Yes, I paid for it

I swore I had never done that before, but she looked at me with a reassuring eye. She was pretty. Lips glossed, toothpaste smile and an almost bald head.
She told me her name was Nthabi and that I should relax.

Many other respectable men sought her services, she offered, as though sensing my unease.

Though I did not see anyone else, she told me that her staff members were busy in other rooms with other consumers of the stuff they peddle.

After offering me a glass of water, for that was what I had requested, she took me into a room; showed me a clothes hanger—where I ought to put all my clothes—and pointed to a white gown that I would wear later on.

I nodded shyly as she showed me where I would take a shower once she was through with me.

“I’ll be a minute,” she said flashing that smile again. Without putting it in as many words, she expected to find me undressed after that “minute”.

As I lay on the bed awaiting her return, I wondered if anyone had seen me arrive. Granted the place is in the quieter streets of Rosebank, and I had looked around to ensure that there was no familiar face nearby, but one could never know. The walls and the lamp posts have eyes and ears sometimes.

What if anyone who knows me saw me enter this place? My reputation as a regular, township-raised guy was at stake. One of the requirements of being a township guy is never to have to pay for goods or services that you can procure freely by using your connections or charm.

That is why I rationalised with myself about the correctness of what I was about to do. Like Smuts Ngonyama, I reckoned that I had not struggled to be poor. Doing this could be the crowning glory of personal freedom.

Now as a brown towel lay around the waist of my naked body, and a version I had previously not heard of Ezra Ngcukana’s You Think You Know Me played in the dimly lit room, I swallowed the reality that this encounter was to be paid for.

If it ever got out that I was here, I imagined myself giving a response like: “You know I am a journalist and sometimes we have to research our stories. Don’t you know that telephone journalism is looked on with disdain?”

But who would buy that argument, after all, didn’t Dali Tambo say more or less the same thing when he happened to be at that famous gentlemen’s club, The Ranch, on the night that the cops raided it a couple of years ago? For a journalist, plagiarism—and copying Tambo’s excuse for that matter—would be suicidal.

If my reputation was going to go down the drain, at least I should be able to hold on to a job. Who knows, I could emigrate and pick up the pieces where nobody knew that I had once visited “that place”.

But there I was. I had set up the appointment just before Christmas and confirmed it earlier in the day. I was going to be a man of my word, come what may, in a manner of speaking.

And because of my decision I would have to find a way of defending men who visited such establishments. But would I need to add that I had once (as if they would believe it was only once) visited such a place and I had returned with my morals—good or bad—intact.

I was not intending to run for a popularity contest. So what if it came out later that I had once visited this place? Didn’t the madam at the establishment say that some men came for a quickie at the hands of her capable staff before dashing off to board meetings? If they were board-meeting types, surely they must enjoy some respect in society.

If I my act was shameful, then I was in good company. I was contributing to the economic empowerment of an able black woman.

I understand that scores of men, who would not normally go, visit such establishments a day or the night before their weddings. A friend told me that his wife encouraged him to visit such a place even though, from what my friend says, she is equally capable of performing the same acts on him as the one she urges him to pay for.

All these thoughts were suspended when Nthabi entered the room. We made small talk and before long she was all over me.

Although what she was doing to me had been done before, her expertise was self-evident. She deserved every cent she charged, I said to myself, as she spread my legs with those tender hands. No woman had ever rubbed her hands around my skull and face, thighs and back with the same finesse as Nthabi did. It felt real good.

January 8 2005, I thought to remind myself, was the day I fully entered the realm of the petit-blackeois (the black bourgeois) class. I … I had a … ehhhh, uhmmm, a facial, back-scrub and full body massage at a beauty salon. There, I have said it. Condemn me if you will.

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