Friday, May 20, 2011

Episode 30: In My Clients' Shoes

A day or so ago someone sent me an email wondering how I could get tired in my line of work. This was after I mentioned in my last post that I was planning to take a break. The author of the email assumed that since mine is the business of pleasure, there was no fatigue associated with it. That, however, would be taking so many things for granted.  I will not go to the physical exhaustion that comes with running up and down the streets, too much drink, lack of sleep and such. Though I am experiencing a bit of that, it’s not exactly what I was talking about. I meant what, for lack of a better word, I will call boredom. Some sort of unexplainable low spirits, slackness, and a lack of enthusiasm has engulfed me. I have become a robot like person doing things for the sake of it, without any attachment, emotional or otherwise.

I have been experiencing this for the last ten days or so. The ennui has been building up slowly but since it’s not the first time I have experienced it , I am aware of the telltale signs. It starts with me becoming careless with my clients. Not making any effort to negotiate better prices or, like I usually do, trying to go the extra mile for their pleasure. Then I become edgy with my colleagues and generally with everyone. Most of the times all I want is sleep all day and night, skipping work. Previously when the weariness set in, I drunk and read a lot. But in the last few days none of that has been happening. I have been sleeping all day, wanting to be alone, and smoking countless cigarettes. I have been to the streets a few times, but being dull and slow, the days haven't been very fruitful. As regards this blog, I have been slow in replying to emails, messages on Facebook or even updating Twitter. Though I can partially blame it on the absence of a computer, the real reason is I am too gray to leave the house and spend an hour or two in a cyber cafe. (But as always, I will reply to each of the messages soonest I can. )

The good thing is that the boredom does not occur often, and only a few times has it lasted more than two weeks. In the past when the dullness did not wear out naturally, I overcame by taking a proper break out of town; sometimes going to my parents’ home in the village, or in better days retreating to a quiet Christian run guesthouse in Kericho. Because of some complications neither of that will happen this time round. 

So last weekend I decided to be a little innovative in trying to kill the lifelessness and breathe new life into myself. I had made some little money on Friday. Come Saturday night I went to a club in Buruburu. I sat alone next to the counter, drinking cold beer and listening to some lousy music. Around eleven in the night, and when slightly tipsy, I approached a man who looked in his mid twenties, and who was sipping beer not very far from where I was seated. I whispered, offering to pay him a small amount to have sex with me. He was a bit shocked but recovered quickly. I hadn’t expected him to say no. After a few more drinks I booked a room.

The man was not a good lover; he was not as adventurous and energetic as I would have wanted. He didn’t help me get the renewal which comes with having sex with a man who doesn’t know I am a prostitute. Perhaps it was the first time a woman had offered to pay him for sex and thus may have been anxious. Whatever the reason, he was a disappointment and a waste of money. Sunday morning I was twice as bored. I am still jaded.


Twitter: @suenairobi
Facebook: Sue Maisha.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Episode 29: The Street Badges

Like other industries ours too has best practices. One of these involves how we sell ourselves to clients. Best practices demand a girl sells herself by focusing on her personal strengths rather by pinpointing the weaknesses of a colleague. A girl should not act like politicians who win by degrading and mudslinging opponents. Though there is no definite punishment for going against the best practices, doing so comes with consequences.

Two or so weeks ago a white man came driving some not so good looking car, but girls here think white is gold, it matters little how the white is packaged. So three other girls and I crowded the car. Among them was Mariam; a woman who somehow seems out of place on the street. She is relatively older and acts rather mature. Mariam is one of those considered pillars of the street; she is polite and careful with her words. She dishes these random pieces of advice to girls. And among all of us, she seems the most focused and organized. Mariam is very pretty, but has a problem speaking proper English. However considering the nature of our business, that has never been a handicap, actually in some circumstances it is a plus.

The white man seemed interested in Mariam, who was on the driver’s side. She was speaking in her smooth Swahili and the man was enjoying; like most of the white men who come here, he had an odd looking, never ending sheepish smile. Then I did something girls don’t do. I competed by bringing Mariam down. I was broke and had partaken some strong drink. I didn’t care for best practices. “She is fat" I shouted, as if being fat was a bad thing. The white man looked at me, more in surprise than appreciation. Miriam is not necessarily fat, bet she has the right amount of weight. And even if she was, there are men who want such ladies. I said it in bad taste. Miriam forgot about the white man, and came blazing to where I was.  Within minutes I was on the ground, there was no way I could fight her. She beat me almost senseless. The girls didn't try separate us, perhaps they thought I deserved it.

