Imperial Cleaning

This All-Amputee Softball Team is Changing the Way We Think About Treating Trauma

I was too insecure and too single to handle such a compliment from a beautiful woman.

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He and Rice even exchanged some cathartic lines of sarcasm: Sometime that evening, Rice left camp to patrol the perimeter. Allen was awake with the rest of the squad. When Allen and an accompanying sergeant ran to the site, they found Rice on his back. He was writhing, covered in blood. It was just like the movies. Allen immediately shot back at the unseen enemy. Allen and his counterpart hoisted Rice into a medivac chopper, Allen still seething with adrenaline.

But when I saw him go into the [copter], I knew that he was going to be fine. For almost two years Rice was bound to a hospital bed after a Syme amputation — one that goes through the ankle joint.

He attended rehab to relearn everyday tasks like how to shower and walk, while undergoing brain scans and clinical evaluations. For many recuperating vets with trauma, the path to recovery — to normalcy — has always been rather foggy. In the s, a decade after PTSD had finally been recognized as a psychological disorder, clinical therapists began administering treatment via behavioral therapy, aided by Zoloft or Prozac.

With research indicating that Iraq and Afghanistan vets of the s are reporting high rates of PTSD , the recent focus of psychologists is not just which medication a trauma-carrying vet should take, but more so a look into how a vet should live his or her life once out of the hospital.

Government funding for CAM treatments has been ratcheted up the past couple years , but one study found that only 40 percent of vets seeking help for their mental trauma were actively engaging in CAM treatments — many vets are not eager to talk about their PTSD to someone other than their therapist. Paula Schnurr of the U. Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD says that although alt-treatments have yet to get a definitive study, they are often immensely helpful — that is, as long as vets are not forgoing traditional remedies altogether.

Schnurr also notes that CAM solutions are subjective and not one-size-fits-all — some vets prefer kayak therapy, others racing sailboats. I mean, just working together towards a goal? I n Chicago during the summer of , a decade before Warriors outfielder Danielle Green was shipped off to Baghdad as a military specialist, she was a basketball whiz with a sweet left-hand shot.

Two years passed, and Green, then 26, pined for more. In January of Green enlisted in basic training, and later went to Iraq for a year-long deployment. On May 25, seven weeks after Green briefly returned home to marry her boyfriend, she was back on security duty at a National Police Station in the center of Baghdad.

The station was empty except for her and her squad. She hiked up to the roof of the station and an RPG whizzed by her, exploding a barricade. She tried kneeling, readying her M4 carbine rifle. Her sergeant and another specialist ran up and began performing first aid.

That night, Green awoke in a hospital bed outside Baghdad with her master sergeant standing by the bedside. She was asking about her left arm that had successfully tossed so many basketballs through so many hoops.

Green was soon awarded the Purple Heart, and applauded by a room full of comrades. Her sergeant also announced more good news: The next morning, Green was flown to Germany, where she officially became an amputee.

During her stay, a passing doctor recognized her name and paid a visit to her room. An hour before the Warriors take the field in Canal Park, Green talks about her recovery from trauma: I still had stitches in my leg.

I started to run, I started to cycle, ski, and golf. It kept me at bay. She says telling her story to fellow vets also helped stave off PTSD, and led to Green becoming, for a time, a readjustment counseling therapist herself. C ody Rice grabs his bat to go up to the plate. The first pitch, a strike. Rice readjusts his stance, cleans his bat against his prosthetic. He readies, and cuts the next pitch into center field. The Warriors on base score, and Rice runs across them all for an inside-the-park home run.

When he reaches the dugout, the Warriors stand up to greet him with high fives. The Warriors go on to win the game, then take the second against a team of non-disabled vets. After cleaning off their prosthetics, the 11 of them line up to sign autographs. He discusses the team as a treatment for war trauma: I know we saved a couple of lives. After softballs are signed, the autograph tables are hoisted out to make way for a minor league game that Sunday.

