‘Hathos – n. Feelings of pleasure derived from hating someone or something.’
The girl opposite me scratches her arms. I grimace, my spine recoils. Flakes of skin drift down from her body, littering the carpet below.
Have clinics always been this disgusting? Even the hard plastic chair against my thighs makes me shudder. Everything feels so rancid, as though covered in a sheen of spit, mould, or possibly both.
Hailee squeezes my arm, her fingers are cold and clammy. I turn to her and she smiles at me. It’s one of those half-smiles she does for pity, sometimes curiosity. It’s also how she looks at the homeless guys who sleep in the gutters near her place.
“Hopefully not much longer now” she says.
She looks even more of a mess in the harsh light of the clinic. It’s the kind of light you get in a badly directed porno, a cheap amateur attempt to document two bodies fucking. It shines down on her, illuminating every cavity on her body, every scar, scab, the start of decay. She looks like shit.
I turn my attention back to the girl across from me. She’s stopped scratching and is now staring blankly at the gap on the floor between her feet. Beneath the skin-shedding, she’s kind of hot. She wears a t-shirt covered in fake diamantes, slightly too small making her tits look full and round. Fake. Underneath her bruised and battered legs is evidence she once took care of herself, a regular jogger perhaps; the muscles were tight and firm, and she has a faint tan line around each ankles. Her face is like any ordinary face, but with the aid of a little lighting and a few clever camera angles, she’ll pass as pretty. She looks tired and is wearing last night’s make-up.
Hailee is picking off her mascara, using her dirty fingernails to scrape it from her eyelashes, then flicking the remnants onto the floor. Fuck…where did we go last night? It’s a hazy mix of beer, tequila shots, and pills. I don’t even remember screwing Hailee, let alone not wearing a condom. Although she had said she felt cum on her thigh in the morning, had even tasted it just to make sure. How can I argue with that?
“Hailee Rickett?” a nurse appears.
“Yeah,” Hailee stands up, grabs her purse. “I’ve got to dash after, so can’t hang around,” she says. “I’ll see you next week. Gregg’s thing?”
“Sure, see you then.”
Who the fuck is Gregg?
She goes down the corridor and I’m left alone.
Hailee told me she has chlamydia over coffee this morning. This was just after she’d also told me about the cum on her inner thigh, and just before she offered me some cereal and gone-off milk. I laughed at first. I think I had even said something stupid like ‘thanks for the gift’. Maybe I hadn’t said anything at all, and had just imagined my sarcastic reply.
In the taxi on the way here, I’d asked her why she hadn’t got it treated. She’d shrugged her shoulders and rolled down the window. Warm air flooded the cab. The driver grunted and turned off the AC. The pills made me sick, she’d said, and break out in an itchy rash. Plus, she’d never cared about babies, or motherhood, or any of that crap anyway. And Nancie (I knew Nancie, right?) said you could have it for like three years and nothing happens. Just gotta tell people and shit. I usually use a condom though. Guess we just got too fucked. She’d laughed then rolled the window back up.
So now she was a walking, talking, chlamydia, if that even makes sense. I’d Googled ‘chlamydia bacteria’ in my phone when we got here, and clicked on images. The purple coloured mounds had reminded me of blueberries, and the thought of squishing away the disease between my fingers had been weirdly comforting. The fuzzy haze surrounding the circles had reminded me of Hailee’s hair, which is wild and matted this morning. A big clump on top of her chlamydia-ridden face.
I wonder what the big-titted woman has. Gonorrhoea? Syphilis? HIV? The guy two chairs along definitely has herpes: red and yellow sores around his mouth, itching his crotch, left armpit, and occasionally his leg. Mr Herpes. He’s got a briefcase too, which he keeps reaching for as though to check it was still there. Every time he does, he gives a curious look around the waiting-room, at this collection of STD’s. Mr Herpes looks exhausted, like most of us. His suit is crumpled and I can smell the sweat oozing from him, like the pus that wants to ooze from his face. When his name is called and he gets up, I imagine him sliding his way across the room, leaving a trail of slime and gunk behind. He walks with his shoulders hunched over, as though carrying the weight of a giant shell. Just like Hailee had done a few minutes before, he disappears down the corridor.
