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Bisa Welch


"This collection of stories is from sex workers, a group society too often deems does not fit. These women typically aren’t given names — society looks at them as if they are not really people at all. These women learned how to be seen and not heard, to please and not make waves. They are like chameleons, able to blend into any environment."

Bisa Welch

I remember as a child I would ritualistically watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was the whole premise of it. Even in elementary school, I could tell I was no different than him. The only thing he had that I didn’t, besides a shiny nose, was the fact he had his own island. It was an island of misfits — an island of people who were different from everyone else and had nowhere else to belong. If I knew how my life would pan out, I would have saved anything I could for a one-way ticket there.

This collection of stories is from sex workers, a group society too often deems does not fit. These women typically aren’t given names — society looks at them as if they are not really people at all. These women learned how to be seen and not heard, to please and not make waves. They are like chameleons, able to blend into any environment.

I was fortunate enough to meet these women on the west side of Las Vegas, my neighborhood, my community. My own story is here amongst theirs, as a survivor of sex trafficking. I sought these courageous women because I know what it is like to have people look at you and decide they know you and your story. This is what happens when you don’t have a voice. But now, with these stories, the battle of the larynx is over.

In their world, they’re lucky if they can get a customer who doesn’t degrade them — a customer who listens and respects them for more than their body, not a man who thinks because he bought a $50 mic on Amazon to start a podcast he’s worth more than they are. These women are people, and they should not be treated as anything else. She might sleep with someone for monetary gain while you sleep with someone for emotional gain. Just because one is more accepted does not mean they are not one in the same.

Irish playwright and poet Oscar Wilde famously said, “Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.” It is easy to see these people and believe you know their story. Maybe you are just one situation away from a downfall of grace. We all have crossroads in life where we make turns that do not always take us down the path we imagined. There are forces in life hat only rattle and call to you.
There is no known number of adult workers in this city — and defining sex work is more complicated than you think. A dancer, an escort, an adult actress, a massage therapist, a cam worker — all of these occupations can dabble in this work. There’s more to the world’s oldest profession in Vegas than Naked City.

This collection is what I call a verbal ink blot test. No two people will have the same experience here, nor will they come to the same conclusions and sentiments. When you hear their words, think about what you see. Think about what you hear. Think about what you feel. Think. Step outside of your comfort zone and step into the adult playground we live in. Lose the illusion that tourists have when they visit us. Las Vegas is more than the Strip. It is more than Fremont Street. Las Vegas is a jungle. It’s littered. It’s bright. It’s glitzy. It’s rough.

I’m presenting these interviews with these women as what we might call journalistic poetry. The inspiration for this collection comes from the Japanese art of Kintsugi. The art form consists of repairing broken pottery by mending the pieces with gold or silver lacquer instead of throwing it away. This technique not only restores the object’s functionality, but it enhances its beauty, creating a unique work of art. As Black women, we too have experienced various forms of fragmentation and division. These divisions have left us with a legacy of conflict, inequality, underdevelopment, hyper sexualization, and an abundance of other forms of generational trauma.

Similarly to Kintsugi, we can embrace our imperfections and use them as a source of strength and beauty. Kintsugi teaches us that brokenness is not something to be ashamed of but rather an opportunity to create something new and unique. The lacquer used symbolizes the value and worth of the piece. In the hood, we didn’t have Kintsugi, but we had crayons and even when broken, they still color. The pain we do not transform, we transmit.

 


 

Welcome to Cirque du Vice!
Circus of the vice if you will.
I am your ringmaster.
If you ever lose me in my tale,
Just look for the spotlight,
I’ll be under it.
Granted the spotlight is the West Side Oasis sign when its neon lights are on, but I digress.
Dante’s journey in hell has nothing on me.
Being a Black woman?
Being a Black woman who lives on the west side?
Being a Black woman who lives on the west side of Las Vegas, Nevada?
His trip is like this one weekly trick;
Sad and poetic but lowkey real.

Pride is a bitch.
I’ve been here for 116 seasons on this earth and each one surprises me more and more.
I say that because I thought I would had checked out a while ago.
Don’t tell me I’m too pretty to be out here, because that’ll only make the price go up.
Why am I out here?
Daddy issues.
Mommy issues.
Neither of them wanted me.
If only they can see how many people want me now.
In the hood I’m like Princess Diana!
Ain’t no such thing as Greed in this.
I’m a small business owner and you can’t tell me how much to price my product.
If one won’t pay,
Two more waiting around the corner payment ready.
Superbowl coming too?
I’m about to get that bag!

