You don’t remember life anymore. You lie on your cot, listening to the fan in the hallway swirl. If you focus you can count the repetitions. The blades cut through the air, thick and moist. You listen to some of the other girls down the hall talk over lunch. You’re not hungry. You are tired and know that once you eat its only a matter of hours before the customers come. You cannot count the number of “customers” you’ve had over the last few months. You cannot remember their faces – only that they hurt you.
At first you were treated with special care. You were given a room at the end of the hall and men were sent to you. You could hear the way they talked about you – fresh from the country – pure – malleable. The men would walk in grinning, their eyes dancing with hatred. The first time you curled up against the wall. The look in the man’s eyes made you cringe.
“Don’t worry,” Nana said. “She’s docile.”
Nana, the woman Madam sold you to. After your nap Madam fed you and dressed you in tight clothes, colorful and short. She held your face while applying make up and stuffed your feet into heels. She barked for you to follow her. You tried, tripping in your heels. You wanted to tell her the clothes were too tight, the hells too tall. But you knew if you did she would slap you again. She slapped you when she found you crying, slapped you when you made the make-up run, slapped you when you fell and nearly tore your dress. Madam in angry and cold – she doesn’t pretend to care like the first woman. She never smiles, and looks at you as if you were a cow, or a goat, some prized object, but not a person.
You ride in the car, Madam shouts orders tell you to behave, to be nice, to smile, and to not cry. Don’t cry – Madam orders – don’t disappoint her. You don’t want to fail Madam, fearing the retribution if you do.
You arrive outside a hotel. Madam takes your hand and leads you inside. You go passed the front desk, up the elevator, to a room. Madam kneels down and fixes your dress, which got disheveled in the car. She gives you a final warning, the smoke from her cigarette making you cough. Knocking on the door she motions for you to stand straighter, and hits your arms crossed against your chest.
A man opens the door. He is dressed in a suit, though he does not wear the coat. He is finishing a drink. He calls Madam by her first name, his eyes immediately taking you in.
“I don’t disappoint.” Madam says. Taking your hand she makes you spin around. The man chuckles, saying Madam does not. “And she is fresh to the city. I bought her to you first. Been here a matter of hours.” The man looks to Madam for a second then back to you.
“I assume that means she’ll cost more.”
“But be worth every penny.”
The man shrugs and reaches into his pants pocket. Pulling out some bills he hands them to Madam as she pushes you inside.
“I’ll be back at nine.” You watch the door close on Madam, petrified to the core.
You were shaking when Madam came back. Sitting in the chair of the hotel room the man has already forgotten you. He lies on the bed, fresh with your blood, and watches TV. You stare at the red spot, feeling the blood between your legs. You don’t know what happened, it happened to quick. The man ravaged you and then it was done. He tore at your clothes, ripped your dress, he called you lovely as his hands traveled you. You tried to roll away, to close up, but he pried you apart, and then… Pain. You look at your dress, torn and soiled, wondering if Madam meant for this to happen. Surely she’ll defend you when she comes. Surely what this man did was wrong. Surely… But when she comes she smiles at the blood on the bed, asking the man how it was. Trembling you accept her hand, wanting to be out of the man’s sight. She does not seem angry at what the man did to you, but pleased. She asks if she should bring you back. The man shrugs and calls you boring.
In the apartment Madam yells at you. She hits you for your torn dress, for your tears, for not making the man happy. She tells you to try harder – saying you owe her money. Your parents sold you to her, she starts talking about the cost of transportation, of food, of lodging, clothing, make-up – do you think this is free? You say your mom thought you were going to be a maid. Madam laughs, calls your mom stupid and tells you to forget her.
It’s hard to admit, but after all these months you cannot recall her face anymore. You cannot recall the outline of her nose or the shape of her hands. Her voice is only a tone – soft and soothing. You want to go home but cannot remember what that is.
Home – this is your home now, at least that’s what Nana keeps saying.