24 Jan

The girl would get half of that, about American. She’d gone looking for work a few days ago—up Fields Avenue, past Club Fantastic and Camelot and Stinger, past the sidewalk shops selling shirts that say I FUCK ON THE FIRST DATE and I’LL BUY DRINKS FOR SEX, past the shoeshine boys and the peddlers with their bootleg Cialis, past all the other bars looking to hire dancers and waitresses and GROs, which is short for The mamasan at the G-Spot asked the girl how old she was, and she said 19 and showed her the birth certificate that couldn’t possibly be legit, and Mamasan hired her, gave her the boots and the bikini and rubbed makeup on her face and put her on a stage. Dress her in a red bikini or a slip or a pleated plaid skirt.

If viewed from above, from high in the stratosphere with the whole blue earth rolling and spinning below, the currents of the sex trade would be as obvious as the clouds, swirls of people moving from country to country, continent to continent.

There are two dominant streams, intertwining, twirling around each other but moving in opposite directions.

She hasn’t worn makeup since her first Communion, and then not so much. It’s false, and obviously so, because she’s only 13, but nobody cares, because in the dark, under all that rouge and shadow, she looks old enough.

All the girls—the other ones onstage, the ones waiting tables, the ones cuddling up to customers, sweet-talking foreign men into buying them drinks—look old enough, which isn’t very old at all.

There are small and curious eddies, like the Brits—”whorists,” the tabloids call them—who’ve discovered “tottie tours” through Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, or the drip of Arabs who fly to Chisinau, in desperately impoverished Moldova, to patronize the brothels.But the strongest currents flow to the most entrenched bazaars: to the resort cities of Brazil, Cuba, and a few Caribbean islands; to Central America; and, of course, to Southeast Asia—historically, Thailand and Cambodia and, rising fast over the past twenty years, the Philippines.Put her thousands of miles away, in Tokyo or Moscow, or put her on the other side of the globe, in Costa Rica or Mexico. The story will be the same, the beginning sounding like the setup to an old and dirty joke: So many girls walk into so many bars today that no one even tries to count them all.Cataloging every prostitute on the planet with any accuracy is no more feasible than counting leaves in a forest: The business is by definition largely underground and extremely fluid, the workforce mostly unregistered, untraceable, and ever changing.