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– a story of a child of a prostitute –
It couldn’t really be called an alley. It was just the dry bank that turned left with the smelling, dirty city sewerage and continued into the darkness. The “houses” were run-down shacks, temporary structures existing for almost twenty years like the fragile, delicate hand-me-downs for the successors, stacked side-by- side like matchboxes. But it was home; if not to the “bread-earners”, but to the not-so-innocent family, and a hang-out for certain regulars.
It was not a place where God could be found.
I am Juanita, and this was my home.
It was winter when I was born. An impediment to good food, I was born only because it was too late to get rid of me. Winter had always been a slow season and it was worse for my pregnant mother. It took her four weeks after birthing me to get back on the streets. Breast-feeding was not even considered. It doesn’t do well to the breasts, an important asset for the “industry”. Luckily, responsibility wasn’t a problem either; the older, “retired” professionals had nothing better to do most nights. Oh, if you didn’t guess, my mother was a salesperson. She sold sex, and she was politely called a prostitute.
And that was what I was meant to be, the moment I was born.
My mother was the best, a top-of-the-line whore in the Red Light District, Zona Norte in Tijuana till she got pregnant with me, a twist of fate when an unnamed, faceless regular left her with more than just his cash, and was upped by Maria, two shacks down the bank. So the blame lay with me. I think so too.
Time was meaningless when days were measured with nights, and hours with weekdays and cash. Weekends were the slowest; the regular patrons spent their weekends with their families and not their paid-and-owned “passionate” fornicators. Age was measured in wrinkles on the older whores’ faces, and more cheap make-up. Dates were unimportant, and years, enemies.
The first memories to be imprinted in my mind were the sounds of my mother swearing and screaming in a way I never had heard her before, with a different, strange and somehow feral voice grunting along with her like in some badly orchestrated play. The sounds meant nothing to me at first, but even as I lay curled in an unobtrusive make-shift pallet behind our shack near the dark waters, I used to feel a ball of heat burn in the pit of my stomach, something that I learned to be of shame, and later guilty arousal. Hormones, I know, are not always an adolescent thing.
Men, the male counterparts of our species were strangers to the kids like me who were never allowed to go out of our “colonies” even in the daylight. To me, they were night-time demons that sometimes appeared out of the dark to do inexplicable, loud and strange things with my mother, Maria, and all the other ladies I knew.
And that’s how I knew God. God, to me, was a man. A man who fucked the best.
I heard all the women over and again, complain and share their exciting, interesting and dull escapades with each other every afternoon, refreshed after their daytime naps; my mother being one of them. And it wasn’t that she gossiped in front of me, it was like she didn’t even know that I was there.
“Oh tha’ piece of shiit comes all the way from San Diego. They don’ make it like tha’ in here! He fucks like Gawd! He actually makes ma’ see ma’ Dadda’s sweet face.”
”Wouldn’t cha believe the size of his thin’! I was callin’ out to the fuckin’ Almighty…”
“Oh, he can’t fuck worth a shit, but his dick is like Gawd’s! If he only didncha’ stink so much!“
“I couldna have waited for him to roll his fat, sweaty body of ma’, but I kept on screamin’ to Gowd. As if that sucker could make ma see the Lord.”
The complaints, grumblings would carry on, punctuated with the guffaws and joking.
And then there was my mother spending her nights screaming or whining in her guttural voice, “Ohh God! Gawwd!”
Of course, my mother was good at playacting too, but I wasn’t to know that. I just understood that God indeed was the one who did it best. He was held in high esteem.
Somehow the kids of the whores, though they sprouted like unwanted weeds, never became friends. It was as if even in childhood one knew that we would grow up to be each other’s competition. Strangely, the younger boys used to disappear. And the younger girls, not all but most, were left back to continue the tradition, learn the trade. Most others who disappeared were sold; I learnt that when I was too. But that came later. At that point in time, paedophiles and sex slaves were not easily grasped concepts, unlike whoring.
I was introduced to the male phallus, the thrusting, red and swollen thing between the legs of a man, beneath the sagging belly and the sole basis for the “food on our table”, when I was nine. My beautiful mother losing out to progressively younger competition had started bringing in her patrons before twilight, much to my ignorance. I hadn’t known to have confined myself to my cot, and was spotted by one such visiting patron. I could feel his unwavering stare prickle and burn into my back as I had hurried to my place at the back of the shack.
The man had had his hour with my mother. And then had made his way stealthily out into the open, where I was. It was the first time I saw a man naked. I could see his bloodshot eyes, but my eyes would flicker to the large, unknown thing between his legs. That was all the encouragement he had needed. Some part of me, an ancient instinct if you may, had wanted to scream as the man shifted me aside to lay next to me. But another untrained, ignorant part of me that was both curious and scared of my mother, refrained. But the screaming still came, indeed muffled against the sweaty palms, but they were there. That was my first lesson in fucking and of blood and endless pain.
That night God was a bastard. And I hated him.
My screams had got me my mother. It was the only time I had ever screamed for my mother. She barged in, with a few other women and knocked the man aside, enraged. I had never loved my mother more.
