We agreed, $100 for half an hour would be fair. I would be her third john that evening, but our encounter would be different than her usual workload.
I had been sitting in an ESPN Zone lounge in the lobby of the New York New York Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada when Mia walked in, a black early 20’s-something woman from Manhattan. Wearing a brown rayon fingertip-length wrap dress with gold sequined peep-toe Louboutin’s, a voguish denim jacket dressed the outfit down. I noticed her out of the corner of my eye and instantly knew she was in this place on a mission.
While wandering around the lounge hoping to catch the eye of any male patrons, her searching eye caught my inquisitive glance. She quickly approached my table where I sat finishing my tenderloin steak and she began trying to sweet talk me into spending some time with her.
I was in Las Vegas visiting some dear friends when my flight to San Francisco for business had been bumped and the airline put me up at a Day’s Inn just off the Vegas strip. After a transformer blew nearby and the hotel was without power, I elected to go grab some dinner; little did I plan on meeting Mia.
I live and work in northeast Portland near 82nd Avenue where seeing women hoping to turn a few tricks is not a new sight. So, I knew instantly when Mia walked into that Vegas restaurant what she was about. After she approached me, I quickly got myself out of the situation, letting her know I was not there for her kind of work. But, as Mia walked away from me in search of a customer who would be interested, I felt prompted to go find her and spend some time with her, just a different kind of “time” than Mia was used to.
This of course might seem awkward. I’ve been married for seven years, most of the time quite happily. My wife loves me, and I her. And we make the choice daily to stay with each other, come what may –– we as Jesus’ people are covenanted with each other.
But, something tugged at my heart to reach out to Mia that evening. Quickly paying my tab at the restaurant, I found her working the craps area and approached her; I began talking to her while we wandered around New York New York. Finally I asked, “How much is your time worth to just let you be you, and to keep you from being dominated by some guy that just wants to have his way?”
She was flattered. I was surprised. I didn’t know if she would be offended thinking that I was looking down on her or judging her. We agreed on $100 being worth half an hour. I asked her what she wanted to do for the next 30 minutes. I suggested drinks, or food, or just walking about.
She, like a kid in a candy store, seemed overwhelmed with excitement over the possibilities that she could do whatever she wanted. Her excitement created near indecisiveness as she bounced from craps, then roulette, and finally slots.
Mia and I sat under the flickering lights of the casino, with the chorus of slot machines clanging away and played nickel slots for half an hour while talking. She had a great smile and straightened hair pulled tightly up. Her lightly bronzed face lit up as she laughed and shared her story. She slid a nickel into the slot machine as she explained coming to Vegas to work as a waitress with the hope of becoming a dancer four years ago; but through a fellow waitress, Mia quickly realized how much money there was in prostituting herself.
Mia slid another nickel in the slot machine and looked over her shoulder. We didn’t dig into her story much further, but just continued with small talk. She spoke about her parents and younger sister living in Manhattan, hoping to visit. She looked over her shoulder again, nervous, almost like I was unreal, as if she was suspicious that I might be working for the county and was about to bust her.
I was amazed at how joyful Mia seemed. She was honest with me and kept asking why I would want to spend time with her. I told her I was saddened at the number of men who showed up to meet with her so they could exercise their craziest notions of sex and relationship.
Mia was very gracious and lighthearted. There were no needle lines on her arms, no paranoid strained eyes, no meth-stained teeth. She was a human – a real person.
No little girl dreams of growing up to be a prostitute. Mia certainly didn’t.
That night, I was changed by her. She was Jesus to me. I wonder if she too was changed, at least a little bit.
As I handed her two $50 bills, I thought it was the best $100 I had ever spent.