A Prostitute I Used to Know

A few days ago I returned from a wonderful family celebration, feeling so blessed and fortunate. Today as I was running errands between appointments I passed a woman. I have passed her before. She is a prostitute who had once been married to someone in my former husband’s law school class. She is a few years younger than I am. I remember how pretty and young and vibrant she used to be. Now, her face is painted with rouge, her lipstick is messy and her mascara thick. She is horribly thin; she looks so sad and painted and ill. She and I were neighbors in the first apartment building that was my home in Philadelphia. It was the building where two of my children (before my present marriage) returned to following their birth.

Her son is about two years younger than the first child I gave birth to, my daughter. I remember that the woman, whom I will call Devora, never went into maternity clothes. She was so proud that she just went up two sizes in what she called “regular clothes.” I once invited Devora and her husband and her to dinner with my first husband and me when I was pregnant. I should have realized that something was terribly wrong. She was also pregnant, but was still in her lovely clothes, when she told me: “If I looked as fat as you I would kill myself.” I decided that she was just joking, and that being thin and beautiful was just more important to her than it ever was to me. Of course, we had nothing in common, and our lives diverged in almost every way.

But her son and my daughter were in school together, and so I would see her, always looking so stunning. But at sometime during or immediately after our kids graduated from high school, she and her husband separated; and soon after he was with a gorgeous younger woman, and they had a baby. And Devora turned to the streets. I am told that her former husband and his wife moved, and that her children no longer live here either. For them to see her this way would be horrible. Sometimes when I have seen Devora I have asked her if I can buy her lunch or if she needs anything I could perhaps give her. She whispers “no” and keeps walking. Sometimes she just stares at me. Sometimes she faintly smiles. Once in a while I see her on the arm of a man. Today when I saw her my eyes misted. She kept on walking and so did I.