Nairobi Nights: Of Boredom and A Funeral

I have been in my kind business for almost three years now, during which I have slept with over a thousand different men. That figure is small as compared to some of you, men and women, who do it for pleasure, ego and money. Let’s not go to the money bit, but do take some few seconds to count the number of people you have slept with. How many? Yet you may not be called prostitutes because it is not the quantity of the sex that matters in the definition of the word, but the purpose.

Nowadays I am not ashamed to call myself a prostitute. But there was a time I was in denial. Even after walking to a dingy room at the Sabina Joy, lying on dirty tattered mattress, lowering my pants, having a drunken man mount me and pay 200 shillings for it, I still could not punch my fist in the air and say “Yes I am now a prostitute!”. Those days are now gone, they had to go if I had to make it in this trade.

Of course I remember the way I felt the first day I was explicitly paid for sex. The thrill of becoming something new. And this was not the becoming a woman pain then  joy of virginity breaking, but the science fiction metamorphosis of changing to evil in the eyes of society, losing almost all conscience and morality. There was every reason to remain in denial.

As you well know I practice on the Street. There are many other places I could opt to go to, where I won’t freeze in cold or have to play hide and seek with the police and City Council askari, but I chose the Street. The Street has its own beauty. To start with, there is the ever present tension between us and the authorities, a permanent adrenaline rush that makes getting to a comfortable zone an impossibility. A comfort zone would blind me from the fact that I can’t be in this trade forever. (Like most girls say I was to quit after six months.) The adrenaline rush, as you will see, has other purposes.

The Street is a jungle; there is no formality or systematic way of doing things. I am doing wrong and I have the freedom to go all the way in my sin. I can show as much flesh as I want, I can scream and insult. In some of the pubs I can’t even show my pants. In others I have to wait in the toilets or corridors. In the up market brothels there is structure; there is reporting to someone; there is splitting the money. I love my freedom and the risks that come with it. And I gladly pass the cost of the risk to the consumers.

The Street largely caters for a very specific market. Most men who come here are looking for something between the roughness of the downtown and decency of the up market. They don’t want the sophistication that snatches the illegality and dirt of prostitution. But still they don’t want the on the face prostitution that feels cheap and exploitative. I love this group because nothing is exactly predictable with them and they have endless possibilities. Many of them think  they have figured us out while the truth is they are far from it. The mind game between me and such is part of the motivation to do what I do

So why am I telling you things I should have told you at the start of this blog?  And some which you already know? It’s because of late I am looking back a lot. I am spending quite some time in the comfort of the good-old-days thoughts. In the last few weeks the Street has lost its thrill; the excitement and adrenaline rush that partially attracted me to it are nowhere to be found. Everything now is too predictable. The girls are good to each other. The clients, at least my clients, are too polite, they don’t argue, they don’t negotiate and they don’t experiment either. They have become yes-men agreeing to all I suggest. Not that johns are supposed to be monsters, but neither are they supposed to be sissies. A not so direct reward in my work, as I have mentioned, is the joy of outsmarting a man or better still subduing him. Presently everything looks too ideal. Too good to be true. It’s like a lull before a storm. I don’t know what has happened. Maybe the cold has frozen the male nerves. Or the increasingly tough economic times have made men frail.

In these generally slow times I and certainly most girls seize any opportunity to get some kick. Not long ago this opportunity came in the form of death. Most girls approach death with escapism and false bravado. Thus there are many statements of the “ I’d rather die than….” kind. Or others which tend to play on fate and destiny. Hence many times I will hear the very pedestrian statement “My graph is drawn”… Although girls may give the illusion they are not afraid of death and prefer it to suffering, the truth is most of us are scared and the light manner in which most of us treat it, is so as not to face the reality of how close we are to demise every time we go with a client. Like most people I am also frightened, but rather than live in escapism I have opted to reconcile myself with the idea of death.

About a year ago I read The Book of Dead Philosophers (another relic from a client.). The text has all these anecdotes about philosophical last scenes. My favorite was the well known classic by Socrates. When he was sentenced to death he told the judges “Now it is time that we were going, I to die and you to live; but which of us has the happier prospect is unknown to anyone but God.”

Then there was another man whose name I can’t remember who after it became clear he was going to die of cancer said “Death orders matters well, since the very fact of your absence makes the world distinctly less worthy of being lived in”

Few weeks ago a colleague we called BG died. She was one of those average girls who don’t stand out in anyway. She disappeared from the Street for a month, and the next thing we heard she was dead.  Like it usually happens here there was speculation but nothing definite about the cause of her death. So there was talk of her being poisoned by another girl, of her being bewitched by a man he stole from, of HIV, of drugs and liver disease.

Twenty three of us planned to attend the burial.  Of course we said we were going to show our last respects but it’s the prospect of taking a trip as a group that was more exciting. It was to be like those bonding retreats corporate organizations have. Maggie who was coordinating the trip laid the ground rules. We were to all wear black jeans. When we got to the funeral we were not to act like prostitutes but rather like her ‘work’ colleagues, since we were not sure whether her family knew what she did for a living. We contributed money and hired two Nissan Matatus. The funeral was in Muranga, about 100km from Nairobi.

We left around nine in the morning. As soon as we were inside the vehicle, we opened our bags and unleashed cheap spirits and miraa. Half an hour later we were euphoric and noisy as if going for a wedding. We talked, laughed, smoked, farted and made rude and suggestive signs at other motorists. We were almost knocked out by the time we got to the funeral and as much as we tried to maintain some decorum it became impossible. We were loud, and some of us giggled when mourners were praying.

When the coffin was lowered inside the grave, we took over to throw in the soil. With the spades which were provided, singing and trying to look sober we buried BG. When the grave was fully covered we stood around it, ignoring everyone else. Then Maggie took the microphone and looked directly at the grave. She spoke in Kikuyu but said something like “Please watch over us”. At that point some of us shed tears. I didn’t.

When we went back to the vehicles, which were parked some distance away, we found someone had broken in and stolen our bags which contained our strong drinks. “Whoever stole our bags is the one who killed BG” Maggie said, and we cheered. Next day it was back to the present slow of the Street.

Writer: Sue