Heading north on I-75 toward Macon. The steep, rugged hills and the preponderance of heavy forest with its riot of green makes you think you’re in the north woods and the red clay soil makes the ground look like it’s bleeding. My destination is not Macon; too many mean rednecks and rusty memories of the Allmans.there. Not Atlanta either. Just a satellite little city I’ll call X City. It’s like Atlanta used to be.
Off the interstate at the Destiny Road exit. But why name it that? Maybe somebody had a dog named Destiny. Or a wife with a face like a dog. Down Avon Street to Lee street. There are a lot of people here for this day and age. Lee Street goes downtown where things always get interesting but not always pleasant. I park the car in a secure lot, leaving my luggage in the car. Then I start walking.
This neighborhood used to be a WASP El Dorado where the rich and privileged lived. But I am appalled at how the place has deteriorated and become a high crime and street drug and infected needles place that isnt safe to walk around in even in daylight. Homeless people and pimps and pushers and I should go back to the garage and drive someplace else. But I cant quite make myself do it.
I stop and wait for a bus. There are street people here and a girl who is not so skuzzy that belongs somewhere else. I wonder if her parents kicked her out or her boyfriend kicked her out and she doesnt know how to live on the street. I decide to talk to her.
Hi, I say.
Hi yourself, she says. What do you want?
The pleasure of your company.
I’m not a prostitute, she says.
I didnt think so. Where you from?
I used to live with my folks in Marietta but that place is…Shaking her head.
It isnt safe here, I say.
Yeah, I noticed.
Look, i’m lonely and just want some company, that’s all. I’ll pay you to spend the afternoon with me. That’s all. We can do whatever you want. Do you have a place to live or…
I have a hole in the wall apartment but it’s home to me. Just me. What did you say your name was?
I didnt, I say.
After a pause she says, Okay. I’m Tonya.
Pleased to meet you.
How old RU anyway? She says.
Old enough to be your grandfather. Does that bother you?
You’re not serious, she says. You’re in your thirties or early forties and I have no problem with that.
I’m sixty-eight years old, I say. Word.
Show me an ID, she says.
I hand her my driver’s license and she looks at it, then at me and at the license again before she hands it back to me.
It must be you have great genes, she says.
I must have something. Will you spend the afternoon with me? Your bus is coming.
To hell with the bus, she says, yawning and stretching. I dont feel like going anywhere. Can we just go to my place?
Sounds good to me, I say.