“I don’t see your tears. I hear them.”

Posted: September 1, 2013 in jail
Tags: , ,

She was so pretty even with the scar that ran down the right side of her face. It was still pink and the surgeon hadn’t done a very good job of stitching it up. I could still see little marks where they had been.

She often ran her hand over it when she talked, completely unaware of doing so. It was as if as long as she knew it was there, that meant she was alive.

“How old were you when it all started?” I asked. Even though I had asked the question, I didn’t want to hear the answer. A part of me hoped she would burst out laughing and tell me they had all played a terrible prank on me and I really wasn’t talking to a prostitute.

A prostitute.

A hooker.

An actual whore. A woman who got paid money to sleep with men. The type of woman I had always heard was beneath me and society. The type of woman men went to for various reasons and who often said they wished all women were whores so they could be properly satisfied.

I could never quite assimilate the dichotomy between respecting a woman and in the same breath wanting her to be a whore.

How could anyone respect or even want to be near such a vile creature? A slut and something worse than a rabid dog.

I waited while she thought about her answer. She was so tiny and petite. Her dark hair was pulled back and hung down her back. She was too thin and her nails were chewed down and ragged. Her dark eyes darted and she rocked slightly in her chair.

“I dunno. I guess about 12 or so. Something like that,” she said and looked down at her shoes. Her name was Andrea. She was wearing a baggy pair of jeans and a sweat shirt. Her hand came up quickly and rubbed her scar again.

“Twelve?” I asked and gasped. My hand came up to my neck. She shrank away from me and bent further down towards her knees.

I wasn’t prepared for her answer. My mind reeled as I thought of myself when I was twelve. I was still in love with John Lennon, played records all day long on the weekends and barely knew what sex was.

“Yes ma’am” she whispered. She was hanging her head down in shame.

I felt horrible about my reaction. I hadn’t meant to make her feel bad. I leaned over and gently placed my hand on hers and patted it.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t expect for you to have been so young,” I said.

She looked up at me for a brief moment, smiled and looked away. “I didn’t like it. It hurt really bad.”

My stomach clenched into a knot and I fought the urge to scream. My throat closed up and sweat broke out on my forehead. I was going to be sick.

This wasn’t right. This wasn’t what I had heard all these years. These women chose to do this, just like I chose where I worked and what I did. They chose to be whores and chose to be used by men sexually because they liked it.

I was better than them. I wasn’t a whore or a slut. Only bad women did these things. That’s what everybody said so that made it true.

But she wasn’t like that. She was sweet, polite and funny. She was a decent and kind young woman.

“So…how…I mean…” I stammered. I didn’t know what to say or what to ask.

“We needed the money, I guess,” she said.

“Who is we?” I asked.

She shrugged her shoulders and brushed her hair back. “My family. My parents couldn’t feed us, so a man gave them money for me.”

I didn’t believe her. I didn’t want to believe her.  This had to be some tall tale to gain sympathy from me. These things did not happen. They were all urban legends. They had to be because if they weren’t, then everything I had ever been told was a lie.

I could hear the anguish in her voice. I looked closer at her face. Her eyes were dry but her voice dripped with tears and despair.

I looked up. Several of the other women were watching me. Jackie smiled at me and nodded. She seemed to know what I was thinking. “Yes, it’s true,” she whispered. Suzanne reached over and grabbed Jackie’s hand and held it.

“You? And you too?” I asked them. Jackie and Suzanne nodded.

“You guys are prostitutes too?”

“Yep,” they both said.

“Nice to meet you Susan,” Suzanne said and laughed. I guess the look on my face earned me her teasing.

“Does it matter to you?” Jackie asked me and leaned forward.”Would you like us to leave because our presence is offensive to you now?”

“No,” I said. “I just..”

“Never met a real live one before?” Suzanne asked. She had a half-smile across her face.

“No, I haven’t,” I said. I felt foolish and judgmental.

“Well, we don’t bite, unless you pay us first,” she said and laughed.

“DON’T SAY THAT ABOUT YOURSELF!” I said and shot up out of my chair. My mind was reeling. All that I had known to be true was gone. It dissipated and I had nothing to hold onto.