Once all the Warriors have left for their hotel rooms, the remaining lights in the park are shut off. The next morning, each Warrior flies back to their home city, back to their nine-to-five, until a tournament in South Bend a week later. We humans are far more complex than the news headlines and clickbait would have you believe. Let the Narratively newsletter be your guide. I've always had trouble reading social cues, but in the strip club, where rules and roles are crystal clear, I finally learned to connect.

I walked past the stage and sat down at the bar, the neon lights illuminating my pink teddy, shadowed eyes, and crimson lips. I ordered my first drink of the night and took inventory of the club. There were a few listless customers scattered around, hunching over bar stools, and a dancer circling the pole.

I waved over a colleague, a transplant from Manchester with hair extensions that kissed her velvet garter belt. We grumbled about how slow business was until I spotted a paunchy man at the bar.

He was short, with a tuft of gray hair and a slight smile that crinkled his eyes. He was also more animated than the others. I started off light, asking about his day and his job. His smile widened across his face as my eyes met his.

I silently counted to 10 and reminded myself to look away for a second — best not to terrify him. I switched my gaze to the top of his nose to put a boundary between us. It was time to either close the sale or walk away. After two years in the industry, I knew which customers were worth investing in — not this guy. So, I led him into the corner, which opened up to the club like the bow of a ship, public and safe, for one quick dance. I processed events after the fact with tenuous evaluation, like peeling off layers of old wallpaper.

At the time, it was not something I had words to explain, so I turned the blame on myself. Whenever I struggled to understand if someone was angry or bored, I went home and berated myself for being lazy, ditzy, and dumb as I obsessively evaluated the night.

I just needed to try harder to be more present, I told myself. One time, I went to a dinner party my sister hosted. A few of her colleagues and friends sat around her table while we snacked on hummus and bread, and someone asked about my recent trip to Europe.

I rambled incessantly, illustrating the nightclubs, the hostels I stayed in, even how I bled through my powder-blue dress because I forgot to change my tampon.

I can see their faces now, wide-eyed and uncomfortable, but at the time they coalesced into one indistinguishable figure, Dave Matthews playing in the background taking precedent. So, I meticulously designed a persona who nodded at the right time, rehearsed lines, smiled when appropriate, monitored personal space, spoke quietly.

Before going out, I crafted notecards, scribbling how long to talk about acceptable topics and which to stay clear of altogether, like my period, in small talk. The persona was a mask that helped me appear to interact in the moment, but in reality I crept by, three paces behind everyone else. I had just celebrated my 24th birthday in Australia when I started dancing.

I settled temporarily in a bustling beach town at the edge of Melbourne and needed money to pay off my student debt. I considered a bar job, but decided to try stripping simply because it meant fewer hours.

When I walked into a club to ask for a job, to my surprise, I realized it was just a bar with the usual roles reversed: I was intrigued, but confused — how did they convince customers to spend money off-stage?

The manager looked at my petite frame and nervous smile, pointed her manicured hand to the dressing room and listed the rules: You get one free drink. No drugs on the floor. Hundreds of customers came and went during the hour shift, sitting on plush couches and crowding around the bar.

All but one dismissed me. I sat at the bar to observe, sipping my free champagne. One dancer particularly stood out with her naturally frizzy curls and tattered black bra. From the bar, I saw her sitting alone on one of the upholstered couches that lined the back of the club. I took a deep breath and approached her, brushing aside the fringe curtain separating the lap dance room from the bar. It was getting late, two hours before closing, and I was exhausted and frustrated.

I thought about packing up and never coming back, but I needed this to work out. She turned around and outlined her lips with a beige pencil in the smudged mirror, advising in her Bulgarian accent: Make them pay big bucks if they want to dump their shit on you. You sound like a child. Her words wounded me, but I was impressed. She saw right through my mask. I learned to showcase different parts of my persona based on the customer.

