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Thursday, October 31, 2002

My Friend the Prostitute

It seems as if too many of my stories start with "I knew this person in school who..." But let's face it, school is like the Army or standing in line at the driver's license office. It's one of those situations where lots of different kinds of people are thrown together and forced to deal with each other for a period of time, and sometimes wackiness ensues.

Here's but one example, and it's not even the main one in this story. During my university freshman year I lived on the same hall as a guy who (1) was extremely intelligent, but (2) seemed to spend most of his free time getting drunk and high.

One time late at night I crossed paths with him on campus, and he was with two students from Africa. One of the foreign students said, "This guy, he is fucked up."

And he was. He said something like, "Umph, bluuu zwerp."

Somehow it struck me as tragic and funny that that a guy who had been in this country for only a matter of weeks was serving as a translator for a lifelong American.

That guy, the bright substance abuser, began flunking out his second year and was later seen serving burgers at a local fast food restaurant.

He freely admitted that he still spent a great deal of time getting high and drunk.

Okay, here's the main part of my story.

Also during my freshman year I was friends with a girl who had started at the university after her third year in high school. Most people, probably 98 percent, start after their fourth year, but some schools will let you enroll as long as you score well enough on the national entrance exam.

So, she was fully a year younger than the rest of us and looked about three years younger than she was. Also, her father was a minister, which meant she had a somewhat sheltered upbringing.

I had a few classes with her, and she was very bright and very well prepared--academically--for higher education.

She joined a sorority, and things started going downhill. The sorority had all sorts of rules, such as it was a "demerit" for being seen intoxicated while wearing anything bearing the sorority name.

She violated that one a lot.

There as a sorority song that spelled out the Greek letters of the organization, but she chose to sing, "I am a B. I am a B. I am a B-I-T-C-H."

That didn't go over well.

She had trouble getting a date for a sorority event because she just looked so young..and I guess just wasn't fitting in. My girlfriend at the time arranged for me to be her date, which flattered me immensely, as if I were a commodity that required careful negotiation.

She began to neglect her studies, and at the end of the year she transferred to regional school about two hours away with a less-demanding academic program.

That proved to be a very bad move in that it allowed her to not only NOT study but also get GOOD grades. She was smart enough to pull that off there.

She wound up with plenty of free time to associate with bad influences, such as an older woman who became her roommate. We had suspicions of a lesbian relationship, and that would have been fine, had it not pointed her in the direction of other things.

The two began hanging out in bars where the normal flirtations with men transpired. Somewhere along the way, half-jokingly, a guy wondered how much she would charge to egage in certain intimate actitivies. A price was established, the roommate gave her a verbal "crash course" in sex (she was a virgin, with men, anyway), a room was rented and the deal was done.

This happened a few more times. And to make matters worse, it seems some of her "customers" were guys who were married with children and may or may not have worked for the same company as my father.

She was also snorting cocaine, and if you've ever known anyone who uses the stuff, you're familiar with the raw noses, wiping, bleeding, etc.

I'm old enough now to be able to predict this kind of thing, but back then I wasn't. She called me around midnight and wanted my girlfriend and me to drive three hours to her hotel, pick her up and take her back. She was coked up and was either beginning or finishing a prostitution-related transaction.

I did the math. Three hours up, three hours back. The time there could be brief or could involve a great deal of convincing to get in the car. Please get in the car. You MUST get out of here. Please, please get in the car. No, you're not all right now. No, I don't really think these people here are going to be offended if you leave. And so on.

I had an exam the next day, and I and many others had tried to reason with her to get away from this life she'd taken up.

Now she wanted help, and I determined I just couldn't do it. I had an exam the next day, and I spent the first two years of school paranoid I'd flunk out and have to return to my hometown, which I hated.

To this day I wonder, what if I had told the professor I had a personal issue to resolve and needed to reschedule the exam? That kind of thing was frowned upon and usually required a doctor's excuse.

Would I have failed a class but saved a friend?

I'll never know.

She kind of faded away after that, but I saw her again years later, purely by chance when I dropped off a computer to be repaired. She had a job there.

We thought we recognized each other but weren't sure. Then she said, "Aren't you Jeff..."

We acted friendly and chatted about school, but I was thinking, "I guess that prostitution thing didn't work out." At least I was hoping it didn't.

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