i fell in love with a hooker. Ok, so it's not original, but that's what happened. I fell in love with a whore. I met her at this hotel on Roxas boulevard. From the outside, you could tell that the hotel had seen better days - days of glory even. The first time I saw it, I remember feeling sorry for that hotel. Of course, I didn't know at the time that this once grand hotel that now stood only as a dark, gritty, seedy reminder of its former self, had an elevator to heaven.
Ok. So it didn't quite go all the way up to heaven, just up to the Manila skyline in fact, but you didn't have to go higher up than that to meet the angels. And that's where I met Layla. Sweet, beautiful Layla. She had a face that i imagined should belong to an angel, and a body that could not have been designed for anything but sin. The minute I saw her through the tinted glass, I knew that my money had her name on it.
I pointed her out to the poker-faced attendant there. She made a note of my choice and breathed into the microphone "Number 32, taken." For I second, I thought she was going to call for a price check. My hands shook as I forked over the fee for the massage; I had never done this before and I suppose my nervousness showed. "Relax, sir." The woman said helpfully, if with a voice as bland and devoid of emotion as her eyes. "Number 32 is very good."
I managed a weak smile and hurried after the man who, with a lecherous grin, showed me into a room. Standard hotel room - the usual: big king-sized bed, a large tv, but no Number 32. I walked over to the picture window and just stared at the view, not knowing what I was supposed - or expected - to do. Should I take off my clothes and jump into bed? Should I sit around like Richard Gere in pretty woman and act all amused by my most recent purchase? And then she came in.
She padded into the room with the silent grace of a cat, and the smile of one that had just eaten a bird. Or maybe one that was just about to. I felt my keys slip out of my hands, but I never heard it hit the floor.
An hour and thirty minutes later, she planted a light kiss on my mouth - the first time I tasted her lips - and got up and went into the bath. I lay there for a long while, tired and thoroughly happy. Happy listening to the sounds of the shower and happy imagining how she must look under the running water. That was when I realized that I couldn't stomach the idea of waiting for her to come out and handing her my money. Instead I got up, put the cash into her purse, and started getting dressed. By the time I had buttoned up completely, she came out of the bath all ready to go, looking none the worse for what had happened between us. She took up her purse and politely motioned for me to walk out of the room ahead of her whenever I was ready. As I passed her, I wanted to give her my number, my address, my heart. But before I could muster the courage to speak up, she rose up on tip-toes, brought her lips close to my ear and whispered, "Thank you."
Thank you. Nothing else. No sales talk to ensure a return engagement; no hard sell, trying to pump up my ego; no sob story. Just a plain old thank you. "No, thank you" I said, with just the slightest emphasis on the 'you.' After all, she had done me the favors. And I wanted to tell her that and offer her all the promises and assurances of a better life beyond the sound-proofed walls of the brothel. But she looked at me with those eyes and, with not a word, asked me not to get her hopes up.
When I realized how empty my promises would have been, my embarassment returned with a vengeance. I couldn't look her into the eyes anymore, so I looked away; I walked down that darkened corridor like a guilty man, ducked past the security guard - who, perversely enough, came from St. Peter's Security Agency - and slunk into the elevator.
On the way down, back to earth as it were, I couldn't help but say her name over and over again. Layla. In french, they have a term for all those things you would have wanted to say, but couldn't. Things that occur to you only when you're on your way out. The spirit of the staircase, they call it. Or the elevator.
I never saw her again, nor did I ever go back to that simulation of heaven. But I fell in love with her - or more accurately perhaps, now that I can be honest enough not to confuse love with hormones, I fell in love with how she made me feel - guilt-free, unremorseful, and unburdened. Seeing Layla naked in the half-light, walking away from the still-warm bed she had just shared with me, I knew with certainty of the sun, what it must have felt like for Adam back in the day. And anyone who gives you that, you just cannot help but fall in love with.