“Do ya’ know whatcha did, mister? Tha’ gurl was a fuckin’ virgin; do ya know how much they cost around here? Out with it, mon! Am not gonna let ya burn through ma… Pay up! Pay up, ya bastard!“
Then she had bargained with him for, and won, the price of a virgin he had spoiled for sale. I hate my mother even today with same passion that I had at that moment.
That incident got me what I never had before- my mother’s notice. That speculative, calculating gleam in her eye officially culminated to the continuation of her whoring legacy by me.
I had lost the number of times I was asked to lie down for a man between the ages of ten and thirteen, the number of times that I was presented as a virgin. No one cared or even noticed that I wasn’t, fucking a young girl for a few pesos or even dollars was heaven. Sometimes they would take me away for the night to a cheap hotel among several in Zona Norte and return me in the mornings. Sometimes it was nothing but watching pornographic movies with them, helping them jerk off. Some were just happy with fondling me, but the worst were the ones who would hit me, fuck me over and over again, painfully and brutally. Then it was usual for me to get back to the shack, bloodied and bruised. Of course, they had to pay for that privilege.
I was a reluctant but good lay cursed with good facial bones and small, rounded breasts. I rebelled once in a while, but it was a side of me that was cowed down by my instincts for survival.
“You’ll do as I say, you cunt! I’m your fuckin’ mother!” she used to scream, with a strong backhand that knocked me to the floor.
Later, she turned to whippings. “Is this what I get for birthing you? You neva’ gave me nothin’ but agony, ya worthless slut!”
The initial beatings that had showed up on my face had lost me customers for more than a week. After that she was careful to never hurt my face. But there were welts all over my back. After some time the scars stopped fading, but there was no inkling of them on my face and breasts.
I hated my face too. How I wished I was ugly and repugnant. How wished the men would be repelled by me and choose another. But in some cruel irony of God, I was beautiful, and the men always chose me.
God, again. He was that one person I would have murdered if I ever had the chance to meet him.
At thirteen, I was sold to the best (and only) bidder. Most people wanted a different lay, and what’s better than a young girl, seemingly untainted, unused? But very few wanted to buy girls. The more wanted commodities for sale were even younger boys. But I managed to get sold; much to the happiness of my mother. As much as I raked in money, I was her competition too, and a liability as she had to share the profits. On hindsight, she wasn’t the good businesswoman that I had thought her to be.
For a few hundred dollars, after a lot of haggling my mother sold me with nothing but the clothes on my back. That was the last I had saw of her. I knew what was expected of me, knew it would be the same no matter where I was and was glad that I was at least free of the woman I hated most in the world.
“You please this kind mon’, Juanita.” She had told me while the man stood near us. I realised she had gotten a price that was rich even by her standards.
She had looked towards the man and said, “She is good, Señor. I taught her the tricks ma’ self… ya’ won’ be disappointed I tell ya’”
“Now be off with him, Juanita… Be good.” She had winked, clearly in high spirits.
That was how my mother bid me farewell. We never looked back at each other. We only ever were bread-earning machines to the other.
The man who bought me was Jack. He was an enigma. He had come to our home on a spring morning, had looked me in an unfathomable manner, a look I wasn’t familiar with in all my years of expertise and had forced my mother to sell me. The finer details of the business transaction were unknown to me. I just knew instead of my mother it was he who owned me now.
I had gone out of Zona Norte for the first time in my life. As much as I was scared about this new turn of events, this new ownership, I couldn’t help but gape in awe and admiration at the passing scenery as we travelled in his car. It was my first brush with beauty, not limited to the blackened sewer waters and tall, ugly chimneys or dilapidated hotel rooms.
He took me to his home near San Diego. It was a beautiful two storied bungalow with flowers in the garden, kids playing and dogs running about. I’d never seen anything like it before. In spite of my trepidation, it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I still remember as he had held open the door of his car. Wordlessly he had motioned me through doors till we reached a room, where I saw a clean bed for the first time in my life.
And I remembered my role. I knew what I had to do. I started stripping off my clothes mechanically.
He had smiled and motioned around the room. “This is your room. You will find fresh clothes in the wardrobe. You must be hungry. Elise, my wife, will be along right away with some food for you. Our room is just down the hallway. Ask if you need something, alright?”
My name is Juanita Garza. I am twenty-six years old and a college graduate. I work in a bank and am a volunteer worker with the El Pozo Orphanage and the Children of Promise International, Alma. We rescue, provide shelter and education to the children of the prostitutes.
I don’t know how to pray, I have never belonged to a church. I don’t understand what the Bible says. But I believe in God; the God, the Saviour who had come to me, one ordinary day, as Jack and Elise Garcia, and had given me Life.
I was born of a prostitute and have never been a child, but I am one of the Children of that God who walks the Earth. And this is my story.
N.B. This is a work of fiction. El Pozo Orphanage and Children of Promise International, Alma are real foundations that also help in rescuing and providing shelter for prostitute’s children.