It began with an awkward phone call: "Would you like to, um, go bowling with me?"
"Go... uh... bowling. Would you like to bowl with me? I'll pay for everything, of course."
"You just want to go bowling?" She was incredulous.
"Kind of like a sweet, you know, all-American date," I said, a nervous cramp in my chest.
"Yeah, I'll go bowling with you. What time do you want to go?"
So it was set. My first date with a prostitute would be at a bowling alley in west Broward. We could talk about whatever she wanted. Do whatever she felt like doing. As long as it didn't involve anything even close to sex.
It had to be one of the weirder propositions she'd heard. Call it some sort of half-baked sociological experiment: What happens when you take a hooker on a regular date? What happens when you share a walk on the beach or a piece of pizza instead of, oh, something that ends in job?
And that's why, at the Don Carter Tamarac Lanes, during the third frame of the second bowling game, Sophia the prostitute is telling me about the time she went out on a fetish call and got kidnapped and held hostage for three days.
"He was spanking me, having a good time, when all of a sudden he like freaked out and pulled out his gun and started saying a bunch of crazy stuff," she says as she lifts her pink bowling ball from the return. "He kept telling me he was going to take me to Vegas. He kept saying I couldn't be too bruised up for Vegas."
While she was held hostage, her driver called, trying to convince the man to let her go. "I pretty much felt like I was going to die," Sophia says, standing in blue and red bowling shoes. "He lived in an apartment in one of those really tall buildings in Miami right next to where the Heat plays. I could look out the window at all the people coming and going, and I wondered if I was ever going to get out of there."
She threw her ball down the lane. Three pins went down.
On our first call, we agreed to meet at the bowling alley on a Friday evening. She called me "Baby" and "Sweetie" in a throaty voice.
I got Sophia's number from a post on Craigslist's erotic services page. Her ad boasted that she can "provide the ultimate gfe [girlfriend experience]" and that she was "willing to try anything, Just Ask!" Beneath the text was a grainy photo of her in what looked like a motel room, in a sexy pose in front of a mirror. She had long, dark hair and shiny skin.
She told me she was fine with going bowling and appearing in my story, "but," she said, "you know my time is money." We agreed that I would bring $100. I'd pay for our date and give her whatever was left over.
The sun is beginning to set when she arrives in a dirty white Dodge sedan. We introduce ourselves just inside the front door of the bowling alley.
"So what exactly are we supposed to be doing here?" she asks.
"Honestly, I have no idea what the hell I'm doing," I say in a failed attempt to alleviate her worries. "Let's just try to have a good time."
She's 5-foot-2, with dark hair and a gentle face. She has bright, brown, curious eyes. Her upper teeth are covered by a shiny silver grill with dice carved into the teeth. She's wearing flip-flops, a short denim skirt, a brown tank top that clings to her buxom figure, and a gray hooded sweatshirt with several images of Bob Marley across the front and back. She doesn't seem to be under the influence of any strong narcotics. She looks like a slightly older, slightly rounder version of the photo in her ad.
I try not to wonder how many men she's seen this week.
We pick out our balls. She finds a bright pink one that feels comfortable in her small hands. She wonders if the ball might hurt her long acrylic nails — at the end of each finger, she has a twisting Technicolor spectrum embossed over a white background. Eager to impress, I go for a colorful, 16-pound ball. I pick it up, then graciously put it down for an 11.
At the shoe counter, she realizes she's forgotten socks. For $2.50, I buy her the finest white socks Don Carter offers, out of a vending machine.
We find our lane and she slips on her size-seven, suede bowling shoes. As we attempt to enter our names into the electronic scorekeeper, we discuss how infrequently we both bowl.