28 February 2010

Street Walker by Natasha Msonza

It was getting darker and colder. The temperature had dropped unpredictably; a thing to be expected at this time of the year. The streets were slowly becoming deserted. Lena checked her time; it was nearly midnight. She wrapped her arms tighter around her naked shoulders, wondering how much longer she had to wait at this corner before there was some sort of action. She felt as if her buttocks were about to turn into ice cubes.

Business was ordinarily slow during weekdays, but today was unusually so. A gust of wind fleeted around her legs, lifting her loose short skirt around her thighs. Lena looked down the road, yearning and half expecting bright lights to careen towards her. There was no moon tonight. This was bad for business because potential clients wouldn’t be able to see her very well. She made a mental note to herself to leave if there was no action in the next 30 minutes. This business, much to her discovery, demanded a lot of patience. She remembered the last time she had waited so late; the police had come and rounded all the girls up for loitering. They left the station in the wee hours of the morning and only after satisfying a few libidinal needs and parting with all their earnings.

As if on cue, the bright lights of a car suddenly appeared in the near distance down the road. It was moving slowly, its driver obviously ogling the numerous half-naked bodies lining the street. The car, a beat-down Hyundai Excel suddenly came to a halt a short distance from Lena, right in the middle of the road. Lena observed as the scantily dressed women rushed to the vehicle like piranhas that’d smelled blood.

Lena stood patiently in her dark corner, having a slight change of heart thinking after all, today was probably not as dry as it seemed. Her eyes remained fixed on the women jostling for attention from the occupants of the car. In a few seconds, a lot of them fell away as the girl she recognized as Paida victoriously opened the passenger door and jumped into the cheap car. Paida she knew so well and would recognise in any amount of darkness, for she had been the gang leader of the girls who tied her up and beat her when she first walked ‘their’ the streets. Because Lena was a stranger and had no pimp, she had naturally been treated with suspicion the day she appeared on a spot belonging to one of the girls. Little had she known all street corners in the Avenues were marked territory. It hadn’t taken long to learn the ropes because she was adamant, and she would show them all who ruled these streets.

It was indeed getting colder and once more, the warmth of her cosy bed back in the flat beckoned, tempting Lena to leave. But she just couldn’t. This was her new ikigai – what gave her life new meaning. She was not about to let some man in need of help go without tonight. She stepped closer to the roadside and waited.

They all called it prostitution, but Lena called it a job. When a friend initially told her about sleeping with men to pay her bills, Lena was shocked. She thought she could never do that, no matter how desperate for cash she was. After all, it was just wrong. How your perspective on right and wrong can change considerably when you actually think about versus just accepting something as wrong because you’ve been told forever that it just is.

Unlike the other girls, Lena did not really need the money. She made enough as a top-notch accountant. She was rather amazed that she could get paid for doing something so fun. There was a market for a more or less normal woman like herself; she was surprised to find out. She had initially had this concept in her head that you had to be either extra-ordinarily attractive in order to be a highly paid call girl, or you were a $5 crack whore. She had discovered the satisfaction of taming the animal called man, and the adrenaline rush at the prospect of presiding over one was irresistible. Men were such fickle creatures you see. They think they are all powerful yet are such soft puppies in bed. Lena intended to teach them all how to respect a woman and know that the love of a woman cannot be taken for granted, that the gift of love should be freely given...

Working the streets was not easy. She and the other girls kept ‘pepper-sprays’ in their handbags that were especially useful when a client got out of hand or refused to pay. The homemade sprays consisting of acid and salt would thoroughly burn into the skin, giving enough time for escape.

The last time she didn’t get paid, Lena had a gun pulled on her and told to get out of the guy’s car after giving him an oral job. Not much she could do there. Occupational hazard.

It hadn’t taken long for Lena to have an impressive and regular clientèle. She learnt all the tricks of the trade and developed some of her own. Among the new things she discovered, she found out that the wealthiest clients preferred women who did not grovel, or reveal too much unnecessary skin. If you were physically well endowed, you didn’t need to expose flesh that could still be seen under light clothing.

