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一名按摩女的死亡(上):她们的美国梦

更新时间:2018-10-13 11:33:27 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The Case of Jane Doe Ponytail
一名按摩女的死亡(上):她们的美国梦

A woman begins to fall. With her long dark hair in a ponytail and her black-and-red scarf loose around her neck, she is plummeting from a fourth-floor balcony, through the neon-charged November night.

一个女人开始下坠。她长长的黑发扎成马尾,脖子上披着黑红相间的围巾,她正在从四楼的阳台坠下,穿过11月霓虹灯闪烁的夜晚。

Below awaits 40th Road, a gritty street of commerce in the Flushing section of Queens. Chinese restaurants and narrow storefronts, and dim stairwells leading to private transactions. Strivers and dawdlers and passers-by, all oblivious to what is transpiring above.

下面等着她的是40路,这是皇后区法拉盛一条环境粗陋的商业街。四周是中餐厅、狭促的店面,以及通往私下交易地点的昏暗楼梯间。为生活打拼的人、无所事事的人和路人,都没注意头顶正在发生的事情。

But before the pavement ends the woman’s descent, a few feet from a restaurant’s glittering Christmas tree, imagine her fall suddenly suspended — her body freeze-framed in midair. If only for a moment.

距离一家餐厅闪烁的圣诞树几英尺开外,人行道即将为这名女子的下坠画上句点,但在此之前,想像一下她的坠落突然暂停——她的身体停留在半空。哪怕只有片刻。

She toils in the netherworld of Flushing massage parlors, where she goes by the street name of SiSi. A youthful 38, she is in a platonic marriage to a man more than twice her age; harbors fading hopes of American citizenship; and is fond of Heineken, Red Bull and the rotisserie chicken at a Colombian place on Kissena Boulevard. Among her competitors, she is considered territorial and tireless.

她在法拉盛的地下按摩院打工,她在那里的名字叫西西。38岁的她显得很年轻,跟一个年龄大她两倍的男人维持着有名无实的婚姻;想成为美国公民,希望却越来越渺茫;喜欢喝喜力、红牛,还喜欢吃凯辛娜大道一家哥伦比亚餐厅的烤鸡。在竞争者看来,她的地盘意识很强,而且工作很拼。

It is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and SiSi is in a shabby building’s top-floor apartment, for which she pays her “boss” a hefty fee. She has returned from a market with provisions. She has tried calling her younger brother in China, but he is asleep. She has been on the phone with friends and clients, unaware that she is in the sights of a 10-member police team working vice.

这是感恩节后的周六,西西住在一栋破旧建筑的顶楼公寓,为此她向“老板”付了一大笔钱。她从市场买了不少吃的回来。她尝试给在中国的弟弟打电话,但他睡觉了。她一直在跟朋友和客户打电话,完全不知道自己已经被一支由10名警察组成的扫黄行动队盯上了。

She heads downstairs to stand at her building’s entrance, a necessity of her job. Soon she is leading a man back upstairs — an officer working undercover — as her closely held cellphone casts a glow about her face. Their awkward conversation in her apartment convinces him that SiSi has broken the law, just as it convinces SiSi that he is a cop. She pushes him out and closes the door, though not to the inevitable. She knows from experience what comes next:

她下楼站在门口,这是工作需要。没过一会儿,她就带着一名男子回到楼上——那是一名便衣警察;她手中紧紧抓住的手机给脸打上了一层光。在公寓里发生的尴尬对话,使得那名便衣相信西西违反了法律,而西西也明白了对方是警察。她把他推出去,关上了门,虽然已无必要。根据经验,她知道接下来会发生什么:

More police. Tromping through the dusky vestibule of her building, across the worn scarlet rug and up the 50 tiled steps. Past the Chinese sign that says if you’re looking for the driving school, you’re in the wrong place. Then right to her door.

会来更多的警察。穿过那栋布满灰尘的门厅,走过破旧的猩红色地毯,爬上50级瓷砖台阶。经过一个中文标牌,上面写着这里没有驾校,你找错了地方。然后,就到了她家门口。

The handcuffs. The hurried escort to a police vehicle. The humiliation. Again.

手铐。被匆忙带上警车。羞辱。再一次的羞辱。

SiSi watches the officers ascend on the video monitor she keeps near the door. Under the fixed gaze of one of those lucky cat figurines perched on a table, its paw raised in a wish of good fortune, she begins to pace.

