Saturday, January 17, 2009

Introduction to the "Dover Street" Stories, Chapter Five

I wonder how many other writers have churned out stories about hookers that have next to nothing in terms of blatantly sexual elements...


The following is a true story. However, quite a few of the names and other identifying details have been changed, and some of the dialogue has been re-written accordingly, because of that fact. Some characters are composites.

This chapter will hopefully be the most entertaining, at least so far. If so, maybe that will make it worth the days I've made you wait for it.

* * * * *

"So what are you always talkin' about with the girls, man?" asked Jeff.

I suddenly felt two hands on my shoulders. My first thought was that someone behind me was providing a little physical reinforcement for Jeff's line of questioning.

My second thought was, "Oh, shit."

Then I realized that the hands on my shoulders seemed to be touching me too gently for them to have belonged to one of Jeff's cronies.

That last thought was confirmed by a female voice which answered Jeff's question. "I hope he's talkin' about me," she said.

I recognized the voice. It belonged to a young, strikingly attractive girl named Bella.

* * * * *

A couple of months earlier, I'd been standing outside of the PIP Shelter -- "PIP" meaning "People in Peril," as this was a shelter for Worcester's homeless -- with Julia and Catherine (a blonde whom I'd met weeks earlier). An absolutely lovely, tall, young, light-skinned Latina with long, frizzy brown hair approached.

The two women I was with seemed less than pleased to see her, but Catherine introduced me to her nonetheless. Her name was Bella. She looked to be in her early twenties, but was actually about five years older (as I learned later).

Bella smiled to acknowledge me, then turned to the others. "Who got bags?" she asked urgently, meaning "Who's selling heroin?"

Simultaneously with her question to Julia and Catherine, I was saying, "Actually, we've met."

All three female heads turned to look at me.

Catherine only looked moderately interested.

Julia's eyebrows shot up as if to say, "Oh, really?" (I suppose Julia was wondering if I'd ever "dated" Bella, which would have concerned her because -- as I've stated before -- Julia herself was always trying to get me to "go out" with her.)

Bella herself was a different story.

Bella looked nervous.

"How'd you meet me? And where? And when?" she asked rapidly.

I explained that a few years ago, I'd been in a convenience store on Chandler Street in Worcester, and had run into a co-worker of mine, whom I'll call Tim. He was with a beautiful young Latina, who must have been nineteen or so at the time, a little younger than he was. He didn't smoke, but he was buying a pack of cigarettes (Newport) for her.

Tim looked surprised and more than a bit uncomfortable when he saw me. "Uhh... Hi, David," he said.

I waited only a couple of seconds, hoping he'd introduce me to the young lady. He didn't. "So, Tim," I asked, "who's your lovely friend?"

He stammered a bit, and looked at his companion uncertainly. She extended her well-manicured right hand, which I took as she said, "I'm Bella. And you are... ?"

"David," I replied. "Very pleased to meet you."

Her full lips parted to reveal a perfect set of pearly-white teeth. She smiled as if I'd said something either humorous, or perhaps -- dare I say it? -- charming. "Likewise," she replied, sounding playfully genteel.

I stared into her wide brown eyes for a moment, then turned to Tim. Whatever I was about to say never got said. "Hey, David," he said quickly, "I'd love to stand here and talk all day, but I... we... gotta run."

And they left. End of story.

Back to the street corner. At the conclusion of my little tale, Bella just shook her head. "Sorry. I don't remember you."

"I had a full beard then, not just the mustache," I offered, but she shook her head. "Oh, well, it was about five years ago, maybe more," I admitted. "But... You don't remember Tim at all?" I described him to her.

"No." she said firmly. She shrugged dismissively. "He musta been a vic." She turned away from me, and looked at Julia and Catherine. "So! Who got bags?"

They didn't know anyone who was selling that day. This was a Sunday, and for some reason I could never figure out, it was always really hard to find drugs on a Sunday.

I guess all the dealers were in church. Yeah, that's it.

