He first saw her when she finished cleaning the tables at the café. As soon as her shifts would end, he would gather the courage to indicate his interest but remained silent. The pre-meeting jitters were not only on account of all the nervous chatter running through his mind but also an unsettling fear that can engulf even the burliest of souls – the fear of rejection.
His incessant staring caught her eye as well. At first she was apprehensive of such undue attention on a woman who had lost most of her spark of self-confidence; stealthily stolen from her alcoholic father and absent mother. Running away from her maternal home seemed her only recourse.
But her meager occupation restored some of what she lost. She felt at ease knowing that he did not invade her space. The attention, though unwarranted, boosted her fragile ego. Smiles passed on occasion, between the spills of her coffee on the table and the generous glances from the reading of his morning newspaper. All conversations took place within the depths of their own imaginations.
Throughout history, the man has carried the burden of initiating the courtship but she knew such norms would take away the pleasure of even those gentle curvatures of her lips. So she ventured to make the first step. With a quick wave of good-bye to her boss, she made her way out and extended her hand to the handsome stranger waiting near the entrance.
His face was brimming with joy, as if a mother had given permission to her son to play outside.
“Hi, I’m Sophia.”
He held her hand longer than he expected to.
“Your name…it means wisdom, right?”
“Yes, from Greek.”
He paused a few seconds before conjuring his thoughts.
“My god, you’re beautiful. Much like your name.”
Her flushed cheeks compensated for the make-up she could not afford.
It seemed as if a jolt of lightening had struck him to capture the moment before it would be too late.
“Sophia, would you mind if I buy you a cup of coffee?”
“Yes, that would be wonderful.”
In all her shifts of serving coffee to others, no one once bothered to ask if she wanted one. This was only of one of many gestures this man would take to change her life.
The dates became more frequent thereafter.
On a few occasions, Sophia would lean in close to hint for a kiss but it never came. She was surprised that he respected her personal boundary to such an extent for the few men she dated prior would not hesitate to take advantage of her beauty. His patience in being intimate with her further cemented her trust in him.
Marcus took great interest in Sophia’s life and her background. He comforted her during her moments of vulnerability and recollection of the abuses hurled at her from her father in his most inebriated state. He carried the traits that her own father never exuded to her mother. He radiated that warmth which she never experienced with her torn relationships of the past. He even provided the necessary optimism about their future.
“There is nothing for you here, Sophia. If you come with me to the city where I live, we can have a better life for ourselves and our kids.”
“Yes, dear. I want to raise a family with you.”
She hugged him tightly and conveyed her feelings in ample measure.
“Then it’s set. We will leave next weekend.”
In exciting anticipation of their departure, Sophia secretly purchased a dress she could wear at their court wedding and paid off the last bit of rent with the savings she built up from her wages. Marcus helped her pack her suitcase and carefully placed their passports in his trouser pocket.
Once they arrived in their destined city, he checked them into a quaint little hotel.
She leaned in again, hoping that kiss would finally materialize as an affectionate auspice for the life they planned to build together. But this time, Marcus pushed her away.
“Listen, I just need to step outside for a few. I’ll bring us some food.”
She was taken aback by his reluctance to get close but once again, she brushed it off with a smile.
“Ok, I’ll come with you.”
“No, you don’t know this city very well. You’re safer here.”
When he left, she began unpacking her suitcase and carefully hung her pristine dress in the closet. Half hour later, she could hear light whispers outside her hotel room.
“Yeah, this one here is in her 20s. Took me three months to get her. I have another one a little younger in the room two doors down. Pick whichever one you like.”
“What about her documents?”
“I got all of ’em right here.”
“Good. You’ll get your payment tomorrow.”
“Boss, you won’t be disappointed. I promise.”
An older man with a gray suit and a disproportionately large belly opened the door.
His cunning smile was masked by the prominent scarring on his left cheek.
“Who are you?!”
“I’m your new owner, toots. If only you were as smart as your name.”
He gave out a loud chuckle as he revealed a revolver in his right hand.
“C’mon, let’s make this quick.”
He grabbed by her head and coerced her down to his waist. As he unzipped his pants, the last image she caught sight of was her wedding dress in the closet.
Moral: Men like Marcus are revered as “pimps.” That word has emerged with a positive connotation as one who can easily lure women with his irresistible charm; whereas, the victim is abused as the “slut.” Based on my experience visiting an NGO working with trafficked women in Romania, I learned that such pimps tend to look out for women who are emotionally distraught and/or originate from broken households. They make lucrative promises and confiscate all identity papers and passports of the female victims before selling them off in the billion dollar prostitution racket operating across the world, particularly in Asia and eastern Europe. Even in developed nations like the US, you can see hundreds of “Missing Child” posters which is testimony to the severity of this epidemic, not only for young girls but boys as well. The next time you hear someone compliment a man with the term ‘pimp’ or degrade a women with pejorative of “slut/whore/prostitute”, please think of this story and don’t belittle the suffering of those men, women, and children trapped in the ugly world of human trafficking. Always be cognizant of your surroundings and the people you interact with. If something seems suspicious to you, do tip an officer or contact a human trafficking organization (for e.g. Polaris Project in US, Prajwala in India).
Don’t let the music videos fool you. Pimping to force women and children into sexual slavery is not something anyone should aspire to be.
It’s NOT “cool” to use the word pimp. And anyone who thinks otherwise needs to get their brain rid of the negative elements of pop culture brainwashing.
ps. For all those men who can’t help having a sly smile on their face with the mere mention of Bangkok or Amsterdam, please watch this.