Nairobi Nights: Sylvester

Every profession has an eleventh commandment. The one thing not in the rule book but which should be adhered to. The eleventh commandment though is not sacrilegious; it can be broken, but with heavy consequences. In our trade on the streets the eleventh commandment is never to fall in love with a client. When one falls in love with a customer so many things can be compromised, affecting the main reason for being in prostitution; making money. You can not for example steal from a man you love. Not that we are out to steal, no, but sometimes, like when dealing with a mean man, it maybe necessary. You can’t also negotiate steadfastly with a man you love. You are most likely to take the lowest offer or, as impossible as it may seem, give yourself up for free; after all that’s what people in love do.

People break the eleventh commandment in a moment of foolishness. But for us we might break the commandment not in a moment of folly but simply because we are human beings responding to a biological urge to be loved. When a man picks me from a group of girls, it means he appreciates me. Crudely you may call it lust, but the lust is generated by an appreciation of something I have. But it ends there. Only a rare man will love a prostitute. We are seen like public institutions; open to all, to be (mis) used until we run down. We know this and so we never go out with a man expecting him to love us.

However we may fall in love with a man. After seeing the best, worst and real of so many men, many of us believe we are experts in male psychology. Thus before a girl falls in love, much analysis has taken place in her head. Nevertheless like anyone else we make mistakes.

Sometime ago I met a man called Sylvester. It says a lot if I knew his name, for many men are hesitant to give prostitutes their name, and if they do, they pick a common place name like John or Peter. Anyway Sylvester picked me one night around 11pm. He looked in his early thirties. The first thing he asked when I got inside his Subaru was whether I was feeling cold so that he could heat the car. Then he asked whether I felt hungry. Simple obvious questions but they meant a lot. As we drove towards Westlands, where he lived in an apartment, he volunteered more information about himself. He worked as an engineer with a local mobile phone company, he had broken up with his girlfriend and he eventually planned to relocate from the country. Again obvious things, but how many men volunteer such information to us?

When we got to his house rather than hurry me to the bed with his hands all over me, he let me sit on the couch, brought some whisky, put some music and cracked jokes, about himself, his work and us. And when we made love it was sensual. Him concerned about how I felt.

And so Sylvester picked me several times and treated me the same way. Naturally I became very fond of me, like falling in love. We never negotiated the fee he was to pay me; he paid what he wanted which was always slightly above the market rates. Perhaps even if he had decided not to pay me, I would have been okay. I actually thought he was falling for me too. Occasionally he called me during the day or night just to know how I was doing.

One morning, two months or so after meeting him, we were in his house and he couldn’t locate his wallet so as to pay me. He searched for it everywhere, but still couldn’t get it. Then he grabbed me abruptly, his face with an expression I had never seen before. “You prostitute! Give me my wallet or I kill you.” I was surprised. I didn’t have the wallet. He then slapped and insulted me. He searched my small handbag, made me undress; put his fingers inside me but still no wallet. Eventually he kicked me out. I cried. Not because he had hit me or refused to pay, but because I was in love with him. I had thought him different only to discover he was like all the rest.

Writer: Sue