I had just emptied a plateful of boiled chicken when Chimimba reappeared with the same girl he had hooked the previous night. It was 10.13pm, almost two hours before police officers launched sex-for-freedom patrols in pubs.
The ladyâ€™s name was Shakira and she had all the complexion, flexibility and figure of her celebrity namesake â€“the Hips Donâ€™t Lie hitmaker.
She sat beside me and started ordering cold ones left, right and centre. In between, she asked me whether Chimimba really finances my outings. No, I am not Chimutu.
Being Zikathankalima, I knew hers was one of those stories men and women share in bed. So, I bought more drinks and a meaty something for their answer. With that, I kept quiet, allowing his sexcellency Chimimba and her majesty Shakira to chop their money in peace.
â€œWhat sexpetiser did you put in my glass last night?â€ Chimimba asked her.
â€œNothing, sweetie. Why do you ask?â€ she answered.
â€œItâ€™s pretty unusual for a person to catch the same bird twice. Like lightening; so of us donâ€™t strike the same lady twice.â€
â€œOh! Of course, I did a wonderful job last night, didnâ€™t I?â€ she thundered with a smile.
Maybe her works match her looks. So, ask me not why the hit-and-run culprit returned to the sex worker as if he had not paid her dues, but why we leave our stable partners to tango with quickies whose health status we canâ€™t guess.
As for Chimimba, he likens himself to library goers, not book buyers.
Â â€œI prefer one good read after another to studying the same book time and again,â€ he once told me.
Now, he wanted to strike Shakira once more. However, she wanted to leave because the police patrols had begun.
Â â€œLet me just finish my bottle,â€ prayed Chimimba, lifting his soft drinks.
Â â€œNo, Iâ€™ve to go immediately. A stitch in time saves nine, Chimmie,â€ replied Shakira, surrendering her empty glass to the prowling bartender.
She looked so jittery to leave that Chimimba asked for that nightâ€™s quotation.
Â â€œJust K2 000,â€ whispered Shakira, for many were competing for her in the house.
I expected Chimimba to enquire whether the quotation was for short-time or nightlong service, but he asked her: â€œAre we going to use the rubber again or we are going natural tonight?â€
â€œHow much should I add for…?â€
â€œNothing much. Just your life.â€
â€œWhat do you mean?â€
â€œIf you want unprotected sex, find somebody who has nothing to lose. I always insist on condoms because Iâ€™m only doing this for my childrenâ€™s education and upkeep, notÂ kwathu maliro or kwanu maliro.â€
I envied her. Here was a sex worker who loved herself and her treasured brood when those with stable sexual partners behave as if they have two lives. She was human and motherly. She did not want to risk her life and clients.
Yet Chimimba was stubborn.
He argued: â€œBody parts worth protecting donâ€™t dangle like arms and legs, but are hidden in strong bones. The brains, spinal cord, heart, lungs, intestine kidneys….â€
â€œWhy then do football players shield the front side of their pants when blocking free kicks?â€ Shakira enquired.
â€œIs that why you demand condoms as if I am not your fellow Malawian?Â Thatâ€™s stigma, isnâ€™t it?â€ he retaliated.
I suppressed a chuckle.
â€œLiuma lake (How stubborn)! Are you a religious leader?â€
â€œDo I look like one?â€
â€œNo, you behave like one.â€
â€œWhat did you just say?â€
â€œYou see, sir. My regular customers include God-fearing fellows who refuse to change their beliefs. When I mention condoms, they say itâ€™s haraam or against natural laws.â€
Chimimba fell silent, internalising the words and his soft drink.
Suddenly, six armed police officers entered the club. Shakira had nowhere to run or hide. She was rounded up for detentionâ€”if she refused kudziombola yekha (to save herself) by offering the law enforcers free sex.
Disappointed Chimimba swallowed the drink in one gulp as the police van carrying his sweetheart disappeared into the darkness.
But being Zikathankalima, I wondered why sex work is easier done than discussed in this God-fearing country of ours. Do we expect to reduce sexually transmitted infections by arresting prostitutes?Â Why does the country bury its head in unclear laws and arrests when we are dying because sex work is real? Are there no better ways to save both the sex workers and their clients in times of HIV and Aids?