从门旁边的监视器上,西西看到警察上楼。她开始踱步,桌子上一只举起爪子祈求好运的招财猫注视着她。

Now they are pounding on the door and shouting Police! Open up! SiSi rushes to the apartment’s north balcony, with its panoramic view of the street hustle below. Day and night, sun or sleet, this is where she and her sister competitors sing their plaintive song to passing men: Massage? Massage?

现在,他们正在砸门,大声喊着“警察!开门!”。西西冲到公寓朝北的阳台上,那里能看到楼下熙熙攘攘的街道全景。日日夜夜,晴天或雨雪天,这条街是她和抢生意的姐妹们冲着路过的男人唱响哀歌的地方:按摩吗?按摩吗?

On the narrow balcony, barely two feet deep, she keeps a broom, a bucket and a small blue stool. Up she steps — and now she is falling, plunging toward the hard tenth of a New York mile that is 40th Road.

在栏高只有2英尺(约合60厘米)的狭小阳台上,放着一把扫帚、一个桶和一个蓝色小凳子。她踩了上去——然后开始坠落,跌向楼下四分之一纽约英里(New York mile)、坚硬的纽约40路。

A tenth of a mile. Where Mandarin trumps English and a glance trumps the spoken word. Where sex is sold beside cloudy tanks of fish and crabs. Where seedy quarters controlled by local powers are rented to illicit massage operations, and the police make sporadic sweeps, and immigrant women are arrested again and again, and few in this city take notice.

四分之一英里。在那里,普通话比英语好用,匆匆一瞥胜过语言。在那里,性就在浑浊水箱里的鱼蟹旁边进行交易。在那里,乌烟瘴气的住所由地方势力控制,租给地下按摩院,警察不时进行扫荡,移民女子一次次被捕,这座城里没多少人注意到这些。

Gravity prevails.

重力占据上风。

The undercover officer, his job done, exits the building and turns right — at the very moment that the woman who has just offered him intimacy for money hits the pavement at his feet. A woman known along 40th Road as SiSi, but whose given name was Song Yang.

卧底警察的工作完成了,他走出大楼右转——就在那一刻,那名刚刚向他提出用亲密换取金钱的女子击中路面,落在他的脚边。一个以“西西”为名混迹在40路的女子,她的真名其实叫宋扬。

In the Google Maps of the mind, pull back from this tiny street to take in the borough’s 178-square-mile sprawl: a pulsating hive of parkways and boulevards, apartment buildings and single-family homes, two airports, a major league ballpark, remnants of a world’s fair — all bracketed north and south by ocean, river and bay.

在脑海中的谷歌地图上,从这条小街拉回,进入一个面积为178平方英里(约合461平方公里)庞大、忙碌区域:林荫大道和马路、公寓大楼和独栋房屋、两座机场、一个大联盟棒球场、世界博览会的残迹——它南北两边被大海、河流和海湾包围。

A striving borough of comity and contradiction, Queens is both the birthplace of the American president — elected in part on an anti-immigration platform — and home to 2.3 million people, nearly half of them foreign-born. With hundreds of languages spoken here, it may be the most linguistically diverse place on earth.

作为一个友善与对立兼而有之的矛盾之地,皇后区既是那位美国总统的出生地——他当选的原因部分是因为一个反移民平台——也是230万人的家,其中近半数人口都是在外国出生的。这里的人们使用数以百计的各种语言,皇后区恐怕是全球最具语言多样性的地方了。

Every day, airplanes alight at Kennedy International Airport in southeast Queens, their passengers including many immigrants who join the borough’s anonymous, aspirational ranks. They chop the vegetables, wash the dishes, clean the toilets, mow the lawns, drive the hired cars.

每一天,从位于皇后区东南部的肯尼迪国际机场降落的班机上下来的乘客中,有许多是加入这一区隐姓埋名、充满志向的移民。他们切菜、洗碗、清洁厕所、修剪草坪、开出租车。

And some wind up in the commercial sex trade. Making money for a pimp in an airport motel in South Jamaica. Waiting for the next client in a dingy building along Roosevelt Avenue in Corona. Or, like Song Yang, standing on a Flushing street on a cold November night, hiding behind her cute nickname, calling out to men. Playing her role in a shadow economy that benefited others through the exorbitant rent she paid.

