He charges $200 an hour. I give him the cash upfront.
“What’s your pleasure?” he asks in his Spanish accent. I expect him to present himself in a more sensual manner, to really try for my money, but no. He was as overused as a felt doll. I realize at this moment that cats of his profession didn’t need to “try.” He is the prettiest hunk of feline I’d ever met, and he just needs to not say no.
I tell him I wanted to cuddle.
He looks at me as if I’d just asked him to pluck out his whiskers. But he doesn’t say no.
Thirty minutes in, my head rests on his broad chest, but my eyes stay fixed on the hotel wall. I don’t even explore his bulging muscles with my fingers. His arms rest around me as he admires the mural on the ceiling, I assume. I can’t help but thing that he’s waiting for me to do more, but I’ve never cuddled before. I assume there’s not much more to it, but it doesn’t feel like I thought it would.
“It’s okay to get comfortable,” he finally says. “Do whatever feel right.”
My mind lingers on his words for a moment. I crawl my head upward until it presses against his chin. I rub my hands pass his abs, like a car driving along a bumpy road, each bump a staggering sensation across my body. His arms grow tighter around me.
He starts licking my ear. Slowly.
I let out a deep purr.
I cannot remember the last time I did that. Maybe I was a kitten when it happened, when my mother was alive. It feels wrong somehow, like I shouldn’t feel so good. As soon as it left my mouth I leap from his embrace to my feet, my hands over my mouth. He sits up in the bed in alarm.
“Are you okay?” he asks. “Is there something wrong?”
“It’s just…I didn’t mean to…I didn’t know I could—”
“Enjoy yourself?” He reaches for my hand and pulls me back into him. I can’t even look him in the eye. Why am I being so stupid? Of course I should enjoy myself. It’s what I’m paying him for.
When our time was up I get up to collect my phone and purse.
“Thank you for this evening,” I say, my hand extended for a handshake. He looks at it curiously and I realize that I’m once again violating escort-client etiquette, which may be no etiquette at all. “I promise I’m not normally this awkward.”
“It’s okay,” he says. He shakes my hand. His hands are as soft as the rest of him is rock solid. “This was different for me as well, but in a good way. Are you taking a cab?”
“Yes. To the airport.”
“Can I ride with you? I have to catch a plane, too.”
We sit together in the back of a taxi and a part of me is relieved we didn’t just have sex. His cellphone buzzes, and he starts speaking Spanish to whoever is on the other line. I don’t speak the language, but my limited knowledge lets me pick up on a few words. “Dinero.” “Mama.” “Enfermas.” “Pandillas” is mentioned a few times but I’m not familiar with that word. We sit in silence after he hangs up.
“Is Nippy your real name?” I ask. Nippy was the name given to me when one of my colleagues referred me to him.
He snickers. “I hate that name. No, it’s Sylvester.”
“I’m Selina. Was that your mother you were talking to just now?”
He gave an awkward laugh. “I’m flattered you’ve taken an interest in me, Ms. Selina, but I should let you know that I don’t date my clients.”
“Well, Mr. Sylvester,” I say with a little more confidence returning to me, “I should let you know that I’m a very persistent pussy when I want something bad enough.”
“You must have been raised by a strong mother.”
I turn my head to the window. An image of her flashes in my mind. “Father, actually. My mother passed a long, long time ago.”
“Oh…” He sounds sad, and I’m left wondering why I told him that. But then he puts a hand on mine. “She would be so proud of you.”
It is at that moment when I finally look into his eyes. They are gorgeous eyes.
“I’m flattered that you’ve taken an interest in me,” I say, “But I don’t date my escorts.”
“You don’t fuck them, either,” he says. We laugh together. I think of many other things we could do together, but we both have flights to catch, careers that leave us with hardly any time.
It is six months later when I see him again. At a dinner party hosted by Azrael, one of my company’s wealthier investors. Élégance’s CEO Garfield couldn’t attend the event—most likely entertaining himself through questionable means again—so I’m here in his place, to represent the company. I’m sporting one of my company’s signature pieces, a 14K white gold necklace with a laser pointer-shaped pendant—a universal symbol for mystery and intrigue—so no one in the room will question what the world’s top jewelry brand is.