Performing felt strangely comfortable, even though the job was foreign and challenging. That conversation lasted minutes, but the advice made for a successful career. And when I was unsure, I had her original rules to catch me. Are they asking for my real name? Are they relaying problems in their life without buying a dance first? On the floor of the club, I spent hours practicing each weekend, and for the first time in my life, I learned how to cut through layers of language in real time, just like Claire, until it became effortless.

E ventually I moved back home to New York and started stripping full time. Most people I met outside of work told me I was a great listener, unaware of how much time I spent in my room practicing the correct reactions. Nearly two years after I started dancing, my friend Sarah invited me to her birthday party. My least favorite social situation: True, I was better at picking up more obvious cues like eagerness and anger, but group settings were strenuous — too many subtleties to keep track of.

I packed up my lace teddy and Red Bull into a discreet bag and headed over to the restaurant before work. The hour and a half crawled by. There were six of us around a small table. I prayed no one would ask me personal questions. His words mixed in with the background conversation and it sounded like another language.

I broke out in sweat. A second later the words clicked. I smiled and looked at his nose instead of his eyes while chewing over my words and length of speech, trying to offer the version of my trip they wanted to hear.

Sarah got up to go to the bathroom. I quickly walked over to her and asked: She looked confused as I hurried out the door. I let out a sigh of relief as the taxi plowed across the Williamsburg Bridge.

I walked under the familiar lights to the dressing room. I squirted a dollop of foundation on my hand and painted the dark circles under my eyes. For a brief second, I wondered, Is something wrong? But then I swallowed those thoughts and walked onto the floor to escape from myself. I sat down at the bar and ordered a Hennessy on the rocks. The birthday was successfully buried, and I was buzzing from the bliss of escape. I spotted a man at the bar — alone, tall, bald with a kind smile and a glass of whiskey in his hand.

I ran through the formula and we connected right away. I suggested the private room and he agreed. The private rooms were where I connected with customers, sometimes in a way that was more intimate than my relationships outside the club. There I massaged their shoulders, let them touch me, expressed vulnerability.

I bantered for hours — something I was never able to do before. With fewer stimuli around, it was easier to focus and converse back and forth in a way that felt less strenuous than at the restaurant hours before.

My weirdness was worth their paycheck. After two hours, I excused myself for a moment to go to a bathroom where I got a message from Sarah: Below the message was a picture of the dinner crew, laughing with their arms wrapped around each other. I felt such a pang of loneliness and regret that I broke down in the doorless toilet stall, my eyeliner smearing like watercolor on canvas. Why am I only alive at work? Why can I give so much of myself to my customers and so little to my friends?

Work was a temporary balm, but the interactions there were fleeting, not enough to sustain my longing for people. The force of my rotting loneliness hit like a tidal wave as the reality of how much I struggled to navigate social settings outside settled in. I allowed myself just one sob before I fixed my face and performed for the last half hour.

Desperate for answers, I started scrolling through an online forum for women with ADHD, wondering if I might have an attention disorder, looking for an explanation.

I started asking for advice, addressing some of my other issues first like getting lost in obsessive thought. Central to autism is a difficulty experiencing life in real time. But in the private rooms at the club, there were no outside stimuli. The rules were clear, the distractions minimal, so I could focus and interact.

Women in the ADHD forum invited me to the group for autistic women and there I saw myself a hundred times over. Scrolling through were women like me: I gradually pulled the blame away from myself and labeled the things about me that were naturally different, not defective. I took a deep breath and resisted pretending to listen and asked: I forgave myself when I slipped outside of social norms and said something weird.

People would love me or not — frankly I was okay with the risk. A few months later, I stood outside the club with a cigarette in my hand, looking over the busy highway at the deserted factories. She knew I was a stripper but had never been to the club. From the outside, it looked grim: But it was home to me.

