The Electrocution


Friday, April 6, 2012

The Electrocution

There is a giant cross that still stands at its post along O’ Farrell Street. It looms out on its wide hill and watches the goings on below in the Tenderloin. A lone sentry.

The man pulled up in a black SUV at the busy corner of Van Ness Avenue and Geary Street—part of the Tenderloin stroll. He tilted his head slightly down and looked at the girl dressed in tight blue jeans, heels, a black leather jacket. She lowered her body slightly and peered into the car—her long hair falling. She could not see the man’s eyes—it was dark.

The girl was pretty. Twenties. Not so hard like so many. Heavy makeup on her face. Bluish circles under her blue eyes. She stood there peering in—trying to see. There was a moment’s hesitation—a pulling back of her elegant body—a pause—like a puff of air—out of nowhere—during a flat day—a desert day.

She got in.

“Hey. What are you up to tonight?” she asked in her “nice girl” voice.

“Just driving around.”

The girl began her calculation: “Clean cut, corporate, probably married, straight, has money. Could get $100. Won’t push it.”

But she forgot to look at his shoes.

It is always in the shoes that you can size up a man. Who is he? Look at his shoes! Are the shoes new? Made from expensive Italian leather? (likes to spend money, charge above $100) or old? (saves money and is tight, likes to be in control—stick with the standard $40), are they tight fitting? (uptight so be careful) or loose (easy-going/easy to manipulate), are they an outlandish color? (vain—flatter him—wants attention), or are they a dull brown (low self esteem, build up his confidence), are they boots with steal tips? (violent nature—stay away), or are they soft sneakers made for running (COP! Run like hell!), or are they plain scuffed up loafers (a dull nature—and broke). And the final calculation: do the shoes fit the clothes the man is wearing?

She forgot to look at his shoes—because she was tired. She had been shooting cocaine the night before. And she felt weak. And no amount of heroin could make her strong.

She got in the car.

“Mind if I smoke?” she asked beginning her routine.

“No go right ahead.” The man pulled an unused ash tray out.

The girl now reached into a small purse and brought out her usual cigarette –pretended to fumble for a light. She then lowered her long lashed eyes to the right and looked for the buttons that unlock and open the door—and the windows.

She lit her cigarette—lowered her puffy hands—hands that were only a year before long and beautiful.

“Can you crack open my window? I can’t seem to find a way to open it.” She fumbled about most convincingly.

“Sure,” he said staring straight ahead while manipulating the buttons to lower the window on her side.

“Half and half?”



He nodded his head and smiled very slightly.

“Hot tubs? You know—on Oak Street?”

“No—I don’t think so. I want to stay in my car. “

He turned his head and steered his eyes to the back seat.

Her eyes followed his.

She began to notice that there were no personal effects in his car—nothing to give him away—nothing to tell her who he was. OK car was rented. But that was not unusual—could be he’s in for a convention—business stuff.

But the girl was just racing for midnight. The dials of the clock were moving into position and she was running with them—those straight lines. She was now moving so fast that she forgot so many things.

Then, with both of them staring ahead, the car moved straight, then made a sharp right and began to climb a hill.

“I know of a place—the parking lot up here,” the man said, nodding his head towards what the girl could now make out as a giant cross.

“I dunno .…”

“It’s dark there and no one’s ever around,” the man said as he continued the climb.

And she forgot what Maria taught her: never go where the trick wants you to go.

She began to calculate: risk against time—time against risk—a merciless equation. Time was everywhere—time was on the cross before her—time was in the man’s face—in his eyes which she could not see—time was in his wallet. Time was her gifted mouth.

Immobilization was not allowed to be part of the equation. If she failed to make the money and score tonight, then she would wake up sick—the running nose, the yawning, the sweating, that strange smell on her skin—bleeding out—the poison of a hundred days.

She was not allowed to wake up sick. If she woke up sick she could not work. It would be very, very difficult to attract a trick sick—because her mind would not be working well. She could maybe get lucky and run into Tom Henry, who was always good for $100 and the Hot Tubs. At the Hot Tubs she could at least disguise the smell on her body—and the hot water would revive her circulation which would be getting very slow—very slow. But if the hands of time rose up to high noon—well then she would become too sick. And she could not pull it all off—so well—the walk—with the beautiful graceful sway—on the high heels—almost a skip in her long step—a step made from a dancer’s elegant legs.

There was power in those legs. Those legs once pushed a car door open against the strength of two full-grown Chinese men. She braced her right leg against the door so hard that they could not close it. She pushed on it so hard until it gave way and she had enough space to squeeze out of a back seat and free herself to the street. And once she hit the street it was all over for them. And they never could catch her.

And if she got sick—well her thinking would not be clear—it would not be so good—she would forget to cover up the tracks on her hands—on her arms. And then the desperate phone calls would begin—to Brooks Penney—or her mother—or anyone she could think of.

And then the begging from the dangerous one—the connection she wanted to avoid—the one she knew so well—Michael Barry.

And she had to pay the Patels—every single day—$40. Come rain or shine.

“Can you pe—can you pe me now?” The Indian beggar maid’s hand would open and her eyes would lift beseechingly towards the heavens.

For her room. With the dirty rigs in the nightstand drawer.

And the song from “Cheers:”

“Sometimes you wanna go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came …
You wanna go
Where everybody knows your name.”

Playing on the small television set in the center of the room. The empty milk cartons on the dresser. The stockings—and condoms on the floor. The ash tray. Over flowing. Cigarettes burning from Charles’ endless chain smoking. Him stretched out on the unmade bed—a bed riddled by machine gun rounds of small holes. On the nod. Cigarette dangling, moving in slow motion—gently down.

And there’s that smell—that all pervading smell—it gets on your clothes—and in your hair—in your very finger tips. And you can’t get away from it—it’s on you—that smell of mildew—that smell of death.

