If Mamma knew what I had become she would have disowned me.  But she’s no longer living and I never knew my father. And now I sell my body and shoot up before I go out on the town every night. My boss, Jake, originally found me on the streets of Manhattan as a 15 year old runaway and took me in as one of “his” girls. I needed money, I needed a place to stay, and I was withdrawaling from the lack of heroin. He cooked me up a shot, told me I was now his and I had to do whatever he wanted me to do, and that was that.

I’m now 21, still working for Jake. I’m his best prostitute, escort, call girl, and his special “girl” for his high class paying clients. My real name isn’t Kandi, but you don’t need to know my real name, now do you? When did I become this woman that I am? The fourth of July. I’ll always remember that. The air was hot and sticky and smelled like sulfur from the fireworks that the city set off. I was lying on a cardboard box in an alley watching the sparks in the sky when this handsome man came up to me and asked me if I needed a fix. I remember nodding my head. I wasn’t scared to die. I wasn’t scared to go to jail. I had already given blowjobs for drugs and money, so I thought; maybe that’s what he wanted. I got up on my knees and went to unfasten his belt. He smiled at me and allowed me to continue my game for a fix. Once I was finished, he helped me up and took me to a seedy looking place and cooked up a shot for me. I figured he was going to kill me. But I didn’t care.

“What’s your name?” He asked me.
“Does it matter?”
“No. I think you look like a Kandi. And you’re good at what you do. Come with me and you’ll never starve again.”
After he injected the heroin into my arm I thought about what he said. “What are you, some kind of pimp?”
“You could say that.”
“And if I say ‘no’, what will you do to me?”
“Nothing. Let you go back to that alley and starve and continue doing what you were doing.”
I closed my eyes. Starve and continue starving. “Fine, I’ll come with you.”
And that was that. We left the seedy joint and went to his fancy car.


“Kandi, you’ve got Mr. Small tonight.” I opened my eyes. Phoebe was standing in my doorway. She looked horrible. No wonder Jake gave her the trashy customers. I grabbed a light blonde wavy wig and adjusted it on top of my dirty blonde hair. When Phoebe didn’t leave, I turned towards her and smiled.
“Yes, Phoebe?”
“It’s just, you’re so beautiful. How’d you get to be Jake’s favorite?”
I patted the plush vanity seat and she came over to me and sat down beside me. I finished applying my make-up and let her watch. “I was 15 once too. Just starting out like you. You need to make yourself think this is an art. That you’re not just hooking for a living. That you’re an actress.”
“But I hate being here. I hate men.”
I turned to her and gathered her in my arms and whispered in her ear. “I hate men too. That’s why I think of this as acting. I’m only 21, Phoebe. When I have enough money, I’m outta here.”
“But, Kandi, Jake will never let you go!”

I didn’t tell Phoebe that I was planning on leaving that night after meeting with Mr. Small—a code name for a high paying client. I would make over $5,000 tonight. I had been saving all my money, except for the money that I had to give Jake for drugs and room and board. I now had $100,000 stashed away. I knew it wasn’t a lot of money, but it would help me get somewhere. Anywhere and I was ready to come off of the heroin. Secretly, I had been checking out Methadone Clinics around the outskirts of the city during the day and found one that would help me not only clean my act up, but help me find a place to live and a job. A real job.

“Just remember what I said, Phoebe and pretend to be an actress. I must go now or I’ll be late.” I gave her a hug and kissed her cheek. “Goodnight and be safe.”
Late that night, Phoebe never returned from her job. I waited up for her and so did Jake. We sat in the parlor, with some of the other girls and listened to the scanner, which was a routine when one of our girls didn’t return on schedule. That’s when we heard the announcement that a Jane Doe was found dead at the scene in an alley fitting the description of Phoebe. I turned and looked at Jake who was smoking a joint. Did he care? I know I certainly did.

“I’ll go and claim her.” I announced since no one uttered a word.
“You will do no such thing, Kandi.” Jake said.
“And why not? She was just a kid. Don’t you give a shit?” I replied.
“Because she was a prostitute and a runaway. The police will not care and if you go to claim the body, you’ll get arrested. You just can’t waltz right in to the morgue and claim a body, Kandi. You’re a prostitute. You’re MY prostitute and I will NOT have you taken in for some low life teen runaway.”
I stood up from the chair. “You heartless bastard!”
“Don’t get mouthy with me! That could have been you years ago, bitch!”
“Yes it could have been and that’s why I give a shit. I didn’t care back then, but I do care now.”
Jake stood up and came towards me. “Look Kandi, this stuff happens all the time. Perhaps her real family will claim her body. That’s why you can’t go down there.”

I turned away from him and headed for the staircase. I couldn’t handle this. Phoebe had come to me and asked me for advice and I had tried to tell her to be safe. To pretend to be an actress. What had gone wrong? I slowly walked up to my room knowing this was going to be my last night in this place. I would leave once everyone had gone to bed. Well, once Jake had finally cooked up his bedtime shot and drank himself into a stupor. It was already three in the morning. He would be getting ready to do his nightly ritual in about an hour or so.
Jake followed me, however. Did he know of my plans? My plans to leave this fucking place forever?

“I’m not done talking to you, Kandi.” He called out.
“I’m done talking to you, Jake. I’m upset and want to go to sleep.”
I felt Jake’s hand grab my shoulder and spin me around. He slapped me with the back of his hand. “Don’t ever walk away from me again, Kandi.”

Tears stung my eyes as I went directly to my room and shut the door. Jake didn’t follow me, thank God. Quickly, I changed out of my glittery gown and wig and went into the bathroom to take a long hot shower. I needed a fix because I was coming down. Just one last time, before I cleaned my act up. In the bathroom, I found my kit, cooked up, shot up and waited for the hit to help me deal with trauma. Once the heroin flowed through my veins, I turned around on the toilet and lifted the lid where I kept my money hidden in a plastic bag. It was still safe and sound. With a sigh of relief, I quickly grabbed it and went out into my bedroom to gather a few of my possessions. I got dressed in a pair of jeans and tank top. Once again, the fourth of July was haunting me. Today, the city would celebrate. Today, I would come clean and move to Philadelphia. I had already gotten my bus ticket to get the hell out of here. The bus left in six hours. In two hours, Jake would be wasted and I could leave.

Once my things were packed I waited. It was too risky to call a cab so I would go to a diner and get something to eat, then call a cab from there. The clock on my vanity table told me it was time, so I got my duffle bag and quietly walked out of the only home I knew for the past seven years.

The diner, two blocks away from the house, was practically empty except for a couple and a few kids that looked like they had just come in from a party. I sat at a booth and ordered some breakfast and coffee. After eating, I used the payphone to call a cab to take me to the bus station.

Say goodbye to New York City and hello to Philly, Kandi. I’m not calling myself Kandi these days. Kandi died when Phoebe died. I’m now going by my real name. What’s my real name? Does it matter? All that matters is I’m doing well these days. I have a lovely husband and a daughter who I named Phoebe, who was born on the fourth of July. Imagine that.