I first met Lina at the little lane behind Mungo Jerry and that corner mamak shop. I passed some pretty boys and there she was, reclining on a folded mattress on a wooden crate that resembles the Ikea Grankulla futon mattress except that there’s nothing Swedish or Zen about it. Stained and torn, the mattress plays host to cockroaches that weave in and out of it. Between her and the garbage site, rats and maimed cats roam around a small space where the resident addicts get their fix. While they help one another shoot up, Lina would just lie on her futon, trying to sleep off her recurring headache.
Sometimes there will be some bruises on her face and body. From a fall, she’d say. But the others would say that she was raped. This happens almost every week. Not by one man but a few men.
A man who lives in the shop lot above Mungo Jerry came down. He told us that he has seen it and there’s not much he can do since she doesn’t want to be helped. He said in Malay, “I’m a Muslim and she’s a Muslim. She’s not an animal.”
Alice, another woman who made this lane her resting place, said in Cantonese, “We are nothing, just like the dogs and cats on the streets.”
We asked Lina if she wants a better life and she said yes. We told her that we will take her to a shelter home where she can be cared for and she’d have a home. She said she can’t go. She then mumbled something about the boy coming back for her and that he’d drop by sometimes and she wants to wait for him to return.
I wish I could tell her that he’s never coming back and that he never loved her. But instead, I only let out her name in a sigh and stared at her. She looked at me, smiled and held my hand. I could feel the dirt and stickiness between her hand and mine.