The business of prostitutes isn’t talking. That is why it is not as easy as you might expect to find one for an interview. Even if I pay for her time, as I sometimes do. Even in Bucharest, where there are lots of strip clubs, ‘massage parlours’ and erotic nightclubs.
Laura is 30, quite voluptuous, and she somehow reminds me of the 1980’s singer Alison Moyet. She works from home, an apartment on the seventh floor of a dingy building, only 150 meters off Piata Unitii, the city’s main square. And because I had been a bit vague about my intentions, after having been turned down too many times by her colleagues when I asked for an interview, she welcomes me assuming I’m a client. So in her business attire – high heels, fishnet stockings and a black bikini- she leads me to her office, a bedroom. Not the one she usually sleeps in, she would tell me later.
And there we talk, me fully dressed while lying on the bed, she sitting on the edge. About her education, for example. ‘I studied law at the university. It was very helpful for me, to learn about people. Especially about men. Their behaviour, their characteristics.’
‘And what are those characteristics? They don’t sound too positive.’
‘I don’t judge, but let me tell you this: men are all the same.’
‘So instead of becoming a lawyer, you became a… what do you call yourself? Prostitute? Sex worker?’
Laura looks at me a bit indignantly. ‘No, no, neither of those. The word prostitute means the same thing in every country: to have sex with anyone. Drug dealers, bad people, anyone. I’m an escort, I chose my own clients.’
‘How do you select them? After all, if they call you, you can’t see them?’
‘I judge them by the way they speak. Their vocabulary, the kind of questions they ask.’
‘So what’s a stupid question? “Do you fuck?”
‘Exactly, that’s a rude question. And a stupid question too: it is my business to fuck. But if you respect yourself, you should respect a woman as well. If not, you’re out the door in a heartbeat.’ She says it like she means it, but after a moment or two of silence she says: ‘It is a dangerous profession, I am aware of that. One has to take precautions .’ (Nothing wrong with her vocabulary.) ‘Nothing happened so far, my intuition has not let me down, I guess, but still… I’m here, on my own. But when I have a problem, I know how to deal with it.’
It is a hot day, so the sliding doors to the balcony are open behind red curtains. I hear the city outside, some cars down the street, a door slamming.
‘In the Red Light District in Amsterdam, there are many Romanian girls. I doubt if they can show someone the door when they’re rude, or even work for themselves for that matter.’
‘Yes, but that’s because they are in a strange country. Here, I know how to act, but in a strange country you cannot show someone the door just like that, you need someone to look after you.’
‘You do it for the money, you say. But is it fun, sometimes?’
‘Sure. When a client comes, in my head I’m thinking “you’re a friend, you came to visit me.” So let’s have a nice chat and after we have some fun. You thank me, I thank you for the visit and then you go.’
‘What do your friends and family think of your job?’
Laura shakes her shoulders indifferently. ‘I don’t have friends, actually. To me, friendship doesn’t exist. When you trust somebody, they will always betray you, one day. So it’s just me and my family, nothing else matters.’
‘So, what do you like to do in your spare time? Do you read, or watch TV?’
Laura nods at the radio standing on her nightstand. ‘I listen to music, it’s good for my mental health. I live a simple life, a healthy life.’
‘Are you a mother?’
‘No, not yet. I would love to become a mother, but when I do I first want to forget about my past. Life is like a table. You have to get rid of all the dirt, before you can move on. But it’s a matter of time, maybe when I get pregnant with my boyfriend, I can get rid of all my dirt.’ And then, suddenly: ‘You’re examining me. You’re looking at me like a psychologist.’
‘Is that a bad thing?’
‘No, it’s okay.’
It’s quiet for a while. It must be 30 degrees in the room, too hot for a May afternoon in Bucharest.
‘It’s my third day in town,’ I say. ‘It strikes me that the girls here are very pretty, but they dress very…’
‘Well, maybe not like whores,’ I reply, trying to keep my eyes away from her scantily clad body, ‘just sexily. Why is that, is it a cultural thing?’
Laura shakes her head. ‘No, the girls from Romania are just badly educated. Every right-thinking girl knows that you should wear clothes like that in the clubs, not in the streets. The girls here want to attract the attention from all the guys, and then they get angry when they get raped. Why so surprised, you asked for it yourself, right?’
What about you, are you dressed like this on your day off? Or like a nun?
‘Of course not. I dress nicely. If you want to be sexy, you can be sexy with a skirt like this,’ she says while pointing at her leg just above her knee, ‘but not shorter. You should be decent to get the respect you deserve.’
I asked a journalist the same question, the day before. He blames the women’s dress code on the fact that Romania is a male dominated society: women need to dress like that to get what they need. And on the fact that they are relatively poor and badly-informed; their examples are promiscuous women on TV who marry rich football players.
‘About Europe… Do you vote?
‘Never. Not interested.’
‘Are you interested in Europe?’
‘Not at all.‘
‘Do you read the news?’
‘I don’t have time for that. I’d rather watch a movie.’
She looks at the clock on the night stand. ‘It was as interesting discussion,’ she says. But you have to go.’