to stay calm, despite the close quarters. One officer had told us we’d be processed, arraigned, and probably out the next day. I wondered how I would survive the night in this tiny airless cell.
I needn’t have worried.
After a few hours, we were led outside and put into a van. We looked at one another questioningly.
Finally, I asked,”Where are we going?”
The officer driving said over his shoulder, “Central Booking.”
My head went numb.
This was a notorious detention center in downtown Manhattan.
People got KILLED in the Tombs.
Bianca, a petite curvy brunette, started to weep. I comforted her.
“Shh, it’s okay. We’ll be out by tomorrow.”
The officer sitting up in the front turned slightly, and said to me,
“They will. Not you. You were just charged with promoting prostitution.
That’s a felony charge.”
My heart stopped.
Oh, dear God. I’m fucked.
These women were fucking 12 guys a day, and I’m a felon? I’m a goddamned receptionist.
At Central Booking, we were taken into a narrow courtyard, then led through a tiny armored booth, and then along a maze of concrete and poorly lit corridors.
We were led down one flight of stairs, then another, then another, then another. I was beginning to understand why it was called “The Tombs.”
The holding cell was a large room, about twenty feet long, fifteen feet wide. Along one side were metal bars. In one corner was a filthy toilet and sink.
A shiny metal bench ran alongside the rest of the perimeter. The walls were a putrid light green under glaring flourescent light.
It was filled with an assortment of 40 of the scariest looking women I had ever seen.
Some of them didn’t even look like women.
This was not like any female “sexy inmate” porn.
They were filthy, and beat up looking. They stunk like garbage. The other prostitutes were skanky streetwalkers.
There was one fairly clean, almost presentable woman in there.
I later found out she had been arrested trying to sell her baby for drugs.
After the corrections officer slammed the door shut, we stood huddled together while the Tomb’s finest looked us up and down.
The hard-bitten wise-cracking tone I’d adopted with the policeman disappeared, and was replaced by
I thought I was such a hot shot, playing fast and loose with the law.
But now- I imagined myself beaten. Stabbed.
Just last week there had been an article in the paper about a woman whose face was completely shattered against the very bench I was now looking at. By another inmate of the Tombs.
The Tombs is a place with signs posted to visitors that say:
RAZORS KNIVES SHANKS SHIVS BULLETS
And any other weapon capable of causing injury and/or
otherwise endangering the safety of the institution
WILL RESULT IN YOUR IMMEDIATE ARREST
Who was going to help me now?
Debby was probably off high, somewhere.
My boyfriend hadn’t answered the phone.
My family knew nothing of this job, and there was NO WAY I would ever each out to them.
I. Was. Dead.
Next week: The Conclusion! Phone Girl in a Whorehouse, Part 4.
Have you ever gotten yourself into bad trouble? Or been arrested?
Talk to me. I’m listening.