Last week I was in London for a meeting with some clients. I work for an oil services company. We service oil drilling equipment, to be exact. My plane landed on time, but I got stuck in traffic between Heathrow and Central London. I was going to be late for my appointment but I couldn't use my cell phone. I had forgotten to ask my phone company to make the necessary adjustments to be able to use it in Europe.
I took the first exit into London and parked by a pay phone. I went inside the booth and memories came rushing…
It was Christmas Eve, 1987. I was sitting under the cupid in Piccadilly Square, staring at the giant neon lights. Coca Cola. Sanyo. McDonalds. Flashing bright colors. Reds, yellows, blues. They were telling me: Buy! Buy! Buy! And I loved it. But it didn't cheer me up. Not that night.
It was probably the most turbulent time in my life. My wife and I had separated after six years of marriage. I had lost faith in everything. My daily prayers, which I had started after the revolution, had stopped months ago. I was eating Big Macs, even though I knew the meat was not halal. And I wanted to quit my cushy job at the London office of the National Iranian Oil Company, better known as KALA.
But what could I do? Where would I go? I was an Iranian citizen in the capital of Great Britain at the peak of the Iran-Iraq war. Khomeini — Imam Khomeini — was railing against the enemies of Islam in every corner of the world.
I still had my beard. If you had seen me you might have thought I'm a Passdar — revolutionary guard. The only difference was that my overkot was gray instead of the more common olive green.
I wanted to divorce my wife, God and the revolution. But I had nothing to replace them with. I felt terribly alone. I needed to be hugged. Badly.
I made up my mind. I was going to do it. The hell with everyone and everything.
Determined, and completely terrified, I walked inside a phone booth and started looking at the names and phone numbers written in bold letters. There were names like “Wild Wendy”, “Shelly the She Devil”, “Paula Please”, “Kitty Cat”, and “Breasty Barbara”. I picked up the phone and dialed the number for “Sandy the Australian Blond.”
— “… “
— “Would you like to meet Sandy?”
— “Come to…”
The apartment was only ten minutes away by foot. But by the time I got there I felt ten years had gone by. I could not believe I was turning my back against everything I believed in. I could go to hell just thinking about what I was about to do. I could get a thousand lashes, castrated, and executed by stoning. I could carry a huge guilt for the rest of my life. I rang the bell.
A woman opened the door. She was slender; maybe in her fifties. She wore a black turtleneck sweater and trousers. She was the woman I had spoken to on the phone. I recognized her calm voice.
— “May I help you?”
— “Is Sandy here?”
— “Come in please.”
I walked into a narrow hallway. The woman closed the door.
— “We are a little busy tonight. There's someone already in the waiting room. I'm going to ask you to sit in the bathroom. I'll call you in a few minutes. I hope you don't mind.”
Did I hear correctly? I have to wait in the bathroom?
At least it was clean. Much cleaner than the bathroom in my own house. New bar of soap. Fresh towels. Not a single strand of hair lying anywhere. Small basket of flowers on the shelf behind the toilet.
I put the toilet cover down and sat with my hands over my face. “What are you doing? WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I thought to myself. I couldn't sit still. My knees were shaking. Every second was an eternity. Knock, knock.
— “You can come out now.”
The woman led me to the waiting room.
— “Sandy will be with you shortly.”
I sat on the edge of one of the two single beds. A pornographic video was playing on the TV. I couldn't watch. It looked disgusting. And yet I was there to experience the real thing.
Sandy walked in the door. She didn't look like anything I had imagined. I hadn't imagined anything in particular. But she just didn't come across as a prostitute. She looked like a regular girl. A woman I could have met in an office. Not beautiful, but attractive. Maybe 20 pounds overweight, but sexy. In her early thirties. Short, light-brown hair — not blond. But she did have an Australian accent.
— “Hi. I'm Sandy. What can I do for you this evening?”
— “… I'm not sure.”
— “Would you like regular sex or… “
— “Okay. That would be 50 pounds.”
— “… I only have 35.”
— “I'm sorry. Fifty is the minimum.”
— “I understand. But I honestly do not have more than 35 pounds with me.”
— “Okay. I'm going to give you a discount. It's Christmas Eve.”
Should I say thank you? “Thank you.”
— “Let's go into the bedroom. Shall we?”
The bedroom was right across the hallway.
Sandy was naked in two seconds. She pulled down her skirt, unbuttoned her short-sleeved shirt and went under the cover. It took me a lot longer to undress. I felt terribly shy, stupid and insecure. And the lights were on. She tried to calm my nerves.
— “So what do you do?”
— “… I'm a student.”
— “Oh how nice! What do you study?”
— “… History.”
— “Do you like it?”
— “It's okay…”
I laid down next to her. Her body was warm. And very smooth. I put my arms around her waist and began kissing her shoulder and neck. I was suddenly so happy. It felt so good just to hold her. All my fears vanished.
I began making love to her. Slowly. I wanted it to last forever. I wasn't going to let her go. I wasn't going to face that terrible world outside ever again.
I tried to kiss her. I tried again. And again. But her lips were tightly sealed. I tried again.
— “Honey, this isn't a love story.”
I didn't understand what she meant exactly. I knew she didn't want to kiss, but I wasn't sure why. Did I have to pay extra for kissing? I didn't know prostitutes usually don't kiss clients. It's too intimate, supposedly (more so than intercourse?). And there's the risk of catching a disease. I didn't know. I took it personally. The fantasy was over.
As I got out of bed, I noticed I was wearing a condom. Sandy had slipped it on without me noticing.
— “Was this the first time you had sex?”
— “… Yes.”
— “I'm sorry, love. You should have told me. I hope you had a good time anyway.”
— “I did. Thank you.”
I don't remember a thing after that. I don't even remember leaving that bedroom. I don't know how I got home. I don't remember if I was happy or sad. But I was a different man.
Merry Christmas, Sandy. Wherever you are… : – x
* The author is also known as Jahanshah Javid. Here's the before this note was added on October 4, 2002.