tagRomanceThe Call Girl and the Businessman Ch. 00-01

The Call Girl and the Businessman Ch. 00-01


To the scent; of within and beyond; the musky saturation before me

Prologue -- The Scent Before Rain

There were signs everywhere I went that it would rain that night. I saw that the skies were saturated with clouds. The clouds were not as dark as the pitch-black skies. I could make out the clouds by their greyish billowing outlines in the foreground. There was a sharp scent of earth and wind in the atmosphere. It was only a matter of time when rain would sweep through the landscape. I inhaled as deep as I could this scent.

The scent before rain is here; characterized as if it were a living being. This felt like a musky saturation inherent in the landscape- this overwhelming wave of damp soil and the fullness of the wind.

The strong wind filled my lungs too quickly. It felt raw, almost reawakening me inside; its scent lingered on a long time after I ceased to be aware of my own breathing.

For as long a time as I could remember, the smell of the outdoors before rain is the one scent which pulls me towards sanctuary. Every time I inhale this scent, my more volatile emotions are assuaged. This scent appears to be the trigger to my heightened consciousness. It is hardly wisdom which awakened for there is so much beyond my comprehension. I felt inside of me something larger than life but intimately connected to every fibre of my being. It is a small flame burning; rising a little higher each time. Its embers warm my heart; and keep me cocooned inside. There was never a need to seek protection from the world which I see.

How can I describe its effect on me? It is a frenzied passion, yes; it is also love, it is also despair. It is strength and the absence of it. I feel so much but I can explain very little of how I feel. It is one eternal flame with many matches. I can only therefore experience this sensation when it is taken as the whole as it is, and when I do, it becomes a saturation of all imaginable sensations and its direct counterpart passing through me.

The scent I liked best was this musky saturation permeated the whole landscape wherever I was. It reminded me of home, of a place far away, and which no longer existed due to its demolition for development. Sometimes I feel like this scent envelops me in its entirety. I feel waves of comfort. It was as though I was wrapped in an invisible blanket. To some extent I can predict the magnitude of rainfall based on how strong the musky saturation was.

When it rains, I smell the rain too. It is a rather pleasant smell. Yet the musky saturation is the one scent which appeals to me the most. This scent has been the same everywhere I went. It mattered not if I were on the other side of the world or right here in this trendy suburb of the city.

This is a secret I have kept to myself. Not that there is much to keep. It would not have made people gasp or give me five minutes of fame. I have found though that people ostracize when I tell them I can distinguish different environments by virtue of scent. Where I have been all over the world, I remember by its scent. That is the only thing in my life which I can hold on to. Scents are real.

People ask me about places and people yet my recollections are hazy about it. The environment of my childhood had been of abuse and poverty. My mother would make up fantasy stories to smooth over the harsh facts. Because I was imaginative, I had the tendency to bring to life places and characters from the stories she told me. Even as an adult, I cannot trust myself to say what was real or otherwise without doubting the truth of my recollection.

Even so, some things are so real because I carried the physical scars with me. I had a fair share of drunkard clients. They did not realise the force of their strength. These incidents left such an impact that no matter how many fantasies overlapped with it, the scars lodged themselves deeper in my heart each time I made up a story. I felt the urge to because I could not help it. I needed a form of escape for the sake of my sanity. I lived the day in daydreams and the night in fitful sleep. I did not have nightmares anymore but restful sleep had always evaded me since I was ten. It was as though I knew that I would always remember and that however well-intentioned my mother was, she brushed away the truth. She never acknowledged anything bad. I understood later as an adult, that it was a defence mechanism to hide from her own pain.

I did love my mother dearly. So I told her that I did not remember as much about our past anymore. In my teenage years, I heard no evil nor saw any evil then. I was selective in my senses except that of scent. I tried to drown out all the others. I learnt to just make up places and characters as I go. No one really cared to enquire further as long as a standard answer is given to their questions; an answer which would not raise eyebrows.

