"Be careful who you trust. Even the devil was once an angel."
Proverb


While hanging out with Liz, and then later with Raven, I became more and more involved in buying and selling real estate online. Making web pages for each property was a tedious, time consuming task that required a lot of concentration, because if you accidentally type the wrong tax map number, you're buying or selling the wrong property.

I placed a job ad online to find someone who could help me out with making these real estate web pages. Alice was one of the people who applied for the job. She was 24 and almost as petite as Liz and she also had long dark hair. She looked a bit like a tiny version of Angelina Jolie.

She had been the personal assistant of a real estate broker in the past. So she had some experience in this field. Perfect! However, since I do things my own way, I was going to have to explain quite a lot of stuff to her. It was a steep learning curve. But she was very smart and a quick learner.

I was buying and selling real estate like a realtor, without actually having a realtor's licence. You don't need one when you own the properties you buy and sell. You only need a license if you sell someone else's property.

And I did my own closings, without hiring a lawyer. Normally people hire a lawyer to prepare the new deed. I did all the paperwork myself, because when I used to work at the newspaper in Brooklyn, I had seen that lawyers really just use the same template over and over again and then charge an arm and a leg for nothing. I saved about $1000 in legal fees every time I sold a property and prepared the deed myself.

So Alice had to learn how to be a web programmer, a graphic designer, a realtor, and a lawyer. And she pulled it off.

Then, after a few weeks, I started to notice that she had a hard time concentrating. Suddenly she made a lot of mistakes or just stared at the screen and couldn't remember the next step.

By now we had spent so much time together that we were getting pretty close. We started having sex. Liz had been gone for a few months, and I really wasn't all that interested in Raven the airheaded wannabe porn star. Especially not after Alice and I started getting intimate.

More and more, I got the feeling that Alice was hiding something from me. But I wasn't sure if I was just being paranoid. Who could blame me for being paranoid, after the crap I had been through with the last few girls I met? Within just a few months, I had sex with more girls than during my whole life before my divorce. And during those months I learned more about women, and how deceitful and manipulative they could be, than other people learn during an entire lifetime.

I asked Alice if she was hiding something from me. She said no. It was hard to imagine that anything could be wrong when she looked at me with her beautiful eyes and gave me that pretty smile of hers. And she had such a beautiful, carefree laugh. And her laugh came so easily. Sometimes all it took was to say a word in a funny voice or to give her a silly look, and she'd just crack up. She was just the sweetest girl. I loved being around her. Just being in the same room with her made me happy.

One day we were cuddled up under a blanket on the couch in the TV room, watching Wall-E. We were naked and we weren't really paying attention to the movie. She was about to give me a blowjob. She told me that I could cum in her mouth if I wanted to. She had given me blowjobs before, but never until I came. We always ended up having intercourse. I asked her if she swallowed. She replied, "Generally I don't."

Generally? Wait, what did she mean by generally? That sounded to me like she gave blowjobs so often, to so many different people, she had general rules about her blowjob performance, and exceptions to those rules. That sounded like there was a whole lot of blowing going on. Someone who only gives blowjobs to her boyfriend, wouldn't use the word "generally" in that context.

Barely noticable gestures, secret winks, knowing looks, or the inflection of a single word, overlooked by most people, stand out to me. Sometimes I can extrapolate an entire page worth of information from just one look or one word.

For example, imagine you overhear a conversation between two people, and one of them says to the other: "We never talk anymore."

At face value, it's simply a statement that two people aren't talking. But when you really think about that sentence, there is a lot more to it. To me it sounds like those two people used to talk a lot more in the past, because they used to spend a lot of time together. And then something happened, and they grew apart. So they probably used to be in a relationship, the relationship went sour, they split up, and the person saying that sentence feels sad about the fact that things didn't work out between them. And the person who said that sentence misses the other person, because he/she still has feelings for the other person.

I guess women call the ability to read between the lines "female intution." I think women are right, a lot of men are ignorant bores, who don't pick up on cues and they need to be hit over the head with a hammer to get a clue. But my intuition was always triggered by minute details. I think I have always been very perceptive, especially when I'm trying to find out something. Maybe because information gathering, and paying attention to the smallest clues, was an important part of being a hacker.

