Kendy lazily pulls out of bed; right leg first then the left. She struggles to open her eyes that are shy of facing the sharp light bursting from the bulb dangling on the ceiling. It’s 5pm and this has been her wake-up time for the last nine months, since she started doing this job. From the arm of her bed hangs a Rosary. She is a catholic, but faith and the ways of God have become elusive. Sometimes she prays, though with a lot of skepticism that God will listen to her. The televangelists have already condemned her to eternal fire and suffering. She has a pounding headache and decides to pop in two tablets of Hedex which she presses down her dry esophagus with a gulp of water from a glass on the night stand. It’s not so bad today (the headache that is…), there are days she pops in as many as four tablets; two first and then two more a short while afterwards. She has stuck with one brand of the painkillers to avoid a poisonous concoction.
As the cold water runs down her tract and the tablets kick in, her eyes find strength and finally open up. She drags herself to the closet where a small mirror dangles from the door, she picks it then stares at the reflection which stares right back. Her face is dry, there is a rash under her lower eyelids on both eyes and there is an annoying wrinkle on the forehead. She went to bed without washing off her makeup perhaps that’s why the beauty deities are punishing her; but nothing is too hard for makeup to fix. She didn’t scarf up her weave before going to bed; so now it’s entangled like a shrub in the desert. She runs her hands through it, but cannot go much further thanks to the entanglement. She puts the mirror down, and reaches out for hair spray and sprinkles round the head then picks a hair brush and begins to gently brush her hair. She purses her lips, reacting to the pain of untangling the weave but continues to brush anyway. Soon after the weave looks neat, enough; she rolls it then ties in a ponytail and then slips a shower cap over her head. She holds her little black night dress by the hem and yanks it over her head and out of her body. She stands there stark naked allowing the cool breeze blowing from the window to caress her, after a short while when it’s too much she reaches out for her yellow towel, ties it around her chest, right above her breasts and strolls to the bathroom which isn’t too far from her bedroom. When she turns the tap handle water comes gushing from the shower. She murmurs a few thank you words; at least the landlord finally fixed the water issues that had dragged on for weeks.
She frees herself from the towel which she hangs on a line at the entrance and steps in. The water is cold and she loves it that way. She stands right below the gushing water and tightly shuts her eyelids like one in pain. And she is pain, but not the physical kind. It’s the kind that pierces the heart and crushes the chest, the kind that elicits an overwhelming need to cry, the kind that snatches away air and cannot be treated with painkillers. This tiny bathroom is her therapy room, it has been for a longtime and the water her therapist, whether it brings reprieve or not is a whole different story. But she reckons that there is a ‘burdens lifted’ lifted feeling she experiences while in her bathroom. There is something about the cold running water and the soap that attempts to wash off the scars in her heart. So she closes her eyelids tighter than before and opens wide her heart.
As the water runs from the neck to the back and downwards, it awakens her neurons and opens up safes of memories in the jagged terrain of her mind, memories that the forgetting pill has failed to erase, memories that have perhaps left wrinkles on her soul. There is a memory about last night, then another about five nights ago, then another of a terrible dream, then another of her first day at work and she is stuck there for a while. Her mind dancing and teasing her with intense emotional pain, threatening to break her heart into pieces and eternally release her from the cell of pain.
She grabs soap and soothes her forehead as though there is a mark there she fears could tell of the unarguably dark sad story of her life. She goes on, scrubbing the forehead back and forth, getting vigorous every moment, every passing second and when it feels sore she stops suddenly. Escaping from one pain only to create another. For a few minutes she is stuck between the concrete walls of the memory. Her neurons defiant of her adamant efforts to move on to another memory. Pages of the memory begin to flip open as if blown by some damned wind in her mind. With her eyelids still tightly closed, she shakes her head, vigorously, refusing, trying to send signals to her neurons to close this book she neither wants to see nor read. She cries out- no! no!, she is losing the battle, she is going to a place she does not want to. She stops shaking her head, giving in and begins to vividly see her first day as a prostitute. Pieces of the memory escape the mind and leave, trickling down her soaped cheeks. She bows her head, crosses her hand so that the right hand ferociously grabs her left shoulder and her left hand, the right one and cries bitterly letting out fierce sobs.
“Job hunt in the city was cruel, but she landed a job as a secretary in a private school. She was exhilarated and but that soon disappeared like ash in the mouth when her employer delayed her salary for months, sometimes paying her in bits and pieces. Everything about her life was a hard nut to crack and in search for something that could crack the nut she was introduced to prostitution. She was frustrated that she couldn’t give herself the dream life she always wanted, she knew that many a people would call that a cowardly move, but she still mastered enough courage to contact a friend who was already in the business. On her first day at work, she was swimming in sea of anxiety whose water made her stomach sick. She wore a yellow mini dress, (so mini that bending left very little for the imagination), silver neck lace and black pip-toe high heeled shoes with laces that ran from the toes to the elevated heels. She was profoundly uncomfortable in the shoes, but it was the rule of the game. Yellow had always been her favorite colour and she thought it would help her calm down and perhaps bring her good luck, which being a first timer she needed badly! The silver necklace was a birthday gift from a best friend in her former life and she hoped it would give her some comfort. To what extent they worked she does not know, because (describe nervousness). Her friend took her to the orange lit micro streets of Luthuli Avenue, reminded her of pertinent hunting tips she had taught her before and left her to hunt by herself.
