How April Brucker was almost sold into white slavery during her first year in New York.
When I was 22 I was working as a singing telegram delivery girl in NYC. At the time, I had just been dumped so I was looking for something to cheer me up. Ben, the medical school student I was seeing, went back to his old girlfriend he was on “a break” with. So when my boss called me to do a naughty nurse singing telegram, I was thrilled. Bruce, my boss, told me the sexier the better.
This was an awesome dream come true. I packed up my costume and readied my routine. I was going to be the sexiest singing telegram naughty nurse the world had ever seen!
When I got off the train at Queensboro Plaza, I walked to the destination. It was drizzling and a cold damp, spring day. A sign of things to come.
As I got closer to where I was supposed to sing, all I kept passing was abandoned buildings. In one, there were zombie like people hiding, possibly living. I can still recall the looks in their eyes as if they had seen hell. Then I smelled something weird as a cloud of white smoke appeared. It wasn’t the pleasant smelling ganja my friends had smoked in college. This was more like the smell of misery. THEY WERE SMOKING CRACK.
Although I should have turned back I kept going. As I finally got to the front door, a dude drunkenly leered at me. I grimaced. And then he went a step further to pull out his magic stick, literally, his penis. I didn’t know whether to scream or laugh because it was on the small side. Either response was going to get me a one way ticket to the title of Miss Toe Tag 2007.
Frantically, I called my contact, Consuela. She told me to come up. I was just glad to escape the evil demon dick and the crack hotel I passed. While I probably should have run, I figured the show must go on and Bruce would never understand if I didn’t sing. The stairs creaked beneath my feet with each step. The stairwell was littered with broken glass and bits of nail. I told myself it could only get better.
I got upstairs, and Consuela, my contact, greeted me. She was a tiny Latina woman who was as wide as she was tall with a Panama hat. With her was a man in suspenders who introduced himself as Juanito. He was about my height, 5’4”, with a long scar down his face, probably from the yearly uprising in his homeland. As he introduced himself, Juanito kissed my hand.
“Esta es la chica blanca por petron?” Juanito inquired.
“Si.” Consuela replied.
Despite what they thought, my Spanish was decent and I knew what they were saying. That I was the white girl for the boss! Oh shit. Maybe I could sing and still get out.
My skin began to crawl as I looked around. The place was damp and smelled like a public swimming pool. As I glanced I saw women working steadily at sewing machines. As they saw me, they said, “Esta es la chica blanca por petron.” While they probably didn’t know a lot of English, and I could understand them well, the look of scorn was universal.
Then it hit me. I WAS IN A SWEAT SHOP. There is no way I’m coming out of this adventure alive.
Seconds later, a man who looked like he had failed both Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig emerged. This was George, the man I was to sing to. He was adorned in a Puerto Rican flag shirt that had a huge mustard stain. “Sit down.” Juanito commanded. And forced the man into a chair that looked as if some family of termites had dinner and then decided even sweatshop furniture was below their standards.
“Petron, the girl is going to dance for you. Dance por Petron, dance.” Juanito commanded me.
As this unfolded, and the floor creaked beneath George’s tremendous weight, he screamed, “Are you fucking crazy, the feds are watching me enough as it is!!!”
OMG. They had called my boss because they thought they were getting a sex worker for cheap. Yes, the illegals thought they hired a stripper who did other sexual favors on the side! They thought my boss was an escort service.
“But Papi, you like blonde girls.” Juanito pleaded. Now I knew I was officially going to die at the end of the story. This reminded me of those Choose Your Own Adventure Books but this ending was more hideous than anything I ever envisioned.
The gentlemen passed a few racial slurs back and forth at this point.
“We’ll take her somewhere to dance for you.” Juanito said, trying to make peace.
I was forced into a closet with this smelly creature where I was sure I was going to meet an end where the next update was that someone found my remains in the adjacent crawl space. As we looked at each other he asked, “Are you going to dance for me like they say you are?”
I knew it was now or never. Either I got the fuck outta dodge or I died. So I looked at him and said, “Asshole, you couldn’t afford me.” That is when I bilked like I was where I was- the fucking pits of fucking hell.
“Sorry Petron didn’t like,” the remaining few said and handed me an envelope with the letters TIP scrawled in crayon or something, possibly stolen from one of the many children they sired. When I hit the street, I counted a twenty five dollar tip in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Also, they even threw in a sewing thimble for good measure. I was just glad I wasn’t dead.
Now the crack heads and Leroy with the diseased penis didn’t seem so bad. As I got off the train back in Manhattan, the real world, I got an angry call from my boss, Bruce. A Southern Belle trapped in the body of a gay man, Bruce said, “I got the most disturbing call from the client. She says we are a fraudulent business and she wants her money back. She wants to go to the better business bureau.”
I told Bruce about what happened and at first he was not hearing me. I explained it again. He suggested we talk to her together and I told him she could go fuck herself because if I spoke to her again, I was going to kill her. And then I also informed Bruce maybe our business was fraudulent but hers was illegal and they had not wanted a singer but a stripper/hooker.
“Did they tip?” Bruce asked.
“Yes.” I told him.
“Well tips stand for Tips Insure Proper Service. So if they tipped, it wasn’t all that bad. Besides, it sounds like she wasn’t altogether honest.” Bruce pointed out. And then told me if Consuela popped up again, he would handle her.
Consuela did in fact call Bruce again and threatened to take him on Judge Judy. She screamed his business was fraudulent. Bruce told her perhaps this was true, but the last time he checked, running a sweat shop was illegal and Judge Judy would probably have a lot to say about that.
So Consuela disappeared into the darkness never to be heard from again. I’m still white, and haven’t yet been successfully sold into slavery.
April Brucker is an actress, comedian, writer, and New York veteran. Check out her book, I Came, I Saw, I Sang: Memoirs of a Singing Telegram Delivery Girl. For more on her please go to aprilbrucker.com.