Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Introduction to the "Dover Street" Stories, Chapter Three

The following is a true story. Quite a few of the names and other identifying details have been changed, and dialogue re-written accordingly, because of that fact.

After having discovered that Sheila, someone I was casually dating, was a drug-addicted prostitute with a huge, imposing boyfriend -- usually
much more than enough to keep me away from someone -- I looked her up once again anyway, and paid her for her time, in the name of research! And through all this, my young friend Lori was becoming more and more convinced that I was just plain nuts!

* * * * *

The next time I located Sheila and picked her up, she assumed that this time, it was for sex. I surprised the hell out of her by once again offering money for what she (almost) considered was "nothing."

But she got used to it, eventually, because I continued stopping for her. I was learning a lot about how the so-called street people lived, thought, hustled, and sometimes died.

Upon learning that I was picking up Sheila every few days, my friend Lori hit the proverbial roof. "Are you sure you're not doing it with her?"

"Umm... Yeahhh, I think I'd remember that."

"This isn't funny."

"Lori. Final time: I am not paying her for sex, I'm paying for her time, basically. And I'm not sleeping with her for free, either, if for no other reason than that persistent image I have of her boyfriend coming home, catching us, grabbing me by the ankles, and swinging me like a baseball bat against the nearest wall!"

"Why do you keep calling this guy her boyfriend?"

"What do you mean?"

"He's not her boyfriend. He's her pimp."

"No, he's not."

"David. He beats her up when she doesn't bring home money? He's her pimp!"

"No. What he is, is a guy who supposedly loves her... "

"Yeah, sure. 'I love you, honey. Now go out and screw a bunch of other guys so we can get high tonight,' right?"

I agreed with Lori's reasoning, at least where the "love" part was concerned. How can you send someone you "love" out onto the streets to support your habit? Ever since this all happened, I've asked several women that question. Women in what I so loftily refer to as "the real world" -- people who don't do drugs and/or don't sell themselves -- automatically say, "You don't!" but women who live in "that" world say things like, "Well, you don't understand how powerful drug addiction really is! You'll do anything to support your habit, even allow your wife or girlfriend to become a prostitute." Well, after all these years, I may understand it, but I'll never fully accept it. And I never saw any of these so-called loving boyfriends going out selling their services so their women wouldn't have to!

If you read "Angelina," you may recall Marty talking about the hooker he fell in love with: "I wanted her all to myself -- no more working the streets, in other words -- but the... umm.. 'financial realities' of the whole drug thing made that impossible." But in Marty's case, "his" hooker was already doing that when he met her. He wasn't the one who turned her out.

Sheila's boyfriend was the type I've since seen a lot of, the type who goes about his own affairs, once in a while contributing by "working his hustle," which is a nice way of saying he would do things to get money from people without really working for it. Sometimes he'd sell drugs. If I correctly remember what Sheila said about him, he smoked a lot of weed, and smoked crack occasionally. So he wasn't actually an addict, like she was. And any way you cut it, he still depended on her for the majority of their income.

Nice guy.

But not a pimp.

In fact, he's what they call -- or used to call -- an "easy rider." And no, try to shake that image of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper zooming down the highway on their "choppers," with the strains of Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" blaring in the background. They -- the movie-makers themselves, that is -- got the name for the movie from an old Southern term for a man living with a prostitute.

Okay, okay, one final digression for now: You may have noticed that I tend to stick with the terms "hooker" and "prostitute," avoiding other synonyms like "whore." It's just a personal bias. "Prostitute" is almost an informal job title; "hooker" is a friendlier term. To me, anyway. And "whore?" I dunno... "Whore" has a nasty edge to it -- it's like the difference between calling someone "fat" as opposed to "overweight" -- and I don't think these girls deserve that.

Back to the story!

Lori wasn't done with me yet. "And you do realize that every dollar you give her goes right up her nose, right?" I didn't think that now was the time to nit-pick and correct Lori by pointing out that Sheila's cocaine habit, I had learned, was actually a crack habit, so I wisely and uncharacteristically kept my mouth shut. "Do you know the term "enabler,' David?"