At ten, I started to learn how to read and write through raids by education officers in our slum. At fifteen, I had acquired the minimal writing skills in order to maintain a notebook of standard answers. This practice I have maintained till today. Today, my goal; or rather penchant (sometimes I do view it as a hobby) was to standardize all answers to questions. I have pocket-sized notebooks where I write down all potential questions which people could ask and all potential answers corresponding to those questions. The subject matters were wide and varied. I was satisfied with the accumulation of notebooks over the years.

I did not remember much of what I did see or what people said to me. Consciously I had these sights and sounds muted; from the eyes which saw a great more than I had wished to; and the ears which had listened to more unpleasant words which I could not filter out because they just came barging in. I was always unprepared, and now I thank a higher power in the Universe that I can try to come prepared now whatever happens.

Yes, that was it -- the barging in; the pushing my boundaries further and further until I started to adapt in my own way. The bleak environment and the people it brought forth caused me to close my eyes whenever I could. When I was put to task, I just concentrated my gaze to a singular spot. Not that those men ever cared where I really looked.

Even if I did look at my surroundings, my mind was far away. I was an automaton bidding its time to sanctuary. I was observing as an air spirit. It did not hurt me if I took some distance from it, just enough to avoid the brunt of it but near enough to react to the situation. My sight was sharp but I could be selective. I could look past adversity and pain without batting an eyelid. To those voices which condemned me, I took every syllable in as gibberish. I remained and carried on plodding through until I became numb of feeling. And it felt empty. The pain was gone.

The only solace I had then were scents propped with imagination. I could retreat to it anytime I wanted. This way of mastery has helped me and seen me pull through those years. Scents, unlike sight and sound, in some strange uncanny way, could never betray you. There was no need to retreat into my mind because no one bothers enough about scents to make a fuss about them. It does not matter if you are in nature or just on the streets. The scents fill my nostrils and lungs; reassuring me that this is the one of the few constants in the world. The scent of a busy street is almost always the same. I could smell the tar on the road, the exhaust fumes from cars and the sweat of people walking on the pedestrian lanes on a hot summer's day.

When it came to sounds, I liked only sounds ordained by nature. The sound of thunder did not put me off. As a child, I claimed the sounds of nature as mine. The thunder warded off attacks on me and kept me safe whenever it could. The sound of rain soothed me to sleep. The sound of the sea; sometimes its waves peaking in low shudders calmed me down. Where the wind howled and the seas churned, I felt that nature was passionately acknowledging my turbulent life and my pain was finally heard.

I found too that the sounds made by inanimate objects had a certain quality to it. For starters, it did not judge, unlike people. Secondly, inanimate objects did not respond back. To qualm the recklessness powering over me, I took it out on the piano. I played fitfully and with the quality of a spirit possessed. Unexpressed murkiness of desire; the uncertainty that which I felt within my beating heart; I poured out to the piano keys. I have missed its sounds ever since I moved to this suburb. I should get a piano real soon.

My early existence; I regarded wryly, was a play of circumstance; mostly unfavourable ones. I did not have a choice in what I did but I would not bend to my circumstances. I wanted much more from life. I felt; at all times, that there was something lurking around the corner. I did not know what more there was, because I did not believe in miracles or in humanity. When I cried, I was all alone. I had also seen people take advantage of others just because it gave them a sense of superiority. Therefore I had a great distrust towards people, men in particular.

I judged based on my experiences. I felt some passion within me. There was this raw energy brewing in me that I was alive and well. So I must live as well as I could.

I did do so too, in the best way I could to cater for all my emotions and listening to my heart's call. I let my heart lead the way when it did not concern people, and I let my mind lead when people came into the equation. Except the only person dear to me in the world -- my mother.

I have gone a long way since then, and today I make my own choices about what I wanted in life; even if it meant a regression into the past. Only that this time it would be on my terms. I could reject anyone I wanted. I could stop anytime I wanted. Then I neither had a choice nor was I aware of it.

Nowadays, the field of psychology would categorize me as a "highly sensitive person". Should they take a step further, I would be classified a "neurotic". When I was growing up in poverty, mentioning my observations in scents had been regarded strange and I was told by my mother to keep them to myself. The only secrets I had were shared with my mother.