一些人最后操起了皮肉生意。在南牙买加的一家机场汽车旅馆为皮条客赚钱。在可乐娜罗斯福大街昏暗肮脏的大楼里等待下一个客人。或者,像宋扬一样,在11月一个寒冷的夜晚站在法拉盛的街头,用可爱的昵称隐藏身份,招呼着男人,在影子经济中扮演着自己的角色,通过她支付的高昂房租使其他人获利。

“I hear she was No. 1: young, pretty, and her service was great,” said Michael Chu, a travel agent and community advocate who worked across the street from her on 40th Road. “People just lined up for her.”

“我听说她是头牌:年轻、漂亮,而且服务很棒,”旅行社职员、社区倡导者朱立创(Michael Chu)说,他就在40路她家对面上班。“人们排着队等她。”

For years now, Flushing has been an ever-replenishing repository of immigrants entangled in the underground sex economy. The commonplace raids of illicit massage operations across the country routinely lead to the arrests of women with Flushing addresses.

多年来,法拉盛一直源源不绝地提供着卷入地下性经济的移民。全国各地对非法按摩生意的突击行动屡见不鲜,往往被捕的女性都有一个法拉盛的地址。

These parlors disappear and reappear with regularity, undermining the police crackdowns often prompted by neighborhood complaints. The industry’s opaqueness adds to the confusion. Some parlors have legitimate state licenses; some legitimate operations have masseuses making sex-for-money side deals; and some are illegally unlicensed, with no interest at all in addressing someone’s sore neck.

这些按摩院定期消失又再出现,破坏了警方打击行动,这些行动往往是在接到附近居民的投诉后进行的。这个行业的不透明也增加了人们的困惑。一些按摩院拥有合法的州执照;一些合法按摩院中存在女按摩师私下用肉体换取金钱;还有一些是非法运营、没有执照的,这些地方根本对缓解脖子酸痛没有兴趣。

Emotionally manipulated by their bosses, ashamed of what they do, afraid to trust, the women rarely confide in the police or even their lawyers about their circumstances. They might be supporting a family in China, or paying back a smuggling debt, or choosing this more profitable endeavor over, say, restaurant work. No matter the backstory, the police say their collective silence further complicates law-enforcement efforts to build racketeering and trafficking cases against the operators.

这些女性在情感上受到老板操控,对自己的所做作为感到羞愧,不敢信任他人,鲜少对警方,甚至是自己的律师坦白自身情况。她们可能是为了养活在中国的家人,或是为了还偷渡欠的债,又或是为了不想做餐馆一类的辛苦工作,而选择了这种赚钱更多的方式。无论情况如何,警察表示,她们一致保持沉默,这种做法进一步导致执法部门调查这些运营者敲诈勒索、贩运人口案件的努力变得复杂起来。

But society has become increasingly aware of the complexities and inequities of the commercial sex economy, including a criminal justice system that has tended to target the exploited — often immigrant women and members of the transgender community — while rarely holding accountable their customers and traffickers.

但社会越来越了解商业性交易经济中存在的复杂情况和不平等,包括往往将被剥削者作为打击目标的刑事司法体系——这些人通常是移民妇女和跨性别群体成员,而很少让客人和人贩子负责。

In early 2017, New York’s police commissioner, James O’Neill, announced at a news conference that he would redirect his vice division to address prostitution and sex trafficking. This would include training intended to alter what he called the “law-enforcement mind-set.”

2017年初,纽约警察局长詹姆斯·奥尼尔(James O'Neill)在一个新闻发布会上宣布,他将把自己手下刑事案部门的调查方向转至解决卖淫和性交易问题。其中将包括旨在改变他所说的“执法思维模式”的培训。

“We’ve already switched much of our emphasis away from prostitutes, and begun focusing much more on the pimps who sell them and the johns who pay for their services,” he said. “Like all crime, we can’t just arrest our way out of this problem.”

“我们已经将大部分的重点从卖淫女性身上转移,并且开始更多着重于贩卖她们的皮条客,和购买性服务的嫖客,”他说。“和所有犯罪一样,我们不能只是用逮捕来解决这个问题。”

Since the establishment of this new “mind-set,” the police have continued to struggle at building criminal cases against the operators. But prostitution arrests in New York City have dropped more than 20 percent in the last year, while the arrests of customers have spiked.