It wasn’t long before some men came by, each surveying the girls that strategically positioned themselves, revealing things that the men were after. She mastered enough courage and marched towards the man who would become her first client. Judging from his looks she guessed he was in his early forties-45 tops, he had recently divorced his wife (at least that is the story he told her). He was also a bit nervous and this told Kendy that perhaps it was his first time seeking ‘therapy’ from a prostitute. A fresh client meant there were no set expectations and this clothed her with some comfort. She led the man to the fourth floor of a nearby building where such partnerships were accepted as business; and entered a room that was dimly lit and had one bed covered in navy blue bed sheets. His breathe reeked of alcohol but he was not violent, in fact he was quite charismatic and insisted that they use a condom. He was also very handsome; didn’t have a single wrinkle on his face, wore a nice cologne and was clean shaven. She wondered who had driven a truck through the marriage (him or his ex-wife). She didn’t bring herself to ask him about; after all it was dangerous to serve him the trouble he was perhaps running from. So she went straight to business; first undressed herself then helped him off his clothes and quietly mounted on him and pleasured him. She remained quiet but he let out mourns that told her she wasn’t doing so badly. When his sexual need was satiated he walked to the bathroom and Kendy was left on the bed, wrapped in one of the bed sheets as she stared at a mirror that hang on the wall. She had fear, she was scared- scared of a run in with police officers who hunted women in the ‘illegal’ business, scared of an encounter with a violent client, scared of contracting a deadly disease and mostly scared of what her elusive ‘righteous’ family would think of her and do to her if they find out she was not a waitress at a fancy hotel in Mombasa.”
She inclines her head upwards, to face the water gushing from the shower and let’s is beat her eyes and wash off her tears. As the tears run along with the water she wishes that it would magically do so with her burdens. She wishes they would be diffused into the water and flow down the drainage to oblivion. But what are wishes if not fairy dust that stopped working ages ago when Cinderella was still hot with a rich Prince on her heels? She wants to remember no more and she longs to cry no more. She sighs deeply as if resigning to a life of tormenting memories. Before some reprieve can set, a fresh race begins in her mind, again! A safe opens, inside dances another memory. This she doesn’t fight she cries out loud and allows herself to relive horrible days. She opens her mouth letting out a long mourn that reeks of sadness. What she feels is something between anger and dire sadness. Strength becomes quickly elusive and she feebly lowers her body to the floor then coils.
“Her father was a serial drunk who even her mother had confessed was beyond any help, a least anything under the face of the sun. He was an English teacher at the local secondary school and had the best spoken and written English in the village. His language prowess would ooze out as he walked home from the liquor dens. Then one Saturday while he was staggering home, he fell in a ditch and begun puking blood. Some passersby grimaced and laughed at him suggesting that he had it coming. But one was kind enough to lift him up and then called Kendy’s mother and informed her of her stranded husband. When she arrived at the scene, curious by-standers watched, gossiped and even laughed at a foolish woman who married a drunk. What they did not know was that heaven was already beckoning on her husband’s soul. Her mother told him (Kendy’s father) that she would take him to the nearby clinic for a checkup, but he was against the idea. After a short struggle they were on a bodaboda headed to the clinic. While at the clinic’s gate, her father puked again and became still, still as his life left his body and ascended to worlds unknown. And that marked the beginning of Kendy’s troubles. Her grandmother and uncles ganged up against her mother. They claimed that she was not customary married, that even her daughter did not biologically belong in that family. Before the soil on her husband’s grave could dry, even before grass could grow around it, she succumbed to blood pressure. At least that’s what the doctors said, but Kendy knew it was stress. Kendy was suddenly left in the world alone. The place she had called home for years was nothing but a hollow shell that brought her depression and the people she called family treated her like she was some rubbish. And that’s why she left she packed and left for the city under the sun.
The original plan was to accrue some money and walk away from prostitution. But came day 2, day 3 and so on and here she was nine months down the line giving sexual services to needy men, husbands, fathers, C.E.Os of fortune 500 companies, all sorts of men; who needed therapy that they believed could only come from prostitutes. Maybe there was a bigger reason behind her staying on the job, perhaps she connected with them because just like them, she seemed to be in search of something, something that was elusive and would continue to be for a while.
She had spend her life overcoming- overcoming the pain brought by death, overcoming stress of leaving the place she called home, walking away from the land her parents had been laid to rest and now she was tired of overcoming. Maybe it was easier to just give up!”
(Back to the bathroom...)
She takes a long deep breath, stands on her feet and reaches for her soap. She slowly lathers her bathing towel and gently begins scrubbing her body; neck first, then armpits, then the breasts, then the stomach, then her genitals, then the knees followed by the legs then the feet. As she rinses her body of the sweet scented soap, she takes deep breathes scrounging for some internal strength.
Deep in the heart she still feels the pain…, the shower has failed in its therapeutic elements; it always has anyway. How can therapy work? Therapy is for normal that is warped, normal that needs some reinforcement- her, she is broken. What was once whole is now tiny unrecognizable pieces that would take more than a miracle to put together. She is now a statistic- the 42% of prostitutes from necessitous backgrounds, the 40,000 sex workers in Nairobi. She feels trapped, there are invisible chains around her wrists which tighten every time she attempts to free herself and there is a noose around her neck that has refused to strangle her to death. It’s just there, a stark uncomfortable reminder of the choices she has made, then there is her consciousness that has refused to give her peace, guilt has locked her behind bars and thrown the keys in hell. She is an addict on a narcotic called ‘money’ that is injected to her veins through the ‘sex’ needle. She lives in a decent house, eats well and never lacks materially, it’s a lifestyle that even some of the most ambitious middle class fellas might never experience.
“There’s no stepping out now”, she whispers to herself. “But maybe I can accrue enough money to start a business...but what business?, I will decide once I have enough money...enough money?” she chuckles at the end of her monologue. These are lies, they are just but suggestions crafted by the mind in strife unsuccessfully trying to subdue her inner weaknesses.
Once done washing; she opens her bathroom door, grabs her towel and wraps it around her body- from the breast all the way to the feet. To dress up for another day at work!