Last-minute orgasm

Time flies when you're being hustled by a veteran john. Fourth in a series.

Published July 19, 2001 7:31PM (EDT)

Friday afternoon, 2/11/00

Etienne is back from a short trip to Paris. "Realizing this is intolerably short notice," he began in a wheedling voice. "I hope you still remember who I am? What a week! Could we perhaps ... this evening? Allow me to forget this gruesome week ..."

After almost ten years -- he's one of my oldest customers, by which I mean longest -- he still employs these coy icebreakers.

"Be here no later than six!" I cautioned him.

I have to meet Matt at seven, but didn't tell him that, of course. Never let a guy feel he's being rushed. And never let him know why! Just in case he does feel rushed.

"Bien sûr," he purred agreeably. Etienne has lived on East Sixty-seventh Street for more than three decades, but his accent remains strangely intact. One of his many style decisions.

Saturday, 2/12/00

Etienne arrived last night, carrying a chocolate-brown umbrella with an engraved brass handle in the shape of a swan's head.

"Very handsome," I told him. "Did you find it in Paris?"

"It keeps me dry," he said with a humorous shrug. "My children gave it to me for Christmas."

Etienne's son is an eye surgeon, and his two daughters are teachers. I think he once told me that the oldest daughter is married to a guy at Salomon.

Lying on the couch with my bare feet nestled in Etienne's lap, I smiled as he traced gentle lines on my calves with his fingertips.

"Do you know what your most interesting feature is?" he asked dreamily. "I am always curious to know what a woman will designate as her most important feature. Women are so often at odds with their paramours."

I gazed down at my legs. Sometimes, when I'm with Matt, I get paranoid about my thighs. But never when I'm with a customer. At work, a pragmatic self-appreciation kicks in: I instantly feel, oh, 10 to 30 percent more attractive as soon as I have an appointment lined up. It's an engine that switches on by itself. You answer the phone, make the appointment, look in the mirror, and you see what the client will be getting. It's hard to be so objective with a boyfriend. And lovely to be appreciated by a succession of men over 50.

I was wearing my new zebra-print thong and nothing else -- so I couldn't hide the effect this was having on my nipples. A familiar tingle caused my thighs to turn in slightly. Etienne ran a considerate fingertip over my right breast and smiled. Now, I thought, smiling back, here he comes, as predictable as a clock. Sensing my body's pliant mood, he moved closer. His lips made a dangerous beeline for mine, but I dodged him gracefully and I slid away from his kiss.

"Let's continue this biology lesson in the bedroom!" I giggled, grabbing his hand.

"You are a foul-tempered devil," he muttered. "Why do you welcome my kisses here," he said, tapping the front of my panties, "but not here?" He touched a finger to the corner of my mouth.

"One of life's mysteries," I murmured, slipping out of my panties.

"You never answered," he said, placing his mouth against one breast. His tongue was warm, not too demanding, and my nipple couldn't help but encourage him. "If you had to choose just one important feature?"

"I'd pick two," I said, knowing how much my vanity pleases Etienne. "My face and my breasts." I couldn't exactly repeat my secret answer: "If only I didn't rely on them so much! My face has made me rather lazy about exercise, and my tummy always threatens to betray me. I should go to the gym more often, but I seem to be getting away with it because you keep calling."

He smiled and cupped one breast, then ran his hand over my abdomen. "No quarrel with your assessment -- but for me, it's your skin."

"Really?" How, after a decade of seeing me, does this man come up with such charming new material? He's a born flirt, the genuine article.

"The texture is what I find so ... compelling." And then, as my flattered smile registered on Etienne, his intrusive mouth sought another off-limits kiss.

"Darling," I breathed, maneuvering my neck to evade him, "my pussy is getting so impatient ..." I tactfully directed his face toward my open thighs. Almost 6:30. How time flies when you're being hustled by a veteran john!

