Wednesday, March 16, 2011

20 dollars at a time.

the corridor over by the Jamaica LIRR station has its
surprises. on this night in particular, one of them
would surprise and sadden me a bit.

i had gotten off the subway at Sutphin Boulevard. it
was a fairly cool night in late March, the kind that
gives you hints of what summer could be like. i was
making my way to the bus i needed to get home, over
by King Park and 153rd Street. i walked along Jamaica
Avenue, watching stores close here and there. i was
on the phone with a friend of mine, making my way past
the Colombian restaurant which was packed as usual. at
that moment, a woman stepped out of the semi-darkened
doorway next to it. she smiled, and i returned the
favor. she began to speak and i lowered my phone so
i could hear her. 'yes?' i asked.

she reeked of Tecate Light, which clung to her like
the long-sleeved red blouse she had on with a pair
of blue denim jeans. 'hola, como ta?'
'ta bien, y tu?'i replied.
'good. what you doing now, you busy?' she replied
with a slow grin that might have charmed some dude
out of a mink stole a decade ago. now, her makeup
hid years of tears, beers and fears of time running
out. 'i'm going somewheres, why?' i had slowed my pace
a bit but never stopped. 'maybe we could have fun.
only $20, papi chulo.' she leaned towards me and i
could smell the mixture of beer and knockoff perfume.
'no mami, i can't. got things to do.' i said, eyes
on the watch for the boys in blue. 'aw c'mon, i live
right here!' she pleaded as i walked away. seeing
that there was no hope, she turned her attention to
a dude stumbling out of the El Salvadorean bar.

i stopped to look at her under the streetlight. who
knows how long she was out there, 20 dollars at a
time. she might have been behind on the rent. or
looking for extra cash. the Ave had seen its fair
share of pros hawking their skills in the dusky
blocks after 9 PM. most relocated over by the tracks.
i couldn't help but think that under the lights, she
might have been beautiful to someone once. i never
saw her again after that. every now and again as i
head down Jamaica Avenue at that time, i wonder who
else was giving themselves away to make ends meet
out there. shadows never cover anything fully.

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