You want to know how a nice girl from Kansas City ends up working the day shift at Cheetas' on the strip?
It sounds almost like a joke, doesn't it? A nice girl walks into a strip club...
Except it isn't a joke. In fact, there's nothing funny about it.
This is for real, and this is my life.
"Eighty bucks." I fan four crumpled twenties on the narrow counter, trying to keep the desperation from my voice. "That's all I have."
Behind the grimy, bullet-proof window, the woman looks at me disdainfully. The windowpane has become distorted over time, and her eyes appear to bulge, like I'm on the wrong side of a fishbowl. I've been here for ten minutes, pleading, arguing, practically begging for my car back, but the woman--Cherie, according to the plastic name tag tacked just above her right breast--hasn't said a single word other than, "No."
Actually, that's not true. She has also said: "That will be three hundred and sixty dollars."
Now she repeats, "Three hundred and sixty." She pops her gum once. A small table fan on her side of the divider blows chemically-treated blond hair away from the folds of fat around her neck, the deep crevices of skin at her cleavage. She adds: "Or the car stays here."
Sweat trickles down my back, pooling at the waistband of my jeans--my only jeans, except for the pair I have shoved in my trunk, along with every single other worldly belonging I own.
"You don't understand." Now I know I sound desperate, but I'm past caring. "My car is...it's everything. I've kind of had a rough run for a while. I got kicked out of my apartment." I pause so she can appreciate the significance of this: without my car, I have nowhere to live.
She says, "That's not my problem, honey." She wads a tissue between long, curved fingernails--predatory fingers--and dabs at the sweat on her forehead. "Look, if you want to leave your eighty bucks, like a down payment, we'll keep the car here for a couple weeks. When you get the rest of the money together, you can have it back."
I leave CityLights Towing Corp with exactly two dollars and thirty-seven cents; no car; and no options.
They tell you that LA is a city of dreams. But they don't tell you it is also a city of nightmares.