When I emerged from my building -- just a few moments after Etienne's departure -- Matt was waiting in a cab, delighted that, for once, I was ready on time.

Elspeth's buffet was in full swing when we arrived at her apartment. My cousin Miranda was standing next to a giant brioche, halfheartedly fending off a sandy-haired, somewhat beefy-looking guy I've seen many times before. He's at all of Elspeth's parties and I think he must be one of her junior lawyers, but I can never remember his name. Miranda has a permanent tan from growing up in Trinidad, and her mother, like my dad, is half-Indian.

"Fascinating," the sandy-haired guy was saying. "I had no idea such a unique mixture of beauty was actually possible. Your father's Chinese?"

Miranda smiled oddly and pulled me toward her. "Meet my cousin Nancy," she told him. "This is ... um ... Christopher. I'll be back!" she added, pulling me in yet another direction. "Let's get Nancy a drink."

"Well, I guess Matt can keep him busy," I said. "How's everything?"

"Oh, fine, now that you're here! All these men keep hitting on me!" she complained. "I thought you'd never arrive. And that ... Christopher. He keeps talking about how exotic I am. You know, I feel like an object," she said in a low bitter voice.

The terrible twenties! She really believes she doesn't want all this attention. Even though she's wearing a cropped cashmere sweater and the tightest Dolce & Gabbana pants I've seen in weeks.

"Your outfit's kind of sexy," I pointed out, as she steered me toward the champagne. "And your belly-button ring is a definite draw."

"Not that kind of object!" she said. "He keeps harping on how exotic I look just because -- just because I'm half-Chinese." And she still has that trace of a Trinidad accent, which suburban New Yorkers like Christopher don't expect a Chinese-looking girl to have. I don't have that accent, because I left at the age of two.

"He meant it as a compliment," I said. "Be nice to him, he's trying to be poetic and charming. And don't take it so personally! To him, you are exotic."

"Well, I'm sick of everyone asking me where I'm from," she told me. "Especially men."

"Then go back to Trinidad where everybody will know exactly where you're from. And you won't be exotic anymore. But you'd hate having to deal with Trinidadian men. Can you imagine?"

In this, we're viscerally united. Neither of us has ever had a boyfriend from the islands. Though she still has the accent, she really can't go back. Miranda clinked her champagne glass against mine and gave me a rueful smile.

"I suppose that's right. Look, here he comes. Mr. Exotic himself."

"You just resent him because he's not wearing one of those strange little goatees. He's a nice guy! Let him take you out to dinner sometime."

"Oh, he's not my type," she sighed, rolling her eyes at me as if I were one of our great-aunts. Except that she would never actually roll her eyes in that way at any of our great-aunts. It would have to be done on the sly.

Christopher and Matt were heading toward us, led by Elspeth, who was dressed in party Manolos, black satin capris, and a transparent silk T-shirt. Elspeth is one of those A-cup gals who can maintain her respectability in a see-through blouse. Her short auburn hair topped off a smooth, pretty line that ended at her pointy toes. An audible "Nancy!" startled a few guests. That brittle voice takes some getting used to -- it doesn't really go with her pixielike features. "Miranda!" Much air-kissing. "Being engaged to my little brother really agrees with her!" she exclaimed. "You look different tonight. Isn't she radiant!" she said to Matt and Miranda. "I swear to god, you're glowing, Nancy."

That's because, while rushing Etienne through his session, I felt obliged to throw in a real orgasm. A man won't think of you as a pleasure-pinching hooker if you take a little time out for an orgasm. If, just minutes ago, he felt the tremors of your clitoris against his tongue, it's a cinch to get him off, then send him out early, feeling pleased with himself.

I glanced around at all the high-heeled guests and felt a twinge of ambivalence. Should I have worn sluttish stilts instead of flats? Nobody would guess that less than one hour ago I was lying in bed with my thighs wrapped around the face of a gray-haired man, conjuring up degrading fantasies (with Matt in the lead role) so I could get my orgasm over with, already. Not with all these women gliding around on their party stilts while I stand here in my shiny good-girl flats. Deep cover.

