The days I am tired after bed because my bed is my office and I recall its etymology, pertaining to moral duty, performance of a task; the days I think what it means to go to bed after that, how I dream myself into the cigarette smoke within the office of a man, languid in a mustard yellow couch, how it is always yellow, the filter of a photo that makes the present appear past even when it’s not. I do not see him or his face, only know that he is a man because of his silence. Trauma, the chorus proclaims, is no one’s fault, but it’s your own responsibility to deal with. Like a child asking why they were born developing into the teenager resentful of the fact, I want to throw my hands in the air but instead am on my back and bring them behind me, how a simple change of position turns frustration into ecstasy, how here one learns that they are the same only viewed from different angles. Sure, my body is an office I did not want and I use it to scroll through oblivion and read my allies tell me: sex workers don’t develop mental illness at work, but may turn to the work because of their illness and I remember how as children we were fed images of ghosts existing beneath white sheets, and the mornings I sleep through the knocks on my door, the complimentary breakfast buffet, I learn that this is so. Maybe it is my mental illness that makes me want to say no, that even the fights against stigma wouldn’t release me from these white walls, their slowness or the aloneness of fake art making a mockery of my scenes: the city map reprints are to portraiture as my legs around his neck is to authenticity, though in Feminist Studies 501 I am told it is truly me who’s there, my authenticity bonded to the dollar. I don’t always do the reading. Some nights I simply go back to my own bed from the hotel bed to dream of another bed in which I could afford another life.
Stephanie Kaylor is a Ph.D student in Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. They are Reviews Editor at Glass: A Journal of Poetry. This piece is excerpted from their manuscript Interviews with a Sex Worker.