Babysitter

Babysit my attention

I don’t want to be left alone with my thoughts

I babysat young children when I was still a child myself

When I was a sex worker at age 20, I told my friends and family that I was a babysitter;

Both jobs require you to work late hours and pay cash

It was for less than a year, but the PTSD lasts a lifetime

I fell down a rabbit hole of sexual trauma

I was perfectly trained to be a professional rape victim from my real life experiences

There is no protection for sex workers

Clients violate any semblance of boundaries

I tried to shout ‘No!’ but only a soft ‘yes’ came out

Customer satisfaction was prioritized above protecting my body from harm

Every time I took an HIV test I was sure it would come back positive

Maybe if I had said ‘yes’ to the screening questions of ‘have you ever exchanged sex for money?’ some resources may have been offered from the public health worker- why was that the only question I said ‘no’ to?

The truth shall set you free

But I was trained by my family to rely on no one and nothing, to survive on sheer grit and ingenuity

Babysit my attention, inform and entertain me

Here and now, I sit in stillness and embrace the present in deep gratitude

Wringer

I put my body through the wringer

Told myself I was strong, I could handle anything, my body would figure out how to survive, and amazingly it did

Now I know that battles are truly won in the mind

If you want to be kind, learn how to treat your body kindly, then do what you have to do to do it

You may upset a few apple carts from time to time because peers like to pressure and their addictions are strong, but you are stronger

Let them weep and wail, it will be well worth it to spare yourself the wringer

Now

I used to run with the boys

I was determined to prove that I had the biggest balls, that I could withstand it all

Until I couldn’t stand how near death my own ego brought me

When men bought me

I thought I was clawing my way out of poverty

But no amount of money can undo the trauma I endured

All I can do is rewire my brain

Write my story to have a happy ending

Starting with a happy now

I outran the boys and became a rich man so that I didn’t have to marry a rich man

Now I am happily married to the man of my dreams

I don’t ruffle my feathers over the penis-size competition at work- the self-stroking of egos which is habitual amongst my male colleagues

Though I am attracted to women, I’ve never had a penis

I’m ok with that- at least I’ve never raped anyone, never left anyone stressed about what they couldn’t see- STIs and pregnancy

I am happy now, as happy as can be after one has endured the smattering of battering my childhood gave me

I continued the chain of abuse on myself into adulthood, not realizing my own role in the game, not seeing how I invited abusers into my life

I’m getting off this trauma-train; I jump off the caboose, let it ride away without me

Next to the tracks, nestled in the woods, I am happy now

Figure

Notions in my nervous system leak out from time to time

Potions in my stomach leap back up from time to time

I zombie-shuffle around the hospital on a 24-hour shift pulled between urgencies and emergencies, my ID badge clipped to my scrub top, dangling like a nipple tassel, swaying immodestly with each step.

Despite the stress of my current life, I feel deeply blessed

In the dark of winter, I feel the sun rising below my feet, supporting and uplifting me

The sky’s the limit

I feel it all- my invisible mental illnesses concealed by my silence and my simultaneous self-healing chipping away at the the plastic false-front I put up for survival, replacing it with vines organic growth that I hope will one day blossom with radical authenticity.

‘Did you come?’ he asked me, I didn’t know what he meant by ‘come’ but I was used to faking it when I didn’t know the answer so I said yes because I was raised to tell people what they wanted to hear, and never appear flawed, weak or wrong. I believed my ‘yes’ was the truth because I didn’t know what ‘coming’ was outside of arrival, so I figured that my coming had happened without my knowing, and I said yes because I figured it was the right answer- the answer he wanted to hear. It didn’t bother me at the time that I hadn’t wanted him to put his penis inside me- I was hard-wired to do what everyone wanted of me, and still am. I had suddenly entered a world of new vocabulary and new unpleasant sensations. We were kids, barely adolescents, yet he knew things I didn’t and had done things I hadn’t. The honest, informed answer would have been a resounding ‘What does it mean to come?’ followed by a ‘No, not even close’. Jersey boys grow up fast, didn’t even seduce me before they induced me grow up fast; the recovery is slow. Trauma lasts; a few seconds echo across a lifetime.

