The Immigrant’s Journey – The Prostitute
Based on a true story, this is the fate of Nneka and others, who leave home for beyond, hoping for greener pastures. To some like her, the green comes with a price tag. Names and places were changed to protect the identity of the protagonists.
My name is Nneka and I am a prostitute. Don’t look at me with those eyes, don’t pity me, don’t feel sorry for me, don’t hate me. I have lived a hard life, thorns and rocks filled my path. You see, I was 20 when my parents managed to scratch the money to send me to Switzerland. My friend Amaka who was already in Zürich, made all the connections and arrangements with the guy who processed my migrating. Oh, how excited I was. Finally, I was going to Europe. My mother was a petty market trader and my dad was working as a driver to a very rich chief, a kind man. Yes, we were poor. Europe was something I could only dream of, never expecting to see it. So when Amaka wrote that she had arranged everything, that this guy was coming to see me for my passport and other documentation to travel to Switzerland, I couldn’t believe my luck. But there was a catch; I had to come up with the flight ticket myself. When I talked to mama and papa, they were devastated. Where were they going to come up with that kind of money. Papa talked to his boss and he promised to give us the ticket money, on condition that I paid back within six months of my stay in Europe. Done deal. Two months later, I was on the plane, heading to meet my best friend Amaka. She was the sister I never had. You see, I was the first of six children and the only girl. I had always been the one to look after my junior brothers when mama went to the market and papa to work. I started being a mother and father to them at the tender age of nine. I even had to stop regular school to attend evening school so that I could take care of my junior ones after my parents went to work. Coming to Europe was going to relieve our poverty. I was going to build my parents a house. I was going to expand mama’s business, possibly buy her a shop, so she can stop the back wrenching trade in dry fish and palm oil she was doing. As for papa, I was going to buy him his own car, and buses, so he can have them on the road and be his own boss. All my brothers would go to school without problem. I was going to lift up my family. All these plans and more I made in the air while crossing the Atlantic to Switzerland.
And then I arrived; Amaka was there waiting for me. Oh what joy. My sister, bonded again in friendship and in gratitude. Yes, I owed her this, this turning of my life around. When Amaka travelled, she promised she was going to send for me. I didn’t believe her. I thought she was going to forget me. And now I felt ashamed, for not trusting her, my sister, my friend. We hugged, screamed, cried, hugged again, held hands, laughed and smiled. Then she took me to her car and we drove to her apartment. She had a lovely home. Wow, only two years and she had accomplished all these. Her car was new and beautiful, her home the best I had ever been too. Everything was so clean and new. It was a one bedroom apartment, a bit small but very pretty. And it smelled good too, so did Amaka. After unpacking and having my shower, we ate, I gave her all I brought for her, gifts from her parents, my parents and some of our friends. She was very happy and read some of her letters laughing out loud. We stayed up all night talking, mostly I telling her stories of home. In the two years she has been in Switzerland, she has not yet visited. She wanted to know everything and I told her. It was into the wee hours of morning before we could sleep. The next day, she took me shopping. We bought some very nice clothes for myself, all paid for by Amaka. When I tried to refuse, she insisted, “you are my sister, if I do not do it for you, who will I do it for, hmm?” She laughed and pushed my head. So we shopped, I forever grateful for ever meeting her. At night that day, Amaka dressed up and told me she was going to work and will only come back in the morning. She was very scantily dressed. “What kind of work is it that you are dressed like that?” I asked, suspicion rousing in me. She only laughed and didn’t answer. She left. The next day and the day after and for the next two weeks, the same pattern. My suspicions strengthened, but I prayed that I was wrong. I prayed and hoped that what I was thinking was not true.
I called my parents and they told me Sunday, one of my brothers had been admitted in the hospital and since they used all their money for my trip, they didn’t have any money for his medication. Amaka met me crying that morning, when I told her what was going on, she gave me the money to send. I couldn’t thank her enough. I promised to pay her every cent when I started work. She smiled and told me it was ok.
One month after my arrival, I told Amaka I needed to start work. I told her I had only five months left to pay back my father’s debts. She looked me deep in the eyes and then she said no problem, I could come with her tonight and start working.
My heart did a somersault. I asked her what kind of work it was.
She looked at me again and said softly “Nne, you know what kind of work it is.”
“No, Ada, no, I can’t do that.”
“Yes, Nne, you can. You can do it. It is the only thing you can do.”
“No, there should be other jobs. Cleaning, cooking, anything. Just not that. I can’t do it.”
“There are no other jobs Nne, this is the only job we can do.”
Tears were running down my eyes and hers too.
She told me how without legal papers, there were no other jobs for us. Every other girl was doing the same thing. Her aunt who brought her here owned a brothel and she worked there. No one cared about you there, no one controlled whether you had papers or not. It was the easiest way to make money; it was the only way to make money, for them. At first, she thought she could never do it. She would die before she gave herself to a man for money. But after several months of nothing, not even money to buy a card to call home, she knew she had no choice. And when news came that her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she knew she was hooked. She needed to work to send them money. So she started. She could not go back home because what was she going to tell her parents. She will stay here, work and send them the money. She had no choice. And now, she was used to it. Prostitution was part of her life. It was just a job, like any other job. They called them sex workers, making it posh and nice. But it was the same thing. It was prostitution and it was what she did. She didn’t need to go beg anyone, she could take care of herself. Maybe I might look on it as dirty, she said, as she also did in the beginning, but now, she sees it differently. Sure, if she had the choice, she wouldn’t have chosen prostitution, but it is her life now. It was just a job like any other. It paid the bills, it put food on the table and it took care of the family back home. She knew it was hard, but she promised me I was going to see it differently one day. She is here for me. She will help me and together we were going to go through it. One day at a time. That night, I put on one of her outfits and we drove to her aunt’s brothel together.
It is ten years now and I am still a prostitute. Why? Because I know no other life. I have enough money now that I can stop and start a business. But do I want to do that? No. I have come to like my job. It is hard, but it pays well. My mother now has her store, my father two taxis and a bus. My brothers are all in school, two in the university and they look up to me. I am responsible for their tuition and school needs. Yes, you might frown on me, look at me with scorn, but Prostitution is what I do. What I had to do. It is going to build my parents and siblings a house, it is going to get my father more cars and it keep stuffing my mother’s store with more goods. Maybe one day I might stop, maybe one day I will do something else, but for now, it is what I do. It takes care of the family back home. It takes care of me.
Posted on February 24, 2015, in The Immigrant's Journey and tagged Africa, Europe, Family, Immigrant, Journey, Love, Pain, Prostitution, Short Story, Sisterhood, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 26 Comments.