I shivered as a gust of cold wind blew up my spine, hugging myself as I felt the cold seep through my tight-fitting jeans and spaghetti-strapped shirt. I knew I should have been in dreamland hours ago but I’ve gone too far and it’s too late to back out. Besides, Jeany (not her real name, of course) wouldn’t hear of it.
Strike a pose and smile, there’s a prospective customer coming,” Jeany said. I grew hot and cold all over at the same time.
Oops…excuse me, I am not that financially desperate to earn money this way. I just pestered Jeany (she’s a “Pink-card holder” who lives in the same boarding house I live in) the whole day to allow me to accompany her to get the feel of how it is to be a streetwalker. Now that the moment was at hand, I was shaking and felt like running away.
I watched as Jeany approached the obviously drunk guy and hooked her arm though his. I thought they were going to leave me but to my horror I saw him whisper to Jeany and pointed to me. I was dumbfounded with shock and fear. What will I do now?
Jeany handled the situation in a manner I admired. I overheard the guy asking Jeany how much is my price. Very calmly she replied, “One-five.”
One thousand five? For her? Are you kidding?” the guy asked, his eyes popping. He looked at me in disbelief and mumbled to himself, “I must be more drunk than I thought I was,” before staggering off.
Jeany and I laughed our heads off as I flagged down the first taxi that passed by. I was still shaking and didn’t want to carry on with my adventure. What if the next guy would have no qualms about the price?
That I was not willing to risk finding out.
Jeany is just 19 but she’d been in this business since she was 15 years old. Already, she is a mother of two children with different fathers and is two months pregnant. The children are a sorry sight, obviously lacking nourishment.
But, what can Jeany do? Her live-in partner, who she admits is the father of the child in her womb, does nothing all day but drink. He even finds customers for her and she couldn’t even see a shadow of her income. He gets them all. He beats the children and even Jeany mercilessly.
I feel my blood boil whenever he does that, but she would always say that she has nowhere else to go.
Jeany is an orphan who grew up in different homes of relatives. She can’t count with her fingers how many times she’d ran away. She didn’t finished third grade. She can’t read and write but she can hook three to four customers a night. Sad to say, the maximum amount she earns from each customer is P200. She’d be lucky sometimes if her live-in partner is too drunk to beat her if she does not give him her night’s earnings.
Jeany is only 19, but she looks too old for her age. She’s become a master at the game of stalking and hooking men on the streets. Her life is filled with misery but it’s the only life she has known.
Every night, there are thousands of Jeanys who stalk the streets to earn money for survival. She doesn’t know the joy of having parents who takes care of all her needs. All she knows is that there is no other way to earn money for food except to lay her wares in the streets at night.
A few months from now, starvation will be her biggest enemy as her stomach will grow and she has to temporarily stop “working” not because she wants to but because she has to. What future awaits her and her children is a question that hangs in the air.
(Raquel C. Bagnol writes for Sun.Star Davao)