For the first time since she had been dropped off in front of Golestan mall, one of the most popular and expensive malls in Tehran’s upper-district, she turned around slightly.
‘Come on boys, follow me… ’ she gestured with her hand, walking along the sidewalk of Golestan avenue, holding her head up, not even once looking back. Her sheer white scarf hung way back on her head, exposing her almost blonde hair. Her slender body was covered by a skin tight mantou, revealing her small curves. Underneath her very short mantou she wore three quarter white baggy, Bermuda pants. Her white sandals revealed perfectly manicured red polished toes. As she walked she twisted something like a necklace around in her hand, swinging it around her finger and then twisting it the other way around. As she would do this, she would blow a big bubble with her gum and blow it, very effortlessly and carelessly.
Along the side of the street, and behind her a train of six or seven cars lined up filled with solo young men or a group of young men, each honking their horn to get her attention. Fellow drivers honked their horn at the horny men in the cars who had caused a small traffic along the road.
She gestured in a follow-me manner again and sped up, knowing that the caused traffic would gain unwanted attention from the traffic and moral police.
From the opposite side, two women, wrapped completely in black chador were coming. Before they had even reached her, she could see them shaking their head from side to side, whispering to each other. When crossing each other one of the women said rather loudly, ‘May God save us; may God save you.’
‘May God save you,’ she echoed equally loud ‘He has already saved me tonight,’ she said pointing back towards the train of cars that lined up.
‘Filthy garbage,’ said the other women and they were gone.
She did not want to hear that at this moment, so she walked faster out of the avenue to the wider cross section. She knew she had to pick up her pace; she was getting too much attention already. The drivers realizing this acted more aggressive as they honked more. Some had gone and waited for her a little bit ahead of the other cars. So far she had chosen not to hear voices, but now it was time.
The drivers were shouting out of their windows.
‘Will you come with me?’ she heard a very young boy, who must have not even gotten a license yet. She smiled at him and kept walking.
‘You will not regret,’ he shouted.
She ignored him.
Someone else was shouting out, ‘how much for that tight thing of yours?’
She did not respond. She did not respond to insults. It angered her too much.
’50,000 toman all night,’ shouted someone, an interesting offer. She looked at him, an aging man perhaps with a wife who would not touch him, children and grand children, too much hassle.
From the next car a group of loud young boys, who were perhaps too scared to pick her up, were shouting comments that she chose not to hear.
‘Come on whore, how much?’ someone else shouted.
‘Money doesn’t matter for us. Afterwards you can have a place to sleep.’ She turned to the car and saw two young men, decent young boys who were probably looking for some fun for a party of some kind. A place to sleep afterwards.
She opened the back door to a white Peugeot and sat.
‘Hi… .’ Said the man next to the driver nervously.
‘Where do you want to go?’ she said coolly, and took out a cigarette to smoke.
‘Sorry no smoking in this car,’ said the driver. ‘I’m Afshin by the way, and this is Reza,’ he pointed to the man next to him.
‘Ok. That’s nice.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘Does that matter?’
‘Of course it matters. Humans interact through names.’
‘So, you give me a name.’
‘Clever… What do you think we should call her Reza? How about Goli.’
‘So, where are we going?’
‘Oh, we do have a place. A place where you can stay afterwards.’ Said Reza.
‘Let me guess, your parents are out of town, and you have the place for the weekend, and they are going to come back home in the middle of the night and catch us. Listen, I prefer to go to my own place… .’
‘Woo… someone’s in a hurry. She seems more hurried than us, doesn’t she Reza?’
‘I guess it’s the nature of the job. Makes you want more and more faster and faster.’
‘Listen, are you up for business or are you just playing around?’ She hated stereotyped men. The reason she had chosen them was that they looked slightly different from the normal group of guys she always picked. Always asking her name, or giving her a name, taking her to their parents’ house when they were away for a weekend. Perhaps she was wrong.
‘Oh yeah, we are up for business.’ Afshin said. ‘We already offered you a place to stay too, so what’s the hurry?’ he winked to her from the rear window.
By now they were in Saa’dat Abad’s Sarv square. Afshin sped up and locked all the doors.
She didn’t say anything else and looked out the window at the early night streets.
Suddenly she remembered they had not negotiated a price. ‘How much?’
‘How much?’ echoed Reza. ‘Don’t you feel cheap putting a price tag on yourself?’
‘Cheap? On the contrary, I am more expensive than all your wives and girlfriends out there… At least I do a job, you pay me a hefty price once and you are happy, and I am happy. You don’t have to bribe me with cheap gifts and flowers that look expensive every time to let me touch you… At least I get paid, what do they get beside their stupid gifts?’
Reza laughed. ‘A lot more than you think’
‘I bet you have one,’ she said.
‘I don’t. If I did, I won’t be here. If I had a wife… I would give her a ring every time she let me touch her.’
‘Heh… No wonder you don’t have one then… ’ she said, ‘you can’t afford it… they can’t be expensive all the time… Give me that ring once in a while and you won’t need a wife.’
