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RECAP: Jennifer Baylin is twenty-one, enrolled in Boston University, and in love with her college boyfriend, Trent. As they make love, Jen gets a call from the ER. Her older brother Dixon has overdosed again. Jen drives to Massachusetts General Hospital and there she meets Dixon’s social worker, Molly Connor, who states the facts: Dixon needs an immediate detox program, but it’s expensive. State grants are hard to get and there’s a two month waiting list. So that leaves an out-patient thirty-day program for eight thousand dollars. Since Dix is a waiter with no insurance, Jen must deal with this. Why? Because she feels she owes it to him. Dix cared for her when she was young, and when their mom left. Now HE needs her.
SUGAR BABIES, SUGAR DADDIES and the cost of rehab [Part 2 of 14]
It’s a cold, windy February day and the sun is setting early. I’m driving back to Fuller Street, my home while in Boston University. As I mentioned, I have roommates; three other girls from BU, and we live an old residential neighborhood of houses built in the twenties and thirties of the last century. “Last century…” What a long time ago.
Anyway, our rented bungalow’s not far from campus in Brookline. Theresa found it three years ago, put down the deposit and advertised for roommates. That’s how we all came together. We’re not exactly friends, we’re housemates, and we couldn’t be anymore different.
Sue, from South Carolina, we hardly see. She pretty much lives with her boyfriend.
Melissa’s a Vietnamese study freak and stays in her room most of the time cramming for tests 24/7. Melissa’s pre-med.
Then there’s Theresa, a year younger than me and a physical therapy major. I’m closer to this girl because she tells me about herself. But then again, she tells everybody about herself. Privacy is not a word in her vocabulary. But neither is fear. Theresa’s awesome, in a “I’m-a-rock” kind of way. She doesn’t go deep about things. Doesn’t look for answers. Doesn’t even ask questions, about anything; like right and wrong, who gets hurt, what’ll happen next, human stuff like that. But when Theresa wants something she goes for it. And she gets it. Like cash. Lots of it. Along with a shiny red Camero Sport Convertible sitting in the driveway, where I just parked my 1996 Volvo station wagon, the most un-sexy, drab and dingy car in the universe. I never wash it. No one would care if I did.
I’m about to knock on my roommate’s door thinking about what comes next – borrowing money. Theresa’s my only source. With all my debt, no bank would lend me another dollar. My cards are maxed out, and after Dix trashed our house in a drunken rage, and I lied about it, Dad stopped the “I’ll-support-you” thing for both of us.
Dix and Dad don’t talk anymore. I’m still parent connected. Sort of.
My attention returns to the door in front of me and I take a deep breath. I’ve never asked for anything in my life, even a Barbie doll. I hate owing anybody anything.
KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK. I wait. I can hear the faint tiny sound of music trilling from iPod ear plugs. Theresa always has music in her head and can’t cross a room without dancing. She loves to dance. She’s dancing through life, always smiling, “tunage” piped into her head.
The door opens, and now I’m facing that gorgeous Black/Euro face of hers. This combo always makes striking women, and Theresa’s no exception, with her long-legged body of four percent body fat and firm breasts that don’t need a bra. Boys love my breasts, but I love hers.
“Hi girl!” she grins. “What’s happenin’?”
“You in the middle of something?” I ask, almost hoping she is.
“Ironing… Folding laundry. C’mon in.”
I walk into her room, or actually rooms. Theresa took the largest of the bedroom space in the house. But then again, her name’s on the lease and she’s paying more. “Can I get ya something?” she asks as we head for her seating area near the bay windows. “Coke? Juice? Wine?”
“Wine. Is the bottle full?”
“Uh oh. Something’s up.”
Theresa opens her mini fridge. My eyes move from her to a box of Winstons lying on the coffee table before me. “Dixon’s in the hospital again,” I begin. “Another OD.”
“Bummer.” She uncorks the bottle.
“Yeah. And of course he’s broke, spending it all on dope.”
“Wow, girl. He keeps bringing all this grief into your life. I don’t see how you put up with it.”
“I can’t. That’s why I’m giving him one more chance. But I gotta put him through detox first.”
Theresa returns to me with two full glasses of Pino Blanc and hands me one. I nod in appreciation as she sits next to me on the couch and reaches for her Winstons on the table. “Detox? Why are you doing that?” She lifts a filter to her lips, then remembers. “Oh. You quit, right?”
“I’ll take it.”
“Yeah. I’m an addict.”
Theresa hands me the pack. I pull one, flame it with Theresa’s Bic, and inhale deep, feeling the inside of me toast and while I wait for that telltale feeling of nicotine calm, which will be further coaxed up to my brain with three hard swallows of wine.
I come back to the question. “You want to know why I’m helping Dix? He has nobody but me.”
“But he’s what? Twenty-three? He’s not your load.”
“He’s not asking me. Dix is a good soul, Theresa. He really is. And when things were shit at home, he always took care of me. And now he needs a big favor. And now I need one too. Can I borrow some money?”
She inhales, thinking. Now I inhale, waiting. Now she exhales, with… “Wow, Jen…”
“I hate asking you. If this can’t happen, I understand.”
“How much are we talking about?”
“It’s a lot.”
“What? Twenty thousand?”
“Eight. That’s the cost of therapy with methadone.”