"Men are dogs," Elspeth was saying. "Jason promised to be here no later than six! To help! Yeah, right. He's stuck in a meeting and he totally forgot. Did you get my e-mail?" she asked. "About the fabric dyes?"

"I haven't had a chance to log on all day," I explained. "I was, um, trying to get this project finished and I got sort of caught up -- overwhelmed by it."

"And listen, there's this Web site that -- don't knock it till you try it -- helps you organize your wedding. I wish this had been around five years ago, when I got married. Take it from me, the day will go more smoothly if you break it down into components. They have a private chat list for anxious brides. Lucy, my colorist, says they discuss everything." She cast a meaningful glance at Matt, to indicate the Girls Only quality of the list.

"Really? Like, first-night jitters?" Matt said, with a mischievous smirk.

"No." Elspeth pretended to be annoyed. "Lingerie and bouquets. So, Nancy: this project that keeps you so busy. What's the latest? Are you almost done?"

Miranda turned away from Christopher and leaned in to hear more. I felt a quiver of insecurity in my solar plexus, which I tried to quell with champagne, then managed to make a few nonremarks about my fake job. Matt, Elspeth, my family, his family -- they all think of me as a part-time slacker who does copy editing for extra money. Miranda is so clearly a girl with an allowance that any relative of hers can be tarred with the same brush, so Matt assumes that my work supplements a modest income from my parents.

Fortunately, most people think the doings of a copy editor are pretty boring. It's easy to get them distracted from my supposed job: Just talk about it! The subject usually changes, quite rapidly, when I explain that my current "project" is a massive treatise on Eastern medicine that the author hopes to translate into German. It's important to mention a language that is totally unsexy.

"How did you meet this guy?" Elspeth asked. "This -- what is he, an acupuncturist? And a chiropractor? From where?" She wasn't letting go of the subject as easily as I had hoped.

"Oh, ah, he's a family friend of the translator," I explained. "She's going to translate the whole thing when I'm finished, and we're having this terrible problem because a file got corrupted and he only made one backup."

Christopher was trying to look interested and Matt was examining the wine bottles as Elspeth went on.

"And where did he train?" she said, looking directly at me.

I was stumped. Where did this fictional chiropractor learn how to be an acupuncturist? She was waiting for an answer.

"Uh, you mean his computer training or his medical training?" I did my best to appear confused. "His computer skills are negligible," I added.

Elspeth glanced at Matt and began to say something. Then she stopped. I turned to the bar for another glass of champagne, horrified by my questionable performance. When I came back, Elspeth was having a rather quiet tête-à-tête with her brother. Matt looked up and came closer, to put his arm around my waist while Elspeth gave us both a long, thoughtful stare.

"So, what's the publication date?" Elspeth demanded, in a cheery yet ominous voice.

"Well, I ... " Leaning into Matt's light embrace, I cleared my throat pensively. "The thing is, I made an agreement. I've signed a contract not to discuss -- I'm not really allowed to disclose any of the details. I know it's a bit silly -- with a book like this -- but it's part of my arrangement with the translator."

"Really? Is that a common practice?" Elspeth wanted to know. Jesus Christ.

"I thought it was, but I really don't know. Why?"

It bothered me that she had stopped asking where the chiropractor trained and was now on a new line of questioning altogether -- just when I thought I might have a suitable answer for the last question. And this was all supposed to be so boring!

"I wonder if a contract of this sort is enforceable," she said. "What are the limits? Did you show it to a lawyer? If you did, you'd have to tell your lawyer about the book. What if you told your doctor? Or your psychiatrist? Could a publisher call them to testify about what you leaked? What if there was a crime involved?"

"Elspeth had too much coffee this morning," Matt sighed.

