There's a new prostitute in this part of town, and I've nicknamed her "Lips". She has a pimp boyfriend, a crack habit and a boyish wardrobe. These are all standard issue. What isn't standard issue is her hairlip, more politely known as a cleft lip, that often accompanies a cleft palate.
When I arrived back home from attempting to get my dingbat dog to take a turd in the rain (he wouldn't), I did a little research and found out how little I knew about the condition. It's fairly common, for instance, and can range from imperceptible to nearly cutting someone's face in half. Clefts can occur in other gaps in the skull bones, and can be life threatening for reasons other than extreme difficulty with eating or breathing. Cleft lips and palates aren't necessarily related to any mental debility such as mental retardation or Down's Syndrome. That I knew, but I didn't know it was a dominant trait.
"Lips" probably knows all that, and then some. She's no doubt a high ranking member of the low self-esteem club because of her condition. It looks like someone, at some point in her life, cared enough to give her the gift of surgery, but they forgot to add finesse. It was easy to spot the deep fissure between her mouth and nose from half a block away.
I did my best not to stare, instead choosing to focus on her companion. She's rather short, and he was only a few inches taller. I'm 5'6" and I could have easily held my arms out to the side and completely cleared both their heads. He looked like an angry, sweaty stump who'd seen more than his fair share. It was impossible to tell his age by his crack-ravaged face. 18? He had "Lips" firmly by her left hand, and was pretty much dragging her down the sidewalk. In her right hand was a black plastic bag.
Black plastic bags are what dealers in this area use to exchange money for drugs, and boyfriends often make their girlfriends do the carrying. If no girlfriend is available, the younger of any two people is burdened with the baggy--sacrificial lambs in case the cops decide to check out the situation.
Someone was once quoted as saying that the most stressful job in existence is that of waitstaff. I'm pretty sure they never bothered to interview a prostitute with a cleft lip, as it has to enter into every negotiation she or her boyfriend makes. It's right there in the room during every transaction. Whatever vile thing a trick could possibly request of "Lips", she's no doubt had to do it to some sort of twisted narrative about her defective money-maker.
I made myself look at her again, hoping my expression was warm and pleasant not, "Oh, holy shit! How do you chew?" She blinked ever so slightly and attempted to return my smile, while Sam-dog eagerly sniffed her leg and ignored her boyfriend, entirely.
Thank you, genetics, for gifting me my slightly crooked smile. You'll never again hear me complain about it. Ever.