Because I'm Pretty
By Jennifer Prado
New York women make it so easy for someone like me. They are used to shopping and buying beautiful things. They know where to go for the best facials and the most relaxing massages. They know how to insist and get the gift from the makeup girl, even if it required an additional purchase. New York women want more. They are not complacent and easily satisfied. They have a forgotten sense of humility. They want to live more than one life and have hair that never turns gray. They want me because I’m pretty. I am designed just for fun. I’m the one they would never marry. I wouldn’t work to support them. I am just a little toy with whom they play. I am the young man they see on the side, because I fill them up with what they need. I give them what they desire, as long as they help me.
I am twenty-five years old and still in school. My parents pay for my tuition and rent, and my women pay for my clothes and lifestyle. Conveniently, I am an only child. This is how my parents express how much they care for me. I have shaggy hair that softens my already effeminate features. The only men who have long hair in New York City are students and the perpetually unemployed. It draws women to me, because it's so different from what they know. Let me tell you how I find them. Women's faces are easier to read than men's. Women give themselves away in only a few moments and gestures. The key is to appear idle and to seem as if I am waiting for someone. It must look like I am expecting a woman to walk into my life. So I wait. If I am patient, they will come.
I see Stephanie before she enters the coffee shop. She is dressed all in white and has a little rat dog on a leash. Little dogs always befriend me. They have the ability to sniff me out and lead their owners to me. Dog to dog, we greet each other.
“He’s so friendly,” I say. Stephanie smiles and coos at her little animal.
“Isn’t he a sweetheart? He’s my Prince William.” This is going to be too easy. Any woman who is in love with her dog and pretty, Prince William is looking for a lover boy like me. I am here right now. I don’t live in a palace over in England.
“You look nice,” I say, eyeing her playfully. “Were you shopping?” She is wearing a gold band and a diamond. She’s married.
“Yes, I love the shops down here. I just bought a few things.”
“Show me what you bought.” Her husband will never ask her this; he will just pay the bill. She laughs. Prince William wraps himself around my legs and sniffs my socks.
“I can’t really show you,” she says.
“Why not? I want to see.”
“Because I bought some lingerie.” She laughs too loudly and looks around the room. I know how to measure a woman’s laugh, and I know I am making her nervous.
“Show me. I want to see it. You look like you have good taste.”
“That’s true. I do have good taste.” Now she is looking at me. I know I will need to let her ask me some questions, so that she will calm down. “What do you do?”
“I’m still a student. This is my last year.” I have been saying that for the past three years.
“What are you studying?” she asks.
“Architecture,” I say. This will give us something to talk about later when we take a walk. I can point out historic buildings and tell her their stories. I am really studying business, because after all, I am an entrepreneur.
“Oh, very good. My hus-“ she stops herself. She was about to tell me what her husband does, but then she changed her mind. She doesn’t want to think about her husband right now, because she is thinking of me.
“Are you going to let me see what you bought?” I sneak a look into her bag and then pull my hand away, just to play. My first approach is puppy dog moves. I knew it would work with Stephanie, because she has the face of a woman who takes home strays.
“Stop it,” she says, in a girlish voice. “OK. I’ll just give you a peek.” I widen my eyes like I am eager. She pulls a sheer, black nightgown out of a bag and waves it in front of me. “Ta da,” she says, like a pathetic drum roll.
“I would love to see you wearing that,” I say.
“Then I would love to take it off you.” I have just created an illusion. The woman believes I have been overwhelmed by her charm and beauty. She is thinking, “I’m driving this boy crazy.” I know that I am going to have to stand up, so she can check out the merchandise. New York women have finely honed shopping instincts.
So, I stand. I show her how tall and lean I am. I catch her looking at my shoulders. I have an intentional way of dressing. I wear a beautiful, Italian cashmere jacket to show that I have style. Underneath, I have a wool turtleneck sweater with a hole in the front to show that I am hungry. It is not easy to keep a sweater with a hole around these women. They always take it away from me. They send it to the Koreans to be mended, they give me a new one from their son’s closet, or some of them stitch it up themselves with the love they feel for me. Sometimes, I have to cut a new hole with scissors in order to maintain the look.