自建立这种新“思维模式”以来,警方仍在继续努力增加对经营者展开刑事调查。不过,纽约市卖淫被捕人数去年下降超过20%,同时被抓的嫖客人数出现激增。

Still, this change in attitude at Police Headquarters in Lower Manhattan had not necessarily crossed the East River to benefit an immigrant now lying on her side, unable to speak, gazing up at a plainclothes officer trying to calm her until an ambulance arrived. Beside a spent cigarette, her blood pooled on the pavement she had so often worked.

然而,曼哈顿下城警察总部态度的转变却未必能越过东河,造福一名移民。现在她侧躺着,不能说话、抬头盯着试图在救护车到来前安抚她的便衣警察。她的鲜血在自己经常工作的人行道上流成一滩,旁边只有一个烟蒂。

By morning, Song Yang would be dead, shattering a tight Chinese family that would never accept the police version of events. Her death would also come to reflect the seemingly intractable nature of policing the sex industry, and cast an unwelcome light on the furtive but ubiquitous business of illicit massage parlors.

宋扬将于次日早上死去,令一个关系紧密的家庭支离破碎,他们永远也不会接受警方对事发过程的说法。她的死亡也反映着整顿性产业似乎异常棘手的本质,为鬼祟却普遍存在的非法按摩生意带来他们不想要的关注。

In the epic of Queens, this stretch of 40th Road is little more than an asphalt hyphen. But along its short expanse exist worlds within worlds within worlds.

在皇后区的史诗中,40路的这一段只是一个沥青连字符。但在它短短的空间中,存在着层层世界。

Baba, I want to go, I want to go.

爸爸,我要去,我要去。

I want to go to work, the little girl would say to her parents. I want to pick ginseng. She was a born worker, their Song Yang.

我想去干活,小女孩这么对父母说。我想去采人参。她生来就是个能干的人,他们的宋扬。

She and her younger brother lived with their parents in a remote village in China’s northeastern province of Liaoning, where they grew crops on land allotted to them by their local village committee. Little Song Yang was especially efficient at harvesting the family’s ginseng crop, her mother, Shi Yumei, recalled. “The more her father praised her, the harder she worked.”

她和弟弟与父母一起住在中国东北辽宁省一个偏远的村子里,一家人在村委会分配的地里种植作物。母亲石玉梅回忆道,收割家里种下的人参时,小宋扬尤其能干。“她爸爸越是夸她,她就干得更起劲。”

Her father, Song Xigui, eventually found moderate success selling construction-grade sand he bulldozed from a nearby river, and by the 1990s the family had replaced its thatched-roof home with a modern brick house that included two “kang” bed-stoves, heated slate platforms that provided warmth during the severe winters. Still, they continued to work the crops, with Song Yang often responsible for running home to light the stove, cut the vegetables and mind her brother.

她的父亲宋喜贵用推土机从附近河里推出建筑用沙子出售,最终生意还算成功,到了1990年代,这家人已经用一个现代砖砌宅子取代了原来的茅草屋,新宅子有两个炕,即床下有炉子,可以在严冬中加热石床板进行供暖的床铺。宋扬经常要负责跑回家为炉子点火、切菜和照料弟弟。

As she grew older, she began to collect specimens of the enchanting butterflies zigzagging down by the river, and became meticulous in preserving their fragile iridescence. When friends came for boisterous sleepovers, they would marvel at her book of butterflies, and take turns asking to keep one.

随着年龄渐长,她开始沿着蜿蜒曲折的河边收集迷人的蝴蝶标本,小心翼翼地保存下它们脆弱易损、五彩斑斓的样子。当朋友们来家里过夜打打闹闹时,都会对她一本子的蝴蝶标本感到惊叹,挨个问她能不能给自己一个。

Butterflies became Song Yang’s gift.

蝴蝶成了宋扬的礼物。

At 19, she moved 2,200 miles south to Saipan, the largest of the Northern Mariana Islands, an American commonwealth, where she became one of the thousands of young Chinese women who labored in sweatshops to produce apparel bearing the guilt-absolving label “Made in America.” Sharing a room with five other women in a dormitory, she covered her bottom-bunk bed with a silken cloth curtain, and adorned her small rectangle of privacy with family photographs.

19岁那年,她搬到了家乡以南2200英里外的塞班岛,那是美国自由邦北马里亚纳群岛中的最大岛。在那里,她成为了在血汗工厂当苦力的数以千计中国年轻女性中的一员。她们生产的衣服带有让人免除负罪感的“美国制造”标签。宋扬与其他五名女性住在一间宿舍里,她睡在下铺,用一块丝质布窗帘作床单,用家庭照片装饰着自己小小的一方天地。

Saipan’s garment industry was shrinking by the early 2000s, and Song Yang left to become a waitress on the island. She married a worldly divorced father named Chau Chuong, an American citizen who had worked for years in New York’s restaurant grind. He was so much older — 67 to her 27 — that her family was slow to accept him.