‘Don’t go in there- he’s a bad man’ was the stern and tremulous forewarning from an elder woman on a stoop watering her urban flowers. I wish I had followed her suggestion or asked for an explanation. Ever the workaholic, I brushed past her, attributing her words to eccentricity, and knocked on her neighbor’s door. I had told this man I was coming to visit, and I follow through with my word and maintain utmost punctuality, on principle. Hungry from a lifetime of poverty, I was determined to make my fortune on the high seas of the internet by socializing with rich men who I later learned were impoverished in spirit and cost me far more than the pittance I garnered. He locked me in his apartment and shouted commands at me to take off my clothes and get on my knees. He proceeded to rape me in every orifice and slapped me hard across the face, choking me as silent tears streamed down my cheeks. I had mastered the art of silent crying in early childhood. The man and I were both deeply disappointed by the events of the evening. He was furious when I hesitated to follow his commands. He asked, ‘didn’t you read my profile?’ I hadn’t, but I figured he wanted me to say yes, so I said yes. He followed with, ‘what did you think of my profile?’ I replied, ‘I liked it’. I never read his profile, but I imagine it might have read something like ‘heinously unattractive morbidly obese abusive alcoholic with tiny, foul-smelling penis seeks young woman to verbally and physically abuse through rape and violence.’ Hours after I initially wanted to leave, he released me from the hell-hole of his apartment. The city air never smelled so sweet. After fearing for my life that night, he motivated me to quit sex work. Silver lining. I wonder if the truth would have set me free sooner- if I had simply said ‘no’ when he asked me if I had read his profile or told him that I didn’t like it if he had paraphrased it. How much waste can one haste make. Speed made me sloppy. It still does from time to time.

Despite the horrors I have survived, I feel most distressed by those closest to me- my explosive nuclear family who I care about deeply and who hurt me deeply. I didn’t imagine that my own happiness could cause so much upset amongst them. They take what is beautiful and make it so damn ugly, shitting on my truest joy- my union with my life partner- with their dramatic accusations in which they mistake their feelings for facts and make my ‘special day’ about them and their insanity. They already ruined all the special days of my childhood- I shouldn’t feel shocked or even mildly surprised. It seems they only celebrate alongside me when I fit into their vision of vanity, when it is convenient for them. The frustrating part is that my partner is a good person who loves me and we are happy together, although he doesn’t fit into their narrow ideals for race or finances. The aggravating part is that we got married in part for them, to keep our love proper and kosher and acceptable. I figured it was what they wanted. The enraging part is that we got married in part for our future children, after I aborted my first three pregnancies partly for my family’s honor, without stopping to reflect how they dishonor me. I am now struggling to become pregnant at an advanced age. My uterus has suffered untold abuses. There is nothing I can do to make unhappy people happy. All I can do is cultivate my own inner glow and shine.

As usual, I am frozen in fear and anxiety, and also exhaustion. I’m tired of the indentured servitude of residency, tired of battling on the front lines of the pandemic, and tired of a lifelong pattern of catering to the emotionally labile who believe I owe them my life and that I am responsible for their unobtainable happiness. For the longest time, I believed them. My bleeding heart didn’t know any better.

I choose to collect my thoughts before responding without reacting from a place of hurt. Overwhelmed with emotion, this will take time. I want certain family members to think more thoroughly and compassionately before spitting venomous words at me. They want me to speak on demand, yet are quick to give me the cold shoulder and now that I am older I want to cut the cord between us like surgery to free myself from the malignant tumor of their energy.

May I stop trying to figure out what other people want of me- it has only lead to my misery, over and over and over and over.

Back at work, I hear the whip crack. I haven’t met most of the people who are getting rich off my back.

I observe people’s bodies with judgement even though it tastes bitter- ranking them in attractiveness- what an unattractive habit. I remind myself to stop imagining their thoughts, to focus on the flame instead of the candle, to behold the melting wax in awe- the interface between spirit and physical form.

I’ve put forth an immodest amount of effort in my life, pushing through severe anxiety and depression without accepting help, least of all from myself. I did seek help a couple of times during childhood when I told my mom in my little voice that I was depressed, to which she reprimanded, ‘you are not depressed’. If she only knew how frequently suicidal thoughts have dropped in to visit me. I no longer invite them in for tea- social distancing. My mother taught me to replace my feelings with everybody else’s feelings.

I feel emotionally ready for retirement even though there are many moons before I will receive my first real paycheck. I have come to treasure quiet peaceful moments. Doing less is my goal, even if I rarely allow time for it. Simply being present in the now, basking on the soft moss of inner calm, feeling that I belong, that I am lovable just as I am. I hope the same for you, and not because I figure that is what you want to hear- I sincerely wish that all beings be happy, healthy and free.