“Will you tell me your name?” The structure of the sentence is intentional; it sounds as if she is still in control. She is the one who must decide.
“It’s Stephanie,” she says, and blinks frantically. A woman blinks rapidly, because her pupils are dilating. Her body is giving away her desire.
“I’m Randy,” and I kiss the back of her hand. A have a little boy’s name, but I know how to act like a man.
“I want to take you some place,” she says.
“Take me,” I say. “I’m yours.”
We stop at a pharmacy. Stephanie puts on her dark sunglasses and hesitates over the choices.
“Uh. Uh,” she says, as she looks. “I haven’t bought these in a long time.” I want to be helpful. I select the brand of condoms that I like.
“These are good,” I say. I am always safe. I know the value of my product and want to protect it. Plus, women think I owe them something if they take a risk with me, and their anger tires me. It is easier just to be safe. I also place a package of doggie treats on the counter. “For Prince William,” I say, and give her my best puppy-dog face.
“You are so sweet,” she says, and her eyes fill with gratitude.
Stephanie takes me to a little studio that she keeps in the city. The carpet and the furniture are also all white.
“You like a clean look.” I say, as I look at the apartment.
“White represents purity and peace,” she says. I can tell that Stephanie is repeating what the decorator told her. She tells me later that she lives with her family in Connecticut. Married women make what I do so much easier. They enjoy themselves with me, give me things, and then they are overwhelmed by guilt. They write me beautiful notes, give me expensive bottles of wine, and tell me that they will think about me for the rest of their lives. They cry when they leave me. Real tears of a departing love. Married women conveniently go away after awhile, to make way for new ones. Occasionally, one loses her mind. Without any prompting or encouragement, she leaves her husband, walks out on the kids, and comes looking for me. This is when I have to disappear. I disconnect my cell phone and shut down my E-mail account. I leave her wondering what happened to me, now that she made room in her life for me. She just got carried away. It creates a lot of work for me. I have to call all of the women I am still seeing and give them my new number.
Prince William enjoys his treat behind the closed door of the bathroom. He tries to stick his little nose under the door and sniff. He knows what is going on.
“Am I going to see that nightgown on you?”
“Wait,” she goes behind the folding wall that every studio apartment in New York seems to have. I stand and take my wallet out of my pocket and stuff it under the mattress of the bed. When women are curious about me, they stop asking questions. They snoop. I don’t want Stephanie to know my last name or where I live. This way I can relax, later on, when I take a shower, while she looks for my wallet.
Stephanie walks around the folding wall. It does look good on her. She is a woman who takes care of herself. I can tell that she makes sacrifices: she diets, works out, and rubs expensive lotions into her skin.
“Wow,” I say. “You look so good. Come here.” I pull her towards me and kiss her eyes, neck, and face. I let out a small moan. “You smell delicious.” Stephanie laughs and presses her mouth over mine. I let out a shudder and kiss her for a long time. I invest a lot of time in kissing, because it is what these women want. They want to be kissed more than they want to have sex. It is something they don’t get anymore at home.
When we are through, Stephanie wraps her arms around me and sobs.
“You made me feel so good,” she says. I have given her the Express Package: she feels young, sexy, and invincible. I have given her the pleasure of an unburdened sexual experience. She feels no anger towards me and no resentment. There is no mental catalog to flip through to remember past arguments and disappointments. I have given her pure love, but I have invested none of my emotion in it. After sex, these women are fragile and need to be held. They are starting to think about what they just did and need to be distracted. Some of them want me to suckle from their breasts while they sing me nursery rhymes. Others want to take me into the bathtub and bathe me with a washcloth. Stephanie wants me to play with her hair while she sucks on my thumb.
“Oh, baby,” she says. “I’m so happy that I found you.” Stephanie has just given herself away. By calling me baby or any other fluffy name, she has shown that I have already snagged her with my fishhook. I have just become her second pet. Now, I have to do some acting. I cover my face with my hands.
“Oh,” I say, with a sad voice. “My girlfriend is going to kill me. I have always been true to her up until now.”
