To most they are everything but human. They are deemed outcsats. Outliers. The chaff from societal sieves. Black sheeps. Basically, deviants waging war on a not so pious society. Theirs is a bigger evil. On this street their number keeps fluctuating; some commit to relationships, some vanish without trace, some renounce their stake and get married – to the church. These ones occasionally come here to spread; the gospel. Some go for maternity leaves when their bellies solicit better condition. Newbies are introduced to the trade. The new ones are a catch – they are pawn to drive in traffic. These women have a sacco of sorts. They keep records, they contribute, stipends are allocated on ratio, they offer loans too. A craft of their own, something they can turn too when it gets too bleak. They have a turf of their own, a 50 meter street. They brazenly hogged it to themselves, warded off resistance from hawkers and other interested parties. They are in cahoots with a bunch of street urchins – perched on different locations in the periphery as spotters at a fee; just enough to score gum, a smoke or a frugal meal. Their work is to tip them off when a new cop or a journalist surfaces. They can always tell a cop from a random guy, even sans a uniform they have a signature look that can’t be guised.
In a dim lit alley of the main street, a couple are lined up.
It’s a wintry night and the scant skirts are doing the bare minimum to insulate them from the throes of chill. Dress codes aren’t a choice, it’s paraphernalia – a tool of the trade, an investment. Nobody would pick a heavily covered woman, clients don’t want to be reminded of their land ladies they came for some action. A handful are smoking, a coping mechanism. The previous night was a bad one; a good chunk of them were rounded up by cops for indecency. The crackdown happens once in a while – for show, only they would have to part with some cash in the form of fine or bribe.
One man, not a grain over 20 years is haggling price, he’s a seasoned negotiator, cunning, she yields. They walk off to a murky area, legend has it that cost is cheaper in the alleys. Some are chasing clients, grabbing their hands and pulling them in; a handful give in but most walk away. Income is not guaranteed, the trade is pivoted on sheer luck. The nifty ones have a leash on their clients – they call them by monikers, they know their birthdays, their problems, their insecurity and even have fixed rates for them, they are family. They keep coming back. Costs are handled before service, you don’t want to get played – trust is hogwash.
A floor up from the street, a man grunts. She squirms, her thigh cramped from his weight. Her neck is averted to the side to alleviate his nicotined breath. She gazes at the grimy wall. It is oceans, hills and mountains better that his grimaced face. She is thinking about random things; if this man has children. If her kids are asleep. If she is going to make rent on time. What her mom would say if she knew what she does to get by. Why people start sentences with ‘me I’. Whether her type make heaven. How online business marketers claim to make a whooping 3,000 bob a day yet wear shoes with colossal mileage and hand down suits. Her thoughts are cut off by the man’s groan. She jolts off to take the stairs down to the street. To him he was summoned to quell the gods of lust. To her it’s utter survival.
Jim Chuchu – Shauri Yako