I perch on the edge of the bar stool, trying to position myself in an attractive fashion. Normally I arrange myself without thinking. But today my arms feel too long, my legs are awkward. I don’t know what to do with my bag. Do I put it on my lap or leave it on the counter?
A barmaid asks if I’d like a drink. No thank you, I say, I’m waiting for someone. I surreptitiously check my makeup in the reflection of the chrome napkin holder. Smooth my hair. Look down at myself and sigh. Why did I wear this blouse? It’s all wrong. My jeans are too casual. My shoes are stupid.
I fiddle with my phones, forgetting you’re not supposed to have both out at once. It makes you look like an escort or a drug dealer. But right now I don’t care. My mind is preoccupied.
I am meeting an escort. For drinks. Just the two of us. I have never met another escort before.
Meeting a client is fantastically pleasant, an outing full of excitement and the tingle of anticipation. I feel confident that he’ll enjoy my hair, my face, my outfit, my personality. But this is different. This is downright terrifying.
Avani arrives in a flurry of jingling bangles and flowing hair. She embraces me and laughs hello, apologises that she couldn’t find a park. My heart thumps against my ribcage. She feels very soft and smells like coconut oil.
We go upstairs to the rooftop and order drinks. The barman has a curled moustache and he can’t take his eyes off us. I’m too nervous to play up to it. Avani and I stumble over our words, perusing the cocktail list, taking shy peeks at each other. She is gorgeous. Lips like a rose and crystal blue eyes.
For the first time I realise what it must be like for clients. How nerve wracking we must be.
We sit down and start to talk. And talk and talk and talk.
Under normal circumstances, making friends as an adult is a serious and difficult business. We have to negotiate spouses and children, political affiliations and work schedules, social mores and inner circles. We are set in our ways. We’re territorial about our time and space and the people in it. It’s all too hard, so we don’t bother.
But when you’re an escort, making friends is different. It’s like being little girls again. You’re both in a secret club. You have endless naughty things to giggle and whisper about. You trade stories and tips, talking and laughing over each other in your excitement, then hushing one another when an adult comes near.
I am lucky. Meeting Avani is a revelation. She gets me and I get her. Lightening has struck and, like children, we are immediate friends.
She returns to Melbourne but we talk everyday. Snapchat is our primary vehicle, although we often carry on simultaneous conversations via Twitter, Snapchat and text messages all at once. There’s so much to talk about, because no one else in our life understands.
They don’t know how it feels to do what we do, be who we are. I talk to her like I’m a dam that has burst, because that’s what has happened. Everything we’ve bottled up, worried about, agonised over, suddenly has an outlet. We’re not alone anymore. We drink each other greedily, we can’t get enough.
Through all of it, there’s a strong undercurrent of sexual tension. That first evening, when we kissed goodbye, we both faltered. I wanted to feel her lips and she nearly kissed mine. In the end, we blushed and hugged and scurried away. I thought about it for days.
On her next tour to Brisbane we meet again. We have our first booking together, south of the border. We spend the afternoon getting ready, bursting with excitement, doing each other’s makeup and dancing around the bedroom. It’s female friendship in its purest, sweetest form.
The booking itself is electric. The look on our client’s face is one of rapture, like he’s been visited by angels. We are ecstatic, elated. Avani leaves town with a Heidi-sized handprint on her ass. I have a bite mark that I can only see with the help of a mirror.
We grow closer still. Our talks become deeper, more raw. We help each other through sadness and struggle. Through burnout. We come out the other side stronger and happier and more determined. I can’t imagine where I’d be without her. I don’t want to.
It is scary, in a way, to be friends with an escort. To forge genuine connections in a fantasy world. We, more than anyone, know how easily the real and the fake can be blurred. It has taken trust and patience and multiple leaps of faith to become this close to one another.
A friendship like this is unchartered territory for me. It is also one of the most rewarding bonds I’ve ever made. As with children, everything is heightened, more intense and, dare I say, more honest. This industry is strange like that. We’re so intimate with each other, yet so removed from reality. Social restraints, for the most part, are eliminated.
Escorts are transient beings by nature. We come and go, flit and fly. No matter what Avani does or where she goes, I wish only the best for her. I want her to win. I wish the same for every sex worker, whether we know each other or not. Life is too complicated and big and beautiful for me to wish bad on another escort.
I hope you know that.