The sky cried down. Her trained eyes searched through the darkness. She ran and ran until she did not feel her legs anymore. Her tangled hair was blocking the view and her forty-year-old legs were too weak for her to run any further. Nevertheless, she ran at a stretch determined for a quick escape. The footsteps of the policemen following her did not scare her; it did not make her stop. She feared for the loss of her son and her mother; and that slowed her down.
“Stop woman!” one of the policemen shouted. Neither did she care, nor did she stop. The dark path ahead of her was clear and she ran through it soaked in sweat and rain water. And suddenly there was a sound of a gunshot.
It was six o’clock in the morning. Dawn has not arrived in the house yet. The grandmother and the grandson were eagerly waiting to see their breadwinner’s return.
“Why isn’t mother home yet?” The grandson asked his grandmother. There was a pause. She could not simply reveal the bitter truth about her daughter which they have been hiding for years. Suranga waited for an answer from his grandmother. But she was speechless; trying to ignore the curious eyes of her grandson.
After a few minutes, she was able to come up with a lie to convince Suranga that his mother had been too busy in the house where she worked as a servant and she would return home shortly.
Blood was streaming from her leg despite the bandage that covered the wound. She was in the police station and they were interrogating the poor soul for being a woman with a socially unacceptable livelihood.
Slap. She remembered the day she was severely hit by her own father, the pain she felt, the agony she went through when she was just a little girl of ten years
Slap. Aged fifteen she screamed but her uncle did not stop. She lost the purity of a woman hidden between the legs; and suddenly she became of no value. They called her the prostitute.
Slap. She was expelled from her school and she was cornered. Men asked, “Shall I come tonight?” She ignored them.
Slap. Her son was born and his father disowned her calling her a prostitute despite her only being a rape victim.
Slap. She became one.
It must have passed midnight and she was awake in the dark cell along with some other women whom she did not know. She wondered whether she was the only one who has been arrested at Madam’s spa. The night when the police dashed into the spa, she was to satisfy a young man who seemed to be at the age of her own son. Seeing him, she imagined what would happen if her son gets to know of her way of earning money. She had had these imaginations before and made excuses in her mind to her son. Suranga to know that his mother is a “bad woman” is the last thing she wanted. After all, she was doing this to earn money to make her son’s life better than hers. If not for her son, she would have been long gone from this world, and to make her son’s life happy she would go beyond the limits of morality.
Early in the morning, one of the police officers informed her that she was free to go. She was surprised, but did not ask any questions as she assumed that Madam might have bailed her out because she had “connections”. The morning seemed brighter; her wounded leg did not slow her down when she ran home to see her son. Both the mother and the son were glad to see each other and they embraced as if they had been apart for ages. And her misery burnt away. She was ready with lies to tell her son of her absence, even though she regretted a thousand times lying to her son.
“What should I do now? If I continue this, there is a high probability of getting caught again and next time it would not be easy with the police” she thought to herself.
She was in a dilemma whether to continue her “unacceptable” livelihood or to find a new job. It would not be easy to find a new job with a good income to spend for her son’s studies. He was doing Advanced Levels and the expenses were higher than before.
They say that if you are doing a job, you have to gain satisfaction from it. But does it matter whether you get satisfaction or not if you earn money to keep your loved ones happy? She sold her body and soul for money. And her body and soul have become weary after being sold over and over again. Every time she wanted to stop, her son came into her mind. Every time she decided to sleep with a man she saw her son’s innocent face. She did not gain any satisfaction by selling herself. But she did not have any choice when she unwillingly chose this job; she was constantly being rejected from everywhere and she had a child to feed. The uneducated, helpless and poor woman chose to become a sex worker. Misery offers, society accepts; nobody cares as long as you earn money!
The sky was dark on the very first day when she set off to start her new job as a cleaner. She had to work in a building in which many companies were located. Withered souls pretending to be happy to start a new day were hurrying to their working places. She assumed them to be ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ though she never knew the meaning of those terms. To see her son in decent attire as a gentleman was her life-long dream and to achieve that end she would do anything. But does the gentlemanliness lie in the attire? She never knew the answer before.
