A short story by Veneta Çallpani
I take the money from him and I leave. I don’t even count it but immediately I put in my bag.
I take the elevator and when I get out of the hotel I find myself in an intersection. My palms are wet and I am pacing back and forth. I feel like something is stuck in my throat and I cannot breathe. I feel like everybody have their eyes on me judging for what I have done.
I hear a voice behind my back, and I turn my head quick to see who is calling me. There is a couple fighting. I take a deep breath. No one notices my presence. Everything is just a game of my mind. People are busy running around and minding their own business, unlike people in my country. I am in America now, I think to myself, and I take the first taxi that passed by.
When I arrive home, I can hear the music pouring out of the apartment building. The same guy, in the same apartment, who always sings in the middle of the night and blasts music all day. I continue past trash scattered in the halls and climb the stairs to the third floor. Standing outside my apartment door I fumble with my keys, anxious to quickly enter and avoid the bickering couple screaming and throwing belongings at each other.
I open the door and grimace as the smell of stale cigarettes, cheap bear, and sweat assault my senses and mix pungently in a draft of air that is heavy with sex. The dimly lit room do nothing to hide the sight of my roommate grunting and moving under the old, liver-spotted man on top of her. I am suddenly gripped with nausea and have to fight the urge to throw up.
They don’t look up or even pause in their rutting but continue oblivious to my presence.
So now I am invisible I think out loud.
I would really prefer to be nonexistent right now.
I go back outside of the building and sit down on the stairs. I can feel the cold air hitting my face, but still I cannot breathe. I can again picture on my mind the image of my first costumer I had sex with today. I can still feel his presence and his smell on my body. Instinctively I touch my body trying to get rid of that smell and feeling. I wasn’t sure if taking a shower will make me feel better.
All these thoughts are driving me crazy so I try to ta take my mind away from that experience. I fold my arms around my knees and close my eyes. I can hear a muffled voice on my head which makes me feel my heart thumping against my ribs. Is my little brother, five years old, and I can see him sitting on the ground and crying because his friends wouldn’t let him play with their toys. So sometimes I would find some papers and make airplanes for him. In the beginning, he was happy with that until his friends started to make fun of him and he no longer wanted to play.
“One day I will have a real airplane sister and I will fly to meet my father in the sky.” he said to me. I couldn’t stop crying.
And now I want to cry again, but I cannot. I swallow my past together with tears and longing. I promised myself I will have everything I ever dreamed about. Staying in the middle of the bridge which connects my past and my future in two different countries, is not an option. I have to pass this bridge. I can’t go back, but I can’t stay in the middle.
The next days are the same, just different partners. They are rich, some of them very rich, but after a while they don’t pay me as well as before.
-I can’t continue anymore like this. These fucking guys don’t pay me well anymore.
-Maybe they think you really need money Angelina, so whatever they give you, you can’t refuse. You have no other choice but to accept it.
-I don’t want to continue this for too long. I want to make money fast.
Anna laugh at me.
-Everyone wants that. America has so many opportunities; you just have to play smart if you want quick money. I’ve been here six years and I am still living in this fucking house with you. At least you haven’t been here for so long.
-I’m going to leave this house very soon.
-I bet so. You go girl. I don’t know what is your goal but you are doing pretty good. I spend all my money on drinking and drugs. That’s my life. One color.
-I will find a way to collect more money.
– I know you will.
This was my first long conversation me and my roommate ever had. Most of the time my roommate is drunk and nobody can talk to her, but this time she looks good.
-I have to go now. I have to see my friends.
I approve with a smile. She was right for one thing: I have to play smart.
Those old men were playing with me. They have so much money and for what? They are dying and they still want to save money. Sometimes I am afraid they will pass out in the bed. At least I can use the money to get out of poverty where I lived for so many years. I went through difficult times back in my country but I don’t want this to happen in America. That’s why I left the country, my family, and my boyfriend. To become rich. To have money! Money to do surgery and make my body perfect, like a real superstar. To travel, to have a big and beautiful house like those I’ve seen in movies, to send money to my family, to bring my boyfriend here and to buy a real airplane for my brother.
I want money to be happy!
It wasn’t as easy as I thought. I start making videos of the men I have sex with and then threating them. If they don’t give the money I ask for I warn them I will show the videos to their family, their wife or public to ruin their reputation.
It was the only way I could make money faster because time was flying. I start to lose connection with my boyfriend and life on the other side of the world.
The busy life in New York sucks like a hurricane but he is far and he can’t understand. I can’t explain to him either, so the distance started to build a wall between us. This was pushing me to take hard decisions. I never thought I would be able to destroy a family for money. But my family was destroyed because of money. My father died because we didn’t have money to cure him. I left the love of my life because of the money. I wonder what people were thinking when they created this piece of paper which can be so powerful. That’s why people like it, because it gives them power; until the day it starts to control them. I was already part of its circle and I couldn’t get out.
I made enough money to do the surgery which made my body look perfect. After that it didn’t take long and I found a job at a modeling Agency.
Little by little I finally have come within reach of my dreams. Finally, I start living the American dream!
I am standing in front of the mirror and I am not sure who is the person I’m looking at. The room I am in is full of clothing, accessories, picture of me modeling and everything I’ve dreamed of, but as I look at the mirror I see a small, dark room and my mother crying and trying to change my mind.
” We are good my daughter. You don’t have to leave. We got each other. Life in America is not as easy as you might imagine.”
” Can’t you see your family mother? Can’t you see the house you live in? You think I don’t know that you are hungry? You pretend like you are eating but all you do is save the food to give to us later. I am leaving mother. I am sorry, but I am not going to live in these conditions. I will become rich and if you want to stay in this shit forever you can stay, but I will not!” AND I LEFT.
I close and open my eyes. I can’t hold my tears. Now I see myself in a bright and beautiful room, but alone. I feel so lonely. I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know which experience made me this way, the past, or the future I wanted?
The ring of my phone takes my attention. My lips form a big smile when I see my boyfriend’s number. In the right time, I think to myself and I answer.
-Hi, is this Angelina?
-Hi! Yes, I am Angelina. Who is this?
-I’m Antonio’s cousin. I’m sorry to tell you, but…
-What? Talk to me, what happened?
-No, this cannot be true.
-I wish this was a lie, – he says and I hear a heavy breathing over the phone and a silence continue for few minutes.
-He was driving. He died in a car accident.
I couldn’t believe. He didn’t have a car when I was there. Now I realized how long I’ve been away and how everything has changed.
-He was calling your name, – he continues. I couldn’t listen anymore so I throw the phone at the mirror and start crying out loud. Now I can see my real self in a broken mirror.
Now I can buy an airplane for my brother to visit our father in the sky. Now I can buy an airplane for myself so I can visit my boyfriend too.
Now I have money to buy airplanes, but do I have enough money to bring back to life my father and my boyfriend?!
I think I need more money. Yes, I need more money. Money for nothing!