I will never visit Heal the Man Church.
“Why not?” They ask.
Why not when the whole neighbourhood’s up and running, arising and shining, singing, Thou Art Holy Lord, as they proceed to Heal the Man Church where the choir belts out, Onward Christian Soldiers and miracles happen?
“Peace be with you, ” I say and wave goodbye at them.
I watch them go – the whole of Montague Street. All in search of riches, good husbands, miracle marriages and for the barren, children. I’m tempted to scream and climb on top of Mt Kilimanjaro and speak out. But I keep the confidentiality code. Not a word will slip out of my revlon plastered lips. Will bite my tongue and forever hold my peace.
Heal the Man Church is the latest church in town and so is their man of God. For months, the man of God there has been the talk of the town. Faster than Bolt they run to him for miracle money; a huge crowd puller. Word says they trade their dollars for holy Indian Ocean water and oils, healing sand from the Mt of Olives, anointed handkerchiefs and stones. Salvation carrying a huge price tag. If only they knew!
“What do you do for a living Letwin? You dress so well and should be singing- PRAISE GOD AMEN- with us.”
Their attempts to lure me to their church to get some blessing will not work.
As for my profession, I have so much to say.
“I’m an angel on earth sent for peace, laughter and love and I don’t need your man of God’s blessing,” I reply and shut my mouth.
However, if the man upstairs; my creator, asked what exactly I do for a living here’s what I would say.
Pleasure is not only my game. I handle passion with subtlety, lust with caution. I’m at work twenty-four hours a day using my brain to think up ways to act, to overcome, suppress urges and take charge. In my endeavours, I have stopped wars and ended deaths by suicide. I am a remedy for insecurity and to some, an escape from reality. I serve all – black, white, big, small, tall and short. I endure intense pressure and still dish out joy. All this, at a reasonable fee. I sooth, bring sanity and a fresh perspective to some. To top it, I am loyal and blessed with desirable looks and a calm composure. I’m too blessed!
I’m on a higher calling, a messenger sent on earth with a mission to heal broken hearts, low self-esteems, lust, addictions and confusion. My achievements are many, my curriculum vitae stands out.
When I was eight, I always said I wanted to be an entertainer. Dreams do come true! I am an entertainer although I’m one, not in a Michael Jackson kind of way. Unlike the King of Pop, I don’t stand on huge platforms singing and wriggling my crouch and neither do I have crowds screaming and craving for a piece of me . In fact, I’m an enigma and mystery; one they love to hate the moment I open up about my profession. Which is why I keep the confidentiality code.
My place of work?
Sugar Lollipop Lounge aka Mamxoli’s, corner 7 th Avenue and 5 th Street. The place has no sign post, has a big durawall and hedge.
I love Mamxoli’s. She’s a liberal boss. Since the exact day I began work with her, she’s been nothing but fair. She took me from Kezi when jobs were scarce. She said I had potential and she would do a good job with me. I started off not even as a casual. I served the drinks for one good year. Mamxoli fed and dressed me. My hair got permed by the time my skin had peeled off the harsh rural layers and become lighter with the help of Mamxoli’s oils, most of the customers knew me and yearned for my services. Two years after my arrival, I was ripe for the job and, boy, did she up my price!
Since then, she has made a killing from me! I am a worthy investment, she says and this is why she now lets me do modelling classes at Fingers Academy. I’m her crème de tat and will remain so for the next years .
When my time’s up she’ll take another trip to the rural areas to search for girls looking for work in Harare. There, she’ll advertise her work: Exotic environment, good pay, grooming, uniforms, food and residence provided. Overnight allowance, bonuses and transport.
I remember the day Mamxoli met my Mother. Mama was a bit sceptical about this job made in heaven and only released me after assurances that I would go to school and take up teaching afterwards. The fat down payment silenced Mama. That year, supermarkets became bare from one shelf to the next. Those dollars were a lifeline. One eye at the cash, my mother thought of a new life of bread and tea everyday. She had brought me up well and the last thing she wanted was to have me cross the border to Johannesburg to scrounge for a bar of soap and a ten kilogramme bag of mealie meal. Mamxoli came at the opportune time. After receiving the suitcase full of cash, Mama let me off the hook and watched me walk away in my bare feet which revealed cracks wide enough for a fifty cent coin to fit in.
“I will look after her like my own. She is a beauty,” Mamxoli promised Mama.
Mamxoli kept her word because she did take care of me and still does. My beauty was confirmed the moment I hit town. In a matter of weeks, my cracked hungry lips and feet torn apart by the angry rural sun had evolved. I had blossomed into a fine rose. I wrote back home and sent another bag full of dollars-my first pay check.
City life was doing me good. My skin, now the colour of Fanta had turned into a flawless shade, free from acne, blackheads and the punishing rural heat.
“Dynamites come in small packages!” the clients said about me.
“Give us that new gem Lista S!”
Mamxoli blatantly refused with me.
“She’s not ready yet.”
Mamxoli described me like I was a delicious meal. A pot of chicken casserole. To her I was still cooking and sending out hypnotising aromas to would be suitors who waited impatiently to devour a piece of me. Wow! That thought gave me guts! Like a peacock, I paraded the creation now christened Lista S. I teased the clients’ taste buds and watered their mouths. Outside Sugar Lollipop, these people were Harare’s powerful and influential. At Mamxoli’s the opposite became true because their power and influence became mine, thanks to my charm.
”You have too much potential and I can’t let it go to waste Lista,” Mamxoli said.
She ensured that I eat a proper breakfast, lunch and supper, so I could put on a bit of meat.
“So they won’t think that you are ill,” she said.
Well, I will never look sickly the more time I spend at Mamxoli’s. Each day is unique.
