“You fuck your mom this way too?” I lashed out at him as I dabbed at the blood that trickled down my chin. Slap! He slapped me hard across my face and walked out of the door. “MOTHER FUCKER!” I shouted behind him as I felt the sting of the slap on my right cheek.
My body hurt like a bitch. Lower back felt heavily strained, my inner thighs were cramped. I exhaled heavily to help lift myself from the bed and walked to the washbasin in the corner of the room, still naked. The stained mirror above it showed me my face. I was bleeding from my lips. The motherfucker almost literally bit it. The black eye from last week was healing but I could still see the stark discoloration.
I cupped my hands to collect water from the basin tap. As soon as I splashed it across my face, I heard a knock on my door “Next client is in 15 minutes, dress up well, the fucker speaks English and is paying double!” “Fuck off prick!” I shouted back and continued washing up.
Robi da pushed open the door and walked into the room. “Why don’t you have your clothes on? He turned the other way when he saw me naked. “Because you don’t fuck with your clothes on?” I growled at him before burying my face in the towel. “Come on Mimi. You know I can not say no to him.” He walked out of the room because I ignored him and started applying powder on my face. I did my hair and walked to the closet on the other side of the room.
I lit a cigarette at the window after changing into a fresh nighty and keeping condoms and tissues on the table by the bed. The sky was amethyst and ochre like the Kolkata skies are in summer evenings. The busy bylanes of shobhabazaar were always bustling with people of my kind and our clients. I took a couple of drags before exhaling a thick cloud of smoke that blurred the world outside the window for a moment. The door to my room opened while I was stubbing the cigarette.
Robi da entered alongside a dark-skinned man with sharp features who looked in his early 30s. He wore shorts and a gym vest, had a backpack on him and expensive perfume filled the room as soon as he entered. “Full service, best girl in shobhabazaar” Robi da was marketing me to the man. He looked at me and the way he did, I knew this was his first time in prostitution.
“What’s your name?” He asked me in Bengali but his accent told me he wasn’t one. “Mimi” Robi da answered for me when I didn’t oblige. He continued to stare at me for a couple of moments before taking out a wad of notes. “Six hours,” he told Robi da as he extended the wad. I reflexively looked at the clock. It was a couple of minutes to five. Robi da hastily took the cash and walked out of the room. I walked behind him and latched the door.
He was sat nervously on the foot of the bed when I turned around, his backpack still on his shoulders. “Six hours? Really? You’ll be done thrice in 15 minutes by the look of you!” I jibed at him in my head. He smiled a very warm smile and patted the bed, motioning me to sit next to him when we made eye contact. I stared at him for a couple of moments before letting my nighty slip down to the floor. “Get to work,” I told him curtly as I walked towards the bed in my underwear. He simply patted the bed again before slipping his backpack off his shoulders.
“What is your name?” He asked me again, very softly, while rummaging through his bag, looking for something. “Didn’t you hear Robi da?”I was getting annoyed now. He took out a tiffin from his bag and looked up “Have you eaten? I brought us some lunch!” I simply stared at him in disbelief as he opened the box. It had two spoons over some biriyani in it. There were two pieces of chicken in there as well.
He kept the bag aside and moved closer. He didn’t seem like those NGO guys, they don’t pay to talk to you. They just promise help, take your story, and never return again. I took the spoon that he extended towards me. “My name is Mamta” I had myself almost forgotten that was my name. “Tell me how it is, Mamta? I cooked it myself this afternoon but decided I’d eat it with you!” He was really very sweet. “Me or the whore you’d be spending your afternoon with?” I smiled at him sarcastically before digging in. He smiled back but did not answer. We ate in silence from the same tiffin, taking turns to scoop up the biriyani.
“What’s your name?” I usually don’t care but I was curious. “Rehan.” He said with a soft smile as he packed the empty tiffin back. I got up and brought him and myself some water. He thanked me but he was taking another smaller bag out of his backpack so he just signalled me to keep it next to him. He kept the bag on the bed, the backpack under it and picked up the bottle of water as I sat down next to him again. “ Mamta, I’m going to start with shaving all the hair off your body. Is that okay?” He asked poiltely as if it were a normal thing to ask before he started drinking water.
I was surprised but not very. Now I knew why he needed six hours. Rich men had weird fetishes. I had one before who wanted me to finger his ass and that made him come! These upper-class men were weird but at least this one was polite. “Do whatever you want in the 6 hours you’ve paid for!” I told him. He stood up and motioned me to stand as well. Turning me around gently by my shoulder, he unhooked my bra and kept it on the bed. He turned me again, this time towards him and slipped his thumbs in, pushing down my panty by its hem. “Okayy” I thought to myself as I stepped out of it, not remembering last when someone undressed me.
