I am crossing the road, walking home from lunch with my boyfriend during his break from school. Lunchtime traffic runs steady through the arteries of the neighborhood, streets that are normally quiet. I wait for minutes before I can get across the main road onto my own street, and when I do get a break it is only a short one and I have to hoof it. The car in the far lane, a sleek late-model import, has to slow down for me a little. It flashes its headlights at me in what I assume is irritation, but I am safe already.
The car slows further and turns onto the side street with me, crowding me onto the curb. The driver is a man, alone. He is looking at me. I put my hands in my pockets, make my walk unfriendly. He pulls past me and away. Up ahead at the stop sign he pulls a U-turn and comes back, slows down again. His fingers lift from the steering wheel in a little wave. The car nudges towards me to an almost stop.
I make my face a mask of hostility. I meet his eyes, and my eyes say, No. Go away. He shows me his teeth in a smile. A man in the sagging of his middle years. Eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses do not look sinister, do not look like anything. Face so forgettable it hardly is a face, but I know it now and will know if I see it again.
I used not to know what this was, this kind of encounter. I thought prostitutes wore feather boas and boots and hung out on neon strips with rows of other hookers, smoking cigarettes. It never occurred to me that I'd be mistaken for one, a regular girl just trying to walk home from work in a sweaty T-shirt and jeans rolled up my calves. I didn't realize that most prostitutes look like regular girls, because they are regular girls, who will also have sex with you for money.
I don't know when I figured it out exactly. Some time after I'd seen how the mostly regular girls in their mostly regular clothes linger around certain corners not too far down the street I just crossed. Sometimes just one of them, or maybe two or three, but somehow always circulating alone, never seeming to have anything particular to do: waiting. Some time when I caught the expression on one of the almost faceless drivers of the anonymous cars -- some combination of hesitation and hope -- and I realized he was waiting on me. I was the one who was supposed to do or say the thing that would set this transaction in motion. Ah.
After a while I taught myself a kind of rolling swagger that I thought looked tough. I wore men's jackets and hoped I looked like a boy from behind. I made my face like stone -- I don't see you, you're not there -- and kept walking. And the cars would pull past me and drive away, fast. And my heart would slow down and I'd be left with just a little lingering lick of anger.
They're not bad men, probably, so I don't know why I dislike them like I do. I don't ignore them anymore. I wait for them to pull up by me so I can meet their eyes with my full coldness and my full contempt. They don't look like bad men. They just want their dicks sucked by a mostly regular girl walking down the street on a mostly regular day who for a sum of money will get into the car.
I don't know why I dislike them like I do, why I want my look to sting them, why I want to see their faces fall. They aren't hurting me. The girls up the street want their business, and that's fine with me. I just want to walk home from lunch in peace. But I do dislike them. I dislike their soft bodies inside the shells of their cars. I dislike the expectation on their faces.
This guy ducks his head a little to get a better look at me. I meet his eyes. Don't roll your window down. I'll spit on you. Is every woman a possible trick to you, or is it only in my part of town? His smile falters and he looks away. The car speeds up to the end of side street, turns out onto the main artery again. He's gone. Maybe he'll get his blowjob and maybe he won't. Better hurry. Lunchtime is almost over.