We are all prostitutes.
The currency of our trade isn’t always measured by intimate nights or folded dollar bills – we play at much higher stakes: we barter our hearts away. While the ladies of the night conceal their faces with layer upon layer of makeup and loiter in dim alleys; we, unlike them, know no shame. We brandish our statuses as prostitutes – flaunt them even – revel in our debauchery.
Of course, you never intended to become a prostitute to begin with. No one does. In kindergarten, when all the children drew pictures of what they wanted to be when they grew up, you drew the obligatory “doctor” or “teacher” with your blunt crayons, and waited for your mother to admire it. It did not matter that you spelt “doctor” with a “k” or that your sketch of a teacher had only three fingers on each hand – the ambitions were sufficient. You did not stand up and declare, “I want to be a harlot.” No one does.
In college, when everyone else was out partying and having the time of their lives, you stayed in your dormitory – hungover from too many late nights spent poring over your books. You worked evening shifts at a fast food restaurant to pay off your tuition fees and spent the rest of the time studying. You did not take the easy way out; did not smoke weed or get wasted or sleep with everyone in your corridor.
In fact, you saved your virginity for marriage – you married a nice decent boy and both of you bought a nice decent house and you had a nice decent job with nice decent hours and it is in the middle of the night that you realise that you have been unhappy all along. You are tired of this chaste life of yours that you have been living – and you decide: it is time to do something decadent. You climb out of bed and put on the shortest skirt you own, and take care to hitch it up two inches further.
You take nothing with you as you tiptoe out of the bedroom door and catch a glimpse of your husband’s silhouette stirring in the dark. You know full well that he is awake; he is watching you leave, and you do so anyway. You know that this will break his heart and that you will not return in the morning – so there will be no screaming tearful scene to dread – and you walk out into the night.
How does this work? You aren’t sure and the night is way colder than you had thought it would be. You fold your arms and exhale – your breath comes in pale white clouds – and wait by the sidewalk. You have no idea who you are waiting for; but you recognize him instantly, even from a distance. The golden tip of his cigar illuminates the shadows of his face and his dark eyes are trained upon your face.
“Let’s play a game,” he announces as he makes his way to your side. “No one will ever find out.”
“What is it?”
“Oh, this is all very simple. We’ll make a trade, all right? I know you’re lonely and you’re tired of your life – throw everything to the winds then! Spend some time with me. I’ll show you what life was meant to be. This could be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
A part of you hesitates: it isn’t too late to turn back now - your house is just a block away. But this irresistibly handsome man is making you a proposal; he seems a little tipsy, but he knows what he is talking about.
“So what will it be, m’lady? All I ask is just a little bit – just a fraction – of your heart. You don’t have to give me all of it.” He cocks his head and takes another drag of his cigarette. “You come with me – I’ll show you the world – and all you have to give me is just a fraction of your heart. What would you do with a complete heart anyway?”
You nod and his face breaks into a grin, exposing his perfectly aligned teeth. You shake hands.
“Very well, then. It’s nice to meet you: I’m Thrill.”
The deal having been sealed; you spend the next few weeks with him. It is completely exhilarating, a whirlwind of perfectly sequenced, impeccably timed adventures. You ride in his convertible at speeds so fast your breath catches and the wind roars against your ears and your eyes water. You dine at an impossibly expensive restaurant without a penny in either of your pockets – and dash. You get high, smoke pot – do everything with Thrill that you had always dreamed of but never dared. You spend your nights in clubs in a blissful haze and dash across roads in a drunken daze with Thrill by your side, always by your side.
The first two weeks are perfect, and then you grow irate and tired. And after too many mornings spent nursing a splitting headache, you decide that you have had enough of Thrill. You find him lounging on the couch, his shirt unbuttoned, his chiselled good looks untainted by the endless wild nights. But he seems to have lost his charm, and you are angry and miserable and upset about the tattoo you had gotten on impulse the night before – a string of Korean characters that you didn’t even understand.
“I’m leaving; can I please have that part of my heart back?”
Thrill shakes his head. “That’s not how things work, you’ve had your fun and now you want to leave. That’s fine. But remember the trade we made? I kept my end of the bargain, so no, you can’t.”
That very night, you are out on the streets again – waiting for another proposal, ignoring the leers from the men around you. And this time, you meet Approval – a nice boy with thick black rimmed glasses, a couple of years younger than you.
“You know the rules of the game,” he says softly, without the half the charm or witticisms of Thrill, but just as, if not more compellingly. “I can give you what you want. You’ve always wanted me – I’m the one you’ve been looking for all your life. All you have to do is give me a portion of your heart in return.”
You squint at him in the dim light and the agreement is made.
He lives up to his word; he is an attentive lover: Approval showers you with compliments, and flowers, and little gifts, and little post-it notes that appear magically in your wallet. He makes you feel good about yourself in a way you have never felt before. “You’re perfect,” he whispers as you frown at yourself in the mirror. “You’re beautiful,” he assures you – even though no one has told you that before.
