THE TRUE STORY OF GINA
Gina is a woman who makes her living by night. Every day she leaves her house in the late afternoon to sell her body in the dimly lit alleys of the suburb where she lives. She doesn't do it because she likes it or wants to, she was simply forced into it by a life of which she has almost no good memories or moments that made her happy. She does it because she needs to survive in a kind of jungle where there is no pity or compassion for the weakest.
She was 12 years old when she began to be abused by her stepfather. Unable to defend herself or denounce it, all she could do was cry and scream in silence. She lived this way for three years, gagged by shame and an inaudible sadness. Every day she felt cold sweats of fear when school ended and she had to return home. When her stepfather abandoned her mother, leaving her with five children to raise, she felt an enormous weightlessness and a kind of inner peace. But it was too late to be a child again.
She tattooed stars on her body waiting for them to shine and names with promises of love that never came true. From one of them, the one that has marked her most to this day, her son was born when she was only 18 years old. Gina's early pregnancy was accepted naturally by her family, as if it were something that would happen sooner or later. According to recent data, one in three adolescent girls in Angola have already become mothers or have at least one child. In the capital's largest maternity hospital, about 40% of women giving birth are teenagers, a number that continues to increase dramatically year after year.
The happiness Gina felt at being a mother quickly turned to sadness and disillusionment when the father of her child abandoned her a few months after the birth. Forced by the need to help her mother and support her son, she began to attend the city's nightlife, working in bars and nightclubs. Tired of collecting disillusions and mismatches with men who sought nothing more than to use her, she gave up fighting against a destiny that seemed determined to grant her only the same days as the ones she was trying to forget. She quickly plunged into a downward spiral that led her permanently into the nightlife and prostitution.
Years spent in dark alleys have taught her what clothes to wear to get noticed and how to cast provocative and inviting glances at men driving by. Even so, she needs to get high before leaving her house and prays after putting on the wig she always wears at night. Maybe this symbolic gesture means for her that she has become another Gina, the Gina of the night. Perhaps in this prayer she begs for absolution from the sins she knows she will have to commit, or simply pleads for luck, because she cannot risk returning home at dawn without some money.
The line between the life at night and the world of drugs is very faint and Gina crosses it very early. Seductive and always nurturing, the drug was always available to give her the comfort she sought in times when discouragement or despair spoke louder. Why resist it if it brings her a peace and tranquility without preconceptions or regrets that she can't remember having in her whole life? When she inhales the smoke and holds it in her lungs, waves of pleasure gently invade her body and invite her muscles to relax, as if she were living a dream from which there is no need to wake up. In this dream, which snuggles her and enfolds her lovingly, Gina doesn't relive the traumas of her adolescence that insist on not leaving her, nor does she remember the smell of men that remain on her skin when she wakes up in the morning. In this dream, no one accuses or recriminates her for the life she lives, perhaps this is why she feels redeemed from a life made up of what are said to be sins.
Gina often gets high with Tina, her best friend since childhood. Both of them live at night prostituting themselves, both seek redemption from drugs every day. They wrap the drug in small pieces of paper or mount it on used syringes with almost mechanical gestures, rehearsed thousands of times. They smoke in silence as if it were a religious ceremony where words are unnecessary, each of them knowing what to do and when to dive into the dream they eagerly seek. While they sip every moment of that dream, they leave their bodies leaning against each other, as if they were armors worn in a war they no longer want to fight.
When she returns home at dawn, the provocative and defiant Gina turns into a different person. It is as if another woman is born underneath the wig, the insinuating clothes, and the high heels that have hurt her feet during the long hours spent standing. Now she is just a fragile and sensitive woman living alone in a rented room with a zinc-plate roof in an obscure quarter of the city.
A life spent entirely at night has taken Gina further and further away from her son, forcing her to leave him with his mother during the week. This is another sorrow she has to live with, and she tries to regain the lost time on Sundays, the only day she can be with her son all day and when she can finally become a mother again. Even exhausted with her body claiming lost hours of sleep throughout the week, she eagerly awaits for the moments when they will watch a movie on TV together, when he will let himself fall asleep in her arms, or simply stand at the window watching the movement on the street while she tells him imaginary stories.
Most of the stories she tells her son are of risky rescues of people in fires and other tragedies she has seen in movies, where everything ends well. For as long as she can remember, Gina wanted to be a firefighter. Being a full-time real mother and saving lives as a firefighter are her life's dreams. A long time has passed and she has not yet succeeded in making them come true, but at no time will she give up trying to achieve them. Ironically, every night she extinguishes fires, the fires that burn in countless men and that lead them to search for her in the dark alleys of the neighborhood. But this is not a story in which all ends well. This story is the one she can't tell her son. That is a story she has to relive every day, and she doesn't know how to end it.