Walking the Night Streets

Walking the Night Streets

For this old piece, I sort of borrowed the title from the fifth line in the Police song Roxanne. That’s the greatest piece of contemporary music telling the story of a naive young man who is infatuated with a beautiful young prostitute. The “boy”, as he indirectly refers to himself as in the song, has serious feelings for this girl. Sting named her partly after Cyrano de Bergerac’s love interest, and partly after the wife of Alexander the Great. You never get the feeling, however, that Roxanne is reciprocating the “boy’s” passion in any way.

Sting said he was inspired to write that song by the attractive prostitutes he saw in Paris, France while touring with his old rock band. It was the first time he had ever seen street prostitutes. I think he did a great job of conveying that the “boy’s” honest intentions were driven by genuine love and not lust. The only way you could conclude the latter is if you listened to the lyrics with a one-track mind, and I have met some who do exactly that.

I don’t think real life in Hamilton’s Gibson neighbourhood is that romantic though for the prostitutes that loiter on Barton Street after dark. It’s a hard life they must live. Sting’s song is a nice fantasy, nevertheless.

This girl I photographed, who I wouldn’t exactly classify as young, patrolled a portion of Barton Street that was approximately 200 feet in length. Like a sentry, she’d hold up at one corner for a few minutes, shifting her weight from foot-to-foot, and then do the same at another corner before returning. She’d walk up to the windows of nearly every motor vehicle, obviously occupied by a lone male driver that would stop at Barton while exiting a side street. Some drivers would at least briefly talk to her but most would ignore her and never make as much as eye contact as they waited for other cars to pass so that they could get on their way.

While she might have been thinking about how much money she wasn’t making, I’m thinking that she was staying alive longer for every guy who passed her by.

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