When a client passes away …
A friend of mine messaged me recently, asking if I had ever written a piece about a client dying. She has an escort friend whose client just passed away; this friend was looking for resources and couldn’t find any.
That surprises me not in the slightest. We sex workers are supposed to be cold and calculating, compartmentalizing everything, keeping it separate. Why would we need any bereavement resources if one of our clients kicks the bucket? We are not supposed to get attached.
But we do, we do. Sometimes we do get attached, and by that I mean this, from a previous article I wrote: “feeling something positive toward the client, beyond what they’re requesting and paying you to provide them.” I would never dream of trying to speak for all sex workers, but I think it’s safe to say that if we have a nice customer, and work with them regularly for long enough, we get at least a little attached.
If we get attached, to whatever degree, then we will miss them accordingly when they’re gone.
My friend’s friend, at least she knows for sure what happened; apparently a caregiver of her client called her with the news. So many clients drop away, and we so rarely know why. Did they find a new service provider, did their partner discover something, did they move, did they find Jesus? Even in the civilian world, people exit our lives abruptly, or drop off the face of the earth, pull the slow fade on us. That can be confusing enough, but it’s resolvable. If we pushed hard enough, called around enough, we could usually find out what happened, where that person is, seek them out for a reconciliation or renewal or “I missed you” or one final blow-out of fucking. We could do that.
We can’t do that with clients we are friendly with. We can’t follow up with them in any appropriate way. In general, if the client’s email suddenly bounces or their phone line is dead, we have no other recourse. And phone sex, well, no. Even if they would allow it, my dispatcher can’t just call up the last number we had on file for somebody and say, “hey, is everything okay?”
Last year I couldn’t ask my dispatcher to put me through to the old gardener from Alabama, when I was flipping through my cards and realized that he hadn’t called in over a year. He used to call me every three or four weeks; he remembered my birthday and I remembered his. He talked all the time about wanting to take me out to Krystal Burger after naked weeding in his garden. And now, silence for 2.5 years. I will never know for sure, but he was old and sick and he is almost surely dead.
I think of him as if he were dead, but there is no outlet for that unresolved sadness. All I can do is talk about him from time to time. I cannot send a condolence card to his wife, who I think he loved. I cannot send flowers to the funeral home, or a small donation to his charity of choice. I can’t even share this loss with normal people, because they will look at me funny, as if they never considered that I might get attached, that I feel things. As if they thought that my taking money to talk dirty with this guy somehow absolved me from having to feel anything. That it must not mean much at all, if I would only talk with him when he gave me money. The exchange of money buys the client No Strings Attached, but that avails us workers naught when the client fades, and we want to know why, not because we’re losing a moneymaker, but because we liked them. Then, oh then, I long for even one thin string of something to lead me out of the dark.
I want to say to my friend’s friend: I’m so sorry. It’s weird. It may hurt a little, or a lot. Whatever you’re feeling about the loss, it’s okay to feel that. I understand. I’m still a little envious that you got that call, though. At least you know for sure.
I’m not saying that’s an easier grief. It’s just different.
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