My Man

My man wants to know how many men I’ve had sex with.

I tell him the truth: I don’t know.

I don’t feel the need to know how many times I’ve been raped. I have no desire to quantify the horror, shame or mistakes. I might explode with rage if I focused on those who eagerly traumatized me for their own pleasure.

During my employment as a happy-ending masseuse, I ended up giving much more than the hand jobs I signed up for. Now I’m trying to create a happy ending for my own life but my man keeps asking me about the past. His questions awaken violent emotions in me.

The customers who paid for hand-jobs knew that I wouldn’t call the police when they raped me because I’d be incriminating myself.

My only crime was being born below the poverty line. Self-abuse and self-neglect were ingrained in me by my parents.

I was hungry and trying to get an education I couldn’t afford. I was told ‘here is the ladder you must climb to reach a better life.’ I set to climbing. I solved my financial problems creatively.

My man fixates on the absence of the number of men. I’d tell him if I knew, maybe.

His questions feel invasive and probing.

I used to be valued by men for what I could give- my young, beautiful body.

Now I am devalued by my man for what I have given men.

Men only value women in relation to other men.

When will I be seen as my own person, my own human, inherently invaluable?

My man bemoans what I don’t know; the quantity of traumas too numerous to count, too common to stand out in my blurred memory.

Yet he doesn’t complain about the food I put on his plate, the home I make, or the bills I pay.

I implore him to wait, let me tell my story when I feel ready. I don’t think I’ll ever feel ready. When he asks me about my sexual history I feel ill, anxious and hurt.

I find my breath, reassure myself that he didn’t mean to inflict suffering, and flirt with forgiveness. I remind myself that my spiritual groundedness is stronger than even my exaggerated stress response, my current perceived crisis.

He knows that I was a pushover, pretty and poor. For all of his scheming, jealousy and time spent thinking about me, you’d think my man would connect the dots.

Hallowed

Pacing through the night, I feel the tingle of a poem coming on- I imagine this sensation is similar to the prodrome of a herpes outbreak or a migraine aura, though I have been blessed to know neither.

College in the city- classmates were falling in love as I fell into prostitution.

Are you a drug addict? One of my male customers asked me, inquiring as to why I was working in the world’s oldest profession.

No, I’m just a college student- came my honest reply. Perhaps studying is a more expensive habit than drugs, and the result just as ethereal.

My classmate’s parents supported them with a stipend and they complained to me that $600 a month was too little, as they bought booze and cigarettes, mean-mugging the clerk at the Chinatown liquor store to appear old enough, a grungy exterior disguising their trust fund privilege.

My parents sent me nothing but a too-late berating on how I should have asked for money if I needed it after they discovered my unspeakable scandal, which they have not mentioned since- nor did their unearthing of the truth result in financial assistance. I thought that my empty bank account and empty belly spoke for themselves.

On a cold winter’s night, I still hear the howl of those hallowed halls, the tunnels of avenues lined by iconic sky scrapers, indifferent to my frigid body below bent into the wind

With frostbitten feet teetering in heels, dresses so cheap they were nearly disposable, and the most threadbare of coats, I did have fun from time to time- prowling the city like a stray cat, discovering the serenity of late night corporate art as Wall Street slumbered except for a few coked-out, drunk men. Like me, they were lonely.

From time of time I still feel the unloving alcohol in my throat, the tears in my eyes from choking on cocks and the iciness of the night air, the flavorless meals and banal conversations, the false promises to pay me afterward, the faulty checks written, the wads of gritty cash I shoved into my shoes for the long subway ride home.

