When Child Prostitutes Fall In Love

dance

In retrospect she was a high-end call girl / grad student. But who doesn’t sell themselves at some level? In almost every conversation we sell a tiny piece of ourselves. In the bazaar of interaction, we just hope for a tiny sliver of pretty silk back.

It was my very first shoot for HBO for the 3am project in 1996. I was nervous. The world at 3 in the morning was like a kaleidoscope of fantasy. It was the exact opposite of the day, where everyone wears their uniforms, follows their scripts, whispers their lines out of fear and out of neglect for the care of their real souls. When the sky turns dark blue, then black,  the costumes disappear. You sometimes see right through to the skeletons.

This girl was something else. She was like a bird that ran straight into an electric fire. Sparks were everywhere. The city exploded with the darkness.

It was three AM, the corner of Houston and Ludlow, and she was dancing with random people on the street. She’d see a guy, she’d say, “I want to dance with you,” and of course they would. She was pretty, blond, blue-eyed, and her eyes  opened wider than her whole head. And who wouldn’t dance with an electric goddess? She was dancing up and down the sidewalk. I had never seen anyone like her.

“Why are you dancing?” I wanted to know. “I passed a test”. She was studying for a PhD in French literature. A useless degree, a useless language, if anyone had nothing in life to be proud of it was her but here she was dancing at 3 in the morning.

She had to put down her name on the release form I was required to get everyone to sign who we photographed and videotaped. Just in case the crack legal team at HBO needed to discuss anything with her. I took her release form the next day out of the pile of 20 or so I had interviewed and called her number and asked her to dinner. Completely unethical.

She said, “let me call you back in five minutes. No wait! Hold on!”, and I heard a click and then she came back on after a minute and she said, “Yes, I would love to.” Almost old fashioned, as if I was asking to court her. We walked for five hours that night. I made her laugh.

Right away I was in love. I told her so. She told me so. Maybe after one day or two days. I can’t be expected to wait to say these things!  Sometimes you just KNOW. Right?

What is there to learn about another person? We’re all made out of flesh. We all need money. We all need health and sex and we all have issues and baggage that we inherited from our parents, our friends, their parents, our siblings, and even our siblings’ parents. If I took a knife and opened your skull maybe I’d know all about you also.

She pulled me out of a box somehow. She unwrapped me and I saw that I was a beautiful present for the briefest of moments back so long ago.

“My last boyfriend,” she told me on the second date, “used to pay me for sex. It turned me on.”

“That’s nice,” I said. But I wasn’t going to pay her for anything. I had no money.

Another time she told me she had once had a nervous breakdown so she ran outside naked and ran into one of her neighbors and within five minutes she was having sex with him.

“That’s nice,” I said. Because why wouldn’t I say that. What a lucky guy that was! The next day, by coincidence, we ran into that guy with his young, new wife, in the street but he shook my hand and wouldn’t even look at her and then he seemed to just disappear before conversation could erupt.

Another time she wasn’t home when we were supposed to meet at 8pm. I walked up and down her tiny street (Cornelia St in the Village) until midnight. For four hours I kept ringing her bell every ten minutes, thinking that maybe I missed her enter. Maybe she had fallen asleep. I kept ringing the bell. Her neighbors would stare at me while I sat on the stoop to her building. I went home. At 1 am she called me and said, “can I come over?” And of course I let her. Why not? I wanted to see her.

My sister majored in French literature. My brother in law was French. I introduced them all to each other. I told my sister I loved this girl. The girl told my sister she loved me! I was so happy. She just “KNEW” as well. It was about four days after I met her.

I was going to marry her, have children with her, grow old with her. We’d bicker but never fight. Maybe when I was rich I’d pay her to have sex with me and we’d laugh about that. Whatever happened to that guy that she dated? Did he stop paying her? Where is he right now? Is he married and thinking about her?

We saw each other every night, although sometimes she was busy at the library until 2 in the morning and then she would come over. Sometimes even until 4 in the morning. She was the hardest working French Literarature PhD student I ever knew.

After about a dozen days she woke me up in the middle of the night. She had bunk beds for some reasons and we were squeezed together on the top bunk. I was afraid to fall off. “Hey!” she said. “Hey!”

“What??”

“You were saying out loud  some other girl’s name!

She was unhappy about this. I couldn’t help it though. I was sleeping. She said, “If you can say someone else’s name in your sleep then I can also. I’m going to start saying other guys names in my sleep, anything can happen in my sleep, maybe anything can happen at ANY time, and we’ll just see how you feel about that.”

After I left her house that day I never saw her again. Sometimes you just fall out of love.

