Her face in the rearview mirror resembles a Picasso portrait, all shifting cubes and circles that never seem to stay put. Recently arrived from Atlanta, she speaks with a heavy accent suggesting the faded aristocracies and bygone plantations of the Deep South.
When she laughs, three sharp haw, haw, haws each time, it sounds like a tenor sax filled with sand. She's been in the Colorado Springs area for a little over a year. "It's been an adventure," she says. "It's been terrifying at times. It's been horrifying at times."
But she would like to settle here. It's a fine place for a new beginning.
"I left everything I own behind me," she says. "I'm talking about my daughter's baby shoes, my wedding dress, 12, 15, 20 years of my daughter's art ... we just had to leave it."
Call her Candy. When we stop for a bite at a downtown diner, she in a tasteful cotton print dress purchased earlier in the day at Goodwill, she tells me more about the life she left — lots of legal trouble for pot, she says — and the life she has here.
With quick posts on the Internet she can usually obtain, in minutes, "free" accommodations in El Paso County homes, or elsewhere in the country, plus the transportation to get there. "Free" usually means light domestic duty and occasional prostitution in exchange for lodgings, which she generally doesn't seem to mind.
Since arriving in June 2013 with her daughter (now 25), a dog and two cats in a used van, she's lived in "at least eight different private homes and motels." When their travel funds ran out, Candy and her daughter moved to a Nevada Avenue motel, Candy accepting just enough clients to pay their daily room fee for a double bed. Her daughter found a job waitressing about a mile away and pitched in her tips and food from the restaurant.
Of coordinating client visits, Candy says, "My daughter would take the dog for a walk each time till they left." Later, after moving on to another Nevada motel, she says she "had to pile the furniture against the door" to prevent returning clients from breaking in.
She's tried to get an Internet business off the ground, but mostly she's had other exploits in homes of clients that have taken dangerous turns.
"Do you ever get depressed?" I ask clumsily at one point. We've taken a moment to sit on a bench under some trees near the Pioneers Museum.
"Uh-uh," she replies. "I am the happiest person you'll ever meet in your life. But I'm scared shitless. There's a difference.
"Some people take medicine because they're sad. I am not sad. I am scared out of my britches. But I told my mom one time along the lines, of you know, how I go about living my life without a man. ... And I told my mom, I was layin' in my bed last night, and I was thinking, 'Oh, my God, I am so afraid. This is such a big world, and I am so here alone, and I am just so scared, and what a big wide world it is, and how tiny I am.'
"And I sorta thought I wished I had a man next to me, and then I thought, 'But what if he's layin' there beside me and he's thinking, 'Oh, my God, I'm so scared, it's such a big wide world, and I'm such a tiny thing.' What reinforcement is that, you know?"
Suddenly I notice we are not really alone. Candy has an exotic, uninhibited appearance and sense of self, a comfort with her own sexuality that's unusual in Colorado Springs. Men are attracted to it, and hover like thwarted demons.
"Who are these guys hanging around here? Who is this?" I ask her. "You don't know him, do you?"
She doesn't, but says, "Hi, how's it going?" to one. He skulks away, hiding his face from us, personifying the definition of "creep."
Nor does she recognize the other. And I say of the people she's encountering, "It seems like they are just looking for something to do. They're just bored."
"Yep," she says. "And me, I'm just tryin' to get along."
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