When people hear the word 'prostitute' they picture scantily-clad women with wild hair and pupils dilated from drug use. They have tight lines around their eyes where the skin has toughened from years of hardship and rubbing off make-up. Their stockings have small tears and their teeth are tobacco-stained. They stand on the corner of George Street, or pace the ten meters between Calendar Girls and Madison's cocktail bar, flashing drivers a winning smile as they pivot in their tiny red heels.
When people hear the word 'escort', they think of a slightly better-kept woman. Her make-up is tidier, her teeth whiter, her eyes more intelligent. These are prostitutes who have a life outside work, who want to keep their reputations. They're listed in online directories with their faces blurred out. Many of these women don't have to do the work they do – they could easily get jobs as secretaries or shop assistants. Some of them even have degrees. But they sign up to agencies for one reason – the money.
I work for an upper-class, elite agency and get paid upwards of $200 an hour, although I don't quite fit the stereotypes. I'm not a woman, and nor am I in it for the money – not entirely, anyway. I'm a bit of thrill seeker, a bit of an actor, and I love attention. I also needed money. So this job seemed perfect for me.
Let me explain. I come from a very well-off family and attended a top all-boys school back in Ohio. I was the lead singer in the boy's show choir, captain of the fencing team, had among the top grades in my year. I moved schools in my final year to be closer to my boyfriend, and my new show choir won the regional championships. I was set to graduate with perfect grades and move on to live a prestigious life at Harvard University. I had a beautiful, loving boyfriend, with the most amazing singing voice, and we were both determined to keep up our relationship despite the long-distance. Everything seemed perfect.
Then I graduated. I moved in to the perfect apartment my parents were paying for, and the first thing I did was call my 300-km-away-perfect-boyfriend who was moving into his own apartment. I started classes - I was doing a double major in Dramatic Arts and Psychology - and I loved it. I dedicated myself to my schooling for six months before I finally decided to try my hand at the University's social life. This was when everything changed.
It started with an invitation from a boy in DRAM E-21, a class on improvisation, to a party. It was his birthday celebration, so I couldn't really refuse. We hit the vodka and then the streets, and he showed me the real nightlife I could never have explored in Ohio.
I tried to stick to my course, to balance study with living. My grades started to drop and I'd forget to call my boyfriend for days at a time. The days turned into weeks. I started getting headaches from sleep deprivation and became pessimistic during the day, waiting for my classes to end so I could pop a few buttons on my shirt and head into the city.
I flirted with a lot of women. I kissed a few. It didn't feel like cheating – there was no emotional attachment, no real sexual desire or passion. It was just excitement, adrenalin, the attention, the love of discovering I could wind them around my little finger until they fell in love. I became well known in certain social circles as 'mysterious', a word I quite liked. Women said I was seductive, handsome – I believe I was even described as perfect once or twice – but would never take a woman to bed, or go on a second date, which made me a curious fascination to a lot of people. Some guessed I was gay, others thought I was married or religious. The truth was, I was still in love. As much as I enjoyed the excitement that came with the seduction, I had no intention of ruining things with my boyfriend. And I knew if I went further, I would feel guilty.
I'm not a bad person. Some people might think that the moment I kissed someone else, man or women, I was guilty. But I didn't feel it, because I didn't love or desire anyone but him. Everything else was a game to me, a bit of fun to take my mind off my studies. But if there had been any moment where, for even a fleeting second, I desired another person and acted on it, I would have felt immeasurably guilty. And I would have gotten on a plane to New York and found my perfect boyfriend's little apartment and fallen to his feet in confession.
But he never found out about my late night antics. I didn't get a chance to tell him. I continuously forgot to answer his calls. I forget to text. I didn't have time to check my emails. I didn't really realize what I had done until I got home one Friday morning to seven messages on my answering machine.
