I’m standing in a truck-stop bathroom. It’s dingy and spoiled. It stinks like piss stains and shit-clogged toilets. It has an acoustic openness, though it is small and confined. I can hear the resonance, created by the little water drips from the faucet, ricochet of the walls. The watery reverberations makes me think of the way light refracts off of a swimming pool surface and waves and wiggles against a wall. My face is wet and I am drying it with paper towels. The water is glurging as it slowly drains down the rusty sink hole. My armpits are also wet. I have to carefully pat them dry in order to avoid the thin paper rag from breaking up and leaving little pieces behind in the stubble, that I would have to pick out with my nails. When I feel dry enough I pull my bra up, and with a gentle lift, I place each breast into its cup. Yes, if you hadn’t noticed I’m a woman. I then pull the top half of my sundress up like a full length apron, slip my arms through, and pull the thin straps around my shoulders. I dig through my purse and find my make-up. I paint my eyes, and color my lips. I remember once hearing that lipstick is made from recycled grease( from those vats outside fast food joints) and whale oils and fat. I decide that I don’t give much of a fuck. I use another paper towel to kiss off the excess, red-dyed fat and grease. I lick my lips. I look at my reflection in the musty, dirt speckled mirror. I put the make-up away and pull out my brush. I run it across my twisted knots. I hear my brittle hair break and snap as I force out the tangles. I find myself wishing for my youth back. I’m 32 years old. I feel 72. I feel sick. My heels click across the tile. Clickety, clickety, click. I feel like a shoed racehorse, primped and prancing for show. I am on show. I’m a professional. I make my way to the stall and open the door. I clickety-clack inside. The bottom side of the toilet lid is disgusting. It looks like someone poured maple syrup down it, yellow-brown melting drip streaks. The seat-ring is in the same condition. Both surfaces are cracked and chipping. I put the lid down and sit on the topside. I set my purse down on the sticky floor. I pull out a small compact mirror, a lighter, and a dollar bill. I set all three in my lap. I dig through the purse a little more and find what I’m looking for. I pull out a tiny baggie. I have my preferences. I prefer heroin the most, but all I could get was a little forty bag of meth from a sweaty trucker. I prefer methamphetamine to coke. I love meth’s smooth climax peak. I despise cocaine’s edgy comedown, but then again I love it‘s numb throat-drip and quick exited heartbeat. I like my drugs like I like my cliental. I have preferences, but I’ll do anything. If I was being honest though, I’d tell you I hate it all. My hands are a little shaky; I have a condition I like to call pre-snorting anxiety. My bowels clench, giving me a tight ache in my anxious underfed stomach. I take the baggie, open the cheap zip-lock, and plop a small chunk of the greasy glass into the dollar. I don’t know what it is; the material that money is made of or the weaved structure, but it makes for a perfect drug pouch, it has a non-stick surface and drugs can be crushed up inside because of it’s durability, unlike a plastic baggie. I fold the bill up around the little glass pebble. With the closed compact as a surface, I use the lighter to grind it up into oily white sand. When this is finished, I open the compact to show the mirrored inside. I also open and then use the dollar to work the shards into a little pile. Which are then carefully poured into a new pile on the mirror. Roll up the bill and I’m in business. I sniff it up. It burns like jagged salt on a chewed up cold sore. I snort and gulp it back, past my pink, raw nasopharynx. My face sours up as I taste it on the back of my throat. Covered in snot it leaves a slow trail, like a lazy chemical slug. I gag, swallow, and my heart pounds hard. I jumble everything back into my purse. I stand up and exit the stall. Clickety, clickety, click. Snort. I bare my teeth. Then I check my nose in the mirror. I’m clean…well, not really. I fix my dress and turn to the door. The knob is a cool silver ball. I hear it click as I turn it in my grasp. I pull and tiny little slivered light beams dart in from the edge crack. They grow wider until I am soaked in a white blinding warmth. I close my eyes. My heart thuds. When my eyes open again, the white fades away. The colors brighten and depth is installed into my vision. Shapes become objects. I look around. Hazes of gray exhaust encircle the monstrous eighteen wheeled beasts. They are grunting and grinding as engines turn over and growl. Shrieks and groans holler from the burdened chassis. Busyness is buzzing all around me. Honks and door jingles, random chatter. People in and out of the store, which also contains a small diner. People fueling up their automobiles at the gasoline pumps. Older couples stopping for lotto tickets. Frantic mothers on family vacations chasing their wild children. Dirty truck drivers socializing and resting. Cleaning their trucks. This is my demographic. My cliental. Yes, if you haven’t noticed I’m a professional whore. 