“Please lie down on your stomach?” He asked me as he picked up the small bag he had taken out of his backpack. He took out a small round device that played english music when he switched it on. I obliged. He checked his phone, put it back in his pocket and climbed the bed.
“How do you have so many burn marks on your back?” he asked me as he rubbed some cream on to my back, all of his clothes still on him. “They’re cigarette burns,” I told him. “Why do you let them do it to you?” I saw him pull out a razor from his bag.
I didn’t answer him. He ran the razor on my back in long, soft strokes. The nervousness in his body language somehow didn’t corroborate with the efficiency he ran the razor on my body. “Do you do this often?” I asked him as he moved to rubbing cream on my hips and the back of my legs. “Do what often?” he asked. “Whatever you’re doing right now?” I asked him over the soft English music he played. “This is the first time I’m doing this!”
“Doesn’t look like it!” I told him as he ran the razor over my right hamstring. “Why do you think?” He asked nonchalantly. “Looks like you know what you’re doing!” “Of course I know what I’m doing!” he responded instantly but the timidity with which he said the cocky line broke me into a smile. I was feeling good with the way he was handling me. His touches were soft and gentle and the cologne he was wearing was turning me on. Very few of my clients had turned me on in my 6-year career and I wanted him to fuck me already.
“May I ask how old you are?” He asked me as he ran the razor on my left hip. “23!” I told him. “And how long have you been doing this?” “I started when I was seventeen!” I told him. “I hope this isn’t hurting you?” I loved his concern. He certainly made me feel comfortable. “No, I’m good. What’s the time? I asked him as I noticed it was already dark outside the window. “Five minutes to seven.” He mumbled as he ran the razor down my left calf.
“I need a cigarette,” I told him when he turned me around on my back. “Sure sure,” He said, hastily getting off the bed. I smiled to myself at his manners as I sat up. I felt his eyes on me as I lit a cigarette. “Why are you standing?” I motioned him to sit as I exhaled. He sat next to me.
“Who did this?” he asked, running the back of his index finger softly on my discoloured black eye. He looked down when I simply gazed at him, not answering his question but feeling my heart well up. He was the kindest man I had ever met. He met my gaze when he noticed I didn’t look away. “I quit smoking a couple months back but I really feel like one right now!” He said with a soft smile, probably sensing the tension I was exuding. I passed him the cigarette.
He held my hand very shyly as he pulled a drag off the cigarette. Oh my god, that felt like my heart had just overflowed. “It is just this particular client who does this to me. Comes in every other day.” I shared. “And that man, the man who introduced us, he lets him do it to you?” His voice felt urgent to me. “Robi da is a very good man. This client is a cop. He takes money to let us run the business smoothly, loves to fuck me and doesn’t even pay. Robi da is simply helpless.” I told him as he passed the cigarette back to me. I took a couple of drags before chucking it towards the corner of the room.
“So where are you from?” He asked me as he began applying the cream on my shin. “Right here,” I answered as he worked his way on to my thighs. I had never felt such a gentle hand. “Right here as in? Kolkata?” “Yes. I was born in this room.” I told him non chalantly. “In this room?” He stopped abruptly and began looking at me with surprise. I broke into a smile and reached out to his hands, using them to start rubbing my thighs with cream again like a signal to continue. He took the cue and I brought my hands under my head, laying back and looking up, staring at the ceiling.
“My mother was owned by Robi Da’s father. I was born and raised here.” I told him. “Where is your mother now?” His questions didn’t seem to stop but I wasn’t minding them anymore. “She died when I was 15.” “Oh!” was all he said. He was shaving the inner portions of my left thigh. “Could you do your privates for me?” He asked me when he was done. I was taken aback.
“All you men are the same, aren’t you?” I chided him with a wry smile. “What? Why?” He asked me. “You wanna fuck it but you don’t wanna touch it?” “Who said I wanna fuck?” he gasped. “Then why the fuck are you here?”
“What? Your Robi da didn’t tell you?” He was exasperated. “I am a painter. I wanted to try my hands on body painting and needed a volunteer! I told him on the phone when I called him!” I broke into an incessant laugh instantly and I couldn’t stop. It had been a long time since I had such a hearty laugh. “Whaaat?!” He bemusedly asked.
“He probably thought that’s your cover story!” I just couldn’t stop laughing. “All of them lie on the phone! Massage, physiotherapy, all sorts of stuff!” He just stared bemusedly at my face as I giggled like a teenager, grinning because of the contagion of laughs probably! “So you don’t wanna fuck me?” I asked him, still laughing! “Of Course not! I have a boyfriend!” He said.
“Here. Gimme the razor and the cream. I’ll shave my body hair myself. You should have told me earlier!” I took the razor from him when I finally stopped laughing. “Oh you will?” I think I added to his surprise. “You are a really kind man! Others would feel entitled that I’d do it for them. And they’d fuck me as well!” I told him nonchalantly, the grin adamant not to leave my face. “I would have definitely thought of it if you had a penis!” He winked at me with all his teeth out.
