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Meet Ayla

Ayla was not, of course, her real name. That was Bethany Tong. She’d chosen Ayla, or rather her pimp had chosen it for her, because he’d thought it sounded exotic. The pimp was long gone; Ayla went solo, after she’d built up a suitable client list that included Dr. Wu.

She was, at the time of this account, 29 years old, and stood 5 feet six inches in height, although the heels on the leather boots she wore added another five inches to that; she was, in full gear, taller than Dr. Wu. Bethany had been born in Richmond; her father worked for AC Transit, as a mechanic. Her mother was not part of her life, having gone insane shortly after Bethany was born; she would live out the remainder of her days in a state hospital. After a troubled youth, with much acting out and, later as a teen, brushes with the law, Bethany hit the streets. She was an habitué of International Boulevard; most of the time, she slept behind a dumpster in an alleyway. Poor Bethany: she was frequently harassed by predatory men (and a few women), and had the scars to show for it. By 25, she was a full-fledged addict. She paid for her drugs (heroin, crack, the occasional hit of ecstasy) with procurements from hustling.

Although she was homeless, and most of her acquaintances were homeless, Bethany—let’s call her Ayla now—was not particularly enamored of her fellow street dwellers. They were the ones who annoyed and provoked her, not the “normal” (Ayla’s word) people of Oakland, not even the cops, but the weirdos, freaks, thieves and rapists who roamed the city at night. She felt superior to them. They were without taste, classless, stupid and dirty; Ayla may have been living in an alley, but she always managed to keep herself clean (the women’s restroom at the public library was where she made her toilette), and as long as she was in the library she made a point on most days to read a newspaper and browse through magazines, especially fashion ones.

It was her pimp who’d encouraged her to become a dominatrix, for pecuniary reasons. Clients were willing to pay more money, often much more, for a hot B&D scene than for a simple fuck or blowjob. For example, under her pimp, Ayla could earn $25 for sucking off a guy (which took about ten minutes), but quadruple that for a steamy leather session, which usually occurred in a cheap single-room occupancy hotel just off Franklin Street; her pimp (and, later, she herself) rented it by the hour. Once Ayla went out on her own, she charged $250 for a 60-minute session. Dr. Wu preferred two-hour sessions; to the $500 fee he would add a $100 tip.

Sometimes, Ayla contemplated her life, with decidedly mixed feelings. She had hopes and dreams, like everybody else. She wanted a family, the house with a garden, friends, security. She could envision herself living some kind of T.V. fantasy: going to her daughter’s ballet classes, attending parent-teacher conferences, dining in a nice restaurant with a nice husband. It seemed very distant, but then she would remind herself that she was still in her mid-twenties, and had plenty of time; and, in a funny way, she rather liked the freedom her life accorded her. She was wise with the money she made from work. She opened a savings account, which on her 28th birthday had a balance of $7,500. Granted, living in an alleyway was a drag, especially during the cold, rainy winters (which seemed to be getting colder and rainier lately), but Ayla figured this would not be her fate forever. She had a vague notion that, when she reached thirty, things would change. Exactly how, she never determined; it was just a goal. But she liked herself and trusted her intuition and felt that things would be all right.

She met Dr. Wu just after she parted ways with her pimp. It was a foggy May midnight. Ayla was at her usual station, in front of the Kit Kat Klub. She was in her most alluring and eye-catching costume: black leather knee-high boots, red silk boxer shorts that barely extended below her thighs, a metallic red tuxedo jacket over a yellow padded bra. Dr. Wu told Gladys he had to go to a Kaiser meeting, but he headed straight to International Boulevard, impatient at the stoplights. He knew what he was looking for, and the sultry, slutty lady who caught his eye was exactly it. He slowed down, lowered the passenger-side window. Ayla also knew what she was looking for. Mutuality having been established, Dr. Wu pulled to the curb. A deal was struck. They went to the SRO hotel. Thus the relationship began.

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