Jessie poured a shot of bourbon in her oatmeal and swirled it around with her index finger. Milk, oats, a little bit of brown sugar mixed with sweet maple and toffee tinged spirit, adding a 110 proof bite to cross her palate. With a mug of black coffee next to her economics textbooks, she sat down at her desk and flipped on her computer.
Looking down at the bowl, “I’m the breakfast champion.”
At 26, she finally made it into the state school and could afford a one bedroom studio apartment all to herself. Before, it was shitty roommates and scrounging for community college tuition on two waitressing jobs. Long days standing and carrying plates wore at her knees and shoulders. She’d come home to wash off the memories of customers who didn’t see her as a person and let the hot water in the shower soothe the swollen joints. Her customers now paid her well, and while they made the occasional request that she didn’t understand, she commanded them. Teased. Or seduced. It all depended on which wig she put on that day.
Half Japanese, half mix of American Irish, her natural hair was deep shade of brown with tints of red. Neither of her parents were blessed with height, but she walked her curvy five foot three petite self as tall as she could, occasionally aided by heels, wedges or platform boots. She got her mother’s broad cheeks and thin lips, while the blue eyes and dusting of freckles came from her father.
She didn’t think her parents knew what she did. It’d shock them, perhaps disappoint, but they’d still love her. Maybe. How do you come out to your parents as a sex worker? She finished the bowl of oatmeal and flipped through the macro econ book to review a few minutes before she logged on to her cam feed.
Jessie didn’t provide sex, but merely the allure and titillation through a web cam attached to her computer that she would then log in to a service with an audience. An audience she only saw through chat boxes of text and colorful emoticons. When she logged on, she became Grace O’Malley, a call out to the seventeenth century Irish folk heroine. Her regulars called her their pirate queen. She still laughs at that.
There would be no pirate queen without her former coworker, Camille. They both worked full shifts regularly until Camille went half time and then quit altogether.
In the parking lot after he last shift at the family chain restaurant, Jessie asked, “What are you doing now, now that you’re not running bread baskets and filling water glasses?”
Camille, a full head taller than Jessie, thin frame, narrow face and dirty blonde hair, narrowed her eyes as if to look Jessie over. Camille held her hands flat at her hips in her pockets and looked at the ground. “I got a new job. Pays way better, hours way better, and I don’t get shit on for eight hours serving crappy food.”
“That’s great,” Jessie said, touching Camille’s shoulder. “Where at?”
“My bedroom,” she said with an exhale.
“Wait, what? You’re a–”
“No! Not like that, no one visits my bedroom.”
“I cam,” Camille said, rubbing her face, looking up at the halogen lamp in the parking lot.
“Oh.” She raced through her thoughts, trying to hurdle over the awkward ones and finish with words that weren’t going to hurt. Who was she to judge? Did it matter how anyone made money? Less stress, better hours and pay? “Are you okay with it? I mean, are you happy with it?”
Camille returned to look Jessie in the eyes, “I am. I was a little shy or nervous about it at first, but over time, I got confident.” She smirked. “A skinny girl like me, no hips or boobs, and suddenly I can drive hundreds of dudes wild just by wearing a cut off sweat shirt and yoga pants.”
Jessie laughed, “For real? Yoga pants are a thing?”
“On the internet, anything is a thing.”
Jessie went home six months ago and ventured into the web links Camille texted her. The services would host her cam, collect her money, do her advertising and take a cut of the money she earned for the time she spent logged in. It felt like descending into a hidden world, a subculture with its own slang and personas. The best cam girls, or guys, invented personas for themselves, creating characters they could act out with their God given genetic talents. She took what she knew of Irish folk heroes her father regaled about to her as a little girl, and created Grace O’Malley with a red wig and a cheap corset she found at a thrift shop.
Grace’s wardrobe outgrew Jessie’s as she earned and grew a following. Thrift shop outfits and department store lingerie turned into designer costumes and boutique intimates from stores she couldn’t pronounce. Grace afforded her out of a four bedroom town house. Grace got her on campus behind brick walls. Grace, the pirate queen would sail as long as it took Jessie to get her business degree as a map to where she’d raid corporate America.
Today, she stood at the closet and chose a black wig and an emerald sundress. She logged on to her cam and typed, “Ready to storm the seas?”