塞班服装行业的规模在2000年代早期开始缩减,宋扬于是离开了这个行业,成为了岛上的一名服务生。她嫁给了一个名叫周章的美国公民,这个离过婚、有孩子的男人深谙世事,在纽约的餐馆业摸爬滚打多年。他年纪要大得多——67岁,她27岁——因此她的家人过了长时间才接纳他。

In 2006, the couple opened a small Vietnamese restaurant on Saipan that became so successful they opened a second place, with 150 tables. He worked the kitchen and she worked the front. “She attracted a lot of friendly customers,” her husband recalled.

2006年,这对夫妇在塞班开了一家小小的越南餐厅,生意很好,于是他们又开了第二家有150张桌的店。他负责厨房,她则负责大堂。“她吸引了不少友好的顾客,”她丈夫回忆道。

Her brother, Song Hai, joined her after his high school graduation, eventually opening a henna tattoo parlor with a friend. When their mother came for a visit, she posed for photographs beside her daughter’s well-stocked restaurant bar, her smile radiating pride.

她的弟弟宋海高中毕业后也和她一样去了塞班,最终和朋友一起开了一家指甲花纹身店。当他们的母亲前去探望时,她站在女儿备货充足的餐厅吧台旁拍了照,笑容中透着骄傲。

“We had a real sense of accomplishment,” Mr. Song said in Mandarin.

“我们特别有成就感,”宋海用普通话说。

But a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, disrupting a main source of tourism to Saipan, as well as the fortunes of Song Yang and Song Hai. The restaurants were sold, the tattoo parlor shuttered.

但一场灾难性地震和海啸2011年袭击日本,导致前往塞班岛一股主要游客来源中断,也断了宋扬和宋海的财路。几家餐厅被卖掉了,纹身店也关了。

Photographs from her brother’s wedding in March 2013 capture the last happy times that Song Yang spent with her family. Here she is back home, posing with the bride and groom. Here she is, sharing a restaurant meal with the growing family. Here she is.

2013年3月,她弟弟的婚礼照片捕捉下了宋扬与家人最后度过的一段快乐时光。此时的她回到了家,与一对新人合照。此时的她与越来越大的家族一起在餐厅吃饭。此时的她在这里。

A month later, Song Yang joined the hundreds who arrive daily at Kennedy Airport, direct from China. Straight to Flushing she went, like so many before, where she hoped that she and her husband would succeed again as restaurateurs.

一个月后,宋扬成为每天从中国直飞肯尼迪机场的成百上千人中的一个。像以前的许多人一样,她径直去了法拉盛,希望在那里能和丈夫一道作为餐饮界从业者再次获得成功。

But there is the dream of Flushing, and the reality.

但法拉盛梦是一回事,现实又是另一回事。

With her husband now too old for kitchen work, Song Yang became their sole source of income. A waitressing job failed, as did a short-lived Chinese fast-food venture on Main Street. So she became a home health aide, and took a massage-therapy course in the hope of earning additional money. Then a friend told her of a more lucrative opportunity, to be found along 40th Road.

由于丈夫上了年纪,无法从事后厨工作,宋扬成为了家里唯一的收入来源。一份服务生的工作没能做下来,在缅街上一个没存活多久的中国菜快餐生意也失败了。于是她成了一名家庭护工,开始上按摩疗程方面的课程,希望能赚些外快。然后一位朋友告诉了她一个赚钱更多的机会,就在40路上。

The understanding of her parents and brother was that Song Yang worked in reflexology. They knew that gifts arrived from New York. That she called regularly for video chats while sitting in a black office chair, sometimes eating a bowl of porridge. That when her nephew was born, she proudly announced on social media that she had become an aunt — a “gugu.”

她父母和弟弟以为宋扬干的是反射理疗。他们知道有礼物从纽约寄来。他们知道她坐在黑色办公椅上,定期和他们视频聊天,有时候还喝着一碗粥。他们知道当她的外甥出生时,她骄傲地在社交媒体上宣布自己做了“姑姑”。

That she seemed happy, mostly. But there was that time when she refused to video-chat for several days, after which she explained that a man had beaten her about the face. And that other time, when she revealed that a man — a law-enforcement officer, she said — had held a gun to her head while forcing her to perform oral sex. Family members reassured her: She had no choice.

