It was only 7:30 pm on a ‘Slow as Shit Sunday’. It was another SSS, as I like to call them. I had just started my twelve hour shift at 6pm. My first dispatched call sent me to one of the downtown weeklies. A fine no-tell motel on 4th Street called “The Fireside Inn.” There is never a good fare from these places but I’d learned to be thankful for what I could get on a nights like these.
Trying to make a left turn, so I could then turn right, into the motel, was a bit of challenge due to a couple of crack heads who were arguing madly – arms flailing wildly – while occupying the middle of the busy intersection. As it turns out, the female was my fare. Telling him to “Tell it to the hand”, she popped into the back seat of the Toaster while the other drivers honked their horns in unison.
A black woman in her 40′s, loud and unafraid, started in with the whole “Hey Baby! Whatcha’ doin’? You lookin’ for a date?” thing. She wasn’t speaking to me, though. Her voice boomed out of the open, passenger side window and was directed at the very bourgeois looking, silver haired, but middle aged man, in the BMW next to us at the stop light. He looked both confused and embarrassed. I gently, and laughingly, told my new workin’ lady friend “Comon’ now, he has kids in the back seat”. She did seem to get a tad bit embarrassed. But, she kept smiling, pleased with herself, and let out a giant crack-hoe laugh. I don’t know if it is actually in the Crack-Hoe Handbook, but evidently she knew she shouldn’t be soliciting in front of the children like that.
We got to her first destination quickly enough – this was to be a round tripper – and, of course, she didn’t have any money. I’d figured as much, but she was just pickin’ up from some dealer down the alley – an alley where I wasn’t inclined to go. I didn’t need to follow this one. I knew she’d be back. She needed the ride and I’d get my money. Besides, It’s was still only 7:37 pm and she clearly wasn’t all spun out… yet.
She bounced back in the cab, seemingly out of nowhere, and tossed me a horribly crumpled $5 bill like it was a paper-wad and we were in grade school. She did it to put my mind at ease about the fare. She knew this drill well. She knew it better than I did, but I’m a quick study. The meter was only at $7 so I figured it was a good start.
Her trick, at the other end of this trip, was said to be coughing up for the cab. I listened carefully and with great interest as she explained the plan. “See honey, its the first of the month tomorrow. He be gettin his Crazy Check.” She then told me how she figured it was really just her money, temporarily living in his pocket. She said she was gonna get em high… give ’em some attention… a little bit of lovin’… a little bit higher… and a little bit higher and higher a little bit at a time… and over time… she’d be stringing him out till he was all strung out. By then, she’d really have ’em where she wanted and needed him – cracked out, pants off, beggin’ for more on the third floor of the the Spun-to-Hell-Motel. Presto-Chango… his crazy check would now be her crazy check.
I thought it was a good plan for her. I thought to myself, “Ya. She’ll get that money.” This one clearly knew how to sell and close the deal. She reminded me of some of those Time Share Sharks I used to work with back in the days before the collapse. Those Sharks didn’t let go. They set the bait, probed their prey, opened the wounds, smelled the blood and went in for the kill. She’s gonna get that money! She has “26 years of smokin’ rock and hustling under her belt,” as she put it. She showed no hint of guilt or shame. She really was no different than that sales crew I swam with for a time. Yes. She was a closer. And closers, as they say, get to eat.
Collection Time – Three Floors Up
Now, normally, I wouldn’t have agreed to park the Toaster and head up to the room for the money. She had ducked into this little convenience store on the property with the motel, presumably for a fresh glass/pipe, Brillo pad and condoms. But it was still daylight and I felt safe enough. Besides, I only had a few dollars on me and there was no way I was going to get robbed here, in broad daylight. There were too many people hanging out on the balcony overlooking the parking lot and the store – all lookin’ to score something or another sooner or later.