“I’ll prepare, meanwhile!” He hopped off the bed and got his backpack from under it. I swiftly rubbed the cream all over my arms while he took out a palette, a transparent case full of tubes and a bunch of brushes. He took out a rag and a small bowl as I swiftly ran the razor along my arms. “I should have figured you’re gay,” I told him. “Why?” he looked up. “Straight men would never treat our kind this way!”
“The colours are non toxic so you don’t have to worry” He said as he filled the bowl with water from the basin in the corner of the room, completely ignoring my compliment. “Toxic colours would be the least worrying toxicity in my life anyway!” I retorted. He laughed. “What a sadist!” I chided him playfully, rubbing the cream all over my torso.
“I’m sorry I didn’t ask before, do you like the music?” He asked me as he put the brushes to soak in the bowl. “Frankly, I haven’t been paying attention do it but it does have a feel good factor!” I told him, beginning to shave now. He increased the volume a little. “I love jazz” he said as he did.
He walked to the window and stood there, looking outside. “I’m almost done” I said hurriedly. “It’s alright, take your time!” he said, still looking outside. I was running the razor hurriedly on my skin, super excited for the painting to begin. “So what are you going to paint?” I quipped as I shaved off the last bit of hair on my body right below my navel. “I had come with plans to paint a floral abstract but now I think I am reconsidering,” he said, still staring outside the window as I got out of bed, took my towel out of my closet and walked to the wash basin in the corner.
“What’s making you?” I asked as I wiped off my body with the towel after wetting a corner of it. He simply stared outside the window in silence, probably not hearing my question. I walked up to the window beside him, picking up another cigarette from the table by the bed, after I was done wiping and lit it. He looked so handsome as he stood there, lost in deep thought and I couldn’t stop staring at him. I cursed at myself for staring too hard when he turned towards me and met my eyes.
“I’m going to paint the night sky on you!” He told me softly. “Starry Night, eh?” “You know Van Gogh?” He asked with blatant surprise. “Who doesn’t? I loved painting in school!” I told him. “You’ve been to school?” Now his surprise would be rude to many but I knew he didn’t mean to be. May be it was my admiration of him that led me to believe that. I simply waked towards the closet without answering his question.
I felt his gaze following me in silence as I took out a canvas from the back of my closet. The jazz filled the silence appropriately. He walked up to me with a sense of urgency when he saw the canvas in my hand. “Oh my god this is beautiful!” he said as he took the canvas in his hands and streched them out. “That’s my mother. I made this sometime after she died. I don’t think it turned out well because I made it from memory.” “I am speechless. The curves, the lighting and a dozen colours? Fifteen? How old were you when you painted this?” “I don’t remember. 15? 16?” He kept on staring at me. “Why do you do this then?” He finally asked me when I broke into a smile at his stare. “Long story. And that isn’t why you’re here!” I said taking the painting from him and putting it back in the closet.
“We still have three hours. Even movies aren’t that long!” He insisted as I walked to the bed. I sat down silently. He followed a couple of moments later and silently picked up the case of tubes. Picking up the pallete, he squeezed out blobs of mauve paint. “Please stand up?” He requested softly as he picked up the thickest brush from the bowl of water he had kept them to soak in. I obliged.
He knelt down and started priming my body from my right foot. He ran his brush in circular strokes as he moved up gradually, a dark mauve colour covering my skin. He did the same with my left leg before turning me around by my waist. I faced the window, looking outside, feeling his brush running circles on my bum. “My mother never wanted me to do this” I just felt like letting it go. I mean this was probably the best evening of my adult life. Moreover, he didn’t push and you know how it is with humans. You push them for something and humans won’t do it. You stop pushing and they do right that. “Why did you stop?” I asked him. “Oh I was listening!” He said as he hurriedly started painting again, on my lower back.
I could feel his brush move up my back. I loved how this moment was feeling, i loved how important I was feeling. “So where was I?” “your mother never wanted you to do this” He assisted me. “yeah so.. she was brought here from Bangladesh when she was 16. A man had promised her parents a job as domestic help for her. The asshole sold my mother to Robi Da’s father. She had me when she was 29.” He turned me around gently by my shoulder after painting up till the nape of my neck.
“My mother lost most of her clients during her pregnancy. Even after she had me, business wasn’t good for her. But Robi Da’s father let her stay.” I continued as he began painting my torso, beginning from my shoulders and moving down gradually over my collar bone. “My mother sent me to a missionary school near Nakhoda Masjid in Zakaria Street. She would walk me there every morning and picked me up herself in the afternoon. The nuns there wouldn’t charge anything and even fed us lunch.” I was all mauve by now. He started browsing through his tube case again.