Lena noticed that a lot of the girls walked with a careless slouch, the spare tyres around their waists hanging and protruding with neglect. That – to their ignorance – is what lost them many a potential client. Men also like it when you smell nice and not of the sharp cutting smell of stale sweat that accompanied sexual activity and hung around most of the girls like a halo. Even if you are a prostitute and the men know it, they still don’t want you to make it so obvious that you’ve had plenty more before them. They all have fragile egos and if you treated each one right, they became obedient dogs that meekly followed you home. This she had learnt from her friend, a seasoned streetwalker who was also a top-notch accountant. Lena recalled her friend’s invaluable advice and the last conversation they had the previous night and couldn’t help smiling.

"If you want to retain loyal clientèle, don’t delve into false flattery in your whore script. Most importantly you only mention a guy’s largess if his manhood is in fact exemplary and noteworthy. It is part of some escorts’ repertoires to stroke not only the client’s body, but his ego too. There is usually no point. If a guy is average and you are telling him he is gigantic, he’s going to know you are being flattering and not honest, so why say anything at all? It’s more sensible to comment on his manly shoulders, cute voice or dressing –something real and true; don’t you think so, Lena?"

"Yes indeed."

Another hour had gone by, yet Lena stood her ground. She felt sorry for the other girls who had huddled together partly to warm themselves and partly to do the usual gossip about her. None of them really liked her, but that was ok. This is normal behaviour amongst the competition. The funny thing was, none of them really liked the others either. They often were always bickering amongst themselves. They were like the people from the Middle East, always fighting, and when they sign a peace treaty, its temporary.

One of the girls, Rita, had attempted to become her friend once. She had 9 siblings younger than her. There was never enough food in their house, and she never got much of an education. She had told Lena that it had been really tough when each breath she took was accompanied by the realisation and worry that she might not make it through another day. Rita’s saving grace was that she had become numb to the life she led, through drug abuse, selective memories and the usual justifications one makes to oneself in order to make it through.

Another car came by, bright lights headed purposely to the secluded, dark corner occupied by Lena. She immediately recognized the green Jaguar. The occupant was a regular. Regulars often no longer needed to go to the street to solicit, they only had to make a phone call to book an appointment.

She crossed the street immediately, jumped into the front seat and gestured in the direction of her flat. Regulars could safely be hosted. In a few minutes of driving in silence, Lena sensed that the man was not in talking mood. Must be his senseless wife again.

Shortly, they arrived at Trecarell Flats. Wordlessly, they both disembarked and made for the stairs, straight for Lena’s room. As usual, it was neat and tidy, smelling nicely of lemon-grass and incense. She preferred to keep the room dimly lit. The man plonked carelessly on the bed, a blank look occupying his visage.

Lena kicked off her shoes and joined him on the bed. He remained motionless, and she slowly began to stroke him. He began to loosen up, his face relaxing a little in the semi darkness. She continued to stroke him. Whatever was eating him also fed on his libido, but that was not a problem. Sometimes a visual treat was all that was needed. Sinking back next to him, she continued stroking him, doing the complementary fake moans and soon felt some reciprocation. In a few minutes it would be over, and she would collect her money and go back to her corner.

Since he didn’t seem very verbal today, Lena let her mind wander. It amazed even her how she could maintain an air of paying serious attention yet her mind was elsewhere. Sometimes she imagined God looking down on her and shaking his head in disappointment. Sex, she thought secretly, was one of God’s great jokes on humanity, and loneliness was the human condition.

She looked at the beast huffing and puffing atop of her. Seemed as if he had forgot to use deodorant that morning, because his pits were ripe. Pools of sweat were already dripping from his forehead down between her breasts. It strangely had the cooling effect of water. Lena resisted the urge to bring her wrist close to her face so she could check the time.

