Toronto
7 min

On the street

'I never do tricks that are bigger than me'

CREEPY TRICKS. Prices for services keep getting pushed down. Credit: Tatsu

I see them every morning when I go out to grab a newspaper. Some sleep in small groups, huddled together underneath dirty blankets behind Buddies In Bad Times Theatre.



Some stroll down Maitland in packs of two or three, trading stories about the previous night’s adventures. Others stagger out of the bathhouses, shielding their eyes from the rising sun.



They come here from all over Canada, the east coast and the west; the suburbs and small towns. They come to the big city in search of freedom and opportunity, but often find neither. They don’t trust the police any more than they trust their customers.



“A lot of them are young. Fifteen-year-old whores, eh? What a career move – sucking dick for a living,” says Bobby, a veteran of the hustler scene at 22. He didn’t want his last name used for this story.



“It’s getting bad, man. You keep seeing new kids out here, and some of the older ones are still working. But a lot of them are gone. They disappear, go to jail, died of disease or got shot. There’s been a few murders related to it. Flash went home with a trick and got stabbed. [The cops] just got him for it. So he’s doing life, but it’s pretty scary.”



Bobby is a handsome, strongly-built kid with grey eyes and a hip-hop swagger. He’s worked the streets on and off for more than five years.



“My friend got me into it. We were, like, jonesing for dope. ‘Let’s go rob somebody,’ was my suggestion. And he said ‘I’ve got a more legit way to do it. We’ll get some guy to pay to suck your cock,’ so it just started from there. It’s quick, easy money, it’s legal, and you don’t got no one chasing you.”



A skinny boy named Charlie comes around the corner with a giant grin on his face. He asks Bobby for a smoke. Charlie is swimming in oversized clothing. A backwards-baseball cap is perched on his head like a crown. He can’t be a day over 17.



Charlie just started doing tricks. “It’s not so bad,” he explains, taking a haul on his smoke. “You lie there and he does stuff to you, or you do stuff to him, and he gives you money. It’s okay.”



Hustler stroll lies west of Church, stretching along Maitland and Grosvenor to Bay St. The higher-end boys can be found close to Bay, right around the police headquarters.



“The guys that drive there got nicer cars,” says Bobby. “As you move closer to Yonge St, the boys get younger and cheaper. Near Burger King, it’s all young boys. But that’s what the tricks like – the little guys. We call Burger King ‘the BK Lounge.’ I don’t work the BK no more. Too many kids fighting for customers…. That’s nuts! I’m just gonna rob the motherfucker and see you later.”



Charlie laughs at Bobby’s story and they exchange a complicated handshake. Charlie wants to know if I will pay him to talk to me about the scene. When I refuse, he loses interest in the conversation and hurries off.



“He’s looking for a rock,” says Bobby. He says drugs are the reason that many kids work the hustler stroll. “That’s the thing with hustling, you’re always getting fucked up. Like, if I’m gonna hustle, then I’ve gotta get a ton of beers in me before I even go to work, otherwise nobody will pick me up. See the look on my face? I look like I wanna kill people, you know? I’m all tense, but with some booze in me I’m fine.



“And that’s why I got into harder stuff. That’s why all these kids are out here. Dope. Mostly crack. They’re turning tricks for 20 bucks. It’s sick. For 20 bucks you can talk to me, and then your five minutes is up. Put more money in the meter!



“The prices have gone down since I started. We used to make a hundred bucks minimum. Right now it’s like 40 bucks, and that’s sick. I mean, who wants to do anything for 40 bucks? But these young fuckers are on the jones, so they undercut the prices.”



***



A dark look crosses Bobby’s face. He adjusts his baseball cap.



“And then all the murders lately. People are scared. Tricks are getting ripped off, but it works both ways. I don’t know whose house I’m going to. I read that Jeffrey Dahmer book and I couldn’t hustle for a month!” Bobby laughs hysterically.



“I’ve been punched out by a trick. I went to someone’s house, and we agreed on [a price]. So I say, ‘Put the money on the table.’ He’s drunk, some big motherfucker. And the next thing I know, he punches me in the face. So I hit him with a bottle and knocked him out. So I said ‘Okay, I’m taking everything in your house now. TV, VCR….’ There’s some sick puppies out there.