“Go on” He said as he squeezed colour out of two tubes simultaneously. “Sister Joycee taught me how to paint there! She’d keep me back after school because she’d love the ideas I gave her.” “So that’s where you learnt how to paint!” He murmered as he painted my breasts and tummy a light shade of purple. I nodded in affirmation and stopped. He was painting with full concentration and I just wanted to watch. He started painting the rest of my body navy blue, over the mauve he had primed me with.
“So how did you get into this when your mother protected you from it?” He asked me as he painted my arms. “When I was in high school, my mother passed away. She had liver problems but she never compromised on her drinking. Sister Joycee was the only person I had now. She learnt about my mother when I told her after she passed away. She got me a job as a domestic help in a christian family on M.G. Road. Robi Da’s father didn’t want me to leave but he had grown old and it was easy for me to sneak away.”
He blended my light purple frontal torso beautifully with the navy blue rest of my body. He was a skilled painter, I could see. He was changing brushes every other stroke to give dimension. “So how did you get back here when you got away?” He finally looked up, into my eyes. I loved it when his eyes met mine.
“I worked at the Christian household for about two years. The lady, Madam Tracy, was really warm with me and she treated me well. She didn’t have any children and lived with her husband. About a month before I quit working there, I finally told Madam Tracy my story. She wept when she heard. Got me new clothes the next day even.” He squeezed some black paint onto the palette and picked up the thinnest brush. “And then?” He asked as he begun highlighting. “Madam Tracy’s husband started looking at me weirdly after she told him my story. About a month later, when Madam Tracy was visiting somebody, he got drunk and forced himself on me.” He stopped and just looked at me. I looked too.
“I ran away from there that night and came back right here because this was the only place I knew. I reached here, dishelved and disoriented, hurting in my groin to find Robi Da’s father had passed away that day. Things were so busy here, my coming back was the last of anyone’s problems. After the cremation a week later, Robi Da came here and called all the girls down in the courtyard. He said he didn’t want to inherit any woman. Whoever wanted to stay were welcome. Whoever wanted to leave were welcome too. All the girls left except Radha, Megha and I. Its been 6-7 years and its still just the 3 of us here. Robi Da doesn’t buy women. He’s a good man. And that’s my story.” I concluded. The garbage van’s shrill siren filled the room as it passed through the lane like it did every night at 10.
He didn’t say a word. He just stared at me. My legs were hurting now. I was standing for 2 hours now. “Can I sit?” I asked. “Sure sure” He stepped back. “Could you fetch the box of cigarette from the side table?” I asked him. “Sure sure” he repeated. I smiled to myself. “One hour would be enough?” I asked him before lighting up another cigarette. “I need 30 more minutes.” He told me. We sat in silence as I smoked. “You are a strong woman.” He broke the silence and beautifully.
“You are a good man.” I returned the compliment, chucking the cigarette and standing up again. He nodded a thank you before picking up the palette and squeezing white paint on it. He started working on me in silence. For about twenty minutes, all I saw was how his frown clenched and unclenched cutely as he painted. “Please cover your mouth and nose” He said moving a step back. I obliged. He scooped more white paint onto his brush, dipped it in the water bowl and jerked the brush in my direction, circling my body and spraying white paint all over my body. “And we’re done!” he said taking another couple steps back and admiring his work.
I looked down and liked what I saw. But I really wanted to see it how I looked. There was no full body mirror in the room. “Can I click a photo of you? I promise I won’t put it out anywhere.” He asked me, as if he read my mind. “Yes please, I wanna see myself!” I was super excited. “Sure” He said as he pulled out his phone and clicked. “Please turn around” I obliged and he clicked more photographs. “Wow you’re a photographer too?” I asked him when I saw those photos. I had never felt so beautiful. I looked like a clear night sky where the milky way was visible. I felt like the universe. “Share it with me, I will switch the bluetooth on” I said, reaching out for my phone. “iPhone’s don’t let you share via bluetooth.” “WhatsApp?” I asked him. He nodded.
He started packing up his stuff after I declined his offer to dress me back up. I sat on the edge of the bed and watched as he cleaned his brushes and packed them. He put back the tubes in the case, threw the water out of the bowl, and washed his palette at the basin.
“So its a goodbye then?” He said, slipping his backpack onto his shoulders. “You still have fifteen minutes left” I couldn’t believe I said that. He smiled and extended his hands for a shake. “You have my number. Call me when you wanna do this again?” “Sure,” he said and walked to the door. I walked to the door too. “You don’t have to pay for this if you wanna do this again. Thank you for making me feel this good.” He smiled the warmest smile and turned around to leave. “Oh and the biriyani was delicious” I interrupted again. He smiled again and left. I slept naked that night.