The dinner party is held in one of Azrael’s summer homes, a villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The party is boring, as one might imagine a party full of rich people would be if one really knew the rich. Profiters of inheritance, only here to groom their own ego. Nothing interesting to say except for how much money their business ventures earned them. They all put up a façade of pompousness, an air of self-importance, trying to look more interesting than they really are. I will do the same thing once I find Azrael. I have to make sure he’ll be loyal to the company if anything were to happen to Garfield.
And there he is.
He stands by the balcony, stares at the moon overlooking the ocean as if he’s a dog preparing to howl. Somehow he looks taller with a tuxedo on. How would that body look in scrubs, or an army uniform? The stem of his glass dangles between two fingers over the railing. I have the sudden urge to take the glass and replacing it with my fingers, but nothing about our previous meeting suggests that level of closeness between us. Besides, if he’s here then he’s most likely someone’s date for the evening. Finding Azrael would be better use of my time.
I wouldn’t be on top of my game, however, if the matter buzzes around the back of my mind like a gnat.
“Fancy meeting you here, stranger,” I say as I approach his side. For a fraction of a second, there is worry in his expression, although I have a feeling he’s been wearing that face for the past several minutes. For me, he gives a warm smile.
“Selina,” his eyes travel downward, then back to mine, “it’s been a while. How have you been?”
I lean an elbow against the railing. “Fucking men left and right, actually.”
He mimics my posture. “Hopefully none of them accepts cash upfront.”
“Would that make you jealous, Sylvester?”
“Not exactly. But in my professional opinion, Selina, you’d be investing in subpar sex partners.”
“You’re ‘professional opinion?’ I didn’t know escorts take their work so seriously.” Am I coming off too snarky? He looks to his feet in a slightly more somber expression.
“Can I be honest with you, Selina? I feel like I can be honest with you.”
I hesitate. “Yes.”
“I wish I didn’t have to take my work so seriously. What I do pays very, very well, but I wish I can leave it and do something different. Like build homes, like my papá did. Hard work that gets my hands dirty, but it makes a difference, you know?”
Hard work. That’s all my father ever talked about. My mind goes back to the shouting match we had when I was sixteen. He preached about hard work, discipline. I told him he couldn’t make me the maid of the house just because my mother was dead, just before I stormed out the front door to have fun with my friends. He’d laugh if he could see what I’d become. No friends, all work.
“Are you okay, Selina?” Sylvester asks. “Did I say something wrong? You look shaken up.”
“I can take you away from this,” I say, a sternness in my voice.
“Ah, you’ve made a friend, have you, my pet?” It’s Azrael. Sylvester’s date. I want to puke. He looks like the type of cat with a BO problem, even though he smells of expensive cologne. He also looks like type of cat who sleeps with strays in an alley at 3 PM, but evidently he’s not that type of cat tonight.
“Well, hello, Azrael.” My façade erects like I flicked a light switch. “We were just talking about your figurine collection.
“Ah, finally coming around to it, I see.” He’s caressing Sylvester’s back as he converses with me. He is an exact foot shorter than the eye candy he brought to show off at his party. Sylvester stares at me with concern on his face, and I’m not sure if it’s because of Azrael or how I can lie on the fly.
“It’s actually quite fascinating, now that I think about it. You should show it to your friend here.”
“Oh, you better believe I will, bucko.” Bucko? “But I’m not done showing him off to everyone else, yet. Let’s go, baby.”
He holds out his arm for Sylvester to latch onto. Sylvester, the consummate professional if there ever was one in the world of sex work. Better seen not heard. He’ll stand there, looking beautiful, while Azrael rambles on and on about his model town and its model cats and their individual stories he made up before the obligatory sex. I feel bad sending Sylvester to such a fate, yet selfishly want him to at least glance back at me as they walk away.
I wanted to hire a private investigator to track Sylvester’s movements. I play his words in my head constantly, like a girl who plays the last recorded message of her death boyfriend over and over. I wish I can leave it and do something different. I feel like I can be honest with you. Did I say something wrong? He has yet to say anything wrong to me. I wish he could say more. I want to know his story. His likes, dislikes, fears, and anything else that could turn us into an unlikely, sappy love story. My father would hate the idea of me falling in love with a glorified hooker, and I’m the kind of daughter he would be proud of now. So my PI follows by boss instead.