2 Clickety, clickety, click. I strut myself over towards the mobile ‘village of the slobs’. Neighborhood subdivisions, made up of filthy rows of big-rig housing. A place where block-parties are single handedly occupied by gross apes wearing mesh hats. A few of which are advertising cheap highway strip-clubs. Pit-stained loneliness-addicts. God, I hate this. As I go to step over the sidewalk curb, my right heel wedges in the seam. I almost trip, but hold it to a clumsy stutter-step. The shoe comes off. I look around embarrassed. My purse has slid down to my wrist and is swinging. I try to keep from losing it with my palm up like a pristine bitch. I then curse the scuffed pink heel like the cracked-out loco-slut that I am. I bend over. My dress blows in the breeze. People are staring at me. I pluck the shoe from the crease and stumble back a little, almost falling again. I hop around and place it back on my foot. Standing up, I try to gain my composure. I slide my purse-strap back on my shoulder and look around again. Thump-thump. My heart takes an off balance beat. I swallow hard. I’m walking again. As I get closer to the stage of the show, I can start to see the faces in the crowd. Grimy beards smoking cigarettes, brows sweating bullets. Barrel-chests. T-shirts, suspenders, navy blue slacks. Hairy arms. Mud-crusted boots. Another step and the sunshine glints off a side mirror. A door slams. A man grunts. In five…, four…, three…, two… And we're here, live. At least I think I’m alive. If I’m dead, I’m pretty sure I’ve found my way into Hades’ tortured abyss. As a teenager I remember seeing a painting called The Damned Cast into Hell. It was in an art book, in the waiting room at the car insurance office. The painting was done by an Italian artist, Luca Signorelli. It portrayed an ugly scene of regretful people being dropped into a swarming orgy of crowded hate. Everyone piled on top of each other, screaming out in torment. Diseased and crippled in agony. I remember seeing the twisted faces, the sorrow filled pleas. I remember thinking how I never wanted to go there. I remember when I later realized that there was exactly where I’d fallen. No choices, just failures, trapped in a miserably confined society, everyone fighting together in unison. Keeping each other away from heavenly escape. I don’t know, who cares, dead or alive. Everything I do is pretend anyway. I glue on my pretend nails, paint up my pretend face. Color on my pretend lips. Force my pretend smile. “Hey sugar.” I chirp, like a cheap southern bell. Big batty eyes, big phony grin. Secretly, my stomach bubbles and I almost burp. I’ve walked up, and am now standing over this thin little guy. Grey speckled hair. He’s probably thirty-five or fourty. The sleeves from his plaid lumberjack shirt are missing. There are frays leftover from where they were cut off. Faded Wrangler jeans with a worn in square where his wallet has been imprinted. Pointed leather boots. He’s bent over, washing the rims of the third wheel with his skinny arms. “What’s up darlin'?” he returns, standing up and squinting. “Where you headed cowboy?” I ask. Like I care. “Got to be in Columbus, Nebraska tomorrow afternoon.” He smiles. His slightly crooked teeth are outlined in rusty brown. “Ooh baby, that’s a ways off. I betcha’ get awfully lonely on the road, huh? Driving all that way.” I’m looking at him, licking my lips. Faking it. “Yeah, I suppose so.” He lets out a light nervous laugh. His eyes move around shyly. I move in closer. I turn from a clicking-heeled show horse into a noxious spider. He squirms in my web. “Whatcha’ say, you spend a little time with me before you’re out there, all by yourself.” I smile wide, exposing my venomous fangs. He looks around, twitching. “Uhh,…Uhh…” he stutters, like he’s slowly being paralyzed. “Uhh…, I’m sorry, but I’m married.” He’s looking with this precariousness on his face. Good try, nice guy. I already have him. I saw the ring right away, it doesn’t matter. I bite on my lip like a horny teenage girl. “Oh honey, that doesn’t matter. I won’t tell. It’ll be our little secret.” I give him a sly wink and then open my eyes big. “Just you and me,” I’m touching his chest and fixing his collar. He’s still uneasy, looking around. I smile big and say, “Don’t’ worry, I won’t bite.” I giggle authentically. He finally turns to me and nods. I follow him and he leads me to his truck. I think about how I will suck the juicy green innards of his wallet dry. 3 I’m in the bathroom again. Echoes and murky sounds have turned this place into a desperate cave. My dark hideaway. Shadows bob as the florescent bulbs flicker. Mossy funguses grow around the bordered rim, down by the puddled floor. They seem to have found a safe haven here too. I am straddling the filthy toilet and wiping my vagina clean of any remaining sex slimes and hump gunk. The paper towel is sopping wet and the cool water feels good against my tender openness. I carefully wipe front to back, to avoid wiping anything from my ass into my pussy. I learned this the hard way once and got a nasty infection. I have a foolish habit of learning the hard way. I hate myself for this. I assume I’m clean enough and pat myself with a dry towel. I take my panties from the hook on the back of the stall door and slide them up my legs and over my hips. I straighten my dress and gently comb through my hair with my plastic nails. I need another line. I close the toilet lid and sit down. I open my purse and get to work. I pull out the compact. I use the same process as before. Same, same, same. Everything is a repetitive spiral. Every droning day is just an expanding echo from your first day. The crested heights and slumping troughs slowly lose amplification, and the wavelengths eventually flatline. The absent mind simply becomes a leaky box holding many programmed formats of habitual behavior, waiting to be called upon or triggered. When you’re happy you smile, when you’re sad you frown. When you're strung out and your hands are shaky, you drop your drugs on the bathroom floor. When you realize what you’ve done, you grumble angry curses. It’s always the same result. I look down at the scattered crystal dust, sparkling and spread out on the urine glazed tile. I decide that there is no way I could muster up enough disregard to snort this mess off the floor. I consider the thought, but I do have more. I figure I’ll wait until later when I’m completely out, to make my final decision. So I start over again. Open my purse, pull out the compact. I try not to stare at my withered reflection. I am a weed in the human garden, stuck in the cracks, hiding in the crevasses. A little asshole teenager once called me a skankblossom. I never wanted to become a horticultural blemish in our cosmetically correct existence, but here I am wilting. 