"You're missing a very important point here. If I weren't giving her money, someone else would be. She'd quite literally do anything she had to to feed her habit. A day I don't show up is not a day that she goes without!" To drive my point home a bit more forcefully, I continued, crudely listing a few things Sheila could be doing which, even Lori had to agree, were a lot worse than sitting in my car, talking to me. "And that's not considering the fact that any one of those other guys could be freaks who'd beat her up just for the hell of it, or rape her, or kill her... "

"You make it sound like you're doing some kind of public service by feeding her habit."

"No, not at all. I'm just saying that I'm a lot better than most of the alternatives, and that she'd be out there anyway. I'm no damned hero, certainly, but I'm no villain, either."

"You're using her for information... "

"I'm paying her for information. Nobody's being used."

"And... how the hell can you afford to pay her every time? You're not rich."

"I don't pay her that much," I offered, but...

Lori was right.

I couldn't really afford to keep doing this. And at some point I realized that I was going to have to start getting more for my money, timewise. I knew that anytime I found her working the streets, it was because she needed cash ASAP for drugs, and if I picked her up instead of someone else, and did not give her money, I'd be taking her away from potential income! I'd have to find a way around that.

In my favor was the fact that Sheila actually liked me, and so she didn't mind seeing me occasionally, during her "off" time. I started planning get-togethers for lunch at McDonald's, Burger King, "pizza dates," etc.

It wasn't that difficult for Sheila to get away from her boyfriend. When he was home, he was usually sleeping. At other times, he would generally be hanging out with his buddies, getting stoned. So she and I met once, or sometimes twice, each week.

And finally, I talked her into bringing a friend to one of our little visits. I asked her to avoid any mention of the monetary aspect, hoping that the friend would talk a bit about herself and her lifestyle for the sake of being sociable.

It worked out well. The three of us split a large pizza and talked for about half an hour. Money well spent, thought I.

* * * * *

The friend's name -- well, actually, the name I'm going to use here -- was Julia.

Julia was probably between 30 and 35. (I never asked.) She was a short, cute Latina with a round face and a figure which -- although slightly overweight -- looked attractive in everything I ever saw her wearing. She had long black hair, always tightly pulled back in a ponytail. She didn't have an accent as much as an occasionally odd speech pattern.

Julia was a drug user, too -- sometimes cocaine, sometimes heroin -- but not an addict, remarkably. She was a little less reckless in general than a lot of the women I ended up meeting, as well, probably because she had a brother who was a policeman. (One of my unfinished "Dover Street" stories, plotted only about two years ago, deals with a hooker whose brother is an ex-cop. That's about the closest I've ever gotten to telling Julia's story.)

At our first meeting -- the one with Sheila -- Julia looked me straight in the eye after only five minutes or so and asked "Why you ask so many question? [sic] You writin' a book?" I laughed and said that I was, sort of. She laughed, too, and said. "Good subject. Drugs. Everybody like drugs."

I got together with Julia maybe twice a month. We'd talk. She wasn't really concerned with what I could or would pay her. A meal here or there was enough. She seemed to like my company.

She did try to talk me into becoming a customer, however. She liked teasing me. "Why don't you try me, just once? Don't you like the way I look?"

"Oh, hell, that's definitely not the issue!"

"So, what? You did dates with Sheila, right?"

Pardon another aside, but... For the two or three of you out there who don't already know this, a "date" is a euphemism for a sex act performed for money. A "trick" is the same thing. And both "date" and "trick" may also be used to refer to a customer, just like the word "john."

(Sometimes, when talking to a prostitute, I'd talk about "a woman I used to date" or "a woman I'm dating" and I'd get a funny look. I eventually learned to use the term "real date" when I was talking about taking a woman out to dinner or a movie.)

"I never did dates with Sheila." My eyes narrowed. "Why, did she tell you I did?"

"No, no. I just assume."

I was glad that her next question was not about how I met Sheila in the first place, if it wasn't a standard pick-up. Instead, she asked, "So, what is it? You don't like sex? Maybe you're gay?"

"No! I mean, no, I'm not gay. But yes, I love sex." Probably too much, I thought, but I saw no reason to share that little observation with her.

"So... " She grinned. "Store open all night!"

"I just don't like the whole idea of paying for sex. Not for me, anyway. I don't really care what anybody else does."