That girl looks up at me then, bright eyed. She smiles, revealing her mismatch of teeth, like tiny ivory people crammed into a subway carriage. Her tongue darts around them, brushing each tooth then caressing her cracked lips. I give her a nod and look away, cursing myself for thinking she was hot, for comparing her to the girls I’m used to getting off to. She is just another street-whore, probably on her third visit here this week. She uses her big fake tits and her good body to get guys into bed, then opens her mouth and flicks her pointed tongue and they’re trapped. With one thrust they’re infected, and she pockets the bills they throw. They return home, back to their wives. The cycle of disease continues.
Does this make Hailee a whore too? She dresses like one. Maybe she wants to be called a whore, embracing the label like men do being a ‘stud’. That new feminist thing, or whatever. Girls can be studs too…something like that.
I feel my pocket vibrate. I let it hum for a few seconds, then reach into my shorts and take out my phone. Mom. Great. I press decline. Though, the thought of having a conversation here with my Mom does make me laugh. I can imagine the exchange in my head: Hey Paulie, what are you up to? Oh, nothing much, just in the clinic waiting to get a STD test, whilst the whore I banged last night pops a pill to get rid of her recently inseminated egg; how about you? I chuckle again and the receptionist gives me a funny look, her drawn on eyebrows raise. Fuck you. My phone buzzes once more: Hope you’re OK. Haven’t heard from you. Mom x x. I delete the message and put my phone away.
The nurse enters. “Jenny Cravice?” she says.
Jeeeeenny Craaaaavice. I roll the name of the waiting-room whore around my tongue, letting the vowels stretch deep down my throat. I’m back at my flat now, the painful ordeal of the clinic over. ‘We’ll text you the results later in the week’, the pretty nurse had told me, through a cloud of sickly perfume and with lipstick on her teeth. I have my phone out now as I sit on the couch, scrolling through the Google results of my search for Jenny. So far, no results fit my image of the whore. My phone buzzes, an email alert flashes across the screen: ‘NEW Chicks waiting for YOU at Triple D!!!’ I click on the link at the bottom of the message and scroll through the collection of timid, bare-chested, women plastered across the screen. After a few minutes I close the page.
I take a swig of the beer I’d grabbed from the kitchen table before I had begun my search. It’s warm and flat. It feels like weeks since I’ve been back here, even longer since I’ve been here sober. The stale air and the whiff of damp towels is usually too much to bare without a drink, so I’ve taken to wondering the rooms of my peers, new friends I’ve made down at the bar. Perhaps losing my job has been a blessing, opening the door to that mysterious man who is ‘the day drinker’.
I am in the office, telling Jones all of this. “Fuck you Jones,” I roar into the room, and throw my now empty beer bottle down onto the floor. It fails to break and simply rolls a little on the carpet, trickles of beer marking its path. Jones’ smug face emerge, his pea-size head and his fat wife smiling back at me from a photo behind his desk. That photo was all I could focus on as he fired me, his words fell like shit. They were tanned and on a boat, Mexico I presumed, or perhaps even somewhere more exotic in Europe. Still, the sunlight couldn’t hide the fact the children with them in the photograph were ugly as fuck – all teeth and glasses, a bully’s delight. I laughed, ‘Why are you laughing?’ Jones had said. I kick myself now for simply shrugging my shoulders in response.
My phone buzzes again and jolts me back to the present, back to my ‘till I get back on my feet flat’ with an empty ‘just one drink’ bottle of whiskey at my feet. I ignore the notification, and continue to scroll through Google. I’m on Page 7, somewhere a Googler never hopes to find himself. Pages in German have started to appear, and I know my search is futile. Where the fuck are you Jenny Cravice?
Shit. I erase the ‘y’ of ‘Jenny’ and replace it with an ‘ie’. Of course she would pick a tackier way of spelling her name. Jennie. Yes. That was the whore all over. My whore. Jennie, the playful ‘-ie’ singing in my ears, the higher pitch chiming through my tonsils.
