Sunday, December 7, 2008

Introduction to the "Dover Street" Stories, Chapter One


In my "What to Expect... " section at the bottom of this blog, I say "Occasionally, there will be personal anecdotes that will only be able to be called 'stories' in a very loose sense, having no real plot, or no definitive ending, etc." This series of posts -- which, as the title says, is the story behind my "Dover Street" tales of prostitutes and drug addicts -- is one of those.

Hm. Hookers and junkies. What a pleasant way to segué into the Holiday Season, eh?

* * * * *

Anyone who read My Island on my David'Z RantZ blog may recall that in my youth, I was involved in some unspecified, low-grade -- but still dangerous -- criminal activities while I ran something which I light-heartedly called the "Irish Mafia." I was lucky enough to get out while I still could. Others, like a friend named Roger, weren't so lucky.

My involvement in these activities lasted about nine or ten years. I wish I could say that the Irish Mafia was the last time I put myself at serious risk, but it wasn't.

The nearest "big city" to the town in which I reside is the city of Worcester, Massachusetts. Worcester is quite often misspelled and/or mispronounced as "Worchester." It's also been written as "Wistah" or "Woostah" by those who think that they're helping you with the pronunciation. Ignore them. They may mean well, but they're among the ranks of those who only think they have a handle on the Massachusetts accent.

It's pronounced "Woos-ter;" the "woos" rhymes with "push" or "bush," not with "room" or "zoom."

But I -- oh-so-characteristically -- digress.

One afternoon several years ago -- circa 1992, 1993 -- I was running a few errands in Worcester. I stopped at a convenience store for something to drink. There was a rather long line at the one open register, and the cashier was competent but not overly speedy.

Ahead of me in line was a moderately attractive, black-haired young lady with a rather pronounced overbite. She reminded me of the Olympic skater, Nancy Kerrigan (remember her?) but with a slightly wavy Bettie Page hairstyle. She looked approximately five years younger than I was at the time, which would have put her in her early thirties. She was somewhat taller than I was, and much thinner.

Her overbite was the factor that made me decide to devote my waiting-in-line time to the pursuit of something -- *ahem* -- productive. (I know some of you saw that coming.)

I'm not one for so-called pick-up lines. I prefer striking up a genuine conversation with a woman, or what some guys have referred to as "working them."

In this case, finding a subject to begin talking about was easy. Her arms were filled with seven or eight different cans or bottles of iced tea. Nestea, SoBe, Lipton, AriZona, Snapple...

"Why so many?" I asked, pointing at the array. "And why all different brands?"

"I love iced tea, and I just wanted to figure out once and for all, which one's the best."

That made something resembling "sense" to me. I could have said the same thing, only I never went to the extreme of buying one of each to facilitate a taste test.

Allow me to cut to the proverbial chase, here. After some brief chatting with Sheila -- yes, Sheila, just like the streetwalker in my last post, "Angelina" -- she agreed to let me drive her to her home, which was not far away.

I'll spare you the details here, but suffice it to say that Sheila and I shared what was very briefly referred to as "afternoon delight" back in the 1970s. It was quite an enjoyable hour or so, but I left not sure whether we'd ever see each other again.

About a week later, I was in Worcester again, and decided that it was "worth a shot" to visit her once more. She seemed legitimately glad to see me, and invited me in for coffee -- What, I wondered, no iced tea? -- and the two of us reaffirmed our mutual interests in casual sex.

At the conclusion of this visit, she gave me her phone number, and said she would be keeping that number when she moved the following week. She wrote down her new address, as well.

Good thing she did give me the new address. For one reason or another, the old phone number did not make the move with her.

During the next month, Sheila and I saw each other two or three more times. (Re-reading that, I can't help but think, "Saw?" and follow up with an old Jack Nicholson quip, "Wrong verb.")

* * * * *

Sometime in the early 1990s, I became very close friends -- "very close" but platonic friends, I should probably mention -- with a young lady named Lori. Lori worked the second shift in a town called Shrewsbury. I occasionally visited her at work, and since the town of Shrewsbury was and is one of several that borders Worcester, I would drive through Worcester on my way to Shrewsbury.

[By the way, the character of "Lori" is actually a composite of two female friends of mine. I did this for a couple of frankly uninteresting reasons.]

That "drive through Worcester" took me the length of Main Street, past a bus stop near Clark University. As I passed through that area, I saw someone who either was Sheila or looked very much like her, standing at the bus stop. This was somewhere around seven or eight p.m.

One of the first things I asked Lori when I arrived at her workplace was "How late do the buses run in Worcester?"

"No idea. Why?"

"Well, do you know that bus stop by the little park near Store 24 and Clark University?"

"Yeah?"

"Well, I drove by there on my way here, and I could've sworn I saw Sheila at the bus stop."

"Who's Sheila?"

"I told you about her," I began defensively.

"Yeah, like I can ever keep track."

I ignored that, and continued. "Anyway, if the buses don't run that late, why would she be there?"

"I dunno, but why shouldn't she?"

"Well, for one thing, it's a well-known place for hookers to stand while hoping to be picked up."

She smirked. "And how do you know that?"

"I know a lot of things that go on in Worcester, smartass. I remember once when I was working on a Sunday at That's Entertainment, one of the hookers from Piedmont Street" -- a street which was also known for its druggies and prostitutes, located near the comic shop -- "came in and asked if she could get a cup of coffee."

"You sold coffee? In a comic store?"

"No."

"Then why... ?"

"Who knows? On one side of us was a restaurant, and on the other, a little ways down, was a convenience store. She could've gone to either for coffee."

Lori started laughing. "Maybe she didn't have any money, but she was willing to do a little something for a free cup?"

