Phila walked away, leaving me to enjoy my pity party. No matter how hard I tried to come up with plans and schemes, none of them seemed possible. I was 18 years old, I had no Identity Document, no money, no matric certificate- no home too. I was too old for an orphanage home, and too young for the street life that I was clearly going to lead. I wasn’t even street wise. My mother sheltered me too much, so I had no street game whatsoever.

As I was still stuck, still struggling to work around survival plans, I saw Phila, walking by. “Uhm, hey Phila!” I called out. She turned to look at me. “Hey, going somewhere?” I asked. “Not really, I’m just bored so I’m taking a walk” she said. “Can I join you?” I asked. She nodded. I got out of  bed and wore my sandals. We silently walked out and sat outside in the sun. “Uuh, I’m sorry about what happened earlier” I said. She smiled. “Its okay” she responded. I made small talk, trying to get her to open up and talk freely. I talked about a whole lot of things, from the weather to celebrity news. When the conversation was flowing, I saw it as my opportunity to ask about what she said earlier that day.

“So, you said you were once in my position?!” I asked randomly. She laughed. “No, I didn’t say that. I don’t know what you’re going through, so there is no way I could have said that” she said. I laughed too. “Okay, you said people who refuse to be discharged from hospital or released from prison often have nothing to live for anymore, or something like that” I said. She nodded. “Which is true” she said. “You were once there?” I asked. She nodded, resting her elbows on her knees and supporting her head with her hands. “I was once there too. I was only 12” she said. “What happened?” I asked.

“I need to smoke, wait here” she said as she got up and walked away. I waited for a few minutes, then she came back. She sat down, right next to me and took her cigarette out. “So, where were we?” she asked as she set her cigarette alight. “You were about to tell me what happened to you” I replied. She started smoking. “Oh, yeah. Well, when I was 12 years old, my parents passed away” she said, blowing some smoke out. “What happened to them?” I asked again.

“It was on a Saturday. I will never forget that day. My mother strongly suggested that I visit a friend of mine and sleep over. It was just after my father’s birthday party, so I assumed they needed to spend some quality time together” she narrated, and I nodded. “The following morning, while my friend’s mother was helping us to get ready for church, my friend’s father walked into the bathroom, with a newspaper. My parents’ death made it to the front page” she continued. “Ouch!” I exclaimed. “My parents were both politicians, and you know how the politics game work” she went on, and I nodded again. “After seeing that paper, I asked to be rushed home.  It was written on the paper that they were shot dead in the comfort of their home” she said. “I’m sorry man, I can’t even begin to imagine how that must have felt” I said.

She blew some smoke out again and shrugged her shoulders. “Its life hey, what can I say?!” she pulled a low tone. “How did you survive then?” I asked. “We’ll get to that part later. Its your turn now” she suggested, still puffing her cigarette. “Oh, okay. Well, my step father has always been an abusive man. For as long as I can remember, he has been a monster in our lives. What I didn’t get though was why my mother never left him” I said. She nodded, blowing some smoke out through her nostrils. “So one evening, I got home and realized that he had killed my mother” I said. There was never a time when I talked about my mother’s death and not cry. I was amazed at how Phila narrated her story, with not even a drop of a tear. I could not hold my tears back. Phila continued smoking like nothing was going on. “And then what happened?” she asked. I sniffed, wiping my tears away. “He asked me to clean her blood from the kitchen floor” I bursted out. “That man killed me too that evening. I don’t think I will ever recover from that” I added, with so much difficulty to talk, due to irregular breathing pattern. Phila’s cigarette was finished. She silently threw it away and folded her arms.

“So how did you end up here?” She asked. “I ran away from home, and some moron robbed me off my belongings. I suffered a panic attack, and a lady took me to the clinic” I explained. “So you have nowhere to go?” She asked again. “Yes, that’s why I was asking how you survived” I replied. “Okay” she licked her lips.

“A lady took me in, because nobody wanted to take me in. Everyone was scared that my parents’ killers would come after me as well, so they didn’t want to get involved” she explained.. “Her name is sis’Meissie. She is a shebeen queen, so I helped around the sheeben in my spare time” she added. “That’s great” I said, thinking all went well for her, until she told me how those drunk men sexually molested her and how she slowly became a sex toy to entertain sis’Meissie’s customers.

“At the age of 13, I knew every sex position there ever was. Even married men came to me for pleasure” she said. “What? Why didn’t you report them to sis Meissie?” I asked. “She knew. She was the one who offered her bedroom, so that her customers could be entertained” she replied. I was so sad. How could a woman do that to a little girl?

“So yeah, that’s pretty much how my life is. I still offer my services to her customers” she concluded. “People are cruel out there. What kind of a sick woman would offer a child to old men?” I said, deeply disgusted. “They pay good money” she said. I could not believe my ears. Phila was comfortable with everything. “So you’re enjoying it?” I asked. She shrugged her shoulders. “It doesn’t matter whether I enjoy it or not. I just have to do it” she responded. “I’m sorry Phila” I said. “How are you going to survive out there, when you are finally discharged?” she asked. “I don’t know” I said.

“Its a tough world out there. You have to be strong in order to survive” she said. “Yeah, you’re right” I said. She then offered to ask sis’Meissie to take me in too. “What? For me to be a prostitute? Never!” I said. She laughed. “So you’d rather stay here? Wake up, Little Miss Sunshine. This is not a hotel. These people will kick you out and the streets will chew you up and spit you out like yesterday’s chewing gum” she warned. “So you want me to sell my body?” I asked. “No, don’t get it twisted. This is not about what I want. Its about you and what you need. You need a roof over your head, food in your stomach and protection” she said. I looked down. “Its okay if you don’t want to stay with us. I just hope you realize that your step father is probably out there looking for you because you have information that could get him locked up. I hope you know that a hospital is the first place that he’d visit when looking for you. I hope for your sake he doesn’t find you. I wish you all the best” she said, getting up. “Wait, I’ll come with you” I said. She looked at me. “Are you sure?” she asked. “I have no qualifications, or even a matric certificate, so I might never get a job to make money to go and look for my sister” I explained. She smiled. “Okay then, I will tell sis’Meissie all about you. I’m sure she will be more than happy to allow you into her home” she excitedly said.

I smiled and looked away. Maybe Sibusiso was right, maybe my life was worth nothing else but selling my body for survival.