Saturday, January 10, 2009

Working Girls - and being mistaken for one

I live in a certain part of a certain city that is commonly described as "notorious". It has all the hallmarks that polite society attempts to avoid - such as dark, syringe-littered alleyways, spaced-out locals begging outside the train station, and a certain baked, dead look about the few patches of trees and grass clinging to the concrete. If this place has seen better days, it hasn't been for a long, long time.

I've seen my share of shit around here. I have a lot of stories. The young, crying girl with the ripped shirt and methadone-smeared eyes who took refuge in my house for a few hours after turning her first trick is one. The guy who tried to sell me heroin which he pulled out of his three-year old son's pocket is another. Then, there's nearly getting pole-axed by an umbrella-wielding teenager after she ripped me off for weed. There's watching a married couple in their fifties fight in the street until a heavy blow split her face open like a plum. There's finding the little girl outside the pub, begging me to get her mother off the pokies for her. And, of course, there's my occasional porch-sleeper, but that's another blog.

You might call my neighborhood "colourful". In a strange way, I fit right in here.

So it's not surprising that I started to occasionally patronise the clusters of pushers up on the corner. They sell bad pot at high prices in small quantities, but at least they're close. And they're there when you stumble home drunk, at midnight.

The summer drought always bodes badly for the weed supply, and times have been tight recently around here. The cops landed a huge raid a couple of weeks ago, which didn't improve the lot of the local dealers much. So, a few nights ago, I found myself waiting in the most dangerous part of town for my "fella" to show back up and slip me a gram. A young guy, unusual only for having white skin in this part of town, gestures me over with a standard;

"Hey! Sista!"

I sidle over and smile. Maybe he's holding. He immediately disabuses me of that belief.

"Are you holding, sista?"

I apologise. I'm not holding.

"Do you use?" he asks.

I look down at his face. He has a junkie complexion - greyish skin, sheened with sour sweat and dotted all over with greasy pimples. Mostly it's the hollows under the eyes, and the twisted, bitten lips which betray how much pain this guy is in. He's suffering.

"No mate," I reply. "Not anymore, anyway. Dodged that bullet." I shrug.

He looks at me more intently, searching.

"I know you from somewhere," he says.

"I'm local. You've probably seen me around."

"No... somewhere else." He pauses and stares at me, grasping for recognition. Suddenly he seems to work it out.

"Did you work?" he asks. "Ever work ... at all?"

It takes me a moment to process the peculiar emphasis on the word "work". Then I get it.

"No, mate. Not in that industry, anyway."

"I'm sure that's how I know you," he nods to himself, apparently sure that he has known me in the Biblical sense. And for cash.

I'm not offended at being taken for a prostitute. It's not even the first time. So many people here operate on a completely different plane around here, and ethics hardly come into it. It's a matter of survival.

The guy's head drops back and he stops talking to me. I'm not in a position to fuck him or score for him, so our conversation is over. He doesn't look older than twenty-five. I look around at the milieu of pushers, pimps and users lining the alleyway, waiting for a score. This scene can be intense - maybe too intense to justify going through it just to score a gram of weed. I think about how close I was to being a fixture in it, a few years ago. But for the grace of God, they say.

But maybe I am a fixture. At least, apparently I look like one.

I head back home empty-handed, thinking about all the bullets I've dodged.


  1. Heart But Gem, this was my favourite at the moment. I'll be reading more when I get home. I need stimulation in my twilight hours and this is good company!

  2. Wow! That reminds me of the kind of neighborhood where I briefly lived some 20 years ago, just a few years after completing my university studies and embarking upon a career as a Technology professional in the declining Manufacturing industry. It was the kind of neighborhood where it was presumed that any White male encountered walking along a city sidewalk in that part of town after a certain hour was there for the purpose of procuring either drugs or sexual favors in exchange for money.

    Few people considered the possibility that my presence there might indicate that all of the following conditions applied to me:

    1) I had chosen to live in a tiny apartment located less than a quarter mile from the factory where I worked during daytime hours.

    2) I had chosen that "low rent district" to enable myself to afford to share my apartment with a certain female I found irresistibly attractive (we won't discuss that except to say that she was the "petite and curvaceous" type I've always tended to make great personal sacrtifices in order to please) and who was an employee of another business located within short walking distance of said apartment.

    3) I was en route to or from the area's only 24-hour market to buy some grocery item at the request of the aforementioned "hottie" girlfriend.

    So, many an evening, whether on my way to buy a quart of milk, a loaf of bread, a six-pack of beer, or a pack of cigarettes, the pushers and prostitutes who frequented the stretch of downtown street between my apartment and that little market were always eager to determine whether or not I might be a potential buyer for whatever illicit wares they might be offering for sale.

    These days, however, I live in a more upscale "middle class families" area in a house I once shared with my late wife and now-grown children.

  3. The girl in question just happened to be barely five feet tall with long, brown hair and a bustline far larger in proportion to her waistline than most girls I typically met, attributes that typically caused men to become so intimidated as to take on the appearance of being little more than babbling idiots.

    Armed with a university education and the degree of sophistication that having taken a course or two in Psychology and other Humanities at the university level creates, my being introduced to this girl by a mutual friend during a telephone conversation with said mutual friend presented an opportunity for me to listen intently to her tales of being at the bottom of the typical corporate ladder where the distance increases at an exponential rate between successive rungs of ascent and of being the victim of domestic abuse by her most recent former romantic interest.

    Several months later, after about six weeks of sharing a residence with her, I would ultimately learn that she had a habit of fabricating any and all convenient excuses for reporting off from such corporate employment far more freeqently than most corporate policies permit; and that she was in the habit of inviting young men bearing illicitly-procured alcoholic beverages into the apartment for the purpose of getting thoroughly sloshed and engaging in sexual trysts with them while I was dutifully fulfilling my obligations to my own corporate employer. I would discover this, quite by accident, upon returning home at what had been my usual hour prior to a temporary period of mandatory overtime.

    Moments after said discovery, I began stuffing her belongings into any bag I could find to contain them just before summoning the landlady to have my former girlfriend and roommate escorted permanently off the premises. Since her "paramour du jour" was obviously underage, however, it seems she spent that night in the county jail after the boy's parents were notified and the police were summoned.

    Isn't Karma wonderful???