Cities without landmarks
Niagara Falls, U.S./Canada
Sept. 30, 1999
Friday night, August 20, half past pumpkin hour
Still wondering why Jasmine has chosen to follow Allison to a 12-step meeting, of all things. Feeling like a jilted schoolgirl, I have resisted the urge to call Jasmine because clingy females make her paranoid.
“Sounds more like a love affair than a business deal,” she remarked, some years ago, when Allison was working for Liane. Like most madams, Liane sometimes loses her objectivity, and she started treating Allison like a long-lost daughter. But Jasmine saw something darker: “In these protigie relationships there’s a lesbian attraction on the older woman’s part. When the new girl starts asserting her independence, it’s a disaster.” Jasmine was surprisingly hard on Liane for getting attached to Allison. The fact that Liane and Allison didn’t even have sex made the whole thing even more appalling …
The last thing I want to provoke is Jasmine’s revulsion — but I’m dying to know what inspired her to go out with Allison tonight.
A late-night call from Randy took my mind off all this — and sent my heart into a tailspin.
“I’m almost done here,” Randy said in a hopeful voice. He was nearing the end of his shift at the gym. “Didn’t know if you’d be there,” he added.
A reckless voice in my head whispered, “Invite him over. You know you want it.” But I couldn’t help myself — I had to make Randy respect me. I held out. What for, I thought, are you going to marry this guy? He’s not going to buy you a diamond bracelet! Get over it! But I couldn’t, and — panties throbbing, head swimming with pleasure at the sound of his voice — I stood my ground.
“Duty calls,” I told him. “I have to go through this manuscript one more time.” My fake editing job comes in handy for explaining anything — even the most basic female wiles. The disappointment in Randy’s voice was gratifying, but I added: “Thank goodness, I’ve got the weekend to myself” — letting on that, while I’m hard to bed, the coast is clear.
He picked up quickly on the fact that Matt was away, and made a date for tomorrow afternoon — at the Frick. I think I could have asked him to meet me at the town morgue, that’s how guys are when they really want you. Randy’s not paying me, and he can’t take me out in the style to which I’m accustomed — but a penniless lover can court a girl quite ardently. Randy’s currency, after all, is passion. I hung up fast before I could weaken and change my mind.
Saturday, almost 3 a.m.
Unable to sleep, have been re-reading “Money of the Mind” by Jim Grant. The steady rant of a Wall Street bear should have a cold-shower effect — but, even the history of Citibank’s lending practices won’t extinguish the craving I feel. Was it prudent to put Randy off till tomorrow? Does holding out give me the upper hand — or simply increase the chance of my falling in love with a totally unsuitable suitor? What about Matt? Why doesn’t he make me feel like a sex-starved virgin? What the hell is wrong with me, anyway …
Finally dozed off at 4 a.m. Awakened by a bizarre phone call from Allison. “I want you to lose my number!” she wailed into the phone. “You had no right to sic that exploitative cunt onto me and my friends!” Allison — who never uses the C-word, except during sex — hung up before I could say a word. I was too perplexed to go back to sleep.
As I inhaled the reassuring aroma of freshly brewed French-roast Sumatran, the phone made my heart leap. No logical reason for Randy to be calling before our date — but I wanted to hear from him.
“You won’t believe where I was last night!” Jasmine said.
“Prostitutes Anonymous,” I smugly replied. “Sounds like you were a real hit.”
“Please. I wouldn’t go there if my life depended on it. Sexaholics is where the men are — if you want to call them that. But what a sorry selection. Those guys don’t deserve to have sex with anyone but themselves!”
“What were you doing there?” The truth was slowly dawning as the caffeine entered my blood stream.
“But that stupid bitch took me to a church basement on 14th Street! I asked her why we weren’t mingling with the Park Avenue sex addicts.”
“Wait — you were there looking for clients? No wonder she’s so upset with you,” I said. “I wish you two would learn how to express your feelings without calling each other names.”
“Upset with me? Why is she being so huffy? What a waste of my time!” Jasmine exclaimed. “There wasn’t a single guy at that meeting with one iota of client potential! ” She paused. “What do you mean? She’s calling me names?”
“Never mind,” my better self interjected. “It’s not worth repeating.”
Jasmine continued: “Listen, she’s lucky to have me in her life. I see things clearly. Half the guys who are claiming to be sexaholics are just sleazy AA members looking for free sex and the other half are compulsive gamblers and coke addicts. Not one of them has a real job. Sexaholics is just a pickup scene for guys who can’t get laid at the other 12-step meetings. They figure a sex addict is the only woman who’ll have them. I’m going to the Upper East Side meeting on Monday but I’m not that optimistic.”
“I don’t know if you should be meddling –”
“Do you know what these 12-step junkies do? They pick each other up at meetings — and the hottest-looking girls are competing for the most fucked-up guys! Charles Darwin would be turning in his grave!”
“I don’t know what you told her but she thought you were genuine — you’ve misled her.” Feeling sort of virtuous, I thought: Maybe this will teach Allie to appreciate the lack of interest I take in her recovery cult.
“Hey,” Jasmine protested. “I am genuine! She misled herself. And who the hell are you? An enemy of the open society! I’ll go to any meeting I want — this isn’t the goddamn Soviet Union, you know. It’s still a free country.”
“The Soviet Union? Wake up!” I snapped. “The 1980s are over, for God’s sake. It’s just that some people have feelings that they take very seriously –”
“She should thank me! At least I understand the fundamental laws of nature. The sexual marketplace belongs to us girls, and when we aren’t running it properly, we’re abandoning our responsibility to the human race. These meetings she goes to — it’s all part of a conspiracy to distort the natural market.”
“So why are you trolling for new business at these events? It’s no safer than running an ad in the Village Voice!” I never thought Jasmine, of all people, would look outside our private circle for new business. It was she who criticized Eileen for being “too eager” — and greedy.
“There’s an art to augmenting your existing client base,” she began. Against my will, my ears pricked up. “Girls like us can afford to be patient. So, you don’t say anything incriminating, you get to know the guy, find out where he works … You don’t pounce until you feel sure. It’s OK to do some extra hustling, if you’re not desperate for business. I’m sure there’s a better class of Sexaholics at the Temple ______ meeting. It’s right off Fifth Avenue. You should come with me.”
Just to get her off the phone, I half-agreed.
Now which bra to wear for my museum date with Randy? A black lace push-up — always appropriate when turning a trick — looks too calculating with a new boyfriend. Like I was planning to bring him to bed. A sleek black underwire — that’s more ambiguous. If I’m not getting paid, I expect to be seduced. And I want to be properly dressed — or undressed — for the occasion.
Niagara Falls, U.S./Canada
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