20 Feb
stella marr, human trafficking, sex trafficking, sex work, prostitution, sung, new york city, manhattan, manhattan call girl, prostitution

Sung's kindness gave me a momentary home

Sung’s kindness gave me a momentary home

This is the prologue to my memoir My Body the City:  The Secret Life of a Manhattan Callgirl. 

You don’t know me but I love you. I’m the irresistible force and the immovable object. I’m stubborn, so I’ll always be here. They tore out my tongue, but I learned to re-grow it. Now I will always speak.

It is 3:00 in the morning, my lunch hour, and I’ve just stepped out of a cab at 10th Street and 6th Avenue. A black velvet rain is smothering the city, icy gleams threading the air. I walk toward a fruit stand that seems to float above the sidewalk in a cloud of light. When I blink there’s a stabbing pain behind my eye, and I can feel his fist pound my cheekbone like it’s happening again.

The plastic curtains protecting the produce out front are steamed from the cold. I glance up to the bulbous security mirror which distorts my face. My eye and neck are swollen red and turning greenish-yellow. I feel my hair sticking to my forehead and pull my fingers through the dripping tangles that hang to my waist. But I’m used to going around the city beaten up.

Inside there are so many bins of flowers it makes an indoor garden. I bend into the freesia to breathe their thick fragrance, and in the same motion grab a smooth green apple from a wood crate on the floor. I head back to the coolers. Opening the cool glass door, I exhale with a long sigh so I can watch my breath make a cloud as it hits the chilled air. I gather up a six pack of Diet Pepsi and a coffee yogurt, walk back and set it on the worn wood counter. I feel caved in with shame as I lift my bruised face to the tall man at the cash register. His eyes are deep and warm like licorice made with pepper. His plastic nametag says Sung. He hands me my bag and my change.

He reaches into a bin of red roses, selects the most lush, and hands it to me with a bow. When Sung bows he sends strength. I take the rose and it feels important, as if I’m accepting the folded flag at a military funeral. “

You’re a nice lady,” he says. “Your life should be nice.”

His voice makes me feel like a rug being shaken out in fresh air. Tears warm my eyes.

He grabs two expensive handmade caramels from a basket by the cash register and reaches across the counter to throw them in my bag. When I hold out a crumpled ten dollar bill to show I’ll pay for them he puts his hands behind his back, smiles slowly, and shakes his head ‘no.’ He sits on a plastic crate and starts marking bags of walnuts with a price gun. In the fluorescent light his wide cheekbones shine like they’re wet.


Now a man with thick tufts of hair on his knuckles walks into the store, and I see—no feel—his cock and thighs projected into the space between us. I feel a stabbing, like knives, at my eyes, my throat, my gut. It happens when most men come near. I know the knives I feel aren’t real, but their stabbing hurts. I fight this by trying to fill my body with peace, so it rises from my skin like perfume.

The brutality I sense around me can seem like the strongest part of the city, a riptide always about to drag you under. I close my eyes and breathe in the thick scent of cabbage and orange rinds. I exhale. I want to purify my body so the stabbing disappears. But it never disappears, not completely, which is why I must tell you my story. How I got to this fruit stand in the middle of the night, reaching my wet, shaking hands to take a slightly bruised rose.


After this every time I saw Sung at the fruit stand, he gave me a rose.

25 Responses to “Sung”

  1. pastorg16 February 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    As I started reading, I forgot that I was seeing words in a Blog. I started seeing the images that your words were painting.

  2. nicole5181 February 20, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    That was beautiful writing. Thank you for inviting me to experience that moment with you.

    • stellamarr February 20, 2012 at 10:32 pm #

      Nicole, thank you so much for reading. What I hope more than anything is that my words will give readers an experience — you moved me to happy tears. xoxo

      • nicole5181 February 22, 2012 at 12:30 am #

        Well your writings do just that — provide us with an experience. For me, and outsider to the sex trade, you give a way to understand things I haven’t experienced for myself. For those girls who have or are currently suffering through these things, I hope they experience a sense of comradeship and healing.

  3. stellamarr February 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm #

    Pastor G, thank you so much — that’s high praise. Your words make me so happy :-)

  4. Rachael February 21, 2012 at 2:05 pm #

    This passage is incredibly vivid – I can see and feel the scene so sharply. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. Heather Marsten February 22, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    What a powerful sharing of your story. I pray that you find many more Sung-like men in your life – that give and not take, that are gentle and sweet. I am praying for healing and peace. Even with my husband of 25 years, there are ways I can’t have him touch me for they bring back memories of my father’s abuse. I imagine that there is a vibe that some men project that must feel like chalk on a blackboard. Sad thing is, probably the ones that project the worst vibes are the most insecure and thus the most brutal.

    I know it is hard to believe, but healing is possible. There is a way to let the hurt dissipate so that the memories are memories and one can walk free in the scent and purity. These jerks do not have to keep power over our lives forever. I pray you find that peace and healing.

