I was walking down the street in a neighboring town when I bumped into an old friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in almost seven or eight years.
We embraced warmly, and I looked at her face. She looked exactly as I remembered, but there was this inexplicable light that radiated off of her. She was 31 now, so at first I just assumed it was her youthful exuberance that I was feeling. I asked if I could take her to lunch, and we walked into a nearby Italian restaurant, shaking off the Hudson Valley cold as we shuffled through the door.
“It’s so good to see you,” she said.
“Same here. What have you been up to?” I asked.
“It’s such a long story,” she half mumbled. “I don’t even know where to begin.”
“Well at the risk of sounding like Julie Andrews, start at the beginning. It’s a very good place to start.”
“Huh?” she looked up confused.
“I’m not going to explain that reference,” I said.
“Will you promise not to judge me if I tell you?” she asked.
So as we ate and talked, she explained to me that she began to work in the sex trade here in New York, but soon realized that the real money was to be made in Las Vegas.
I was completely intrigued. “What drew you into that life?” I couldn’t help asking. “Money. The hustle. It was taboo. I was not like all these stories you read about. I wasn’t trying to support any addiction…besides maybe an addiction to the risk and the excitement.”
She told me this fascinating story, but explained that as time wore on, life began to degrade for her rather quickly. All the glamour began to wear off. It wasn’t long before she realized that she needed to work for someone, commonly referred to as a pimp, because she was afraid of getting robbed or killed, which is essentially what happens to girls who don’t seek protection out there.
She went on to elucidate that it became an endless soul-sucking grind, and eventually her pimp brought in another young woman. And things were beginning to be plain miserable.
“It wasn’t long before I reached the end of my rope. So, there I was in the bathtub, doing a guided meditation as I got ready for a ‘date’ that was scheduled an hour later. At the end of the meditation, feeling so tired and finished with the life, I began to pray to God.”
“I asked to be sent to an ashram or a Tibetan monastery. You know, somewhere picturesque where we all wore the same clothes and I didn’t have to deal with tricks and make-up and bills and food everyday. Someplace where I could meditate all day long and experience a spiritual rebirth.”
“Wow! So what happened?”
“I got set up. Three hours later, I was sitting in the back of a police car in handcuffs—and the strange thing is that when the initial shock wore off, I began to laugh hysterically. The cop thought I was out of my mind, but all I could think was how ironic God can be. The police told me that they had enough on me to send me to prison, and as that began to sink in, I realized we’d all be wearing the same clothes, I wouldn’t have to deal with make-up or tricks or food, and I could spend my days in quiet meditation. I got exactly what I asked for. I would’ve preferred the monastery, but this would have to do.”
The waitress came to the table and asked if we wanted dessert as I sat there dumbfounded.
“So, what was the biggest take-away for you with all of this?” I wondered.
“Well, the void I was trying to fill with all of these external elements could only, obviously, be filled spiritually. That was an epiphany I had in there, and it was a realization that my 20-something self never understood.”
Having had my own spiritual awakening several years back, we found a common ground and an empathy for each other. When she and I had last parted company, we both set out on our own separate journeys into hell and lived to tell each other the tales and eat baked ziti together almost eight years later.
“Oh, and there was one very important thing I learned also,” she erupted as I paid the check.
“Be very precise about what you pray for,” she laughed.
We walked out into the cold again, arm in arm, both of us pretty damn happy just to be alive.
Author: Billy Manas
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy editor: Yoli Ramazzina