If I did not wish to be known as the odd one out, I should just be like everyone or pretend to be. Close my eyes, do not hear what people said. So an inquisitive child in me could only smell and I could do that in its entirety, but it must be hidden away.

Oh, I need not turn back time to go back to the musky saturation of rain. It was, and is, always here; if not now, then sooner or later, it would rain. The one constant in my life; the most reassuring one. How I love the scent before rain; my musky saturation!

Chapter One -- The First Time I Saw Your Face

Back to my current day thoughts, I now wondered when the rain would fall, for I had not an umbrella with me. I would have loved to see rainfall. The one simple joy which made me smile. Getting wet was far from my concern; for I used to play in the rain. Rainy days meant that I did not have to go to the city to solicit as client turnout would be low. My mother and I met our clients in bars and on the streets. I disliked the touch of men, and the occasional woman but I had managed them all.

I sniffed about in the coldness which enveloped me. When was it going to rain? My internal forecast was generally spot-on. I doubted that I would still look good if the rain drenched my makeup and hair. I was blessed with huge black eyes, sun-kissed cheeks and locks of wavy curls which framed my heart-shaped face. I was considered exotic in this part of the world. It was, and still is a conception which defies logic where darker skin colour was considered ugly where I was born; and here I am, with the exact hue, being labelled exotic. I am viewed as having the perfect tan in this part of the world. Thank God that I did not bleach my skin like many of my counterparts did back then.

Thinking back it was this sun-kissed colour which attracted foreign clients. I initially favoured locals as we spoke the same language. With foreigners, language was always a barrier. It was difficult to understand what they wanted from me. Other than Thai, I spoke a little English which I picked up along the way. It was due to this foreign clientele which enabled me to earn substantially and to improve my language skills. I was no great conversationalist but I managed to communicate adequately to fulfil the needs of clients.

I had an hourglass figure which I flaunted by wearing little black dresses which tugged snugly at the contours of my body. I was not exactly pencil thin nor was I voluptuous, but I was endowed enough to have the elegant arms and legs of a ballerina. My stomach was not completely flat either like bikini models but if I were to hold my breath, it would look completely toned and flat.

My skin was prone to blemishes. It was not smooth like those cover girl advertisements. Thus I had to apply heavy foundation to cover my blemishes. Because I did not sleep well at night, I had dark circles under my eyes which gave away my youth, or lack of it. I did not think that I looked my age. Penelope, my manager and also the agency's wonder woman founder, had told me that I looked ten years younger. She was not one to mince her words. It did not stop my insecurity though. As I was thirty years old, at the back of my mind, I hear the clock ticking to an end of my call girl era. Youth and beauty were not going to live indefinitely. However I did like to view myself as one of elegance and experience. Some clients did prefer older women.

But my worst physical imperfections were the scars on my back. They still looked the same it did right from the moment I got them no matter how much olive oil I applied on my back every night. It was a cliché to say that I slept alone because I was all oiled up, if I were to make jokes of it. I changed my bedsheets every two days. It was a blessing that the act of intercourse happened mostly in dim, subdued lighting. If the client were to let me lead, I would be facing him and not the other way round. In the heat of the moment, my disfigured back was barely mentioned.

Bearing in mind that I did not wish to get caught in the rain, I hastened my pace to the lively part of the boulevard. I was to meet a client for the night called Mr Boardmann at a restaurant of his choosing. Penelope told me that it was a stone's throw away from his penthouse suite.

The row of buildings at the boulevard emitted colours of an array of orange hues at night. Lights from posh restaurants dimmed at timed intervals in the middle of the stylish tables, giving diners an enhanced glow on their features. When I peered in from the windowsills outside, all I could think of was the painting of Van Gogh's Potato Eaters. I saw a similarity between the present day style of dining and that of peasants back in 1885. Like moths attracted to a light source, the diners had congregated around the table like it was their lifeline. I sought to mock the diners and the Mr. Boardmann whom I did not know.

