BASS 2017: Leopoldine Core, “Hog for Sorrow” from Bomb #136

Kit had never had a lot of friends. But she’d had a few that she didn’t have now. Becoming a whore is like getting very sick, she thought. You don’t want people and they don’t want you. Only she did want people. A little.

Complete story available online at BOMB

I suppose it is, at that.

And of course, these women surprise you. They aren’t stupid or tough or whatever it is prostitutes are supposed to be. Lucy went to Sarah Lawrence to study dance. Kit did a year at Bennington studying writing (or not studying much of anything, as it turned out), which is a pretty terrifying career path for a writer to think up. It’s too bad Kit didn’t become a writer – who hasn’t bought the pencils and leather journal, the software, the desk or the quilt or dictionary or whatever thing you think will make the difference only to discover that what makes you a writer is writing and that’s the hard part – she could’ve been a good one, with her insightful observations. The next best thing for her is to end up in a story.

I reread this story several times – to be honest, I didn’t get much from it the first time through – and kept uncovering interesting threads. Dance and writing are among them. “Lucy was a silly dancer,” Kit tells us, “but in the way only someone who is confident of their sexiness can be.” When asked what studying dance was like, Lucy – described as “plump” – says, “It was like being abused. Routinely.” And now she’s a hooker. Talk about a hog for sorrow. For all artists, criticism is a constant force.

And again I see a dichotomy being outlined, in several areas. Animals / people: Lucy’s dog doesn’t like to see her eat or masturbate (“He doesn’t want to see you become an animal” says Kit; I’m telling you, this woman needs to be a writer, or a therapist). Men / women: Kit’s john wants her to lie still on the bed while he jacks off, “like I was interfering with my potential hotness by living”, as every woman who’s ever fretted over an extra two pounds, or forced herself into stiletto slingbacks, knows; not to mention the freedom to leave socks all over the place instead of being the one who’s supposed to clean up someone else’s socks. Friends / acquaintances: a continuum rather than a dichotomy, played out in the form of the little dance people do when they think they might become friends under complicated circumstances. Here it’s complicated not only by their jobs, but by Kit’s sexual attraction to Lucy, an attraction she maneuvers into a girl-on-girl for a customer, only to discover what it’s like to be a john.

Lucy’s kisses were muscular with no feeling behind them. She broke into breathy counterfeit moans and Kit cringed. Their teeth clicked. Kit felt a bit the way men must feel, she supposed, when they realize that the prostitute they’ve purchased is miserable to be near them. She wasn’t sure why she had expected it to be any other way. I’m just another creep who wants to touch her, she thought. A little creep hiding behind a bigger one.

In her Contributor Note, Core says she started with just dialog between two women, then figured out a story to go around it. I’d say she figured out several, and managed to weave them all together. I’m glad I took the time to reread; I don’t know what was wrong with me the first time. Maybe it was too much all at once.