That Rose Girl
by Tim Lea
It had been a great early evening run in her estimation. She had sold a half dozen roses. Three alone to a gentleman from Massachusetts who bought one each for his wife and two daughters. She had weathered her downtime between 8 and 10 and the pace had then recovered itself. She started up again near the waterfront at the pubs and taverns and had sold only two roses. It was now 11:30. Time to head to "The Banks", a huge dance club in the downtown core that had been carved out of an historic building that used to be a financial institution. Inside The Banks there were six different clubs smashed together into one big club. Each area had its own theme, but the mood was the same in the whole building. It was crowded, loud, smoky and full of drunk people who for the most part, consciously or subconsciously, were looking for a member of the opposite sex to go home with. It was a great place to sell roses.
She fortified herself in her reflection on the side of a shiny red van, put on a smile that she knew was too fake and simple to be believed and said hello to the doorman as she entered The Banks. He was kind. He stamped her with an inky red mark on the back of her hand, but he did not charge her cover. The bar staff universally ignored her wherever she went. They would see her three nights a week but never attempt to build a relationship. Like government fisheries officers and the fisherman themselves who passed each other on the wharves or on the water and waved but could not become comrades.
She kept it structured. Following a predetermined path and hitting all of the tables regardless of gender or age. "Would You Like To Buy A Rose?" "Would you like a rose?" "Would you like to buy a rose?" Her approach never changed. She understood the ebb and floe of this place. She knew where the patrons would congregate together in pools to talk and sip on their drinks. These were always hot spots for her. She would sell well over half of her roses in those places. She also understood the currents. The narrow, meandering strips where people would travel from place to place. These areas were often jammed with people. She would plunge in, her vase of roses held with two hands above her head, mimicking the waiters and their trays of drinks. All the time she would smile her simple and plastic smile. As she walked, she felt the eyes of the people on her armpits, neck and breasts. She had to rub against others as she passed. Her shoulders and head would instinctively scrunch towards her chest. It was in these currents that her fortifications were at their most vulnerable. Once, when she was just beginning, she had tried to pull out of the crowded flow of people and had been pushed by the collective force. Her vase spilled over and all of her roses fell to the floor and were crushed by shuffling feet.
She made it to the first pool. There were small groups of people leaning on rails or sitting crowded at tables. She went to each group. "Would you like to buy a rose?" "Would you like to buy a rose?" She sold three. This was encouraging. A good sign of things to come. She headed back into the current and towards the next pool. She repeated this procedure over and over, the number of roses in her vase steadily diminishing.
She was travelling through another current. A long one that climbed a set of stairs and finished on a landing overlooking the entire lower bar. She was tired and suffocating in the mass of people and the noise. She could see the seahorse through the haze directly ahead. The seahorse was a pillar that supported the corner of a shooter bar. It was tucked in a corner by a pay phone that no one ever used. It was too loud to talk on a phone. There was a chair by the phone and she would sit there for a few minutes each night. The seahorse was metallic purple and its eyes shone with a dull blue light. There were tiny bulbs hidden behind each eye. The eyes cut a thin dusty line through the air as she headed for them. The current took her directly there and she nimbly jumped out and quickly fell into the chair.