I am a green girl. Like the deep green of a Fraser Fir tree, the color of the branches that lie draped in snow in the wintertime. I am a green girl, but the other girls in my class were blue. Their supple skin glimmered in shades ranging from pastel baby to rich royal, and every morning they flooded into the classroom, like waves crashing onto the sand. I was the only green girl in my class.
Sitting at the back of the classroom, I watched the blue girls settling down in front of me, crossing their long legs and tossing their sun-washed ringlets onto their shoulders. The sun-washed ringlets cascaded down their shoulders, and when they turned their heads, I spotted nose rings on their button noses. Every blue girl had a nose piercing. The minute hoops of gold and silver glistened with rubies and diamonds, emeralds and opal stones. During lunch, I heard the blue girls chatting about the newest nose ring collections in stores while they munched on sandwiches and salads. I sat at an adjacent table, picking at my fingernails and staring at my green skin.
If I could get a piercing, I would buy a gold ring with an azurite stone, the swirls of blue and green twinkling on the nose ring. But I would never be able to afford the $500 procedure. My mother would call me a little twit for even thinking about having an $1,000 collection of nose rings. Still, I daydreamed. The blue girls would flock to me and call me their friend when they saw my exorbitant nose rings. Their fingers, as blue as the wings of a morpho butterfly, would graze my green nose. I would slip into their table during lunch time and chat about all the new nose rings with them. I would be a blue girl with green skin.
Lunch was over, and all the students headed back to the classroom. My stomach grumbled throughout class, so I could hardly pay attention to the lessons. Then, the shrill bell announced the end of the school day. Walking past the line of cars at the front of the school, I made my way to the bus stop and rode into the outskirts of town.
Black and white grime covered the brick walls of the apartment, and the stairs groaned under my steps as I hopped to the second floor.
Opening the door to my apartment, my eyes were greeted by yellow paint that was peeling off the wall and a messy clutter in the dimly-lit living room. My mother lay passed out on the couch; her thin body tucked under a flea market blanket. On the coffee table, three empty bottles of whiskey sat next to a stack of Cosmopolitan magazines that actually belonged to a nail salon. I put my backpack in my bedroom and tossed the empty bottles into the trash can. Just as I was opening the pantry door to see barren shelves, a tall man emerged from my mother’s bedroom. Every day, a strange man would come out of my mother’s room, often with only a pair of underwear on. Some of them would pull me into the bedroom. They would touch me while my mother was sleeping in the room next door. And they would always leave before my mother woke up.
On an early dismissal day, I arrived home at noon, and I could hear my mother with a man in her bedroom, so I snuck quietly to my room. As I went to the kitchen to grab a glass of water, I saw a black tool belt sitting on our counter. In the smallest pouch, there was a tiny screwdriver. Suddenly, a brilliant idea popped into my head. I tucked the screwdriver into my pocket and headed to the bathroom.
Standing in front of the mirror, I looked at my gaunt reflection, my bones sticking out under my green skin. My eyes were raven black, darker than the midnight sky, but when I smiled, they were as piercing as the morning stars. A nest of curly, dark hair lay on top of my head. I had thick luscious brows, a sharp chin, and high cheekbones that jutted out of my face. Perhaps I would be called beautiful if my skin had been blue. My hands were quivering as I thought about the blue girls at my school. Their bright smiles. Their ambrosial fragrance. Their silvery voices that sang about buying new nose rings.
A stream of red blood trickled down my neck after I had pierced my nose with the screwdriver. I was only mildly aware of the pain that was shooting up and down my nose as I frantically wiped away the drops of crimson in the bathroom sink and on the tiled floor.
A tiny hole remained open for a couple of days, but I didn’t have any nose rings to wear. The throbbing pain eventually ebbed away, and I returned to being a green girl with green skin. If I tried to sit next to the blue girls at lunch, they would all move to the other table. They spoke to me only when they had to, their eyes always looking away even when they did talk to me. I remember reaching out to get my backpack from my cubby hole, and my hand nearly touched a blue girl’s arm. She jerked her arm away, as if I was a snake, and quickly got up to leave. I sat there on the floor for a moment, asking the universe why did I have to be ugly, why did I have to be stupid, why did I have to be green?
My mother stopped going to her job--she had worked as a waitress--so I was used to coming home to an empty pantry. When she was passed out on the couch, I would take a couple of dollars from her stash of cash in the closet, and head to the nearby 24-hour juice pop store.
Filled with sugar and oil, juice pops were a quick and easy way to abate my hunger after a week of meager cafeteria food. Even though there were no grocery stores in my vicinity, there was a juice pop store every few blocks in my neighborhood. I had rarely seen juice pops stores around my school, though. The blue girls would pinch their button noses and squeal “eeewww!” whenever juice pops were mentioned. But I liked the sweet burst of flavor--and I didn’t have much choice.
I was rounding the corner of the juice pop store to purchase two cherry pops, when I saw a gorgeous green woman leaning on the wall. She was wearing an iridescent sequin dress that hugged her hourglass figure. Her lips were red and voluptuous, and her thick curls crowned her head, making her look like a retro-style beauty queen. I asked my mother about this woman back at home.
That was a prostitute, she told me. Prostitutes pull down their pants, and then men give them money.
I figured I could become a prostitute since I was already pulling my pants down for men. And I didn’t have to wait long for this to happen. A couple months passed and I was back at the juice pop store. As I was leaving, a man stopped me in my tracks.
Look at my skin. What do you see?
He was pointing to his flesh. I was startled but I responded.
Green, I said.
Yes, I am green. Like you, he nodded his head.
