To be honest memories of my past life kept flooding back. Mum, Dad, my brother, sister and much about my childhood. And for a moment they were too painful to contain. The episodes with Bode, my previous abortions which tortured my mind, the men I had been with and how I felt used and dirty, my shave with God at an early age and how I loved kids’ church… and more. They all kept tumbling and playing on my mind as I recoiled from Winnie. The last thing I needed now was another holier-than-thou preach at me.
Her words played over and over in my mind, “it does not have to be like this” Like what? I was screaming back at those words in my head. What did she know? About me? About my life? What gives her the right!? Anyway, I could now see that we had attracted so much attention not just because we had empty cups piling on the table, a testament to the time we had spent talking. Winnie’s voice had been drowned out by the livelier chatter and I could hear softly and read her lips say, “do you have to go?”
I was at least a foot away from our table and as if they had received a signal the waitress had come to the table to clear the mess. We must have been so deep in conversation that they did not want to bother us but just bring more coffee. Maybe it was the way I was narrating my experiences in life. The children will need their dinner by now but I knew they would be OK with my mate. I struggled with the urge to go back to the table as I backed myself into a corner heading towards the restroom.
It should give me time to collect my thoughts.
How much do I tell Winnie? Can she be trusted? Do I like my life? Will she say something to remind me of the good old days? As I pushed the unyielding combination locking door to the toilet I realised that I had forgotten the receipt. I would need it as proof that I was indeed a customer before the counter staff would release the code. Maybe it was the same as last time I came I debated in my head. Anyhow the next decision was made for me as I headed back to retrieve the number code for the door. Only Winnie was waiting at the counter to pay and we had to meet again. So I was back to where she could hear what I wanted to say.
“Are you OK?” There was a concern in her voice. “I thought for a moment you had gone” she continued. I tried to find the right words but could not seem to utter the appropriate ones. I smiled.
“How could I?” I added. “I wanted to get to the Bathroom.”
“I thought I had upset you?”
“Me? Upset? Oh no, you got that wrong” I lied. “Let me go to the bathroom and I’ll be back” I furnished some resemblance of a response. Winnie had rearranged her time with her family to check up on me. Surely, she deserved the truth. Deserved? Or was entitled to the truth. That sounded better. Off I was to the comfort of the ladies only to discover that my underwear was smeared and wet with red. Yes, red stuff. My period? Maybe I should be relieved. I had unprotected sex a few times and got pregnant as some of my clients insisted on no protection. Sadly I had to abort these pregnancies too.
I know it’s crazy and dangerous, but I had to pay the bills and needed the money to maintain my lifestyle. All these were the excuses I made to myself. Living this dangerously had always somehow worked for me but…
Seeing Winnie today made me realise how empty my life was. And I could not tell her. Maybe I’ll hide out here for a while to plan what else to say to her. I was beginning to talk about my childhood, then slipped up at mentioning Dick. Which was the safer line of conversation that would not reveal me in a bad light? Perhaps I should go right back to the beginning again. Dick had made me an offer that would provide me with some type of income to feed the kids.
Men would choose me out of all the other girls because of my experience, creativity and agreement to practise risky, unsafe sex. Wo… it’s good that the children did not live with me. I shudder to think what would happen if they turned out like me.
What was Winnie offering? It does not have to be like this. Was she going to wave the magic wand to remove all my problems? Maybe it was worth finding out. The time now was 7 pm. Perhaps I should go. Make a valid excuse that the children needed me. Tell Winnie that… that what? I was still in the ladies and it did not take 5 minutes. The blood had been sleeping through my underwear so it needed me to take time to either wash it off or create some semblance of a “sanitary pad” as a layer on top. That somehow fixed, I exit the bathroom and head back towards the table where anxious-looking Winnie seemed relieved to see me back.
Only her phone started to vibrate. She looked at me and stared at the phone as if she was trying to make a decision. Should she answer or ignore it? She picked it up, tapped her fingers quickly on the screen then firmly replaced the handset on the table.
“I think maybe we should reschedule?”
“You have to go?”
“Yes…” a firm pause from me and I pick up my handbag, drape the strap over my shoulder and firmly but quite unsteadily walk towards the exit.
“Call me… “ came back as Winnie’s voice of resignation or empathy or pity.
I was still plagued by those words, “it does not have to be like this…” Like what, I thought? I think my life is OK. I mused.
Was there more? I worked hard for my clients, bought myself and the kids when I could, expensive presents. But even I have to admit that it does all feel empty at times. The money never lasted, neither did the happiness which seemed so temporary. So what was I doing this all for?
Winnie looked very happy and radiant. She had a joy factor that I have long lost.
The vibrating phone broke through my thoughts as I walked towards the train station. Today I was in no fit state to drive as I had not slept enough before this meet up. Should I ignite it? It’s probably Dick wondering why he had not heard confirmation that I was available for another long night. The popular clients were probably calling to see if they would get their regular treat.
I was the one who gave a good time, took risks and did more… oh I don’t want to think of the things I have had to do for money. Oh! Why won’t the phone stop? It vibrated a few times then again. Maybe it’s time I checked it.
“Code red.” I text back to my caller. Our words for “I’m out of action” – I am on my period. Fast came the reply, “when did it start?” We lived in the same house so it was news to Dick that I had not mentioned it earlier. You do not plan for these episodes, they just happen. Maybe it was the soul searching and talking with Winnie that did it. Who knows?
“Today” I replied after a few minute’s pauses.
“How come you never mentioned it? You better not be lying!” came the furious and threatening response.
“I’m losing money!” His words shouted at me in the next text that vibrates my phone. Strangely armed by some confidence that arose within me, I finally replied: “get lost!”
I shuddered at the effect of his words. I already knew I was just an object for his mercenary pleasure but somehow, I resented it this time. Was it something to do with Winnie’s comment? My soul was stirring, searching, asking and seeking. I had to steady myself after another barrage of text messages. I could see he was getting angrier. The banner notifications were coming one after another. “Where are you? How long will you be? What’s going on? Are you having another abortion? Have you been to the clinic?”
I felt too overwhelmed to respond at this time. Thankfully I found a bench near the train station which carried the weight of my thinner body. For a moment I had forgotten that I was also planning to get some sanitary supplies for the period! So after a few minutes of contemplation, I walked towards the pharmacy store.
This was an excerpt from the book: Love at First Byte