"Well, a contract like that raises important privilege issues that Nancy might not have considered." She looked at me quizzically. "Not that you're the kind of girl with any secrets to keep. Or are you?" she asked with a sharp, mischievous smile.

A tall blonde in a red scoop-necked blouse and a leather skirt caused Elspeth to break away. "Karen! You look great! I'd like you to meet my future sister-in-law, Nancy."

I wondered if Karen was one of Elspeth's law school buddies, a fellow prosecutor, perhaps. Increasingly, I find that the more provocative the outfit, the straighter the job. I almost wonder if a display of cleavage and flesh will make me blend in more.

"My brother's a player," Elspeth said proudly. She grabbed my hand to show Karen my three-carat diamond. "When he does something, he really does it."

"It's gorgeous," Karen gushed. "We have to talk! I just heard about a fabulous two-bedroom -- would you consider moving downtown? Tribeca?"

"Karen's a real estate genius," Elspeth chimed in. "Give them your card -- I was telling Matt the other day, 'You can't expect Nancy to start a new life with you in that bachelor pad!'"

Elspeth's husband appeared in the doorway carrying a huge briefcase. Jason's the money in that marriage -- an M&A lawyer. Elspeth, the assistant D.A., sees herself as the integrity. Naturally, he's the polite one and she's the loudmouth.

"Better late than never!" she rasped cheerfully. "Where were you?"

As he leaned forward for our perfunctory kiss on the cheek, we exchanged a brief look, that "Eye Contract" entered into by two people who might never have met if two other people weren't related to each other. Restrained sympathy. A curious desire to understand the other person. Followed by relief because you don't really have to.

When I turned around, Karen and Matt were trading business cards, and I could feel the walls of an unseen apartment closing in on me.

"Matt says you have a new e-mail address? Here's mine. You're going to love this place -- it's perfect for a young couple," Karen told me.

"Oh, I'd love it if you two moved downtown," Miranda said. "There's so much happening! We can meet for lunch, Nancy, near the museum." Miranda works at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, which is smack-dab in the middle of thronging hell! But she loves it because she has no memory of what SoHo was like when it was just a budding restaurant scene with a few nice shops.

"And it's closer to work," Matt said. "Definitely. Can we see it this weekend?"

What did I get myself into here? Tribeca? Oh god. Overpriced, inconvenient, miles from my hairdresser and my bikini waxing ... not to mention my shrink. But my geographic horror gave way to relief. Thanks to Karen and Miranda and Matt, all singing the praises of an overrated neighborhood, Elspeth was now focusing on us as a couple and seemed to be less curious about me. Thank god.

Sunday, 2/13/00

Update on the Tribeca 2BR. According to Karen's bubbly e-mail, it's got a breakfast nook and a balcony. The current occupants bought in '92, before the market started going haywire, and the husband has persuaded his wife to relocate to East End Avenue so their daughter can walk to school. Karen has a special rapport with the co-op board, which insists on vetting all prospective renters -- in the flesh. "I'll get you in, no problem," she threatened -- I mean, promised.

This morning, while Matt was in the shower, I snuck in a quick call to Liane. "I can't talk long," I warned her. "My boyfriend and I are going to look at a rental on Franklin Street. I just have a minute."

Like every madam I've known, Liane is exceedingly generous with her wisdom. At 70-something, tall, slender, and Dioresque, she is still the epitome of 1950s elegance. And 1950s ethics, too.

"Under no circumstances should a girl like you 'live with' a man," she said. "These trial marriages are a big mistake."

Trial marriage? Wow. If I tell Liane that I'm responsible for putting off the wedding date, I'll never hear the end of it.

"Well, I'm not going to tell you how to conduct your life, dear. Don't you know anyone who's available tomorrow night?" she asked, changing the subject.

February 14th. A great night to be a call girl without a valentine and a terrible night for madams, because too many girls have relationships that tie them up (so to speak) for the evening.