The creaky old elevator took its time but it did arrive on the ground floor. Out walked a very pretty young lady. She had no make up on and her hair was a mess. She was thin, but like I said, she was very pretty. And her blues eyes, her big blue eyes, were simply striking. We exchanged hellos as she stepped out of the elevator, brushing against me even though I had stepped a bit to the side in the narrow corridor.
Now up a couple of floors and around the corner, one of the old men, who had been watching their worlds go by from their respective balconies, handed me a ten. I needed thirteen, I told him. He grumbled a bit and limped, with much difficulty, back into his room through the open door.
Cans and bottles were everywhere. The TV was on and the bed was unmade. Plastic bags of clothing and other assorted possessions were thoughtlessly strewn about the room. If you’ve been on “a run” before, you know exactly what it looked like. Of course, the ashtray was overflowing – since emptying ashtrays has zero priority when you’re in that life.
He gave me three more dollars to even us up. I thanked him and wished him a “great night.” He laughed a sad, but knowing kind of laugh. He told me he knew it was going to turn into a “Shit Show.” “I know buddy… be careful,” I told him. “Thank you, man,” he said, as he reached out to give me another two dollars as a tip while explaining how “things were a little tight at the moment.” I tried to refuse the tip, but he insisted. I took it as I locked my eyes onto his. “Thank you… Be careful,” I told him in my most sincere and serious voice, and I turned and walked away with a bit of a heavy heart.
Yeah… it will be a shit show. Yeah… he will be sorry, as he already knows he is going to be. He’s been here and done this way too many times to lie to himself. And that Shark?
That shark is gonna feed. It’s what sharks do.
P.S. As I stretched my legs a bit before the next dispatch call, I notice “Blue Eyes” rummaging through the trash in the trunk of an older, multicolored, economy car that clearly wasn’t long for this world. Wearing an extremely short, tight jean skirt – the kind that lets you see the fantastic shape of her lower ass cheeks – a light and breezy white blouse and some two dollar flats, she really was quite attractive. Clearly she had spent some time on a stage as well as her knees and back.
I watched her, as I smoked a rollie and leaned on my Toaster. She pulled things out of a old broken cardboard box. Some items went in the white plastic grocery bags and back into the trunk. Most of the items got tossed onto the parking lot. I wondered how a person can get to that point where they don’t think anything of dumping their trash, in bulk, onto the ground. If she had given it any thought, she would have seen the trash can, directly in front of her, about 15 feet away.
Note to self. Do not invite Blue Eyes to Burning Man.
After finishing her business with all that junk from her trunk, she turned around and walked directly toward me. It was like she had had a second pair of blue eyes in the back of her head and knew I was watching her. She held her head low, eyes scanning the parking, as if she was searching for ground score after a party, and she kept it down until she was only a few feet from me. During her approach, I could clearly see her face. There was nothing but blankness in her structurally perfect face. But, in the instant before she looked up and locked her eyes on mine, I witnessed a miraculous transformation. Her face morphed into the most lovely, happy, even glowing, sexy face I had seen in quite some time.
“Are you looking for a date?” she asked. “No, honey. I was just taking a break before my next call.” I said. She continued her questioning with “Well, I noticed you staring at me. I thought you wanted a date, handsome.” “Nope… but you are awfully pretty,” I assured her. “I was just taking a break after my drop off,” I continued.
That fresh and lovely, 15 second old, fake face vanished as quickly as it had appeared. Not saying a word, she turned and walked quickly back to her car. I watched her walk the whole way back while taking a last drag from my cigarette. She was less than half my age but I was not ashamed. She really was attractive when she wanted to be, however briefly or ingenuous.
P.S.S. Ya know… if we took Blue Eyes and scrubbed her down, made her up, dressed her up and took her out on the town, not one single person would know what kind of life she lived. She could be anyone’s daughter. She could be the cheerleader, the college student, the waitress, the store clerk, the barista or the babysitter. Twenty-Six years from now – after a lifetime of hustling like the Shark has under her belt – it will be easy to know the story of Blue Eyes with just a quick glance. I really do hope she makes it out of the life before she makes it her life. I really do