Grey haired Sexpats sit around tiny tables, nursing small beers and big appetites. Old men who want young women, young men who want all women. Their eyes jump from woman to woman. Warm chocolate skin, glowing smiles, winking eyes, short skirts and tight shirts. They play pool and sit around tables, scanning the men, looking for eye contact, seeking a few more dollars for the night.
Her pleather purse painted with Louis Vuitton symbols holds a packs of cigarettes, the papers torn and tobacco leaking out, stuffed inside, buried deep in the thick, are small flakes of Methamphetamine. She pulls out an ice cigarettes. A spark, a flame, the tobacco lights, the meth burns. Her batteries recharge, and her pains subsides as rich endorphins flood her dry nerves and drench her poor brain.
She stands up, a slight stagger but no one notices. She walks ahead, her magenta high heels snapping and clicking as they make contact with the cement floor. Snap Click. Snap, Click.
She passes full tables of men with whores, she’s fucked them all, she passes empty tables, seats she has sit in for years, seats she has been picked up in and picked up from. She passes everyone, her stride carrying her down Street 51.
The tuktuk and motorcycle drivers pay her no attention. No cat calls, no offers for overpriced rides. They know her. She has no man. She’s no customer.
She passes Phnom Penh’s only clubs, its raunchiest bars and dozens of other women, men and ladyboys looking for tonight’s paycheck. $5 or $10 a fuck, $15 or $20 if they are lucky, $25 or $30 if the men are stupid. She cuts down a side street, noodle stalls light the way, and children play leapfrog in the light. A hard right, through narrow corridors up semen stained stairs, she unlocks her door and sits on her single bed. It smells like him.
A Spark, a flame, the tobacco glows in the windowless room. She inhales deep, the ice soothing her brain. She feels another kick. It’s a boy, she knows, a French boy. She lies down, and cries, she will never see his father again.
Life on Street 51 is sad, but it’s a way of life. Women sell themselves cheap, sometimes as little as 2$ per time. Any drug is easy to find and meth cigarettes are popular among the working girls, it makes their life more bearable. The women are sweet but hard lives and little education has had a disastrous effect.
Many do not really understand the benefits of condoms and birth control. Because of this, countless end up with illegitimate children with fathers from developed countries like England, USA, Germany and France who don’t care or sometimes don’t know about them. In a developed countries, if a man goes to a foreign country and gets a girl pregnant he is still legally responsible for that child. If the father refuses to take care of the child the courts can order him to pay monthly child support. Unfortunately there is no system to help these women find the deadbeat dads, so many fatherless children suffer terrible fates.
Moreover according to the UN, AIDS and other STI’s are rampant among Cambodian prostitutes. No one provides information to these women on safe sex practices, on medications to treat and prevent STIs, on drugs and their effects, on pregnancy, and how to stay healthy given the very poor diet of most low wage earners in Cambodia.
Life on Street 51 is sad, but it’s a way of life.