I was worried I would not see Diane again, the police having nastily chased both of us away last time we talked. When we did run into each other, she apologized before I could, and suggested we finish taking pictures.
Seeing her in the cold, waiting for customers in the parking lot of a 7-11 at the end of Christmas Eve, got to me. The caustic attitude of the police before (“Why would you want to photograph that ugly thing”) and the indifference of the johns was too much. I took her picture, all the while feeling like crap.
Fill up on pump 7, three powerballs and a match five, Camel lights, and ten minutes with the hooker outside.
Wayne was laboring in the fading light, pushing his bike and his cart with scrap metal up a long hill. He was racing to reach the metal yard before it closed. At the top of the hill he stopped and gave me a big smile and hug, “Working, always working.”
He had told me before of his struggles, of his heart attack brought on by coke, of losing fingers to the cold, too high to notice the freezing metal searing to his hand. He still does drugs, he still is homeless, and he is still polite, happy, and gracious. He repeated what he always tells me,
“I am blessed. I am still here. Many others have gone. I am blessed. We are all blessed.”
You can be a gentleman regardless of your situation.
Maria’s face worked through a series of grimaces and contortions, the last an obscene gesture at a passing car. Her voice slurred, limited to one side of her mouth.
She was alone, except for the trucks. It was a truck that hit her a decade ago; “They covered me up, thought I was dead.”
For forty-two years she has been doing drugs, for thirty-two, sex work. “Sex is beautiful. Hand jobs, blow jobs, suck your tits: They do all of that for money.”
Her mother died when she was six. She had her first child when she was twelve. Eleven more followed. “They all grown up and in the system.”
Others know her as the tool lady. “You tell her what you need she will get it for you. Don’t go thinking she is crazy. She may seem that way. Just an act to stay alive out here alone.”
She waved her cane at some distant trucks.
“I love what I do. I do it because it gives me the attention that I need. And the drugs. The drugs drugs drugs drugs drugs drugs drugs…….”
She turned and walked back down the street into the darkness.