by Loren Higbee

The night that Margaret got sick, we made
the hasty decision to go and help (she was
afraid of hospitals and wouldn’t call
an ambulance). The buses had long since

stopped running, so we put on jeans and t-shirts
and ran ourselves, even though their apartment
was on the other side of town. We reached
Piazza Primo Maggio near midnight,

and in the parklike square I jogged right
by a hooker underneath a streetlight. Dressed
in purple—miniskirt, blouse, and stockings—he
towered above me, at least six foot three in his

five-inch heels. In that brief moment, I
heard him cough brokenly and sigh and shift
his weight from foot to foot. My feeling of terror and
revulsion passed. My eyes

met his. We shared a passing glance, and I
felt a sudden flare of empathy
for my transvestite prostitute —both whores
and missionaries learn early on to keep

a clinical distance, not to be discouraged
by scorn, and above all not to take rejection
personally. We both nodded
as I ran past—professional courtesy.