I’ve lived in many ‘hoods in my lifetime. I’m not doing it on purpose. I’m cheap and I move a lot with very little notice so shit happens. Half of the time, I don’t even realize it. I mind my business, work a lot, and never realize I live next door to a crack house. As far as I knew, all those people going to bible study groups and coming out high on Jesus. And it was none of my damn business.

I seriously don’t even know what crack looks like. I don’t smoke weed. It never occurs to me that people have drugs. People could be freebasing Tylenol PM as far as I know. I have no reference.

The second time I moved to NY–Long story. We don’t have time for it right now–I had to meet a friend at Penn Station. Of course I was PJ Early, which means I was worried about being late and being embarrassed so I arrived so early it was actually even more embarrassing. As I stood in the station waiting for her, what I assumed was a homeless man walked up to me. He held a napkin with white rocks in it and said he had something he thought I’d like. It may have been crack. It also may have been his teeth, which were noticeably missing from his face. Either way I wasn’t buying.

I still don’t know if it was crack.

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Anyhoo, since I rarely realize I live in a terrible neighborhood, I often do unsafe things like count money as I walk down dark alleys, leave my house keys in the door, and walk my dogs late at night. (Actually, thinking about this reminds me that some of this stuff is unsafe wherever I am. I need to rethink my life. A lot.)

For a time, I lived in such a bad neighborhood that homeless people were setting the house across the street on fire at night to keep warm. Crackheads stole my dog and tried to ransom him back to me. The pizza guy didn’t deliver to my neighborhood after dark. I was seriously only upset about the pizza.

And each night, I would get home from my bartending gig at 1 or 2am and walk my dog through the streets of this neighborhood. We’d walk to a local 7-11, where I’d buy him a hot dog and me a pack of Reese’s Cups. To get there, I’d have to walk through a park where the homeless, the drug addicts, and prostitutes congregated. This was in Virginia so it was very scandalous. Now that I live in NYC, that’s called a tourist destination.

One night, I’m walking back with my candy and my dog when a car slows down to a creep to follow me. I ignored it as long as I could and kept walking. Then the window rolled down and a man leaned out. “Psst!” he said. “Psst!”

Finally, I said “Yeah?”

“You looking for a date? How much?” he said.

Now, I immediately looked down at my clothing. I was wearing a pair of pajama pants with monkeys on them, a plain white tee, and a sweatshirt that belonged to my husband. I also had a dog with hot dog breath on a leash. Did I look like I was selling sex? And if I was selling it, couldn’t I have tried a little harder? Like put on some actual pants? If I was a prostitute, I looked like one that wasn’t charging very much.

I figured this dude was stupid or desperate. Either way, I was gonna play with him a little bit.

“$20 for a blow job. $50 for a lay. $60 for all around the world,” I said, using the terminology I’d recently learned from watching Pimps Up, Hoes Down on cable and quoting what I sincerely hoped were bargain basement prices. (Otherwise these chicks are being screwed in more ways ones than one.)

“And it’s $100 if you want to the dog to watch,” I added, trying not to smile.

I figured he’d drive off but he didn’t. The man paused. It wasn’t for long, but any time is a long time when you’re considering whether you want to shell out extra bucks for a dog to watch you and the World’s Least Ambitious Hooker get it on.

Finally, he said “Ok but no dog.”

“Man, get out of here!”

He must have taken my disgust in him as bargaining tactic because he said “Ok, ok. Use the dog! I don’t care!”

That put me over the edge. I was just playing with him but this guy needed to get his life together. “Get out of here! I’m calling the cops!”

I yelled, shooing him down the street. The man drove off, probably in search of someone wearing a UPS uniform to proposition. (In fact, someone once propositioned me while I was wearing my IHOP uniform and standing at a bus stop waiting to go to work. Now that I think about it, I may be bringing these things on myself. I might walk or stand a certain way that says I’ll perform sexual favors for loose change. I need to work on that ASAP.)

Now that we were alone, I looked down at my dog shaking my head as if to say “Can you believe this joker?” He gave me a weird look back. It almost seemed to say “Are you crazy? Do you know how many hot dogs I could have bought with $100? I watch you have sex with that other guy all of the time and nobody has paid me for it yet!”

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Princess Jones

Princess Jones is a fantasy author with an obsession with the stories we tell ourselves over and over. For more talk about books, connect with her on Goodreads.

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