My first few weeks working as an outcall escort in New York, I had to share a car with a weaved up, wigged out Brooklyn Mamacita named Lisette. Lisette had a penchant for wearing tight, shiny, metallic colored dresses from Rainbow and not matching her lipstick to her lipliner. With her slinky clothes, big, fake hair and Latin- affected style of speech, Lisette sounded like and resembled a younger Chola version of 1970’s talk show favorite Charo, though given the choice of a signature phrase, Lisette would have opted for one jarringly spat cunt over the original’s two happy cutchi’s.
Whenever Lisette’s mouth moved, her hips, like Fairy Tale Mary’s co-dependent little lamb, followed close behind. Since her mouth was always moving, it was as like she was doing a constant, bitchy striptease.
The agency’s driver would pick me up first, and then we would drive to Lisette’s apartment building in Bed-Stuy. Without fail, she would leave us waiting outside her apartment building for at least an hour. The driver and I would idle in his Lincoln town car, with its illegally tinted windows, doubled parked and looking very much like we were up to no good.
“Can't we just leave her?” I’d ask at the thirty minute mark.
“No,” the heavily accented driver would intone, barely looking over his shoulder to where I sat in the back seat. “She’s one of the agency's best girls.”
Once she finally got in the car, it was on to phase two of an evening with Lisette. Phase two involved tending to her various needs and nightly whims between calls. The usual list consisted of:
1. Buying and smoking weed
2. Buying and applying make- up
3. Buying and eating chicken.
Lisette loved to blaze the lung Colombian and masticate fowl. She had a keen talent for doing all of these things while screaming at various off- the clock paramours with names like Scribble or A-Dawg over her pink bejeweled cell phone.
After doing a few calls with her, I formulated a speculative theory about what it was about her obnoxiousness that the agency's clients found so appealing.
We were a mid level escort service, which was well- reflected in both the stretch of our client’s wallets and the physical charms of the women available to them. Calls started at $250 an hour. In the hierarchy of outcall escort services, this price implied that the women available for services probably wouldn’t have breast implants, but they probably wouldn’t be missing any teeth, either. The majority of the agency’s clients lived in the suburbs of Long Island or in outer- city New Jersey. They were largely older, white men. I imagined that the only places these men ever really got to see women like Lisette was on paternity test talk shows, finger- pointing and talking to the hand, so angry at their suspected baby-daddy’s they could hardly sit still in their stage seats. I envisioned these prospective clients sitting on their comfortable living room couches safely absconded in their suburban homes both repulsed and turned on by the loud, rough mouths on these TV caricatures and the harbingers to violence in their gesticulations. They wanted to both wash their mouths out with soap and stick their dicks inside. In their naiveté, they assumed that anything over $50 an hour for paid sex implied that the working girl herself would be far enough removed from desperation that they wouldn't be beaten or robbed, and they liked the idea that the driver was there to take her away, after they got their dicks wet and gave her a lecture on better living.
In by-the-hour allotments, these johns- to- be were hoping to live their own porn fantasies of The Taming of the Mami Shrew.
At least this was my theory.
Lisette was one of those flaky pot smokers who constantly lost their things. Misplacing her makeup bag meant not only losing her mismatched lipliner and lipstick, but her evening's supply of bronchial buddha, because that was where she kept it hidden.
Her fingers glutinous with chicken grease, she’d tear up the car seats and surrounding area searching for it. She’d demand the agency call her last client to see if it was there, all the while glaring at me and the driver accusingly. Finally, giving in to the fact that her makeup and groove grass had voyaged forever to the no-fault of-her-own land of the lost, she’d put in a syrupy- sweet reconciliation call to A-Dawg for more dope. Then we’d drive over Rite-Aid for a new lipstick and lipliner.
A few nights into our pairing, I met Lisette’s driver of choice, a young Jewish guy from Brooklyn named Al. Most agency drivers were aging Romanian nationals, with bad attitudes and disdain for the girls in their cars. They made it obvious they looked down on us, even though they made their livings off our calls. A simple, basic human rights request to use the bathroom might be met with a steely eyed gaze that dared you to ask again. Al was an anomaly for an agency driver- he was in his mid thirties and handsome, with dark Polish features. An evening with Al at the wheel was actually close to bordering on fun. But Al also suffered from a set of neurotic hang ups right out of a Lenny Bruce monologue. He was obsessed with his mother and the regularity of his bowel movements.
Whenever Al had to deuce, we'd pull over to a diner and he'd spend as much time inside the bathroom as Lisette would spend not coming outside at the beginning of the night. He used baby wipes and carried a cup in his glove compartment to get the wipes even more yielding. He’d put the baby wipes into this designated cup and let them soak as he shat. Letting those wipes saturate is what accounted for so much of his time in the bathroom. He would settle for no absorption level less.
Even Al, with all his basket case charm, was not immune to Lisette’s bewitching puta. They had been fucking, but their casual relationship had come to an impasse where nightly it was a battle to determine whose aberrant needs took precedence. Lisette had no patience for Al’s dump runs when she was hungry for farm foul and Al didn't want her smoking doobage in his Cadillac when he had his mom on the phone. Al attributed almost psychic- like abilities to his mom and was desperate she not find out that he was driving her car for an escort agency. He was convinced that if his mother heard Lisette’s unique yammer of Spanish and English in the background, she would figure it out.