"Lotta guys say that. They think if you pay, it mean you can't get it no other way. Lotta the girls think that way, too. Most of 'em."

"I'd probably feel that way, too, if I ever did."

"Can you cook?"

"What?" Now, where did that come from, I wondered.

"You can cook?" she repeated.

"Sure, when I bother. Usually it's just me and the microwave oven, but... Yeah, when I want to. Why?"

"You go out to eat, too, right? Like McDonald's, or Chinese?" I smiled, anticipating her point. "You can eat for free at home, but you go out and pay for a meal? Why? Cuz you want to pay. Not have to."

"That's not quite the same thing... "

"Close enough."

We had similar conversations on other occasions. She said she considered me a "challenge."

One night, around 9 or 10 p.m., after Julia and I had enjoyed a meal at one fast food spot or another, she asked me if I'd mind dropping her off at her mother's place. I said I'd do so gladly. Her mom's apartment building had a large, uncomfortably dark parking lot in the rear of the building. As I pulled into the lot, I asked Julia if she wanted me to walk her to the door.

"No, thank you," she answered. "Shit!" she hissed suddenly.

"What? What's wrong?"

"My brother's car," she said, pointing to a car parked at the other end of the lot, close to (as I discovered later) her mother's back door.

"Your brother, the cop?"

She nodded vigorously. "I don't wanna see him right now! He's pissed at me! Can I wait here with you until he leaves?"

"No problem. I'm in no rush to be anywhere."

I rolled my driver's side window down a bit, and took my pack of Winston Lights out of my shirt pocket. "Want a cigarette?" I asked, as I took my lighter out of my right hip pocket and lit mine.

She was already taking a cigarette out of her own pack of Kool -- not Newport, but still menthol, I noticed, recalling Sheila's comment from weeks earlier -- and putting it between her lips. "Got my owns, thanks." She reached for my lighter, took it, and lit her cigarette. "He could be there for another hour or two." She smiled at me. "Don't worry, I won't make you wait so long."

"Thanks," I said, suddenly noticing that she was still smiling, but in a very strange way, I thought. Abruptly, she leaned toward me, threw her arms around me, and started kissing me! I was caught totally off guard. Luckily, we both had the presence of mind to place our respective cigarettes in my car's ashtray.

Ordinarily, I would have to describe our short little make-out session with a word like "passionate," but this was over almost before it had begun. I didn't even have the chance to get properly turned on before she released her hold on me and moved back to her side of the car.

Our cigarettes hadn't even burnt out yet!

She was still smiling. For a second or two, I wondered if she was hoping to get me worked up enough to finally take her up on her offer of play-for-pay, but instead of assuming that that had been her motive, I merely asked, "Uhhh... Julia... What the hell was that about?"

She lowered the passenger-side visor, hoping to find a vanity mirror, which she did. She'd taken a container of lip gloss out of one pocket or another and was applying some to her lips. "Just felt like it. I got no boyfriend, and I don't kiss my dates. Not like that! Am I good kisser?"

"You sure are," I replied truthfully, waiting for a follow-up offer from Julia which never came.

"If my brother doesn't leave soon, I just have you bring me home, okay?" she said, but after a few more minutes, he ended his visit.

As he entered his car and started it up, Julia lay down across the console and rested her head on my thigh. "Tell me when he go."

I waited until he'd driven out of the parking lot, and told her "You can sit up now," and she took her sweet time doing it. Then she gave me a goodnight kiss which was almost as ardent as those before, and ran across the lot to her mother's door.

As I exited the lot, I reached for another cigarette, and then searched in vain for my lighter.

Julia had forgotten to return it.

I shook my head as I drove away. I'd have to add stolen cigarette lighters to the cost of meals and outright hand-outs. I wondered if these expenses, all incurred in the name of research, were tax-deductible.

No, not really.

Then I thought back to the kissing session. What little game is she playing, I wondered, or is this a game?

And I not only had that to concern me, but earlier that evening, Julia had agreed to introduce me to even more of the Worcester streetwalkers.

It looked like my dance card was going to be pretty full in the upcoming weeks.

* * * * *

Next time: Get out your hip boots, folks. It's going to start getting deep!


