A Heartless Ruse: Flash Fiction by cam
Adam sat on the concrete, his back against a brick wall, watching the prostitute do her business. How many times he had come to her, he had no idea. How much of his money he had given her, he didn’t care.
She appeared one evening on a street corner along Adam’s walking route home from work. For a few evenings, he simply watched. She wore clothes that showed off her petite figure, and exposed as much skin as possible. The black tank top formed to her thin frame and contrasted with her brown skin. Tattoos peeked around every curve, and piercings penetrated every available flap, fold, lobe and lid, causing Adam to imagine where else she had found to mutilate what otherwise was a beautiful body.
She might have been in her twenties, thirties or forties, he couldn’t tell. The tight frame suggested younger, but her eyes told what Adam deemed the truth. She was desperately mining her aging body for the last, quick bucks it could bring. Her eyes told another truth, that those dwindling dollars were not enough. She had won Adam’s heart, not by conjuring love or lust, but pity.
He approached her for the first time. She was facing away, and he cleared his throat. Carmen spun around and, for a moment, looked terrified. She quickly pulled the frayed ends of her psyche together and smiled.
“Hello baby, you see something you like?” She dispatched a happy face and a sing-song voice to greet him. Was it confidence that came from success, or was it a do-or-die response from a long string of failures to turn a trick? To Adam, it appeared this woman was going down, but she was going down swinging.
“No, I mean, you’re fine but no, I don’t want anything,” Adam said. Being turned down was nothing new to this woman, but being sought out for something other than sex brought carefully disguised fear to the fore and, on its way out, fear donned the carefully chosen mask of rage.
“What?” she said, loudly enough to attract considerable attention. “You come up me just tell me no, you don’t want nothing?” The heels of both hands caught Adam by surprise as they connected with his solar plexus.
“What did you do that for? I just wanted to talk to you.”
“I don’t want talk. I want do my job, then want cash.”
Adam rubbed the pit of his stomach, letting enough time pass for the onlookers return to their own business.
“I wanted to give you something.”
“You got nothing I want.”
“I want you to have this." He dug into his pocket.
She hesitated, staring at the open palm. The effects of adrenaline made her hand shake as she reached out and took the folded cash.
“What is your name?”
Her eyes met his. Jumbled emotions surfaced and their effect ran down both cheeks. The pseudo confidence and seductive smile were gone.
“Carmen,” said the real woman.
“Carmen, I don’t know what is going on in your life, but I hope this helps.” Adam walked away hoping he had done the right thing.
Day after day he returned with his latest gift. One such day, she spoke to him.
“Oh, baby, thank you, thank you for help me. My debts are so much and this will help a little. It is better than nothing.”
Carmen’s words echoed in his memory as he walked home. He tried to sleep, but Carmen's voice ran in a loop through the night. Why had she said something so cruel? He was giving her a significant portion of his income. It is better than nothing.
On another day, he watched from a distance. A white sedan stopped along the curb on Carmen’s side of the street. He could see animated hand gestures inside the car and Carmen’s eyes wide with fear.
She pulled some bills from the pocket of her shorts and passed them through the open window. After the car drove off, she remained on the curb, staring at Adam.
“Come, come,” she said. Adam crossed the street, and Carmen grabbed his hand. “I show you what I do with money.” They walked about ten yards into an alley, and Carmen pulled off her top. “Men pay more now to see.”
“You used the money I gave you to have your nipples pierced?”
“You no like?” she said. Her smile faded like the sun passing behind dark clouds.
“And you gave money to that man in the car.”
“I have many debts.”
He handed her another roll of cash and left.
It was a kind of high he felt giving money to Carmen. The smile that erupted across her pierced lips, the gleam in her eyes that preceded the inevitable flood were outward expressions of something growing deep inside, something she had forgotten existed.
Adam was giving Carmen hope, but it was a promise he could not deliver. The despair was a monster too powerful for him to slay. It was time for the knight in shining armor to ride away. Adam hated himself for not realizing sooner that hope, without the ability to deliver, was a cruel mockery, a heartless ruse.
The new route to work was longer, but he couldn't bear to watch the inevitable, the loss of hope, false though it was. Adam's final gift was to release his grip and let Carmen fall into the familiar darkness of despair.