I was out for some few days. When I went back, head down in shame, I apologized to her, blaming it on alcohol. And as the rule in such situations, I topped my apologies with some small monetary compensation. We are now in good terms, but I have a small scar on the back of my shoulder; a badge of shame.

I have another badge. When I first came to Koinange Street, I tried to be the people’s person. Trying to be nice and polite to every of the girls. It didn't take me long to realize that was of no use in a very individualistic and competitive environment. In the eyes of the other girls I looked stupid. And yes, I saw the looks when a man picked me and later heard their scathing remarks. Who did I think I was to go round being nice to everyone?

I shed the Miss Good image, and became more acceptable. I could gossip and take sides in arguments rather than be the girl in the middle who giggles sheepishly. Most importantly I could hate. Whether my feelings of hatred were real or not mattered little; the important thing was that in my eyes and those of the other girls I was becoming street worthy. Yet I didn’t have what is unofficially perceived as the street badge of honor.

There is no girl on the street, however good, who is loved by all the rest. Everyone has an 'enemy', and as they say in those hip hop songs, having an enemy is a sign of success; something to be proud of.  I knew there were girls who disliked me and openly called them enemies, though I never actually considered them as such. Yet in moments of extreme pressure and competition say as a result of poor business or strong drink I became a little eccentric and  took the fight to my  so called 'enemies' . At such times a slight excuse was reason enough to pick an oral fight with the 'enemies'.

However oral fights can only last as long. The main victim of my insults was a short, stocky girl called Caro. My issues with her started when I was told, by another girl, that she was going around saying I was a cheap prostitute who had been practicing at the Sabina Joy but now  had the guts to go snatching men from the street. Thinking of it now, there was some truth in her statement. But I was not to take it lying down. I confronted her, and that was the start of months of exchanging words.

One evening I was drunk and as she passed near where I was standing, I said “Seems today men have rejected you" or something to that effect. As tradition I expected her to insult me back. But that time round she looked at me for a second then slapped me with her thick hand. A slap begets a slap. I slapped her back. In a few minutes we were rolling on the ground. She was stronger and heavier than me. I was drunk and my punches weak. She beat me proper before we were separated. I still have a scar on the neck from that fight. Though I was beaten I consider it my street badge of honor.

Things here and there in my life. Somehow I can't think straight. I will do one more post this week before taking a short break out of this town.

I was interviewed on Aljazeera sometime last week. You can listen to it here
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Episode 28: Sue - More Than Just Sex

Competition in our industry has become very stiff. The competition has been driven by an oversupply of the services we offer. This is not necessarily because more girls are joining the trade but more as a result of having a few of the trade's stabilizing dynamics disrupted. A key variable in our industry is time. The fact that there are girls who only operate during the day, and others during the night makes sure there are only enough of us at any particular moment. With the introduction of the alcohol law which requires bars to be opened at 5pm during weekdays and 2pm on weekends, the timing has been messed up with. There are tens of girls who used to operate from different bars in the city during the day. Now they have to reschedule their work hours, burdening the night.

Distribution has also been upset. This has to do with spread of the girls in different parts of the city. When a den is permanently closed it affects distribution because girls move to other open venues, which might be in a different side of town. The area around Luthuli Avenue and River Road has served a crucial role in balancing the downtown and uptown Nairobi prostitutes allotment. But in the last few months misfortunes have been hitting that area. It started with the closing down of Eden which I hear has been turned to a shopping complex by the new money in town, then Good Hope burnt down. Some hardened girl who changed base to the street the other day, told me Safaricom House was closed a week or so ago. This is not the one along Waiyaki Way but the alias of a lodging cum brothel along Luthuli Avenue.

There are now more girls coming to the Koinange side of town. Most are not newbie but toughies shifting base .The immediate effect has been to exert a downward pressure on price. But what I find to be a more grave consequence of the influx (never mind that’s where I started) is the loss of what was left of the Koinange panache: the impression that we girls on the street are cleaner, more decent, open minded and sophisticated than the girls downtown; but still with the prostitute feel which most of the girls in up market brothels have lost. Pretence is a crucial part of our business on the street. Pretending to have swag even when in real sense its non existent. The faking commands better prices and helps protect the image of the street. The toughies from downtown are brutal in their dealings, dressing, talk and negotiations making nonsense of the economies of location.

