Love was supposed to make you better, not worst. Why was I jogging straight into a life of unbelievable spiritual and physical humiliation?
I’m a survivor.
I’m living proof of the fact that it doesn’t matter where you started. It matters where you end.
At seventeen, I ran away with an older man. He was not who I thought he was. The person I fell in love with was a construct he designed especially for me. The facade matched my naive notion of love and preyed upon my ignorance of the realities of life.
I fled from Chicago, Illinois, to Cleveland, Ohio, against the advice of my mother, father, friends. I left my three-year-old son with my mom to pursue a career as a model. I wanted a better life.
It turned out the man was a pimp, and my fellow models-to-be were prostitutes. I was slated to be the newest addition to the brothel.
“I will never be a seven-dollar whore.” The words echoed in my mind as I sat back in the soft leather seat of a limousine. My driver, ever attentive, asked if I needed anything. I told him I didn’t as I sipped my Smart Water. I would not tell him we were riding past the hotel where I had stood up to Bella.
I was in Cleveland to negotiate a new maintenance contract with one of our Japanese partners, a seventy-million-dollar deal. The driver had picked me up at the airport. He had a salad and ice-cold water waiting for me. I sipped my water slowly, picked at my salad, and thought about Bella.
I remembered being in the lobby of that hotel. I was being trained as a “paid companion.” That night, Leo assigned me to observe the ladies as they went on their dates, collect the money when they came downstairs to prep for their next date, I would then dispatch cleaners to the rooms to prepare them for the next encounter. The three ladies I was responsible for were having a busy night, so it was difficult to keep track of everything.
I did not know if Prince, the pimp, was watching me or not. I had no idea, but I was on my toes in case he was. I was taking my instructions from Bella, who was in charge. I was dressed in a black suit, hair pinned up, beautifully sensible shoes, and a matching purse. Small diamond earrings accented my dark brown eyes. Bella came down and sat next to me. She informed me I needed to come to the room with her.
“No,” I told her. “I’m collecting the money.” Leo had not forced me to prostitute myself… yet. I was to dispatch and hold the money. If someone arrested the ladies, they would confiscate any money on them.
Leo was busy with one of the other girls, so Bella discreetly grabbed my arm and squeezed. We didn’t want to attract attention. “Tee, you will do what I tell you. I’m the one in charge.”
Bella had successfully cowed me on many occasions, but not today. I continued to protest. “No, I’m not your whore.”
Bella leaned in close. “You are whatever I say you are. You are my whore. You will do what I say. I’ll charge what I want for you, tonight. A thousand, five hundred, fifty, or even seven.” Baby laughed. “You’ll be my seven-dollar whore.”
I reached out and put my hand on Baby’s arm and squeezed her hard. “I’m not your seven-dollar whore. I’m not the same girl who came here two months ago. I’m not that bitch. I’m the brand-new bitch you made me into. I will mess you up right here, right now, if you don’t let me go. I’m not going upstairs.”
We stared into each other’s eyes.
“I will never be a seven-dollar whore. Never.” I said it with such force that spittle came out of my mouth and landed on her cheek.
Baby wiped it off and let go of my arm. “I’m going to fuck you up,” she said.
I laughed. “You are going to fuck me up more than I have fucked myself up?” I laughed again, bitterly. “That might be hard to do.” I sat down and took a deep breath as she walked back to the elevator. Tears filled my eyes, but I didn’t let them fall. This was all my fault.
The car stopped moving. I snapped out of my reminiscing. I thought about how blessed I was. They respected me in my company as one of the high-potential players. I had a decent career, a beautiful family, and a devoted husband who knew all about my wild years and did not care.
There is Always Hope
As I walked into the skyscraper, I thought about how strange it was to be back in Cleveland. What would I be doing now if I had not had the smarts to escape? Would I even be alive? I had been lucky in many ways. I had been very dumb in others.
People often lead poor lives because they cannot find a way out of their self-made binds. They have no hope. They see no future. But I am here to say there is always, always a possibility of a bright future.
I give myself as an example. No mistake or circumstance is escape proof. There is no inescapable future.
Instead, thirty years later, after changing my thinking and dealing with my bad decision head-on, I am ready to comfortably retire as an Operations Vice President having worked at some top Fortune Fifty companies in the US and UK. Even now I recall how my past is a stark contrast from the life I achieved.
Taking one small step will make a difference. One step, just one step, will provide hope that change is possible. Hope is a game changer.
Take that first step, turn the page on your past and live the life you deserve.
It doesn’t matter where you started.
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Adapted from Toni Crowe’s 6 book memoir — Book 1, Never A $7 Whore.
I can be reached at https://www.tonicrowewriter.com