The trick smiled at her now—as if he could see her decision before him. He tilted his head slightly towards her for just a second—then went back to staring straight ahead.

He made a sharp left this time—and drove into the bowels of the grey concrete slab of a building.

The car stopped inside the parking lot, right beneath the giant cross, but in a shaded area, away from the flood lights which illuminated sections of grey stone.


“O.k. I guess we should get in the back seat?”

The man nodded.

The girl did not move. She crushed out her cigarette. She could see from a jagged cut of light, red lipstick on her cigarette filter. The man rolled up the window. She still did not move.

Then taking her cue, he leaned back against the leather seat and pulled out from his wallet in his back pocket 3 crisp twenty dollar bills. She could smell the money. And her stomach churned.

And she was sure the trick had done this before—all of this before—some floating memory. She was sure.

Looking straight ahead, then, he leaned his right hand back against her breasts—brushed them slightly. And again on cue she gently touched the bills with her finger tips and then ever so gently pulled the money from his open hand.

Then she rolled up the 3 bills and placed them in her right blue jean pocket.

The man popped the locks.

And they both got out of the front seat and climbed into the back. It was awkward. He was tall—and he did not fit well. And she kept hitting her head on the ceiling as she had to pull her shirt up—to expose her beautiful, round, full breasts—and then pull her jeans down around her knees to free one leg.

He never looked at her face. He seemed deeply preoccupied with something—again—something floating—a memory.

For a moment he returned to the present and then looked up and down the parking lot.

“I thought you said it’s safe here,” the girl said.

“It is—it is. Just making sure there’s no security guards around—or anything like that—for the church.”

Then she felt it—the gut feeling. Like a brush of air—behind her neck.

And she thought she could hear whispering—from the angels—talking in slow, measured, loving voices—over and over saying “Want to live. Want to live. No matter what happens—no matter how bad it gets. Want to live.”

But she shrugged off the angels now. She was so used to handling these men—these pathetic men. They were all the same—no outlet of expression for their desires beyond a play act—to get off—these men who were so disconnected from their souls—their feelings—they were just like she was. Their dicks could only respond to a lie—and the girl created the lie for them—made it easy to believe—that they were special—and desirable—that she loved sucking their dicks. That she enjoyed the act. Pure sex with no feeling. No person inside the flesh. And no soul inside the person. No pity. No care. A thing—there—to get off. A huge turn on for these men: the disconnect.

He sat next to her now and she could hear him breathing. He began to loosen his belt buckle. And then he asked her a question.

“Can you hand me that tissue over there in the side pocket? See it?”

The girl turned to look—following his eyes.

Then suddenly, she felt a sharpness—like a knife—a blade—cutting into her left side. She thought she had been shot! And like an animal she squirmed around to face what it was. It was a small black box. And she screamed. And she could smell something burning. It was her own skin! She screamed again—with words this time, “Stop it! What are you doing? Stop it!”

Now the battle was on. Every time she squirmed away from the black burning box, he would race after her and try to pin her down—her arms—so he could get to her stomach and rib cage. And she would not let him. She just kept fighting. Every time he tried to get at her stomach, she squirmed away. She met every turn of his body—again and again and again. Twisting and turning frantically—pulling her arms and hands and legs away from him. And he became frustrated. And so he used his legs to pin her down to keep her from moving. And he pushed his body against her and she could hear him breathing against her.

The girl met every stun he sent into her stomach and sides with a struggle. And she was screaming. And she could feel tears streaming down her face, and she could hear herself begging for her life. “Please stop it—please God—please, please stop it!”

And then she could hear the angels—those strange faraway and close up voices calmly talking—telling her how to do it. How to stop it.

As she was fighting and as he was pinning her down and electrocuting her mid section, something happened. It was as if another part of her was watching from above. An untouched part. A most determined part—a mother fucker!

“Want to live. No matter what happens—no matter how bad it gets. Want to live.”

And she could see the cross above her body—and she was not religious. And she heard the angels talking—again—in those strange, loving voices—calm—telling her what the secret was. And she listened with everything she had inside of her. That part of her above.

And she was sure.

And she said, “Take the money! I don’t want the money! The $60 dollars! You can have it back!”

Now she let him zap her—just one more time—to get to the $60 dollars. She had to let him. So she exposed her stomach and she reached into her pocket as he zapped so hard that her body arched back. And she knew if she lost consciousness she would die. And she wanted to live. And she was going to live.

And so she used all her strength to pull the money out of her pocket—she got it—in her sweaty fingers--her shaking fingers—and she threw it at him.

“Take it—please God! I don’t want the money! You can have it back! Take it!”

And suddenly it stopped….

She could hear a breeze roll through her head—an opening of space inside of her soul. And the angels were not talking—she was.

“I won’t tell anyone about this. Just let me out of the car. I don’t care about the money—you can have it.”

His hand was holding the black box and he looked at it as if stupefied.

Then slowly he opened the car door on his side in silence and rolled out of the back seat and straightened himself. He buckled his pants up. He held the crushed bills now in his hand.

He got into the front seat and looked through his rear view mirror—back at her—studying her face.

So she did nothing. Said nothing.

Then he started to speak, in a strange almost high voice, “Did I hurt you?” You know it was supposed to tickle.”

The girl said nothing. She didn’t even breathe.

“Look here,” he said as he leaned back into his seat and pulled his wallet out from his back pocket.

“Did I hurt you? I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

The girl held back tears. She held her whole being into a tight fist. And waited.

“Take this,” he said and handed her 3 crisp hundred dollar bills.

The girl took the money.

Then he popped the lock.

And she was out and running. And they never could catch her.

© Mary Catharine Lemons, DBA “Cathy Lemons, ” April 6th 2012.