Follow me closely on this.
The clock says it is three in the morning. Police sirens wail every thirty minutes, but the cops don’t stop nor slow down. Neons flash gaudy and provocative signs, flooding the streets with sultry red light. The smell of fermenting beer hangs heavily in the air, like a thick fog carrying ghosts who are on visitation missions. Catcalls, jeers, and throaty laughter abound, fueling the night to steal a few more hours from daytime. Musk and floral scents mingle into one heady fragrance, exploding all throughout and intoxicating passersby.
There are cars with tinted windows and bass-thumping stereos that slow down as their drivers approach the area; windows roll, prices are negotiated, money changes hands, someone gets in the car, and they drive away in the roar of well-tuned engines.
Women with red glossy lips. Wavy hair. Smoky eyes. Short skirts. Flimsy and transluscent blouses.
When I was thirteen, I used to live with them in a red-light district in Q city, and my family’s living space was separated by a thin concrete wall from a night club. Each night, my brother and I were lulled to sleep by thumping bass beats and sultry saxophone tunes that signalled the start of the star dancer’s nightly performance.
Allow me to elaborate and clarify before any child abuse raps come in the way of my hard-working mother.
My mother used to work for a center that was put up for prostituted women. It was organized by a non-government organization that had ties with the religious denomination in which my ma is a minister. My mother was tapped to be the facilitator of the center. Her appointment as the center’s facilitator coincided with the time when we had no place to stay in Q city after my mother’s church assignment was already done, and the board of trustees of the mentioned non-government organization offered Ma and her kids a place to stay in the second floor of the center, which was in an apartment smack in the middle of Q city’s red-light haven.
The center served as a “rest station” for the women of the night; it was open to them who wanted coffee, a shower, a place to rest in-between clients, to use the telephone to call their families (some women have kids at home) to check on them, or just to hang out and exchange stories and talk shop with women like themselves.
The center also offered legal services for women who have experienced abuse from their clients, their pimps, or from the police. The center also offered free lectures on protecting the self through safe s3x, gave out free condoms to those women who cared to use them, and assisted women who needed medical care if they caught something from their occupation.
The center is gone now, and most of the women who went there at the wee hours of the morning are now either retired from the trade or have other means of livelihood.
The experience was an eye opener and the best education I could have had on the darker side of the city, of human nature, the importance of self-preservation, and of the conditions that prostituted women undergo in the hands of their clients, of their pimps, of the police, and of society, in general. At thirteen, I knew that life is never a bed of roses, or if it is, the thorns are there to pierce unguarded skin.