  6. Amy March 6, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    Hey there, Stella!

    I am devouring your blog and many of the others that you have linked to (including the survivors’ network). I work with young ladies who have been victims of trafficking here in the US, and reading the words of other precious women who have been through this horrifying abuse and been able to come out the other side and piece together a life, is SO much more than encouraging. Though every woman’s experiences vary, I am floored at how identical the after-effects are — the suffering is tremendous and, as one walking alongside some just a few years behind you in the process, it is so helpful to be allowed a glimpse into your own pain, process, and hopes. Thank you so much for writing it all down. I can say from experience, it is an honor to be able to share life with women like yourself — to be allowed in to share in both the healing and the suffering. The small victories are celebrated and the set backs are comforted. I am always so happy to get to the part where beauty finally DOES come from the ash heap, even if it’s in little doses.

    When will your book be out — I cannot wait to read the rest of it.

    • stellamarr March 6, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      Thank you so much for your empathetic support, and for reading my words and those of my brilliant sister survivors.

      You are doing such important work. Thank you for being in the world. Much love always, xoxoxo

  7. lynnflickinger1 March 14, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    I am grateful to know that in spite of the awfulness, there is still light. It is my hope that the light always shines through

    • stellamarr March 14, 2012 at 5:17 am #

      I believe it does. Thank you so much for reading. xoxo

  8. Carolina March 18, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    very powerful and moving. Thank you.

  9. You Were Born To Succeed March 19, 2012 at 2:48 am #

    Hello Stella,

    I am dropping by to thank you for following my blog.

    There’s a part of changing one’s life that is a never-ending, struggling, herculean battle just to hang in there and keep on keeping on. It takes unending strength to persevere – like no one else can know. Telling your story gives strength to every woman who is seeking herSelf, even those of us who have never experienced prostitution, sexual abuse, or physical violence at the hands of men. I don’t know whether you realize that yet, but I know that you will never give up, and you will keep on keeping on.

    Thank you for sharing with us. I am looking forward to your book.

  10. The Cuckoos Are Here March 25, 2012 at 5:15 am #

    Strong words from a strong lady.
    I salute your spirit and hope you bring light to people around you.

    You have my best wishes

  11. tahitiangoddess March 29, 2012 at 6:36 am #

    I don’t know how you kept your soul alive during those 10 years; maybe it was the kindness of strangers.

    I wonder is Sung knows how deeply he affected you.

  12. Aj b33m3R April 3, 2012 at 4:05 am #

    I’m in awe. You have brought both tears and a smile or two to my face. Raw and honest. A true wonder. You’ve found another fan.

  13. 900poundgorilla April 5, 2012 at 4:26 am #


    I found the PTSD reference particularly poignant. Both my wife and I are survivors of war. My first novel was recommended by the National Association of Mental Health Institutes, as it dealth with the social aspects of PTSD. I have dealt Iraq and Afghan veterans coping(or not coping) with the transformative effect of trauma both to the body and the soul. The physical rewiring of the brain you spoke about is fundamantal tho many of us who seek to truly understand the effects of war, trauma, abuse and brutality, but is fundamentally absent in far too many who “treat” survivors. Your voice is truly valued. Peace and be well, W.C. Turck/900pound gorilla

  14. Sue Swift/Suz deMello April 6, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

    Your blog is extraordinary. Thank you for your courage.

  15. johnkpatterson April 7, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Truly an incredible and vivid account, Stella. I hope you can find a lot more people like Sung in your life, people who will go out of their way to make your day. You are a treasure, more valuable than anyone can understand. Sung gave you those roses because he knew that.

  16. trailertrashdeluxe April 14, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    So well written. What a perfect name for him–he really “sung” expressions of kindness to you, didn’t he? Glad you are surviving.

  17. magpiesmiscellany April 19, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    I’ve nothing wise or helpful to say, but I could letting something this beautiful pass without saying thank you. It’s like a painting in words, or watching the richness of streetlights on wet pavement.

  18. lameboyofhameln May 28, 2012 at 4:14 pm #

    I realize that this might be a bit dry and beside the point when your focus is bringing a focus to the plight of women…..
    but, a couple of things stand out for me in this: 1. you are listing things 2. you are telling a story —– and so there exists in this an awareness that this is a bit mechanical and that this is quite entrancing – like any good story. Then – when you talk about the male presence- as he enters the shop, the entire thing is shattered.

    ‘I close my eyes and breathe in the thick scent of cabbage and orange rinds. I exhale. I want to purify my body so the stabbing disappears. But it never disappears, not completely, which is why I must tell you my story. How I got to this fruit stand in the middle of the night, reaching my wet, shaking hands to take a slightly bruised rose.’

    ‘which is why I must tell you my story.’

    To me that is the most ‘human’ thing you could of said, and it reaches out and is plaintive.
    And I guess I’d like to say that it needs both, both a statement of fact and a reaching for art, to render them both and have them be meaningful. You are one of the prettiest writers I have ever read and by that I mean: this is sad. I hope you will take that as a compliment.

  19. Harry Moonbeam June 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Small acts of kindness always restore our faith in human nature. This is a well-written piece, a nice mix of broad stroke description with spots of tiny filled in detail – I was so in the moment I could hear the sound of the price gun.


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