"Well, it's not like I had any coffee anyway! I didn't drink it then."

"Oh? When did you start?" she said, sarcastically.

"1990." She just stared at me. I nodded. "So, can we get back to Sheila?"

"Sheila?"

"The one at the bus stop!"

"Look, David, I'm sure the buses are still running. But... "

"But what?"

"But if you swing by that park after you leave here, and she's still there, maybe she really is... you know... "

My visit with Lori lasted for another couple of hours. After I left, I drove back through the heart of Worcester, and rode down Main Street until I passed the bus stop near Store 24, and...

Damn.

Sheila was still standing there.

She hadn't seen me. I could have kept on driving. I could have made a handful of assumptions about her, and just never tried to contact her again.

But no, not me. Not Mr. Closure. Not with my attitude of "I don't convict on circumstantial evidence."

I turned around in the Store 24 parking lot and drove back to the bus stop where Sheila was standing. I put on my directional and took the immediate right onto a side street. I pulled to the side of the road and stopped, but left the car running.

It was dark. I was sure she hadn't seen my face, and I was equally sure she couldn't recognize my car at night.

She came running over to the car anyway.

Shit.

She didn't even look through the window to see who'd stopped for her. She opened the door and jumped in. While the door was open, my car's interior light went on. For a split second, she saw my face, and I could clearly see the surprise on hers as she recognized me.

I drove away, wondering which of us would speak first. She did. At first, a strange sound came out of her mouth, almost like she was exhaling sharply. She cleared her throat loudly and tried again.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi," I repeated. "So... umm... What's up?"

Not too freaking awkward...

She opened up to me, reluctantly. Almost every sentence was a revelation. Yes, she was a hooker. (Thank the lord for safe sex practices, thought I.) It was the only way she could support her cocaine habit. (Oh, goodie. Another reason I would have stayed away from her, had I known.)

This was why she changed addresses so often. Landlords with short-fused tempers from dealing with other drug-addicted tenants before her. Not that she paid much rent beyond her initial outlay before moving into a place. After all, most of her money went toward buying the cocaine.

We talked for about five minutes before she'd told me pretty much all of what I had to know. I had driven relatively aimlessly for a while, but had now come back to the bus stop.

Before I had the chance to say anything as cliché as "Well, I guess this is good-bye," Sheila looked at me with a sudden, fearful expression on her face.

"Umm... uhhh... David, w-we got a... we got a problem!"

"How so?"

"Well, when you stopped for me, did you see that big, tall black guy across the street from here?"

"No, but what... " I turned to see if the "big, tall black guy" was still there. He was, looking like a clean-shaven, African-American version of the late actor Roger C. Carmel ("Harry Mudd" on Star Trek, among other roles). "Oh, shit."

"That's my boyfriend. And you and me were gone long enough to have done somethin', and if I don't bring no money to him... "

"Let me guess. He'll beat the crap out of you."

She nodded.

Practicality took over. Frankly, I was ten years older than when I'd last been in true "fighting form." And if I faced off against a man his size, he'd probably break me in half. "What's the minimum you can get away with?"

She was unnervingly matter-of-fact as she replied, "Well, we ain't been gone long enough for you to get laid, so twenty would be enough for-- " Nodding, I raised my hand to silence her. She didn't need to spell anything out for me.

I withdrew twenty dollars from my wallet, handed it to her, and watched her as she exited my car and trotted dutifully across the street to her boyfriend.

(And please don't attempt to correct me and say "pimp." He was her boyfriend. More on that in a later chapter.)

Anyway, the next time I talked to Lori, I told her about my little non-adventure. She couldn't stop laughing. "So, you ended up paying for it, after all."

"No."

She kept laughing. "Of course you did, David! You just paid for it after the fact, unlike the usual customers, who have to pay before."

I divided the twenty dollars by the number of times I'd been with Sheila. If I had indeed "paid for it," I'd gotten a great deal, overall. I went so far as to point that out to Lori, adding, "Anyway, that twenty dollars wasn't for anything that had happened previously. It was to keep her from getting beaten up."

"You should have let her get beaten up, after the way she lied to you."

"Damn, girl! Don't be so cold. Anyway, the only thing I'm really upset with her about is that she invited me into apartments which she presumably shared with him. He could have gotten home any time when she and I were... together... and found her doing it with some guy for free, in their bed! He probably would have snapped my spine!"

"What would he care? She cheats on him all day long, if she's a prostitute."

I shook my head. "Different set of rules, dear. In our world, the "real" world, sex is sex. You sleep with someone else, for any reason, and it's cheating. In their world, it's only cheating if it doesn't involve money, or maybe drugs."

"Well, anyway, it's a good thing you're done with her."

"Oh, I'm not done with her. Not exactly."

Lori looked at me with genuine concern. "And what the hell do you mean by that?"

* * * * *

Well, that's as good a place to end Chapter One. Chapter Two will be coming your way soon... well before next week. I'm going to schedule these segments really closely, just like I did with "Angelina."

See ya! I mean... Thanks for your time.

5 comments:

  1. As usual, you've just gotta throw that narrative hook in at the end to keep us waiting for the next episode.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Well... yeah. I do want my readers to keep coming back...

    I guess the cliff-hanger endings are as much a part of this blog as my "Thanks for your time" sign-offs are on both blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Interesting. Can't wait to read more.

    Was the sex better with a working girl?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Ishat:

    "Was the sex better with a working girl?"

    Oh, good, an easy question!

    No.

    Not appreciably, no, or I'm sure I'd recall that. I guess the sex-for-a-fee biz is one of the few occupations where, just because a woman (or a man) charges for something, it doesn't necessarily make them better at it than the... umm... layman. (You should pardon the expression.)

    ReplyDelete

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