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Whore

That night, a strange and beautiful moonlight looked through my window. The emptiness of my bed made me restless, and I was compelled to walk.

I zipped a jacket over my T shirt, put jogging shoes on and ran the streets. A cool wind whispered through the trees, and flocks of passing clouds played hide and seek with the moon. I had no idea where I was going but moved with the urge that drove me to some location cloaked in mystery. I passed closed cafes and shops, let my imagination roam with the winds and felt a deep thirst. My mind conjured places to go, visited imaginary people I had hoped to speak with.

After wandering, I saw an open cafe and knew I had arrived at my destination. Everything felt right. I walked in and asked for coffee to quench the dryness.

The old man at the bar answered in a voice that spoke of stronger stuff. “We have no coffee at this hour.”

“Then I’ll have wine,” I responded.

I took my glass and walked to the last table of the dimly lit cafe. The darkness of the night had followed me, but the moon looked through the window above my table, and the blue light by my chair licked the red wine and laced shadows on the wrinkled table cloth.

At three in the morning, I looked out at a dream land. The narrow avenue felt as empty as it looked, yet I imagined drunkards on the sidewalks. I smiled. Since when had I cared about labels others had assigned?

Almost in answer to the imaginary people, I heard footsteps and brought my eyes back inside the cafe where a woman stood before me, her face tired, but she tried to paint a smile on her lips.

“May I sit here?”

“Of course,” I answer, half wondering at her question.

“Are you sure?”

“I am very sure.”

“I am a whore!” she said, stressing the last word.
And a silence followed.

I looked at her. “Whatever you may be, you are welcome to sit and drink with me.”

“Merci, Monsieur.”

I ordered her a glass of wine. She sat on the other side of the table, staring at me. “I’m a whore, but I haven’t had a customer for the last week. Perhaps it is part of the curse I’m under.”

I studied her.

“No, of course I wouldn’t ask you, but I feel the need to talk. This night, this 23rd of March haunts me.” She stopped abruptly and looked above the table as if the answer to some personal riddle floated in the air.

“What is there about this night?” I had to ask.

“My eight-year-old son died three years ago today. He went to Normandy beach for a swim with his friends and never came back. That started it. A month later my husband left with another woman. I had no income, so I left my home and came to Paris. Then I resorted to the only asset I had to earn money.”

She grew silent as I tried to digest her words, words that had been a form of therapy, a thinking out loud we do upon occasions. I just happened to be near.

The woman looked at me. “You know, Monsieur, I should have gone with Eddie to Normandy. If I had, he’d still be alive. He asked me to go with him again and again, but I refused. My husband was seen on the beach with the woman he met the day Eddie died. Do you think my husband may have drowned our son?”

“Why would he do that?” I asked.

“You aren’t married.” she retorted.”

“Not yet.”

She continued. “Eddie was the last link between me and my husband. And I’m sure Eddie saw him with the woman on the beach. It makes me wonder…. I may be wrong. I hope I’m wrong!”

She paused as a car passed by the window followed by an ambulance.

I rubbed my chin. “Where do you stay?”

“In a shabby little hotel, but I haven’t had rent money for a week, so I must leave tonight.”

“Where will you go?” I asked.

She laughed as moonlight played on her face. Her youth had slipped away, but she was endowed with the beauty of a mature woman.

Something in her laughter cried of pain engraved in her by cheap beds, unknown male bodies and a poverty that forced her down the road to make her what she was. She had nothing else to give now, only her flesh.

She met my gaze and stopped laughing. “A whore has no address, Monsieur!”

She stood and nodded. “Thanks for the wine.”

I got up and kissed her full on the lips. She responded with a blank stare as the silence of the night began to slip towards dawn.

“I could at least pay for your hotel,” I said.

The woman squeezed my hand. “No, Monsieur, no! I just needed your company tonight. The 23rd is over!”

Without looking, she pushed the cafe door open and walked into the thinning darkness.

“Whore!” The barman spat with an air of disgust.

I paid the bill and returned to my hotel at first light.

I never saw the woman again though I walked by the cafe after hours in search of her. The barman never saw her either, but he offered to give me the address of a good brothel if I needed it.

A year later, I walked the streets near the Louvre and was haunted by a painting of a familiar face among one of the artist’s canvases. It brought back memories of an evening spent drinking and listening to a woman who called herself a whore.

“Who is that woman?” I asked the artist, pointing at the canvas. “Where did you meet her?”

“I saw her as she was being thrown out of a hotel,” he said. “I loved her face, asked if I could paint her naked, and she agreed. She seemed distraught, needed money. Later I found out she was a whore.”

“When did you paint her?”

“Last year around April. With the money I paid her, she squared her debt to the hotel and went to Normandy. Only Jesus knows why!”

I thanked the artist, bought the canvas and caught a train to Normandy the next morning.

Within an hour of searching the beach, a boatman gripped the canvas and shook his head. “I knew this woman well,” he said. “She gave me three nights of amazing sex, and then one evening she swam out into the sea and drowned.”

I looked hard at the boatman.

“That’s how many of them end their lives.”

“Many of them?” I repeated and looked down at the sand as rain began to pelt me.

“Well after all, she was just a whore.”

I walked the beach back to my room. The afternoon shower washed tears from my face and wet my clothes. She spoke to me again from the rain and sand and sea.

  • Subhadip Majumdar a writer poet from India. He is certified in Creative Writing from the University of Iowa. He also edited for a long time a reputed Bengali poetry journal. Wrote a short novel as Tumbleweed writer in Shakespeare and Company, Paris. Two poetry books published and one novel in process of publication.




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Published inCompelling

4 Comments

  1. Russell MacClaren Russell MacClaren

    Heartbreaking commentary on how people get lost in a stereotype and are divested of their humanity.

  2. lovestoreadblogs lovestoreadblogs

    I agree with Russell’s comment above. I think the title of the story emphasizes the stereotype, but as we get to know the character of the woman in the story, we want to get to know her beyond the word she and others use to describe her. I could share the narrator’s interest in wanting to know more about this mysterious woman; if we think about it, there are a lot of people on the margins of our lives that we never really get to know. A sad story for sure.

  3. Ben Ben

    Often times, we assign titles and degrading tags to people, judging only by their appearance and the things they do. It’s goes far beyond that. We as humans act and behave according to the way our minds are structured. The Lady in this story was only a product of circumstance, no one had any right to judge her. Judging​ should be left for the almighty. This is a really great story, gives you so much to think about.

  4. Raj Raj

    The writer has penned down so well about a girl..A girl is beyond any explanation…She cannot be defined by a collection of words…A woman is completely complicated because she is so true to herself & to her soul…It takes a lifetime to understand a woman who is complicated yet simple & writer explains this very well…Excellent

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