By Alison Satterwhite
Part 10: Rescue Mission
“It’s something he doesn’t want to discuss in detail,” Soleil said under her breath after our vexing encounter with the bullet-ridden chest of a young model. I felt uneasy about the situation and pried for more information but she was guarded in her explanation of his wounds. I knew she knew more than she was telling me; she had known them the longest and they had become close friends. “There was a deal that went bad,” was all I could garner from her. Once again, I would brush off the disquieting thoughts in my mind and move on to more important things–like the magnetism I felt between myself and Vasko, his Yugoslavian roommate. I was anxious to meet up with him and friends for dinner and dancing in a few days and it was clear that he was excited too. There was a light in his eyes as he spoke to me that collaborated his affectionate gestures. We headed back to our apartment and got ready for the week of castings ahead.
“I’m too fat,” Sasha said the next morning with a look of shock and disbelief. “They told me I have to go home!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She was my lifeline, my makeshift family, my friend. I had wantonly attached myself to her like a baby to its mother. Everywhere she went, she was sought after and cherished for her beauty and personality. How could it be that they were sending her home? I seemed like a much more likely candidate. It was the harsh reality of modeling that I had to face and I was truly sad to see her go. In an instant, her 16 year old dreams were banished by an inhuman booking machine. More than any time before, I realized that modeling was a business, not a sorority. My booker was my boss, not a friend. My body was a commodity, not a gift. Sasha began packing her bags that night and was sent home only two days later. She left her Eagles and Eric Clapton tapes as a reminder of our friendship. That was the last I would hear from her.
There without a roommate, I spent time migrating from room to room finding companionship with the girls down the hall. I was lonely and things were never the same without Sasha, but I managed to keep my spirits up and continued on with my daily castings. Luckily, I had a photo shoot scheduled with a top photographer that would take my focus off of my living situation. The ethereal Celeste from down the hall would be invited to test as well. I was thrilled to be getting more pictures for my portfolio.
Celeste and I arrived at the studio where we would be shooting. I was encouraged to find approval from one of the photographers when he asked me for a comp card to keep for himself. “I want to watch your career and see what happens,” he said, his eyes devouring the fresh meat he had found. I was flattered that I was being noted by someone notable. After several laborious hours in hair and makeup, I was ready to be photographed. I took my place in the cleanly lit warehouse and soon realized that by some fluke, my inexperience had been marginalized up until this point. It was blatantly obvious when modeling next to Celeste, that I was far less adept at moving in front of the camera. There was a lot more expertise that went into the process than I had previously understood. I relished the opportunity to learn from and mimic her every delicate move and note the intricacies and subtle nuances of expression and light. I realized that I had a lot to learn to be a great model.
The end of the week was finally here and me and a group of girls were scheduled to meet up with Vasko and his friends. Long, lean legs overpowered the tiny articles of clothing each of us had on that night. I had rendered Celeste my new protector and friend, although deep down, I knew Soleil was the real strength of the group and my anxieties were allayed by her presence. As we waited in front of our apartment, a dark black Mercedes Benz pulled up to fetch us. Out hopped a slick, long-haired man named Aberto in his 40’s. He would take us to his house for dinner where we would meet up with Vasko and the other models before heading out to dance. Our young eyes were opened as we drove past droves of cross-dressing hookers and drug dealers to get there. I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off their semi nude, S&M attired bodies that were painstakingly duct-taped into place. I was wittingly being exposed to a plethora of ills that continued to unfold with each passing day.
I was relieved to see Vasko and was giddy at the opportunity to spend time with him. Aberto was an obvious bachelor who reveled in the opportunity to cook for and serve a table full of young, beautiful girls and his friends. His home was chic and the meal he had prepared was fabulous, decadent and in prime Italian fashion. Each course was prepared to perfection by hand and with all the authenticity of ‘homemade’. I was happily yet cautiously experiencing a bit of Italy at its finest. I wasn’t sure who Aberto was or what his motives were, but time would prove that this was not a crowd to immerse myself in.
That evening, Vasko and I would spend time holding hands and getting to know each other while the others danced and drank the night away. My well of insecurity left me desperate to connect and feel loved as I validated myself with the affection of this unworthy man. Little did I know, I was attaching myself to a culture and mindset that was dangerously different than my own. As time wore on that evening, I found myself entering this foreign mind and glimpsing into a world of organized crime that would expose him to abuse and prostitution as a young child.
Perhaps our polar-opposite worlds drew us together, because we both listened intently to each other’s ideas and experiences with compassion and depth of understanding. I desperately wanted to save this person from the cold and hardened life he was living, but I hadn’t even saved myself. It was apparent that he wanted out, but didn’t know anything different. On a mission to rescue, I dredged up my buried faith and excitedly told him of an amazing plan to escape as if I were the only person alive who knew the exit route. He listened carefully as I passionately told him about the Plan of Salvation and how it could change his life. From one lost soul to another, I bore my heart to its anguished core. Even though I felt spiritually lost, I knew in this dark moment that there was only one way out, and he believed. Then without processing, my subconscious quietly blurted out, “Have you ever killed anyone?”
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