they can’t be just girls. not simply middle or high school students on summer break, loving the feel of an unseasonably hot summer sun on their bare legs. they can’t be just girls like the sirens can’t be just falls, or heart attacks. they can’t be false alarms where indigestion is assumed but…”just to be safe…”

i work in a world where the girls are working girls. bright clear faces suspended over skin tight clothes so short that imagination is unnecessary. i live in a world where ambulance sirens, blaring from the county hospital down the street and heading east are often headed toward some larger gunshot related calamity.

and i don’t live in a war zone. bad press aside, i don’t fear for my life every time i walk outside. but i do work in violence prevention. and so the underbelly of my city that most people anecdoctalize, have names and faces for me. the stories that “scare away” business or illustrate the differences between berkeley or sf and oakland, are people to me.

dinner plans with a friend tonight had us exploring international blvd. so close to my apartment and yet i spend so little time there, despite shops and restaurants dotting the wide road. we sat chatting about work and dating and hobbies, when two young…girls is all i can say because they were still so far from womanhood…walked in. i lost my train of thought. stammered through the rest of whatever story i was sharing. we grew quiet for a moment.

i thought we were thinking the same thought. thought we were sharing the same reality. only, when they walked out and i began to relay a conversation i’d had with an oakland police department detective who told me that the prostitution in oakland isn’t about  “happy self-employed sex workers, but rather a pimp run industry” that more and more is leading to murder, my friend looked stunned.

“you mean…?” she asked.

“you didn’t know?” I responded.

she stared out the window from that point on, distracted when one of the girls walked back and forth periodically  in front of the storefront for about an hour.

when i saw those girls i immediately thought back to the conversation i’d had with the detective about sex trafficking being the fastest growing criminal enterprise in the world. bigger than guns.

i envied my friend. envied her ability to see two young girls reading a menu where i saw two young girls working a block.

as we hugged and said goodbye i pointed out another young girl holding down her corner half a block away. and as i drove home, the orange sun casting a beautiful silhouette of downtown where international blvd. faded into the horizon, my eye caught the the passing shapes and colors of other girls and young women, dressed too scantily against the cooling bay evening.

they could not be giggling girls hanging out together before the street lights -the signal to return home when i was young – called them home. they could never be laughing for the sake of laughter, the corner a coincidence and not their destination. they can’t be just girls to me, although i wish with so much of myself that they were.

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1 Comment on they can’t be just girls

  1. Ladawn says:

    Beautifully worded

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