Biblical Apples

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Chapter 26: Philippians 4:13

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

She took a long drag off her cigarette, crushed it in the ashtray, and flipping through the jukebox menu selections, she said, “It really started out as a joke, kind of a dare. I was out with two of my girlfriends, passing through Sylvan. Normally, we wouldn’t be looking to do something there, but we saw the amateur night sign, and one of my friends says, ‘Hey, want to go tease some dicks?’ We went back and forth for a few minutes, drove around the place about five times, and decided to park and go inside.”

“What happened once you got inside?”

“Well, Flynn, as it turned out, was in the lobby, saw us enter, and offered each of us $100 to dance for five minutes on-stage. My friends chickened out, but I wasn’t driving that night and already had some liquor-fed courage, so I agreed.”

“Had you ever done anything like that before?”

“I've had a campus job with the art department, posing nude, but that's been done tastefully. I'm proud of my body and comfortable in my skin, but I didn't realize how distasteful it is to be objectified. I never even thought about it until that night, but he was very persuasive. I saw a cute, preppy-looking guy whose argument made sense. ‘One hundred dollars for five minutes of work, that’s more than the president gets paid’, and he handed me a Benjamin.”

“So how does it work after that?”

“There’s a dressing room backstage; the place is so old that it used to be a legit theater with balconies, really pretty architecture. You select some cassettes from their music and basically come out with your clothes on when they call for you, and you start dancing and taking off items of clothing. You can’t even see people past the first two rows because the spotlight is shining right on you.”

“Considering that you never had done anything like this, how did you feel?”

“It was weird because I definitely felt slutty, but it also was turning me on until...”

“Until what?”

“Until they started shouting for me to take off my panties. I guess my boobs weren’t enough. Like I said, it really was weird because I was turned on, but I wasn’t going to let them see that. Those old perverts shine flashlights on the girls’ privates, and even though I was a little drunk, I wasn’t going to let that happen.”

“I guess that didn’t go over too well.”

“No because the previous dancers all obliged. One girl even let some guy put his face there, so I got booed off the stage.”

“What kind of reaction did you get when you went back stage?”

“I gave Flynn back his money and told him I wasn’t amateur night material.”

“What did he say?”

“He agreed and that opened up a whole other world for me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I agreed to go out with him that night, and he promised to take me back to the school. We went to a nice Italian place in Northwood right around closing time and had a nice meal and talked business.”

“This would be working for his escort service, I guess?”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“How do you get talked into something like that?”

“It starts with needing the money. I’ve paid for my entire education with loans, scholarship money, campus jobs, and known nothing more than working and going to school. Again, he was very persuasive, and the idea of being wined and dined, even if by some older man, and getting paid $300 on top of that sounded great, but it got complicated right from the beginning.”

“What do you mean?”

“Flynn set me up with a 50-plus year old guy, and we went out on a date, again to a nice restaurant, but there seemed to be a misunderstanding on my part.”

“In what sense?”

“There was a fine-print aspect to all of this in that if someone I was dating wished to have sex with me by bringing up the conversation, then I was to comply. This gentleman was a little upset when I told him no, but that was only the beginning.”

“Let me guess. Flynn wasn’t too happy.”

“He let me know that I was passing up another $500, my share, by not having sex with this client, and that I made him look bad in the process. When I found out about being able to make $500 for having sex, and I weighed it with all the hours I have spent working, I agreed to give it a try, keeping in mind the cost of loans and post-graduate education.”

“How much did it cost a client to have sex with you?”

“It was the cost of the date plus an additional $1000 per hour of my time afterward.” She said this with a pause for effect as she dug through a carryall shoulder bag for another cigarette, lit it, and again blew smoke into the ceiling fan above their table.

“Wow!”

“Yeah. Wow!”

Mike weighed her words, saw her matter-of-fact approach, and asked, “How many times did you have sex with these exclusive clients?”

“From April of last year right until he was arrested, I was clearing about $1000 a week. I put $35,000 in the bank for my schooling.”

“What were the negatives in all this?”

“I had a hard time being with out-of-shape old men, but at least most of them were kind and gentle, but there were several who were high-profile, business community members with wives and kids. That really bothered me. You would be shocked if I told you who they were. I was saddened by all of it, but the biggest negative was Flynn. He lived a secret normal life on the campus, being an education major. I found out later that he knew people on my floor and had some control over them as well. He knew my schedule and where I stayed, and he made a point of keeping in close contact.” She looked at Mike with a helpless expression. “I was deep into the role that he had set up for me. I hated him, but at first I was afraid of who he might tell and how that would impact my future.”

“Didn’t you ever think of just going to the authorities and telling the truth?”

“No, but I didn’t want to be enslaved anymore. Even with him being arrested, I thought of myself as subhuman, and I was worried that somehow his other interests would lead back to me.” She took a long drag off her cigarette and absently examined it before flicking an ash. “This is disgusting. I don’t know why I’m smoking. I've had a run of bad choices lately."

He looked at the cigarette framed by her fingernails and thought of her use of the word 'choice' and where it fit in her hand. And he stared at her hand until her voice brought him out of the trance.

"I had reached the point where I pretty much decided then that my life wasn’t worth living. That night, I opened a bottle of Bacardi hoping to get drunk enough to swallow the bottle of sleeping pills that I kept staring at on my nightstand.” She looked at him with the oily film of tears in her eyes, cresting, spilling onto her cheeks, and lubricating the path for her words.

He had worked up to that point to keep the entirety of their conversation at a generic level, but it had reached home, and there were deeply personal things that he needed to address. He was trying to find the humanity, and as he contemplated her words, he felt the burning sting of the bites, felt the shock of the sadistic squeezing, felt the blood streaming down his clawed back, felt the shame of being immobilized by a girl’s legs, felt the hot, spontaneous trail of his urine. He looked downward and watched the first of his tears plop onto the cracked linoleum.

“Are you all right?” She placed her hand right hand on top of his forearm, her long fingers gently stroking him.

He looked at her hand and jerked away from the attention. “Why the fuck did you do that to me, Carol?”

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