I stumbled across the gravel walkway to the main office. A bell dinged when I opened the door, but the receptionist didn’t greet me. There was an unspoken agreement between us. If she didn’t look at me, she wouldn’t have to acknowledge that she knew what I was doing – that I would be checking out in two hours with smeared makeup and disheveled hair.

I placed my elbows on the counter.

“A single room, please. One night.”

I gave her $59 in cash, she gave me a key, and I turned left at the desk, holding my breath to fend off the smell of stale booze and cigarettes. Room 57. I turned on the lights and stripped down to my thrifted lingerie and heels.

Professor Mike knocked at 1:15. He was a theater instructor at the nearby university who insisted I use the “professor” part of his name. He was squirmy like a ferret and always showered before saying anything more than “hello.” I held my breath when the water stopped running, afraid he would spring from the bathroom and stab me.

Professor Mike was one of many johns with pedophilic tendencies. He loved that I was nineteen. He called me his “sweet baby.” During our sessions, he rapidly oscillated between porn star and protective father mode, pulling and then smoothing my hair, kissing and then biting my neck. He called himself a prostitute connoisseur – a title born from his inability to sleep with blonde college students – and prided himself on his knowledge of sex work etiquette. He knew how to tip. He knew when to check the clock. He knew to set the money on the table. He knew how he wanted me to suck his cock. Professor Mike took the full ninety minutes and countless repetitions of “yeah baby, cum for me” to orgasm. When he finally did, he spasmed like a water mammal.

When our session ended, I returned the key to the front desk, the shame sitting on my tongue like morning breath.

Aaron was parked by the dumpsters again, smiling from the front seat of the station wagon. He leaned in for the type of kiss I’d charge fifty dollars for. I blocked his lips with my hand and told him to take me to the liquor store. It was time, once again, to transform.