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  • Anti-misogynist

    You sir, are a pedophile. First of all, writing stories about having slept with a child prostitute is disgusting…then trying to hide this fact and make her parallel to your grad student sister who is a French literature student is nasty and in bad taste.

    Best line ever “French literature was a useless major” You sound like a dumb ignorant American dork, how did your writing degree work out for you?

  • Andrew W

    James, next time you host on CNBC you should have me on and I will pitch Dow 20K.  I’ll cover my own airfare to NY!

  • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

    I’ve never fallen out of love, but I’ve often realized that what I was using that word to describe was, in fact, something else entirely. 

    Sometimes it’s just hard to sort out the emotions from the desire from the hormones from the everything else. I find this hard most of the time and, as a result, have a very hard time uttering those words to any man other than my daddy. 

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      That’s what I began to realize in my own life, but much much much later. I hope I never say the same thing at a later point but now I feel comfortable with the use. 

  • http://www.dinosaurtrader.com dinosaurtrader

    OMG, I just wrote a post about a sex worker too! The girl in your post might have been the neighbor from my post.

    http://www.thereformedbroker.com/2011/07/12/how-a-sex-worker-got-me-to-trade-stocks/

    And I fully admit to writing an Altucherian title.

    -DT

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Maybe I was writing a DT title

      • http://www.dinosaurtrader.com dinosaurtrader

        The force is strong with you, Altucher.

        -DT

    • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

      Okay, now *I* want to write about sex workers. Or, more specifically, when I almost became one…

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        I would definitely read that.

        • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

          Had today been less infuriating you would have had the chance by now. Soon. Perhaps. 

  • C. Martin

    You may have dodged a bullet there, James. Very nicely written by the way!

    • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

      C. Martin, your comments repeatedly remind me of a C. Martin I once knew. You don’t live in L.A. do you? 

      • C. Martin

        Nah, I’ve always worked and lived in New England.

  • Andrew Ferri

    I’ve heard people compare you to a lot of things, a lot of people.  However I’ve never read anybody more that reminded me of Hemingway than you.  Not the early Hemingway or the late Hemingway, the good Hemingway.  The “Sun Also Rises,” Hemingway when his sole wasn’t yet completely engulfed in the darkness of man, and he still had some youthful exuberance.  You emulate that to me, that’s why I enjoy reading your work and your views on life.  Its as if Hemingway started writing again or “Lost” made more episodes.  Keep up the good the work! 
    Sincerely,@andrew_ferri

    • Dspidero

      I was thinking exactly the same thing about Hemingway!  James, I think many of us were drawn here and to you as a financial writer.  Yet every day we are treated to something so very refreshing.  O Lucky Man that you are.  Your story reminded me of a night of debauchery a lifetime ago when I was a teeny tiny baby summer associate, making a small fortune by my standards,  at a very big and important Wall Street law firm.  There was an associate whose whole job that summer was to take us to and fro one fun activity after another.   It was unsupervised, everything was expensed, the goal was to show us a good time, and we were all much too young to be mature about it.  I met an opera student; he was so beautiful and so alien in every way.  I went to his apartment on the lower east side.  I listened with fascination all night to the stories he told about how he managed to support himself in the slum where he lived.  In the morning he told me most women pay him.  I understood then; I forgot until just now.  hmm.  I do enjoy reading your posts.  

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        That’s fascinating, D. I never heard about that from a man. Did you give him anything?

        And, I am fully rejecting to financial writer hat. I think most financial writers think that the world revolves around what the Fed is going to do tomorrow and who is running the IMF. The world actually revolves around how you feel about yourself when you wake up in the morning, how soundly do your sleep, how your mind carves through the obstacles placed in front of it, and so much more than just the money. I worry about money all the time. But these aren’t useful worries. 

        • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

          Love this part in your comment, “The world actually revolves around how you feel about yourself when you wake up in the morning, how soundly do your sleep, how your mind carves through the obstacles placed in front of it.”  

          All of those, a result of the Daily Practice you wrote about.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I love “The Sun Also Rises”. The only thing is, Hemingway kept everyone guessing. I honestly didn’t realize the main character was impotent til either the end of the book or even after finishing it. His writing is so spare (and beautiful) I don’t think I can emulate it but he’s definitely an inspiration to some of the writers that inspire me. Thank you for the compliment. 

      • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

        And I can only hope to be as good as someone who wrote “Lost”!

      • http://www.brookefarmer.com Brooke Farmer

        I think his most beautiful writing was in the story Hills Like White Elephants. How completely he captured the emotions of the two main characters, the mood of that bar, the struggle of their conflicting desires. And he did it all without ever uttering a word about what the decision they were facing actually was. Possible the most brilliant dialogue ever written. 

