“My parents died so I was put into juvies and foster homes and the prison system from an early age,” he/she told me.
“And every day there you get raped by everyone. I was constantly raped. I was raped every day from the age of about 7 to 18.” I had the tape recorder in her face. A bunch of other prostitutes were listening. It was the meat packing district fifteen years ago and there always seemed to be a fire of rotting meat on the sidewalk. The smells from the fire hit everything and you had to breathe through your mouth. I was doing my job of interviewing people.
“You lose track of who you are. Man, women, whatever. I had no gender.
“Now I take hormones, I’ve had my breasts put in. I only need one more operation to get my dick cut off but it costs a lot of money and they make you do a lot of therapy before they do it.
“Meanwhile, Giuliani keeps pushing us further and further west.”
She stopped for a second and turned towards the street. A car was driving by slowly. “Yoo hoo!,” she said. The car kept going.
“He’s a regular,” she said. “Every Tuesday. Lives in Brooklyn with a wife and five kids but you know, sometimes a man needs something else.
“Let me ask you,” she said, “where am I going to get a job? I’m not going to be able to get a fancy camera like you have. I’m not going to be able to get a regular job like you have. What am I going to do? Who would hire me? You think I like doing this? But this is all I can do.
“I can’t walk outside during the day. People think I’m a freak. I can only go out at night. First the entire system abused me. I’ve got no parents. I never had a childhood. I’ve been abused every day of my life.
“And now all I can do is get these customers. I don’t even know if I want that operation. Guys like it there, you know what I’m saying? They live their secret lives at home with their wives but when they are with me the truth comes out. In a big way!” She laughed.
“So now what else is there for me to do? And we’re being pushed away. Further and further west. Eventually we’ll fall into the river. And Giuliani doesn’t care. There’s no support system for us. No place I can go to get my check in exchange for all the abuse the system put me through. All the abuse I’m getting now.”
Another car slows down. She wiggles over there in her high heels. But then I think the car sees me, my camera guy, a photographer, my assistant, and occasionally we took another big guy with us just in case there was trouble which there sometimes was. The car sped off.
“You guys are causing me too much trouble tonight,” she said, “I need to make some money. Go on another corner. We’re all here. Every night. There’s no shortage of people like us.”
We left that corner. Another transvestite offered to put on a mic while he gave a blowjob to his next customer. I forget what happened but that situation didn’t work out. We went to another corner and talked to another guy.
“I’m on all the lists,” he said. “I get calls from every talk show. They want a gay prostitute, that’s me. They want a transgender guy, that’s me. They want an abused kid who dresses like a girl,that’s me. I’ve been on over five talk shows.
“What? No, they don’t pay me. They say that’s not allowed. But who knows. Maybe someone will see me.”
He twirls around. He’s in a tight bright yellow leather coat. Red pants. Glasses. A beret.
“I can be a star,” he says. “Discovered.” The corner was dead that night and he wasn’t getting customers.
“I’m not a trannie,” he said. “Guys know what they get with me. I’m full man. No operation here, baby! No sir! Not like those trannies over there. But they trust me.”
We went across the street and watched while he waited for customers. But we waited a long time and eventually the night was over. The sun was starting to rise.
The buildings were warehouses for processing the meat that would then get shipped to restaurants all over the city. Guys with bloody smocks would occasionally walk around, not even paying attention to the prostitutes that worked the same blocks, corners, and buildings. Everyone did their job, servicing the rest of the richest city in the world.
15 years later, about a month ago, I’m at that exact same corner. I’m eating breakfast with a friend of mine in the café now at that corner, Pastis. I wondered if everyone who used to work this corner had been pushed into the river.
Everyone in the restaurant looked beautiful. Like movie stars. How lucky they all are. I wished I had a tape recorder at each one of their tables, recording the conversations. I’d get a transcription service to write them up. I’d match each transcription with a photo of the table. At night I’d read each transcription before going to sleep. What were they talking about, that good looking couple. Or those four pretty model-looking girls? Or that ugly guy that was sitting with the three beautiful girls. I want to know.
My friend and I sat down. He’s the CEO of a company that collects data about people while they surf the “world wide web”. All around us were CEOs and models. I wondered what percentage of the restaurant had sex the night before. It reminded me of a friend of mine who once made a book of photographs he took. It was called “Tenderness”. Couples would beep his pager when they were about to have sex then leave the door unlocked. He’d enter into the house and take photos of them in the dark. He’d be as quiet as possible and then let himself out of the house. The photos were beautiful. And in the back of the book you’d see photographs of what the people looked like in their everyday lives. Completely different.
“We know pretty much everything about everyone ,” my friend, the CEO, said to me that day at Pastis. “We track all the cookies they get from every website they visit. We know where they’ve been, what they like, what they don’t like. We probably can guess their politics, we know what TV they like, what movies they like. Who they are married to and if they might be cheating. Maybe we can set up a service. Pay $1000 and find out if your husband will probably cheat on you in the future. We know that also.”
I sipped at my coffee. Still too hot. I was thinking about all of that data. What I would do with it. So much to learn about everyone. An infinite reality show. It’s amazing how things change every day.
I decided then, I wanted to live at least one more day.
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