I was twelve the first time I was sexually trafficked and exploited. It wasn’t in Cambodia or the Philippines or Thailand or Mexico.
We were in Sherman Oaks, California and there were five people at the house in the Hollywood Hills. Two of the adults were lawyers from Washington D.C and one is still considered an advocate for exploited children and is on the board of a state sponsored Children’s Law Center.
But she was there helping her speechwriter/actor husband take photos of me when I was twelve so he could add it to his collection.
I still see him on CNN and Fox News, as an economics professional and commentator, and sometimes late at night, a commercial will flash by of him hawking eye care products.
The tower was sleek and black and glistened in the sun and held the dreams and secrets of many children who had been in the lobby before me.
It was a New York skyscraper next to the freeway, a Yankee tower out of place and wearing all black in the summer in Los Angeles. The courtyard was dark and cool and a perpetual breeze came in and blew through the Cahuenga pass near us.
The tower and studios were built on the side of the old El Camino Real road, on small hills where ghosts of the Spanish missionaries (and before them the Indian tribes who had lived there since the thaw of the last ice age) still tread. Every now and then, artifacts are found at excavation sites and sometimes on a million dollar property remodel, a piece of history will turn up to remind the people of the new villages that the old tribes had been there.
The causeway brought in fresh ocean air from West Los Angeles and then blew into the small pass between the valleys. On the hotter days, the fresh and cool Santa Monica wind met with the dry and burnt chaparral Mediterranean smoke-smog air trying to escape from the San Fernando Valley.
On the top, overlooking the pass, was a glittering neon amusement park and village promenade with air-conditioned theatres and shops. Arcades and videos and restaurants beamed down below like a proud electric stage mother holding her hostage to fortune.
The slope of the freeway connected Burbank and the Valley and then lowered down as it made its way south and parts of it split off east to Los Feliz and westward it went to other parts and then merged on to old bumpy side roads near the natural amphitheater of the Hollywood Bowl and finally, it turned into the streets in the city of Hollywood.
I looked up at the sleek facade of the high black tower and then up to the sky.
The black doors of the building’s belly opened and above, the sky was a bright, bright denim amusement park blue and shone on the gleaming city on the mountaintop but couldn’t cut through the dark shadow the building threw over the fun park entrance.
Right before we went in to the black doors, the building seem to breathe us in deep and smell us.
I knew he would be in there.
Then we walked inside.