The drink in her hand was as bitter as she was. Accustomed to its bitterness she took one large gulp. I was watching her face, not even a grimace or a wince. What would make a woman this numb to pain? Her eyes told a story – a story I was going to narrate.
Raising her hand she summoned the bartender, asked for two cigarettes looked at me and smiled.
“I hope you don’t mind”
You see the bill was on me. I nodded and gave her my approval. Minutes later they arrived, two white sticks –
Dunhill I think. For a hooker she got class. From the depths of her showing cleavage she rummaged for a lighter, clicked it twice and sparks flickered like the choking flames of a dying ember – she must have used it one too many times.
“Got a light?” She unexpectedly asked me.
She caught me staring – at her cleavage she thought.
“Ulisema ni Kuongea tu?”
“Kushika ni bure” she added chuckling
A few hundred clicks later her persistence paid, the smell of burning tobacco filled my nostrils as soon as she exhaled. Her face looked relaxed – it was like the cigarette took away her stresses.
With the glass of vodka in her hand and the lit cigarette between her index and middle finger she leaned in pointed to my full glass and suggested that I take a sip. I did.
“Unajua si ati nilitaka kuwa poko” she started
“sometimes life happens” she added
Her English was impeccable, she could easily pass for a news anchor. Her face behind all the make-up had slight traces of innocence. Her eyes seemed to come alive as she got more comfortable. The lighting wasn’t impeccable but I could see she was appealing.
“So how exactly did you end up as a prostitute?” I asked
“It’s commercial sex worker” she hastily corrected me.
“I’m sorry” I quickly apologized.
“How did you end up as a commercial sex worker?” I reiterated having made my correction.
“Like any young girl, I had dreams”
“In fact I still have dreams”
“Coming from me, people don’t take me seriously but I also want a family and a husband to love and cherish” she added with a chuckle
She was avoiding the question, so I took another sip and decided to change tactic. Before I could say anything she begun talking.
“You know how you want to try a drug for the first time?”
“Then before you realize you’re an addict?”
I nodded – not that I have any particular experience, but because I’ve read about it.
“Well I did it for the thrill and easy money” she continued
She narrated how as a young girl in campus it was an easy way to ‘live the life’.
“We didn’t have time for broke little mama’s boys”
“We wanted men. Rich, fun-loving men.”
That’s exactly what she got. Exotic escapades on weekends to resorts most of us have only heard of in Hollywood movies to riding in the latest German machines around town with a platinum card safely tucked in a designer purse for all her shopping needs.
That was the dream, she was living it. What was education now? She found the key to success, and for her, it was between her legs. She lived a lie for four years, having dropped out without her parents having the slightest idea of her activities. Three months after her ‘postponed’ graduation, she begun sending money home.
“Mum and dad know I work for a bank” she said. Her voice was cool and did not betray any emotions.
Taking another gulp from her glass she emptied it and summoned the bartender for a refill. Looking at me she sucked on her cigarette, let the smoke out, and continued.
“By then it was too late to go back to school” her eyes betrayed her as she said this.
I could see them turn foggy. She quickly took another puff.
The attack of tobacco fumes on her lungs must have been too much as they gave in and she went into a coughing spree. Her lungs sounded like they were made of mabati and the air in them were little pebbles.
“You should get that checked out” I said as the coughing died down.
She laughed and sarcastically added “I don’t get medical”
I laughed – at least she had a sense of humor.
“On these streets, women are like bread. Men like them hot and fresh” she said
“I had already lived out my peak, and reality dawned. No more vacations”
“I had to settle for motel rooms – when I was lucky, otherwise the back seat of some Japanese saloon car would do”
As I was about to ask a question, the bartender came back with her drink. There was a momentary pause as he looked towards me to clear the bill. I did. Walking away he seemed perplexed – maybe he was used to patrons just picking girls up, never actually having a date. He must have thought I had been duped.
“But you still look…” I started using my hands to trace out the silhouette of a curvaceous body.
Smiling – which I must admit was captivating she mumbled a thank you.
“I usually don’t get honest complements” she added.
She revealed how running the streets at night was the only thing she knew how to do. It wasn’t the best thing in the world but it put food on her table. It was her not so comfortable comfort zone.
“There was this one time I spotted a mark, he had a nice sleek sedan and he reeked of money” she started narrating
“Most of us girls pounce on such like leopards do with gazelle.”
“So I made my way to his car, swaying my hips as much as I could and showing as minimal clothing as I could”
“His eyes momentarily were glued onto my thighs. I could sense his carnal desires as he feasted upon my goodies”
“I had sealed the deal even before speaking until…” She paused.
Her eyes got foggy again, she puffed on her cigarette but this did not help, turning away she dabbled her eyes with a serviette. I noticed a tear drop escape her left eye. The once brave face now a mere shadow, her face expressed sadness her eyes reflected melancholy.
I patted her on the shoulder, gently urging her to go on.
“Friend yangu alikam akaingia gari”
“You see she was hotter than me”
“That was the last time we saw her alive”
Apparently a week later after trying to trace her they went to hospitals and found her body in a mortuary – decapitated.
“We don’t know who did it, but we think it’s that man”
“We see his car every Thursday, we have reported to the police, but sisi Ni mapoko nani anatujali?”
Half the time she says they are beaten by law enforcers who later on enforce parts of themselves into the girls.
She has seen hell and hell’s hell. At one time she fell in love, with a client.
“I loved him, he didn’t see it, or he didn’t.care”
“Who would love a prostitute?”
I was tempted to say Jesus.
“When I confessed my love, he was amused and asked if he could get a refund if I was really in love!”
My time was running out, I needed to wind things up. Additionally I couldn’t afford another round. Time was money, especially hers.
I took a swig of my glass closing my eyes and clenching my fists hoping it didn’t come back the way it went – it didn’t.
I laughed. We laughed.
Then I asked her if I could leave as I had enough already. Her face dimmed, it was as if I was her anchor to a normal world. Where she could laugh, drink without exchanging sexual favors. It was all over – too soon for her liking. She wanted to hang on.
“Don’t go” she said
“Next round is on me”
“I have to, it’s late. I have to write this story” I replied
Sulking she agreed, and asked me to take a picture. I did. She made me promise not to publish it. I did.
Finally she grabbed my hand and shoved a piece of paper into it. I bade her goodbye and left out of the club into the streets. Under the lighting I opened up the piece of paper. It had a name, I presumed hers.
“I didn’t even ask for her name” I thought to myself.
Next to it was a number. She was human, she needed to talk. I was human too, but it was too much. I crumpled up the piece of paper, threw it on the sidewalk and walked away.
She’d understand – I said to myself. After all I kept my promise. No pictures here. I might be good after all.