Taking It to the Streets

All of these women have different stories to tell and each are selling their bodies for their own personal reasons. I could simplify those reasons and say it’s all about money to get drugs, but that would be too easy and would only be scratching the surf

May 31, 2013 at 8:21 am

I’ve lived in Covington, Ky., for nearly two years now and for most of this time, I’ve known Melissa. I’ve written about her here before. She’s a good looking woman, in her mid-40s and has 10 children. We were neighbors for a while — drank coffee together, smoked a few cigarettes, talked about this and that.

Melissa has plenty of stories to tell, but doesn’t want to tell them to me. She’s a prostitute and doesn’t want her name to end up in CityBeat. I tell her quite often I won’t use her real name, and I never have, but she doesn’t buy it.

What Melissa does buy is crack. She has a $200-a-day habit. She told me this once when she was high on the stuff — stoned, sitting on a bus bench outside of Walgreens. I see her there a lot. Sometimes she asks me to do her a favor. She waits as I go into the store and buy her a pack of Pall Malls. I think she’s banned from Walgreens, but that’s something else she didn’t want to talk about.

She does want to talk about Amy. Apparently she’s the “hot new hooker on the street.”

“She blows men off up by the railroad tracks,” Melissa says. “She’s a good lookin’ bitch, but she ain’t got no pride. She’ll do ya anywhere.”

I wouldn’t know. I’ve seen Amy a few times, walking up and down Pike Street with her blonde hair, thin body and wearing almost no clothes, but we don’t speak. If I approached her with some money in my pocket, that would probably be a different story but that’s not going to happen.

There’s another prostitute I know named Emily. She doesn’t look like one; if I can pretend I know what a prostitute looks like. She’s heavyset, even wears shorts in the winter. She has to be in her 50s.

She’s a bold woman — will approach cars stopped at red lights, and will walk up and down the streets of Covington, letting it be known she’s “available.” It’s a bit pathetic. She might as well be wearing a billboard.

Emily and I have talked more than a few times on that bus bench in front of Walgreens. She keeps telling me she’s a former heroin addict, says she gave up the drug years ago. I’m not so sure of that. Her shaking hands and her moodiness tells me a different story.

I don’t talk to Glenda, another prostitute, but she does ask me for a light sometimes. She’s more than heavyset, usually wears a tank top and her shorts are so short, you can almost see her private parts. You can always see her butt cheeks whether you want to or not.  It’s not a good look and sometimes I’m tempted to tell her so.

I like Cheryl. She tells me back in the 1990s, she was a stripper at “The Pad,” an adult club which was on Madison Avenue for years. There were a lot of strip clubs in Covington back then, or so Cheryl tells me, but, “The Pad was the best one, had the best looking girls.” These are Cheryl’s words — not mine — and I can tell she misses it.

“Downtown Covington’s changed a lot,” Cheryl says. “People running the city wanted to clean it all up but what did they really do? You ain’t got no traffic down here anymore, kind of like a ghost town if you ask me.”

Cheryl’s pretty — kind of short with long brown hair, blue eyes and has a smile that’s a bit mischievous. She has four adult sons and six grandchildren.

“When The Pad closed down, I had to take it to the streets,” Cheryl tells me. “It’s better than working at KFC or some burger joint. Besides, I don’t do it that much anymore — make enough money to buy some toys for my grandbabies and that’s about it.”

She married young and has been with the same man for 30 years. I can tell family ties are important to her. That’s not the case with Melissa, who knows Cheryl and likes her. Melissa’s 10 children each have different fathers. She hasn’t seen any of her kids in years.

“I sometimes wonder what they’re up to,” Melissa will sometimes say at that bus bench in front of Walgreens when she’s high on crack. “I can remember all their names and in the order when they were born.” If I press for more information, Melissa’s walls go up. “That’s all I’m gonna say about it,” she’ll say. “I don’t want this printed in no goddamn newspaper.”

There are other woman I could write about — Amber, who is so drunk, sometimes she can hardly stand, Erica, a pretty little thing who cries a lot or Eva, who I think is from Russia and can barely speak English — but this is a column and not a book. All of these women have different stories to tell and each are selling their bodies for their own personal reasons. I could simplify those reasons and say it’s all about money to get drugs, but that would be too easy and would only be scratching the surface.

They do, however, all have one thing in common. They all have to deal with the Covington Police Department that’s trying to control drug addiction in the city and, in turn, are trying to control the selling of sex to get those drugs. Every prostitute I’ve talked to has gone to jail and every one of them has been released in a matter of a few hours. The arrests aren’t controlling anything.

I never thought I’d be living in a city where prostitution dominates a downtown area, but I am. Some of these women I don’t know at all. Some are acquaintances and some have become friends. For all of them, I’m afraid that they’re going to get beat up or even worse. I’ve mentioned this to Melissa more than once.

“It ain’t no big thing,” she says. “A lot of these guys are assholes, but you deal with what you need to deal with. You get smarter as you go.”

That’s an exact quote from my friend who doesn’t mind taking it to the streets, but doesn’t want to be quoted in CityBeat. I get it, Melissa. In all cases, names have been changed here to protect the innocent. 

Contact Larry Gross at [email protected]. Larry Gross’s third book and first novel, “The Hurricane Café,” is available now through Amazon.com.