More than anything, the stink coming off him today served as a major distraction. In her experience, sometimes when the guy is fat, ugly and smelly, she’d ask him for a drink first. Sometimes she met some real crazies who wanted to do crazy things like get tied up, choking or violent beating. With those, she just psyched herself up and charged more. At the end of the day, she’d just try to not think about it. Now it was just a job.

The man suddenly stopped, then slowly slid off her and lay on his back, catching his breath. Only his heavy breathing formed the other sound filtering in the room amid distant wails of police cars in the thick night outside. He lit a cigarette and silently smoked. His quietude was beginning to make Lena slightly uncomfortable; he was usually very chatty. She just shrugged and hoped he would soon leave.

Last time she saw him, over a week ago, the man was literally close to tears, and all he was saying, sounding a lot like an automaton, was that his wife simply didn’t understand. She was impossibly hard headed. Lena knew better than to prod for details. When a man came to her like this, the last thing he wanted was interrogation. Only understanding. He said he liked her because she actually seemed to enjoy what she was doing versus just being in it for the money. She also understood him. Probably, silence in the man’s vocabulary meant understanding.

Eighty percent of her clients were either married or involved in long-term relationships. She did not judge them for seeing her. If anything, they were smarter to see her than have an affair with their secretary or maid to get some sexual gratification. They did not have to worry she’d fall in love and start calling their wives or girlfriends or boiling bunnies on their stoves.

Lena believed she was in a profession that provided a great service. She liked helping people, and indeed satisfied an immediate need. People hardly recognize or visualise the extent and gravity of what happens when men and women lay down in random beds in random places for paid sexual encounters. They are usually all so quick to judge.


A thick voice interrupted her thoughts that for a moment, Lena thought she had imagined it. She turned her head to look at her companion who repeated the question before she could ask anything.


“Why what?” she asked reverently. She sat up and faced him.

“Do you have any idea who the hell I am? Do you know that you are an evil witch woman? I am going to bring that to an end soon,” the man then laughed derisively.

“What on earth are you talking about?” Lena asked, panic beginning to build up inside her.

“You don’t know? You are serious you don’t know? Switch on the lights,” the man commanded.

Lena obeyed. She stood naked under the light bulb’s halo. For a moment the man stared at her, open-mouthed. Lena fidgeted uncomfortably, but stared right back. The man lifted his fleshy arm and reached for her. Lena slapped it away. He suddenly lurched forward and smacked her hard right across the face.

“Rex! What the hell are you doing, are you drunk?” For a moment she stared closely at his face, her right cheek stinging as though bitten by a thousand bees. She looked at him in the new light, she saw that one eye was twisted like a fish’s, and that his words did not correspond to the movement of his lips, and she thought these were hallucinations brought on by the ringing in her ears. She shook her head briefly. Instinctively, she reached for her robe hanging behind the door.

“What, are you ashamed now? You? But you were not so ashamed to cheat on my little brother, were you? You had no problems sharing that body of yours heh?”

“Your brother?” Lena asked, comprehension slowly beginning to settle in.

“Yes, Tamuka. You killed him-“

“I did not kill him, he committed suicide! He killed himself. I loved him. And I loved that other man also, don’t you understand?”

For a moment they stood facing each other like two spent swimmers, chests heaving. Rex looked rather comical standing there completely naked. Memories of her late husband Tamuka came flooding back to the day he had gone through her email and discovered her communication with Mike. She had tried to explain to him that it did not mean she loved him any less. She had just developed feelings for Mike deep enough to swim in. In short, she loved them both, for different reasons, Mike for what Tamuka could not give her. Mike was more communicative, more adventurous, more... powerful. He had that 20% that was missing from the loving, soft and caring Tamuka.

