by Nicholas Siennicki
She curled up in a ball in the corner, cradling her head in her hands as she hummed herself a calming tune. One of the little lullabies her mother used to sing her. The sun was slowly climbing in the sky and the hints of rose peeked in through her window. She felt so cold. So, so, so cold. The room seemed to flicker and wave as she tried to stabilize her vision, her wine induced haze preventing her from making much sense of anything. Not every night ended this way, but all too often they did. Even in the humid and warm dawn, she was shivering and struggling to maintain any heat.
The boys would come in to play, but the types of boys that came in during the dead hours of the night often needed some sort of liquid courage to accept that they were paying someone to sleep with them. Of course, to make them feel more like they weren’t buying human use, they wanted you to drink with them, to revel with them, to indulge in their wine that had been watered down too little, to dance and laugh and play pretend that they were not desperate and lonely, and that you were not just another whore.
But enough of these young boys with no sense of modesty or the golden mean often lead to a very barely held together mess of a brothel, where girls could hardly keep their stomachs in their stomachs and their heads on their shoulders. Genovefa herself had just managed to usher a particularly inept boy out the door before stumbling to her corner and sliding down the wall, her hair a mess, her body a mess, her mind a mess. Blurry vision and nausea. A good mix. Mix, mix, swirl, mix. She was a good girl, and she knew it. Tricks of the trade. A silver tongue, a golden body. Repent and repeat until life disappeared. Little lies to get her through the night.
Her head lolled; she was only somewhat sure that she could fall asleep instead of being sick. Was that a risk she was willing to take? She wanted to call out for hope, for Mater, for a real mother… Someone to come so she could rest her throbbing skull in their lap. They would tell her it was all okay, that it would be okay and that the morning would bring respite. Mater’s name built in her throat, but as her head tapped against the freezing beams of the floor, it slipped away, the task seeming Sisyphean as her energy left her to rot. Her mouth opened and closed a few times, but all she could concentrate on was not emptying her stomach, and the last vestige of her decency, all over the floor. Maybe someone would come into her room and find her and throw a blanket over her.
But she knew nobody would come. Nobody ever did. She closed her eyes. And wept.
Painting by Josefa de Ayala