I'll never forget the way he said those words. It didn't sound like him. I know a lot of people don't sound right over the phone, but it wasn't just that – I had never heard him sound so apathetic. He was always full of emotion, full of passion. If he had screamed at me, I would have known it were something I could fix, just a small rip in our relationship I could have patched-up with a couple of weeks and enough flowers, perhaps with even a quick trip to New York.
But there was no emotion. He had already been through the seven stages of grief and had come to accept it. To him, we had probably been over for weeks. All I could do was call and apologize. He listened in silence and then said he had to go – Rachel was cooking and he needed to help her with the pastry. We said goodbye and I knew I would probably never see him again.
I supposed his absolution helped me to skip the denial stage. I couldn't deny that we were finished, even to myself. I was, however, wracked with guilt. I spent weeks tossing sleeplessly in bed at night, throwing up in the bathroom, punishing myself for ignoring him and losing him.
Then I felt angry. I left drunken messages on his phone, accusing him of being too clingy. I'd leave more messages the following morning, apologizing. He never returned my calls.
Then came the depression and the loneliness. I stopped turning up to classes and devoted myself to the nightlife in an attempt to forget. I slept with men and women. I relied on my parent's money. I drank my life away. And then I met Richard.
Richard wasn't his real name, but I came to spend more time with him as Richard than with him as Michael. I met him first in an expensive boutique café, where I was nursing a hangover with a cup of cinnamon medium-drip. He came up to me saying he recognized me from somewhere, and then remembered – from a gay bar on Town Street, and then I remembered him too. He had been on the arm of a middle-aged man. I remembered being surprised and wondering why someone so gorgeous had settled for someone so plain.
Richard asked me to join him for coffee the following week, and we began to meet every Tuesday at ten at that little café on the corner of Dennis and Cole. It took me a while to talk myself into asking about his boyfriend.
"Boyfriend?" Richard had laughed. "No, he was a client. I work as an escort."
Needless to say, I was curious. I had always painted escorting as something only the desperate and unhappy did, but Richard was handsome, well dressed, charming and no doubt happy with his life. He wasn't shy about his work, although he said it wasn't something he usually talked about.
I became fascinated by the way he talked about his job. Sometimes there bad days, where he'd complain about the agency, but most days he would smile as he recounted a particularly enjoyable night. His favorites were when clients just wanted a handsome man on their arm for a party – justan escort – and he got to play the perfect boyfriend. Acting was one of the many loves Richard and I had in common.
Richard and I became fast friends. I didn't fall in love with him, despite his charm, and he didn't fall in love with me. We were just too similar, and I still loved my New York lover. Not to mention, he had no room in his life for relationships. Being an escort wasn't a job you could juggle with true, honest romance.
And then my parents called to say they had found out I had quit Harvard. It was a disaster. They were going to stop sending money if I didn't re-enroll or return home. I was devastated and needed a job.
Naturally, Richard had an obvious suggestion when I complained about it to him. He took me to his agency that night, where I was interviewed by a beautiful, middle-aged woman called Sandra. I had never been inside a brothel before. It was a lot nicer than I expected – all rich curtains, plush rugs and mahogany desks. The ground rules were explained. I was taught how payments and clients were handled, about safety procedures, and what to do in case of an emergency. I was told the only reason I was getting the job was because Richard had recommended me, that they weren't actually accepting new workers at the moment. I smiled and told her I was grateful.
"What did you say your name was again?" Sandra asked, looking me up and down through her thin-rimmed glasses.
"Blaine Anderson," Richard answered for me.
"Blaine," she said thoughtfully, and then smiled at me for the first time. "That would have been a good working name. But from now on, you'll work with the name Casper."
I was given a month to prove I could handle the work. I was told I needed to get a certain amount of regular clients in order to pass the test, but I wasn't told how many. During that month I would receive 30% of what my clients paid to see me, and if I survived the month, I would receive 50%. I would be allowed to keep any tips I was given.
This was how I became an escort, and this is a story about my life as a call boy.