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What follows is an attempt to help you understand our friends in the sex trade along East Colfax. An attempt to help you know them from the inside out so that you can love them from the inside out. This story, while fictional, is rooted in realities we know well from our friendships with them.

My street name is Angel. I hope it is alluring, even spiritual. All designed to dress up this ugly fact—I sell my body for sex. How did I get here? I didn’t grow up wanting to be a prostitute. Parts of the journey seem murky, others way too clear. A counselor helped pinpoint where it started. I was young—seven or eight. My mom and her boyfriend were high and acting crazy. He began touching me, then raped me while my mom pinned me down. It's still so hard to say that out loud. How do you make sense of that? It happened regularly. I hated myself, hated my mother, hated him. I was helpless, just a kid.

Finally, he left but the nightmares stayed, leaving me hysterical, scratching and clawing to survive. I still have them. I discovered alcohol. It helped—dulling memories, bringing a warm, positive vibe. I snuck it from my mom; she was too high to notice. Social Services took me from her, she was “unfit” to be a parent. True that!

Dad was long gone; other relatives were train wrecks. I bounced around to foster homes, group homes. Some adults were kind; others, not so much. One foster dad lured me into sex—I didn’t fight all that hard. It was attention. I began to believe sex might be all I was good for. I went to counselors. All agreed I had a mental illness, but the diagnosis differed. It was confusing—was I depressed or schizophrenic, maybe bipolar? Meds didn’t work; nothing seemed to.

I careened through my teen years, out of control, no safety net. Nobody seemed to care. I drank—alone and with others. It dulled my pain and turned me into the life of the party. Pot followed booze and by fifteen I was addicted. Guys were drawn to me and soon my life was a haze of booze, pot, and sex. I stayed drunk or high during sex. At seventeen I took money for sex for the first time. Guys had rewarded me before—gifts, candy, and flowers. But not cash. I’d run away from my last foster home with Bobby, sure we were in love. He was nineteen, careening like me.

Off we went in his old Mustang, ending up in Denver. Quickly out of money, tired of sleeping in the car, Bobby brought it up: I was beautiful, a “hottie.” Guys, even older guys, wanted me; we could take advantage of that. I was angry—having met someone I loved, I wanted to change, be faithful, maybe even have kids. A ticket to love and sanity. Bobby wheedled, “If you love me, this can help. We need food and a room. Just do it a few times. I’ll get work, I promise; then this will be done. We can forget about it.”

What can I say? I loved him and I loved us, or at least the fantasy of us. Hungry and tired, I gave in. We went to a truck stop—the whole thing was easy. A cute outfit, standing there, a trucker approached. You don’t need details—thankfully he was kind and gentle—but when he handed me money, I fought the urge to vomit. Two more “tricks” that night got us a room. The money went fast so back we went, each time easier. We started using crack. It seemed what I needed—more intense than pot and booze, it pushed away my ugly memories.

For a while I felt good, almost glorious. Turned out Bobby had done this before—found a girl, pimped her out, and lived off the money. I got away from him but not the life. I had other relationships and was married once. I had a son and a daughter—Social Services took them. Seems I was “unfit” to be a mother.

I never had an abortion. I am proud of that. I knew I was carrying a real person; I wanted to bring it into the world, even if I couldn’t raise it. Even pregnant, my crack pipe won. My babies were gone, I was gone too—back to the streets, back to selling my body. I’ve done rehab—twice. Didn’t make a difference. I’ve tried Jesus—I still sense His presence but there was no magical change. My looks faded, now I try to survive. Doesn’t matter how many times I convince myself that I’m done—no drugs, no “selling my ass”—I always go back. Like it is all I am good for. I know I am responsible for my life; know I make bad decisions. But I feel stuck and lost.

I hate myself. I hate my life. Often, I wish I were dead, released from this hell. When high I tell myself it’s ok, still fun, still working. But I know better. I worry about dying on East Colfax—overdosed or at the hands of a client. I have some friends, though. I call them the church people. I think maybe Jesus sent them. They showed up at my door and seem to genuinely love me, wanting to be friends. Somehow that helps.

I drive them crazy—between mental illness, drugs, prostitution and money problems, I am pretty high maintenance. But they keep showing up, keep loving me. One of them said something about Jesus, that He looks past our mess and loves us from the inside out. That’s hard to believe—my inside mess seems worse than my outside one. She said it was true and that all of us need that—even her! I am learning to trust that, that Jesus loves me from the inside out, somehow seeing something beautiful in me.

Slowly, I am changing. I have stretches when I stay clean, when I’m not selling sex; then I fall. I am worried my church friends will dump me, but they just keep loving me, so I get up and try again. I pray more, even go to church once in a while. I am hopeful, more aware that Jesus loves me, that Jesus’ people love me, that I need to love others as well.

Thank you for listening to my story. Maybe someday—if we meet—you can tell me yours. Maybe we could be friends.

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