I grew up in a shoddy trailer park just east of Roanoke, Virginia. My hometown has always been a hotbed for deviant behavior, an incubator for miscreants. I suppose this made it easier for me to reconcile with the idea of dropping hard earned cash in foreign whore houses. Jamilla was mortified by my tales of erstwhile debauchery.
“Oh my God,” she shrieked in the most judgmental tone she could muster. “How could you?!”
“How could I what?”
“Have you ever seen that documentary called Trap Door?”
“Yeah, I think so. Is that the one about the Mongolian Empire?”
“Worse! It’s about human trafficking and illegal adoption rackets. The girls that work in those cat houses overseas are sold into that life. Spending money in those places makes you complicit in horrific crimes against defenseless women.”
“It’s on Netflix,” she said, reaching for her laptop beneath the coffee table. “Let’s watch it.”
“You should be more knowledgeable about the consequences of your actions. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of you glorifying a parasitic culture.”
“This is why I never tell you anything, Jamilla.”
My stint as a piddly deck seamen on the USS Somerset was undoubtedly the best four years of my entire life. I traveled the world twice over in a drunken stupor, occasionally seeking respite and refuge in exotic brothels along the Mediterranean coasts of Europe. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was naive to assume Jamilla could unsaddle her high horse long enough to admire my off-color exploits. She cued up the documentary with a disturbing fit of enthusiasm. I squirmed about the couch, bracing for an impending wave of retroactive guilt.
No more than two minutes into the film, before the conclusion of the opening credits, Jamilla slammed the laptop shut and pivoted toward me, legs folded, arms crossed, attentive in a way that was equally creepy and endearing and endorsing. Her sunken brown eyes begged for honesty.
“How did you find them?” She asked.
“The brothels—did you follow a trail of breadcrumbs or what?”
“We would just ask a cab driver to take us to the girls. Actually, it was usually a cab driver that suggested it.”
“So you went there with a bunch of other navy guys?”
My cell phone started rattling on the coffee table. Jamilla stuffed the vibrating gadget in the cradle of her brassiere. She scooted closer, lobbed herself onto my lap, and continued with the cross-examination.
“Isn’t there some naval code of conduct that forbids active duty personnel from paying for sex?” She asked.
“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “Probably so.”
Jamilla looked around as though we were under surveillance. “Was it anything like the Bunny Ranch?” She whispered apprehensively.
“It depends on where you’re talking,” I explained. “In Spain, it was sort of like that—a nightclub atmosphere where the girls paraded around in low-cut lingerie, encouraging patrons to shovel drinks down their throats. Mallorca was far less intimate—the host would roll out a dozen or so broads and line them up shoulder-to-shoulder like a slave auction. Istanbul has this hell-hole called The Compound. I didn’t do any business there.”
“What was so intimidating about The Compound?”
“I don’t know. It was just weird. Sort of like a military installation, with barbed wire fence circling the perimeter. Bouncers were armed with machine guns and machetes. Their girls looked sickly and disheveled. Plus it was located at the top of a steep, desolate mountain. It freaked me out, so I just waited in the lobby until my friends finished up.”
Jamilla nodded along to my sea stories with genuine intrigue plastered across her tawny face. The piercing whistle of a teakettle interrupted our raunchy discourse. She leaped from my embrace and returned balancing a pair of steaming porcelain teacups clinking against their saucers. I sat upright and huffed over my ration of scolding honeybush.
“So where were we?” Jamilla hissed between slurps. My cell phone went off again, shooting ripples through her left breast. She reluctantly tossed the phone back on the coffee table. I said, “I hate to cut our little tea party short, but duty calls.”
“Baaaaaabe,” she purred like a mountain lion, inching closer to my side of the couch. “My tuition is due next week. Can I borrow a few dollars? I’ll pay you back when my income tax refund comes in.” I rummaged through my wallet and peeled off a few bills. She plunged her freshly glossed lips into the side of my neck, slipped the phone inside my front pants pocket, and saw me out the door. I trudged home to my suspicious wife.