The Best Journalism Professor I Ever Had Was A Prostitute Named Skittles.
When I told my editor I’d do a feature on a tranny prostitute, I sort of meant it as a joke.
I knew where to find them, but I didn’t quite know what to do when I got there. Well, this was now my mission. I headed down to a corner I knew the “ladies” frequent with my friend Jordan.
“What makes you think I’m a working girl?”
I was a little stunned. I mean, here I was on this most infamous of corners, talking to a man dressed in nothing but flip-flops, a bandana skirt and a shirt designed to show off cleavage “she” didn’t have.
“Is it because of what I’m wearing?” she asked. “Is it because I’m a man?”
I told her it was the street corner more than anything. Surely she was aware of the street’s reputation.
“But I was just standing here talking to my friend,” she said. “How do you know I didn’t leave the club early?”
She asked me over and over again. I was kind of annoyed. It was obvious what she was here to do, why keep berating me about my sloppy introduction?
Jordan, the sweetheart, started standing up for me, making excuses for my rudeness. All I could think was, great, I’ve blown it. I pissed off the prostitute.
“I can tell that you’re upset,” she said to me. “You’ve got the water in your eyes. You think I’m offended, but I’m not offended. If I was offended, I woulda left my voice and said ‘who the fuck you calling a working girl?’”
That last part was all man.
“Look, if you’re a cop, just arrest me now,” she said. I told her I wasn’t. She told me her name was Skittles.
“What flavor?” Jordan asked.
“Whichever you want,” Skittles replied.
A few of Skittles’ coworkers were gathering around, watching us. They kept pestering her to leave us alone, but she just told them to shut up, she was trying to have a conversation. Maybe I didn’t blow it yet.
For the next twenty minutes or so I was schooled. I was continuously asked why I assumed Skittles was a working girl. It didn’t make a difference whether I had new answers or not, Skittles was making a point.
We both knew I had made a fair assumption, but the reality was, Skittles wasn’t standing there to be pointed at or gawked over like an exhibit at a museum.
“What do you think about prostitution?” Skittles asked us.
Jordan said she didn’t see anything wrong with it, that it was a person’s choice what to do with his/her own body. I realized I didn’t have an answer.
Referring to homeless prostitution, Skittles said, “They do it all the time.” She said people walk up to them and attempt to solicit sexual acts in exchange for money, food or a place to stay for the night.
I thought about how different it must be to choose to sell yourself and not having that choice. How unfair it must be to get locked up for such a thing when you only turn to it because it’s your last option.
But that wasn’t Skittles’ story.[box] “I’m not homeless,” she said defending herself from something she seemed to look down on. “Believe me, I’m well taken care of.” “So, then why do you do it?” I asked. Without missing a beat, “Because I’m good at it.”[/box]
Skittles had to stop herself, she was laughing so hard. We all laughed.
“I do it because it’s quick, fast, easy money,” she said. “You don’t have to deal with a manager, people telling you what to do.”
She knew I was a student at UF. She told me there weren’t any jobs for people in Gainesville unless they went to college and learned how to do “something big.”
It was hard to carry a conversation with Skittles. I knew she was tipsy. She told me. Her coworkers kept mulling about and they were sketchy about cops any time they heard footsteps, even though cop cars kept slowly driving by. And then of course there were the potential customers.
One car in particular drove by and stopped. It was full of college-age boys. As Skittles leaned over to say hey, a voice from the back yelled, “Ew, it’s another dude, gross!” Everyone started laughing.
Skittles bent down to grab the first thing she saw and hurled it at the car before it had a chance to move.
Her fury was so great, I thought it was a brick until it came floating to the ground and I realized it was a Dos Equis label.
Skittles just laughed and said, “I was hoping that was something harder.”
I asked her if she got that sort of thing a lot.
“Oh yeah,” she said. “But the ones that sit there and say ‘faggot,’ ‘freak,’ ‘dude,’ they’re the first ones to come back when their friends aren’t around.”
What it is
The coworkers were getting antsy. We’d been standing on that corner for an hour, and they weren’t making any money.
Skittles had been kind to us to take time out for our conversation.
I asked her if she’d be willing to speak with me some more sometime, maybe somewhere else.
“Honestly,” she said, “no. I don’t have anything else to say.”
So we walked away, and that night taught me more than a class ever could.
This story was originally published in the Independent Florida Alligator 6/9/10 (Skittles not pictured in photo illustration)