Alice's use of the word "generally" in the context of a blowjob made me think that she was a hooker. And suddenly the fact that she had a hard time concentrating lately made me think that she was on drugs. Suddenly I had the feeling that my sweet, innocent, lovable Alice was a drug addicted hooker just like that girl Christiane F in the book Zoo Station, with everything that entails: abuse during childhood, abandonment, being mistreated by guys, feeling all alone in the world, etc. All that popped in my head, because she used the word "generally."

But I couldn't just ask her, "Hey, sweetie, are you a crackwhore?" That wouldn't go over too well. What if I was wrong? She would be so insulted, she'd probably never talk to me again.

Now my senses were on high alert, and I was looking for any tiny clue that would prove that my theory was right. I looked at her arms, to see if I could find any track marks from shooting up. I couldn't. Well, I really didn't even know what track marks are supposed to look like. I had never seen any before. I could probably stare right at them and not even know that they are the track marks of a heroin addict.

Then I noticed that Alice had a bunch of tiny dots on the back of her hands. I had never seen or heard about that before. Seeing those dots didn't ring a bell. I figured, well, they kinda look like needle marks, but why would they be on the back of her hands, and not on her arms? I had no idea at that time that long time heroin addicts have a hard time shooting up in the veins in their arms, because their veins collapse. So eventually they have to shoot up in the back of their hands, their legs, feet, neck or even their forehead.

I held Alice's hands in my hands, to get a better look.

"What are you doing?" she asked.

"What are these dots?" I asked.

"Nothing."

"Are those needle marks?"

She started to laugh nervously: "Haha, no of course not. Why would I have needle marks on my hands?"

It was getting awkward. She pulled her hands away and changed the topic. I was sure I was right, but I still didn't want to make any false accusations, and destroy whatever relationship we had at this point. But from that moment on, that's all I could think about.

I flew to Fort Myers a few days later, to buy another property at a real estate auction.

I hadn't hacked in years. I had told myself I was never going to do that again, because once I started doing that again, I knew I would want to do it just one more day, one more day. There is always something else you're dying to find out about someone.

If you could press a big red button and find out every little secret about your significant other, would you? Oh stop denying it, you know you would.

Wouldn't you love to be able to read people's minds? Of course you would. Everybody would. Hacking is a little bit like that, because you can find out what people are hiding in the back of their heads.

So while I was staying at a hotel in Naples, Florida, I started to hack into Alice's medical records. Within a few minutes I found out that she had three abortions, that she had been in drug rehab for her heroin addiction, that she had overdosed on crack several times and almost died, and that she had to be resuscitated in the hospital. And that she had applied to be a surrogate mother and carry someone else's baby to term, to make some money, but that she had been rejected because of her medical history.

I couldn't say that I was surprised, but I was speechless anyway. Alice was such a sweet girl. She had an amazing personality and such an adorable, innocent little girl laugh. How could that girl be a heroin addicted hooker?

I texted her and told her I knew about her past. She texted me back and acted like I was full of shit. So I told her what I had just found out. She was shocked that I had found that information about her and told me that she was really mad at me, because supposedly she had planned to tell me the truth about her past as soon as I got back from Florida, but by finding it out on my own, I ruined everything.

Yeah, right. How convenient. When I asked her if she was hiding anything, she said no. When I asked her about her track marks, she denied everything. But now that I found out the truth on my own, she suddenly claimed that as soon as I was gonna come back from Florida in a few days, she was going to tell me everything. Bullshit.

When I got back home a few days later, she came over and we had a talk. She told me that she had been on heroin for about seven years, ever since she was a teenager.

Her father had left them. Her mother was so abusive, she had broken Alice's collar bone during one of her severe beatings. Then her mother started dating other guys and was way more interested in them than Alice. Her mother shipped Alice off to her grandmother in Tennessee, to be raised there. But after Alice got used to living with her grandma and got very close with her, her mother got jealous and wanted Alice to come back. Her mother ripped her out of the environment she had finally learned to call home.

