There was a soft knock on the door and I assumed it was Olamu.
“I’m not done, bruh. I’ll call you,” I responded while rubbing my sweat. I was trying to place her right leg on my shoulders when the door flew open.
“Where is my daughter? I’m looking for my daughter and you are hiding her here?”
His voice was hoarse and loud. I was confused and immediately realized that it must be the girl’s dad. We were both naked, and people were peaking through the window, and door and exclaiming loudly, others laughing, a few sticking out their phones. A group of men was ready to descend on me with blows but he held them back and asked one of them to call the police who arrived a few minutes later.
It’s been four years now. A few minutes of pleasure I never got to experience wholly changed the trajectory of my life forever. I was twenty-three, hustling, living life in rehearsal mode. I knew things would get better eventually. I hadn’t signed off entirely to live life in the streets living from hand to mouth. I figured I could save up some money, go back to high school get my certificate and proceed with tertiary education. Things weren’t looking up at home after my mother’s demise, so I left home, to become a man of my own.
I never expected it would be easy, I knew it would be hard but I was determined to change my story. I liked Shirley, she was the class monitor when I dropped out in form three, but I didn’t think myself worthy of her. She would like me more with a degree in my name and some coins at least. So women were off my to-do list. I barely had enough to give myself, why would I go after women? So I only had transactional relations with women that never lasted a day. The shortest of these relationships is the change I never saw coming. It shattered me, and I wish on the tides of the ocean, that someone could hear me out, all over again.
Fiona. I got to know her name during the court proceedings because we didn’t have a conversation the evening we met. Olamu introduced me to her that Wednesday evening after work. It was banter, one of our co-workers was sharing his intimate secrets with us which prompted me to whisper to Olamu about my involuntary celibacy for close to six months.
My interaction with Fiona that evening was purely transactional. She’d get a percentage of my day’s wage and I’ll have my pleasure in return. She reminded me of Shirley, but the fact that she’d collect 200KES at the end of our interaction stained that memory. We greeted each other and walked through the dirt paths of Kisumu’s Nyalenda to Olamu’s house.
“I’ve paid her 200KES for this. I picked her from the streets.” I screamed.
“Don’t you know she’s a child? She’s only sixteen!” her father responded.
“What is a child doing on the streets?” I asked, trying to prove my point.
“You should have asked yourself that before having sex with her.” One of the police officers responded.
“How was I supposed to know her age?”
“Shut up young man!” The female officer shouted at me. I was already in handcuffs, so they put in the back of the police van and threw me in a police cell.
When people talk of life coming at you so fast, I’m the perfect definition for this phrase. It was the second time I sought the services of a sex worker. I had thought so hard about parting with my hard-earned money that day. Eventually, I thought it wouldn’t be so bad to give myself some little joy, so I paid Fiona even before we got to Olamu’s house.
In the weeks that followed, I represented myself in court. I couldn’t afford an advocate, neither was I aware that a state attorney could be assigned to me for free. A form three dropout then, there’s little to nothing I knew about the law that would aid my case. Tears. They rolled at the slightest chance as desperately explained to the court what had transpired that fateful day.
Defilement. I was twenty three and she was sixteen, and sex work paid her bills.
“What is your name?
“How old are you?”
“Do you know this man?”
“Yes. He is my client”
“What do you mean client?” Her cross-examination was stopped immediately because she’s a minor and whatever she had to say to the court cannot be treated as factual evidence. But the law somehow could understand it when she identified me. One thing about the law, it’s like a mini skirt, long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to cover the interest. I’m a first-hand witness.
“Fiona please tell them how we met and why?” I screamed from the docks. She looked at me pitifully and she tried her best to help me.
“Can I speak in Kiswahili?” she asked the judge. “I can speak English but not fluently,” she added.
“Proceed please.” The old judge offered.
“Kusema Kweli, I’m surprised by my father’s decisions. He is the reason why I’m working as a prostitute. I ran away from home when I was 12. That’s when I started having my periods. He adamantly refused to buy me pads, tissue and other things necessary for my menstrual hygiene. He said I could do it on my own because he’s already doing enough with my school fees, rent, food and other needs. Sleeping with men around the home was the only way to get money for pads, and when I realized I could make more money, I ran away. If my father’s concerns are real, have you asked yourselves why my mother isn’t here?” The court went silent for a moment and the judge adjourned the case. I couldn’t help but notice how no one took notes when Fiona spoke. It makes sense now, she was a minor, and her words meant nothing.
I was arraigned in court the next week for my judgement. Your guess is as good as mine; maximum sentence, 17 years. I was defeated. Tears have been my companion since then. Standing in the docks, listening to my sentence, I felt like the world had locked its doors on me. Anger rolled in my throat. It was a ball of fury that formed at my throat, but now it’s like an inflated balloon, swelling in my tummy. I wish I could spit it out.
My fellow inmates think I should be grateful I wasn’t given time for procuring prostitution services, but I wish the court of public opinion was involved to help me plead my case. Fiona probably forgot about me and continued with her sex work. I wonder if other people have suffered the same fate as mine, or if her father changed. I don’t know if I will be able to actualize my dreams after serving time if there will be a place for a sex offender in corporate spaces, just as I wonder if, at 40, I can meet Shirley. Or a beautiful, of legal age woman that will be down to do this life thing with me. Would you?
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