How to Be Friends With a Sex Worker



Sit in the diner. Wait for her to arrive. Gaze
at the sun in the wall. Pull out your phone. Slide
your thumb across the screen. Look up & smile
when she walks through the door. In two weeks
she is 19. Watch her search through lips & eyes
undone with hunger. Wave your hand. Stand
as she walks to the table. Listen to the screech
of home in the hug you share. Ask her how
she’s doing. Sit down. Watch her hair bend in the
August of her fingers. She tells you she’s tired but
she’s good. She asks you what’s new. You tell her
about the latest fight you’re having with your man.
She shakes her head & laughs. She tells you about
the Craigslist date she had last night & how her pimp
took all the money. Bread crumbles in your hand.
Jump when you hear the ring. See an unfamiliar number
appear on your screen. Pick up the phone. Try to hide
the worry in your voice. Say hello. Her voice is loaded
with bricks. She says he left her stranded. He took her
purse. No phone. No money. No cigarettes. She is in New
Jersey. She is cold. He is gone. She is crying. You are not
breathing. You close your eyes & curse him again. She
tells you he wants to teach her a lesson. You ask her what
she needs you to do. She says she’ll figure it out &
call back. She doesn’t. You try to sleep but fail. The sun
rises. You call her phone again. He picks up. You ask him
where she is. He calls you a bitch & tells you to mind
your business. You call him a piece of shit. Promise him he
will pay. Demand to speak her now. He sucks his teeth
& click. You call back. He hits ignore. You call again. He
picks up. He passes her the phone. She says hello. You ask
if she’s okay. Your chest is lava. She says she’s okay now.
You sigh & tell her there’s no home in this life. She
tells you not to worry & that she’s really okay.
It’s spring break. You meet her at a bar. It’s been weeks
since you last spoke. You’re late. She looks at you in
annoyance. You laugh & apologize. She tells you she’s left
him. You inhale. She says she works for herself now.

Nadia Alexis is a poet, photographer and community organizer from New York City. Her poems have appeared in Duende Literary Journal, Kweli Journal, visceral brooklyn and elsewhere. Her photography has appeared or is forthcoming in TORCH Journal, fields magazine, and Mfon: Women Photographers of the African Diaspora anthology. A 2014 Callaloo Fellow and Puschart Prize nominee, she's currently a poetry MFA candidate at the University of Mississippi.