By: Antwan Crump
“You can leave the money on the table” she offers to the john, as he struggles to pull his pants up over his shoes. She never much minds the time her customers would linger after their transaction. To her it was nothing less than the sign of a job well done.
Leaving the money on the table he asks “Are you sure you’re gonna to be alright? You’ve been coughing more than usual.” She never responds once she’s paid. The john exits, she gives herself a well practiced whore’s bath. Even if she wanted to answer him, the rushing echo of water from the faucet, often caused her to drift into her own imagination. Much of the time she simply reflected on her recent orgasm. This time however, fantasy took her off into the clouds. The stream of water serenading her fictional ascent.
The door slammed, bringing her back to reality. A dingy apartment on the sixth floor. The thought of this always brought a smile to her face. “Room 6 E to Six Me.” she knew it was clunky, but thoughts of how it all began made every man seem like the first. Lying to herself allowed a certain level of denial. Paying the bills, was just an added bonus.
“Oh what a trade” she exclaimed to her mirror, barely noticing the new bruises around her neck. As was her ritual she hosed down the room with a Lysol can, opened the windows, and turned down the television. She never looks for the condoms. The smart ones took them along with their stuff and the dumb ones don’t use them; but they would leave with something.
She walks to the dresser. Counting the money, she feels a burning pressure, clawing its’ way up her throat. “Don’t resist” she thought as it came up with bloody company. Ever polite she coughs into the wad of bills, leaving spots of herself on a Benjamin “Fuck!”
A knock distracts this moment of zen, her cellphone rings, one of them. She’s made an appointment. It was Saturday her busiest night. Worries aside, she couldn’t afford to hurt her reputation. “One minute” she said as seductively as she could muster, “I’ll be right there” now unable to hold down the the raspy jazz voice her dry socket had bestowed upon her. Of course how much could one care? What they were getting ready to do could be accomplished with a different orifice.
Three shots of whiskey later she dons her robe and answers the door, thinking “He’s being patient, maybe I’ll be nice, and send him away”. One could only had hoped. As the knob turns the door bursts open, revealing several armed police officers. She doesn’t fight them instead succumbing to a voice in her head that demands her to sleep.
She falls limp, barely caught in the arms of the arresting detective.
In her mind she was in flight. Floating gently along side the rays of the sun. Her finger tips grazed the edge of the clouds. She smiled as the birds sang along with joy. Tweeting, tweeting, tweeting. This must be heaven she thought, whistling with them. She closes her eyes to fully experience the wind on her face. The ecstasy came to a shattering end, with the words,
“Bethany. Bethany Brown. Bethany!”
The clouds fade, she awakes in a hospital bed. Feeling pain she looks down to see an I.V. stuck into her arm, beneath that handcuffs restraining her. A man’s voice shouts “Bethany!” as he softly taps the side of her face. Fully awoken, she bellows out indistinguishably, sending a chill through the spines of everyone close enough to hear.
About an hour later, she sits up in the bed, aloof. Several doctors stand around her. It’s apparent that they have urgent news. Attempting to cut through her self-apathy, they fail to interject. She prefers to query them about the state of her apartment door, the location of her clothing, and whether or not she left the oven on.
The detective walks in. Ignoring her rambling he plainly states “Bethany you’ve been diagnosed HIV, it’s in advanced stages and if you don’t cooperate you will die.” Bethany looks to the doctors for confirmation and they nod in agreement. The doctors excuse themselves from the room.
Pulling a chair beside the bed, the detective places a folder of pictures in Bethany’s lap. “I’d like to question you about several men, who’ve all recently been diagnosed with….” The detective’s queries are inaudible to Bethany as she closes her eyes, and envisions the clouds.
Interrupting the detective Bethany asks lowly “Are you married?” He looks with a grimace and responds “What? Yea, but what does that have to do with anything?” Bethany turns her head toward him, opens her eyes, and says “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Bewildered the detective asks “What the hell are you talking about?” Bethany leans in and grabs his hands. Hesitant he pulls away, she whispers “It’s okay, come here.” He leans in, she looks him up and down, then brings her lips just outside of his ear and concludes “Matthew 5:28. It means just fuck me already, so I can go home.” He looks around, removes her handcuffs, and complies. Don’t worry, he wore a condom.
Walking home the next night, several men call to her. Ever the professional she ignores them. The clicking of her heels, attracts many would be attackers. They knew not to make a move on her, not in this neighborhood. She waves to several friends, before entering her building.
Finally making it up the stairs, and into her hall, she looks at the apartment numbers one last time. Again thinking “6 E to Six Me”. A man awaits her at the door. “Sorry I’m late honey.” she apologizes, and they enter.