“Wrong" by Todd Grimson, page 4

         One night I drove down there, and parked a few blocks away, near Emanuel Hospital. I sat down and watched, from an overgrown vacant lot, while she leaned over, talked into the window, and then got in someone's car and they drove away. A black girl in a white fur jacket and blond wig was left there. In a half hour or so my prostitute had returned. She was eating a candy bar. The white Lincoln Continental came by.
        I left. I was obsessed, and while I was ashamed of what I was doing, I was not ashamed enough to stay away for more than a few days. Then I would just want one look at her face. I would be going someplace else, and I would give myself the excuse to drive by once only, to see if she was there. Often she was not. But then, when I saw her again, after thinking she was gone, that she'd been murdered or O.D.'d or gotten out of the life ... when I saw her again, I was elated, and I knew she was aware of the car. I was embarrassed, imagining what she must think of me. All I could think of was to sometime pick her up, like a trick, give her all the money I possessed – much more than she would expect – and then I would ask for nothing, I would just give her the money and depart.
        I had no girlfriend at this time, though I did have some friends I saw socially, we drank and did cocaine, smoked pot, but I was so poor I was ambitionless. I told no one about the prostitute.
        Finally, one night I drove by, I hadn't been around in a week or so – this time, she ran out into the street, yelled something at me, "Hey," anyway I was shocked, but since she had called to me I slowed down, it took me nearly a block to pull over. I sat there mournfully, waiting for her to curse me and tell me I was a creep. The passenger door was unlocked.
        She got in. Immediately, I smelled her perfume, and some other smell, like a melted candy bar on an ancient telephone pole, candy wrapper a hundred years old. She had black nail polish wearing off, charcoal all around her eyes.
        "Why don't you ever stop?" she asked, a bit breathlessly. Her voice was higher and more immature than I had imagined, but I had expected my imaginings to be all wrong.
        "I never have any money," I answered.
        "Drive us somewhere, okay? Out of the neighborhood." She lit a cigarette, and then shrewdly said, in a few moments, "I figure either you're insane, and you're gonna kill me, or else you're really stuck on me, right?"
        I nodded. She knew what I meant. She asked me my name. Joe. Hers was Crystal. She had a joint in her purse, and she lit it with the Chrysler's cigarette-lighter, that glowing circle of hot orange. We smoked the joint, driving around, and then went to my messy apartment.
        She wanted me to do something for her. I said sure. She needed enough money to go back to San Antonio, she said. Saturday night, she said, naked, lying on top of me, there was this guy who would have all this money delivered to him, as part of a dope deal. She wanted me to take him off.
        "You're big and strong," she said, touching me once more. I could sense some nervousness, though not there in her hand. There was nothing unbelievable or especially depraved about the sex. But there was a palace way up there in her vagina. I wanted to cry, I wanted to just sob, but that was not something I did.
        I kissed her with my dirty mouth, and Crystal let me. She had a serpent's burning tongue. I wanted to let my love come out, even if it was tainted, impure. It was a creature you couldn't look at in the light.
        She was using me, and I consented, I deserved to be all used up. I wasn't doing anything better with myself.
        "Are you smart?" Crystal asked, looking deep into my eyes. I didn't know if, in her terms, I was, or could be, and I didn't reply. "You might be," she said, and pressed herself against me. There were miscellaneous bruises here and there on her body, scratches, signs of wear, a bandaid on her vulnerable bare foot.
        It was a reckless plan.

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