他们知道她大多数时候看上去很开心。但也有时候,她好几天都拒绝视频通话,之后她会解释说有男人打了她的脸。还有一次,当她透露一名男子——她说是警察——用枪指着她的头,让她给他口交。家人们不断安慰她:她别无选择。

Song Yang told her family last fall that she had booked a flight to China for December, and was looking forward to meeting her nephew for the first time. So far she had connected with him only online, through the popular WeChat app, where her avatar sometimes featured a butterfly.

去年秋天,宋扬告诉她的家人自己买好了12月回中国的机票,自己很期待第一次见她的外甥。迄今为止,她只在网上用流行的微信和他互动过,她的微信头像有时候是一只蝴蝶。

What kind of present do you want Gugu to bring home? she would ask the child, her image beamed halfway around the world from some exotic place called Flushing.

你想让姑姑带什么礼物回来?她会这么问小外甥,她的样子从大半个世界以外一个叫法拉盛的地方传送了过来。

The thoroughfare known as 40th Road was Grove Street, once.

这条名为40路的街道曾经一度叫做“树林街”。

In the 19th century it had a volunteer firehouse, a nursery and residents with Irish surnames. Just in living memory, there was Harry Barlow’s auto garage, the mimeograph services of Case the Printer, an appliance store proud of its color Zenith television sets and, of course, the Old Roma restaurant — famous for its veal cutlets on linguine, and that yellow sponge cake with pineapple filling.

19世纪期间,这条街上有一座志愿消防站、一家托儿所,还有爱尔兰姓氏的居民。在世的人记得的事情包括:哈里·巴罗(Harry Barlow)的汽修厂、“印刷工凯斯”(Case the Printer)的油印服务,一家以出售“增你智”(Zenith)电视为傲的电器商店,当然了,还有老罗马餐厅——以其意大利小牛肉饼扁面和菠萝馅黄色海绵蛋糕而闻名。

It is all long gone, replaced by ginger duck rice casserole and a shaved ice treat called red bean baobing. The 40th Road of today is almost entirely Chinese, its restaurant signs often featuring no English at all — one more reminder that the only New York constant is change.

这些早已不复存在,被砂锅姜母鸭和一种叫红豆刨冰的甜品所取代。今天的40路几乎都是华人,沿街的餐馆标识往往一点英文都没有——提醒着你纽约唯一的不变就是变化。

The street’s 20 buildings, including Song Yang’s, are mostly three- and four-story structures from the 1980s and ’90s that evoke a utilitarian, Soviet-bloc drabness. Narrow and claustrophobic, they loom like set pieces for a film noir.

这条街的20幢楼,包括宋扬居住的那一幢,几乎全是1980或90年代的三、四层建筑,让人想起苏维埃国家那些实用建筑的单调乏味。逼仄且令人窒息,看上去像是一部黑色电影的布景。

The one-way street itself always feels like a wrong turn, an obstacle course of idling delivery trucks and construction equipment. One end elbows past a small playground; the other runs into the ever-clogged Main Street intersection, where plainclothes police officers can often be seen sitting in an unmarked vehicle in an attempt to deter quality-of-life crimes. Pickpocketing is so prevalent that a nearby grocery displays signs of a stick figure reaching into another stick figure’s handbag.

这条单行道本身总是让人觉得像是转错了弯,一路上障碍重重,到处都是运货卡车和建筑设备。路的一头环着一个小型游乐场;另一头通向时时刻刻都在堵车的缅街十字路口,人们往往能看到便衣警察坐在不带标识的车里,试图制止影响人们生活质量的犯罪行为。扒窃如此常见,以至于附近的一家杂货店展示着一个标牌,上面一个小人手伸入了另一个小人的包里。

Above, looming airliners grumble as they approach LaGuardia Airport, across Flushing Bay. Just behind 40th Road, Long Island Rail Road trains grind and whine along the raised tracks. Up and down the block, the earthy aromas of produce stands and restaurant waste commingle with the classical Chinese instrumental music emanating from a soup-dumpling restaurant.