‘That’s not all I would give her gifts for. I would give her flowers and gifts for birthdays and anniversaries. Or just for the sake of it. Then I would get her an expensive house, one that I could afford, and warm big bed… When was the last time you got a gift from an admirer?’
‘I get it all the time… ’
‘That’s not what I mean… I mean a real gift, for no favors.’
She was silent. She didn’t want to hear that last question.
She had not gotten any gifts from admirers since she had been twelve. She had always been more mature for her age than her peers. Once one of the neighbor guys near their house in Tajrish, where she had grown up, had given her a single rose, which she had dried inside her notebook, hiding it from her mother who had, like other Iranian families, abiding by the rules of culture, forbidden any kind of contact with boys. She also remembered that attached to the flower was a note in a small envelope saying ‘I love you because you seem so innocent and pure.’
She laughed now at the time when she was still innocent enough to believe what the note had said. It was, later, the same guy at a mixed boys and girls party, at someone’s house, (to which she had sneaked with a friend, telling their moms that each was at the house of the other studying,) who had had paid her a 1000 tomans to show him her breasts, 2000 to let her touch them, and 3000 to let him kiss them.
Though she it had taken some convincing, she had earned a whopping 3000 tomans in under a minute compared to her widowed mother’s widow-salary of 45,000 tomans for which she worked all day long every day, which barely lasted them the month.
She had saved that money and bought herself a very short skirt, an inch above her knees. That’s how it had started, as spare change to buy herself things her mother could not afford. There was nothing wrong in wanting to have things, and it was not like she was doing anything that other girls were not doing. At least she was getting paid for it, and she had still not crossed any barriers in her mind.
Several days later, the same guy had approached her near her street, given her a note with an address on it, saying, ‘Party in Darband, #2 on the main street, tomorrow. Me and several friends. Come at 4 o’clock after school. Don’t ring the bell, come straight up to the second floor.’
Her mother worked and would not be back until 10 everyday.
That day she had packed her miniskirt in her school bag and worn a sleeveless black top under her shapeless school uniform of navy blue and tightly worn white scarf. After school she had turned up at the address, going to the bathroom as soon as getting there, to change to her skirt. She had never tried on before, and it looked odd to expose her yet unshaven legs. Then until 7 o’clock she had earned a considerable amount, more than she had ever owned in her entire life, by letting three different guys touch her. They were too young and too scared to do anything more. She had been recommended to friends of theirs… .
She was lost in her own memories, aimlessly looking out of the window of the car, when it came to a sudden stop in front of a police station.
‘Get out of the car, get out of the car,’ shouted Afshin, and before she had a chance to understand what was going on, she had been dragged out of the car by Afshin and Reza and dragged into the police station. She struggled to get out, shouting for help, but there was no one around.
They handcuffed her hands behind her back and dragged her further into the police station, where an old bearded man, with a huge belly and a dirty shirt with what seemed to be oil stains was sitting behind a broken desk reading the newspaper.
‘We arrested another one,’ said Afshin.
‘Good job, boys.’ Said the old man not yet looking at them as he kept looking at his newspaper which he eventually put down.
‘Name, address and ID card.’ He interrogated her.
‘I don’t have a name. I live on the streets, and I lost my ID.’
Afshin slapped her
‘Don’t do that yet.’ Said the bearded man behind the desk, he looked at her and said, ‘what can I do? You are all alike. You’re garbage, with no family.’
Suddenly Reza said, ‘Sir, we know where she lives. On the way she said her mother lives in Aryashahr. Do you want us to take her… .’
‘Liar. I didn’t say anything to them. I told you I don’t have a family.’
‘Sir, she lies,’ Afshin also agreed with a little bit of hesitation. ‘We could take her there and make her show us her house and we could bring her and her mother back.’
‘My mother is dead. My father is dead. Please I would do anything, just let me go this time, I promise I will not walk on the street again, I promise. Sir, please.’ She pleaded.
The bearded man seemed to think for a bit and he suddenly gestured out with his hand, ‘Take her, take her out and bring her back with her mother. You all say the same thing… we caught one of you three times and each time she pleaded we let her go… So, go, go, go and come back with your mother.’
‘Please sir… ’ Afshin and Reza had already taken her by the hand and were dragging her out and back into the car.
Once inside the car, she banged the window with her cuffed hands. ‘Let me go, let me go.’
‘Shut up whore. May be we can work out a deal… ’
They started to drive.
‘What do you mean?’
‘We don’t care who your mother is or where she lives,’ Reza said. ‘You give us a free gift and may be we can work out a deal.’
She thought for a bit. ‘O.K.’
‘O.K? So we make our own report later, you ran away, died, whatever… .’
‘O.K., but can I have a place to stay afterwards, to spend the night?’
Three hours and five men later, after midnight, bloody faced and bruised she was dropped back into the station.
‘She didn’t cooperate sir.’ Afshin told the greasy-shirted bearded man. ‘This is the place you will spend the night.’ He addressed the girl.
The bearded man smiled, looked her up and down, and dismissed Afshin and Reza.