There’s a Wrath inside me when these niggas play with me.
I’m a renegade but I got big bro ready to slide the moment I don’t text him and tell him you paid me.
Was my service unsatisfactory?
Please,
Enlighten me.
What review are you about to give me that would make you skip out on your bill?
I’m so sweet.
Why would you want me to turn sour?

I Envy no bitch.
Let’s get that straight.
But how these tricks not gonna get with me?
To get with a girl out here crashing out?
A girl who gets exposed damn near daily?
Just cause her ass fatter?
Well excuse me,
I invest my money in other things other than basement injections.
Lust in this life can be so pure.
Did I lose you?
Well here I am,
Spotlight on me.
I am the star of their perverted show.
They come for me.
They come to me.
They adore me.
They love me,
Even if it’s for the hour.
I’m all they want.
I’m all they need.
Me. Me. Me.
Yes. Yes. Yes!

Gluttony sounds so serious.
I’m greedy yeah.
I don’t mind letting you and your friend come thru as long as the money green.
The more the merrier.
It’s hard out here so I’m doing what I gotta do.
You can’t judge me if I’m in the world’s oldest profession.
Sometime its not even about the money.
I love feeling like prey amongst lions.
It’s never too much.
The primal nature.
The grunts.
The sweat.
They gripping just almost slightly a little too tight but it still excites you.
The parties.
The turn up never stops.
More. More. More.
I live like a tourist out here.
The party never stops in the devil’s playground.

Sloth sounds nasty.
I don’t get lazy.
I block it all out when it hurts.
I block it all out when suddenly no is a foreign word.
I remember on a school trip once we went to the planetarium.
There was this laser show.
They were the constellations.
I loved the stars and the moon.
I just knew I was going to space one day.
Chances are I won’t make enough seasons to make the next Haley’s comet.
I loved science.
I dreamt of getting picked up by Ms. Frizzle on her bus with Arnold and ‘nem.
We’d go to Neptune and watch the diamond rain showers.
That’s what I see during those times.

 

The best way to describe it is like a bad shroom trip.
Don’t get uppity, shrooms are natural and of the Earth.
Nothing is done to them to get you high.
So really, I’m a mycologist.
That’s a scientist who studies fungi.
That’s surprising to a lot of people.
Yeah, I’m pretty.
Look at me.
But it’s easier playing along.
I’m a Ferrari and you don’t get to stay a Ferrari when you make the driver mad.

As the trip from hell continues,
I’m in a room sitting on a couch.
I’m looking at this girl as she shakes in pain.
She’s walking on this bed of sharded glass and bleeding profusely.
I run to her to stop her but when I touch her,
She looks at me.
I recognize her.
She’s me.
She’s me before the coma the driver put me in.
Wait
How did we switch places?
I didn’t move!
Help!
She screams at me;
WAKE UP! WAKE UP!

The alarm rings on my phone.
I get up to make his breakfast.
Pancakes for starters,
To sop up all the excuses and gifts he gives me when he dings his investment;
Me.
Scrambled eggs are his favorite.
Makes sense.
Look how my mind is,
Gordon Ramsey must have made these eggs because there’s nothing raw left about me.

I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid.
I saw myself in front of a board with sticky notes telling me where to be.
What to say.
My queue.
And the viewers would love me and my sparkling personality.

I reluctantly watched Barbie.
I needed to see the messages Matel was going to push on me at 25 that they didn’t already when I was 5.
They got a few things right.
President Barbie being a Black woman?
Period.
The toy company wanting her to go back in the box?
I felt that.
Why leave him and put everyone in our business?
Wouldn’t it be simpler to get in the box and act accordingly?
He loves me.
He just fighting some demons right now.
He fights me.
But we love each other.
That employee who went crazy and clocked all the tea that this white male patriarchy?
I felt seen.

Why am I not good enough?
Am I not beautiful enough?
Am I not smart enough?
Am I not thin enough?
Am I not thick enough?
Am I supposed to have money, so you think I’m just not after yours?
Am I supposed to only let you provide for me and any itch I have to go be independent tells you I yearn to be outside?
Do the hits mean you love me in a language I am not fluent in?
I can’t talk to anyone about you.
Cause the things I try to forget and forgive?
These folks won’t.
So why cry wolf when I know I’m not going anywhere?

