I think that the woman with whom I once struck up an acquaintance could have been a prostitute.
This was either in the late 1980's or the early to middle 1990's while I was single. Now, in 2013, the details are vague and I recall several but not all.
We first met at — I think — Denny's Restaurant. I will call her Sheryl to protect her privacy although, thinking about it, she may have given me a fake name those many years ago.
Sheryl was very thin, very delicate, with long brown hair. She had the look of fragility. Her face, her arms, her legs, were all small, small boned. She had a disheveled look. It was not sexy disheveled; it was poor disheveled. Her clothes were old and had seen many washings.
I remember one time we bumped into each other at Denny's and talked for a long time. When I walked in, she was seated at a booth near the door and I found a booth farther back where it was more quiet. After talking to each other from our booths, I invited her to come and sit with me. It must have been during the summer when I was not teaching, because it was a weekday.
In the course of our conversation I asked her all the little questions that people ask of each other. What she did for a living, where she worked. Her answers to these questions were vague. She did tell me about a boyfriend, however, and went into long detail.
I noticed that throughout the time of her sitting at my booth, she kept looking back at her booth. She had not left any food there, and no drink, but she kept looking, and I might have thought that she was waiting for her food to be served. It never was.
Every time a man walked by — any kind of man — she would look up at him and try to catch his eye. It was not a casual, "Oh, who's that" look; it was an intent to connect.
I remember for some reason I had a Denny's coupon in my purse, and sensing her need, I gave it to her. Her gratitude far outweighed the value of the coupon, or at least the value that I placed on it. "Are you SURE you can do without it?" "Yes, I am. You use it." "OH thank you SO much!"
Another incident that I remember was a rainy day at Denny's Restaurant. We had sat and talked and throughout that talk, she again focused very intently on each man who passed our booth, trying to lock eye contact with them all. We talked again about her boyfriend and again she kept her personal information vague. I still did not know what she did for a living or where she worked, or why she was out at Denny's during the workday. By this time she knew a lot about me.
We both left the restaurant and I remember asking her if I could drive her to her home, since it was raining so heavily. No, she said, that was not necessary. So that meant that she was going to stay at Denny's. She made no moves to leave the doorstep and entryway.
After that I didn't see her for a long time. Maybe a year or even two. After this long hiatus we bumped into each other at Von's Market, very near Denny's Restaurant.
Sheryl looked paler and more frail than ever. Her curly fine brown hair was untended and she had sores on her lips. She looked thinner, if that was possible. She was not carrying any groceries although she was at the entrance to the market. She appeared distracted.
We did not talk long, maybe because she was self-conscious about her lips or embarrassed at being caught just lingering at the entrance doors of Von's Market.
All of this suspicion of her being a prostitute came late for me. It was only after I was able to recall all of our conversations and revisit my observations about her that I began considering it a possibility.
I wonder about her. I have since moved and gotten married (and widowed) and I live in a different city. Where is she? What is she doing? Is she eating well? Does she have warm clothes for the cold winter? Has she survived the years? Is she still alive?