It was a bitter, scary-cold night. The type of night when everyone should stay home. But the restless human spirit knows no peace. The need for a little action perhaps? Or was it only loneliness; a smile from a stranger at the bar, an invitation, and then it all went wrong...
...the pounding on the door was relentless.
"Please let me in. Please, please, I'm freezing."
Against my better judgment I got up, got dressed and went to the door. There had been people dumped in my seedy neighborhood before, usually drunken Johns, rolled for their paycheck and beaten, but this was a different scenario. At twenty below it only takes a short while for exposed skin to freeze, and not a whole lot longer for a lightly dressed person to succumb to the elements...
"What do you want?"
I looked out the front window and saw that she was young, and alone.
"Please, I have to make a call."
"There's no phone here."
"I'm freezing, can I come in and warm up?"
I opened the dead-bolt, undid the chain, and opened the door. The blast of cold air made me cringe, and my night visitor came in. She was in her early twenties, wearing only a light jacket over a short dress. Her shoes were thin flats, her pantyhose had been torn. I didn't have to ask what had happened. She was shaking violently. "Sit here, and I'll turn up the heat." There was a chair next to the floor furnace grate. She sat with her head down and turned so that her hair covered her face, she was ashamed of her situation and would not look at me.
"I really don't have a phone, but there is one down the block, is there someone who could pick you up?"
She shook her head:
"No but I'll call a taxi."
She had stopped shaking, she was bent over the furnace grate, soaking up the heat, slowly warming. After about a half hour she was able to talk a bit, she thanked me for letting her in. I had an old jacket that I offered her, she declined it, but then asked if she could "borrow" it when she made the call. She left, came back a few minutes later and waited for the taxi. Waiting by the window, when the taxi drove up she just said "Thanks," and then was out the door, into the car and gone.
A North Fifth Street story.