I can't believe I get to the airport early, but then of course JoAnne's flight has been delayed so I'm pacing back and forth and it's definitely not as glamorous to be at the airport without a little bit of K or coke or some other delicious nose candy, right? I keep going to the bathroom anyway, but it’s to check my hair, even though there’s so much spray in it that it doesn't move, what am I thinking? That JoAnne’s going to get off the plane, and say honey, your hair’s a mess, I'm going back to my mother's house in Issaquah?
What is wrong with the airport? It's like all the worst people from around the world. Ned pages me. He asks if I want to get together tonight, and I say not tonight, because JoAnne is arriving and he says oh, I'm sorry, I forgot that was tonight, I'm very excited for you. And when I get off the phone I kind of feel calmer, which is ridiculous. At least I've been very clear with him. Starting right when he first said he really liked me. And he said he wanted us to spend more time together, but he didn't want the pressure of paying me by the hour, he couldn't afford that, and yes I wanted to laugh and say girl, that chandelier in your entryway probably cost more than my entire life.
But instead I looked him right in the eyes and I said I like you too — and it's true, I do like him, I mean he's amusing enough, it's interesting to hear about his life, he actually listens. I definitely don't like having sex with him, that's for sure, but of course I didn't say that. I just said: I want to make it clear that I wouldn't be spending time with you except for the financial dimension.
And he said he understood. But he wanted to know about the possibility of an arrangement that would allow me to stay over a few times a week, something more informal that offered flexibility for both of us.
Right then I knew that I was playing a high-stakes game. I mean ever since I called him after seeing him that first time, called him back and said that was really fun, do you want to get together again, ever since I did that I knew I was breaking all my rules because I never call tricks, or almost never, because they're supposed to call me, right? I'm the hooker. But now there's the issue of supporting JoAnne for a few months. So when Ned asked if we could arrange something, of course I tried to act casual, but my brain was racing to figure out the right thing to say.
So I said: I used to have a client who paid me monthly.
And then I started working out all the details in my head, about how that was when I was really young, I didn't know exactly what I was doing and so we didn't have enough boundaries, we both ended up getting hurt. I even started thinking about the house we used to live in together, in Georgetown, a big brick townhouse not that different from this one, with a beautiful little garden in the back, but more crowded inside because he and his wife hadn’t renovated, yes his wife but they were divorced, no, separated, and how I enjoyed living with him but the whole situation was precarious because I was underage and my parents didn't want me there.
No, underage is taking it too far, maybe this happened when I first got to Boston, that's who was paying my tuition at BU when I first started going there, it was his idea, and then he’s the one who figured out how to get me a scholarship.
No, I hate school — I can't say that.
Anyway, I didn't have to say any of this, because Ned already looked like he was ready to sign on the dotted line. This whole posture had changed, more and less comfortable at the same time, like we were in a business meeting. He said: I wouldn't want you to see anyone else.
And I said oh, well, that wasn't part of my previous arrangement, I mean I'm not interested in monogamy.
And he said no, it's okay for you to see guys your own age, I understand the need for that, but I wouldn’t want you to be escorting.
Oh, I said, cautiously — well, you do understand that this is how I make a living. I would need to be sure that all of my expenses would be taken care of. And he said of course, he understood that. And I said well, $3000 a month should cover my basic needs.
That's the place. That's the place where I got a little high, I could feel my eyes rolling back just a little. And he said: I don't think I could afford that. And I felt my stomach pull in.
There's this thing about talking to rich people, right? You have to act like the most ridiculous things they say about money are actually true, like you're taking their needs into account, so I tried to look thoughtful while sipping on the remnants of my drink and when he noticed it was gone he went into the kitchen to get me another. He's never stingy about alcohol. And when he came back he said: How about $2000, that's what I can afford.
That's when I knew it was a deal. Rich people like to bargain. It means you don't think they're rich.
And I said I think I could do it for $2500.
And he paused for a moment, and then smiled and said it's a deal. Then he raised his glass in a toast and said should we start today? And I said sure. And he said let me write you a check, is Tyler your real name?
And I knew he was testing me, because if we were going to have this agreement he wanted to know my legal name. In case anything happened.
But I'm not worried about my name.
He said is it okay if I call you Matt?
And I said sure, like we had established a new element of intimacy. Even though Matt is no more intimate than Tyler for me, I mean I actually chose Tyler, right?
So then I added: I do prefer Tyler.
So Ned still calls me Tyler. Most of the time.
And then when he went upstairs for his checkbook, I got up for the first time to look more closely at one of the paintings. From the distance it looks like some kind of Renaissance nude, rising out of flowers but then when you get up close you realize that even though the woman looks like she's laughing you can see all the bones in her body and her skin is gray. It's not flowers she's rising from, but melting ice cream. I looked at her expression again: pleasure, or pain?
And just when I was thinking I’ll have to study the art more closely, Ned came down and says that one's really special, isn't it? She's one of my favorite artists.
And that's when I thought maybe this will be fun, getting to know this rich old man like we're friends. He was handing me the check, I said thank you and we kissed, I wondered if I ever wouldn't be disgusted by his breath. Maybe I'll just start pretending that I have an Altoids habit, do you want one? Or no, not Altoids, something without gelatin.
And then we sat back on the sofa arm in arm, not like we were a couple, but like we were a couple, and I was trying to figure out how to say that I didn't actually have a checking account.