"Are there a lot of beautiful girls like you there?" I asked, flattering her. She wasn't beautiful, although she did have energy and that softened her hard face somewhat.
"No, all the beautiful girls left Lugansk. Like me -- we're all gone!"
"How did you get to Moscow?"
"I took a train. See -- let me go back. I was a student. Well, I never studied. I was a bad student. I wanted to become a hair stylist, but I didn't do it. I was too wild, I couldn't sit still! I was also a sportsman. I did kickboxing until two years ago. I still know it."
"Have you ever had to use kickboxing?"
"For this...job?" she asked. Her face grew suddenly dour. "Yes, it's...let's say it helped me. I'd rather not remember it, okay? Do you mind if I smoke?"
"Go ahead. So when did you lose your virginity?"
"I was sixteen. I heard that if you waited longer, it would only hurt more and more. So I got it out of the way. I was stupid. Well, anyway I met a guy. We fell in love -- I did anyway. He said all sorts of things to me. Then I had a baby. And he went into the army. Left me. Never came back. Bastard. I'll never trust a man again. They're all traitors, you know."
"So are women," I said.
"Everyone's a traitor," she said, but without bitterness, in fact almost cheerfully. "They're all bastards and traitors, what can you do? So anyway, I had my child. I worked different jobs. I took a job at a carwash. That was my last big job in Lugansk. Some dyadya there, a client, told me I could do...this kind of work there. I didn't, but I came here on a train and it was easy to find this type of work. I didn't come here expecting it. I was hoping to get a job selling cosmetics, anything, but that didn't work so a girl I met told me about this agency, and well, this is what I'm doing for now. But my contract ends in a few weeks."
"You have to sign a contract?" I asked.
"That's how it works. Three months at a time. I've been doing it for, well, this will be four months. Then I'll quit. I send money back to my family in Lugansk."
"You have family?"
"I have an older sister and a younger brother. He's eleven. And my baby of course. My mother died. She died last year of cancer. It was horrible, and now we really need the money."
"Your father?" I asked. It usually comes down to the father.
"He's alive. He lives with a woman. He has another family."
"How do you send the cash to Lugansk?"
"I give cash to the train conductor here in Moscow, give him a cut, and he takes it down, and someone meets him in Lugansk and takes the cash. Otherwise it'd take forever, if I used Sberbank."
"Aren't you afraid the conductor will steal the cash?" I asked.
She laughed. "Hasn't happened yet. But I guess it could happen. You know, it's so nice to just talk with you. Usually I show up to a client's, and right away, he wants to...he just takes me and we have sex, then he throws me out. But with you I'm much more comfortable, just talking. I like this! What about you? Where are you from?"
"Oh, California! California! Why are you here? Everyone wants to get out of here and go to California!"
"It's more interesting here."
"Yes, ekstremalno," she said. "Extreme in Moscow. Terrorism in the metro. Terrorism at concerts. That's what you like?"
"We have terrorism too, if you remember," I noted.
She laughed. "Yes, I remember. The sad thing is that there's no terrorism in Ukraine. Nobody cares about Ukraine. It's not even worthy of a terror act because there's nothing anyone wants from Ukraine." She laughed and shook her head.
As we talked, we drank tequila with grapefruit juice. I made hers strong, and she enjoyed each cocktail, drinking more than most whores drink. "I like three things. Fruit, cigarettes and alcohol," she told me, stealing a banana.