Where the Girls Are

Crack addicts. Homeless ex-cons. Transvestite prostitutes with HIV. If life has landed you in TV Park, you probably didn't have far to fall.

A few feet away, Al is poised, bent forward, watching the street. His eyes catch the sparse light in a way that makes them glow like milky moons. There seems to be nothing to look at besides the passing teens. A sound that might be distant gunshots punctuates the quiet.

Then Mike glides up, dressed all in black. He and Chris don't say much to each other. For a while they just sit together on one of the pavilion's concrete steps. Declaring that time is money, Lala decides it's time to get out on the street. "It's gonna be cute tonight," she remarks and takes off on her crutches, shortcutting her slow way south through the alley where she and a date were robbed at gunpoint a week earlier. Once on 79th Street, she finds another transvestite, fancily dressed in a sheer, lacy camisole and denim shorts. They stand together on the corner, across the street from an abandoned cinema. Business is slow, and they are taunted by a large group of kids who appear to be headed for Biscayne. They exchange news. "Miss Pookie died three days ago," the other queen tells Lala. "Miss Edison died a week ago. Miss Rex done died."

A car with a few men inside pulls up, and both groups look each other over. The men drive off without transacting business. "Guess who I picked up on Biscayne? Miss Cookie," Lala resumes her patter, exhaling through her nose. "It's too goddamn hot out there. Oh, hi!" she waves at an approaching black-windowed Lincoln, which slows, then stops. A back door opens, and Lala climbs inside, drawing in the crutches behind her. The Lincoln drives off. The other queen stands alone on the corner.

Chris and Mike remain on the steps; he knows she wants to work, and she knows he doesn't want her to. Perhaps they've achieved that level of intimacy that will allow them to resolve the conflict wordlessly. "I knew there was something here you wanted," Chris says finally, her voice husky. "When I put on these pants, I knew you wasn't going anywhere."

When Luscious returns from her tryst with the insurance adjuster, Chris and Mike are nowhere to be found.

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