“Oh, baby,” she says, sitting up. “These things happen.” She is already defending me.
“I couldn’t resist you, because you looked so good,” I say. “Women are my downfall. They make me weak.” Stephanie hugs me and kisses my neck.
“You are adorable. Do you love your girlfriend?” I nod and look at her with a worried face. “Then nothing can touch that. Not me or anyone else. Just don’t tell her.” These women always want everyone to tell them the truth, but they want other women to be told lies. By telling her that I have a girlfriend, I have constructed a barrier that she will now have to respect. Instead of being angry with me, for my tendency to betray, she empathizes with my girlfriend. She will sigh and think, “Oh, the burden of that poor girl. She loves a boy who is irresistible.” It will remind her of a boy she loved a long time ago, who constantly betrayed her, but she always forgave.
“I think I am so attracted to women because I miss my mother,” I say. “She lives in California, and I don’t see her too often.”
“You poor, baby,” she says, and wraps her arms around me and offers me more of herself. My mother is a train ride away and I don’t have a girlfriend. The only person I am in love with is myself.
After we shower, it is time for me to leave. I wait for Stephanie to go into the bathroom and close the door. Freed Prince William runs towards me, jumps onto the bed, and sniffs the sheets. I wink at him and he barks. We understand each other. I retrieve my wallet from under the mattress.
“Do you need anything?” Stephanie asks, as she brushes her wet hair. I make an uncomfortable shrug, like I am embarrassed to admit something to her. She points to her purse on the table. “Open it,” she says. I back away.
“You don’t have to do that,” I say. “I’ll just hop on the subway.” I reach into my wallet and show her my Metro Card. I need to prove that I can be self-sufficient.
“Take money for a taxi,” she says. She points at her bag again. “Take it. I mean it.” She watches me as I approach her bag. It is a strange ritual these women have. They like to watch me take money from their purses. I pull out a twenty and hold it up to her. “Take more,” she says. I never steal from these women, because I don’t need to do that. They give me money willingly.
Stephanie wants me to accompany her to a charity event in the city. She has rented a tuxedo for me and I meet her at the studio to shower and change.
“You look incredible,” she says, and straightens my tie. “But now I want you to take it off. We still have time. You can shower again.” I take off my jacket and hang it over the back of the chair, and hug Stephanie to my chest. “Don’t wrinkle yourself.” She brushes at my shirt with her hands. I am her accessory for the evening, and she wants me to look good.
The charity event brings me into a new world. It is full of socialites and high-powered executives. These people have a lot of money to give away, but I know I have to behave. This is not a night to start picking up new phone numbers. Stephanie keeps me on her arm the entire night and says hello to the people she knows. She lets out a whoop and throws her arms around a woman with a blond, precise haircut and a designer suit.
“Randy,” she says. “This is my sister, Grace.” Grace looks familiar to me. I have seen her face in the business magazines that I sometimes flip through when I am waiting for the train. She is the CEO of something. She is one of those groundbreaking women who had kicked through the glass ceiling. She shakes my hand and eyes me curiously.
“Where did you find him?” she asks.
“He’s Andrew’s friend from school,” Stephanie says. Andrew is her son. It makes sense to say that, since we are the same age. It makes good copy. Grace walks around me and looks.
“Very nice,” she says. I have seen two women, who know each other, show an interest in me before. Women are so different from men in this sense. Men treat women, who they don’t love, like socialist property. A man will approach another man and cuff him on the back.
“She looks nice,” he will say. “How much do you like her? Would you mind sharing?” It gives them something to talk about later, like a shared interest in tennis or golf. Women are furtive and underhanded about it. Many times at parties, when the woman I am seeing heads into the bathroom, her friend, who has had too much to drink, will pinch my ass and smile.
“I want you,” she says. “But all for myself.” Women turn on each other over me. They are capable of unimaginable acts. They will call up a newspaper to report a false story about their friend. They will become tattletales and inform the husband. A woman will tell her friend, as they both sob into tissues, that I pursued her relentlessly. They call each other “bitch” and cut all forms of communication. It gives me my exit.