  1. David,
    Well written story (as usual)...I just wish you had more "non-sexual" stuff to write don't want to get type-cast as a one-trick-pony (no pun intended)

  2. Yep, that's a very valid point. It's just that I felt that the "Introduction" story was a necessary follow-up to "Angelina."

    To lighten things up in the upcoming weeks, I've been wrestling with a humorous tale for Christmas, and there's a lengthy one-parter coming up which you'll hopefully like. (Big hint for YOU, I've heard from Patrick AND Bruce!)

    Anyway, while there will be "Dover Street" stories here and there, they won't take over the blog! I not only don't want to dwell on sexual themes, but they're usually pretty depressing, overall!

  3. So, wait...did you work for Cousin Saul and or IANO?

    It seems there's a connection eh?

    Great writing David I'm hooked again! Even when I do fall a bit behind.

  4. You took off that validate thing! Wooo I can post whatever I want whenever I want!
    Meh, I got nothing...

    P.S. I hope you appreciate my use of the word 'got' since I hate that word and only use it when it's absolutely crucial.

  5. I worked for Cousin Saul in the mid to late 1980s, at a store called That's Entertainment in Worcester, Massachusetts. He and his cousin Steve -- nowadays, a/k/a IANO -- would call each other constantly for goofy stuff. The day the space shuttle exploded, Steve called T.E. and told us right after it happened, and we all laughed at first, thinking he was joking. I met Steve and got to know him from when he and I would show up at Diamond Comics (a distributor) on new comic days, but believe it or not, in 20+ years, I never actually visited his store until shortly after I moved my blog from a site called Diaryland to Blogger.

    Also, I understand your need to justify your use of the word "got" in that context. Jon Stewart says it all the time, "I got nothin'."

    I'm generally a stickler for good grammar. Once I was arguing with my second fiancee and used some quotation which specifically included the word "ain't" -- maybe "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" -- and she freaked, like I'd mistakenly used an improper word, and my doing so validated every verbal assault she'd ever made on the English language. "OHHH! OHHH!! I thought YOU would NEVER use a word like AIN'T... "

    Totally missed the point...

    Anyway, since I'm the type who likes having the last word in an argument... The next day, I ran her over with my car -- twice -- stuffed her in the trunk, and dropped her off at a nearby landfill.

    That's why I'm still single today.

  6. Whew, I was seriously thinking of deleting it. I absolutely hate when people use the word got unless I know they are joking.

    That's funny about your fiancée though, running her over and dropping her in a landfill.

    You know what else I hate? When people spell Ridiculous Rediculous and when people write enquiry! I DON'T EVEN THINK THATS AN ACTUAL WORD! It's Inquiry. The only tid bits of information I've been able to find online about this so called "word", even in the definition it uses the word inquiry!

    Noun 1. enquiry - an instance of questioning; "there was a question about my training"; "we made inquiries of all those who were present"
    -query, question, inquiry, interrogation
    -inquiring, questioning - a request for information

    It claims that it's a variant of inquiry! I'm pretty sure that people are just dumb and or lazy and or both.

    Effing Rediculous!

  7. Also, this is for Cousin Saul.

    Hello! I'm Sarah. I tried reading your story from the beginning but I think I am having trouble I was able to read chapter one where you explain where your obsession with Comic books starts but then for some reason it skips to chapter nine.

    Any and all help is appreciated! Thanks!

  8. Sarah, in case Cousin Saul doesn't see your question: I don't know what the glitch is on his eBay blog, but his story also appears on the That's Entertainment website. Here you go!

  9. REal interesting story here, David. Great comparison on the whole "paying for food/sex" analogy.

    One other thing--I actually was down in Fla. at ClassA Navy school when the shuttle exploded( you could watch the launch from almost anywhere, on a clear day). Some older man has rushed into the bank we were in( almost keeled over ), to mouth something about the shuttle exploding( we didn't laugh--call it early radar ). Sure enough, I watched as the flame ball expanded and the parts fall. even from that distance, you could see the main cabin coming apart.

    I can understand the joking around part you guys did. Everybody thinks something is safe, 'til something goes horrilby wrong. the Concord was another prime example of this.


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