We’re magnets.
We’re opposite that attract but repel at the same time.
I wonder if that’s because I’m a hotheaded Aries and you this nonchalant Sagittarius.
This isn’t what I meant when I said love me harder.
I’m done.
I’m gone.
There’s nothing you can say.
What gift?
There’s nothing in that box that can make me look at you differently.
Wait.
This is for me?
Omg it’s beautiful!
Take me somewhere nice so I can show off these beautiful rose-colored glasses that you have given me.

I don’t know much about affirmations.
But I know everyday I look in the mirror and see I’m THAT girl.
I’m too pretty for Blade.
I’m not like these other hoes.
Look at me.
They pay me to look good and it’s definitely giving.
I’m the box office hit the way they come to see me.

Women connect because we relate to being a woman.
We can taste the bullshit that these men put us through.
We can feel when to nurture and when to play.
It’s profound.
It’s genuine.
Their soft hands caress my body and mold me into theirs as I melt and soften like milk chocolate.
A man could never!
I’m a boomer with the latest iPhone.
I have no clue how to operate a man.
It frustrates me that I can’t please someone I only crave in the moment.
I’m a toddler who sees a new toy.
Mine. Mine. Mine.
I want it.
I have to have it.
I have to have her.
I have to have her touch.
I have to have her scent.
If it means getting to the prize,
I’ll waive the white flag.
We can all be together.
Win. Win.

Temptress is what they call me.
Temptress, the cat that was killed by curiosity but revived by the satisfaction I get from the intoxication.
Who needs drugs when what you give me is the best high?

I created a sisterhood of vulnerability.
It’s a tighter fit than those traveling pants them white girls were talking about.
That’s my chosen family so yeah, that’s my cuzannn!

You know what turns me on?
That feeling, you know the one.
The feeling when you’re doing something you shouldn’t.
Like the child who tries ding dong ditch in this age of Ring cameras,
It thrills me.

Come to my place.
I live in the state of hedonism where I throw the best parties.
Parties so great, they rival Gatsby’s.
Don’t you love masquerade parties?
How you can find someone out as long as they take off that mask?
Before that, they are anyone.

I will admit something.
I am not the cat I previously said I was.
I am but a crustacean, who is glad to be out of that damn shell.
Yet I am still vulnerable.
I am naked.
They like me naked for differences than you.
They like me naked for my body and I like that they like me for my body.
Stare at me like a bronze statue.

You like me naked for me.
You like me naked for more than what’s under these clothes.
Suddenly these emotional scars seem more visible than the ones I conceal on my body.
Even the belle of the ball can feel exposed with all eyes on her.
You’re not judging me.

What I didn’t lie about was my name.
The party is starting.
Help me put my mask back one please?
Duty calls.

Every time I see a scarecrow,
They’re men.
I never seen a female one.
Maybe I can be the first.
I might as well.
Look at me.
I tattered with different patches here and there.
These patches?
Well they came from the different men I’ve been associated with
Like a scar from childhood.
They had their own stories behind the trauma.
They couldn’t care less though.
I know the drill.
Once you’re done, my phone vibrates with your part of the transaction and you’re out.
They treated me however they treated me.
Don’t ask me, it’s all a blur.
Whatever they needed me to be, I was.
After a certain point, the acquired skill of dissociation comes flowing like the liquor as we turn up.
I remember being a kid and clowning that one song.
What would you do if your son was at home,
Crying all alone on the bedroom floor
Cause he's hungry?
And the only way to feed him is to, sleep with a man for a little bit of money.
And his daddy's gone
Somewhere smoking rock now, in and out of lockdown
I ain't got a job now
So for you this is just a good time, but for me this is what I call life.
It was like damn, mom is going out sad
But now that the gift of life has blessed me with mental and physical growth
It turned into the spiderman meme which is crazy it was me pointing at me
I was like damn, this you?
One side of me said judge me all you want.
I did what I needed to do.
You want me to be proactive and get a job?
Offer me one.
Offer me one where I get to make enough to become like you.
Somebody who sits so high that they forgot some of us are still the size of action figures and dolls
Reflective of the inner child that’s frozen in so many of us.
That’s why I move the way I move
So I can be in love with me.
You ever been in the middle of somewhere like Fremont,
So crowded and busy but somehow you feel alone?
I’m learning though, what else do you do when you’re alone?
I want people to give me flowers but they throwing dirt.
It’s still a garden regardless.
Oh and how when you been through the most
You gotta do the most.
So I’m about to throw some fancy shit in there,
Make it exotic like me so they can’t say nothing
That’s the Leo in me, my bad.
I struggle with that still.
Wanting to enjoy my company but not allowing me to .
Like damn, I’m tired.
I’m trying to grow thru what I go through but how long before I see a pedal?

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