He put his forearm next to mine, brushing his green skin against my mine. He was a deep olive, like burnt mustard mixed with teal.
I understand what you are going through. I understand what it is like being a green person in this blue world.
I peered into his round, chocolate eyes. He smelled like a cocktail of blueberry juice pops and whiskey, the heavy type of whiskey that my mother drank for hours until she passed out.
Blue people treat us like dogs. You are the most gorgeous woman I have ever seen, and you deserve so much more.
His mouth curled into a broad, gummy grin. Warmth was spreading into my cheeks as I smiled back. He spun me a picture of a glamorous prostitute life with expensive dresses and lavish dining and a charming white mansion. He promised that he would protect me from the men that would try to steal my money.
I started working with Marcus--that was the name of the pimp--the next night. I stood by the juice pop store corner wearing a neon pink dress that cost $9.99 and plastic high heels that were a couple sizes too big. I tried to make my hair look big and beautiful but ended up with a disheveled bouffant, and my eyes were shrouded in a dark smoky shadow that I thought made me look older.
I was only 15 and cried through everything. The five men whom I dated on this first night showed me what to do. They could taste my fear, and they relished the flavor of my young body. I made $500 that night, and Marcus took $300. When I showed up at my apartment with a fist full of cash, my mother didn’t ask any questions. She seemed happy to see me bringing money home.
The days flew by in a whirlwind. In the blink of an eye, the crunchy autumn leaves that fluttered down from trees were replaced by harsh, cold gales and snow piling up on the streets. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I saw the same black eyes, sharp chin, and high cheekbones from before I became a prostitute. But I wasn’t the same person. On the right side of my nose, there was a brown splotch where the screwdriver had dug a hole into my skin. I would often graze the brown spot, and think about those blue girls who had sat together at lunch and chattered like little chirping robin birds.
Every night, I would change into a cheap outfit and head to the juice pop corner store. After a busy evening, Marcus would launder off most of the money, leaving me with just a fraction of the cash. My pantry was filling up, but at a pace so slow that my stomach still growled through most days. At first, I abhorred my job. Fat, old men pinning me down, feeling every part of my body. I hated being used like a piece of trash that could be tossed out at any moment. I knew that I should confront Marcus, but the routine held my palm, and I was scared to let it go--scared of ending the only source of income in my household.
On a frosty Tuesday night, I sat on a motel bed, goosebumps crawling up my thin green legs. I shifted around in my tight blue skirt and watched Marcus count out the money from the night. His dark hands moved through the stacks of cash swiftly, his voice softly tallying the $20 bills as he laid them down on the stained bedsheets.
$760. Not bad.
He patted my shoulder, and then, stuffing all the money expect for $60 into his pocket.
Wait, Marcus, I called to him. Aren’t you going to give me more of that money?
He chuckled and said, Didn’t I pay for the nice blue dress that you are wearing right now? Didn’t I pay for that glitter nail manicure? I already take care of you, so why would you need more?
I have a mother to feed at home. I have to pay rent for my apartment, I told him. My lips were quivering, and I could see his hands moving in agitation. His fingers were clasped together, and he was rocking them back and forth, the lilting rhythm of cracking knuckles filling the momentary silence.
Where's the mansion that you promised? Where's the Lamborghini? You said that you would treat me well, but I'm living a life no better than a dog’s! I screamed.
Marcus’ chest heaved up and down. His eyes were burning with a fire that I had never seen before.
I quit! Marcus, I quit being a pro--
BAM! My bottom jaw unhinged from my upper jaw, the metallic taste of blood filling my mouth as I reeled from his punch. The world around me became blurry. My back hit the motel floor that smelled faintly of cigarettes, and a green fist came pounding down on my face, again and again in a loop, like a cassette tape that hit a snag. I writhed under his body, but he straddled me with his strong legs. I couldn’t breathe. And I couldn’t escape.
I am the one giving you a job. No blue person will ever hire you, because you are a green girl and you will always be a green girl. I don’t need you, but you need me!
I walked back to the bus stop that night, my hands covering my broken nose, his voice still ringing in my ears. Sitting in a seat by the window, yellow and orange lights washed over me. The bus was nearly empty; only one other seat was occupied by an elderly blue woman. The woman glared at me from her seat, but I ignored her.
Marcus never spoke of that night again. But I was scared. The menacing glare in his eyes and the cruel smirk on his face as his fist kept hitting my face haunted me. I wanted to run away from him, but he knew where I lived and could beat me up again if I didn’t show up to work. And then a month after the incident, he gave me a gift to celebrate our one year anniversary of working together: a hologram phone.
I sucked in my breath with a gleeful squeal the moment that I laid my eyes on the hologram. The exact same model of hologram phones used to be carried in the pockets of the blue girls in my elementary school. I held the hologram, feeling the smooth, cool surface against my skin. It felt heavy, like a miniature bowling ball. I opened and closed the phone, listening to the little click every time. I felt like a blue girl, ready to text my friends and take holographic photos, forgetting about how Marcus had hit me, about how I had hated being a prostitute.
Marcus explained to me that buying the mansion and the car would take time, and he was saving up our money so that one day we could bathe in a life of luxury. He told me that he would always be my knight-in-shining armor, protecting me from danger. For now, all I needed to do was keep working with him. It seemed to me that he was asking me to do just a small favor for something grand, something absolutely monumental in return.
I had sex with nine clients that night, a record high for me. When I was slipping my dress back on, my last client of the night told me, I love your nose. The little dark spot is so beautiful.
My fingers skimmed my nose, and I thought about the blue girls with their nose piercings. I am not a blue girl. I am a green, and I am a prostitute. But I am also beautiful. And I deserve so much more.