Third Exposure: Model Opportunity (age 16 ½ ish)
This happened like right after I learned of the facility friend having been passed around. I felt responsible for what happened to her so when re-exposed to something I knew was prostitution I tried to be the hero and it didn’t work out too well for me.
There were a lot of just amazingly beautiful girls I met in foster care. Girls who outside of care would have been models or at least the most popular girls in school. This girl made Tyra Banks look like dog food. When we knew each other at the facility, she was super young and had that typical “I’m ugly” thing tween girls have. But she grew out of it with all the praise for her looks that she got from staff, other kids, and volunteers. She was more on the wannabe future doctor track when we first met each other, but I guess everyone you meet telling you that you should be a model made a girl wanna be a model.
When we ran into each other, maybe a year or two after we first split ways to different placements it was like a reunion of sisters. I was still on the street and trying to be a musician, convinced I would be the next Rob Thomas. She was shocked to hear I was on the streets but when I showed her my song folder she knew just how to help me. Her boyfriend had all the connections to make my dream come true (no it wasn’t R Kelly).
I ended up going back to her hotel room after school. Her story seemed legit cause it was fancy as hell. At least what a 16-year-old would think was fancy. Her boyfriend wasn’t there yet but she was excitedly telling me about him. He was a businessman who was helping her get into modeling and introducing her to all these powerful men who were going to get her career launched when she turned 18 (no it wasn’t R Kelly). And he was connected to all these musicians and some of them she met (okay maybe one of these guys was R Kelly).
I notice on the nightstand there was a pistol. Why do you need a gun? Protection. Okay weird, especially given a bruise on her arm, but I didn’t really implore. Later I noticed that there was like a pile of condoms. I made a joke about how she was definitely not going to end up pregnant with all those condoms. Her face got sad. She said she was on birth control which was good cause “they” don’t always want to use condoms. Who’s they?
She explained that she sometimes had to do favors for his friends. But that she wanted to cause everyone had to go through it. Just a part of paying dues in the industry. She assured me that her boyfriend was on the up and up and that she had already had photoshoots and met some really important people. Did you have to sleep with those people? No answer.
But she said that since I was ugly (ouch) I wouldn’t have that problem. She was sure of it. And okay, My grandfather was a pimp. Going to go ahead and put that out there. He wasn’t a pimp when I was alive but at one point in time, he and a few family members on his side were pimps. As such part of the grandfatherly wisdom I got from him growing up was about not getting turned out. I recognized what was happening and tried to talk her out of what she was doing. Tried to get her to leave with me.
Her “boyfriend” came back. What was I doing there? She wanted to introduce me, I was a songwriter and I play guitar. He’s like hey there. I’m like fuck you, You’re pimping my friend. He’s like bitch what? Argument ensues. I threaten to call the cops. We fistfight, he basically is kicking my ass with some gut-punches that would make Mohammed Ali get off the rope and throw in the towel. My friend screams “stop it stop it!” She’s pulled the gun. I’m thinking yea, fuck you guy, I’m taking my friend out of here.
She points the gun at me. She tells me to leave. I am shocked. She pulled a gun on me?! I’m getting my ass kicked for her and this was the thanks I got? I don’t even try to convince her to change her mind and come with me. I was just so pissed off. I walked out of the room to the sound of her apologizing to him for bringing me there. I’m pretty sure he beat her ass after. I don’t know what happened to her after that. I never ran into her again. Since I don’t keep in contact with kids I met at that facility anymore, I don’t think I will ever know.
Fourth Exposure: Stranger Danger (Age 17)
I used to hang out in downtown Atlanta near the Peachtree center train station. A staff member from my old group home, Crossroads, worked near there. He was…the most gorgeous man in the history of the world. I had a painful crush on him. All the girls did. But he gave me special attention. Not in a pedo way. Just in a “you’re a cool kid and I see potential in you, so I’m gonna use your crush on me to get you to stop acting like a jackass” kind of way.
Anyway, I would schedule accidental “bump ins” with him by basically waiting at the library till like 4:30 then hung out around the entrance of the train station till he got off work then… oh hey fancy running into you, let’s get dinner at the Hardrock Café. Yea lets meet up later at Planet Hollywood. Look at me I’m a grownup ordering a chicken Ceaser salad instead of a burger and fries. Lol. I’m almost 18 awkward non flirting.
I did this maybe once a week, so he didn’t catch on to the fact that I was basically stalking him. In my defense, I didn’t have any other contact with anyone during these days. He was my only friend and the only person I could get a kind word and a side hug.
