"As a young man I often traveled forty-eight hours with the bus from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires to see my idol Jorge Luis Borges. The person sitting next to me laid down his complete life confession because he knew that we would never see each other again. Such a mechanism exists with priests, psychoanalysts and prostitutes."
- Paolo Coelho
i have a confession.
as a young man in my college days, i accompanied a cousin who just got back from the US to a brothel in Makati with the simplest reason that he was horny and wanted to get laid. it didn't help that our driver / security translated "can we dance?" to "kantot tayo!" - try saying that in Mars circa 1990s and you'd get slapped, thrown out or suddenly coming face to face with abundantly bouncy chests of the bouncers with matching frowns and arms akimbo.
i had no intention of bedding a prostitute nor am i ready to face ridicule from my cousin if i didn't pick a kissing gourami from the "aquarium". so there i am, barely 19 and sitting beside a lady and unsure exactly what to do.
i can hear the fly buzz around the room. it was that silent. i simply blurted out that i just accompanied my cousin. she sat on the bed, arms wrapped around her knees as she looked at me for a while then she started talking. she talked about her life in the province, she talked about prostitution to earn a living. surprisingly, she said that she enjoyed her job with no guilt in her voice. she wanted to get away from the province, she wanted a ticket out from the daily chores of the house, she hated living with six other siblings, her mother and a father who worked in the fields all day, drank too much tuba (coco wine) and hits them when he's had too much. she doesn't send them money, they don't know where she is, she has her own room in a boarding place, she has a lot of shoes and new clothes, she can enjoy jollibee and watch movies in SM, and she's 16. and i'm 18.
i listened, i smiled a bit and nodded my head a lot.
just before we left the place, the girl ran up to me and gave me a hug. she whispered. "salamat. balik ka ha? kwento lang tayo!" - thank you, you come back okay? let's just talk. my cousin teased me after that i must have done something special. i listened, i smiled a bit and nodded my head once.
i hugged her back, turned around, walked away and never came back.
*Paolo Coelho is a major bookshelf real estate hoarder on my shelf with seven books: Pilgrimage, Alchemist, Fifth Mountain, Valkyries, By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, Maktub, Eleven Minutes. If there's an essential Coelho read then I would recommend Alchemist as it sets the tone and style of this writer that fuses magical realism with a strong historical backdrop or modern day settings.