For the first year or so that I lived in Providence after I moved back, I lived in a building on Elmwood Avenue. It was a big old Victorian building which I think was originally a single-family house owned by someone who was pretty rich. It had been subdivided into twelve pretty decent-sized apartments, which gives you an idea of the size of the thing.
The neighborhood is one of the worse neighborhoods in Providence (the Elmwood neighborhood is proud not to be as bad as the South Providence neighborhood, but it's certainly no walk in the park), and there were often prostitutes stationed in front of the building.
My first real encounter with one of the prostitutes that hung around the apartment building I lived in came during a hurricane which blew through town (I think it had been downgraded by the time it came through Providence so that it was no longer a hurricane, but it was still plenty rainy and windy). I had gone down to the dumpster to drop off some trash before the weather really got bad, and coming back I noticed a woman was yelling something at me. I couldn't quite hear what it was, though, so I yelled back,
WHAT?She came over a bit closer and yelled,
YOU WANT A DATE?Aha! I now understood what was going on. Dorkily, I responded,
NO THANKS, I'M ALL SET!(I mean, what does that mean, exactly, in this context? but I didn't want to be rude) and went back inside.
A while later, I don't remember exactly when, I went out to a party to which I brought various kinds of soda (I don't drink alcohol as a rule, although there are exceptions). I returned home pretty late with a sixpack of Stewart's Key Lime soda (which is a sort of fluorescent green and which I'm told makes a great mixer). Standing in the doorway of the building were a woman and some guy who were chatting. Since I would be passing between them I abandoned my usual policy of avoiding eye contact and wished them a good evening. They asked me if I had been at a party, or something, and the woman pointed at the six-pack and asked if she could have one. I (feeling slightly intimidated, although they weren't threatening me, but I had a general policy of trying not to anger any of my neighbors) said, "Well, they're just soda, but sure," and handed a bottle over, which she proceded to open using her teeth, a sight which I found impressive and a bit ... I don't know ... surreal is perhaps the word I'm looking for. I wished them a good night and went into my aparment.
Months later, I was moving the last few boxes from my apartment (to my current abode on Public Street), it was again pouring out, and the woman who I had given the soda to was again hanging out in front of the house. She greeted me and we had a brief polite conversation, at the end of which she asked if she could use my bathroom.
Now, previous experience told me that this was probably a loaded question and that if I said yes it would eventually lead to an offer to exchange sex for money. On the other hand, it was really crappy out, and it didn't seem unreasonable to think that she might actually have to use the bathroom, or at least that she would like to get out of the rain for a little while. Also, almost all of my stuff, including the expensive portable computer stuff, had already been moved to my new apartment, and I probably was never going to be in that building again, so I wasn't really worried about getting ripped off, so I said sure.
I let her into my apartment and she went off and used the bathroom. Upon emerging she noted that the apartment was pretty big and then asked if I wanted a date.
No, I really don't,I said. She nodded and said,
Oh, you don't play,and the subject was dropped.
After this, I moved the rest of my stuff out of the apartment and never returned. My new apartment only has three units (one occupied by the landlord) and I haven't been accosted by any prostitutes since moving into it, which has been quite welcome.
Certain questions arise from all of this, I suppose. For instance, if an MCI telemarketer (for instance) had been standing out in the rain and had asked to use my bathroom, would I have said OK? I think I probably would have, especially if I had previously seen him bite the top off a bottle of Stewart's Key Lime I gave him.