SHE WAS MY FIRST
I did not know what was pushing me but I kept following. As I walked past the street lamps, I found myself not minding if anyone saw or could recognize me. Down a path I had never walked before, I looked back and wondered how I could have come this far. It amazed me, this craving, this alien courage. That I was headed for trouble was not news; how much of it was what I couldn’t tell.
As she turned a corner for the millionth time, I followed. Her pace had been manageable for me, sometimes stalling, sometimes increasing. In the past two minutes, however, her strides had struggled to be longer but her skintight skirt would not allow. She had resorted to shorter but quicker steps. It was now so quick I was almost bounding to keep her in sight. Two scruffy looking fellows whistled as she breezed past them, giving her body a once-over. Perhaps that would work, me whistling at her. It should draw her attention. No, I won’t do that. I’d do this properly. I kept walking. Did she just look over her shoulder? She probably suspected she was being followed.
When I was a few meters shy of her, she froze. All went stone-quiet when her clacking heels and the jingling bangles ceased. My heartbeat was the loudest sound on that street.
“What do you want?” She didn’t turn around, didn’t move her body.
My tongue glued to the floor of my mouth; whatever I could think to say hardened up in my dry throat. I only just wanted to do this, badly. Does it have to be this hard on the first occasion? Yet I had no experienced person in the business to ask—at least not right here in a red-light district, standing inches away from a strumpet. With her eyes alone, she gave me a dressing down. Not really. A sizing up, more like. This wasn’t me at all, I needed no telling. I was seeking more than an adventure here. A defiant passion was behind all of this, troubling even.
With sweaty, trembling palms, I brought it out.
And stretched it towards her…
This isn’t something I had done before; not that I knew the first thing about how. I just wished the gesture would do all the talking. I maintained my hold on what I was offering. She looked at it, and at me, and away, biting her lip, only that the tears would defy suppression. The sight was emotionally disturbing, but maybe not half as disturbing as what made me come after her in the first place.
It was a large revival service at the cathedral. I was seated far back listening intently when a pair of noisy stilettos and chiming bangles distracted me. If the owner’s figure-hugging top wasn’t uncomfortable enough, the thousands of judge-y eyes sure were. Her eyes were shifty and her steps hesitant. Pulling out a handkerchief from her purse to clean the seat, something fell out with it. It drew attention instantly, and much more as the gossip spread via nudging elbows and pointing eyes. The lady was mortified. The ground could swallow her up any moment for all she cared. Skimpy dress or skimpier dignity, she couldn’t bring herself to stoop and pick up the item. As though her appearance wasn’t enough, here was sufficient reason to be despised. She covered her face as she sidled away amidst hushed giggles and loud hisses. A couple others even called her names in mutters.
I would have joined them had I not found redemption a week earlier. Besides a change of heart, I would not forget the preacher’s emphasis on the commission of replicating this newfound life and conviction in other people. I had since wondered how I could do that, a shy eleven-year-old me.
The urge persisted, yet.
Maybe that was why I had to retrieve the tract I had always kept on me in hopes of an opportunity, or the confidence, whichever came first, to talk to someone.
YOUR STRUGGLE IS OVER, the tract read. I gave it to her after restoring the condom that fell out of her purse back at the cathedral.
I couldn’t offer any prayers. I didn’t have to. She had collapsed to her knees right there in tearful contrition, voicing her brokenness in more fluent repentance than I had ever witnessed. Apparently, she was no stranger to faith, only a stray.
She was just drying her eyes and thanking me for everything when a man accosted her, possibly a client. Her eyes soured. She began to walk away from him. Things escalated as he was trying to drag her into the brothel.
She didn’t have enough time to scan the highway before she made across.
Tyres’ screech, a bang, her stifled scream, and scattered pieces of flesh and bone later, all would go silent. And then loud again, as passersby rallied…
I would never know her name—nobody around seemed to—but it didn’t bother me much knowing it is written somewhere, someplace better.
Running home that night, I didn’t know what part of that experience to attribute the tears rolling down my face to. Tried as I did, I couldn’t erase the memory; it just wouldn’t go.
Maybe you never really forget your first.
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