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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Flowers for a Working Girl

By Nicholas Stix

May 17, 1996
Straight Talk


As I write this, Gayle Hoffman is clinging to life in Jamaica Hospital’s ICU. Who is Gayle Hoffman? “Nobody.” Somebody.

On March 23rd, Gayle gained four new orifices she hadn’t bargained on. According to detectives in Far Rockaway’s 101 Precinct, the holes were courtesy of an off-duty, drunken NYPD rookie who’d just graduated from the Academy five days before.

Officer Rolando Hernandez has since been charged with attempted murder and assault. The shooting occurred on Beach 28th Street and Seagirt Avenue, Gayle’s territory. Rolando Hernandez allegedly pumped four 9 mm slugs from his service weapon into Gayle’s neck, lung, arm and leg. On the street, a girl who claimed she was with her insists that Hernandez shot Gayle after she stole $600 in cash from him. She’ll never “stroll” again, and it’s a miracle she’s still alive.

I hadn’t known her last name. We first met early last fall. Coming from the subway late, I was heading down Beach 20th Street. Two big, young [Hispanic] men who seemed to have ideas of “getting paid” were closing in on me.

Having gotten my nose broken fighting off a Mutt-and-Jeff team on the A train just a couple of weeks before and been arrested for “possession of a noxious substance” for spraying “Jeff” with tear gas, I was feeling war-weary. Seeing a woman standing at the bus stop on the other side of the street, by the corner of Seagirt, I crossed over. Strength in numbers, and all that.

Cute and short, pale, but well-nourished with dark hair, Gayle introduced herself: “You are talking to the most notorious prostitute in Far Rockaway.”

The next time I saw her, she was in a less affable mood. At 3 a.m., I escorted my building’s security guard to a stairwell door on the top floor, where he rousted her out of the sleep of the dead. She cursed him, as he ushered her out of the building. Homeless and strung out, she was just looking for a nook or cranny to crash in.

How could she be homeless? She who bragged, “I don’t even talk about a b--- j— for less than $20”? Neighbors said she was a crackhead who gave everything to her muse.

The next time I saw Gayle she was in my building during midday, when there’s no security. She apologized, “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you.” It might have only been good policy for a potential John, but hey, how many people in this town have even that much business sense? I responded, “No sweat.” I hadn’t taken her curses personally.

The last time I saw her was on Everdell Avenue, during Chanukah. I was taking the short cut to the subway by the most notorious crackhouse in town (though not the only one on the block), which was later cleaned out in the big spring sweep. I’ve often been approached by ladies on Everdell, trudging even through blizzards to fill an unquenchable need.

Gayle wished me a “gut yomtov” in passing. A funny duck, when she spoke she looked not at me, but at a street guy who didn’t look too Jewish. So, funny duck that I am, I didn’t return the greeting.

Better late than never. Sorry, Gayle. Gut yomtov.

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