On the other hand there are some few fresh girls who have joined us. These are the extremes of the downtown girls. They have so much style, its intimidating. Whereas the rest of us still call men honey, sweetie and babe, the new girls are using words normally using new pet names of Pretty, Sweetness and the likes. Words common everywhere, but the street. Two of them, suave and young sell themselves as a package, so that a man cannot pick one and leave the other. And that at a discounted price. I feel such girls should not be along Koinange, but some lane in Westlands, Parklands, Kileleshwa or some other such place. That is a hint of the tension that is starting to build here. There are those of us who feel we own the street, and we ought to chase all these new comers and reclaim our fast fading glory.

I have to admit that I have not been very innovative when it comes to selling myself. I just parade, smile, mention a word here or there and hope a man will pick. More or less it worked. Nowadays though, the magic seems to have gone. As concerns my marketing efforts starting this blog is the most innovative thing I have done. And though I have generated business from it, I have to confess its always awkward, uneasy and a little complex for both the man and me. Bet it’s because I feel such men know so much about me that I don’t fully relax. The men for a reason or another don't seem at ease. Though I didn’t want my brand just to be only about sex for cash, I have to overcome those shortcoming and reservations; be easy and make my readers at ease as to enjoy sessions with me. (I will write more about this when I do a post reviewing my brand building efforts in the last four months.)

Meanwhile I have to be innovative on the street. I toyed with the idea of role playing dressing. You know I dress like a nurse or policewoman. The nurse seems exciting and I will see what to do about it. The other idea is to offer a package; something more than sex. For instance sex and talk. Where sex is accompanied by a tell it all session. Previously I have smoothly been able to make men talk about their work, fear, hopes, and problems. While men may not take my suggestions I note they feel good when I listen and seem genuinely interested in their lives. But the short time between a car stopping and a man picking me is not enough to let a man know that I will offer sex and a listening ear. I am thinking of printing business cards with my number, email, website and catchy slogan of what I offer. Sue: More Than Just Sex or Sue: The listening pleasure...something in those lines..

A major marketing hitch in my kind of business is that word of mouth doesn’t seem to work. I have never slept with a man who has been referred to me by another man. I suspect some men don’t want to be known they sleep with prostitutes, which is okay, while others want to spare the marvelous prostitute for them.
Getting repeat customers can also be problematic. Not long ago after a very good session with a man, I said to him."Will you come back to me ?"

"Why should I? he asked.

"I thought you enjoyed"

"I did, but I don't visit a prostitute twice."

I smiled. But it hurt.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Episode 27: No Dim Candle Lit Room

Many men are attracted to picking girls from the streets because of the freedom to choose where to have sex with them. For unlike girls in downtown bars and brothels who insist on having sex in-house; in stuffy rooms and tattered mattress, the girls on the streets are more risk inclined as to go where a man wishes. Not that we have much choice. When I get inside a car I usually have no idea where a man will take me. It may sound stupid, but it’s a foolishness I charge a premium price for. A man may consider such factors as cost, privacy and convenience in determining the destination.

Men don’t say where they are taking me until I ask. Their assumption maybe that a girl on the street is ready to go anywhere. Perhaps they also fear a girl may change here mind if told of the destination. True there are places a girl would be uncomfortable going to. For instance near a neighborhood where she stole from a client. Also in a hotel where she was short changed, created a scene and embarrassed the hotel. There are also men who love going to a prostitute’s house. This perhaps is driven by the image of prostitutes in movies; husky voiced, cigarette smoking women, living in dim candle lit rooms, with some erotica hanging on the wall next to the bed. The truth is girls here don't live that way.

Most of the girls downtown live in congested neighborhoods which are slightly above the state of slums. If you asked a girl at the Sabina Joy where she comes from the answer would be Kayole, Githurai, Huruma, Mwiki, Mathare North or Mlango Kubwa. If not that it would be a place like Gachie or Wangige. Few girls if any admit coming from the slums. To some extent it’s an ego thing, and to another it’s about what such a discovery may do to business; what with the stereotype of prostitutes and slum residents as thieves. A prostitute from the slums will not only be assumed to be dirty but also exhibiting the worst of prostitutes’ treachery.