I kept the window open as the club disappeared, letting the cold air whip my face, feeling a mixture of relief and excitement. Forums for autistic women advised pulling off masks that many develop to pass as non-autistic. The effects of camouflaging are toxic, they warned. But I still had so much to learn. There was vast, dormant space to grow into beyond my work persona. The twinkling lights opened the doors to Manhattan, my body still moving from the music of the club. The possibilities of the night unrolled in front of me and I intended to savor them.

My analyst and I grew more intimately connected each week of treatment My entire body feels tense, not ideal for the setting. I try to relax, but the plush leather couch crumples under me when I shift, making the movements extraordinary. Of course it has. On the surface, when the patient has been highly selective of the discussion topics, therapy always resembles a friendly get-together. I so supremely wanted this not to come up.

She quickly and convincingly pointed out that I work rather hard and am, ultimately, paying my bills on time, that I have friends, an appreciation for arts and culture, and so on. Then Lori heightened the discussion a bit. I was too insecure and too single to handle such a compliment from a beautiful woman. I shrugged my shoulders, only half looking up. I laughed a little, uncomfortably. She gently explained she could tell the day I walked into her office for the first time, after I flashed a bright smile and casually asked where she was from.

Lori snorts, rolls her eyes. I smile, shake my head and look around the room, denying acceptance of my own ridiculous reality. I look again at her stark blue eyes, prevalent under dark brown bangs, the rest of her hair reaching the top of her chest, which is hugged nicely by a fitted white tee under an open button-down. Do you bend me over and take me from behind? I take a second to let the red flow out of my face, and ponder what she said. So I go home, incredibly turned on and completely unashamed.

In treatment I came to realize that all people have contradictions to their personalities. In my case, my extreme sensitivity can make me feel fabulous about the aspects of myself that I somehow know are good my artistic tastes and cause deep hatred of those traits I happen to loathe the thirty pounds I could stand to lose.

My next session with Lori is productive. One constant is that I put crudely high expectations on others, mirroring those thrown upon me as a kid. Then, a week later, Lori mentions it, and I become tense again. There were two ways to find out:. Here we go again. Lori, ever intently, peers into my eyes, wrinkles her mouth and slightly shakes her head. We both know the answer to that question. All I can do is stare back. I see what she means. When our sessions finally resumed, I could not wait to tell her about my budding relationship with Shauna.

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Products featured on other pages of our website may be purchased from other independent retailers. All purchase and returns policies of that independent seller apply. Plans happened magically without anxiety-inducing, twenty-four-hour waits between texts. Her quick wit kept me entertained, and I could tell by the way she so seriously spoke about dancing, her chosen profession, that she is passionate about the art form and mighty talented too.

Shauna is beautiful, with flawless hazel eyes and straight dark hair, spunky bangs and a bob that matches her always-upbeat character. She is a snazzy dresser and enjoys a glass of whiskey with a side of fried pickles and good conversation as much as I do. So upon the precipice of my return to therapy I told Shauna about Lori, and admitted to having mixed feelings about what I was getting back into.

The first two sessions of my therapeutic reboot had gone great. Lori appeared genuinely thrilled that I was dating Shauna and could see how happy I was. I stuff the cat food back into the Tupperware and toss it into the refrigerator. I make my way into the living room, angry at myself for not changing the settings on my new iPhone to disallow text previews on the locked screen.

I can tell she regrets looking at my phone without my permission, but I completely understand her feelings. On my walk home, instead of being angry at Lori, I understand her thinking behind the text. A patient may in turn contemplate that a love is blossoming between them, and, in fact, it sort of is. This takes genuine care and acceptance on their part.

In employing countertransference — indicating that she had feelings for me — she was keeping me from feeling rejected and despising my own thoughts and urges. Atlas has an upcoming book titled The Enigma of Desire: Atlas explains that there are certain boundaries that cannot be crossed between therapist and patient under any circumstances — like having sex with them, obviously.

