A few months more, she says. Just a few months so she can save maybe a couple of hundred bucks. Then she and her main man plan to march down to the 14th Street Bridge and start hitchhiking. Destination: "California, where nobody knows what I did."

For now, though, it is obvious what the woman does.

Every night, and some days, she stands at the northern edge of Thomas Circle, in the shortest shorts imaginable. The cars arrive. The windows are rolled down.

"Sportin'?" she will ask. And it's off to the races. The exact details depend only on preference, imagination and the girth of one'w wallet.

No heart of gold beats in this hooker. She knows what she is and she hates what she does. "I could live without sex for a lot of years," she says. And when she adds that "I never show a man my feelings, it is clear that someday, some way, she would like to try.

So she is not burned out, perhaps because she is still only 22, perhaps because she has been at it for three years, a fraction of the time some of the other girls have put in.

Or perhaps it's that she doesn't invest much of herself.

"I consider this a job," says the woman, as she sits crosslegged in a park across from the Treasury Department. "I'm just like a crashier in a supermarket. I make people happy. I give people respect, and they give it back to me.

"I enjoy doing it in a way," she says, glancing at the line of tourists waiting to visit the White House. "Mostly because I meet a lot of people. But the money's the main thing. I've got to survive in this world."

The woman first came here with a friend, on what was to be a week's vacation. She grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She admits she was impressionable, and the first impression came from a man she met in the bus station.

His name was Delicious, and he filled her head full of rather delicious promises: Love, security, luxury, like that. But the promises all turned up rather empty, the woman says, and the work, always tough, was also joyless.

But she has stayed at it because it is the only thing she knows. And she is a little different from most of Washington professionals.

Different because she is enough of a businesswoman to know that repeat trade is they way to make money. So she keeps appointments, keeps clean, keeps up her looks.

If she is not refined, she is at least a little discreet. She apologizes, right on cue, every time she is about to use a coarse expression.

But perhaps she is most different because she does not have a pimp.

She lives with a man, in a boarding house on Fifth Street NW, where she also takes her "tricks." But this man is "different," she says, a lover, not a master. When talks turns to the California future, it includes him - "a farm, marriage, kids, everything I never had when I was a kid."

But the man lives off her earnings "She won't let me work," he claims, and he even sports a railway engineer's cap given to her by a "regular" who is an executive with a railroad. Perhaps most tellingly, it is her money that goes for bail after her inevitable arrests.

The one service her man performs is to "tell me who the cops are," the woman says.Often, she says, the man will investigate a car she is about to enter for hidden radios. Only then will she get in.

The Washington that this woman knows includes scrapes and scuffles, back rooms and back stairs. She has worked all the "name" hotels, and she has had her share of famous customers. She has also had customers who just wanted to talk, or just wanted to look, or just wanted to complain about their wives.

She has also been carless - which is to say she has been pregnant three times. The most recent pregnancy, now in its third month, is the doing of "the one man I trust." When she says that, he smiles.

The couple speaks of the child with pride. "I'm doing what I'm doing so the child can have a good life," the woman insists.

But this is a mother-to-be who has never been to a doctor ("I don't dig doctors," she explains). This is a woman who eats all her meals at a Burger King ("I love the pancakes"). This is a woman who thinks she can get a job that pays well, even though she has only a 10th-grade education.

What does she read? "Comic books. We must have 700 of them at our place." What does she do with her spare time? "I watch TV." Why did she leave school" "Because the only B I ever got was in physical education." At least she giggles at that one.

Sure, she did drugs for years, but no longer, she claims. And, yes, she used to be involved in small-time crime. Her first arrest came back home in Pennsylvania. They caught her during the burglaryof a bakery with a half-munched doughbut still in her mouth.

Just unlucky, she says - not really her own doing, talked into it by friends. "People made my life bad," the woman says. "I didn't really want to do nothing bad."

And she isn't doing anything bad now, or so she says.

"I'm proud to a certain extent," the woman says. "I'm proud that I do not rob, cut or steal. I'm a hell of a lot better than them other girls."

She is also a bit richer. Thanks to her regulars, and thanks to her ability to pick off casual trade with her distinctive looks, she turns an average of about $75 a day, she said. That represents three half hours at $25 a piece. "Any more than that, you've got to be lucky," she says.

She's been lucky in other ways, too - never robbed, never beaten, only marooned in the suburbs without money a few times. But she laughs when asked about taking chances.

"Out here," she says, "is nothing but a chance."