“I never intended to break up a friendship,” I say, with my sad, puppy-dog face. I have never been involved with sisters before, and I have no idea of what they are capable.
When Stephanie goes into the Ladies’ Room, I lean towards Grace’s ear and hold onto her arm.
“What I have with Stephanie is wonderful,” I say. “But I have a special attraction to powerful women.” Grace doesn’t smile. She puts her hands on her hips and looks at me. She reaches into her purse and pulls out a business card.
“Come to my office tomorrow at 4:30,” she says. “We’ll talk then.”
Grace’s office takes up several floors of a building on Fifth Avenue. The executive suite is on the top floor and has a view of Central Park. Grace meets me at the door and shakes my hand. The receptionist, who has led me in, hovers close by and strains her neck to get a better look at me.
“Get coffee for my nephew,” Grace says, and the girl darts away. She returns and places a tiny cup of espresso in front of me. “Close the door,” Grace says. The girl practically bows, as she backs out of the room.
“I make the terms,” she says, as she watches me drink the coffee.
“What are they?”
“You are discreet. You always say you are my nephew. You make your scheduled appointments. You do what I want. You don’t hurt Stephanie.” She taps an envelope on her desk. “See if this is enough.” I open the envelope and look inside at the cash. It is more than the cost of my rent.
“Is this weekly or monthly?”
“Weekly. I will schedule you for two appointments. You will collect each week after the second appointment.” She pushes a Palm Pilot towards me. “Take this. I have already scheduled you for the next month. Any questions?” I put down the coffee cup and shake my head. “One more term,” she says. “Don’t be late. Or else.”
“Or else what?”
“Or else you’re fired.” She walks with me towards the door, opens it, and shakes my hand again.
Stephanie wants me to go shopping with her. I am useful. I carry all her bags and sit outside the fitting room. She slinks out in one of her new outfits and asks my opinion. I tell her what looks good. I am performing a service her husband will never do. Afterwards, we go to her studio again. She undresses in the doorway and skips about naked.
“Come here, my beautiful lover.” I take off my shoes and dive onto the bed so that Stephanie bounces. She squeals like she is being tickled. I wrap myself around her and kiss her neck.
“Let’s do something you have never done,” I say.
“Like what?” she says nervously.
“Can I bring a friend from school next time?”
“You mean another guy?” I nod and trace a finger down her chest.
“It would be fun,” I say. “You deserve the full treatment.”
“I’ve never had two at once. I wouldn’t know what to do.”
“I could show you,” I say. “I would make it nice for you.”
“How can you be so young and know so much?”
“I love women,” I say. “They make me want to try new things.”
“You are enough for me, Randy. I don’t need anyone else.” She places her mouth over mine. I never had any intention of bringing in another man. I just wanted her to admit how much she needs me. My Marketing Professor had told us, “Create a demand to meet the supply.” I am the supply.
My new Palm Pilot contains much information, and I am having fun learning to use it. Grace has programmed a start time, location, and end time for each of our appointments. I am to meet her in two midtown hotels, one on Tuesdays and the other on Thursdays. There are additional instructions. I am not to check in at the Reception Desk, I am to walk directly to the elevator, and knock on the door of the room.
“Hello Princess,” I say.
“Oh, please,” she says. “Take them off and go lay down.” As I rest on my back, she inspects me. “Are you healthy?”
“Healthy and always safe.” This is my product’s tag line.
“Good. Let’s get this started.” She removes her clothes and climbs on top of me. I kiss her.
“No kissing,” she says, and pushes my face away with her hand.
Everything goes well, for the first two months. I keep all of my appointments with Grace, still have time for Stephanie, and continue to see my other women. I am doing well for myself. I invest part of my earnings in a new wardrobe and the other half in a well-regarded mutual fund. I am planning a nice vacation that I will take alone. I am thinking about moving to a bigger apartment. Stephanie calls me and asks me to meet her at the studio. She sounds out of breath. I should have known what was coming.
Prince William runs excited circles around me when I walk through the door. I bend down to say hello to my best friend.
“Yes, boy. I’m here.” He climbs up my leg and starts to hump it.
