The Daytime Hooker & Other Encounters

I moved to Florida sight unseen. Admittedly, not my best choice in the history of ever.

After a 10-hour drive, I got out of the car and burst into tears because I managed to land right in the middle of a “neighborhood in transition.” (Pro Tip: If anyone shares that phrase about an area you’re considering, run. Run like hell. Don’t look back.)

The house itself, gorgeous. I found a lovely compound that consisted of a main house, a pool cottage and the most charming tropical garden hugging the patio and pool area for wonderful privacy. As long as I stayed inside the fence, life was sweet.

However, living inside the safety bubble isn’t realistic. One must get out and about. So, I did what any good southern girl would do . . . I went to church. A 90-minute sermon and an overly-enthusiastic hug from a stranger later, I fought the urge to stop exploring.

Get out and try, get out and try, get out and try rang in my head. I wanted to learn to love the place I was planted.

Along the streets, rehabbers, junkies and dealers danced a dangerous waltz between sobriety and addiction.

At the grocery store, broken souls in shabby clothes shuffled outside, asking for money and help.

For the first time in my life, I looked around and realized that I was the minority.

These encounters served to illuminate my simple abundance – a place to live, a car to drive, a closet full of nice clothes and a wonderful job to fund it all. By comparison, I have nothing to complain about. I am not greeted as “different” or an “outsider” when I walk into most places . . . and most of these people have been labeled nothing but since moving to this country.

I tried out shops and restaurants, my friends and family came to visit and I took walks to soak it all in and figure it all out . . . but I wasn’t ready for the reality I had coming.

One Saturday morning, I woke up early with the distinct need for sidewalk time. I laced up, grabbed a bottle of water and popped in my earbuds. For the first time, I was a bit more at ease. I walked over to the beach and took in the salt air, smiling at faces of every age and heritage.

Then, she happened.

As I approached the drawbridge on my return home, a slip of a woman emerged from underneath and shimmied through hedges onto the sidewalk. She wobbled on weak, pencil-thin legs a few yards ahead of me, yelling over the guard rail to the man below. I slowed my pace and tried to assess what was happening in front of me.

Was she a junkie? Did she fail recovery? Was she yelling to her husband below?

When I got close enough to hear the words, she was definitely not yelling at her husband below. She was working.

Approaching, I tried to make plenty of noise so I wouldn’t startle her and be shoved into oncoming traffic.

Clothes-hanger shoulders balanced a mass of gnarly knotted hair . . . not quite colored, not quite not. It was evident she hadn’t had the luxury of a shower in several days, if not weeks. And, just as a deep-seated sympathy began to dance with fear of the unknown, I announced “Coming by on your left.”

Her head whipped to face me. I met the hollow blue eyes that earlier spilled tears which turned her mascara into water color rivulets, pooled and puddled into the lines of her worn face. Red lipstick smeared from mouth to ear, temporarily distracting from the black and yellow snarl of rotted teeth.

Compassion and terror clashed at my core as a guttural growl escaped her sunken cheeks. On one hand, I wanted to take her for a Clorox shower and to feed her a decent meal. On the other hand, self-preservation urged my feet to take flight.

But not without paying a mental price.

What defined the desperation that drove her decisions and landed her there? How old was she? Who taught her her worth? And how far away are any of us from doing the things we think we would never do?

In my world of non-answers, I know one thing for sure . . . none of these people – the junkies, the dealers, the homeless or the hooker – none of them asked for this. Not a single one of them said they wanted to be these things when they grew up. They had dreams– to be teachers, astronauts, firemen and parents. Then, somewhere along the way, life happened.

Life happens.

And the life that happens outside the bubble is starling in contrast to the life of friendly neighbors, new cars and unlocked doors that I left behind in North Carolina.

Since my initial arrival I made another move to a town that gives me a greater sense of security and safety. But, those initial encounters will linger forever.

Where are you today? Have you offered thanks and shown your appreciation for the people and circumstances that brought you this far?

After all, you never know when the tide might change, running you into the rocky shore that bursts your safety bubble. And maybe having your bubble burst isn’t such a bad thing. Because seeing life, people and circumstances from a vulnerable perspective has a sneaky way of opening the heart and softening the mind.

So, to my family and friends – all of you who cheerlead me, listen to me and love me in spite of my truest self – I appreciate you. To those of you who let me swim in the bottomless pool of your sweet fellowship – thank you. I love you, I need you and I want you in my life. I know without doubt that I can’t do it solo.

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22 thoughts on “The Daytime Hooker & Other Encounters

  1. Your stories are so beautifully woven with words that fill the soul with wanting to know more. Love you! don’t ever stop writing! You ROCK!

  2. As in your previous entries, your personal self comes through loud and clear and open minded and looking and listening and you put those senses to great use in crafting a mini-narrative. We all now have that hooker’s face imprinted firmly in our minds and feel the mixture of dread and sympathy that you wrote about. If you don’t already know Anne Lamott’s writings, I highly recommend them.

  3. Hey girl! Love hearing about your move and adventures. You are spot on with this one! Thanks for sharing and keep them coming 😊!

  4. Your writing is truly outstanding and it’s a pleasure to read the picture you paint. If you’re not there, you should seriously consider a book….not kidding. As a book enthusiast, I know you’d have great success! All the best on your journeys!

    1. I am humbled. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. I definitely have a few ideas baking. So, I’m here to entertain and stretch my wings a little. Fingers crossed I find the courage to fly!

      1. A-ha . . .Yes. Self-doubt is a killer and it kept me from writing “my stuff” for a long time. Thank you for being one of my new cheerleaders and supports. I’ll need your help as I keep going. So far, it’s scary, but it’s totally worth it.

  5. On a serious note . . . why the move to FL? I’ve only read two of your entries, but well worth my time. Keep up the good work!

    1. B/C I got tired of winter and wanted to roll the dice and try something new. I might fall flat on my face, but I might have an amazing adventure to write about! 😉

  6. Girl you are an amazing story teller and a very brave woman! I’m enjoying following your journey. Look forward to the next blog entry 🙂

    1. THANK YOU RONNIE!!! Your feedback means a lot to me. I should’ve started a long time ago, but I guess I had to get out of my comfort zone to make it happen.

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