Anyway, as Bella trotted off, I shook my head. "Vic. That's a new one. Why does she call her dates vics?"

Catherine had an almost mean tone in her voice, one I'd never heard coming from her before. "A vic isn't a trick. It's Bella's word, short for victim."

"Victim?" I repeated.

"She don't do dates," said Julia, with almost the same tone in her voice as Catherine had had in hers. "At least, not if she can help it. She take their moneys and run." Julia then looked at me pointedly. "An' you don't need to see her again."

You know what's coming, right? At this stage, telling me that was tantamount to a dare.

It was only a couple of days later that I spotted Bella and picked her up.

She didn't let me get a word in edgewise. I'd barely gotten to say hello and mention our encounter two days earlier, when she began her spiel, drowning me out. It was a rapid-paced little oratory of what she'd "do" for $30, $40, $50 -- I believe she went as high as $80! -- and the speed of her delivery was overwhelming. In fact, I can honestly say that it reminded me of being at a restaurant when the chef has piled on too many specials, but the waiter or waitress is obligated to tell you all of them, right down to the salad, soup, vegetable, and potato options.

During her well-rehearsed little menu, she interjected driving directions, making it sound like there were two people talking to me. "For forty bucks, I'll [blah-blah-blah] and you can touch, feel, anywhere you like, for fifty bucks -- Take a right! -- you can [such-and-such] while I [so-and-so] -- Next left! -- and for sixty bucks I'll let you [various descriptive expletives deleted] or -- Pull over here! -- if you want, and for seventy... "

We were now parked in front of an empty warehouse of some kind. I don't recall how much money I handed her -- I was feeling generous, so it was either $30 or $40! -- but I do remember thinking that Bella's little speech alone was worth it, and I planned on literally recording it some time in the future.

She glanced around -- this was taking place in the early morning, by the way, between eight and nine a.m. -- and started getting out of the car. "We can go in here," she said, pointing to the warehouse. "It's empty, and it's always unlocked."

"That won't be necessary," I began...

Suddenly she sprinted away from me and the warehouse entrance. "Sorry!" she yelled, without looking back. (Only in movies and TV shows do people look back at whomever or whatever they're running from.)

Oh, great. So, now, I was to be her "vic?" Well, it's not like I hadn't been warned...

Evidently, it was at this point that something in my subconscious decided that her "little speech" was not worth my thirty or forty dollars, after all. I jumped out of the car and began running after her.

Fueled by adrenaline, I ran faster than I'd run since grammar school. I've never been in the greatest of shape either, admittedly, but I was gaining on her and had almost caught up to her when she spun around and said, "Look you my mother's boyfriend's a cop and if you so much as touch me him and his buddies are gonna stuff you in a fuckin' dumpster-- "

"SHUT UP!" I screamed. I mean, really! I'll be the first to admit that I'm a long-winded sonofabitch. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to deal with...

She stood there, wide-eyed, not knowing what the hell to expect.

"I'm not going to hurt you. Or touch you."

"Then what are you gonna do?"

I wasn't especially liking the way I was breathing so heavily. My adrenaline rush was gone. It sucks how when the crisis is over, the Hulk changes back to Bruce Banner, ya know?

"I just want to talk to you," I said. "That's why I picked you up in the first place."

She laughed in a way that told me exactly what she thought I was "full of."

"No, I mean it. Let's go back to my car... "

"Yeah! So you can take your money back, and beat me up, and... ?"

"No!" I stared into those pretty brown eyes for a long, hard second. "Look. I'm going to go back to my car. You can either follow me, or... go wherever you were going to go when you stole the money."

"I didn't steal it. You handed it to me."

"You thought I was giving it to you to pay you for... whatever. Running off without doing anything changed it to stealing."

"What are you, a friggin' lawyer?"

"When was the last time you saw a lawyer driving a used Hyundai?"

She smiled for the first time since she'd leaped from the car with my money in hand. "Maybe you're a sucky lawyer."

