Why you should care

Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Maria
Bangkok, Thailand

It was a good night. He was kind and gentle; more interested in talking than having sex. I think he was lonely, like so many of them are. He tipped well, too. Thank God, because it’s been a slow business week, which has been worrying me. I’m down to my last 200 bahts. I live in a tiny room in Sukhumvit that I share with two other girls, and we have to pay rent on a weekly basis. It’s one of the more expensive areas in the city, but my soi [street] is a hot spot for people looking to hire prostitutes.

I woke up at noon today and, after a quick shower, got dressed in my best outfit — a short denim skirt, a lacy push-up bra and a skimpy red top that clings to me like second skin — put on makeup and left for the roadside liquor stall where I usually pick up clients. When I’m lucky, someone buys me a drink in exchange for sitting and talking for a while, even if they don’t take me back to their room. Some days, it is no effort at all. All I have to do is lean ahead so prospective customers get a good view of my cleavage and grab their hands as they’re walking by. But I was desperate yesterday. I needed someone to hire me, preferably a middle-aged white man from America or Europe. They don’t haggle, unlike Indians and Sri Lankans, who are always trying to get more than what they’ve paid for.

Besides, Black girls like me don’t have a steady flow of money like the other hookers.

 

Thankfully, on my third try I was successful. He was tall and white, and agreed to my asking price almost immediately. We talked for a while, and then he said he wanted me for the girlfriend package (where you live with the client round the clock, like a girlfriend would) for three days. I was tempted because of the money, but these packages scare me, so I said no. He seemed like a decent guy, but you can never tell, and living together can go horribly wrong. Two months ago, I was raped by a client I was living with because he suddenly decided to play out a violent rape fantasy. I let him, because resisting would have meant even more violence and that would have put me out of business for a long time. It made me contemplate getting a pimp who’d beat people like him black and blue, like many of the Thai girls have. But I can’t afford to share the little that I make; paying off the police takes away a huge chunk anyway. Besides, Black girls like me don’t have a steady flow of money like the other hookers. We’re a fetish, like the ladyboys. Either someone specifically wants a Black whore, or they want nothing to do with us.

I came to Bangkok from Nigeria six months ago to learn to give massages, so I could earn and save some money to travel around Asia. But my friends told me that I could make money faster as a prostitute. At first, I would feel ashamed. But within a week it started feeling normal. No one judges you or looks down upon you for being a whore in this city, even though, officially, it is still illegal. It is just work. One of my friends, Poi, is dropped and picked up by her father every day.

I don’t love what I do, and I definitely hate being raped, but I like the feeling of belonging with the other whores. The prostitutes of Bangkok don’t judge because they’ve seen it all. We know the depths of human depravity, and nothing shocks us anymore. It is like taking an advanced class in psychology. Someday, I will return “home” to Nigeria, but Bangkok will be the place where I built a family for myself.

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Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising -- the human.