The cops didn’t even throw real handcuffs on me before they shoved me into the van.
“Move it, girls! To the back!”
The soles of my black peep-toe Choos stick to the floor as I make my way in, and before my ass even touches the seat the door slams shut. I take the entire last row to myself while my two girls take the seat together in front of me.
SWEET AND SPICY DIVA WITH CARAMEL SKIN!
BLONDE AND BLUE-EYED BABY GIRL NEXT DOOR!
I always put two polar opposite girls on shift together. Supply. Demand. Variety. But they haven’t stopped crying since the cops busted down the apartment door. Such weakness. They’re two of my top earners, but also my youngest and the cops will try to break them before the day is done. I know this.
A crowd is forming around us outside, and although they can’t see us, we can see them, taking their selfies with the van. They can’t get enough of the NYPD logo. Fucking tourists. We’re not far from Ground Zero so the streets are swarming with them and their cameras. But when the ignition turns on the crowd of selfie-sticks finally disappears.
There’s no air conditioning back here even though the two cops up front have theirs blasting, and with today’s record temperatures, the foul stench of mold and musk in the van is brutal. But Manhattan in August is always ruthless. Something wet seeps between my toes as we pull away from the sidewalk. Piss? Spit? I look down at my feet, and regret it immediately as my chronic motion sickness kicks in, but I can’t see a thing anyway it’s so dark. I lift my head back up towards the girls. But my eyes get drawn to the dried specks––of what, I don’t know––stuck to the back of their seat. Food? Flesh? Oh god. The Caramel Frappuccino I had earlier is coming up my throat and some of it, still cold, rushes into my mouth. I clench my lips together, my teeth too, as I force myself to swallow it. It burns my throat on the way back down and I need to wipe my mouth but I can’t.
It hasn’t even been that long but my shoulders are starting to ache and my hands are going numb as the plastic digs deeper into my wrists. It hurts, but I’ve felt this very pain once before––the only time my grandfather (God rest his soul) ever yelled at me. I was nine. I’d watched him set up his fancy new VCR and sat mesmerized as he zipped up bunches of cable cords with plastic ties. I’d later rifled through his toolbox and looped a bunch of them together into a chain, not knowing they could only be used once. He had to throw out the useless ties, but not before my grandmother, whom I’d always feared immensely, came down the hall hearing all the commotion. I’d always been convinced that my grandmother hated me for things I could not help, although nobody ever believed me when I said it. She chose that particular day to confirm what I already knew. It wasn’t even about wasting those stupid plastic ties. In fact, she snatched a new one out of the toolbox and viciously tied my wrists together. “Are you right in the head?” she’d shouted. Like, what would make me do such a thing? She threatened to tell my parents to have my head checked at “the crazy hospital,” because aside from priests, shrinks were most feared and revered by Koreans. Double-teamed and still bound, I’d gotten down on my knees and cried, swearing I’d never do such a thing again. My grandfather immediately grabbed his box cutter and cut through the plastic restraining me, and I still believe to this day that he regretted the whole incident. I can’t say the same for my grandmother. Even so, the very idea of something clicking into place, right where it was meant to be, had soothed me. I never admitted to him or to anyone else that the sound and feeling of that hard plastic clicking against my skin felt so good, pleasurable even. But when those same cable ties were locked around my wrists by the cops just now, there was neither pleasure nor sense of nostalgia. I was just another sex worker busted to meet the month-end quota at some precinct.
I lean forward to whisper to the girls.