"You, of course, have a good reason to take tomorrow night off," Liane remarked. "Your fellow has made a commitment, and he's a catch. Though you'll soon see that commitment evaporating if you move in with him! What is your fiancé planning for Valentine's Day?"

"We're going to a chamber-music recital." Liane indicated her approval. "Avoiding the crowds," I said. "Don't you think Valentine's Day can be a bit -- "

"Of a nuisance? Frankly, dear, yes. I have a lovely gentleman from Buenos Aires flying in. He'll be in meetings all day tomorrow and he wants a brunette with real breasts to arrive at eight, leave at midnight. He's at the Four Seasons. Dinner in his room, pleasant conversation, garter belt, stockings, two thousand." She sighed. "He's so easy, too! Or so I've heard. You'd be perfect."

I felt a twinge of regret, despite the fact that 40 percent would go to Liane if I were to see him.

"How about Jasmine?"

"She's too businesslike," Liane objected. "And he prefers someone petite. Well, I suppose, in her little Chanel ballet flats, Jasmine really looks petite and she's trim and pretty, so he's not going to send her away ..." Jasmine's five feet five, but I held my tongue as Liane tried to sell herself on the idea. "She has a nice bust -- not too big. She hasn't had her breasts done, has she?"

"No way!" I assured her. "I'll call you later."

I quickly dialed my hairdresser's number, allowed it to ring once, and quietly hung up. Just in case Matt happened to hit the redial button.

We've all heard the horror stories -- innocent boyfriends accidentally hitting redial, stumbling across numbers and clients and ... welcome to Hooker Hell. If that isn't every call girl's worst nightmare, it certainly should be!

Monday, 2/14/00

Today I showed Wendy the keys to Matt's ... bachelor pad, as Elspeth calls it. (What do you call the apartment of a man who wants to forsake bachelorhood for you and you alone?)

"So you have the keys to your 'corporate sponsor's' headquarters?" my shrink asked, cocking her head to one side.

The keys were sitting on the small table between us, next to her tissue box.

"I never use them. Only to lock up when I'm leaving -- if he's not there."


"Well, he might be inspired to ask for a set of mine. I couldn't possibly let Matt have keys to my place! And I'm always afraid he'll bring that up. This morning ..." I scowled unhappily. "I resolved to throw them into the Hudson."

"Really. What's going on?"

I crossed my arms uncomfortably. "His sister's pushing me to set a wedding date, and she introduced us to this real estate broker." I told Wendy about the two-bedroom on Franklin Street. "Matt thinks it's wonderful and he just assumes I do, too. He has this idea that we'll become some kind of downtown couple, but his whole idea of what downtown is really about is just silly! And false! Moving downtown isn't what makes you a downtown person. It's so naive! He's not really a New Yorker," I explained, "and it's becoming more obvious. How can I live in Tribeca with some guy who doesn't even know that he's not really living downtown, that the whole area has become an overpriced travesty! He has zero sense of real estate irony."

"So you're angry at your boyfriend because he's still an out-of-towner."

Wendy blinked, betraying a hint of a smile, and I suddenly felt unfaithful. Boyfriend-bashing is fine if restricted to certain topics, but this was pushing the envelope. You're supposed to be able to say anything about anybody in therapy, but I felt guilty. Admitting that he's geographically unhip to the point of clueless! A good girlfriend doesn't speak derisively about a guy who is so ... invested in her.

"Where is Matt from, if you don't mind my asking?"



"No, some kind of part-time Protestant. His mother came from one of those Hudson Valley Huguenot families. But he's not very interested in his ancestors. Or his religion. He's ... " I smiled and blushed. "Very keen on the present and the future."

"Yes?" Wendy looked quizzical. "You had a pleasurable thought."

"Oh, nothing. He's so cute," I sighed. "Sometimes, I just want us to keep dating. I'd like to stop time and be old enough to know better and young enough to play the game and ... be pursued by this up-and-coming guy for the rest of my life. I guess I'm like one of those clients -- those men who keep holding back because they don't want to come. They don't want their session to end, and they just keep prolonging it."

