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.
The woman had appeared one evening on a street corner along Adam’s walking route home from work. For a few evenings, he had 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, petite 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. So 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 from him, and he cleared his throat to get her attention. She 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?” Internal confidence dispatched a happy face and a sing song voice to greet him. It was not confidence that came from success, but from a long string of failures to turn a trick, a do-or-die response to being waved off time and time again. If this woman was going down, 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 quick hand job, blow job, I want fuck, then want cash.”
Adam rubbed the pit of his stomach, letting enough time pass that the onlookers passed by as well.
“I wanted to give you something.”
“You got nothing I want.”
“I want you to have this,” he said as he dug into his pocket.
She hesitated, staring at the outstretched hand. Her own hand, shaking from the effects of adrenaline, 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, I don’t know what is going on in your life, but I hope this helps.” Then Adam had walked away.
Day after day he had returned with his latest gift. One such day, she had spoken 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, as he attempted to sleep, and when he got up for work the following day. It is better than nothing.
On another day, he was watching from a distance when a white sedan stopped along the curb on Carmen’s side of the street. He could see animated hand gestures inside the car and fear on the woman’s face.
Carmen pulled some bills from the pocket of her shorts and passed them through the open window. After the car had driven 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 had walked about ten yards into an alley when 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 and the excitement in her voice were gone.
“And you gave money to that man in the car.”
“I have many debts.”
He had handed her another folded stack of cash and left.
There was a kind of high he felt giving money to Carmen. The smile that erupted across 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 that he also saw in her told him that this 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, is a heartless ruse.
He continued returning every day, disguised as a beggar, sitting on the concrete with his back against a brick wall, mere feet from the woman.
After weeks of watching in this fashion, Adam recognized the change he had anticipated. In Carmen’s eyes, he could no longer see a glimmer of hope. His final gift was to return to her the familiar darkness of despair.