I am 6 years old. It is Wednesday night. Wednesday nights used to be tap class, but tonight my fingernails are painted a pale color and the makeup on my eyes has to be redone because I’ve rubbed it off, again. It’s not my fault. I’m trying to be good; really, I am. But this eyeliner itches a little bit. My mother is angry and can barely control herself as she lines my eyes with kohl gray. Yanking the pencil away from my eye, she reminds me that the only way I get to leave this room is to be a good girl.
A good girl who remembers everything she has been taught. “Hold still, you little —.” She stops herself from going any further. The cameras are already rolling. They’re taking in every word, every action, every moment.
I’m drinking red koolaid, or “special juice” as I call it, through a curly straw as she stands up and stares down at me. I gulp down the juice, feeling the bitter aftertaste of drugs on my tongue. But drinking this special juice is better than being forced to swallow the crushed-up pills and gagging as it dissolves in my mouth or worse still, having it shoved into a vein in my arm. I learn fast. I’m a good girl. I’m a better girl when I don’t fight.
My mother is not soothing or nurturing a sick child who is too eager to go and play. She is reminding me of my role and my part in this hideous act. I’m not getting ready for a dance show. I’m getting ready to spend time with my new friend. He is flying in on a business trip. He’s already sent his requests about what I will wear and how I should behave. He’s created a scenario for his ultimate satisfaction.
Disgusted with me, my mother grabs the cup out of my hand, leaves the room, and locks the door behind her. The lights are too bright in my bedroom. My eyes have trouble seeing much more than outlines and shapes on the wall. But, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to see anything. My body is all he needs, and my mind can stay far away.
The only thing I don’t know is how long he’s paid for, but, time has no meaning to me anymore.
I hear the door creak open as the skeleton key turns in the lock, and as they enter their shoes make a rhythmic tap tap tap on the floor. One sounds familiar and I know it’s my uncle who settles himself into the squeaking camera chair. He will film the ultimate experience making sure that the product is all that the customer has ever longed for. He’s also there as an insurance policy, making sure that the customer does not do something that hasn’t been paid for.
The other, my new friend, comes to sit on the edge of my bed with its flower pattern; the flowers on the comforter shift and disappear under his weight. Despite the bright lights, no room has ever felt darker before because his smile scares me. I stutter trying to say, “Hello, friend.” I try again, taking a deep breath of air, forcing the words out. They don’t sound like the way I practiced, copying an actress I heard on tv. Those were the words of a scared little girl echoing off the walls in that room.
But I couldn’t look scared. That would make everything worse. It didn’t matter how I felt inside. This man, my new friend, wasn’t paying for a little girl to look and act scared of him. The drugs remedied this issue. The lights drowned out the reality that this was a little girl’s bedroom. It also made the world look surreal. That was my six year old definition of the word, friend, a grown man paying adults around me money to do whatever he wanted to me. I knew I would give and he would take.
The first thing I give him is satisfaction when I say his name, “Peter.”
Purchased first by my uncle, I learned the rules fast only 6 months earlier.
1.Call him the name he prefers
2.Look deeply into his eyes
3.Never break character
4.Let him be in control, you do not own your body anymore.
As my father’s business partner, my uncle with his entrepreneurial spirit, realized there was vast wealth to be made in the child porn industry. Customers who would pay any amount of money to have their moment of glory filmed so that they could relive it again and again. So I stare at a spot on the wall directly behind Peter, making him believe that I was looking directly at him. The spot my eyes have chosen to stare at is of a small crucifix. In my mind, I wondered what Jesus did that was so bad that he had to be naked.
Eventually, Peter was satisfied that his fantasy had become reality. As he stroked my hair and told me how pretty I was, he thanked me for being his friend. Not sure of the day or of the time that has passed, my eyes struggled to stay open. The drugs were doing their job. I was calm and docile. Peter got up from my bed without a sound. The clicking of the camera faded from my ears. As I drifted off to sleep, I kept hoping he really would be my friend and not shut that door behind him.
The last thing my eyes focus on is that crucifix where Jesus has to be naked. Trying to forget my own nakedness and shame, I turn my head away from him. I didn’t want to be inside this bedroom. I wanted to live anywhere but here. I wanted Wednesday nights to be mine again. I wanted to go to dance class. I wanted to eat dinner. I wanted to drink water that didn’t have drugs mixed in. Whenever someone shut that door, a part of my hope died when his footsteps faded away. If that door couldn’t remain open; I’d figure another way out on my own.