Perfume of Hell - Dead End
I went to the grocery store to see if he had any bread left, or some milk, or anything, so that my son would not go to bed on an empty stomach again.
- I will pay you I said, you will see, I will pay you. I am looking forwork. I’ll find something.
- Sure you will… he said softly.
He gave me the bread and I kissed his hand. At home I found my mother. She was holding my little boy in her arms. As soon as she saw me she called out to him:
- You see? I was telling you that mummy would bring some bread.
- I am telling you the truth. She gave me 25 dollars and she told me that she can find work for you abroad.
I looked at my mother, incredulous. I thought she had gone mad. We were so desperate and at a total …dead end.
- I am telling you the truth she repeated. I told her to come by tonight to talk to you.
- And why can she not also find a job for Ivan? He is my husband. We could both leave together.
- Ivan has a reputation for drinking.
- If he finds work he will stop drinking.
I grabbed my son and covered him with kisses. The following day Sofia came to the house.
- They are looking for pretty girls to work as chambermaids in big hotels. They offer a good salary, food and board. What more do you want?
- Are they not looking for a gardener in the same hotel, or a chauffeur or anything else? I want you to find a job for Ivan.
- I promise you that I will do the impossible to find something for him. If you came first it would be easier to find work for your husband once they know you. But if you do not want to, your mother will have to give me back the 25 dollars and I will find someone else who wants to go. Thank goodness, with so much poverty… I found myself on a bus going to Rome. Another young woman was sitting next to me.
- Are you also going to Rome? She asked.
- Yes, I said dryly.
- Sofia offered you a job too?
She came from another village. Unemployment and despair there also. Her name was Irene and she had just turned seventeen.
- My mother was telling me that in her day everything was better. They were poor then too but not as miserable and desperate as now. She talked endlessly. I wasn’t even listening. I was thinking of my son. Suddenly she stopped talking. She touched my arm.
- Are you afraid? She asked me.
- Yes, I am afraid, I admitted. But is it possible to find worse than our village?
I looked out of the window. Night was falling. We were driving through a forest. The road was long. Gradually we began to chat. The bus stopped. We had reached the border. We got off. Each of us was carrying our little bag and our documents. They made us enter another bus. I caught a glimpse of what was written on it “Istanbul”.
- Where are we going? Asked Irene.
- To Rome, I replied.
The driver called our names. He gave us a picnic from Sofia. How kind she is… I thought. And here I am feeling sorry for myself… We slept almost peacefully. In the morning we woke up in Constantinople. At the bus stop there was a couple waiting for us. The woman spoke Rumanian, the man spoke Turkish. We walked for about 20 minutes. We reached a house which to us seemed very beautiful compared to ours.
- Have we arrived in Rome? I asked her timidly.
- For Rome you will leave tomorrow, said she and smiled.
They locked us in a room. It was quite big and had two beds in it. We lay down. After travelling for so many hours lying down was such a relief. And tomorrow Rome…the hotel… And then four men entered the room…When they left, after how many hours?...Irene was bleeding. The woman who spoke Rumanian and another woman who was probably a nurse came to the room.
- You should not have sent four, said the nurse. Hell lasted for fifteen days. Irene did not utter a word. After that they brought us a dress each, underwear and shoes. They also gave us a small suitcase.
They took us to the port. The sea was beautiful. Irene was still not saying a word. In two days we reached Kyrenia. How can such a beautiful town hide so much horror?
They locked us up in a house surrounded by a very tall metal fence. No thought of escape could possibly be envisaged. The ground floor was a huge hall with small tables and comfortable chairs. On the first floor were several rooms. We plunged back into hell, with company this time. We were about ten girls, most of us from Moldova. They looked at us with expressionless eyes and did not say anything. Irene endured it for a week. One night she was drinking with a customer and by mistake, on purpose? The glass fell to the ground. She picked up the pieces of glass and run to the kitchen to throw them away.
When I woke, around lunch time, Irene was not in her bed. I went into the small bathroom. I found her lying on the floor covered in blood. She had cut the veins of both her wrists with a piece of the broken glass. I was glad. There was a way out after all …I took the piece of glass and hid it. Then I thought of something clever. I broke it in two, put one piece next to Irene and hid the other half. I called the guard. There was some confusion. They took Irene’s body away.