4 I had been sitting there for a few seconds, when I heard the door open. I froze. I stopped playing with the ice in my lap and thought, ‘Shit’. I hear clunky boots clap against the floor tiles. Slowly, they stop. At this point I consider lifting my feet up, but I left the stall unlocked. The visitor might think the stall’s open and that could lead to an awkward surprise. I can imagine the person busting in, and me spilling all this glass on the ground again. Both of us with these confused, big eyed looks on our faces. If I lock the little latch now, I’ll be heard and draw attention to myself. So, I just stay still and wait. It seems like a hundred rapid heart beats later. I had the urge to snort my tickling nose, but then I hear the boots again. They are heading towards my stall. I’m getting so nervous that I feel sick. These boots don’t sound like women’s footsteps. Clunkety, clunkety, clunk. These boots sound heavy. A rowdy steed ready to buck and kick this stable down. My breaths are short, quiet. ‘Creeeeek! Slaammm!’ The door bursts open and I lose it. The compact and the meth goes flying everywhere. It’s a gruff looking man. A burly, hairy armed son of a bitch. A gorilla in my midst. For a flash I remember him. I know this man. He tries to grab me before I leap off the toilet. ‘Slaaaaap’ The heavy handed smack echoes through the bathroom. I feel the instant black eye swell up. It takes away my vision and I am blind. I’m being shoved and beaten into the ground. I’m kicking and squealing. I have now turned into a fat harvest sow and this stinking pig wants to slip his sausage and eggs in between my bacon strips. I’m curled up and fending off his bashing. That's when it happens. Shit, the way he was handling me…it was bound to. I still can’t see, but I hear the heel skid colorfully across the tile. The idea arises in my head and I am surging with adrenaline. I reach out. He slugs me again. My stomach cringes, but that’s not my center. My focus is elsewhere. My fingers scurry out as they feel around on the ground like an alien insect’s antennae. My nails making distant taps on the hard flooring. I finally feel it in my grasp. As I’m picking up the spiked shoe, I feel another solid blow make contact with my face. It’s like a lightening strike in my mind. I see it behind my tightly closed eyes, the same way a strobe light flashes. I feel the blood from my nose. It trickles down to my lip and I can taste it. During all this I’m still being trampled by this ugly man-imal. My body clenches up and I hold the heel tight. He is still holding me down with one of his giant furry paws. The other clumsily explores under my dress. I feel the thick fingers slide under, and tangle around the crotch of my panties as he yanks. They slip down, but don’t come completely off. I try to cross my legs, but he has me pinned down and I can‘t really move so much. His other hand creeps in like a slithering snake as he tries to better his grip. With both of his hands occupied, I decide to make my attack. I grip the deadly shoe with all of my might and swing. He flinches as the pointy tip hammers him on the top of the head. I see the gash open before my eyes, the blood surfaces in little beads where the tiny capillaries had broken open. He looks up at me. His hands get caught in the dress as he tries to defend the second blow. Too late. He never should have looked up. The second strike chisels off his nose and digs right into his crazed bloodshot eye. I grind it in with my palm. He screams out. Now it’s his turn to squeal like a helpless swine. I yank the heel out sloppily as he is falling backward. There’s blood gushing everywhere. All over his navy blue shirt, all over me. I’m a mess and can’t see so good, but I am wailing on his head with all of my fear, and as much of my might as I can muster. He is motionless. His arms splay out and his disgusting mitts open like two half blooming flowers with five petals each. His gun dangles between his legs. In life there are many professions. Everyone is someone or does something. We are not always paid in money. But being a professional doesn’t automatically come with imbedded morals. No badge can shine as proof of security. No uniform is an automatic guarantee of protection. The truth is sometimes the one’s who are supposedly meant to help are the greatest threat of all, and sometimes fortification comes from inside yourself. This came as proof to me once again as I stared down at the lifeless police officer. The one who had threatened to bust me if I didn’t give him a blow job two weeks ago. He had come back for me again. He wanted more. I never meant for it to escalate to this...a dead lawman and me with the bloody heel in my hand. He had attacked me first, when I tried to run from the stall. Of course this information will be overlooked and ignored. It will be excluded from the police report. It doesn’t really matter. I will still be a professional, only I‘ll be paid in cigarettes. I’ll still have the drugs, and I will still be a wilting mess. The only difference is that I’ll have a new set of clientele. A new confined society. A new dark cave of desperation to hide away in. And new reason to hate everything. My bright orange sandals go floppity, floppity, flop. --the end.