Dimmed lights were the colour of earthly hues and its diners were having potatoes from those hands which had not seen a day's hard labour. That was the difference with the painting. White-collared people talked about stock markets and how to capitalize on them. Nothing which was the tangible result of what I could smell, feel and see when I bought a morsel of food to my mouth. I always thought it noble to toil the earth with your bare hands and to reap its rewards. That I did, and was proud of myself until the earth could no longer sustain the crops.

To cope with the failed crops, my mother took to the streets. She was a beautiful woman, had snow-white skin and lovely, plump lips. To the locals, she was considered a prize. However she had no known husband and she had a daughter. It nullified her bankable marriage value.

I preferred eating in brightly lit eateries. My eating preferences were shaped by my childhood. When I was younger, we had no electricity in our hut and we could not see what we were eating. Many a time I had eaten bugs and swallowed drunken ants from my cup. How did I know? Well, certain things you just know by its taste. They were protein, my mother said. Eat them and appreciate that they came to you. Ironically here, in new-age organic shops, bugs were touted as the latest super food at such ridiculous prices.

I was aware of the irony in my thoughts as I walked into the Michelin-starred restaurant. An impeccably dressed waiter led me into one of the quieter, private corners where he was seated. Through the dimmed lights, I saw him for the first time as he rose to greet me. He must have come straight in from work. He wore a collared long-sleeved white shirt combined with formal pants. A black coat was flung carelessly over his seat.

He was of impressive height, towering above me. Having stood side by side, I reached only the level of his shoulders. He was well-built. He was in possession of a firm, chiselled chest and a lean figure.

Dimmed lights were ideal for candlelight dinners; concealing every imaginable bit of facial flaw of the lover, all ready to impress. With him, it was the exact opposite. Dimmed lights accentuated precisely how ill he looked. What had stood out was the tone of his skin, which was pale; his complexion sunken. He brought with him a ghastly air. He had an oval face, a high forehead and well-boned nose. His lips were thin. It did little to cover his perfectly-lined pearly teeth. He bore a contrast of facial misnomers. I wondered whether people were too polite to stare.

He extended a hand towards me. We shook hands for the longest of time until my hands were drenched with cold sweat. I pulled my hands away.

His grasp on mine was somewhat hard yet his eyes- what strange wolfish eyes, seemed to deeply pierce mine. I could not help but shudder when our eyes met. I was spellbound by some unknown force in those deep-set grey eyes, and without realizing it, I had stared at him longer than necessary. I got a hold of myself when he bent a little lower so that he gazed me at my level. He spoke to me his first words.

"Are you alright?" He asked, in a cool, indifferent tone.

"Yes. I am. I just thought..." I said, not knowing how to finish my sentence.

I had spoken my thoughts aloud but they were half-way thoughts, lost in the moment with no coherence.

"You expected someone else?" He asked, in that same, cool indifference of a voice.

I shook my head.

"I'm pleased to finally meet you, Mr Boardmann." I said in my standard formal tone.

"You must be from the agency. You are...?" He said, trying to remember, as if he forgot.

The fact was that he did not know my name. When my agency assigns a girl for the night, they omit to tell the client the name of the escort, just in case there were last minute changes with the availability of the girl. It was a flexible business practice perfected for practical reasons.

"You did not forget. They did not tell you who was coming. By the way, I am Lila. I'll accompany you for the night." I said.

"Lila." He said.

He beckoned me to sit. I sat down opposite him. To avoid his eyes which were undoubtedly affecting my standard professionalism, I averted my gaze to the table some distance away from ours. A young couple, looking amorously at each other, were on to their dessert.

"I trust that you have had your dinner, given how late it is." He said, observing my feigned interest at the amorous couple.

I could still feel his piercing eyes from the corner of my very own.

"Yes, I have had something light to eat. I never eat heavy dinners." I said, trying to break the ice.

"Something light; perhaps dessert, or something to drink?" He asked, when he saw me look at the huge dame blanche portion the couple were devouring with one huge spoon.

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