I'm immediately greeted in the most extroverted way by a strung-out coquette. Her plastic mouth laughs so close to my face that her squinty eyes go vertical.
There's no way out. There'll be no looking around for me; conversation takes on the rosy feel of minimum-security imprisonment. Can she have some coffee too? Sure, have some terrible coffee.
She reminds me of a woman I met at the King's Motel on Valencia Street in San Francisco. She'd stand in her doorway draped in a threadbare bathrobe and ask, "Got a cigarette for me today, Blondie?" No one at the King's Motel was ever awake before noon. Those were days carved out of futility and horror.
Minutes pass without incident. Talk of prison, her ex-boyfriend, growing up with chickens. Finally she realizes I'm a dud. "Listen," she says. "Gimme twenty bucks." Practically demands it. She just needs the twenty bucks. I don't have twenty bucks. She'll take whatever I have. She'll take fifteen bucks.
"Let's see what I have here," I mumble, fingering through my wallet. "I have five dollars. How about I give you three?"
Look of disgust. Smoke from the accident still rising off her carcass. She takes the three bucks. I can feel her disappointment. We're both swimming in it.