She leans back into the pillows. “I thought it’d be more.” Wine comes to her lips as she considers my plea. I can almost see the wheels turning. But what they’ll crank out, I can’t tell. I take this time to burn more tobacco. Finally, she speaks.
“Jen, I could loan you the money. And I will loan you the money. But how are you going to pay it back?”
“As soon as I graduate, I’ll get a job. And I’ll put part of it away every week for you.”
Theresa sets down her glass, looking me straight in the eyes. “What are you majoring in again?”
“Communications and journalism.”
“Are you interning?
“Have you started interviewing?”
“And you expect to be working for the Boston Globe in six months?”
I look down. She’s right. “I know… I know. Forget I asked.”
Theresa slides closer, with her arm dropping onto my shoulders. “Do you really think eight thousand dollars will be enough? Thirty days to kick four years of junk? When he’s as messed up as he is?”
I sigh. She’s right again. I didn’t think it through. Dix needs months of therapy. Maybe a year. “But I have to start somewhere,” I mumble, still looking down.
“Look, I could give you the eight grand–”
I raise my head. “You would?”
“But you’re gonna need more that that.”
“Maybe not.” I take another drag. “If I can just get him started.”
“Nope. Nope… No. You’re gonna need deep pockets, with a zipper in between.”
I knew this would come up. I was hoping it wouldn’t. “Theresa, I just couldn’t do that.”
“Why not? I’m the happy one in this room. Do I look in trouble?”
“I’m not judging. I’m not. But I’m not you. I couldn’t pull it off.”
Theresa’s smile returns. “It’s not any different that dating.”
“It isn’t. Sure, the horse comes before the cart. But after that, it’s pretty much the same thing. You meet up. You discuss the arrangement. If it works, you go for it.”
“But suppose he breaks it off first?
“Isn’t that like dating? You split and find someone else.”
“But I mean, if he leaves without paying me.”
“It’s upfront, girl. And sure, you gotta be adults about it. And be fair. I once gave back half the allowance after two weeks.”
“But this whole thing about paying for… God, I can’t even say it.”
“It’s not just about sex. It’s a GFE.”
“A girlfriend experience. A relationship. He gets your company and a great time. You get the resources you need to help your brother. It’s really more like an old fashion marriage. Anyway, if a man really likes you, he’s gonna express it one way or the other. And if he’s loaded, money is the least thing he can give you. It’s an allowance. A gesture of appreciation. And then come the perks.”
“Like a red Camero.”
“Like a Camero. And all my college fees, and the rent for this place.”
I think about Theresa’s car. I think about her paid tuition. And I think about how that much money would take care of all my problems. And then I think about what I would have to give, to get it. “Do they expect sex on the first date?”
“Of course not. You wouldn’t get respect that way.”
“Respect is part of it?
“I’m not a whore, Jennifer.”
I’m sitting opposite Ms. Connor in her social services office, scanning her diplomas on the walls as she talks on the phone. In another five seconds, she hanging up and shifting her attention to me. “Hope Gardens verified that they do have an opening next week. I arranged graduated payments with two thousand up front.”
I nod, acting as blasé as possible.
“Now, you’re sure you can pay this?” she asks me again. “I had to ask favors to get your brother into this center.”
“Not a problem. I have the money from an inheritance.” I hate lying. About anything. But this is different.
I’m driving north on Bow Street, passing the Goodyear Tire store, Padaria Bakery, Hub Comics, Bow Street yoga, hoping Dix won’t ask me that crucial question as I chauffeur him home. But he does. “What’s it gonna cost again?”
“You still haven’t told me where it’s coming from.”
“Yes I did. I said state grants.”
“You said maybe state grants.”
“Well, we got’em.”
“That was fast.”
“Thank Molly Connor for that.” Another lie. But the truth is crazy. And I don’t even know if it’ll happen.
“I pull up and park in front of Dix’s building, on the corner of Bow and Summer, two industrial streets banked high with dirty snow. Boston can be bleak this time of year, and so is Dix’s building. He lives in four dingy rooms, shared with two other guys, three floors up in a 1915 structure. As far as I know, Dix’s roommates aren’t users, so I’m thinking maybe this outpatient thing will work. It has to. I can’t afford anything more.
As Dix slides off the seat into the cold air, I stretch three tens to him held in my gloved hand.
“What’s this for?” he asks.
“Take it, Dix. You look like shit.”
“Love the encouragement.”
I again raise the money. He takes it. “I’ll be back on Monday. Keep away from your junky friends.”
He rolls his eyes, but he knows I mean it. I’ve got seven days to get him to safety and come up with the money to pay for it. If he falls again, I won’t be back to pick up the pieces. And now I need a smoke.
Okay, it’s now on the line: sex for money. Or maybe not. Maybe Sugar Babies are not prostitutes, as Theresa explains. Maybe it’s dating, but with money up front.
Here’s my confession: When I graduated college, I was so poor, I directed porn movies just to survive. Granted, directing sex in not like PERFORMING sex. But for me, this was a huge leap from my conservative upbringing. And later, still poor, I ended up working in a lock-down mental hospital changing diapers on sixteen year-olds. Again, to pay the rent and eat.
So you never know WHAT you’ll do for money given enough incentive. Would YOU “sugar date” if you were in Jennifer’s situation? Could you take it to the level of mistress?
Part 3 publication date: 12/09/11