“You’re all I’ve always wanted,” you tell Approval in return, knowing that will make his day.
But as days pass, Approval grows colder and more distant. You aren’t quite sure if the little encouraging notes are getting fewer and further in between – or if they just aren’t enough to make you happy anymore. He comes back later with each progressive night, and goes to bed tired, with only a cursory, flat “goodnight honey”.
You seek Approval out: you buy new make-up, put on a new expensive dress, sidle up to him seductively in the hopes that he will look at you as he once did before. You were never quite in love with him, only with the attention that he gave; but now that he is cold and withdrawn, you are disappointed and bitter.
“I don’t need you!” you yell vehemently and storm out.
You stop at a nearby bar for a few drinks and meet Self-Confidence. She is pretty and tall with sultry dark eyes, and a halter top that reveals more than it conceals.
She takes a seat next to you, and watching you for a while, begins the conversation.
“Tell me your past lovers.”
“Thrill and Approval,” your voice has all the sulkiness of a scorned woman.
She pauses, downs her drink with a neat flick of her wrist, and smiles. Already she is relishing the words she has to say, and she knows she is making you an offer that you cannot refuse.
“Stop looking for Thrill; you have to stop. Please stop thinking about him. You’re not a teenager anymore.”
“What about Approval?” you ask.
“Why would you need Approval when you can have me?” she leans across the counter and gazes steadily at you.
“I could be your new best friend. All you have to do is – "
You already know the end of her proposition. You think of your heart – your half of a heart, rather – and decide that you need her more than you require your heart.
COPIED FROM ADA NGO https://www.facebook.com/ada.ngo
She smiles indulgently. “My dear, you won’t need anyone as long as I’m here with you.”
Having Self-Confidence by your side is the best thing that has happened to you. She brings you on shopping sprees, nods at everything in your shopping cart and assures you that you look good – no matter what others may say. Every meal is her treat; every trip out is a new lesson for you. She is your teacher, and the world is your classroom.
Self-Confidence takes you up to complete strangers and strikes conversations with them with enviable ease; she brings you to bars and restaurants and teaches you the subtle arts of flirting, of reeling in a man. She has stripped away your awkwardness and equipped you with the gift of the gab – although, admittedly, it is she who does most of the talking.
You love walking with her along crowded streets – you’re not quite certain if people are making a double take to look at you, or her, but it no longer matters. You love the attention.
One casual Friday night, you are seated with Self-Confidence at a riverside restaurant, when a man approaches the both of you – a stranger you have never met before.
“Hi, I’m R.” He says, hand extended toward you.
You glance briefly at Self-Confidence and she nods approvingly at you.
“Hi,” you reply. “What’s your full name, R?”
“I’m Relationship, but please, just call me R,” he laughs, and gestures toward the empty seat next to you. “May I treat you ladies to dinner tonight?”
Self-Confidence and you have an amazing conversation with R and you feel an instant connection – despite the fact that he is perhaps, ten years older than you. He is witty and charming and soon, you have agreed on the next date. You are in love with him, even though you have only less than a quarter of a heart left, and you have prostituted yourself to Thrill and Approval and Self-Confidence and prostitutes do not fall in love.
You are in love with him, because he hasn’t made you a proposition.
Self-Confidence – your self-declared best friend after all – comes along with you on all your dates, turning your candlelight dinner dates into dinners for three. You are sitting between R and Self Confidence on a park bench, late one night after your date with him, and he turns to you – “I want to know you, really. Tell me about yourself.”
Self-Confidence sneaks away quietly to grant the both of you some privacy; and finally, it is just the both of you without her imposing presence. You pull out the small portion of heart you have left and hand it to R, knowing that it is all you have left.
You don’t know where to begin and start blabbering all about your past to R – about Thrill, and Approval, and all your past lovers whom you’ve never quite gotten over. Without Self-Confidence, there is no one to keep your idle words in check, or to give you sharp glances when you have crossed your boundaries. Perhaps, you are a little tipsy, and perhaps you drank one too many glasses of wine at dinner.
“I really miss Approval,” you sob. “I’ve been searching so long and hard for him.” You are in love with R – you are quite certain of that – but without Self-Confidence, something else in you takes over and draws from you the words that you have actually been longing to say. “Please don’t go, R. I wouldn’t know what to do without you.”
R is silent and then he asks quietly, “Where is Self-Confidence?”
It dawns upon you that he only liked you when she was with the both of you – he is quite evidently wincing at your tears and sob stories. Certainly, where is there not to like about Self-Confidence – the pretty, assured lady with a never ending supply of jokes and stories to dish out? You are hurt and silent and R hastily apologises – a half-hearted bumbling apology – and hand-in-hand, you return to a hotel with him, the air thick and heavy with the words the both of you had exchanged.
