I worked the streets of downtown Honolulu until a regular that I had met ten years earlier told me about advertising online. I found out the meaning of an online forum. Then I familiarized myself with forums that featured fascinating discussions between tricks about providers. Then I learned how to anonymously use provider advertising sites. Wow! It sure was profitable to be the new girl on the Honolulu internet scene. Forget $20. The absolute minimum was $200. For the first time I was saving money! While still using! Who would have thought that possible?
I had money to spare. Even if I was inclined to make the argument that I did what I did because I was addicted, I could no longer say I worked out of necessity. I had to say, it was pretty cool to have extra money. And as shallow as I knew I was being, I did enjoy a boost in self esteem. I decided to do things I always wanted to do, like breast augmentation, a little bit of travel. I decided to go to an estate auction for the fun of doing something I never really expected to do.
The Auction Debacles
Once a month an auction house located across from the main Honolulu police station held an auction with items from estates or police confiscations, or even the art museum. The second Saturday of a spring month, I strutted in with about $2000 cash for fun money. The experience was just like auctions were portrayed on television: bidding with the wave of a paddle, the polite applause after a heated bidding war, the cry of sold! I noticed people noticing me. Yes, the crowd was all white and Asian (it is terrible of me but I always felt successful if I was exclusively surrounded by whites and Asians). I was the only one who looked like me, but I told myself the sidelong glances were simply observatory. After all, I was not only the brownest but also the youngest and prettiest. In the close quarters of Honolulu, this crowd probably knew each other and noticed a new comer. Of course I stood out! I refused to believe I was out of place. But I could not quell the uneasy nervous feeling in my stomach. Over the years, I had seen those unfriendly questioning looks before and I strongly suspected race was an issue. What else could it be?
Paranoid? I wish!
I had racked up $2400 in bids. I paid the $2000 I had on me and told the staff I would be right back with the rest of the money. Honolulu was trusting like that. For some people, anyway. A Japanese man who I later found out was the husband of the auctioneer held the door open for me as I wheeled my bicycle out. (I never passed the road test to get a driver’s license). After I explained that I was going to fetch more money he said:
“WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO, ROB A LIQUOR STORE?”–McC’s Auction House Staff Member
I was so stunned I was speechless. People said I had a chip on my shoulder and saw racism everywhere it wasn’t. In truth racism often blindsided me. I was blindsided at that moment and unable to marshal a snappy retort. When I returned with the rest of the money, I tried to save face by projecting dignity through a stony silence. I did not speak but that did not stop that individual from rushing to assure me that he was not a racist and did not see color. Who said anything about race? The subject must have been screaming in his head so loudly he just went ahead and said it.
Why did I go back?
I went back because I come from a proud history of fighting for equality. My people had stood up for justice to make the American way a reality for all. And, I wanted to bid on some jewelry. “Haven’t seen you for awhile,” said my nemesis, who held the door for me again and quickly dashed my hopes that I would not be remembered. I bid on five items and paid for three of them. I told the lady at the register I had changed my mind about getting the last two jewelry items and she unleashed a stream of invective as if she had been just waiting for the chance. The heart of her message was that I could not pay for only three items, but had to buy all five or they would sue and she was getting the auctioneer on the phone right now to tell me off. She whipped out her cell phone and the first thing she said was:
“TAMIKA’S HERE AND SHE DOESN’T HAVE THE MONEY.”
–McC’sAuction House Staff Member
WHO IS TAMIKA?–Caroleena, the Expert Escort
I asked. The lady jumped as if she did not know I was in earshot. “I mean the woman who bought the jewelry. You remember…?” OMG they had nicknamed me Tamika, a black sounding first name so they could speak about me in code. Obviously they had spoken at length about me, none of it good. That statement would have had the same intention if it had been reworded and used against a Japanese man: Hirohito’s here and he has launched a sneak attack. But something so offensive to so many people who mattered would never have been said.
The assistant handed me her cell phone and the auctioneer assured me that I could expect to be served with civil lawsuit papers. I wrote down my address, and affixed a jaunty signature to a scrap of paper. I then handed the phone and slip of paper to the assistant as if to say, “here is where I will be. Bring it.”
When I reached the front door with my bike I held my head high as I struggled to smoothly navigate the doorway (no one held the door for me this time). Then I hauled ass, pedaling away as fast as I could. They might have called the police right across the street and given them a story about me. the cops would “run my name” or pull up my record and any arrest warrants. I had no warrants. I also had no doubt that once the cops saw my prosititution bust from a decade ago, along with the possession charge, they would find a reason to take me to cellblock, the freezing cold dungeon used as a post-arrest/pre-court holding cell.
Tamika the Harvard Hooker
Is that what people see when they look at me? A race based snap judgement or did I project impropriety? I wish I knew.