Here on the street the opposite happens. Few girls admit to living in the estates where the downtown brothels girls live. Doing so would snatch the slight decency expected of girls on the streets. However in actual sense there are  some of my colleagues here  who live in such estates, even in slums. Though such low income places may offer convenience in terms of cost, they are a big inconvenience when it comes to the logistics of business. Life in such areas is characterized by arbitrarily police round ups, what is called msako. Woe unto you if you are caught in the msako when leaving for work. Besides the msako there is always a  high possibility of bumping into policemen on patrol. Police in such areas have a superiority complex which tries to exploit on the perceived inferiority of the residents. They are certain to arrest or harass you for no good reason. Thus if you live there you might be forced to leave home before dark for work. And if you work here on  the street where business doesn’t pick up till after eleven, there is just too much time to kill, time which could have better been spent sleeping.

A brighter move, and which many of us have adapted is to live, as we put it, near the money. Thus we pick relatively decent places, slightly expensive but with some comfort and peace of mind. After all, if you have to spend the night in cold, chasing cars and shouting honey then you need to enjoy the fruits of your labor in calm. So you will find a number of girls living in Pangani, Westlands, Buru Buru, Kariobangi South and Kiambu town. At times two or three girls will come together and rent a two or one bedroom house in an up market place.

I live in a bed-sitter in Pangani. It takes about twenty minutes or so to get to town, and I can leave or get in the house at anytime. I guess none of my eleven neighbors knows what I do for a living. Although the watchman may have a clue because of my odd hours ,he doesn’t ask any questions. I like it that way, having to live without announcing to everyone what I do for a living. I love the beauty of living alone. The joy of those moments when I stagger home towards daylight and crash on the bed, or those times when I am seated on the floor of the toilet vomiting as a result pf a bad hangover. No matter how the night has been, I usually find solace in my house. It is a special place, sacred in its own way. And for that reason I made a rule to preserve it only for myself . But rules get broken.

The duration between 3.45am and 5am in the morning is one of desperation. If a man hasn’t picked you by the time, then some despair sets in. That does not mean a girl cannot be picked within those hours, she can, but the quality of men who visit the street at that hour is not the best. Most have been partying all night long, are drunk, demanding and hard to negotiate with. The sober ones are likely to be with emotional problems and rather unpredictable. If there be a serial killer hour, then that is.

Sometime ago a man picked me in his car a few minutes after four. He was in a suit, good looking and sober. He told me he was from outside Nairobi. He was on a business trip but booked  in a hotel with his family . He said he only had a thousand on him, not enough to book a room and pay me. Could we go to my house and at the end of it give me the whole amount? he posed. I didn’t think of it twice. I was financially cornered. I said yes, reasoning one man would make no difference.

We had a twenty minutes session. Dressed up he said he couldn’t find the money in his pockets, and then pulled one of he oldest tricks in the book. “I left the money in my car" he said. I followed him to the car which was parked outside the gate. I stood a short distance away. I watched him bend over as if looking for the money under his seat. Then all at once the engine started, and he was gone before I knew it. I wanted to shout thief and have him stopped before he accessed the main road. But I held my breath. Even if he was stopped someone would ask:" What has he stolen?"

Never again have I serviced a customer in my house. And never will I..

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Episode 26: An Allergy To Rubber & Other Latex Anecdotes

My first ever client wore two condoms. He had voluntarily worn one but I had insisted he insert a second. This was as a result of intelligence I had gathered from Njoki, a girl I had befriended, and who had been at the Sabina Joy (SJ) for years. According to her a girl could not risk sleeping with a man who wears a single condom. “What if the condom tears?" she asked. This was the Njoki who recited Yeats and whose experience and perceived brains were impossible to ignore, especially as an anxious novice. So there I was lying on a tattered mattress in a stuff dimly lit room, telling a rather drunk man to wear an extra condom or bounce.  Of course he protested claiming I was giving him a raw deal, but too bad for him, he had already paid for the room and walking away would have meant him losing Sh200. As he penetrated me I was dealing with the relief of at last doing something I never imagined I would do and the discomfort of too much rubber.

