Damaged Goods(10)

By: Cynthia Dane

I used to make thousands a night without even taking off my clothes. She always had that bitter thought when she assessed her situation. Billionaires asked for me by name. Sylvia’s greatest mistake was believing her patron when he said he wanted to marry her. She had walked away from the sweetest gig a girl like her could ask for, and by the time she returned, she was too traumatized to work there again.

Sebastian was the closest thing she had to a real connection since leaving New England. Then the bitter fuck went and got arrested. Sylvia had to constantly remind herself to thank the stars she managed to get her two jobs so quickly. Waitressing was hell, but it was one of the nicest restaurants in the neighborhood, and that said something. Stripping was in her work history, although her boss at Decades was a shady fucker who would snipe her tips if he could get away with it. But the tips she managed to stuff in her purse before taking the first bus of the morning home helped pay the rent.

Then there was her third unofficial job. The soliciting, as it were.

Two charges on my record. Sylvia groaned to think about it as she cleaned out her locker for the night. The walk home was short, but it was after ten and the local loonies were already out high off their asses and harassing anyone they passed. Sylvia rarely worked her third job in this area. Too close to home. Also, she knew the loonies who might take her up on her soliciting. Not that any of them could afford her services.

“Night,” she said to a coworker as they parted ways on the sidewalk. Sylvia held her purse close to her body as she walked down the narrow street. Her coworker shouted something after her, but she didn’t register it. Once they left the restaurant? Sylvia stopped caring.

Friday night in Northwest Portland was always a vibrant time, regardless of the season. At the start of summer, when the days were nice and long and the weather finally letting up? It was borderline chaos. The outdoor chairs at bars and restaurants were stuffed with smokers and IPA drinkers. A healthy combination of high-end sedans and restored junkers lumbered down the two lane street, interspersed with buses picking up last-minute passengers off the sidewalks. The shops – located in converted houses and the odd brick building – were closed up for the night, but tourists still stood outside windows shopping with imaginary money. It was the kind of vibe Sylvia adored, all the way down to the three minute scuffle that started up outside a local bar. I live for these throwbacks to earlier times. The architecture, the food, the neighborhood spirits… if Sylvia could afford it, she would buy one of the old Victorian homes next to her rental house and ignore all the things she disliked about Portland for the rest of her life.

The atmosphere instantly turned quiet when she veered down her residential street. An ambulance zoomed by en route to the local Legacy hospital, but otherwise, the street was dead quiet – and dark. Suspiciously dark, if Sylvia didn’t already know where she was going and knew every homeless person by name. Like Sam Jean, who lived between two houses that let her stay in their shared yard as long as she cleaned up after herself and didn’t make too much noise. She was curled up asleep behind her bush now, snoring beneath a navy blue blanket while her ratty platinum blond hair tangled with dirt and leaves. She was one of the only people in the neighborhood willing to roll on bare ground.

And the local cats. Like Benson, who was always sitting in his driveway, waiting for Sylvia to give him pets on her way home.

“Who’s a sweet baby?” Sylvia’s love for cats never manifested in her own furbabies. Maxwell Carlisle, the fucker who stole her naiveté, had promised her all the cats she wanted after she moved in with him. Sebastian was allergic. Now? She couldn’t afford one, even though she often thought about kidnapping Benson.

“Watch it!” A woman bumped into Sylvia and scared Benson back into the bushes. Purple jersey flashed in the corner of Sylvia’s eyes as she stumbled toward the edge of the sidewalk. Fucking joggers! Black yoga pants, Nike shoes, and a lavender sports tank raced down the sidewalk. I hate night joggers. They were worse than early morning joggers. Brash, rude, and liable to run out in front of traffic at any moment, the midnight jogger had become Sylvia’s worst enemy on her walks home late at night.