What do you do with that? Do you deny it? Do you talk about it? How do you talk about it without seducing the patient and with keeping your professional ability to think and to reflect? I ask her about the benefits of exploring intimacy in therapy, and Dr.

Atlas quickly points out that emotional intimacy — though not necessarily that of the sexual brand — is almost inevitable and required. Atlas says this topic speaks to every facet of the therapeutic relationship, regardless of gender or even sexual orientation, because intimacy reveals emotional baggage that both the patient and therapist carry with them into the session.

In order to be able to be vulnerable, both parties have to feel safe. After I briefly explain all that has gone on between me and Lori, Dr. Atlas steadfastly says she does not want to judge too harshly why and how everything came to pass in my therapy.

Maybe I wanted to interview Lori about erotic transference in my therapy sessions for that same reason as well…to stand out as the most amazingly understanding patient ever. In order for Lori to advance in her field as a social worker, she has to attend 3, conference hours with another professional to go over casework — kind of like therapy quality control. We talk about all of this during one of my scheduled sessions, for the entire hour — and go over by a few minutes, too.

It can become a cycle of behavior that Lori seeks to break. I refer back to the time when, unprovoked, she brought up my attraction to her.

There was no in between. Lori noticed that I was frustrated with myself and wanted me to know that an attraction to a therapist is so normal and happens so frequently that there are technical terms for it. I turn my attention towards the presence of countertransference in our session. Lying in bed with Shauna a few months into our relationship, I ask her what she thought about me the moment she first saw me.

She says she liked the fact that I was wearing a blazer and a tie on a first date. She adds that I was a little shorter than she anticipated, but was content with the two of us at least being the same exact height.

I explain that my insecurity could often get the better of me in dating situations. It seems my emotional workouts in erotic transference were just beginning to produce results.

But, so you have a full understanding of how this works, we can date. The difference this time is the answer I want to give is on par with all of my involuntary urges. Would Lori and I really be compatible in every way? Would she ever see me as a lover, a partner, an equal, and not a patient? Could I ever reveal a detail about myself, or even just a shitty day of work, without wondering if she was picking it apart and analyzing it?

Frankly, all those questions could be answered in the positive. Work payments that were past due are finally finding their way into my bank account. As it turns out, my short-term money troubles were not an indication that I had no business being a writer, or that my life changeup was as irresponsible as unprotected sex at fourteen years old. I took a mental step back from my current situation and realized that in spite of my recent hardships, I was succeeding.

At first, the quiet girl from Craigslist seemed like a great match—we had just the occasional tangle over cats and cleanup. And then the men started coming over. It was late morning, and I was putting up a fresh pot of coffee when I heard the first meow. It sounded awfully close, as if from inside the apartment instead of the backyard one story down. Then I heard it again, and there was no doubt.

I texted my roommate. You got a cat?! I suffer from allergies — through spring and summer I have a persistent itch in my nostrils, and the lightest bit of pollen or dander or even a freshly mowed lawn sets off sneezing spells that leave my entire body sore. I was also concerned about the smell. And besides, the landlord forbade pets. I have a tendency to overreact, to exacerbate conflict.

Instead I went for calm and firm, and maybe slightly paternal. We need to talk. Later that afternoon, in the kitchen between our bedrooms, we talked, leaning on opposite counters. I was left somewhat unsettled. In the end, I told her she could keep the cat, but she better take care of it properly. We were unlikely roommates, a Craigslist arrangement: I, a near-middle-aged man, several years divorced, with adolescent children of my own.

She, a twenty-year-old recent college grad. At first, I had a parade of eccentrics, men who seemed to have something to hide, smelling of whiskey, with slurred speech, crooked teeth, telling me about jobs as investment bankers or corporate accountants, claims I found dubious.

