Sunday, July 24, 2005

Folding T-shirts, The Dark Side

We saved the T-shirt folding job for the end of the night because the sideshow began at 10 o'clock when the hookers punched in. They would start walking the street in their high heels and miniskirts, the same women, every night.

Every once in a while there would be a new group of girls show up, from the Mainland. Some of them were quite young and pretty, but after a few months they would have the same hard, hungry look as the rest. This was in 1987, when it was just dawning on the world that AIDS was more than a gay disease. There was one woman on the street who was truly ahead of her time. She was handing out free condoms to the hookers and telling them about disease. She was referred to as "The Rubbermaid". I once saw a rookie cop trying to arrest The Rubbermaid as the actual hookers scattered unnoticed. Our store manager had to go tell him to leave her alone.

I used to have to park a number of blocks away, in the public parking places along the Ala Wai Canal. I would get out of work at 11:30 or midnight and walk back to my car. I had junker cars, with doors that didn't lock, but in Hawaii old cars quickly become infested with large cockroaches. I would pound on the car before I opened it, the cockroaches would scatter, and I would get in and drive home. I never worried about the proverbial bad guy lurking in the back seat because I figured that he would get tired of cockroaches crawling all over him and leave before I punched out.

One night I was walking back to my car on Kuhio St. when I found myself overtaking a couple arguing. The girl, quite young, was wearing high heels and a halter top, but she was slouched over with her arms crossed over her chest, crying. The guy was arguing, pleading, cajoling, threatening, doing whatever he could think of to get her to stand up straight, strut her stuff, and make him some money. I wanted to say something, to do something, to help this girl and tell her she didn't have to become a hooker. Sadly, I couldn't think of what to say, how to protect myself from this guy if he got mad, what to do with this girl if I actually got her to leave him and come with me. Looking back, I seem gutless. But at the time I had a baby at home and must have been pregnant with another, hardly the situation where you can suddenly put yourself at risk for a stranger. In the end, I just passed them by.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We all have moments that we regret like this. The only help is to resolve to say something next time. Not to necessarily put yourself in danger! Sometimes just "Is something wrong?" is enough to change the course of events.

In kindred spirit,