LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA
LAST Sunday I told you how I found myself at Kapampale, a den of prostitutes in the heart of Mansa, Luapula Province.
I was sitting sipping my juice, and there were about four men and two women in the bar-cum-restaurant.
Last week I told you that I wanted to steal a peep into the real lives of the prostitutes who lived at Kapampale so that I could understand them beyond their persona.
There were two of them in the bar. The younger one was looking around the bar for a possible sponsor of her next drink. If possible a customer for her ignoble business.
I waited for her to look my way. When she stole a glance at me, I smiled at her broadly and gestured to her to join me.
You should have seen the way she sprinted at me, with tables squeaking and chairs falling in her wake as she navigated her way to my perch.
â€œShani ba blatha, mwacilanjita [yes, my brother, you were calling me]?â€ she twittered in a sweet, birdy voice as she pulled a stool next to me while smiling at me like a model.
I smiled back at the shapely lass and greeted her. After a short exchange of pleasantries, I offered her a drink.
â€œWould you like me to buy you another Coke?â€ I asked.
Bending her neck towards her left shoulder like a shy bride-to-be, she answered, â€œEee ba blatha. Bati nakabwalwa tulafikako [yes, my brother, although I wouldnâ€™t mind a beer],â€ she said shyly.
I ordered a cold Castle lager for her and another packet of fruit juice for myself.
â€œMy name is Charles, Charles Chisala. I am from Ndola,â€ I introduced myself. â€œWhat is your name?â€
She chuckled and looked at me.
â€œWhy do you want to know my name?â€ she demanded.
â€œBecause friends should know each otherâ€™s name,â€ I explained.
She looked genuinely surprised. She looked up at me and asked, â€œSo we are friends?â€
â€œOf course, we are. Thatâ€™s why I am buying you drinks. Just tell me whatever it is you want to drink. I will buy it for you, dear,â€ I told her in a princely voice and sipped at my juice.
â€œOkay, my name is Joyce,â€ she said, looking more relaxed now.
After putting her at ease I started probing into her life in general – her tastes, where she went to school, the size of her family and what food she liked. Those things you guys say to those night prowlers.
From the way she was ogling and rolling her eyes at me, she was convinced that she had netted a â€˜richâ€™ customer.
After winning her trust, I disclosed my mission – getting an insight of the life of a sex worker.
â€œYou can trust me. I know that you are not Joyce. Just tell me your real name. You donâ€™t have to feel ashamed of talking about your life,â€ I assured her.
There was silence. I knew that there was a bitter struggle within herself. Why should she tell a stranger about her life, she must have been asking herself?
She looked up at me but did not say anything. Neither was she smiling any more.
â€œOkay, what do I benefit if I tell you the truth? And what are you going to do with the information I will give you?â€ she demanded seriously.
I was thrilled. I didnâ€™t expect to win the battle so soon.
â€œI will pay you handsomely, enough to take care of your needs for the next one week,â€ I promised.
The young lady jumped down from her stool and looked me in the face.
â€œReally? Are you serious, ba blatha?â€ she asked.
â€œI am dead serious, my sister. I donâ€™t fool around when dealing with serious issues like this,â€ I assured her.
She almost jumped at me, to hug or kiss me. I sensed it from her body language, but I was impressed at the way she quickly managed to resist the impulse.
She sighed loudly, then told me her real name.
I cleared my throat and fidgeted deliberately to remind her of who was in charge.
â€œNow that we have sealed our deal, tell me about yourself.Â I know the business you are doing around here.
â€œWhy should a young lady like you engage in such business?â€ I asked authoritatively and ordered another Castle for her.
She was quiet for some time, then spoke without looking at me.
â€œNamwishiba ba blatha [you know my brother], when I started this business iya buhule [sex work], I thought I was just having some fun, enjoying my freedom,â€ she said, staring in front of her blankly.
Then she burst into laughter.
By now I could see that the three bottles of castle she had already downed were taking their toll on her.
She narrated to me that after the death of her parents in Senior Chief Chisunkaâ€™s area, she had remained with her grandmother, who was looking after her and her four siblings.
I thought I was beginning to like her. I am not saying â€œlovingâ€ or â€˜desiringâ€ her. You like jumping to conclusions!
Donâ€™t miss the rest of the sex workerâ€™s touching story next week.
LIFE! WHAT A JOURNEY with CHARLES CHISALA