He left just as I was about to call the cops. So when Jenny showed up, I was inclined to like her. She looked like a typical post-college young woman: Her speech tended to the monosyllabic. I showed her the room. I showed her the bathroom. Then she asked what she needed for moving in, and I told her: I assumed this meant she had all those things, and at first, it appeared that she did. She told me she worked two jobs, as a clerk in a stationary store in Midtown Manhattan and as an art-school model.

Several days later, she brought documents attesting to her claims, and it all seemed to check out. She moved in a couple weeks later, with the help of her dad, whom I found affable in a way that put me further at ease.

Some time after she moved in, I met her boyfriend, who seemed about my age. I did have some mild concerns. I wondered why she would choose to live here — a part of town where she had no friends or family — and with me, a man twice her age.

But I needed a roommate, and for the most part, she matched my criteria: There was something familiar about her, almost bland, like an unremarkable extra who might appear repeatedly in so many movies, which meant she was safe and normal and predictable — exactly what I needed if I was to share my home with a stranger. It was soon after the cat incident that I began to notice she was home more. In fact, she rarely seemed to leave her room.

She was always on time with rent, and she appeared to have enough money to buy groceries and order in meals. One afternoon, a couple weeks after Jenny took in the cat, I heard her voice and then a male voice I did not recognize.

It was definitely not her boyfriend, whose voice was high-pitched; this one was deep, almost gruff. I was in my room, working, and I heard someone enter the bathroom, and then the toilet flush, and so I opened my door a crack for a glance. In the hallway, emerging from the bathroom, was a short, squat man, gray-haired with a bald temple. I felt a kind of indescribable rage, almost like a personal affront. How dare she — in my home?!

An hour later, I watched her escort the man to the door. Another part of me was so angry I wanted to evict her immediately. The rest of the day, I wrestled with my thoughts, my mind feverish with indecision: Should I say something? Should I tell her boyfriend? Should I call her dad? Was it any of my business anyway? I decided to wait, see if it happened again, and just a few days later, it did. This time, it was a tall black man wearing an ill-fitting suit and tie, like thrift-shop formalwear.

He, too, emerged from the bathroom and disappeared into her room, and after an hour or so she escorted him to the door, again in the blue pumps and rumpled ivory dress. I took to Google: What to do if my roommate is a prostitute? More than what to do , I was seeking clarity on why it bothered me. Who was I to judge if Jenny chose an unorthodox profession?

Why would I care if she used her room to ply her trade? On Yahoo Answers and in Google Groups and various other forums people wrote about similar experiences, and the consensus was: I wondered about the practical aspects of her work: Does she have a Backpage ad? Did she use Craigslist? Could I find her on The Erotic Review? Sit her down for a talk. Point her in the right direction.

Instead, when we met in the kitchen the next afternoon, passing between the refrigerator and the trashcan by the sink, I decided to bring it up. I was washing a dish, the water running lightly, and she was behind me, waiting for something in the microwave. She turned slowly to face me, nonchalant, with a thin smile. What are you going to do about it?

She offered no further explanations, and we both retreated to our rooms. Let us, as adults, discuss this situation. In return, she took me for a fool. The words infuriated me, and I began to plot her eviction. Several days passed, however, and still I did nothing. We had just finished dinner at a SoHo restaurant, paid the check, and were about to head to her place when my phone rang.

It was my landlord. There was trouble at the apartment. My thoughts went to the men. My date raised an eyebrow to me. We were outside the restaurant, in the cool night air on a quiet street, a jittery yellow cab passing over the uneven cobblestone. Landlord says someone called The response came a few seconds later.

I stared at that text, uncomprehending. She had been dead, in fact, for the past twenty-four hours, in her bed, in our apartment. My thoughts in those moments would later seem incongruous with the event itself, but at the time they were automatic, a cascading stream of impolitic ponderings. I hung up the phone and looked at my date, who was gripping my arm and staring. My date reacted as I expected. Of course I was O. Mostly I was just annoyed that her death was getting in the way of my evening plans.