“Isn’t that adorable!” Stephanie says. “You excite Prince William the same way you excite me.” I see the suitcases piled up against the wall, and I take a deep breath.
“What is going on, Stephanie?”
“Oh, Randy. I got tired of living two lives. I told my husband everything. I told him I am going to live here with you.” I back away.
“I can’t live here with you. I love my girlfriend,” I say.
“You can still see her. I don’t mind. I just want to spend more time with you.” She lays down on the bed and calls me towards her.
“Stephanie,” I say sternly. “No. That’s impossible.” She sits up and immediately transforms. If you have never witnessed a woman turn into a wildebeest, it is a shocking and uncomfortable sight.
“What do you mean, no?”
“Just that. No. I will not live here with you.” I don’t expect her to start throwing things and don’t have time to duck when the first projectile hits me.
“You can’t say no to me. I won’t accept no.”
“Stephanie, calm down,” I say. She is knocking the paintings off the wall, and breaking them over her knee. She needs pieces of the frames to throw. She chucks them at me like spears.
“No is out of the question. I refuse to hear no.”
“Stephanie. You give me no choice. I can’t accept this kind of behavior. I’m leaving.” She throws herself at my feet, holds onto my ankles, and sobs. Prince William runs over, licks her face, and she pulls him into her lap.
“Don’t leave me. There is no place for me to return.”
“I’m sorry, Stephanie. We never discussed this. But I can’t.” I pick up my jacket and let myself out the door. Something crashes against the wall.
“You’ll be sorry!” Stephanie yells.
There is a message from Grace, on my cell phone.
“I’ve cancelled your appointments for next week. I’m traveling on business.”
“Good,” I think as I rest in the steam room of my new gym. “I deserve a break.”
Stephanie sounds so calm on the phone, but I am not suspicious. I haven’t disconnected my phone yet, because I am feeling confident and lazy.
“Come over, Randy, for just one last time. I have a parting gift for you. I just want to say good-bye properly. I’m sorry that I was so angry. I’m better now.” So, I go to claim my exit prize.
Grace is standing behind the door, but I don’t see her until she crashes the metal hair dryer over my head. The force of the blow knocks me to the ground. People say they see stars, but I am seeing popcorn. I see white corn exploding in front of my eyes.
“Is he out?” Stephanie asks. Grace peers at me.
“No, his eyes are blinking,” she says.
“Then hit him again.” I stop seeing popcorn and see only black.
When I wake up, they have stripped me naked and tied my hands behind my back. Prince William’s collar and leash hang from around my neck.
“Get up,” Grace says. “We are going for a ride.”
The doorman in the lobby comes running after the spectacle we are creating.
“Ladies!” he cries. “What are you doing?”
“Taking the dog for a walk,” Grace says. Stephanie pushes me into the back of Grace’s green Jaguar and Grace starts to drive. When we arrive at Times Square, Grace stops the car.
“Get out,” she says.
“Why are you doing this to me?” I ask. “Can’t you be reasonable?”
“You hurt my sister. You broke the terms,” Grace says.
“You underestimated sisterly love,” Stephanie says. “It’s stronger than the desire for a man.”
“I’m sorry,” I say.
“Too late,” Grace says. She steps out the car, opens my door, and grabs me by my shaggy hair. “Get out.”
I stand there naked in the middle of Times Square and turn to walk away. A camera that is mounted to a building zooms in on me and begins filming. In an instant, my image is thrown onto the famous, giant screen. The crowd gasps and points at the screen as I walk past them. They are so busy watching the TV, that they don’t notice me. I walk with my hands tied behind me. Somewhere, agile fingers type in a caption, “The Naked Man of Times Square.” The satellite picks it up and my image is broadcast across the entire world. The caption, with my title, snakes across the board in giant red letters, until it is replaced by other news.
Jennifer Prado writes for independent film in New York City. She has a degree in Fiction Writing from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and has completed coursework at Film and Video Arts in New York City. In addition to English, she writes in Portuguese and Spanish. Her short fiction and music reviews have been published online. She has recently completed her first novel, Love and Sex, and is currently maneuvering the perplexing world of New York agents and publishers. She can be reached at: JenniferPrado@yahoo.com