头顶上,隐约可见的民航飞机轰鸣着飞向法拉盛湾对面的拉瓜迪亚机场。就在40路后面,长岛铁路的列车在高架铁轨上鸣着笛哐当前行。沿街上下,蔬果摊的泥土芬芳和餐馆垃圾,与一家饺子馆传出的中国古典器乐混杂在一起。

And here, beside the upturned fruit crates and the overloaded garbage bags, stand the women of the massage parlors. In their 40s and 50s, mostly, they check their cellphones, drag on untaxed Korean cigarettes bought in bulk, and chat, but with eyes scanning for unattached men lacking a law-enforcement vibe.

在这里,除了翻倒的水果木箱和塞得过满的垃圾袋以外,还站着按摩院的女人们。她们大多数年纪在四、五十岁。她们会查看手机、抽着批发来的韩国走私香烟聊天,但眼睛会扫着街上独自一人且没有执法人员气质的男人。

Massage?

按摩吗?

The offer is understood, if not explicit. If the man consents, he is led up the stairs of one of the dull buildings, where massage operations are often crammed amid barbershops, driving schools and employment agencies.

这个提议即便不算露骨,也是双方心知肚明的。如果男人同意,就会将他引上其中一座昏暗的楼房,在那里,按摩生意往往挤在理发店、驾校和职业介绍所中间。

Massage parlors offering sex are hardly a recent phenomenon, and business models vary. But the trade along 40th Road is especially audacious. The women stand on both sides of the street — five, 10, a dozen at a time — as ubiquitous as the delivery trucks. In the merciless heat and cold, they sweat and shiver on staked ground, prompting resentful neighborhood complaints about lost business and children exposed to the seamy daily spectacle.

提供性服务的按摩院算不上是新现象,商业模式也各有不同。但40路上的性交易尤其大胆。街道两边都站着这些女人——同时有5人、10人或十几人人——她们像送货卡车一样无处不在。在无情的酷暑寒冬中,她们站在打着立柱的地上流汗发抖,招致带着憎恶的居民投诉,抱怨她们让人们流失生意,让儿童暴露在每天上演的丑行中。

A common arrangement on 40th Road is one in which a “boss” rents an apartment or office from one of the building’s tenants, then provides space to women for a $20 cut of whatever they charge each client. The general expectation is that each woman will generate at least $100 a day for the boss.

40路上的一个共识是,一名“老板”从大楼租户那里租下一间公寓或办公室,然后为这些女子提供空间,无论她们从每位客人那里收多少钱,其中的20美元都会分给他们。人们普遍估计,每位女子每天至少能为老板带来100美元。

But the bosses provide no meaningful protection. The women are at the mercy of the street, where they have been robbed, beaten, raped, thrown down stairs. The surveillance cameras nearly always present are intended less for security, perhaps, than to provide the boss with a way to count the clients who walk through the door.

但老板们不会提供真正意义上的保护。这些女子的命运全靠这条街,在这里,她们被抢过、被打过、被强奸过,被从楼梯上扔下来过。几乎每次都有摄像头,但它们的用途可能并非是为了安保,而是为老板提供一个数清上门客人数量的方式。

Over several months, the women along 40th Road shared in Mandarin the stories of how they came to be standing here, offering sex to strangers. They use names like masks. Some have chosen Americanized names — Jenny, for example — while others have been rechristened by bosses with nicknames that sound like Lala, or Kiki, or Yoyo.

几个月里,40路上的女子用普通话相互讲述着她们来到这里站街、为陌生人提供性服务的缘由。她们用名字当遮掩身份的口罩。一些人选择了美国式的名字——例如“詹妮”——还有一些人由老板改名,叫“拉拉”、“琪琪”或“悠悠”之类。

They came from all over China, and from myriad backgrounds. One woman said she used to clean houses. Another said she was a former reporter who covered Chinese real estate. Several described the circumstances that left them in economic straits: a failed bus company, a bankrupt jade dealership, a gambling-addicted husband.

她们来自中国各处,背景各异。一名女子说,她之前做过保洁。另一名女子说她以前是一名记者,报道房地产方面的新闻。好几个人都描述了让她们陷入经济拮据的情况:巴士公司失败;玉石行破产;丈夫赌博上瘾。

One woman often positions herself near a standpipe at the corner of Main Street, so as to be the first to approach any man venturing west. She is in her 60s, small-framed and usually dressed in layers, with long hair dyed black. She said in a raspy voice that she was from the southeastern Chinese province of Jiangxi, and that she was trying to pay off a debt incurred by her adult son in a business deal gone wrong.