One night, after a particularly nasty fight over where exactly Lisette had left her makeup bag, Al exploded in an uncharacteristic fit of rage and threw the rest of her belongings out the car window. When she hopped out of the car to retrieve them, he took off, leaving her on a Brooklyn side street. She wasn’t far from home, but this event left Lisette in a fury and out for retribution. Because I was in the car when Al took off, I was deemed complicit in her degradation. Word spread throughout the agency that Lisette’s anger with me would only be abated by kicking my ass.
“We’re going to White Castle to meet some other drivers,” mine for the night announced as I sat in the backseat dozing off, a few weeks after the Lisette- stuff tossing. My driver was an older, gruff Romanian, the type Al’s savory good looks and (normally) easy going nature made him stand so far apart from. On slows nights it was normal to meet up with other agency girls and drivers to kill time between calls. Not feeling immensely social, as soon as we got to White Castle I decided to go inside and get something to drink. I was standing in line, browsing the menu when I caught a sudden whiff of chicken followed by a chaser scent of pot.
The Beastie Boy’s never sang anything about chicken at White Castle, I thought to myself. Then a hand grabbed my shoulder.
“I been waitin' for disssss, you natee bitch. Yo asssss is mine!”
Lisette treated language very much like she did her clothing choices. Necessary, but abbreviated. She dropped complete word endings and had absolutely no patience for verb tense. But she was fond of S’s and liked to draw them out. Her intent announced in the form of butchered bullet points, she turned on her glassine heels and went back outside to the parking lot.
When I was first enlightened by my co-workers as to Lisette’s plans for vengeance against my derriere, I didn’t delude myself: She could totally kick it. If ever there had been an outfit hiring ass- kickers and she and I were competing for the same job, her application would have sent mine to the shredder. My experience in the ass kicking department involved sibling squabbles, while hers involved full out brawls with residents of the housing project she had called home. My altercations had only occurred when I wanted my stuffed animals back.
Maybe she'll get a call and be gone by the time I get outside, I stargazed. I'll get my soda and then I'll spend a long time in the bathroom. It seemed almost redundant to go through the formalities. Couldn’t we just agree to agree that she could kick my ass without having to go through with the motions?
I knew Lisette was running her mouth in the parking lot. My co-workers already thought me to be a wimpy white girl for reading books in the backseat of the car between calls with a portable night light. I knew my actions now would either confirm or refute these assumptions in the pinned, glazed eyes of my co-workers. I got my soda and went outside, deciding to just serve Lisette my ass on a platter. If it didn’t happen now, it was going to happen sometime in the near future.
In the parking lot, to my surprise, I didn't see her anywhere. Assuming she had gotten a call, I opened the door to the car and sat down, quietly relieved. I tipped my soda straw to my good fortune and imbibed. At that same moment, an arm ending in a hand with five perfectly manicured purple fingernails with little painted dice on the tips ripped the car door back open.
"Step up now, you natee bitch! Yo asssss is mine!"
A small audience of drivers and escorts instantly formed around the car to watch. I was able to quickly close the door but Lisette reached her hands through the open window, and grabbed a large hunk of my hair. It seemed most advantageous to hold onto her arm, hoping it would help to keep my hair connected to my head. My other arm scrambled to reopen the door in an attempt to whack her with it.
"LISETTE! YOU REALLY FUCKING DID IT THIS TIME!”
It was hard to move my head with Lisette’s arm attached, but I recognized this disembodied voice as belonging to Al. He continued, his loud, raging articulation becoming the soundtrack to my hair loss.
“I HONESTLY DIDN'T THINK YOU HAD IT IN YOU!”
Still busy with the pursuit of detaching my hair from my head, Lisette did not budge. Whatever Al was going on about, she deemed my destruction more pressing.
His voice got louder.
“YOU DIRTY BITCH!”
I heard a rash of movement outside the car. Suddenly my head was free from Lisette’s grip and I saw her struggling with Al over her bag. Al wrestled it free and ran towards the boulevard in front of the White Castle.
“DON’T YOU EVER…EVER… CALL MY FUCKING MOM EVER AGAIN!”
He was rummaging threw her bag looking for something.
"You're fucking dead papi! A-Dawg and Scribble are gonna carve yo assss the fuck up papi!"
Lisette ran after Al and they struggled some more. Finally, emancipating the bag from her grip, Al sent it sailing through the air, its contents scattering all over the lanes of traffic. I recognized the shattered pieces of a writable CD and wondered if perhaps Lisette had finally made it to the recording stage of the R&B CD she'd claimed to have been working on with A-Dawg.
I watched her attempt to gather some make-up at a semi-safe traffic moment. A cab whizzed past her, its motion creating a breeze that lifted the ends of her weave from her shoulders. She was running for her phone, which surprisingly appeared unscathed. Its jewels had acted as a cushion. Al beat her to it. He lifted his knee and with one powerful stomp, smashed it like le cucaracha. Al walked back to his car like an action hero after a huge explosion by which the day had been saved.
“That girl is insane!” I said to my driver, massaging my tender scalp. “Can I get her fired for attacking me?”
“I can’t believe she called his mom!” he responded, reminding me for a second of Balki Bartokomous from the sitcom Perfect Strangers. He was fearful of the cops and in a hurry to leave. I occurred to me that this was the first time he'd ever shared any sort of candid thought with me. Then, like he too had noticed this unclean break from form, he pulled back, shook off the mistake and responded to my original query.
“No. Never. She’s one of the agency’s best girls.”
I later found out from Al that thanks to Lisette’s marble- mouthed mastery of the English language, he had been able to convince his mother that “working for an escort service” actually translated to “working Ford Escort” and that Lisette had been calling his house to inquire about buying a friend’s car.
© Fiona Helmsley 2008