Jenny and I had lived together for four months, but I barely knew her. An overdose of what? I called my landlord, and told her what I had learned: No, she need not worry about a thing. The police will take care of it all. I was out of town, I said — not a lie, although not entirely the truth either. My date gripped my arm tighter, as if the news of death created some erotic charge, at once frightening and gripping, and we went off together to her apartment a few blocks away.

In the morning I took the subway home, and remembered: My roommate was dead. It felt surreal, and I found myself ruminating on the nature of death, and youth, and the way we often know so little about the people living just several feet away from us. It appeared that someone had taken the cat.

Later in the afternoon, my phone rang. I felt momentarily caught off balance. She had seemed like a rootless child, unattached, unaffected. I knew she had parents, a little sister, extended family somewhere, but I knew so little about them they were almost unreal to me.

Her entire life seemed confined to her room across the hallway, as if she mattered to no one but herself. I am so, so terribly sorry. This must be so devastating. I could hear him sniffling on the other end of the line. There were the signs, of course. It was heroin, Steve told me. Her boyfriend, who was an addict, had introduced it to her. When I hung up, I felt guilty for feeling as unmoved as I did.

Her father, at the same time, seemed to expect exactly that. As if he knew that someone like me would be affected only by the trouble of it all. Here were people reminiscing about her, friends writing about the time she helped someone with a college essay, or about high school adventures, or that time they got passed-out drunk and high on that crazy spring break trip. Two days later, her aunt came. She packed some of her clothes into a few large trash bags. The bed that was ordered online just four months ago.

The easy chair Jenny had brought from her childhood home in Westchester. A bunch of keys on a key ring, a bracelet of blue beads, a MetroCard, a bag of cosmetics. It looked just like it had before she moved in: I closed the door to look behind it, and noticed a taped-up card, from HashtagThePlanet. I thought about how our physical possessions are like phantom lives: It made me sad, but I had little use for the rest, and ended up putting most of it out with the trash.

The stuff sat on the edge of the sidewalk for a day or two, and through the window I watched as people passed, glancing at the items.

Some stopped to pick through them, holding up items for inspection, taking what they pleased, until the pile was about half the original size. Then the trash collectors came and tossed it all into the monster-mouth of their truck, until nothing was left but a shattered light bulb that slipped out of one of the bags, now spread in tiny bits of glass among the fallen leaves of a nearby honeysuckle tree.

After years getting paid to bare my breasts at more clubs than I can count, when my funds hit an all-time low I pioneered a cleaner brand of sex work.

When I arrive at the house of the first viable person to respond to my Craigslist ad, I knock on the door and take a step back. He opens it right away. I like his work jeans and dirty white t-shirt, though. They feel kind of homey. I step in, a little flirty, but all-business to begin with. Just when the tour is complete my phone rings. Call me in like an hour. I turn to JimJohn and start to pull my shirt off, then stop. I shove it down one of my stockings as I take my pants off, because I have always believed that the safest place for my money is right against my skin.

Half a tank of gas and two blueberry smoothies later, it dwindled to sixteen dollars folded together in the bottom of my pocket. For some people, this might have been a problem, but not for me.

Sex work is my trust fund. Whenever I discover a new form of sex work — the weirder or more interesting the better — I try to experience it. Possum drew me a map showing how to get to the two strip clubs he knows of: I decided to try the small one first. The small one turned out to be a brothel with very little business, where I met some very beautiful, very southern women, including a pound dancer named Hamhock who I wish I could introduce to every teenager worrying about their weight ever.

I was too fat for the big one, or the door guy was having a bad day. I started to feel a little panic. I do the kitchen first, like my friend Tania who actually grew up in a mansion and knows how to clean explained to me last night on the phone. I keep up a steady stream of flirting while I put his dishes in the dishwasher and move everything on the counter to one end so I can clean it.

1. Zero Pollution Motors