You sleep with him, thinking you could make him stay – after all you have given him your heart – but he is gone the next morning, and in his place is a stranger.
“What’s your name?” you ask, squinting at the scrawny man seated on the edge of your bed. Your head is pounding too painfully for formalities or courtesy. “I’m sorry... I think I must have been drunk last night, and I don’t remember meeting you. Where’s R?”
“I’m Hurt,” comes the reply.
You stare quizzically at him and he interrupts your train of thought. “My name is Hurt. My twin sister is making breakfast – she’s Resentment, and I’m sure you’ll meet her soon. You’ve met R, haven’t you? I’m his replacement. Wherever he leaves, I’ll fill the spaces he has left behind.”
“You must be mistaken - I don’t have any more of my heart to give to you. I have nothing left. I gave it all away to people who have left me.”
“It’s alright,” says Hurt. “I don’t need your heart. I stay with people who have lost theirs. I made a contract with R since the beginning of time – you will always try to seek him, but find me instead.”
You sigh and get up to leave, but Hurt follows silently behind everywhere you go, tagging along in your shadow. He is a quiet guy and most people don’t take any notice of him; they don’t seem to see the stranger standing behind you all the time. How could they possibly not see?
At the most inconvenient times, when you’re finally all alone with Hurt, he rips out old photographs from dusty albums and dangles them in front of you. “You’ll never amount to anything,” he snarls. “Everyone you love has left you.”
After he has left, after he is done tearing you to bits, Resentment enters the room quietly after her brother and whispers, “It isn’t your fault, darling. It was all theirs. They didn’t know what they had when they left you. What jerks they are, aren’t they?”
You finally grow tired of the loathsome duo and you leave the house. This time as you run down the street in a mixture of fear and hysteria, they no longer tail behind silently – they grab at your clothes and pull your hair and try to take you captive once again. You run as fast as you can – missing that familiar pounding in your chest where your heart used to be – run, run, run until they are out of sight and you have lost them in the crowd and you turn a corner and realise that you are on the street where your old house used to be.
And all of a sudden, you see a familiar figure right where your house was. A man. Your husband. The one you left. He is older than when you last saw him, there are grey streaks in his hair and it is then that you realise you have been away for far too long. He pauses at the gate, stares vacantly down the street and suddenly squints into the distance.
You freeze. Perhaps you should run away.
“Darling?” he calls tentatively.
You glance behind, certain that you will see his new wife – but there is no one on the road but you.
“Darling? Is that you?” he calls again. He is walking towards you and you’re too stunned to move. You check behind you a second time and when you turn to face the road, he has broken into a run. Why is he running,why is he running? Your hair is dishevelled, your clothes are in rags, you are barefooted, why should he be running towards you? The last time you checked the mirror you were haggard and gaunt and your face was smeared with tears. You hadn’t even had any intention of coming back to see him like this. Why is he running?
Now he has caught you in his embrace: you’ve been away for so long you forgot how warm his chest was and how comfortable and safe it was to be in the arms of another.
“I can’t believe you’re back. I love you. I’ve been waiting for you all this while. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I missed you.” His voice is on the verge of breaking, and you look up into his eyes to see tears.
“Why aren’t you angry with me?” your initial shock gives way to wonder.
“How could I be? You’re back. Have you forgotten me – your first love? Do you not remember how much I love you? How could I be angry with you?”
It is now your turn to cry – and the tears come thick and fast. You are overwhelmed by shock and gratitude and amazement: oh, certainly, this wasn’t the response you had expected.
“Come now, my dear, there shan’t be any tears tonight. I’ll take you out to dinner – at your favourite restaurant – how about that?”
“I haven’t any nice dresses,” you begin to blubber, immediately realizing the absurdity of your statement.
“Then we’ll buy you one on the way. Come, come, you are home – that’s all that matters. I knew you’d come back – I’ve been waiting for you all this while.” And he reaches to wipe your tears away – your dirty smudged face with his crisp white sleeves.
This is a happy ending – and everyone loves happy ending to stories – even if the stories don’t deserve the happy endings. This is my story; this could be your story – it could be anyone’s story.
But the question is:
Why do we do this? Why are we all prostitutes? Because we are human, and we constantly give ourselves away – even to things that do not satisfy, and people who will eventually leave us. Some of us give our hearts away for momentary thrills, others for the approval of others and yet others remain slaves to hurt and resentment.
This story doesn’t have to end with Hurt and Resentment. In the light of Easter, and what Jesus did on the cross, there is hope yet. There is hope out there for those of us who have fallen so far from grace and who have been searching so hard and so long and giving ourselves away to people, to things that will never satisfy.
This is the amazing story of grace. If only we return to Him, He will restore us. :)
COPIED POST FROM ADA NGO https://www.facebook.com/ada.ngo