Nairobi Nights: Things I Carry In My Handbag

The last few days I had been, anonymously, attending a workshop where all the women participants had this urban, suave and sophisticated talk as if they were all living the good times. Something about the way they carried themselves didn’t look real or perhaps because I haven’t socialized with their kind for long I felt that way.

Anyway on the first day of the workshop in what I took to be an ice breaking exercise the facilitator asked; ” What is it you carry in your handbag and can’t leave home without?” The women looked like they were trying to out do each other and the answers included credit cards, sunscreens, a photo of my family, organizer, gym card, yoga book, perfume, motivational book and such. When it came to my turn I hesitated a little, then in the spirit of the workshop which was sort of to strategize against men I said ” My pepper spray. I dress in what makes me comfortable, but makes some men uncomfortable”. I lied. I don’t carry pepper spray, but then in the circumstances I couldn’t mention the actual things that I always have in my handbag, unless I wanted to be thrown out.

I love medium size clutch bags. When I have to carry clothes to work, then I use a larger bag, which after changing I leave with some watchman or other of the street gatekeepers, but I never put  my clutch bag down.  So here are the must have items in my small bag:

1. Pen Knife 

Its actually a cheap but very sharp blade which I can open with a single flick. Sure its a weapon, and I feel much better when I have it. I have never used the blade but since I never know in whose car I hop into , it does no harm to have  some defense tool stand by. If my instincts send alarm signals, I will  have my bag with me until we embark on the sex, and then it will  be within reach. I can only use the blade in the extreme of circumstances. A man not paying me is not extreme. A man verbally abusing me is not extreme. A man hitting twice me is extreme. Can I kill? I would hesitate before committing murder, but if thats the only option to save my life then I would do it without guilt.

2. Lubricant

As someone correctly pointed out there are many times when a client doesn’t arouse me, hence make me wet. It doesn’t matter the foreplay. And quite a number of men are hesitant to lick a prostitute down there. So I have the gel to ease the friction. But its not something I will apply in the presence of the client. That is unprofessional ; enough to turn off some men, though it might  stimulate others. If I need to use the lubricant I will , at the opportune time , excuse myself , pop into the toilet and come back ‘wet’. But of course once in a while, I will meet a man who I ‘feel’ and who in turn makes me wet. Also, high risks, like the police station incident I mentioned in one of the episodes, excite me to the extent of making it unnecessary to use the lubricant.  When I used to work at SJ I never used lubricant, instead I just applied saliva. Even though using a lubricant would have been  for my own good, I didn’t feel the men downtown were worth investing in KY.

3. Condoms

Yes, I carry a pack of Rough Rider condoms. You see there are men who will want to have unprotected sex on the pretense of having forgotten to buy condoms. But viola I always have a pack ready. Others will have genuinely forgotten to buy some, and will only remember when my clothes are on the floor. At such times the emancipation to go raw is at the highest, but then too bad or too good, I have pack ready. Then of course there are men who buy or get for free, cheap, thick , low quality condoms which feel so uncomfortable inside me. Its always a pleasure to introduce them to the world of premium, ultra thin condoms. This reminds me how at the SJ  some girls  used to insist on their clients  wearing  two of those free government condoms. Double protection at half the pleasure. Huh Pleasure is inversely proportional to Protection.

4. Sedative

The spiking agent, the mchele, that can black a man out giving me the opportunity to unload everything from his pockets or some valuables from his house.  I have it both in powder and gum form. As impossible as it may be there are men who will actually believe  that chewing a gum given by a prostitute will make them last forever.  I don’t intend to steal from men, but the drugs add to my feeling of security, knowing if need be, I can knock off a man for hours easily. And then again as Cheupe, she of urinating in the city council van, told me in my first week on the streets “With men you never know when opportunity may strike” and “Whether you steal or not, everybody thinks you are a thief”. I have to admit in my two years or so of practice on the street I have spiked only once, the victim being a drunk diplomat. That’s another of the stories I am going to write about soon.

5. Book

I always have a light book in my handbag. At the moment I have Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, a small book which I bought for Ksh. 70 on the streets.  I am yet to start reading it. Before that I was carrying Tale of Kasaya by Eva Kasaya, and released by Kwani or some other Kenyan publisher. I picked the book from a client’s house with his permission. Its a true, interesting story of adventures of a former house girl until she got ’emancipated’. Its a story I loved, and though I can not exactly relate with it, I know many of my colleagues can. There were times I used to have James Hadley Chase paper backs in the bag, Reading them a second tome after high school. Almost all had a prostitute or some prostitute kind of girl featured in  the story.  My favourite being ‘ But Just A Short Time To Live“. I read on my way to work . Sometimes when bored at home I go to town early, and kill time reading at the Jeevanjee gardens or the seats outside Steers . I read the bigger, involving and more abstract books at home.

6. Lesso and extra pant

If I leave home with my uniform, then I will make sure I have a pant and lesso,  or kikoy tucked somewhere in the clutch bag. What would happen if I am busted by a client’s wife or girlfriend when stark naked in action? Whatever would happen, including leaving my clothes behind, I wouldn’t leave my handbag. At least then I will have something to cover my nakedness.

The other items are what every girl has; some Vaseline, perfume, lip bum, tissue, wipes and the rest. I also carry a lighter, cigarettes, my ID, ‘job’ and business cards.

Writer: Sue