Whores I Have Loved
Illustrations by Benjamin Marra
eing a Mexican hooker wasn’t the plan I had in mind,” she said from above me, her hair enveloping us both like mosquito netting or a dark silk blanket we had drawn over our heads. Her breath smelled like beer, cocaine, and copper. “But I’ve been working in Mexico for about three years. I was hitchhiking back from Argentina. I guess you could say I was dancing up the coast.” She laughed.
She was from Georgia, and her accent alone made you want to fuck her. A shame, it was lost on her Mexican clientele. We were 50 miles east of Puerto Vallarta in a town that consisted wholly of the whorehouse, three bars, and a nearby maquiladora that made high-end furniture. There were “contemporary Scandinavian” tables and chairs in the bars, and the main dancing hall of the whorehouse, where the women performed their striptease before taking a client, looked like an IKEA but with unmortared white stone walls, dim lighting in red, blue, and green, and five low-hanging disco balls. It was nearly as large as an IKEA, too, and there must have been 300 drunken men in there: a Saturday night. I did not see any other Americans or Europeans. I’d had to tip two bouncers $100 each to acquire this woman before the crowd of clients waving bills in the air and waiting for her after her brief dance onstage. She was one of their best sellers.
“You never say anything,” she said. She liked to talk while having sex, which is unusual in a prostitute. “You just ask questions.”
There are prostitutes who like to joke during sex, which is a bad thing: You haven’t known each another long enough for that.
I came back to see her six nights in a row, and every night I stayed the whole night, which was $300, at the time: cheap by American standards but outrageous in a Mexican brothel that was not for tourists. With beers and blow I left almost $2,500 at that whorehouse. After the second night I didn’t have to tip the bouncers. She asked me to come late, so that she could turn some regular business before I arrived, but I arrived early and I watched her. I had never before—and have never since—observed a woman I am going to sleep with take men—multiple men—to have sex with her before me. It doesn’t have the erotic sparkle you might imagine. Though I am a jealous lover, it did not provoke jealousy. But I did want to kill the sleepy-eyed men as they returned from upstairs and crept or sauntered out the front door or returned to their friends at the table. All but three women in my life have had sex with other men before they had sex with me: Why should it matter that it took place before my eyes, and all in one night? Their friends would laugh, but these men did not join in the laughter like men returning from other women. I understood their tranquillity and satiety; I knew, as their friends did not, that they did not want to be touched by anyone else—not even a happy, drunken slap on the back—for an hour or two. I could not comprehend how the men who left went back to their wives for the night. It wasn’t that you felt soiled. I once listened to a friend scrub himself in a blistering shower for 15 minutes after visiting Peppermint in Bangkok: His red hide as he emerged in his white towel from the steaming bathroom, like Meryl Streep’s back after they scrub her with steel brushes in Silkwood, still makes me rub my eyebrows. The sex was very good, as you would expect, but conventional. It wasn’t the sex, or her body: though her breasts did not quite fit in your hands, and her areolae were more than two inches in diameter, pink as tulips, and her nipples were dimpled. She was widely curved and slender and liked you to hold her ass from beneath with both of your hands. She was not shaven. It surprised me that she didn’t enjoy, and wouldn’t permit, anything rough. She had the curvaceous body of an American peasant.
When I confessed several of my sins to her, lying in bed together, talking and watching the big spiders hunting or hiding in the corners and interstices between the stones, she told me: “The last perfect man I heard of died hangin’ on a cross.”
At this time in my life I was between two wives, out of work, living on the remnants of a business I had driven into bankruptcy, and I visited many houses of prostitution around the world. My favorites were in Latin America, because they are so often in old stone forts built by the Spanish. But the whorehouses in Belize are in tumbledown two-story wooden houses built by the English, like the whorehouses in the Caribbean. I once saw a man in Alligator Pond, Jamaica—a man I knew very, very well, who has since died—get a blowjob in the street from a seven-months-pregnant toothless 20-something crack addict. She charged him five American dollars, and he gave her a 20; I think it was the smallest bill he had. The second-most beautiful woman I’ve ever slept with was a Cuban prostitute who came to my hotel room in NY. She offered to take me for scrambled eggs the next morning, but I was exhausted, hungover, and ashamed, and I said no. I could see I had hurt her feelings. I had made some big promises in the night. Another time, lost in London, near Piccadilly Circus, past four in the morning, I met a short blonde woman, and we walked a ways, and when we turned onto a narrow side street she dropped to her knees and unzipped my pants. After five lonely minutes I took her head away, apologetically: For reasons that relate to my childhood, it’s nearly impossible for me to orgasm in a woman’s mouth. Then she asked me if I could loan her £30. I pretended all I had was a tenner. I am normally a generous person and don’t know why I humiliated us both in this way. I’m certain she was not a professional, but it seemed as though she had been in similar scenarios before.
Don Juan, Giacomo Casanova, Warren Beatty with his unlikely thousands, Fidel Castro enjoying two women a day, every day: What could these renowned lovers understand that is not better known by the average Mexican hooker, now in her 30s, who opened her practice at age 14?