She didn’t think it would hurt at first, and after awhile it didn’t. In fact, once she numbed herself to it, it became normal. Some nights were harder than others. Sometimes she had a lot of business, and other times she didn’t. It depended on the day. Holidays and weekends would usually draw more customers. It was something she always dreaded, but she needed the money.
Late at night she would come home tired and weary, her body and mind spent. Angry and disgusting faces played through her mind as she reached for the alcohol in an attempt to drown them out. The relief was temporary, but it did the job. TV was also a nice distraction. She could think about other people’s lives for a change.
Before bed she had a ritual. She would sit on the porch of her apartment and smoke a cigarette while she watched the sun set. Sometimes she would play a game and count how many drags she took before she started to see the hazy orange glow disappear, drawing her moment of serenity to a close.
Sometimes she liked to pretend the sun was and old friend waving goodbye that cared about her, though deep down she knew it wasn’t true. She knew the sun was warm but indifferent, just like her boss – at least when he was in a good mood.
One night after her usual ritual she walked into the living room of her small apartment and stopped at the TV before making her way to the bedroom. There was some show on about migrant day-laborers. She noticed their hunched-over bodies and the contorted look on their faces as they toiled in the sun. Their hands moved with impeccable speed as they filled large bushels with one crop or another. She thought they looked like little machines, and she began to feel sorry for them. She flipped the channel to the news.
There was a headline flashing about an illegal prostitution ring in a wealthy suburban community. Girls as young as 15 were made to be sex slaves for cash. The anchor was doing her best to look somber while images of faceless women walking down dark street corners played in the background. People were interviewed with looks of shock and disbelief on their faces. A few voiced angry condemnations of the men involved. She flipped the channel again.
Two political pundits were discussing how government regulation was killing the economy. She noticed the loudest one was also the largest, richest-looking of the bunch. His face and tone of voice filled the room, his finger wagging at the host as his expensive watch shook on his flabby wrist. He seemed to be more interested in controlling the conversation than debating. Annoyed, she turned off TV. There was something too familiar about all of it.
As she made her way to her bedroom and fell into a slumber, she dreamed that she was a day-laborer, her brown face contorting under the hot sun. Her hands were moving incredibly fast, but the bushels seemed to empty as soon as she’d filled them. Suddenly she felt a presence behind her and a pain on her back.
She was being whipped by the fat rich man on the political talk show, only he had her boss’s face. He was screaming at her. “Faster! Faster! FASTER!” But when she looked down at her hands she noticed they were tied together and she was being raped. The pain was unimaginable and caused her to scream out, but her voice was muffled by the wad of money being stuffed down her throat. She couldn’t breathe. She was suffocating.
The woman awoke with a start, her alarm clock sounding loudly in her ears. She turned off the alarm and wiped the cold sweat from her face. For a time she lay motionless in her bed as she tried to clear her head of the nightmare. After a few minutes had passed, she rose from her bed walked mechanically to the shower. It was time for work.