Things didn't get any better when she was back in New York with her mother. Whenever her mother and one of her guy friends wanted to be alone, they would kick Alice out into the streets. Sometimes in the middle of the night. If she didn't want to leave, they hit her. Alice felt abandoned and alone. She wanted to kill herself, and became a cutter. Then she turned to drugs.

She had smoked crack for a while, but overdosed a few times and had to be rushed to the hospital. She was able to stop smoking crack, but continued to do heroin.

She really used to work in a real estate office, but lost her job when they found out she was addicted to drugs. Drugs cost a lot of money. The only way for a girl to come up with that much money on a daily basis is to sell her body. She was so ashamed of the things she used to do for drugs.

She told me that when she first started doing it, some guy had hired her for his escort company. He promised her she wouldn't have to have sex with anyone, and that all these guys just wanted to hang out with her, or watch her strip. Of course that was a lie.

She found out pretty quickly that these guys wanted more from her than just watch her dance. She started giving them handjobs. That's all she was willing to do. She was so disgusted with herself, that it made her use even more drugs, to get through each day.

Her wrist started hurting from jerking off all these guys every day, so she decided that it was quicker and easier to just give in to what they really wanted her to do. She just didn't have the strength to fight it anymore, and she ended up just letting them have sex with her. It didn't really make much of a difference anymore at this point. Her self-respect was completely gone. But the only way she was able to get through having sex with all these guys day after day was by doing heroin before she walked into their hotel room, and then do heroin again afterwards to forget what she had just done.

She had been raped, beaten and abused by these guys. Finally she was so miserable with her life that she tried to get clean and went to rehab. All her so-called boyfriends up until then had been black or latin dope boys who hit her, abused her physically, sexually and emotionally. They all pimped her out. One of them even made her go trick on her birthday.

Eventually she met this man while escorting, who told her that he really cared about her. He was white, like most of her "clients." He convinced her to get clean. Everything seemed great, until she got out of rehab and moved in with him, and he turned out to be even more abusive than those dope boys she had dated earlier.

He raped and beat her when she didn't do exactly what he said. He always demanded that she was naked in the house, even when she cooked or cleaned. That made her feel very vulnerable. And if she didn't obey him, he would beat her while she was naked. And then, when she was cowering on the floor, he would force her to give him a blowjob. She was his sex slave. One time he beat her so badly, he threw her through a sheetrock wall. Then he threw her out of the house, in the middle of winter, naked, while there was snow outside.

She relapsed a few weeks after getting out of rehab, while still living with her abusive "boyfriend." Who could blame her?

Then she went to rehab a second time. After she got out of rehab, she moved in with someone else and tried to turn her life around.

She was trying to find legitimate work, and that's how she had found my job ad. She said the reason why she hadn't told me all that stuff earlier was because she didn't want me to look at her as the person she used to be, but as the person she is trying to be now.

Unfortunately the guy she had moved in with, after her second rehab, was one of her ex-boyfriends. Some latin dope boy who called himself Curly. She didn't know where else to go.

She didn't tell me about moving in with him though. I didn't find out about that until a few months later. But of course he was the reason why she had relapsed yet again, and why she couldn't concentrate at work anymore after a few weeks of being so good at making real estate web pages for me.

Now that I knew the truth about her, I had to figure out how I was going to deal with it. Her drug habit was getting worse again, and at this point she was getting useless, when it came to doing work on the computer for me.

Should I just tell her to leave and lose my number? I couldn't do that. I felt so bad for her. She was such a sweetheart, and she had such a hard life. Who wouldn't end up on drugs if they were in her shoes? She was not a bad person. She was a victim, just like Christiane F in Zoo Station.

I used to think there really was no reason to outlaw prostitution. I thought, if girls want to do that kind of stuff, why should I care? But after Alice told me the reality of what it's like to be a hooker, and why virtually all hookers turn to drugs, and why almost all drug addicted girls become hookers, it was pretty clear to me that she and the other girls who did this stuff were absolutely miserable. They did not enjoy having to do this shit at all. It ate at them. It traumatized them. It destroyed their self-respect. No matter how much a hooker pretends she doesn't mind what she's doing, deep down she feels like she's the scum of the earth, because that's how men make her feel.

When I read Zoo Station as a kid, I told myself, if I ever met someone like Christiane F, I would be nice to her and treat her with kindness and respect.