She had not been ashamed to be caught. If anything, she hadn’t been hiding it, but had been courteous enough not to fling it in Tamuka’s face that she was also in love with another man. Everyone thought she was possessed but she challenged them, including her parents, if they were content being with one sexual and emotional partner for the rest of their lives. Her father and her father-in-law were known to have sired bastards with other women, why was it okay and acceptable only for men to fall in love with multiple partners? Surely this was a natural feeling? Poor Tamuka could not deal with it.

At first he had ranted and raved, then calmed down and slowly made love to her that night, after which he asked her, “Have you slept with him?”

“No. Not yet, “ she had replied.

The next morning she woke up to find a cold body sprawled next to her. Tamuka had gotten up sometime during the night, taken an overdose of Malaquinn and came back to die peacefully in his sleep. Succumbing quietly to the excruciating pain of betrayal. How she had cried, how she had missed him. It was worse when Mike lost contact. That was nearly a year ago and yet Tamuka’s death and Mike’s desertion still stung like it had happened yesterday, and ever since she had been searching... searching for a new purpose.

It did not take her long to invent an easy justification for her surrender. This was her world. The sad oppressive world that God had provided for her, and she was responsible to it.

Rex suddenly had a revolver in his hand, aimed straight at her forehead. In a flash Lena was out of the door, barrelling down the passage towards the exit of the building. As she rounded a corner, one bullet caught her on the thigh but she kept going, holding off the pain for the moment. She recognised Paida’s door and made for it, arms outstretched for help. She would probably be back by now. Lena snatched the door open and flew into the darkness. There was obviously no one home and no key in the door either. She had just cornered herself. She scrambled in the darkness, making for where she knew the bathroom would be located. She heard the front door open and bang shut. She held her breath and murmured her first prayer in almost a year. Just then the room flooded with light and Rex towered over her with a wide grin on his face. The little room resembled a tavern latrine, not only because of it oppressive narrowness, but also because of the pestilential stench and the heat.

“What do you want from me?” Lena shouted, crawling around the little room like a trapped animal.

Rex just grinned and drew closer. The man had gone completely bonkers. Stark raving mad. Lena wondered where she would go if she died today? Did people make love in heaven? Did they?

As he drew closer she bolted once more for the door, blinded with the need to escape the fury that was this man. The instinct for self-preservation is what reigned supreme as she headed for the stairs. For an instant she was suspended in the air, and then she realised that she had died without Communion, without time to repent or say goodbye to anyone.

"...And in local news, a young woman fell to her death last night in one of the flats located in the notorious red-light district. The woman – aged 28 and an accountant with a respectable firm, was believed to have been suffering from a multiple-personality disorder. She was found dead clad only in a bathrobe at the bottom of a staircase. Police are still investigating her presence there and the cause of death. The deceased’s family could not be reached for comment."

Street Walker was written by Natasha Msonza.

Copyright © Natasha Msonza 2010.

Natasha Msonza a.k.a Stash was born in 1984 in Zimbabwe where she did a Bsc Honours in Media and Society Studies at the Midlands State University. She also attained a certificate in Human Rights and human development from the University for Humanistics, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

She is a human rights activist with a passion for social justice and a flair for desktop publishing, development of IEC material, design and layout. Natasha blogs for an online community for Zimbabwean activists, and the Norwegian Council for Africa (NCA) blog forum.

Natasha is also the author of her personal blog Stashsays. She is currently working as Programme Officer for the Humanitarian Information Facility Centre (HIFC), an organization working with the media to facilitate humanitarian reporting in Zimbabwe.

As a hobby, Natasha is learning to play a guitar and is currently writing a novel she hopes to finish sometime before the next Armageddon. She gives private tuition to ordinary and advanced level students studying literature. She likes playing chess and basketball for sport.


zimbabwe said...

This is a gripping narrative, well knitted.

Delta Law Milayo Ndou said...

Moving and very engrossing... just love the way the story is woven; flowing so fluidly and keeping the reader so hooked! Loved it so very much. You done good girl...

edward said...

engrossing and flawlessly smooth

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