Hot Desk Extract: Committed
As part of the Wheeler Centre's Hot Desk Fellowship programme, Bella Green worked on Committed – a series of autobiographical comedic non-fiction essays.
While writing about sex work, Green says she's more interested in the day-to-day stuff that happens in brothels and strip clubs than the sex itself.
Celeste and I are on our way to Highpoint to fritter our hooker dollars away on shit we don't need. I miss the turn-off at the same place I always miss the turn-off and we have to pull into the driveway of Fuckboy Fancy Grammar College to turn around. It's 3pm and hoards of teenage boys are flooding out of the building, hooting at us and licking between their pointer and index.
'See you in three years,' says Celeste.
I had lots of friends I'd met at brothels, but Celeste was my first work bestie. We'd met on the internet in a group for workers. She was new to Melbourne and she asked me where I'd recommend working.
'Not Moonlight,' I wrote. 'Very quiet, too many girls. The weekend shifts are terrible.'
The next Sunday there was a new girl on at Moonlight with a Kiwi accent. I had to admire both her bullshit detector and her hustle. We hit it off immediately.
Moonlight was a tiny rabbit warren of two terrace houses jammed together. Sometimes a foul smell would emit from the reception area and that meant a pigeon had probably lodged itself down the chimney and died. The fireplace was boarded off, so there was no way to retrieve it. You just had to spray some air freshener and wait for it to decompose.
Sometimes a foul smell would emit from the reception area and that meant a pigeon had probably lodged itself down the chimney and died.
We had two different rooms to hang out in between bookings – the Mum Room or the Gay Room. You didn't actually have to be a mum or gay, you just picked the side you wanted to align with and once you'd made your decision, there was no switching. Each room had its own Foxtel, the gays flicking through every terrible reality TV show ever, the mum TV always set to the crime channel. 'The serial killer picked off the prostitutes one by one, like low-hanging fruit,' said the narrator. The mums were transfixed.
Jennifer was a gay who worked different shifts to me, but I'd heard about her long before I met her. The first time we crossed paths outside the laundry cupboard, she stopped what she was doing and stared at my upper lip.
'You do know you've got a moustache, right?' she said.
I got to the waxer pronto.
Jennifer started working afternoons with me and Celeste. Once I'd set the boundary of NO UNSOLICITED BEAUTY ADVICE, I found out that she was deeply warm and nurturing underneath the facade. Her dream was to be a trophy wife to a powerful butch, preferably the CEO of Kathmandu. She had rules, like always doing her makeup before she got to work, and always wearing the same outfit, a completely sheer white robe. She shared a house with her ex-girlfriend and their papillon, Shane.
'Do you still live together because you like it or because of the dog custody arrangement?' I asked, doing my makeup in the shitty lighting of the Gay Room.
'Babe, we're lesbians.' She undid the robe, crossed her legs, and then redid it. 'Who can even tell.'
Her dream was to be a trophy wife to a powerful butch, preferably the CEO of Kathmandu.
I was already a little too comfortable at Moonlight before I found my people. I made money and I thought I knew everything. I had a stable of regulars because of my super power – deep french kissing. People seem to think hookers don't kiss. Pretty Woman has a lot to answer for. In reality, every client wants to kiss. And they don't want to kiss a little. They want to ram their tongue down your throat and swivel it around like a washing machine. We all made them pay us an extra $50 for it.
Some girls offered kissing reluctantly, others did it but tried to enforce tongue boundaries, and I did it with wild abandon. Playing tonsil hockey felt as meaningless as shaking hands to me. When they did horrible things like slurping up and down my tongue the way you'd suck a dick, I'd do it back to them, thinking they'd realise what horrible technique it was, but most of the time they just loved it even more. Other girls had the patience to try and better their clients as lovers. I'd long since given up on exerting any energy into client improvement and instead took the path of least resistance, giving them what they wanted and pretending to be having the time of my life. When I was kissing I could close my eyes the whole time and zone out, adding up how much money I'd made in my shift so far and making a mental list of groceries I needed to buy on my way home.
Celeste, Jennifer and I were all afternoon hookers, unwilling to wake up for the day shift, too lazy for the night shift. I'd pick them both up at 3pm to go work the 2pm shift, blasting the theme song from Secret Diary of a Callgirl in my beat-up Hyundai Accent. We'd blaze on in and our favourite receptionist, Veronica, would ignore our tardiness. There was no such thing as tardiness at Moonlight if you were an earner, and we were earners.
Celeste's ability to make men fall in love with her was legendary. They'd be waiting for her when we arrived, having sat patiently since 1.45pm. She was beautiful but I'd seen enough beautiful girls come and go to know that wasn't enough to have clients obsess over you.
'How do you do it?' I asked her.
'It's easy,' she said. 'I'm just as bitchy as possible. We get into the room and they tell me they booked me because I'm "sassy". Basically I spend the whole time negging them.'
'You're using their own tactics against them,' I said. 'Incredible.'