We never learned what happened afterwards. A girl from Moldova looked at me without expression and said “she is not the first one. My sister went from an overdose”.
- Were you happy she went? I asked and burst into tears.
- I don’t know, she replied. Life has been dead inside me for months now.
Next morning, when I finally went to bed, I caressed the piece of glass that I had hidden under my pillow. And then for the first time my son’s face appeared in front of me. Was there no other escape but death?
I started to ask the other girls how long they were imprisoned in this place and if there was no way to leave it. They were all there for over a year. Once somebody fell seriously ill and they took her to the hospital…They never had any news of her. Sickness or death. This phrase became an obsession. One night a group of tourists came to the cabaret. When they left, around three in the morning, they took me and two other girls to their hotel. When we found ourselves alone in the room he asked me if I spoke Russian.
- Of course, I said, I am Moldavian. My heart was beating so fast I thought it would break.
- I am French he said but I know a little Russian; my company had business in Moscow. We work with the Russian mafia he added laughing!
I don’t know what made me think of him as my only chance for salvation. I told him everything and begged him to save me. He shook his head, thoughtful. For a few hours my heart rediscovered hope. And then I sunk in an even deeper despair.
- You are an idiot I told myself. The Frenchman who works for the mafia!...
Three days went by. They called me to go the office. For the first time I saw the “Manager”. He was short, fat and wore a white jacket. In broken Rumanian he explained to me that I would be going away for a few days with a gentleman. He gave me my passport and a mobile phone.
- You must telephone me every day at noon, he said and when you return I will send someone to pick you up at the airport. He also gave me an airplane ticket.
I thought that I had lost my mind, that I was dreaming, that…A guard grabbed me by the hand, he took me to my room and showed me a dress. I put it on quickly. He grabbed my hand again and we went out into the yard, we walked towards the high metal door in the fence. He opened it, we went out onto the street and waited. The sun was beating down on us without mercy. My head hurt so much I thought it would explode. I don’t know how long we waited like this. Then a car stopped. Three men were sitting inside. The guard opened the door. He exchanged a few words with them. He gave my passport and my plane ticket to the person sitting in the back seat. The guard then signalled to me to get in. The car took off. Only then did I look at the three men. The driver was the Frenchman who worked in Moscow. He greeted his friends. We walked towards the passport control. He gave me my passport and my ticket and said very quietly: “Follow me and don’t talk at all”.
In the waiting room we sat at some distance from each other and he immersed himself in the reading of his newspaper. Once someone had told me the story of Orpheus and Eurydice. I felt that if I made the slightest mistake, a word, a movement, something, I don’t know what… I would return to hell for ever. I was scared, I was hopeful, I was anxious. Something was telling me that he was afraid too. I understood that we were going to Ankara. Did he not work in Moscow? In the plane we sat next to each other. He offered me a drink and he smiled shyly. He re-immersed himself in the reading of his newspaper. I don’t know how long the flight lasted. My thoughts were confused, unreasonable. I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep.
We arrived at last. We came out of the airport after the usual controls. As soon as we came out, while we were waiting for a taxi, he said.
- Phone your boss, and tell him o.k. I obeyed. The taxi took us to a fantastic hotel and they showed us to our room. The Frenchman said that he wanted a better one, one with a view, exactly on the opposite side of the building. When we found ourselves in the street he looked at me smiling and said.
- Now I can explain. We may be watched. He explained to me that he had bought me from the cabaret owner for 15,000 dollars for one week.
- These will be my most expensive holidays, he laughed.
- And at the end of the week you will send me back? I asked ready to cry.
- No, of course not! But I have to be very careful. I don’t want to get into trouble.
Every day at noon I telephoned. Every evening we looked for microphones and hidden cameras in our room. He looked thoughtful and worried.
Three days later we went to the airport. He phoned the hotel and told them that he would be gone on an excursion in the surroundings that would last three days and if anyone called him to tell them that he
would be back in four days. He bought me a ticket for Moldova. He gave me 200 dollars; he bought a box of toy cars for my son, and said.
- Be careful. Have a good trip.
My tears were flowing silently. He gave me the mobile phone and said.
- Time to say o.k.
He took the phone and put it in his pocket. They announced my flight.
- Go, he said.
- I will never forget you.