    • Bindar Serge

      ” … his sole wasn’t yet completely engulfed in the darkness of man,”

      So that was before he stuck his foot all the way up some guy’s ass?

  • heezy

    why are you so amazing?

  • http://twitter.com/OgFOMK Alexander B. Nuttall

    James has taught me to read faster.

    • Ubernaut

      i agree on both counts ;)

      • VJ

        Mee too…agree on three counts :-)

  • Stevegn L Goff

    I took her release form the next day out of the pile of 20 or so I had interviewed and called her number and asked her to dinner.(((( Completely unethical.))))   niceeeeeeeeee  thinking w/ your other head….it happens…can relate!

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      I’m sure you can. I saw your pictures from last weekend on facebook. 

      • Steven L. Goff

        I know you’ve been reading me…I can tell from your content and direction change in this specific blog title/plot.   It’s awsome BTW. Did I get ya thinking about hookers?…..lol   It’s OK!  She turned out not to be one…and I tried something you taught me/shared with me.   I was a super hero to someone in this world….Felt good and inspired some pretty mean and tough people to even help out.

  • http://twitter.com/demianfarnworth Demian Farnworth

    James, I think just about everything about this post was perfect. Superb. You make me want to quit writing. ;-)

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      Please don’t quit. 

  • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

    Best compliment! About 2/3 through Journey to the End of the Night. Celine very intense though. He takes a concept and grips it from every angle until he’s shaken it dry. I guess in the blog form there’s no room for that. His phrases are very beautiful but there’s an overridng sense that he has two themes: 
    A) he doesn’t want to die
    B) everyone will kill everyone else to avoid dying. 

  • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

    I was a baby then. I didn’t realize anything unti I was writing this post. 

  • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

    Hi Karen, fortunately I didnt enter into any therapy until AFTER I met Claudia. Maybe the therapist would’ve told me I was crazy. But sometimes you have to be a little. 

    But also, throwing caution can happen on several levels. Like taking that trip when everything gives you an excuse not to. 

  • Jeff

    “She pulled me out of a box somehow. She unwrapped me and I saw that I was a beautiful present for the briefest of moments back so long ago.”
    Brilliant, wonderful writing.  I’m proud to be your Facebook friend. 

    The crazy women often generate that intense chemistry in a relationship.  I don’t know why. 

    • Stevegn L Goff

      “The crazy women often generate that intense chemistry in a relationship.  I don’t know why”

      I’ll tell ya why….because they are just that  >>FUCKING CRAZY….and the crazy ones usually turn out to be the best in the sack with hardly and inhibitions abut perversions.  And most males are naturally drawn to sexual freaks…..It’s just in our DNA/wiring

      There is an old saying > “men want a LADY in the dining room and a WHORE in the bedroom”…..it is as true as true gets! Anybody who tells ya different is full of shit….and will probably tell ya they never jerked off in life either. EVERBODY has played w/ themselves before…..lol

  • http://twitter.com/kamalravikant Kamal Ravikant

    So well written, could pass this off as a crafted short-story.  The fact that this was your life, love it.

  • KB

    Who are you reading right now out of curiosity?  Been following your blog for about a month now, and this one screams of a bit it literature – but I mean that in a very good way.  You’ve got some great imagery going on which helps set the scene, and as a reader I’m ‘there’ and understand the situation easily.  This can be hard to do, as a writer I’m painfully aware of it.  The “city exploded with darkness” was iffy, but that shit about the skeletons was so awesome it slid by and read easily.  Enjoying the blog, keep it up!  I miss a bit of the stock side thinking, but at the same time you’ve obviously stuck a chord with just general life for the majority.  Everyone likes reading about themselves, especially when it isn’t themselves.

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

      Just finished “Steps” by Jerzy Kosinski. And I’m 2/3 through “Journey to the End of the Night” by Celine and 1/3 through “Butterfly Stories” by William Vollmann. I reread a little each day of Miranda July’s collection of stories and reading one of the collected letters of Bukowski. I rotate through the above each morning and evening at the moment. 

      • KB

        Cool, I really like Journey by Celine, but towards the end it became a little bit of a struggle.  Could explain why you are 2/3 through.  I think that novel is underrated as one of the most brutal novels ever, though I am not convinced it is one that needs to be finished.  Maybe “cruelly introspective” is better…not sure how to describe it, but it is ruthless and not optimistic at all. Henry Miller was even more sunny than Celine.  

        Celine differs from your professed outlook, and I mean that well – anyone needs to know both sides to appreciate the one they reside on (you profess optimism, typically).Anyway, your writing is inspiring, keep it up.  If you’re looking for some juxtaposition after Celine, read Voltaire’s Candide.  It will be a breath of fresh air, and he was an underrated genius.You into contemporary poetry at all?  Just curious.