为了能第一个接近任何往西走的男人,常常有一个女人站在缅街街角处的立管附近。她60多岁,身材娇小,常常穿得里三层外三层,长发染成黑色。她用沙哑的声音说自己来自中国东南部江西省,并且说是为了还清自己已经成年的儿子生意失败带来的债务。

She had visited two job agencies on 40th Road, looking for work as a nanny, but nothing panned out. And now she was here, on the corner, where her half-joking refrain — “I’m too old” — did not seem to deter clients.

她去了40路上的两家职业中介所,想找一份保姆的工作,但都没能成功。于是现在她到了这里,站在街角。在这里,她常挂在嘴边、半开玩笑的“我太老了”似乎并不会吓跑客人。

Another woman, who gave her name as Xiao Li — or Little Li — said she was from the city of Dexing, in Jiangxi Province, home to a well-known copper mine, where she once was a welder. Thin and often wearing a simple black dress, she said she had briefly left the street to study legitimate massage — “So my heart could have a little bit of peace” — but had concluded that the classes were a waste of money. Back she came to 40th Road.

另一名自称为“小李”的女子说,她来自江西省德兴市,那里是一座著名铜矿的所在地。她曾是那里的一名焊接工。身材瘦削、常常穿着一条简洁黑裙的她表示,自己曾一度离开街头,去学习真正的按摩——“这样我能安心一些”——但她后来认为上按摩课是浪费钱。于是她又回到了40路。

“My body can’t take it,” Ms. Li, 50, said. “My body can’t take so many men.”

“我的身子受不了,”50岁的李女士说。“我的身子受不了这么多男人。”

Others were even more expansive, including a stocky, 40-ish woman with cropped black hair and a lazy eye who called herself Rachel. Eating a sweet baked potato at a dumpling stall on Main Street, she recalled that while working at a job she loathed — waitressing at a Chinese restaurant in Seattle — she began hunting through WeChat forums for leads on other work, and came across an offer that she recalled saying:

还有一些人要更加健谈,这其中包括一名结实的40多岁女子,她一头黑色短发,视力不佳,自称名叫“瑞秋”。她一边在缅街上一个饺子摊上吃着烤白薯,一边回忆着做一份令自己厌恶工作的经历:在西雅图一家中国餐馆做服务生——她开始在微信平台上搜寻其他工作的消息,于是看到了一份工作邀约,她记得是这么写的:

 Massage Woman to Stand on Street. $20,000 a month. Flushing, N.Y.

站街女按摩师。20,000美元一个月。纽约法拉盛。

Rachel called the number to ask what the job entailed. The boss replied: Everything.

瑞秋打给了上面的号码,询问这份工作内容。老板回答道:什么都要做。

After her first day, Rachel said, “I got home and took a shower, and cried.”

上班第一天后,瑞秋说,“我回家冲了个澡,哭了。”

She paused at the memory, and added, “But then I just thought to myself, ‘I have to keep thinking positively.’”

回忆起这些,她的话头停下了,然后又开始说,“但我心想,‘我得一直往好处想’”。

Michael Chu, the longtime neighborhood advocate, has befriended some of the women who stand outside his building on 40th Road, and occasionally offers them assistance with police matters. His office, where an old dog named Scout is usually napping on some cardboard, is furnished with desks left behind by an accountant who moved rather than work beside a massage parlor.

长期以来的社区倡导者朱立创和站在40路上他所在的楼外的一些女子成为了朋友,偶尔还会在警方事务方面给予协助。他的办公室里,一只名叫“斯考特”的狗总是在纸板上打盹,办公室里的桌子都是一位会计留下的,那人宁愿搬走也不愿在按摩院旁工作。

A bespectacled man of 65, Mr. Chu has listened to the travails of these women, whom he calls “sisters.” The beatings, the robberies, the harassment from teenagers in the playground, the pressure to attract enough clients to cover their “rent” to the boss. The hopes they harbor for permanent residence, for having enough money, for finally not doing this.

戴眼镜的朱立创现年65岁,他认真聆听了这些女子的苦难经历,他叫她们“姐妹”。那些殴打、抢劫、游乐场青少年的骚扰、赚够给老板的“租金”、吸引足够多客人的压力。还有她们怀着的希望——获得永久居留权,有足够的钱,终于不用再做这种工作。

“They also have an American dream,” Mr. Chu said. “The sisters have an American dream.”

“她们也有着一个美国梦,”朱先生说。“这些姐妹有一个美国梦”。

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