I am seated at the farthest end of the dingy joint, facing the blank wall that breathes nothing but fate, guilt, fear and shame. My back is direct to the door, so that anyone coming in does not fail to notice the outlines of the black bra beneath the cream chiffon top that caresses my back. The drink in my hand, an inexpensive brand of white wine, is too cold to the extent it numbs my hand. Still, I do not withdraw it. I need this numbness, not only in my hand but the rest of my body and emotions, if I am to get out of here alive.
I breathe in again, and free my legs from under the chair.
I am nervous. I am indifferent. I am worried. There are a lot of things running through my mind, and I am only begging for it all to stop and give me a moment of peace.
I shift in my seat just as a shadow looms across my table, just as I smell him next to me, his hands already on my boobs. I try to shrink away, but his tongue is already tracing its way from my ears towards my mouth.
The smell. Damn. Horrid. Pungent. Like a pit latrine on the brink of bursting its banks. Like a garbage truck after weeks of heavy rain. Like some nights, when the silence is too loud and the smell of your own fears drives you insane.
I make as if to cough, like someone during a slight choke. He backs off, pulls the chair on the opposite side of the table, and sits.
There is a heavy silence that hangs around us. Dirty silence. Silence enshrined in fear. Silence that is loud enough to silence all the voices in your head. Voices of contempt. Voices of unworthiness. Of helplessness.
My phone vibrates against the table and lights up.
Where are you?
I just want to know.
Because you are my girlfriend.
Does a girlfriend mean someone you ghost for close to two weeks, then resurface with a where are you text?
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“Is anyone bothering you?” He asks from across the table.
“Yes, my boyfriend. ”
“You did not tell me you have one. ”
“If I did, would you let me go? Would you allow me to lead a normal life, like the rest of my friends? ”
I look at him directly in the face. In the dimly lit joint, there isn’t much I can make of his face, apart from his white eyes that match his teeth. Even in the slight night breeze, streaks of sweat can still be seen on his forehead and nose.
I want so much to break into a run. I want so much to break down and cry. I want so much to disappear. I want so much to hit him in the face, pull him by his legs, and dump him somewhere the stray dogs will have a feast of the night.
But I can’t. Why? I am too afraid.
I am too afraid that if I do not do this, my mother’s arthritis will finally kill her. My sister will never forgive me for not trying my best. She will, again, spend another year at home while her peers fly away to campus. Most importantly, if I do not do this, I am guaranteed to sleep hungry for the remaining days of the week.
I listen as he goes on and on about his supposedly love for me. Love at first sight. Love for a woman as young, and beautiful as me. Love for a brilliant mind. Love for a calm spirit. Bla bla bla.
I sneer as he goes on and on about the things he wants me to do to him. About the feeling of my soft hands around his manhood. Or his balls in my mouth. Or his whole body against mine. His groin against my ass as he thrusts, deeper and deeper.
I want to vomit as he takes my hand into his, and leans in to whisper more and more obscenities.
“It won’t take long. Just five hours. I have paid the room for a whole twenty-four hours. You can leave whenever you want.”
I sit in silence as my palm begins to sweat. My mind goes blank as hot tears begin to burn my cheeks. He reaches out and wipes them with the back of his hand. Then, like a premonition, he moves and now sits adjacent to me, the warmth of our bodies threatening to suffocate me.
“Come on, are you afraid?”
“See, I will be gentle. Very gentle. I will not do anything to hurt you.”
I wonder whether the blank spaces in his brain think forced sex can only hurt someone physically. I wonder whether he understands the emotions and mental strength that the act forcefully takes away from you. I wonder whether, in silence and in the comfort of his wife’s arms, he thinks of all the women he has hurt emotionally, some permanently. I wonder whether when he touches his two-months-old baby, a sweat breaks on his head, reminding him that maybe, just maybe, that baby is not his.
“This is not what I want.”
“What do you want? This?” He directs my hand towards his groin, where the hardness threatens to rip his trousers open.
I retract, and begin to push back my chair, as f to leave. His hand, now stronger around my wrist, pulls me down such that his mouth is in my ear.
“I know you have been doing this for a very long time. How else does it turn out that your grades are so high? You do not cross me like the intelligent type.”
I want to tell him that the only reason I am here is because I am hopeless. I have reached the end of the road, willing to do anything just to get food. I am here for the food. For the pretentious laughter. I am here, not to convince him that I am brilliant, but because I failing is too expensive for me.
I want to tell him that I am only here because I thought he would give me some money, then ask me on another date, which I will fail to show up to.
I beg him to let go. He doesn’t. I can see a grin start to make way to his face.
I cannot do this. I cannot do this.
My phone rings, a ring too loud the rest of the people turn to look at my direction. He lets go of my hand as I walk away to pick the call.
As I go to sleep that night, my heart beats for all the brilliant minds whose lack of means has landed them into the dirtiest of ditches. My heart beats for the children born through the ditches. My heart beats for the hopelessness that lies deep within the hearts of many, a hopelessness that more often than not, results into a superficial kind of death.
My heart beats for some nights when all the hope you had gets lost within the trousers of men with no sense.
Most importantly, as I go to sleep, I know I need an extra one thousand bob because I am definitely getting a fail at the end of this semester.