Mondays are slow. We get one or two walk ins. Some of these Monday morning clients chat about their lousy weekends. The fight they had with so and so etc etc etc. Monday is a few days before Wednesday, Friday all night parties and rituals and just after the complexities of Sunday Mass; perfect for relaxation.
“Sharks want their business well done,” Mamxoli warns us all the time.
Once word goes round that she’s faltering, that’s the end of Sugar Lollipop. Well, it won’t necessarily be the end of us because there’s work elsewhere. But if Sugar Lollipop fails we’ll all find ourselves downgrading and working elsewhere. No crispy white linen from London and America. No gourmet meals and luxury because elsewhere, it’s a dog eat dog kind of life.
The Sugar Lollipop has done me good. Quality is what this joint produces. It’s a life of enviable wages and that’s why even graduates do casual work for us. There’s not much food at varsity, they say .With student grants scrapped, we get a lot of temps. Once, we even had a Psychology lecturer begging for work. She waited outside the gate tears pouring down her face, pleading,“Hire me please! I need to pay university fees for my son.”
Mamxoli is a good business woman. She has strategically placed her services right in town; in Third Street, a few roads from Parliament. Customers drop off from motorcades. We too can catch the bus or taxi home late in the night in Fourth Street. Exciting work. Good boss and numerous packs. This is indeed my dream job yet like any occupation there are rules to be strictly adhered to.
“A woman’s heart is like a well with deep secrets inside,” Mamxoli taught me.
We don’t talk about our work to anyone. We never let any of our clients know our real names. Everything strictly private and confidential.
At work I remain Lista S.
At home, I’m Letwin Gutsi.
At Sugar Lollipop, I’m the product of various concortions. I’m like a GMO apple. I’m ylang ylang , avocado wax and all things nice. I have worn Beautiful, Poison and Opium. The attire is there as well, all the way from London or New York where Mamxoli goes to get her stuff. She’s been to China as well, for anti-ageing stuff and aromatic herbs which are dipped in stimulating clay before I immerse myself in each hot bath and scrub until Lista S the angel is rejuvenated.
I wrote my GCE O levels, passed and went for deportment classes. I could have left Mamxoli’s but by the time I was through with high school I had been hooked onto instant lashes, crimson red lips, beautiful scents from France, Gucci bags and the pleasures of life that Sugar Lollipop had. I needed no convincing. I wanted to be one of Mamxoli’s girls. To wear more makeup, enjoy the good life in return for more pay and not what I earned as a waitress. Overnight, a simple rural girl called Letwin had become elegant Ms Lista S who rubbed shoulders with top society. This was a life beyond my dreams, yet a life I could not fully describe to my mother in the letters I sent home together with the cartons of food and drink.
Every job has its ups and downs and defining moments. I have had many!
A year ago I met G right in the middle of a secret mental breakdown that almost turned his world upside down. He moved around smiling and giving hope to the hopeless while inside his tormented soul suffered, he said.
G could not divulge his profession.
“Like you can’t tell me your real name. If you say you are an angel then I am an angel too and we are giving each other lots of Angel Love,” he whispered to me.
I have had encounters with many like him – politicians, footballers, business people and tourists trying to find some way to nowhere-all of them the same-empty inside. I have travelled to world class football matches in South Africa, Europe and Dubai. While dining at five star hotels I have mixed and mingled with the upper crust of society. All, fine outside yet dying in one way or the other.
G is my favourite client. Comes every Monday morning. Pays double and showers me with gifts, all neatly wrapped. Most times he sits and smiles at me. Ha! The guy parts with a fifty dollar bill so he chats about the weather and what he thinks about life, people and sometimes me! Once he paid two hundred dollars to spend three hours with me discussing the war in Ukraine. He talks about everything except religion.
“Are you an atheist?” I once asked him.
” Religion is dangerous Lista. Let”s talk about the sun, moon, and stars and leave religion out,” he said seriously.
I backed off.
Now and then G mentions Mrs G and his children and what they did on this day and that day etc etc etc. I remain numb. I’ m not supposed to believe what my clients say.
Instructions state: Listen, speak less and leave whatever opinions you have in your heart.
Unlike G I don’t think religion is dangerous. Religion is very interesting. Too interesting in fact!
So why won’t I visit Heal the Man church?
I am blessed and have an inspiring rags to riches story and lovely clients who pay twice the fee to relax and chat with me. Shouldn’t I be down on my knees thanking my maker?
Well, last month while walking past Heal the Man Church, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” someone shouted.
I turned and came face to face with Shock and his twin Whatthehellisgoingon. One of my clients stood before a crowd wishing them blessings as they handed him nicely wrapped gifts!
The moment my client’s eyes met mine his face turned dangerously serious. Beside him stood his Mrs and three happy looking kids.
While I tried to figure out what the hell was going on, a woman dressed in Heal the Man regalia shouted, “We love you Pastor Gerald!”
The rest of the crowd hollered, WE LOVE YOU PASTOR GERALD.
The said Pastor Gerald immediately moved towards the church door, his eyes avoiding mine, the Mrs and kids following behind.
WE LOVE YOU PASTOR GERALD.
MAY THE GOOD LORD BE WITH YOU.
The crowd sang and danced as they entered the church building leaving me standing there, my jaws apart, my mind full of questions.
Maybe, just maybe, I should join the crowd and spend a few minutes seeing my client doing his trade?
Why not do it?
What if I go up and shake Pastor Gerald’s hand and say hi?
I had too many questions yet in the name of angel love, I walked away.
My heart pounded like a tennis ball and somewhere inside me a voice said, ” GO. GO. GO. Let Pastor Gerald be Pastor Gerald and you be you!”
Thabi Moeketsi resides in Zimbabwe and is working on longer fiction pieces.