"And how do you feel about those men?"

"I used to hate them! But now I'm used to it. I know how to pace myself, how to hurry them along -- gently, of course. But nobody feels upbeat about getting a difficult customer."

"So if you're a difficult customer, what does this new apartment signify? The end of an 'exciting session'?"

"Look, any normal woman would be thrilled. It's really a very nice place. It's close to Wall Street, so it's perfect for Matt, but it's miles away from everything I do. Does he expect me to give up my home, my neighborhood, my entire life? Just like that?"

"To be fair, I don't think Matt has any idea what you'll be giving up if you move in with him."

"No kidding! If I move in with him, I'll -- I'll be reduced to doing outcalls." (What else? Rent Jasmine's bedroom by the hour? The bulk of my business today is in my apartment.) "He doesn't understand how I support myself. I think he thinks I'm getting money from my family."

"Did you tell him that?"

"Um, no. I just sort of let him think it. I mean, there's no way I could dress the way I do and live where I live if I really made my entire living as a freelance copy editor."

"Interesting. Why did you get engaged?" Dr. Wendy asked in a quieter voice.

Tears of self-pity began to pour down my cheeks. Fortunately, Dr. Wendy's office and my bedroom are two places where you never have to hunt around for a tissue!

I blew my nose and explained, "It was totally unprofessional of me -- I didn't think it through! I accepted his ring. I was too dazzled to think -- disoriented, afraid -- "

"What were you afraid of?"

"He came over to pick up his keys." I pointed to the keys on the table. "We had broken up a few days before, and he was acting strange. I started thinking he was going to assault me."

"Has he assaulted you before?" Wendy was alarmed.

"Of course not!" Matt smacking a girl -- that's unthinkable. But you can't even joke about such matters these days. Everybody, even your shrink who has known you for half a decade, will suspect that you're protecting a social monster. "It was a misunderstanding," I assured her. "I was disoriented. I felt so distant from him at first, and he seemed like a stranger to me, and I didn't know why he was there. We weren't seeing each other anymore. But he said he needed his keys because he was locked out of his apartment. And then my mind flashed on this terrible thing that happened when I was 16!"


"A john who waved a gun in my face. I was terrified. And when I started screaming my head off, the client got so scared of the racket I was making, he begged me to leave."

"He did?" Wendy sat up straighter. "You weren't afraid to express your feelings. Your emotions saved your life! I think that's something to be proud of. Especially at sixteen."

"Well," I sniffled, "I ran out of his apartment and I tripped on my own pants -- I was wearing harem pants with those cords at the ankles, but they were loose -- and when I tripped, I slid down the stairs on my back in my high heels."

Wendy was now gripping the arms of her chair. "My god. At 16?"

"Oh." I stopped crying. "I was fine. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I was kind of shocked, but I wasn't hurt."

"You could have broken your neck! Or your back!"

"But I didn't. I got right up, buttoned my blouse, found a cab, and went back to the escort agency. I was so relieved that none of the neighbors saw me." I had just started working for Jeannie's Dream Dates, an outcall service owned by a madam named Mary. She ran it from a midtown studio apartment, advertised in the Yellow Pages (and some other publications I prefer not to think about), and felt that Mary was a terrible name for a madam. So she called herself Jeannie.

Wendy took a deep breath. "So this is what was going through your mind when Matt proposed? A narrow escape from a gun-toting john. Did that happen in New York?"

"Yes." I laughed briefly. "In a very nice town house right off Park Avenue in Murray Hill. Too much coke. The client was upset because I couldn't make him come and his hour was up."

Maybe my flexible teenaged body saved me when I tumbled down those stairs. But the point is, I've gotten away with so much -- how much longer can it go on? I'm not a teenager anymore.