I shook my head. "As I said, I'm going back to my car. You can either follow me or take off. And if you do follow me, you'll be behind me, so I won't get to see where you tuck my money... "

"My money," she corrected.

"...and I won't be able to take it back from you unless I give you a strip search." Her face clouded when I said "strip search," so I said, "Just kidding. Geez, lighten the hell up, will you? Anybody else would've pounded you into the pavement by now." I turned away from her, saying "So I'll wait long enough to start my car and check the rear-view mirror to see if you're coming. So, trust me, or don't trust me. At this point I honestly don't give a damn."

Actually, I think I phrased that last part a bit more strongly than "give a damn." Maybe a lot more strongly. But I digress.

I got into my car noticing that in my haste to catch Bella, I'd left my keys in the ignition. That was dumb. Anyway, before I could even check my rear-view mirror as I'd told her I would, she opened my passenger-side door and got into my Hyundai.

"What took you so long?" I asked her. She looked at me, suddenly -- and genuinely -- angry. "Geez! Lighten up, it was a joke! What are you, humor impaired?"

"What's that?"

"They say it's an actual... " I was going to use the word "psychological," but decided not to, since Bella seemed so easily offended. "...medical condition. There are people out there who know a joke is a joke, but have no real sense of humor beyond that, so... "

I was boring her. She interrupted me. "So, what do you wanna talk about?" I paused. "Go ahead, it's your dime."

I almost pointed out that it was actually three (or four?) thousand dimes, but decided against it.

We began talking, and Bella graciously gave me half an hour of her time. Among other things, I learned that her real first name was Isabel; "Bella" was a nickname (as opposed to a "street" name).

Out of that half hour, I can only recall three of my questions:
  1. Q: "Why did you yell 'Sorry!' when you tried to run away earlier?"
  2. Q: "Why did you get back in my car?"
  3. Q: "So, you're not really a hooker; you're a thief?" (That one was actually more of a statement.)
And her replies:
  1. A: "You seemed like a nice guy, and I almost felt sorry about rippin' you off. Almost."
  2. A: "I don't know. Something about you."
  3. A: She looked offended again, at first; then her features softened. "If I don't have to take care of a date... No, I won't. I hate sex, usually. Unless I'm high, and with a boyfriend. Not with a date."
I do recall discovering during our conversation that, other than the rapid-fire "menu" I described earlier, Bella didn't like to talk dirty at all. She used profanity, true, but she just didn't talk... dirty.

I learned a lot about Bella over the next few weeks, actually, because I (naturally) ignored everyone's advice -- I'll explain that more fully next time -- and started spending a great deal of time with her.

* * * * *

And don't worry. I haven't forgotten that, in another part of this narrative, Jeff is still pointing his knife at me!


  1. Great analogy using the menu/restaurant with whatever Bella was "offering".

    From the vague description of the warehouse area--sounds like somewhere the innards of Cambridge St. I'm just winging it, here. It almost sounded like a set-up. That maybe this guy, Jeff, would come popping out of th' door.

    Although I liked your other story( My Island ), I like this one a bit better. Not sure why.

  2. Thanks. It wasn't until just this minute that I realized there was a similar comparison earlier when Julia tried to convince me to... *ahem*... sample her wares, so to speak.

    IIRC, the warehouse -- I called it that for lack of a better word, since it wasn't a tall brick building, it was more like a one-story shell with metal siding -- was somewhere off of Park Ave., near where Park crosses with Chandler. I think there was an athletic field nearby. NOT the stadium. We're talking long before Walgreen's.

    People seem to react better to my real-life stuff, almost as if to say, "Let God (or Fate, or Reality, etc.) plot these stories, David. You just dialogue them!"

  3. I am thinking (and this is probably the writer/psych student in me) that she was raped or molested at some point. Then again, this could also be my view because I'm a perv and I can't imagine someone only liking sex if they are high....Although I can easily imagine someone not liking sex while they are doing the deed for cash because how many johns out there really care if the hooker gets satisfaction. Come on.


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