"What's your name, sweetheart? You're out late. Sorry we was doing something wrong there. You forgive, right?"
As she spoke I fixated on her two absentee teeth, and the gold crowns on the shards next to the gap. Her gums black with decay.
"Wendina. And no worries. I could care less what you two were up to. What's your name?"
"My name is Kelly. Pleased to meet you. You're cool, and you have pretty teeth."
I wanted to pay her the same compliment, but a little white lie would have ticked her off. She's smart--brilliant, even--and she was so flamed on crack she was pacing and flailing. To top it off, she's the same prostitute who threatened to beat the shit out of me a few months back.
There was a brief moment of recognition before we continued. Without acknowledging, we forgave each other for the messy incident, the menacing, and the frantic call to 911. Bygones.
"Thanks. I'm about to lose the same two you're missing." The direct approach. Find common ground, Wendina. Find it fast, because there won't be another opportunity quite like this.
"That's a fucking drag. The only good thing about that is they give you those Vicadins after they yank. They're not my favorite, though. I'm on some great pills, I tell you. What kinna pills you like?"
"Sleeping pills. They aren't what got me in trouble, but they're a big problem."
"That why you up so late? Can't sleep? Man, I love to sleep. I could crash right here and now if it weren't for that other stuff. Hey, I could be your AA sponsor. That'd be funny as hell!"
I stepped a bit closer to her and tapped her arm as we shared a good laugh. My instincts were dead on. Next thing I knew, she was listening to me ramble about my lifelong battle with insomnia, consoling me and telling me her woes.
Her smaller friend leaped out from behind the trunk of the tree we were under and offered to make a phone call. She wanted to hook me up with whatever I needed. Damnit if I didn't consider it for more than a few seconds before I declined.
"No, I can't go there, but you're an angel for offering."
"He could be on his way. Let me know."
"I will." She went back to hiding behind the tree.
Kelly and I then proceeded to have a rousing discussion about drugs, teeth and the fact that the two don't go together. Addicts are drawn to each other. There's an instant affinity regardless of lifestyle, history or differences in personality; and we always have bad teeth. It never fails.
"Go inside and get some rest, hon," said Kelly. She gave me the nicest toothless smile I'll ever get.
"I'll try my best."
"Before you leave, what's your dog's name, anyway?"
"Sam. That's a perfect name for him. Goodnight, Wendina and Sam."