In My Skin
to the one they know; wish I weren’t so apprehensive of seeing them.
    Washed hair, then smeared sticky goo in it, wonderful. My sticky-goo-urchin look. Windy outside. I was rained on last night as another girl and I stood on the corner screeching with laughter about the absurdities of our clients. ‘Yeah sure I’ll go back to your place and do everything for just thirty bucks and let you waste my time and I’ll be so honoured.’
    Saw Jason the other day, down from the country. All my friends are worried about me, he says. They all have faith in me, I know, but doesn’t anyone believe that I might know what I’m doing? Or enjoy it? Or be able to tell occasionally if I’m fooling myself ? Jason said he was sorry for making me cry, he hugged me.
    Met an old Bulgarian man last night, he was so nice. He took me home to his place and we did the job, it was all right. Lots of talking. He said he thought I was beautiful. He seemed to really like me. I told him I’m a user and he gave me a long talk—the usual stuff, but then he said that one day my face will change, and my mind will change. That was something I hadn’t thought of. He gave me his phone number and told me to ring if I ever need help. I was with him for ages and I really needed to work to make enough money so he gave me extra. He made me feel good.
    I’d close my diary and pay for the coffee. Smile at the waitress. Off on my rounds. Out into the chilly black streets. Out to walk the block. Carlisle Street, Barkly Street, Inkerman Street. Walking against the tide of cars, walking stiff and alert, alone, walking all night, walking to keep going.
    It was a job. I never had a night off.
    A time of firsts. The first time I had sex with someone whose name I didn’t care to catch. The first time I had sex in a lane, in an office, in a hotel. The first time I had anal sex. The first time I was with a black man, an Asian man, an Arab man. A fat man, an ugly man. Different skins, different accents, different types of penis. Cut, uncut, thin, bent, thick. White pubic hair, black, curly, straight. All the different smells, all the different cars. I was curious, and in a way I was glad of the experiences. It was like an education. I didn’t remember most of the faces.
    The work was always the same thing, but every mug was a bit different. Some men took me back to their place; sometimes we just parked by the side of a road and got on with it. Most wanted oral. Some asked me to pull my pants down so they could inspect me before they agreed to take me. It was just perving. I did it resentfully, but I couldn’t really care. Occasionally, in desperation, I would take a small, easy job for only ten, enough for cigarettes, sitting in the car next to a guy jerking off under a jacket over his lap. Maybe I’d pull my shirt up for his inspiration. Bored, looking out the window. I always had to supply the tissues for afterwards. But one proper oral job might make me enough to score one taste. I could head up the weary slope to Jake’s flat and rest in a cosy lounge room, talk tough and relax for an hour, listening to Jake’s tales and trying to coax some words out of Vicki. Then the rest of the night’s work would begin.
    One taste wouldn’t satisfy me for long. I needed to make enough cash every night to buy a few more, cover the taxi home—unless I had a job with a driver, and got a lift as part of the price—to buy myself a toasted sandwich and a packet of cigarettes from the all-night café near David’s, and have a couple of bucks left for tomorrow’s tram and twilight coffee. I lived on a frugal budget. No new clothes; rare meals; no entertainment. I bought books, because I needed them still.
    I bumped into Cass, my old drummer, on the street. ‘Hey, what’re you up to?’
    ‘Oh, you know, this and that.’
    She observed me thoughtfully as we walked together to her tram stop. I told her briefly what was happening. Everything sounded so tawdry when I mentioned

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