On one such day, I missed him. I had just lost yet another placement opportunity and was just sick of life and the world and sick of being a good girl. I decided to actually be a teenager that night, so instead of high tailing it to the airport for safety over night/ to watch the planes take off and imagine where I would be going if I were on them, I decided to embrace the life I had. To fully embrace the absolute freedom I had as a teen in the ATL with ZERO parental supervision. My goal: ride in one of those horse-drawn carriages and/or free the horse. I hadn’t decided.
I wandered around aimlessly bored for a few hours. Then around 10 or 11 at night I saw a white dude with red hair talking to an older homeless black guy. I assumed the homeless guy was trying to rip the guy off, so I approached them. They acted like the homeless guy was giving him directions (in retrospect the guy was probably trying to score drugs or a hooker). The redhead was maybe in his late 20s early 30s and dressed in a business suit offered us 20 bucks to give him a tour of the “real Atlanta.” So we did.
We had to have been the strangest trio in the history of trios, but we had a grand old time goofing around and talking shit. I told them all about how fucked up the foster system was and how there were hundreds of homeless teens roaming around Atlanta and no one noticed (that was stupid, FYI. I was literally announcing if I disappeared no one would look for me). The Redhead guy was like “damn, is there anything I can do for you to help you out?” I was 17 with a one-track mind and loved horses so I said lets all chip in for a carriage ride.
The homeless guy said that it was abuse to the horses, that their hooves weren’t made for that. We talked to the carriage guy and he said that they had special shoes and were only worked a fe hours a way. With that moral issue solved, we all went on a carriage ride around the city. The homeless guy wasn’t feeling it. He sat there like a grump the whole time, like something was irritating him.
I didn’t understand why, after all, the red-head paid for it. During the ride, the redhead told me he was a Congressional intern (or maybe Senate Page. I think it was senate page). He went on and on about the government bureaucracy being the cause of all my and my friends’ pain.
The carriage ride ends. It must have been 1am by now. The trains would stop running soon so it was time to split ways. The redhead guy asked if I was taking the train and I was like yea. He said he would ride with me. The homeless guy grabbed me by the arm and was like no, she’s good. I get creeped out and am like dude let me go and walk closer to the clean-cut redhead in the business suit. The homeless guy comes up to me and is like “sista, be careful of wolves in sheep clothing.” I’m like yea buddy, whatever.
I go off with the redhead. He offers to take me to the Varsity after learning I’d never eaten there. We go, the food looks disgusting and greasy so I get ice cream. The whole time he is telling me how I should be in congress. How he can take me to speak to Congress to tell them what is happening to foster kids. I am so well-spoken they’ll listen to me.
He offers to pay for my flight and everything. He is just so moved by my story. I am eating up everything he says until he asked me if I had a place to sleep for the night. No. He offers to take me to his hotel room. It’s super nice. It’s at the Hilton. Have I ever been to the Hilton? No.
He keeps insisting and insisting and I’m like nah buddy, I’m okay. Then I realize he said his Hotel is in Midtown and he is riding with me all the way up to Lindbergh which is about 3 stops past where he was supposed to get off. You should come back with me. I want to take you to Washington DC. You can really help your friends. I’m not going to your hotel room buddy. Okay, you don’t have to go to my hotel room. I’ll buy you your own room. I have the money. No thank you, guy. At this point, I am remembering what the homeless guy told me about wolves in sheep’s clothing and getting serious Ted Bundy vibes.
Then he is like, “It’s not like I’m a serial killer or something. What do you think Is gonna happen?” and I’m like “I don’t know, but I don’t feel like ending up in a hotel room with my hands and feet cut off.” This was a throwback to a different story that I’m not including here cause it was super embarrassing but that essentially ended with a dude in his 20s lecturing the hell out of 13-year-old shelter-runaway me for trying to pretend I was 18 on a date.
Anyway, the redhead he asks if there was anything he could do to help me out and offered to give me some cash. I told him no. Then he gave me a slip of paper with his room number on it and told me to call him if I changed my mind. He was leaving for DC the next day and wouldn’t be able to help me once he left. I told him that when he got back to Washington DC, to tell my story for me. He again insisted that it would sound better coming from me. He gets off at Brookhaven station.
He hesitates a minute before getting off the train. I wave “bye” in the bitchy way that only teen girls know how to do which looks nice but is clearly saying “get the hell out of my face” I used to joke with my friends that this guy was actually Paul Ryan and that I’m just misremembering the hair color… Note to self, name this character Paul.
I don’t know if this guy was a serial killer or a sex trafficker. I just know he really really wanted me to come to his fancy hotel and was promising me the world if I did.