Previous: Jennah, Chapters 9 and 10
Trigger warning: Recap briefly mentions sexual violence.
Angela, Chapter Eleven, Ty & Dean/The quote that frames the chapter:
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: And in today already walks tomorrow. Connection to the story–in a sense Joel lives by emotion on one side, and pragmatism on the other. He has to be pragmatic–change is constant. He cannot remain where he was on the streets with Jennah or Grace…he’s fated to have a better tomorrow.
It is 1996. Joel is 18. He’s strolling Times Square when he’s approached by an older woman. She pushes hard to recruit him into her stable. Joel listens skeptically as Angela describes how she runs her escort agency. She’s impressed by him but realistic and pragmatic. Joel is smart enough to discern that she is offering something better than what he has on the street. He decides to be part of her operation. Angela and her tough guy sidekick Harry get Joel in shape, so to speak. They train him in the upscale escorting business–manners, clothes, and sex. At the end of this renovation of sorts, Joel is a standout and Angela is ready to charge premium.
Chapter Eleven/The quote that frames the chapter:
Agathon: This only is denied to God: the power to undo the past. Connection to the story–one never knows where the past will turn up. And having met someone, that someone might turn up again because of the past, as Joel finds out on the subway.
Joel and Geneva are spying on Stephen Cody. They watch his domestic activities for a few days, and follow Cody upstate to where he appears to own a house in a secluded area. Joel notes the alarm company connected to the house and confirms Cody’s ownership.
Meanwhile, Gabriel is working with Chris on tracking Ken McFadden’s and Cody’s paper trails. Geneva and Joel return to update Gabriel on what they’ve found. Gabriel attempts to stay calm as he absorbs the information and deal with Joel’s insistence to investigate Cody close up. Joel wants to break into Cody’s upstate house and Gabriel is resolutely against it. The argument causes Gabriel to have one of his massive headaches and pass out.
Later on, Joel is back in New York City shopping and contemplating how he might help Gabriel. While he’s on the subway, Joel speaks to Jan about his need for professional help in the case. Suddenly a man approaches him to talk. It’s Mr. Zest (from The Hanged Man).
Ty & Dean
The Tao Te Ching: Being and Nothing come from each other; Difficult and easy depend on each other; Long and short demonstrate each other; High and low incline to each other; Sound and voice harmonize each other; Front and back follow each other.
The need for help reminds Joel of the situations with Ty and Dean. It’s 1998. Joel and Chris are hanging out at a bar when a man accosts Joel, insisting upon hiring his services. Joel determines the man is “Crazytown, population one,” and extracts himself. He and Chris return to Chris’s apartment.
And Ty has followed them, and busts in the place. He’s angry at Joel for rejecting him, and he has a gun. Joel placates him, including sexually. When Ty is temporarily off guard, Joel hits him over the head with a lamp and prepares to drag him outside where he might be found with some drugs.
Chris asks if it wouldn’t just be better to call Angela. Although very angry himself from the incident, Joel gives in and calls Angela and Harry. They come over and begin to take care of the situation. Ty starts to stir and Joel kicks the hell out of him. Then Harry takes Ty outside. Angela briefly comforts Joel before leaving.
Some months later, Joel has a new client–Dean. Dean appears to be a good client who is interested in a romantic-style scene. However, after sex, Dean turns cold and scornful, and Joel has a difficult time shaking that off. Angela advises him to consider this just business and ignore Dean’s attitude. Joel tries. But Dean just gets more contemptuous, and Joel is afraid he will become so hardened to it that he will lose himself. He talks back to Dean, and Dean complains to Angela. Angela drops him as a client and says she has a better one for Joel–a Dutch man named Jan.
Between the Pages:
- The nice thing about Angela’s help is it gets Joel legitimate on paper–to have a driver’s license and voter’s reg and register for selective service. Angela and Harry both help Joel do more than live in the moment. Angela is all business–something Joel understands and emulates. Harry actually has a softer heart, which is how Joel gets him to teach Joel certain skills like following people.
- Someone reviewing TBOJ said that Joel’s past was neither romanticized nor exploited. That was the intention. I didn’t want Joel’s work to be romanticized. By this chapter, the reader has seen the dangers Joel has faced on the street or otherwise. I wanted to be true to the dangers a sex worker can face over and over. At the same time, I didn’t pile on these dangers just to have an endless succession of terrible things happening. I save that for Gabriel. Describing what happens to Joel with Ty (and with Meese) was not flippant. It’s sexual assault. Like the beating Joel receives from the anonymous man in the cheap hotel in Jennah, sexual assault is a constant danger. It is part of the game, and Joel is not to blame for it. But every instance makes him less trustful of the world.
- Approaching authorities wouldn’t help in regards to Ty. So Joel, ever the TCOB type, prepares to handle it himself. This has worked for him in the past with his inner maturity. But sometimes he needs some help. Even though he does not want to involve Angela, involving her takes care of the situation. Harry will handle Ty–have no doubt Ty got the shit beat out of him.
- Of course, Joel’s sudden rage at Ty is very much correlated with his rage at Sean in Chapter Two. For the most part, Joel does not let what happens in life defeat him. But he has not given himself a chance to grow, which is why he never promoted his art. And he has anger issues, understandably. He buries what he feels. Sometimes it comes out when triggered–to be helpless and at someone’s mercy as with Ty, or to hear that someone puts young people in that position, as with Sean.
- Angela understands. She’s had the same experiences as Joel. And so in her accounting book of a heart, she empathizes with him and the anger and loneliness of being victimized with no recourse.
- The whole thing with Dean was weird. Of course, Dean felt he could treat a sex worker as a nobody, but luckily Angela doesn’t play that. Perhaps Dean did feel something for Joel, but if so, it was buried too deep in his narcissistic soul. Joel, not completely able to separate himself, gets suckered into feeling something. The chemistry between them, the act Dean puts on–it’s a trap, as Dean wants it to be. What happened to him, what fucked up Dean so much that he has to do this? Ultimately it doesn’t matter. What’s important is that Joel neither wants to take being treated like an object, or a receptacle for abuse.
- Left unsaid is that this is when Joel meets Jan, setting off a long-time relationship. Change for the better.
Beyond the Pages:
- In Angela, the chapter ends with an ad for Joel. this is based on escort ads I researched. I have known a few sex workers of different genders. Joel is not based on them, but he is treated with respect as all should be. Part of my research involved a good study, Male Sex Work and Society, edited by Victor Minichello and John Scott. This was published in 2014 by Harrington Park Press. I was able to snag an advance copy.
Question for Readers:
It was important for Joel to know when to accept help. He and Gabriel both have problems with that at times–as if accepting help damages one’s autonomy. Have you ever had a time when you had to ask for help, and were right to do so?
Playlist: Berlin, Take My Breath Away. After all, Joel had to hear it enough times on his excursions with Dean. Dean wanted the song for the fantasy in his head.
Watching I keep waiting/Still anticipating love
Never hesitating/To become the fated ones
Copyright 2016 Alex Fiano
Page updated 3/10/2018