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Chapter Two

I’m running out of places to inflict self-punishment.

I shove bamboo slivers under my fingernails, use my shark-and-alligator-teeth necklace to count the minutes on my arm, then attach a dozen six-blade Gillette razors to my low-flow shower nozzle and slice the holy hell out of my back. I feel like one of the whipping boys from Medieval Times (the restaurant, not the historical era). My skin resembles a rare steak at a Korean seafood restaurant; bloody, raw, and swimming with disease.

But it gives me time to think, which is always nice. I never have enough time to think. Just a quiet moment all to myself…

* * *

If you haven’t guessed it already…my girl, Cinnamon, she’s a prostitute. At least she was. She's not anymore.

I tried to get her to clean up and go normal but she kept promising that she'd quit as soon as she got pregnant or became a millionaire, whichever came first.

One time, I asked her, point-blank as a $500 facial, "So…how is the life of a whore?"

And out poured the immoral indignation.

"I'm a prostitute, not a whore. A whore sleeps with anyone for money. I have a pre-approved client list with only respectable gentlemen who are well-mannered enough to not call me a WHORE!"
"Alright, I understand. No need to keep talkin—."

“Y’know, this used to all be legal. Women used to have some newly appointed power to use their one God-given asset for monetary gain. But then the scrawny fingers of religion once again manipulated the hand-puppet of politics and another female right was taken away. It seems that we can’t put anything up there, from coat hangers to hung coc—”

She told me her once-upon-a-time-on-a-mattress-far-far-away fairy tale of how one of her ‘nice trustworthy’ customers raped her (I’ve heard this story before but it’s rude to interrupt a rape flashback). He got her alone, told her he was an undercover cop, pulled a box-of-crackerjacks’ badge, she told him, ‘That’s fake, screw you, I’m leaving,’ and he beat her unconscious with his fake badge and raped her with his real gun. A discount surgeon stitched her up for the price of a freebie. And since then, she always carries a switchblade in her sock and a .22 in her bra.

I tried to imagine the type of guy who would rape a prostitute. I mean, seriously, he'd either have to be incredibly disturbed or just really cheap. Sex is her job. Bank robbers don't force the tellers to cash out-of-state checks, do they?

Cinnamon Girl was good at her job but no nympho. She didn’t care for sex. It was her profession-by-nature. And she knew she was only as valuable as her looks and their desperation. Fortunately for her, neither was in short supply.

"To guys, a wet vag can easily be replaced by a wet sock. The difference matters only for reputation and conscience. Women know this so they unconsciously project their sexual hatred unto men. And that's why my business is booming. Agree?"

"Two things," I replied. "First, the sock doesn't have to be wet. Second, if the sock is dry, it doesn't complain about not being wet."

She laughed, a glorious giggle that leaped off the tip of her tongue and danced naked in the street. That’s why I loved her. I could be myself. I didn’t have to hide. I was eight years her elder (old enough to be her father in some Southern states) but I was the virgin and she 439 times removed from her hymen (a father, an uncle, a bus-driver-prom-date; I didn’t ask who was her first).

I told her my secret. And she didn’t laugh, god bless her.

She helped me with my first time. I was an inexperienced bumpkin who knew only what my ‘Jesus-is-Lord’ parents had taught me – ‘Sex is evil, get married, make babies.’ So when I finally find the perfect prostitute with which to pop my proverbial cherry, I had neither the experience nor the confidence to pound the nail home. Catholic guilt was the demon-monkey on my back. A tidal wave of fear-sweat cascaded down my naked form as I tried to keep from exposing my sexual ignorance. I fumbled around between her legs for a lifetime before she interrupted the motion of my commotion in her oceanic view.

"Do you even know what you're doing?"

"If I knew what I was doing, I would have done it already!" I snapped.

Then, with the delicate touch of a heavenly angel on Vatican heroin, she guided me towards her promised land and taught me a lifetime’s worth of sexual-performance tips in one marathon-session afternoon. After we consummated our love (9 times for me, 1 ½ for her) and the time on my meter ran out, I meekly offered her a ride home.

"It's alright", she replied, "I can just slit my wrists and ride home on a river of blood.  Wish me luck."

“Smooth sailing,” I said. I thought she was kidding.

* * *

I imagine that I’m in another place…facedown at a Chinese acupuncturist’s with a back full of HIV-infected knitting needles…face-up in an African witch doctor’s hut with a chest full of poisoned puffer-fish blow darts…half-conscious in a sadomasochistic Nazi dentist’s reclining chair, stabbed with excavator chisels and sickle probes and dental drills by a fan of Marathon Man and Little Shop of Horrors…but wherever I believe I am, my flesh is still being scoured, seared, and scorched off like the victim of an OCD serial killer. My imagination cannot change my fate.

Salt water engulfs my pores. I make the last non-fatal epidermal incision and add a bucket of fresh bleach into the tub. My skin becomes a liquid nitrogen inferno. My veins fill with ice water swimming with grenade shrapnel. The water bubbles like baking soda and vinegar mixed with bubble bath and piranhas. And my nerve endings become a thousand voices crying out in agony.  It might as well be a bathtub of Lyme and sulfuric acid. But it doesn’t matter anymore. The end is near enough.

I’ll allow myself one more recollection of times past before I slip away forever into the grand abyss of blood-red blackness. I refuse to delude myself with bright lights and heavenly benefits. Whatever that fate worse than an atheist’s death is…I deserve every last maggot-infested inch of it.

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