” I have ever made 100 dollars. You know how? Someone hooked me up with a white man at the Sheraton that wanted my services, he was going to pay me well. I was 19 and I was hot. I thought 20,000 shillings maybe. So I put on my best clothes and there I was at the Sheraton. When I was done giving him the service, he told me to pick from a bundle of money in his coat pocket. I had never seen such money before. So, I went to that forex bureau at the casino that operates all night. When I exchanged the money, it was about two hundred something thousand shillings. Well, I don’t remember exactly but all I know is it was a lot of money. I was happy. I rented a new place, bought a plastic carpet, bought new covers for my 2-inch mattress and a kerosene stove. But rumor moves quickly around here. One of the popular guys Hamza said that he wanted to talk to me in private. He took me to that other side of Bwaise where there is a boxing club. He took me to a room. I thought he wanted sex. No, he wanted my money. He said that someone told him that I keep money in my knickers. That I cut my knickers, sew an extra cloth on top and hide money inside. Yeah its true but I had told one friend so clearly she didn’t keep the secret. We know each other around here so word goes around.
“Where is the money?” He asked.
“They told me you made a lot of money.”
“I don’t have any money.”
I wanted to run, his one hand gripped my arm and the other reached for my knickers, he wanted to pull them off. He threw me down. He was on top of me. His one hand tugging at my knickers. He held my mouth, every time he released my mouth, I screamed. I was trying to tell him that I didn’t have the money. I had hidden the remaining money in the new stove that I had bought. He instead grabbed my mouth and my nose, I could feel life leaving me. I surrendered. I knew that was it. He suddenly released me and rushed out of the room. I didn’t tell anyone about what had just happened. I didn’t see Hamza for a long time. Years later, he came back, he asked to see me, he said that he wanted to apologize to me. I accepted to see him. He was splashing money around. I guess when he was away, he was robbing people, he was known here for terrorizing people in those rich neighborhoods. I hated him but I was scared that If I don’t go to see him, he might kill me. You know what? Hamza was killed last year while breaking into a woman’s house in Kazo. The woman hit him with a metallic object on his head. I sometimes dream about him and yet that was 2004.
I was 17 I when I came here. I deliberately refused to go to school. My mother wasn’t rich, but she could afford to take me to school. I wish I had an opportunity to tell the girls that deliberately refuse to go to school. I would tell them my story. But I guess the tears of my mother have cursed me. In the 13 years I have been here, I have never had peace. I have a man that I stay with, I stay with him because he protects me from rapists and people like Hamza. When I was pregnant with this baby, he used to beat me every night. Three days before giving birth, he threw me in that sewage stream. Everyone here knows me as that woman who they beat every night. Our home was also a bar, he brought women, gave them beer from my bar and refused to pay. He went away with them and come back that following morning. When I gave birth, he played very loud music and continued to beat me.
I thank God that he lost his job. He had a job with KCCA to excavate rubbish stuck in sewage channels. When he lost the job, the beatings stopped and he doesn’t play loud music anymore. He sold the music system. Now he takes care of the baby when I have gone to work. Yeah, he knows the kind of work I do. When I come back home in the morning, he asks “Have you brought me something to eat?” Its OK I feed him, I feed the child too. I hope he doesn’t get a job soon because “esente zimuwaga” (money disturbs him).
I have plans, I am 32 but I tell everyone here that I am 30, please don’t tell them. Yeah, I have plans. I picture myself owning a salon, with big mirrors on the wall, two dyers in one corner, those nice white plastic chairs, two ladies helping me. A man washing the customer’s feet and painting the nails, a black and white carpet and those curtains in salons – you know them. So one day maybe one day.”