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Burgundy Leggings by Tracey Helton

Guest post by Tracey Helton

Photo credit: Tracey Helton

Photo credit: Tracey Helton

As I slide my back against the hot wall, I can feel the energy being sucked out of my body. Underneath my burgundy sweater and matching burgundy leggings lay the evidence of my plight. I am extremely malnourished to the point that one can easily see all the ribs climbing up my back. I do eat – mostly a pint of Ben and Jerry’s – when I am done working and can finally enjoy my fix. My legs are a series of track marks and bruises, therefore I am covered up on this hot day. I need to look shiny and new.

I am working the corner where the young girls stand. It is a few blocks down from the center for runaway youth. Men who drive up and down this street are looking for young girls; 14, 16, 18, but certainly not me. I am all washed up at the tender age of 22. But I still have a young face – especially when my eyes are pinned from heroin. Unfortunately, today is not that day. I had to pay rent on my room so I am sick, sick, sick. Usually, I would fix first and pay later but I was so far behind on rent that all my belongings would have ended up in the street. To get decent money as a hooker, you need a place to take the tricks. A quick blow job in the car may suffice for some of the customers. I preferred regulars. They were much less likely to kidnap me or cut my throat.

My friend had left this corner one day to do an outcall at a man’s apartment. I had rules – I never went to their place, I never stayed the night, I never left the Tenderloin. Well, she smoked crack and was a little more desperate. She was young, blonde, beautiful, and 16 years old. She charged $35 for quick sex but this man was willing to pay much more for a home visit. When I saw her a few days later, she had just escaped from his apartment. It was, in fact, a torture chamber. He had got her to go inside where he raped and beat her while he smoked crack over her bloody body. She had scrapes and bruises from cramming her long body out a tiny bathroom window. Yet, here she was again.

“Are you alright, Laura?” I asked naively. These things had never happened to me. At least, not yet.

She turned her face to the side so the passing traffic could not see the palm shaped bruise on her face. “I am never going to get a date looking like this,” she told me. “If you get money first, kick me down Tracey. I promise I will get you back.”

I wasn’t sure what to say to her. I knew why she did not go to the police. The humiliation is not worth dealing with, the reality that they were not going to do a fucking thing. Girls told each other of bad dates, of places to avoid, of how to survive. The outreach workers would come by and hand us condoms by the fist full. This was still the area of AIDS. I had heard stories of a girl with HIV working the streets with her oxygen tank. And men would still pick her up. The reality was many of these girls got HIV from their customers. You would hear of some giving out the virus as revenge for their condition.

I would never see Laura again. She was wrong. Someone did pick her up that day. She was part of the crowd of revolving faces that visited the corner in front of the Vietnamese sandwich shop. I left a few months later. In the eyes of my peers, I had moved up in the world. I had found a sugar daddy – a 70-year-old married man. He was willing to help me get off heroin as long as I accepted him as my sole client. I took him up on his offer. I stopped using heroin with a 21-day methadone detox and started using crystal meth a few days later.

There was no happy ending. There was no Prince Charming coming to save me from myself. I just switched from fucking strangers for money to attempting to fuck one man who could rarely get it up. It was safer for me. After a man tried to kill me down by some warehouses, I was ready for a break. My stint as a street prostitute was not a long one. A few months on the corner changed my life forever. I learned how to use sex to survive. I went from a 17-year-old saving themselves for love to a drug addicted junkie covering their abscesses with burgundy leggings.

Burgundy Leggings was originally published on Tracey Helton’s blog.

  • An interview with Tracey Helton on her writing life can be read here.


Tracey HeltonTracey Helton MPA RAS is an addiction specialist and recovering addict living in the SF Bay Area. She writes about topics related to harm reduction, addiction, and recovery at

Follow Tracey on Twitter: @traceyh415.

About Ruth Jacobs (296 Articles)
Author of Soul Destruction: Unforgivable, a novel exposing the dark world and harsh reality of life as a drug addicted call girl. The main storyline is based loosely on events from my own life. In addition to fiction writing, I am also involved in journalism and broadcasting, primarily for human rights campaigning in the areas of sex workers' rights, anti-sexual exploitation and anti-human trafficking.

6 Comments on Burgundy Leggings by Tracey Helton

  1. Reblogged this on MrMilitantNegro™.

  2. Thank you !! I appreciate your story. I 2 was there in the TL and 24th doin the same things. I am now 13 yrs clean thanks methadone ♥♡ I have 3 of my children with me and my partner of 16 yrs . Can u believe that we stayed together hahaha that is a whole nother story. I want to write a book , I see u have . I wanted to say hello to u bc back then we probably would not have so hello I appreciate your work and I am glad I found this blog☆★♡♥

    • Thank you for your comment Yvonne. How wonderful you’ve got three of your children with you and you’re doing so well – that’s so lovely to hear. I was there too in the late-90s but only passing by on a trip I had taken to America to get clean from heroin and crack. It didn’t work, but it was at least a wild adventure for the most part rather than my life back in London at the time, which was harder for me as I was selling sex as well, but that was traumatic for me.

  3. Thank you for this, Tracey. I was there ten or so years earlier than you, in SoCal, 16 y/o runaway, looked 13 yum yum. Thankfully I had the iron will of a teenager so I refused to get involved with IV drugs. I killed my heart in other ways. I’m so glad you got out, and so glad you are using your trip though hell to now help others. Blessings to you, and to Ruth also for publishing this here.

    • Thank you for sharing Laura. Tracey is doing brilliant work. For me, when I was in that life and well before then as well, I turned to drugs to kill my pain, but then they stop working and bring a whole new pain of their own. Lots of love to you xxxxxx

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