New work in progress…

Mirror, Mirror

She had fire poker eyes, that’s right, eyes like the pricked black end of a fire poker, the charred iron star you poke in the fire to stir the coals and a flaring mass of wiry, permed black hair that gave the impression a wild, slightly hysterical animal or the pelt of such an animal were clinging to the top of her head. She was leaning up against the brick wall of the army surplus store in her scarecrow body, one bony knee bent and her stiletto heel stuck between the bricks as if in a half-hearted attempt to hold herself up, ‘what a caricature,’ I thought when I first laid eyes on her, ‘what a cliché of a burned-out city hooker,’ and yet, I couldn’t take my eyes away.

She was beautiful, I guess, in a mauled and damaged way, those dully burning eyes, the strong Mediterranean features beneath the ravaged skin, a straight nose and jawline and something peculiar about the region around her eyes that gave her an . . . exotic look, that made you look twice at that face to see if you were getting it right, that is, if the face had a peculiar beauty or if it were just unusual. From a distance she would have been striking but once you approached you couldn’t escape her rough skin indented with little marks (it wasn’t sagging yet, not yet, she was still young, in her late twenties, I guessed, not much younger than myself, though it would sag soon enough given the hard life she was leading), probably the leftover scars of adolescent acne but they looked like teeth marks, tiny compulsive bites made by a rat or other diminutive rodent or by the repeated sinking of the tip of a knife―not too deep, just deep enough―into the skin on those cheeks. Nor had she done herself any favors with the garish silver lipstick (very tacky, a 70s disco look) and thick silver eyeshadow she wore, other than that she hadn’t bothered to put on any makeup, not to cover those scars or to enlarge those pitted eyes, she hadn’t gone to any trouble to make herself attractive to her clients, she hadn’t taken the time or had the energy, that is, she hadn’t ‘given a fuck’ and the fact that she hadn’t and didn’t ‘give a fuck’ (as they, the streetwalking population, would have put it) was written all over her face, she was not in the mood for it tonight, not tonight: ‘tonight I’d rather not, tonight I’m not in the mood for being fucked in two by strangers, I’ve showed up for work, I’ve clocked in but that’s all I could bring myself to do tonight . . . ’ I couldn’t say I blamed her for not wanting to make herself up like a teenage girl getting ready for the prom, who would want to get made up for such sad and sordid work but such shoddy self-presentation was a poor business move or self-defeating choice and it was costing her money, she was shooting herself in the foot, so to speak, I wondered if she ever thought about that. She might at least have made the effort to smile or she might have put on a coat of mascara, a single coat of mascara can transform a woman’s entire face and I thought maybe I should stop and tell her this.

Perhaps she was counting on her mile-long matchstick legs (which made her look rather like a marionette) to draw them in or perhaps she was a discriminating or picky whore who liked to see her clients up-close before going to bed with them, but could she really afford it? If her competition wasn’t stiff, it was abundant―the street was lined with a motley crowd of hookers, ten or fifteen of them parading boredly up and down the block, all wearing impossibly (yet all too possible, they were right there before my eyes) short skirts, their tits and asses squeezing out of them, to put it crudely but those are the terms the men passing by would have used and those were their clientele, those were the eyes they were trying to magnetize . . . If she hadn’t bothered to make her face up, at least she’d dressed appropriately, her skirt was so short it couldn’t really be called a skirt, it was more like one of those old-fashioned swimsuit bottoms women wore in the fifties to cover their hips but reveal their thighs, a square of knit or lycra red fabric that had to give a lot to make it over her wide but mannishly straight hips but that’s what lycra is good for. She was leaning up against the brick wall well away from the curb, she couldn’t be bothered to go out to the curb as she should have done were she serious about making a decent living, she really wasn’t giving it any effort tonight, or perhaps she was trying to distinguish herself from the other streetwalkers prancing on their stilted heels up and down the sidewalk and out on the furthest reaches of the curb like the most laissez-faire of tightrope walkers, balancing on a half-inch of curb between their heels and the gutter and calling out catcalls and hoots at the rolled-down windows of the passing-by cars or from those twisting adeptly on their stilettos in concentric circles that seemed to spiral in and close down on themselves until there was nowhere to go and the whores stopped and just stood there, lost, frozen, until they lit a cigarette and shifted back into motion amid the swirling blue and red and yellow lights of the city streets and the steady flow of their nightly offices.