"And Matt's proposal -- was it really a surprise?"

"God, yes. I never imagined ... "

Wendy jutted her chin forward -- her Listening Gesture.

"I had broken up with him and I was ready to devote myself to my business. I decided to swear off boyfriends. Then Matt called. He made up that story about the keys, which I believed."

Wendy nodded.

"When he grabbed my hand, I got nervous. He was so much stronger. And suddenly, I remembered that guy with the gun. I thought: I've come this far, I have my own clients, I don't have to work for some sleazy escort service, I'm well-connected and go to the best hotels. My clients are the movers and shakers of the universe. They run Manhattan. But my own boyfriend turns out to be a random nutcase just like that guy! I've allowed a maniac into my home! At least, when I was sixteen, that guy didn't enter my life -- I could leave his apartment! For a minute I wasn't really a success after all. Women who get killed by guys they don't understand are, by definition, failures. Right?"

There was a pause. Dr. Wendy doesn't like to call anyone a failure. "And then what happened?"

"He pulled out this beautiful Lucida ring and he was so incredibly gentle and persuasive and passionate, and everything was okay again. I realized that I was a success. My nightmare was a delusion. I never dreamed, when I was a sixteen-year-old hooker, that a guy like Matt would propose to me -- that I would even want him to! Don't you see? I was spellbound! By my own respectability!"

"That's a lot of material to be processing while your boyfriend's trying to propose to you."

"After all the stories I've told him, and all the lies he believed, that story about the keys -- I really believed him!"

"You fell for his ruse."

"Yes. I took it as a sign! It made me feel that we belonged together after all. He used his wits -- he figured out a scheme to get back into my apartment and into my life. I was so ... " My heart still skips a beat when I remember the confusion, the fear, and the sudden realization that I had been romantically snared -- by this guy who didn't know exactly who or what I was but could still get the better of me. "It made me, you know, respect him as a guy. We had ... " I paused and remembered the reckless lovemaking that had followed. "We had very good sex that night," I added primly.

"But when Matt came to collect his keys you were reminded of an unsatisfied sex partner from over a decade ago -- a man who also wanted something more than you could give."

This certainly appealed to my therapeutic vanity. And my latent Sinderella Complex. The commercial nymphet in danger, saved by her scheming Galahad. But I fessed up.

"I know marriage is supposed to be the alternative to strange guys waving their weapons in your face. But the truth is, that's the only time anyone has ever threatened me with a gun. I'm not in that kind of danger. Most of my guys are regular clients. I was just so dazzled. My heart was pounding because he had captured me. He proved that he wasn't just my mental toy -- he surprised me totally."

"And now? In the cooler light of day?"

"Maybe girls like me aren't supposed to marry. Wasn't that the first thing Gigi's aunt taught her? We don't marry. Maybe those Old World courtesans had the right idea."

Wendy knows that "Gigi" is one of my favorite adult fairy tales. The book, the movie, even the corny songs. So does Matt. He, however, just thinks it's some kind of strange retro quirk.

"Gigi comes from a family of courtesans," Wendy began. "But the only successful courtesan in the story is her aunt, who also happens to be the head of the family. And she masterminds a marriage for Gigi, despite herself. So, "Gigi" is really a story about ambivalence in the demimonde."

I savored the phrase, the emotional geography. In the demimonde: ambivalence. A golden age of hooking when girls like me could retreat into their own social country. No wonder they could say, without regret, "We don't marry."

"But ambivalence about marriage is not unique to your profession," Wendy continued. "I meet hundreds of women in my practice -- and a lot of men -- who use their work to explain a romantic disappointment or a fractured relationship."

I nodded in agreement but felt rather wistful. So much for my Belle Epoque fantasy of a romantic caste system!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

From the forthcoming book "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl" by Tracy Quan. Copyright (©) 2001 by Tracy Quan. To be published in August by Crown Publishers, a division of Random House, Inc.

By Tracy Quan

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