I sink deeper into my bathwater, a homemade brew that feels like it was shipped straight from the Dead Sea. I open my shaving kit, take out my trusty rusty razor, and make the first surgical incision, right above the right thigh. It stings a little at first but slowly, more salt water seeps into the wound, searing up the pain into a pleasing burning sensation…
When I shut my eyes, I see her still.
Speckles of freckles splashed across her cheeks and shoulders, lightning flashes of ghostly streaks dyed in her dark auburn hair. Her baby blue eyes awash with silver and mahogany. Her skin lightly-toasted as a honey-brown almond. Half Catholic-Caucasian and half Muslim-Mexican; rebellious, fiery and full of tenacity. A cathouse-crazy mixed-up kid, sure, but whoa momma, what a combination.
I still can’t stop thinking about her. My Cinnamon Girl. Her real name is lost to time, memory, and post-traumatic childhood molestation. I knew her only as a teenager. Just a face, a body, and a playful pseudonym. Working in an industry which values discrete anonymity more than AA.
But I should start at the beginning. It was at a time in my life when I began to believe that I had wasted my existence. I was so wrongly right, a blend of smug self-satisfaction and recklessly rebellious abandonment. Late-teens, early-twenties, the age when incoherent stupidity makes perfect sense. One day, I stole my dealership’s 1978 Ford Mustang King Cobra convertible, siphoned enough gas money out of the till to make it to the canyons, and headed out on the desert roads. I wasn’t going to stay in that dead-end job forever, as assistant manager to diddley squat.
When I first met her, she was skinny as a well-gnawed toothpick. But she had a certain allure, an intoxicating magnetism that I couldn't quite put my finger on…or in, either. I tried to win her over with nice things. Bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, girl watches. Legal too, not broke-window hot or fugazi knock off (no glass bits, either store window or cubic zirconium). Sure, they weren't incredibly expensive but they wouldn't leave a green stain on your skin either. “A pretty penny for a pretty girl.” But she was having none of my sugar-daddy-isms. It wasn’t enough that I spent, it was that I hadn’t spent enough.
Women. Goddamn women. You can buy their love with objects but they don't want to be objectified. ‘Treat us like human beings while you’re expressing your love monetarily in exchange for our love physically.’ I’ll never understand it. But for a time, I enjoyed it.
* * *
I slash open a gash just above my right cheekbone, a tiny slice of life with a knife. My eyes water and a teardrop plunges into the wound, sending a jolt of electricity through my body like a toaster in the tub. The shock brings me back to life, juicing up my memory. I submerge myself completely, my bite-sized cuts melding with salt water, multiplying my suffering. But I deserve it. Every torturous millisecond.
I am Christ and the Romans. I am the accused and the Inquisitionist. I am the architect of my own suffering. And I do it willingly.
I remember when I first saw CG on the side of the road, peddling her promiscuity for a pittance. I pitied her. But in a good way. I would’ve stopped to pick her up, if not for the cop car tailing me. I wouldn't stop and speak to her until later that year.
Another incision, this time a light-touch Caesarean section to my abdominals…and I can’t help but smile.
* * *
What I remember most about her is our talks. Ours wasn’t a relationship built on lies…it was a friendship built on money and consummated by conversation.
The first time we met, I had to initiate the entire tête-à-tête but we had a great rapport right off. We understood each other, coasting on the same wavelength. She was young, but wily. Street smart. No bull. Eyes as old as the world and deep as the oceans.
I started off with a pleasantly innocuous, "So...what do you do?"
She deftly countered with, "Everything.”
I fought back with, "Aren't you kind of young to do everything?"
But she shot me down with, "Aren’t you kind of old to be so sexually-inhibited?"
I remember wondering, ‘When did flirtatious banter get so mean-spirited?’ I wasn’t old enough yet to be part of the ‘last generation’ but her pessimistic preteendom made me feel ancient. Nary a wrinkle and already dipping her toes in watery graves.
I tried again with the universal greeting of, “So how you doin’ today?” but was stridently rebuffed with, “Do you actually want to know? Do you want an in-depth answer or just a meaningless sound bite that sums up my current situation? Will you just nod your head dumbly like a broke-necked gymnast, or do you really truly madly deeply care about my personal headspace, well being, and all-around satisfaction that you’ll listen to every single word I have to say?”
“ I... I ... it was just an honest question. I care…because you’re so young…”
She shrugged, shifting her skirt up an extra half-inch, scandalously just-short of the panty-free frontier.
"Sexual or non-sexual, they’re all just experiences to be had. If I don't do it now, then I’ll die and I’ll miss my chance and then I'll just be a rotting corpse, and they'll do it to me anyway, but I won't get to enjoy it. So I might as well do it now and charge through the nose for what they shove through my — saaaaaay…nice wallet! Big bills, right? How much money you got in your pocket right now, huh? If I guess right, can I have it all?"
A remarkable creature indeed. Simultaneously playful yet fatalistic. That was Cinnamon Girl all over. Oh how I miss that. How I miss her…
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