      • KB

        Rotating Buk with those others…dunno about that.  Buk is best read in longer spurts – he is more inspirational to other writers looking to connect by writing simply, because he seems so simple.  Of course, once you try to write simply, you understand how difficult it is.  Didn’t mean to double reply here, but missed that you’re reading Buk – excellent idea.  Maybe you resonate just a little bit in that camp, and that’s why I enjoy your honest writing so much.  Anyway, keep it up.

  • Hotei13

    beautiful
     

  • Ace

    James,
    this is just amazing stuff. I tried describing your blog to someone and realized that I simply couldn’t – you really don’t fit into any box.  Did you ever bother looking up this girl now in our post-internet age and figure out what she is doing, what she is up to?

    • Stevegn L Goff

      This guy wants her phone number and current address and to know how much?   lol   ….. I love a fellow scumbag….welcome to our club!

      • Ace

        That’s pretty depressing dude – have some minuscule amount of faith. I actually liked the story.

  • Steven L Goff

    BTW James….did you ever ask how much she used to charge men? Ya had to! You said it excited you….so I know you asked.

  • Stevegn L Goff

    Be totally honest James….did you have an expense account/daily allowance/stipend/per diem rate from HBO. You said you had no money at the time. You could have got HBO to give ya the money to bang her…..lol    Did ya? take some f that they gave ya and at least used it to wine and dine her? If ya say NO….I will be really disappointed in ya.

    • http://www.facebook.com/james.altucher James Altucher

       I totally didn’t. HBO was the cheapest company. That, plus the way they deal with talent, is what separates them out from the pack.

  • wsc

    nice!  thank you, james.

  • http://www.736hundred.tumblr.com 736hundred

    I think it’s simply called “hooking up” now – no exchange of cash- or deep feelings.

  • jdub

    I am in sales and deal with people all day, every day.  It is amazing how a normal day in some peoples lives are the craziest day in others lives.  Great post.

  • Kevin M

    Speaking of financial writing, I enjoyed the rebuttal you gave the Freakonomics guys about QE2. Can’t wait to hear the story about the mouse in the salad.

    Your blog entries never disappoint, JA.

  • Steven L Goff

    “you dont pay a whore for sex….you pay her to leave directly afterwards”
       
    ….I cant believe I left this out of my original thoughts on this blog subject.

  • Steven L Goff

    “you dont pay a whore for sex….you pay her to leave directly afterwards”
       
    ….I cant believe I left this out of my original thoughts on this blog subject.

  • Orange Fish

    Terrific post.  This happened to me too, earlier this year.  She’s a literature PhD student.  Smart, articulate, composed, blond, electric smile, beautiful eyes, physically perfect.  The best date imaginable.  Oh, and a stripper at an “upscale” club in LA where the girls wear bikinis.  It took me all of a day to fall in love with her.  We went to concerts and cafes and fancy lounges and hotels together.  It was heavenly.  And then the money talk started . . . .  Life can be cruel that way.

  • Orange Fish

    Terrific post.  This happened to me too, earlier this year.  She’s a literature PhD student.  Smart, articulate, composed, blond, electric smile, beautiful eyes, physically perfect.  The best date imaginable.  Oh, and a stripper at an “upscale” club in LA where the girls wear bikinis.  It took me all of a day to fall in love with her.  We went to concerts and cafes and fancy lounges and hotels together.  It was heavenly.  And then the money talk started . . . .  Life can be cruel that way.

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      LA is TRICKY

  • Trackman007

    James, fantastic story. I am surprised to be enjoying your last few posts more than your financial insights. In retrospect, I’m curious to know how do you feel about this experience now?

    • http://jamesaltucher.com James Altucher

      It was a necessary step along the way. In an off way, it was the first time I really liked someone after moving to NYC, even though it only lasted a few weeks. So it let me know that it was possible.

      In terms of the posts, there’s a reason maybe you like these more than the financial insights. I don’t think financial insight, in general, really helps anyone. It might satisfy momentary curiousities (will the dollar disappear, etc) but doesn’t really answer the questions we are most concerned with throughout the day. Thanks for your comment.

      • Trackman007

        It was a necessary step along the way – like many things in life -you can learn so much more about these experiences than the more mundane “sheltered” ones. I met you back in person in 2008 at the street.com convention. I was a young guy with a suit. We had a discussion about business school.

        I’d like to read some writing about you moving to New York and the decisions that led you to move. I bet there is some great stories. Thanks for your reply.

  • truzo

    awesome opening p.

  • Beyondbeige

    I have been that girl. I am that girl.