The narrator, a twenty-five-year-old Haitian prostitute, provides a first-person account of a night in her life as a night woman. It is a hot tropical night, the time of day she most dreads but must endure in order to live. She has just put her young son to bed in her tiny one-room house, with only a curtain separating his “bedroom” from her place of business. She has let him wear, as usual, his Sunday clothes in bed, along with her blood-red scarf, worn in the daytime to tempt suitors; thus he will always have something of hers near him when her face is out of sight. In the dark, for a moment, she almost mistakes him for the ghost of his father, a lover long gone.
There are two kinds of women, she thinks—day women and night women—she being actually caught between the two. Her son mutters faintly in his sleep, and she fears he may climb out of bed to find her on the other side of the curtain.
She strokes his cheeks with her lips, his reaction telling her whether he is really asleep. Sometimes she sees in his eyes a longing for something more. “We are like far away lovers, lying to one another, under different moons,” she thinks. Her finger caresses the cleft under his nose; sometimes he will lick her nails. She thinks of ghost women who “ride the crests of waves while brushing the stars out of their hair,” wooing strollers and strewing the stars on their paths. She whispers stories in his ear about these ghost women with the stars in their hair, about snakes at one end of the rainbow and a hat full of gold at the other. His Sunday suit matches her own carefully made-up appearance. He must wonder why, she worries, and tells him she is expecting an angel to pay them a visit. Where angels tread, hosts must be beautiful as floating hibiscus.
Still asleep he runs his tongue over his lips, tasting some sugar candy he stole from her purse. She has forgotten to have him clean his teeth with mint leaves to whiten them. Some day when he is older, another woman may take pleasure in their whiteness. Should her son awake, she will tell him her client is a mirage, naked flesh a dream. When he becomes too old for such a subterfuge, she will say the man is her missing husband.
The doctor-lover Emmanuel is due tonight. She applies Egyptian rouge to her cheeks; the sparkles in the mixture help the doctor find her in the dark. The doctor reaches his climax, and she must cover his mouth to stifle his screams. At dawn he leaves. She returns to her son’s bed, placing her face next to his lips to feel the heat from his mouth. He awakens and asks, “Mommy, have I missed the angels again?” She rocks him back to sleep, telling him, “Darling, the angels have themselves a lifetime to come to us.”