Suzanne’s smirk was gone. Jackie sat back and Andrea cowered in her chair.

“Don’t ever make fun of yourself again. At least not around me. I won’t have it,” I said. I stood there, looking at all of them. I didn’t know what I wanted to say but I knew what I didn’t want to hear.

“Yes ma’am,” Andrea whispered. I sat back down, took a deep breath and tried to gather my composure. I had shouted at them and I should not have. It bothered me much more than them. They were used to being yelled at, shoved around, raped and tossed aside as I was going to learn in the weeks ahead. But at that moment, I knew none of that.

As soon as I had raised my voice, they shrank back. It didn’t matter that I was also a woman or that I would never harm them. We were not equals. They were inmates and I was a civilian. I had complete power over them and I could use it to help them or to harm them.

The call was all mine and they had no choice but to take whatever I gave out. One word from me and they could be sent back to their cells without any further explanation or proof. I could make their lives a living hell if I wanted to.

Or I could help them as difficult as it might be.

I had a choice. I had come to a crossroad. A very unexpected crossroad that I didn’t know what to do about. If I turned left, I could ignore who these women really were and carry along with the program and choose to not know anything I didn’t want to know.

Or I could turn right and enter a world that I knew nothing about, that was filled with darkness, horror, pain and evil. If I did that, I had no one in my life to pull me out of it. I would have to go it alone and hope for the best for myself.

“I’m sorry I yelled at you guys,” I said.

“I guess we shocked the shit out of you,” Suzanne said and smiled. Her eyes were kind and the smirk was gone.

“You might say that,” I said and smiled back. It was getting late and I needed to get them back to their cells.

I turned and looked at Andrea. Her head was still down and she was being as quiet as she could be. I placed my hand on her shoulder. She looked up.

“You have nothing to be ashamed of,” I said.

“I keep telling myself that,” she said.

I dismissed the class and told them I would see them again next week. I drove home, lost in thoughts that I wanted no part of. I pulled up into my driveway and cursed myself for not leaving any lights on. My house was dark and I hated that.

I grabbed the mail, opened the front door and turned on the lights while my dogs clamored for all of my attention. I petted them and put them outside. I changed into my pajama’s and sat down on the couch to read my mail.

It had finally arrived. I knew it was coming and here it was.

The foreclosure notice on my house.

It was finally real.

I knew I was going to turn right at my crossroad and turning left had never really been an option.

To be continued as I begin my adventure into human trafficking.

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Comments
  1. Sharon Walsh says:

    I used to see them all the time, being a trucker’s wife. It was sad and scary all at the same time and I wanted to rescue them all but knew I would only earn their scorn as some privileged white chick that didn’t know a thing about how the real world worked. It still makes me sick to think of what these girls and women are forced into doing.

    • Susan Lewis says:

      It is very sad and disturbing. Most are forced into it and I’m just tired of hearing about it. Thank you for your comment. No, there’s not much you can do unless you know the girl/woman and she reaches out for help. Hopefully my blogging will help someone out there. I pray to God it does because it’s not fun to write about.

  2. Susan,

    I may not see or even hear your pain, but I feel it just the same.

    Part of my job involves working with the banks in foreclosures, and it is just never easy. Some banks are more workable than others. They actually hate to do it-it means they have to find somebody to clean up property and maintain it for resale (which can take quite awhile), pay taxes, plus no revenue. It is true- go to a good attorney and see if you can renegotiate the mortgage. They would rather have some money than no money.

    I’m in the same damn boat-the one with the holes that you can’t bail out fast enough.

    I work with CASA kids, street kids in Ethiopia, and used to work on the “strip” years ago. Atlanta has a horrible problem with child trafficking and abuse. We see kids started as young as 5-6–boys and girls. The Internet contributes to it. The interstates and airports fuel it. It is a mestatic malignancy and I have yet to hear of a cure.

    • Susan Lewis says:

      Thank you Ellen.

      That happened a few years ago. I ended-up selling the house and walking away from it. Didn’t make any money, but it was worth it to just be done.

      5-6 year old? Heartbreaking doesn’t even begin to describe it. We have to keep going and doing what we can.

      xoxoxox

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