Her heart thumped with every minute that passed. She knew that soon enough, her phone would ring, she knew that he would take his eyes off the T.V., off the cartoon network that he had been watching and that he would affix his childish gaze and innocence at her, that stare, the one that makes her melt every time, that makes her feel guilty. She also knew that he would understand what she meant when she said ‘where?’ to the person on the other side of the phone line. And that he would look disappointed when she gets dressed and leaves him alone in the house.
At ten P.M., inevitably, her cell phone rang, to avoid his stare; she took the phone to the kitchen to answer it, his gaze had a unique way of conveying sadness, madness, disappointment, hatred and love all at the same time. ‘Where?’ she said after she had pinched a button and the phone’s rather large screen was caressing her left ear-lobe. ‘Alright,’ she said after a pause, ‘give me an hour.’ And then she cut the call and turned to leave the kitchen but there he was by the door.
‘Are you going out again this night?’ He asked with that unique look on his face.
‘Yes, dear, you know there’s no money in the house and I need to buy some foodstuff.’ She said, ‘but I will be back very soon. I promise.’ She smiled, he frowned, his little red lips made a ‘u’ shape. She went towards him and got on her knees and hugged him then ruffled his hair – her precious nine year old. ‘It’s okay, I will be back very soon.’ She said again. ‘Just make sure you don’t wait up for me, okay?’
‘Yes,’ he said, but it was the type of ‘yes’ that one would say in capitulation. A – Whatever, do as you wish – type of yes.
At eleven, she had gotten dressed; she dressed the same way she always did when she was going out at night time – skimpy: a short, tight skirt and a purple shirt, with a large, round neckline, so that her bosom was revealed. Then she wore a long black jacket that covered her skimpiness. She walked to the living room where he was sitting on the couch, still watching cartoons. ‘Immediately I leave, you should lock the door, and go to bed, okay?’
‘See you later, I love you!’ She said and then walked out, shutting the door behind her.
He had a faint idea of what kind of work she did, but he did not want to be sure, how could one want to be sure that one’s own mother is a prostitute? But still, he switched off the television, opened the door, and followed her, maintaining a reasonable distance behind her, so that she would not see him if she suddenly turned around, but he would see her.
It was a long walk for him, not for her – she had gotten used to walking, she could walk anywhere. She was very fast, almost too fast for him, as if she got more strength with every stride she took.
Thirty minutes of walking passed and he was about to quit and go back home when he saw her enter into a big hotel, he was relieved and went into the hotel as well, he just caught sight of the room where she had entered, and started towards it, he was about to knock at the brown, wooden hotel-room door, and then he decided against it. He was going to let her finish her ‘work’. So, he sat by the wall, next to the brown, wooden door and waited for her to come outside, after all, she had said that she will be back very soon. He waited. He fell into bouts of sleep, none of them lasting past five minutes, none of them deep enough for him not to notice if someone passed.
Four hours later, she came out of the room; he had sat so close to the wall by the left of the door that she did not notice him, she just began to walk away, outside. She had only worn the tight black skirt and the purple shirt, she had forgotten her coat.
‘Mum, your coat, you were wearing your coat, now you are not.’ She heard him say. She knew the voice all too well, she couldn’t mistake it. She broke into tears as she turned to him, beady salty water were streaming down her eyes. She went towards him, knelt down and hugged him tight and cried some more. This is it, she thought to herself, never again. She would find another way to provide for them.