“Some of these bastards, they just cruise for kids who are down and out, and they try to be all nice and be a friend and take care of you, but then they get what they want, and it’s like, ‘Next!’ I don’t respect them if they don’t respect me. Even though I met a couple who I became friends with. But that’s rare, very rare. Most of them are creepy. Some are closet cases. I always wanted to get a video camera and tape it and do blackmail. ‘How would you like your wife to see this, eh?'” Bobby lets out a giant guffaw at the thought.



“I never do tricks that are bigger than me. I like to stay in control. I mean, I won’t even do bondage and stuff with my girlfriend. I’ll fuck them, if I can get it up for them. But usually I can’t. Bottom line, if the money’s on the table, I do it. Suck their dick, grab the money and put it in my pocket. Ten minutes later I gotta go, right? What you gonna do? Call the cops?”



Bobby has been arrested more times than he can remember, but never for prostitution.



“That’s pretty embarrassing. You go to court and they say, ‘Johnny here offered to suck Officer Joe’s dick for a hundred bucks.’ My [arrests] were all assaults, drug possessions, weapons. I’ve spent close to two years of my life behind bars. Not all at once. Six months here, three months there.



“Jail is like a 20,000 mile tune-up. You get three weeks off from drugs and booze and hustling, and you come out strong, ready to take on the world. I was happy to go to jail in August; it’s air conditioned.”



I tell Bobby about a new law that may come into effect, that would allow the police to pull underaged prostitutes off the street for their own protection. Bobby doesn’t think that’s right.



“It’s a free country. It’s your own fucking body, I don’t think the state has any right to monitor that. I think prostitution should be legalized. It’s safer, there’s less diseases, the government makes a killing on taxes, and everybody’s happy. It’s the oldest profession in the world, right? Unless they’re 13 or 14. That’s wrong, because these kids never get a glimpse of a normal life. Get a job at McDonald’s or Burger King. Well, maybe not Burger King….



“Work sucks, y’know? Some of the whores do it just for the money. They’re not hooked on drugs or anything. Why should you work in a factory all week and slave away to make $400, when you can make that in one night on the street?”



Bobby pulls a bunch of condoms out of his pocket and holds them up like a bouquet of flowers. “Me, I’m always doing safe sex. I always got five condoms in my pocket. I give ’em out to hustlers on the street, I really practice that. But some of them are too doped up, they don’t care. Some of them are already sick, and they might look good, so you just don’t know. Pretty scary. I don’t think it’s professional to work if you’re sick.”



Tricks sometimes offer Bobby extra money for the chance to bareback. Bobby shakes his head.



“I just punch them in the head and take their money. What a thing to want! If someone says that to you, you know there’s something not right there. Alarms go off in your head. I been lucky, I never got nothing. I screwed a lot of girls and boys and I never got nothing. Not even crabs. My mom says I got more luck than brains, eh? Probably true.



“But your luck is bound to run out sooner or later. Time to quit this, go back to school, get a job,” he says. “Around here, at first you’re the new guy, the new face in a new town, and everybody wants you. But then, you’ve been around for awhile…. When I first hit the scene, I was the fucking flavour of the month.”



A couple of passing businessmen look Bobby up and down. “In high school, I was partying a lot and these guys were hitting the books. Now they got careers and jobs and shit. They’re architects, doctors, lawyers – and we’re the fuck-ups. We’re working for them now, eh?”



“Growing up I wanted to be a fireman. Can’t do it now, criminal record. Tried joining the military. Can’t do that, criminal record. It’s got drugs on it; they don’t trust me with a gun on account of the shit I put in my body before. I might have a flashback or something; shoot the sarge…



“I’m trying to retire,” Bobby tells me. “That’s what I say. But if the price is right, I’d probably do it.”



Suddenly Bobby grabs me by the arm and laughs. “This is the second time I did an interview in my life, eh? I did one before on car thieves. Pretty interesting. But we stole the guy’s recorder after we were done, and he never got the tape.”



I laugh, but I hold my tape recorder a little closer.



Bobby tells me he plans on returning to school in the fall, maybe for carpentry. “I’m good at building things,” he explains. He wants to get off welfare and find a legitimate job. Most of all, he wants to get off crack, and stay clean. He hasn’t done a hit in a couple of weeks now, and he’s feeling good. I say my good-byes and thank Bobby for the interview. I haven’t seen him since.



A couple of nights later I spot the skinny kid, Charlie, still swimming in his clothes. As I pass him, he asks me for money. He’s so high that he doesn’t remember who I am. I give him a few bucks and head for home.