When I tried to imagine what deep dark secret Donna could possibly be hiding from me, I told myself that even if she had been a prostitute in the past, I would still love her and be with her.

Now I really was faced with that very situation, with a girl who really had been through all that stuff. I gave Alice a hug and a kiss and told her I was glad she told me the truth. She started to tear up.

She still came over all the time after that. I didn't ask her to do any more work on the computer though, but I kept paying her anyway. I really cared about her at this point, and I couldn't bear the thought of her going back to having sex with all these other guys. I'd rather just give her money than have her go back to escorting. I didn't realize at the time that I was her enabler. I was making it easy for her to be an addict. So why would she ever stop?

We started doing the kind of things I used to do with Liz: we went out to eat, got massages at fancy spas, visited museums and shows like Cirque du Soleil and Wicked in Manhattan, and so on. Now that I knew she needed heroin to get through the day, she didn't hide it from me anymore. It became normal to me that she shot up two or three times a day. To me it was almost like she was a diabetic. They need injections of insulin to feel ok. Was heroin really all that different? Well, yeah, of course it was. I was really just deluding myself.

Eventually I kept asking her to go back to rehab, but she didn't want to. Of course not. Why would she? She wanted to have her cake and eat it, too. She wanted to have a nice life AND do drugs. Normally you can only have one or the other, but I was making her life as addict easier and more comfortable than it had ever been.

She told me that she had tried rehab twice, and failed twice, so it was pointless. She said: "I'll quit when I'm ready."

"So, when is that gonna be?" I asked.

"I don't know. But not today."

That was her standard answer. I learned later that that's what all addicts say: "Yeah, I'll quit eventually. But not today." It's never today. That's the nature of addiction. The rational part of your brain knows that you should quit, and you really want to quit at some point, but not today. "Today I want to get high."

It doesn't even matter what you're addicted to. The principle is always the same. Even when it comes to food: "I know I need to stop eating candy and junk food. I know I should go on a diet. But not today. Maybe tomorrow. So I might as well enjoy eating candy and junk food today. A lot."

And when people tell themselves they will start a diet tomorrow, they feel it's ok to binge one last time today. Might as well make the most of today! So they stuff their face with way more food than they would normally eat, because the good times will be over tomorrow.

But then, when tomorrow comes, you really don't feel like starting the diet yet, so you allow yourself one more day of binging. And another one. And another one. Sometimes the thought of going on a diet soon actually makes you eat more.

And then there's the what-the-hell effect:

"I was doing so good on my diet, but then I screwed up today and ate a donut. What the hell, since today is already a lost day anyway, I might as well stuff my face with the whole box of donuts."

Drug addicts think the same way: They know they shouldn't do drugs. And if they have been clean for a while and screw up even just once, they feel now they might as well do a bunch more, until they go back to being clean. But of course once they start using again, the thought of getting clean is quickly forgotten.

Don't ever think you're better than a drug addict, because your brain works the same as theirs. You have the same circuits. And drugs would affect your brain in the same way it affects theirs. The same thought process that makes them screw up over and over again would make you screw up over and over as well, if you were in their shoes. You probably already are doing it, just not with heroin or crack, but with food or cigarettes, or something else you shouldn't be doing. Like hacking.

When you push someone's head under water for 5 minutes, they will drown. It doesn't matter if the person is a sinner or a saint. It's just a natural process. If their head is under water, the lack of oxygen will make them drown. That rule applies to everyone, good or bad, equally. It doesn't matter if the drowning person has strong moral fiber.

And it doesn't matter if you're a good or a bad person, once you become addicted to drugs. What happens next is inevitable. It's a natural process that happens in everyone's brain, once the drugs take over. So don't ever fool yourself into thinking that only weak or bad people get addicted.

Anyway, I went all out to show Alice how nice life could be if she were sober. I thought if I give her an incentive that's good enough, she will want to get clean and stay clean. So I asked her to come to Hawaii with me for ten days.

She was scared at first. Drug addicts don't like to go too far away from the place where they get their drugs. It's like they're mentally chained to it. Flying half way around the world, thousands of miles away from her dope boy, was a terrifying idea.

OSense O-Sense