She

She scratches her secrets on the dark side of the moon

When she bends her bones she can make any man swoon

Old habits die hard but she is learning to live softly

She sweeps fear away with thoughts large and lofty

She dreams of peace for all and peace within

She drinks from the oasis hidden in the desert of her skin

Only she knows the truth she has lived

Darker than the night sky

Are the ripples held between her thighs

She hides them deeper than the sea’s sigh

Dredging up salt with her tears cried

She sees beyond the sight of man’s eyes

Her blood is her sacrifice

The fire in her heart melts ice

If you think this rhyme is simple like plain rice

Just come closer, you can taste her spice

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

Please don’t judge me for being a sex worker in order to make ends meet
You taught me how to dissociate from my body, how to put other’s wants ahead of my needs
You were my first violator and my first pimp
Remember molesting me at night throughout my childhood and adolescence?
You opened the floodgates for countless rapes
Remember forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do my whole life?
Pimping me out to abusive children who you ‘felt sorry for’ because they did’t have any friends
The reason why they didn’t have any friends is because they weren’t good friends. Like you, they were trapped in abuse
Oscillating between abuser and abused
Remember commanding me yet never asking or listening?
I told you I was depressed, you told me I was not
The middle school guidance counselor called you to pick me up from school because I was suicidal-
All you did was yell at me
You found out I was a sex worker by violating my privacy
You yelled at me to respect myself
Yet you never respected me and actively taught me to disrespect myself
How can you expect me to fly when all you ever did was drag me down and break my wings
You raised me in poverty
Gave me no financial resources, no guidance
I was hungry, I had textbooks to buy and rent to pay
You want to take credit for my success
I became who I am in spite of you, not because of you
Though I see the crucial role you played
At the end of the day all I can say is namaste

Enlightened AF

You can never get to the end of it, you said about The Divine

Your words drew kaleidoscopic visions in my mind
I used to feel oppressed by poverty
Now I know I was only oppressed by the false beliefs within me
All the riches were always inside me
To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders
Beyond the collapsing walls, the sky is open
I am still tormented by the torrent of my thoughts
Then I think, ‘I don’t belong in anyone else’s head, nor do they belong in mine’
I try to let go of unhelpful thought-patterns
Such as my deep disappointment when I deem myself as less than perfect in every way, which happens multiple times each day
I may not be able to unthink a thought, but I can balance a negative with a positive, I can let the cloud float away without latching on all day
Today I was transported back to the time when I’d jerk off men for pennies on the dime
Now in the context of a trained medical professional providing a form of physical therapy to another doctor
Standing next to the massage table, I felt as if I hadn’t come far even after all the struggle and sacrifice to get out of poverty, to give my kids a better life
I remind myself that I have enough and I am enough
In my humble, imperfect way
I am enlightened AF sometimes

Sex, Money, Dishes

Tell me you’ve never fought with your partner about sex, money, or dishes.
Sex
I used to fight endlessly about sex, mainly because I didn’t want to have it but my partners did, so we’d fight and fuck, then I’d cry and be blinded by images of destroying my body or their body just to stop the rape and the torture of not feeling safe in my skin. Amazingly, we all survived and now I have a loving partner with whom I have gold-medal sex; you have to experience it to believe it, it’s like I’m cashing in on some sex fund which I invested in long ago. Happily I don’t fight about sex anymore- I’ve got a man I’m attracted to inside and out, and he loves me the way I want to be loved.
Money
I used to exchange sex for money. It seemed like there was always too much sex and not enough money in those transactions, or transgressions. Even those back-alley deals were more straight forward than my relationships in which sex was exchanged for the illusion of not being alone, for food, housing or ‘safety’, though I learned that the cost to my physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing which false relationships exacted was not worth the dinners, drinks, gifts of lingerie, attention or the roof over my head. You might get raped if you travel alone, but if you travel with a man you are guaranteed to get raped. Live within your means because fine dining won’t taste good if you are eating with a strange man, believe me I know. If you have to learn on your own I understand, however if my years of pain can help prevent a moment of your suffering, it will have been worth it.
Dishes
Rare is the man who finishes the dishes. Common are the men who stack the dishes artfully in the sink until there is barely room to turn on the faucet. I have noticed this pattern during my co-habitations with men. I’ve done too many dishes. It especially irks me when men drown sponges in the rinsed yet still not washed dish pile, unperturbed as the sponge decomposes into a musty mess. Men seem deaf to the silent cries of the forgotten dish sponge. Day after day, I rescue the sponge, wringing it out and restoring it to its rightful place safe on dry land, in sight. My man shows his love for me not only through our award-winning sex, but also through money (ie, responsibility for personal  finances to contribute to our future together) and dishes: ladies and gentlemen, my man did the dishes tonight, thus allowing me time to write the words you read. If a man loves you he will want to learn your love language, which you must teach him with patience, positive reinforcement, and more patience.
I grew up doing the dishes, in poverty, and sexually molested by family and friends. My sister would beat me when she got in trouble for not doing the dishes with me after we were told to do them, but the alternative would have been getting beaten by my parents for not doing the dishes, so I was going to get beat no matter what I did. I wished that someone would do the fucking dishes with me. A girl can get lonely amidst the dissolving suds.