I have never spoken with a prostitute, but the idea has always been intriguing to me. In my journalism classes at University, we often discussed the possibility of reporting on this parallel world that is recreated each night in Mexico City.
We never did it.
On the street runs next to my apartment, in front of an old brown building, in a central district of Mexico City, each night at midnight a prostitute appears. She is tall, with long black hair, very short black and sequin dresses and heavy makeup. Her lips are red and her eyeshadow dark. She doesn’t appear to have an expression. I’ve never seen her smile, nor have I seen her scowl. She simply waits for a car to stop.
Some nights when I’m coming home form dinner or a friend’s house, I have to cross the street where she waits. I have inadvertently passed her on the sidewalk, and always instinctively speed up my pace. I’ve never stopped to say “buenas noches” (good evening) or “Que tal?” (how are you doing?). It seems like it would be an uncomfortable situation. How would she respond? Would she be friendly? Rude? Would she ignore me?
I walk quickly and in a few seconds, arrive at my apartment door. My journalism classes come to mind and the thought of telling her story. And if I stop to chat with her, would she reply? Has she been interviewed in the past? Were their questions good enough? Did she give curt answers? Did they fail?
There are delicate questions. Themes that you can’t ask about the first time you interview someone. You have to move with caution, or else lose the subject’s trust – therefore lose everything. But you also can’t lose sight of the fact that you are there as a reporter to write about this professional of the night, about whom you know little. You want to write about their pain, about their worries and about their joys. You want to humanize and give a name to this person you pass each night.
If she were in front of me and gave me an interview, the first question would be: How did you come to this profession? Perhaps it would be a painful story, like those that you read in newspapers about girls from the countryside extorted into prostitution. Or perhaps she would surprise me and tell me how she chose this profession on her own.
Perhaps I would ask if she had family. And if her profession was a secret, or if they know she is a prostitute. What happened when they discovered her profession? Did they run her out of the house? Did they accept it? Or did they lock the doors of her home one evening while she was out?
I would also like to know if she thinks of the future. Or if she only lives in the present. If she has passion for something in life, if she has a favorite food. If she likes dogs or if she prefers cats. If she ever pauses to look up at the sky. What color is it for her? Is her sky always grey, or some times tinted red? Is it ever blue? Is it black?
One more night and I open my apartment door and go into my room. The city is vibrant. The music from a party floats through my window. Again its midnight and the prostitute continues her walk. Without a smile, without a scowl. Simply waiting.
Picture Credit: Aaron Webb https://secure.flickr.com/photos/aaronw79/7861075926/