It’s a pansy, with one purple flower. Maybe she should have bought one with several blooms, but she was in a hurry, so she just picked up the first one she saw, in and out of the shop then straight home to put it on the patio, in a plastic imitation-terracotta pot. If it grows she might add more, make the beginnings of a garden. She waters it carefully and picks up her mobile to check for messages.
“Hello Georgia, I was wondering if you’re free….”
“Dirty little thing.” she mutters, writing down the number to call back. “Ok, you pervert.”
He could be the plumber, making a time to fix the drains. He has that matter-of-fact way of speaking. She pictures him as middle-aged, with a thick body and a square, greying face.
He looks very much as she expects him to.
“Make yourself comfortable.”
She waves at the double bed while she goes to put the money away. When she comes back he is lying naked, as if for a medical examination. She takes off her clothes quickly and sits beside him.
“How would you like to start?” she asks politely.
“I don’t know. What would you suggest?”
Her mind is a blank. “I don’t know. It’s up to you, you’re paying.”
What about this, what about that, he asks. She’s willing. They chat in a friendly way while he experiments with her body. She’s customer oriented.
When he’s finished he seemed pleased with the service. He wants to know if she was pleased too.
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Oh yes, it was very nice,” she says.
“But I suppose you always say that.”
A good saleswoman performs her work cheerfully and with pleasure.
“Yes, but I mean it with you,” she lies.
He seems happy with that as he closes the front door, checking his fly.
For the next one, she has to drive out to a house on the borders of suburbia. An anxious looking, ginger-haired young man is waiting on the front lawn. A video, which features men with breasts, or possibly women with penises, is set up and waiting. She tries to chat but he isn’t a talker: he seems to have a speech impediment. She imagines he’d have little success with women, on a voluntary, unpaid basis.
His body is pink and white and bright red.
“Do you like toys?”
She says she does, and he gets out a bagful of implements for her to use on him, one after the other, while he stares engrossed at the screen. As she penetrates him with rubber and tries half-heartedly to follow the joinings of various bodies in the film, she is conscious of a feeling of boredom.
“Maybe I’ll have you back next week,” he manages to articulate, as she’s packing up. He is anxious to get her out of the house, now it’s all over. They all are.
For her last appointment, she goes to the lobby of a four star hotel. The client is 50-ish, obviously well-heeled and suited. He doesn’t want to be seen going to a room with her. She gathers that he has a reputation to maintain.
“Did you bring any lingerie? Stockings and suspenders?”
She has to admit she didn’t, since she had to rush from her last appointment.
“Never mind, next time.” He asks her about weekend rates. She isn’t sure what to say, as she’s never been asked before, but as she looks at him, she makes up her mind that it will be very expensive.
She lies on the bed and watched him as he takes off his clothes: white cotton boxers of the old fashioned fittng kind, a white Bonds singlet. He dresses like an old man: his backside hangs limp against the back of his thighs. He hoists his skinny body over hers.
“Tell me about the first time you had sex? Were you very young?” His voice is hoarse with illicit arousal.
“It was when I was sixteen,” she makes up obligingly. “In my parents’ house. In my school uniform…”
“Oh you naughty girl,” he giggles. His face is close to hers, leering down, his tongue reaching for her mouth. His teeth are yellowed and crooked. From this distance she can see just how old he is: she realises he is nearer sixty than fifty.
“You certainly know how to please a gentleman,” he snickers.
“I’m glad you think so.”
She shuts her eyes. Afterwards he, too, wants her to go quickly. Maybe they’re ashamed, once the need is over.
On the way out to the carpark, she sees his face in her mind, and his skinny dick. She feels sick. She puts on a pair of sunglasses to hide the tears but they don’t hide the images. She drives home, five hundred dollars richer than she was when she got up. The cash lies like lead in her heart.
On the road home she wonders how it is with these men. They think it’s like any other service but they’re buying part of her soul. Or are they selling their own? A man who has to pay for it, what respect can he have for himself? She has none, nor for the men she passes on the street: any one of them could be handing money over to stick his pathetic penis into somebody he’s never met.
When she gets home, she goes out to look at the pot plant. Its leaves are curled and limp: all the life has gone out of it. Forlornly she waters it, hoping to bring it back to health. But the one purple flower just hangs its head: it’s too late for water. It’s been a long hot day.