Garfield lost his phone this morning. Coincidentally it’s in my possession now. It buzzes like a bee with all the angry messages from his wife. This explains why he doesn’t even bother trying to contact her through other means, and instead runs straight into the motel after midnight with two whores.
I love the company of professionals, and my PI is no exception. He manages to record a video of Garfield spending his evening with the two whores and a bag of cocaine. I tell him to send the video to Garfield’s cell.
The clip my PI sent me is five minutes long. His gross, obese, matted carcass with sagging tits, rubs against some pathetic kitten’s petite frame to stick a tongue down her throat.
He snorts the coke. White powder coats his nose and drips from his whiskers as he chokes the shit out of the second kitten.
Days later, social media and news outlets are still eating up the viral video of Élégance’s CEO having a private party in a motel room with drugs and prostitutes. It is generally assumed that foul play caused the video to leak, considering the footage was posted on his own social media account. He huffs and puffs around headquarters, looking for his missing phone, looking for someone to blame for the leak. His phone is in a thousand pieces at the bottom of the lake now.
He's clearly not taking the publicity well. Within the week he goes dark. His clear admittance of guilt makes the company look bad. But that’s okay. We’ll recover. The board will vote him out of power. Then by their will I will take his place as CEO, a progressive, strong woman, cleaning up Élégance’s image.
Chez Chat is a small yet exquisite restaurant in uptown New York. Fun fact: it’s one of the few places in the country that serve human flesh chips, an expensive appetizer worth every penny. I sit alone at my reserved table, chips between my teeth, the hum of casual conversation around me. I check the time on my phone. 7:05 PM. Sylvester is five minutes late. Anxiety creeps in. I distract myself with a text I received an hour ago from an unknown number.
I know it was you
I shake my held at my phone, at myself. Garfield is impulsive, maybe even reckless. But not stupid. I knew he would figure it out, come after me, probably force me into hiding. My seat faces the little restaurant’s entrance. But I don’t hide. My date finally arrives.
He wears the same tuxedo as before, with a little lint on his shoulders. His fur is not as groomed as before. His eyes are baggy, a new look for him.
“Sorry I’m late,” Sylvester says. “I had to take a very important phone call.”
“Your mother again?”
“Yeah.” He plays with his silverware. “Mi hermana, she is sick. It’s taking a turn for the worse. Mi familia, they live in Mexico. I send them money for doctors, but the doctors there are not as good as the ones in America. I might have to leave the country for a while.”
“You know I’m paying you for being here, right? This is your service to me, since you don’t actually date clients.”
He is silent for a moment. “Remember the last time we saw each other? You told me you can take me away from this, this life of an escort. Did you really mean that?”
“I’d like to think I did. I’d like to think I still do.”
“Why should I believe you?” His tone is strict now. “How do I know you’re not lying? So many times clients have told me they would take care of me if I give myself to them. I don’t want to be someone’s property, Selina. How can I trust you?”
“Because I don’t want your body.”
We are silent now. I don’t know if he believes me. Perhaps he’s struggling to do so. Perhaps I’m struggling to believe myself. No, I’m sorry, that’s not right. I’m struggling with the truth.
The restaurant door opens. A large, round figure in a gray fedora and trench coat marches in. I catch a glimpse of his face. Garfield. He spots me. When we make eye contact, it is as if all sound is suspended, save my words to Sylvester.
“I only have one memory of my mother,” I continue. “I was a tiny kitten then. We stood in the middle of an amusement park. There were so many grownups there. They could have easily trample me, the way they towered over me.” The waiter approaches him but he doesn’t notice. We don’t break eye contact. “But mommy just stood there, squeezing my hand. I pointed to a ride I was probably too little for. I could do anything in that moment, with mommy holding my hand like that.” As he approaches the table, he pulls a gun from his coat. He walks toward me from behind Sylvester, the barrel of his weapon pointing down at me. My eyes shift to the cat sitting in front of me. The only cat whose eyes shined like the full moon over the Pacific. “Sylvester, I want you to hold me like that.”