There were only a few hours to complete the first day of her new job. A gentleman came near her.
“I have seen you somewhere before” He said looking at her with searching eyes.
“That’s not possible sir. This is my first day here” She answered fearing that he would come up with a heart- breaking story of her previous job which would amount to lose her new job. Dissatisfied with her answer, he left. After all, her previous job was illegal and unaccepted by the decent society of gentlemen; the same gentlemen who seek prostitutes.
Her first day was good except the gentleman’s questioning her. It was seven o’clock in the evening, the most awaited moment of the day; it was time to go home to see her son. The withered souls from the morning had finished their work and were going home. She looked at the sky and there were a few stars, if not for the street lights the road would have been dark; if not for her son, her life would have been darker than the road. While she was lost in her thoughts and continued walking, her phone rang. It was the chief of the cleaning service. Words fired through the mobile phone and before she could explain anything it was over. She was fired.
Tears were pushing their way through her eyes. The road ahead of her suddenly became unclear. She sat on the pavement leaning on the wall. She was confused and was questioning herself. What did she do wrong? She just started a new job and she was not given an opportunity to continue it because of a gentleman’s complaint; “We cannot hire women like her here. We will tarnish our image if somebody gets to know of her.” She tried to find out the connection between her previously being a prostitute and tarnishing of the company’s name because she was just a member of the minor staff. “If I was fired and cornered for being a prostitute, what of the high-class gentlemen who go to prostitutes?” “Will my son also be a gentleman of this dubious society?” She never could find answers to these questions. For the society’s hypocrisy innocents do not have answers, they just have to pay the price.
She returned home as nothing happened. Her son was waiting for her and that was the only relief she had after the disappointment. After her son went to sleep, she told the whole story to her mother, who listened as her eyes filled with tears. And as her howling subconscious cried, she woke up to reality; she would go back to her old job. The society would not care whether your family starved to death or not; they would only set out the moral standards which they would pretend to follow. As long as her family is happy and fed, she would not care about the society’s judgment.
After two days, when she was dressing to go to the spa again, she was dragged away by the thoughts that restricted her from going there. She tossed them away. When she went to the spa, The Madam gave her a sarcastic look and passed remarks at her for leaving and returning to the old job; “This is the most suitable job for a woman like you. It is not a surprise, that you were fired because nobody wants prostitutes to be walking here and there” she continued. “Your place is here. Not in the decent society. “Whose rules?” She wanted to ask from the Madam, but she kept quiet.
She wanted to leave the place and go to her son, to see him smiling at her and to cuddle him as she used to do when he was small. But, she knew that once you start there’s no going back, you have to carry the stigma to the grave. No matter whether you are good at heart or not, people would judge you and tore your soul to pieces in a heartless way so that everyone could see your regrets and sins.
“You have a customer” the sudden voice of The Madam brought her back to the real world.
“Look at you; you are like a walking corpse. Be pleasant to the young man” advised The Madam. She climbed the stairs as if she was walking through the darkness in an unknown land; she had a queer feeling, she did not want to enter through the door.
She knocked on the door. No answer. She knocked again.
“Come in” It was a familiar voice. She struggled. She strove hard to turn back but she was driven by something to open the door. She opened it. She only saw the silhouette of a man sitting on the bed turning his back to her. The light was dim and her eye sight had become weaker recently. She switched on the main light. He turned to face her.
She tried to turn back in vain. Her mind in agony cried out loud and there was no one to hear. She felt that something was calling her back to reality. She was holding on to a chair beside her as his innocent and shocked eyes were fixed on her, as if he wanted to rewind and wanted her to change to another person. Tears were streaming down her cheeks and both of them were speechless for a few minutes, but neither did move forward. Finally, he was able to find his voice. Only one word came out of his trembling lips;
Her misery re-emerged.