Word spreads fast at the SJ and it didn’t take long to know I was not endearing myself to men by always insisting on the double potion of condoms. Also after some research on my own I realized using two condoms may actually have been doubling the risk rather than the protection. So I went easy on it. That said the number of men who wanted raw sex; kanyama as they called at the SJ, was amazing... A man would ask to have unprotected sex with me, and if I asked why his answer would be a vague statement like “That’s what I enjoy”. Unlike on the streets where monetary gains may tempt a girl to have raw sex, at the SJ there were no such incentives. At times a man would try to penetrate me without a condom and if I alerted him to it, he would pretend to have forgotten. That however was a ridiculous excuse because the condoms would be lying on the bed for him to see. Yet what perplexed me most those initial days was why anyone would decide to have unsafe sex with a prostitute. It’s a puzzle I have never solved to date.

The sex at the SJ was no frills. This made it impossible for men to trick me to having unprotected sex. You see the short time sex at the SJ follows a very predictable pattern: You smile at man. He smiles back. If he is at a distance you wink. He comes over to you. Twende shortie you say. The man asks how much. Two hundred. If he agrees he goes to the reception and pays Sh200 for the short time room, and gets a pack of condom wrapped in tissue paper. Both of you queue awkwardly outside the short time room where there is always a couple inside. If those inside the room stay for more than five minutes, you start intensely knocking the door until they get out. Once inside you ask the man for your fee. Money in hand you lower jeans, lie on the tattered mattress, apply some saliva on your P and wait for the man. If he makes as if to touch your breasts and all or ask for funky styles you turn him down; money and time are not enough for the extras.

On the street nothing is as predictable. The venue of the sex is an unknown just as what will happen when there. Since on the street I charge a premium, I am more flexible and give or act as if to give my all. Still a number of men have tried to penetrate me raw, especially when I am on my fours. Some wear the condom then try to remove it. But I am always alert and none of those odd men have succeeded in their trickery. There are other men who will offer me extra cash in return for kanyama. In such circumstances I, and most girls, decide what to do based on individual greed, desperation and need for money.

As much as the effects of a an ailment such as AIDS may be more adverse on me than say pregnancy, like most girls I am equally worried about getting impregnated by a random customer. Most of the girls practicing in places like the SJ or on the street, and who have children are proud to pin point the father. In most cases the father is a boyfriend in their neighborhood. (Yes, many girls have boyfriends.) . In cases where the father is a client then it one of those they have built a special relationship with. While at the SJ I believed a condom could protect me more from disease than from pregnancy. No wonder I got pregnant despite my being extra careful. I have never understood how it happened. But luckily or unluckily something came up in the early days of the pregnancy and I didn’t carry it to full term. And no, I didn’t abort.

There was another time when I had a pregnancy scare. A man picked me from the street around 4 in the morning. He was fairly drunk and so I was. We went to a hotel within the CBD and had this rough sex. Either he didn’t wear the condom properly or climaxed and continued thrusting, but somehow the condom came out. I only realized when we were done.  I was not very polite with him and used some choice words to express my disgust. He laughed, placed my fee on the bed and left. Such was a “Shit! I am a prostitute!" moment; a few seconds which reminded me straight on the face of my place in a righteous society. Anyway I didn’t want daylight to get me in town, so I left the hotel and went home with the condom stuck in me. I managed to remove the filthy thing. Though it was during my unsafe days, I was lucky again as I tested negative both for diseases and pregnancy.

Still on condoms, a man picked me one rainy night. He was not so good looking but quite polite.  We went to a hotel in the outskirts of town. Immediately we entered the room we were all over each other with kisses and touches.  When time came for the actual sex, he removed some cream from his trousers and gave to me. I thought it was a lubricant. “That’s a spermicide. I am allergic to rubber". What! I looked at the packaging and instructions, sure it was a spermicide. There was even an applicator which I was to use to apply it inside me. “I will use it too “the man said. For a moment I was frustrated and confused. I was broke and needed the money. “What happens when you use rubber?” I get very sick. He looked and sounded genuine. “Are you married?” No. This broke my heart. He was a prostitutes’ man. “Will this protect me from infection?"  “I don’t know, but I have used it with other women and nothing bad has happened. Do I look like I can infect you intentionally?" There was a moment of silence. I then took the cream, squeezed and applied generously inside me. In silence he applied it on himself. We made love, nothing forceful, and nothing steamy. But everything mellow.

That was a few months ago. Nothing bad has happened to me.