I’m on my way down my last stop of the night. 2:45 am, Easton Boulevard. Last shift isn’t so bad as a bus driver, except in this part of town. This next stop goes past the red light district, and I hate driving through this late at night. It saddens me to see the girls, caked in makeup, soulless eyes, teetering at the edges of the sidewalks. As I drive through, my mind fairly empty, no patients on the bus, something catches my eye. I push the brakes, hard, and my whole body twists around.
There she stands, on the corner of the street. Blonde hair, the ends dipped in purple. And then she turns around, and there’s a tattoo on her collarbone, and her face is worn, and the illusion is shattered. But I can’t get that brief moment out of my head. I deliberate for a second; I know that I should just keep going. Then I say, out loud, screw it. And I reverse the bus back up to the street.
The doors shudder open and I step outside to the girl, who spins towards me in a very suggestive manner. Can you hula hoop, I ask.
The truth was that Sandi rarely said no to a client. It didn’t matter how absurd or demeaning their requests were, she needed the money, for the track marks criss crossing her arms and between her toes. But this situation was a really new level of weird.
Never before had a bus driver stopped while driving, and never had anyone asked her to hula hoop. Maybe this guy had a sexual thing for hula hoops. It was weird, certainly, but it wasn’t that bad. 50 for an hour, she said.
Okay, I can pay that, he said back, and the gold band around his finger glinted in the street light. But I don’t want any sex. I just want you to hula hoop for an hour.
She looked at him. What an absurdly strange request. Get on the bus, he said, holding out a ten dollar bill. The rest is in my wallet.
She got on the bus.
I don’t know what I was thinking, picking up a prostitute in my work bus. I look at her, and try to guess her age. She looks like she’s in her mid thirties, but prostitutes always look older than they are. Maybe in her twenties.
I’m expecting her to get off at the next stop, the final stop, where I draw the bus into the empty street corner and pull open the doors. But she doesn’t move, fidgeting in the seat directly behind me. I could kill you, I say. Do you really trust me this much?
No, she sighs, and her bloodshot eyes meet mine. I need the money. I don’t trust you, but I need the money.
I don’t ask for what. Instead, we pull up to the bus yard, and I park and punch out while she sits quietly on the curb. We walk to my car, and she moves to sit in the passenger seat, and I stop her. Sorry, my wife sits here. She seems to understand.
The car arrived at just past 3am, to a small suburban yard on the outskirts of town, where a tired bus driver and a prostitute, dressed to the nines, tumbled out of the little car. The bus driver went in, and returned thirteen minutes later with a glass of water, a hula hoop, and his wife, whose hair was already in rollers and who appeared to be somewhat disgruntled by the appearance of a prostitute in their front lawn. Sandi used the time for a smoke, but stuck on where to put the finished cigarette with no ashtray, settled on digging it into the ground with a glittery-heel clad foot.
The bus driver handed Sandi the hoop. Awkwardly, she began to spin it around her waist. About five minutes of silent spinning went on, before the wife broke the stillness.
Ohmygod, she said. You’re right. Just ask her to turn around.
So Sandi turned around and continued spinning, and from behind her she could hear muffled sniffling.
I guess it doesn’t make sense, to ask a prostitute to come spin a hula hoop in your front lawn at 3am. But it makes my heart a little less heavy, and even though my wife was resistant to the idea, even she is crying now.
Would you like a snack, dear? She asks, and the prostitute spins around again.
I still need my 50 at the end of this, she says, eyes cutting into me.
Of course, my wife says, and brings her a plate of crackers and cheese. The prostitute, still spinning, devours them.
You look just like our daughter, I say helpfully, trying to make the situation a little better. I don’t think I’m succeeding.
Bring her out then, the prostitute says back. Let’s take some pictures.
My wife obeys her, rises to her feet and comes back out with an album of pictures. She pulls one from the glazed pages. Our girl, on her nineteenth birthday, barefoot on the lawn, spinning in a hula hoop.
The prostitute’s eyes meet mine when she sees the picture. I get it, she says. My son.. He should’ve been two today.
I’m sorry, my wife says, tears filling her eyes.
She spins, and she turns around, and as she does, I notice her trying to do something with her feet. Sort of lifting them. Then I realize she’s trying to replicate the girl in the pictures, kicking off the sparkly shoes.
Morning began to dawn, bright and clear, around 6am. As the sun rose, the man and his wife sat on the front steps of their house and watched a prostitute with two left feet and a broken heart dance with a hula hoop on their front lawn. As the clock struck 6:30, the woman with the album went back into the house and pulled out her rollers, and her husband loaded the prostitute and a bundle of hundred dollar bills into the car, and drove back slowly towards the red light district. I’m sorry for your loss, the prostitute said as she collected the money and disentangled her long legs from the backseat.
I’m sorry too, the bus driver replied, watching her. I’m sorry for both of us.
With that, the car pulled away from the curb, and the bus driver only glanced back from the sunrise for an instant, to watch the prostitute with the collarbone turn around and briefly, become his daughter.