author – activist – faculty – mom
For full novel description, see About Aya’s novel-in-progress:
Marisol had left her New York pimp to become a wealthy executive’s mistress. It seemed like a good gig at first, because all her needs were met and he only wanted sex once a day, at most. But she had to be available 24-7, because she never knew when he might make a request. A quick blow job while he showered after mid-morning racquetball. A little latenight missionary after a board meeting.
Although never gave her cash, he would let her buy anything she wanted off the internet. She quickly learned which stores would give cash refunds for items bought online, and began to squirrel away some savings. She got bored after a while, until she discovered online education. She managed to get an online degree in bookkeeping while she was on-call in his apartment.
A few months later, the executive was working on a merger, and was guaranteed to be gone all day. Marisol printed out her resume and began looking for work.
She got her first interview with a public health clinic in Chelsea that served a lot of sex workers. Marisol could have made much more money in a corporate environment, but she was hoping to get a job where she didn’t have to make up an imaginary past.
At her second interview, Marisol sat in the program director’s cramped and cluttered office, staring out the smudged window at a dumpster in the back alley. Eva Feldman looked at Marisol’s resume, saw an eight-year gap between the time Marisol had graduated high school and the time she started doing temp work as a bookkeeper. The program director glanced up at the attractive, voluptuous, young Latina in the low-cut button-down top and tight slacks and did the math.
“What’s your number one reason for wanting to work at our clinic?” Eva asked casually.
“I came here a few times as a client,” Marisol said. “I’d rather work in a place where I can be myself.”
“So what are your career goals?” Eva asked. “I like to think about employees long term. You might start at this job, but what’s the bigger plan? Are you wanting a steady 9 to 5 job so you can pay your bills and just relax and have your life, or more of a career track job? Long hours, more pressure, but with more potential to move up? Just be honest. We have both types of opportunities for here. I like to put people in the situation that’ll be a good fit.”
“I’m more interested in the career track,” Marisol said.
“You have something particular in mind?” Eva asked. “Clinical work? Like a counselor or social worker? Or more on the program end?”
“I’m interested in the financials,” Marisol said. “I live with this guy right now. He’s a corporate guy, and I read a lot of his economics books. I got really into this idea of business models. I mean, all the time I was in the business—the sex industry—I didn’t understand the model. I just knew what me and the other girls did to get paid. And I knew my pimp got paid and he didn’t have sex with anybody. But I couldn’t see the big picture. With these books, they didn’t talk about sex work, but I started thinking about how to apply the theories and business models to the industry.”
“Interesting,” Eva said, and nodded encouragingly. Later, Marisol would learn that this was her psychotherapist voice.
“Yeah,” Marisol said. “And I been wondering how you could mix and match different models, and make something totally new to help the girls have more control and financial independence. That’s part of why I wanted to work for the clinic. Because in all my time in the industry, this was the only place that actually helped me think about my health and my future, you know?”
Marisol realized she should shut her mouth and stop spouting these crazy theories she’d been dreaming up. She could feel herself sweating in the synthetic blouse she had gotten for $6.99 at the same place she bought her street gear. She really wanted this job. The temp bookkeeping gigs were in uptight offices with stuffy-ass chicks. One had even looked down at her cleavage and mentioned a dress code. This white woman seemed more sympathetic, and much less stuffy, with her short, slightly wild, curly brown hair and her black cotton V-neck top. She had a little cleavage of her own showing, although, Eva Feldman had the kind of boobs that show cleavage in a turtleneck.
Oh my god, was she staring at the woman’s chest? She was definitely rambling. Marisol knew she should shut up, that she was probably blowing the interview. Who was she to say she had ideas about business models? She was just supposed to keep the books. Enter data and do spreadsheets and crank out reports. She knew she should shut up about this other stuff, but she’d been reading these economics books for the past year, and had let these ideas rattle around in her head for so long with no one to talk to. Eva kept listening, didn’t look impatient, didn’t glance at her watch or anything, so Marisol couldn’t help herself.
“I mean, the pimp sent me to the clinic because he wanted me to be healthy but just so I could keep working. The clinic cared about me, but you guys don’t have any real money. What’s it called—non-profit? Meanwhile, the pimp is all about profit. Why can’t you mix the two? I heard in Sweden prostitution is legal and they tax it or something, right? Plus they have public health. There’s gotta be a way to work it here in the US so girls get a better deal. I know that sounds crazy, right?”
“Yeah,” Eva said. “But crazy in a good way.”
Eva gave Marisol the job, and encouraged her good-crazy ideas. As a result, several years later, the two of them opened the María de la Vega clinic, with an innovative mixed business model. With Eva’s professional mentorship, Marisol had gotten that career with the long hours and the high pressure. She also changed her image, and began to wear clothes that were attractively tailored to flatter her curves with more subtlety than the cheap stuff from the hot girl fashion stores.
So Marisol had been strictly legal and legit for nearly a decade when the recession hit. And then she had to get creative…