I wake up hearing noises I don’t usually hear if I been passed out in the Cricket or in Daisy’s and my cabin. Sounds of people laughin’, dishes clankin’ - I smell all kinds a good food cookin’. The pillow under my head is all soft and plump. Smells like it’s just been warshed, so I know it ain’t mine. When my eyes focus, I see my dress nicely folded lying over the back of a chair instead of like usual, still on me or thrown on the floor.
Then I recalls. Yesterday night there was people running around, yellin’ about Injuns comin’. I’d run like hell to the boarding house, looking for Rodger. I didn’t even give a thought ‘bout that nasty little housekeeper he got there, with whom I got into a scratching fight earlier. She weren’t likin’ me usin’ the stove there, which Rodger said I can do anytime I want.
Anyways, she weren’t there but he were, and he done took me in. It were about as close to bein’ in heaven as I’ll likely ever get - Roger, he’s like a angel. Took me up to his private quarters and listened to me, even brushin’ my hair and rubbin’ on my back. He don’t treat me like other men do – it ain’t so much he treats me like a lady, so much as he treats me like a human being. Only other people does that is other girls like me. Maybe Rod. Maybe a couple others.
Rodger’s is one of the laughin’ voices I’m heared talkin’ down there now. No way I can leave as the only way out is down them stairs and right through the eatin’ area. Any other customer but him, I’d do it, what the hell do I care? But I ain’t gonna do that to Rodger - he don’t deserve to have no whore in his place.
So I just lay me back down and pretend. First I pretends I am the daughter of some nice people who is downstairs. See, they don’t have no other children and today is my wedding day. I have a beauteous dress and my father, who don’t drink, is gonna walk me down the aisle in a church where I can be married on accounta I am a virgin.
That gets to be too hard to think about, as I don’t like to recall that time when I were a virgin, and how suddenly I weren’t. Rememberin’ that and thinking how it mighta been feels like my heart is getting’ ripped.
So I get up all quiet and look for a bottle in Rodger’s drawers and trunk, but he don’t have no liquor that I can find. Rodger don’t like me drinkin’ – he says I killin’ myself. He did let me drink what I brung with me last night, but he wouldn’t go get me no more. He is a angel, no alcohol in his bedroom and he got a pitcher of his mother on the bureau. You can tell it’s his ma, cause she looks like him but with hair.
Then I lay me back down and wait. By now I can hear dishes getting’ washed down below. I switch my pretending to me being Rodger’s wife and the servants being downstairs cleaning up. That ain’t near so difficult to pretend on, 'cause he do seem to like being with me.
I lay there thinkin’ how most people who ain’t whores themselves don’t know a fuckin’ thing about whores. Some seem to think we was born to be whores, like they ain’t nothin’ else we would rather be doin’, like we do it all our wakin’ hours and maybe in our dreams, too. They the ones that act like our lives is one big party. I’d like ta see them with twenty dirty men in a day, with mouths that smells like cigars and whiskey moanin’ “suck me” in their ears and maybe their hands around their throats and see if they still think it’s a party.
Some seems to think we done something wrong, and whorin’ is our punishment, so that’s why they can cuss us as they fuck us, throw things at us, or try to strangle us, beat us or even kill us – and nobody does nothin’. Their women be the ones that call themselves Christians in one side of their mouths, and calls us trash outside of the other..
Me, I spend most of my time on my back trying not to cry outloud, trying not to hate myself. The whiskey helps a bit.
I lay there a while longer, tryin’ to imagine what it’d be like to have a husband. Or a lover. I ain’t never had a husband nor no lover, not like I know others girls has had. I’d settle for a regular customer, or even just some one I ain’t married to but who’d watch out for me, without taken my money. Maybe even pay my way in exchange for a few favors.
Roger kinda does that. He pays me and all I gotta do is lay down with him, talk with him, rub his back or let him brush my hair. He likes my hair. A lot. He thinks red hair is pretty, and curls are nice. Sometimes he puts my head next ta his and lays my hair over his head and asks me how he looks. I never knows what to say, so I just smile and nod. Now that I seen the pitcher of his mother, I can say he looks like her.
Finally, it gets all quiet downstairs so I rise and get dressed. I look in Rodger’s mirror – he’s got one of them big ones that shows most all of you, even your back if you turns a bit. In the light in his room, I don’t look too bad. I know the truth comes out when I stand in the daylight.
Men come right up and look at us like we horses they considerin’ buyin’ and make commentaries. Damn idiots don’t hesitate to say who’s pretty today and who ain’t. Not the kinda thing any woman needs ta hear. They say they don’t like big boned girls, or they don’t like skinny pale ones, when they could say they prefer Daisy cause she’s tiny and pale, or me cause my bosoms are big and I got all the red hair.
Sure, Daisy’s startin’ ta look a little worn around the edges. She ain’t even as old as me, but them medicines she takes is wearin’ on her. She still got a glimmer of her youth when she smiles, which ain’t often enough. As for me, I figure if Daisy’s lookin’ worn, I’m probably only one bad night away from turnin’ into a hag. Twenty-and-four might not be old for some, but for girls like me, it’s a life time.
Rodger I figure is my last chance out.
Since he blessedly don’t seem to require much in the way of sex – only a little of the easy kind – I figure they way for me to convince him I could be as good as any wife who never whore’d is to cook for him. I been cookin’ on my own since I were small. Ain’t a whole lot around here to cook with, but I have a few things I kin whip up better than that housekeeper of his can.
Rodger’s busy out back fiddling with some doors. Not wantin’ to bother him (and in need of a bit of whiskey anyways) I make sure the boarders is gone and that snooty housekeeper is out afore I slip out. I don’t want to be ruinin’ my man’s business.
Walkin’ down the street, I hold my chin up proud and high. I got a slip a pride still, though sometimes I feel like I’m losin’ my grip on it. I tells myself, no matter what these people think, this ain’t how I should end up. I didn’t ask for this. Every mornin’ I wake up thinkin’ I’m livin’ someone else’s life, wonderin’ what the hell did I ever do to deserve this?
If I don’t get out now…