The third result down is link to a Facebook page, a Jennie Cravice who lives in L.A. and is a waitress at ‘Bill’s Beauty Bar’, a few blocks from the clinic. She isn’t smiling in her profile picture, hiding the grimace which earlier nearly made me wretch. It’s a fully body-shot showing her long legs. Her lips are pursed together and painted a bright pink. She wears the top I saw her in this morning, the sparkly one that makes her tits look like they’re bursting from her chest. I feel my dick start to get hard as I click on ‘add friend’.
I see Jennie on the bus the next day. She doesn’t notice me as she gets on, fumbles with some spare change in her purse, and pays the driver. I noticed her before we pull up to the stop, legs shivering in the sudden rain which attacked the city overnight. She was standing there under the shelter, a regular do-gooder like everyone else. Yet, I am hidden behind a sea of arms and hair, bad breath and sweaty armpits. The woman sitting next to me shifts as the bus halts. Her fat legs go into a ritual of uncrossing and re-crossing, the sound of damp skin slapping against itself taking my attention; until I realise that Jennie has shimmied herself into the middle of the hoard, ass pressing against some guy in denim.
The bus starts again, and I watch as Jennie presses herself further into the stranger’s crotch. When we turn corners, Jeans Guy leans in closer. He looks like he’s trying to taste the sweat on the back of her neck, which has trickled down to form a half-moon at the top of her shirt. ‘Move you bitch’, I think, ‘Say something, can’t you see what he’s doing?’ I look on with envy as Jeans Guy lives out his sexual fantasy, smiling a toothless smile at her as he fantasises fucking her here on this dirty floor.
I am still imagining their pale asses bouncing, their grunts and moans shaking the windows, the set lights shining down on them within the frame, when I get off the bus as Jennie does. I follow her down the street. Her boots smash against the concrete. Her ass, like two ripe mangoes underneath a sheen of cheap fabric. She jokes with the homeless guys she passes, tossing her hair as she walks. My eyes follow her, scanning her body with my small dark lens. I pause and take a still: she bends down to light a cigarette for one of the homeless, laughing a gross cackle, then she turns on her heels and clacks down the road.
I have been following her for at least fifteen minutes, maybe more, until she finally comes to her destination and I quickly dart into a butchers. She sees me though; before veering off left out of shot to enter a bar, she had flicked her head round and gave me one of her rotting smiles. I angrily smack the window of the butchers. My hand goes numb. Some old guy shouts at me and pushes me back out of the door. ‘Fuck you!’ I yell.
My phone vibrates in my pocket and I grab it, almost throwing it on the floor in my continued fit of anger. I pause. ‘Jennie Cravice has accepted your friend request’, reads the notification. It buzzes again – ‘1 new message.’
One, two, three. Three and a bit. The camera pans down on me, counting the fine hairs on Jennie’s chin as she sleeps. She snores lightly, but it is enough to wake me. Her skin up close is dry and cracked in places it shouldn’t be – the edge of the lips, between the eyebrows, the folds by her nostrils. This would normally be blurred on-screen. Her closed eyes reveal smudged makeup, blending up into the lids, flakes of cheap mascara have fallen like snow on her cheeks. And the mouth, the most captivating part of all, now slightly open revealing her yellowing teeth. She is grossest person I’ve ever seen.
Yet here she is, in a close-up shot, sleeping beside me. I reach over the bedside table and grab the almost empty wine bottle we left there last night. I begin to replay the past week’s events in my mind, like a montage of flashing, soundless images. It was a gaudy mixture of alcohol and flickering lights. All the while, Jennie had been beside me, sashaying her body, flicking her tongue, and whispering in the ears of all the men. I was an onlooker, confined to the shadows peering in, trying to convince myself I was not one of them, whilst all the time waiting for Jennie to finish her rounds and give me the goods I ached for. We’d stumble back here and fuck senseless until our bodies were sore with rage. I loathed it all.
Hailee called last night, not for the first time, her voice squeaking through the phone. ‘Where have you been? You missed a killer night at Greggs’, and other various shit. I hung up without a goodbye and carried on biting Jennie’s nipples. She tugged at my hair, her long fake nails shaped like coffins clawed my scalp. They reached down my back and marked my skin. She moaned, which I hated, so I put a hand over her mouth. Playfully, she licked my fingers with her warm, hard tongue. I jolted back and slapped her in the face and she laughed. The morning is well underway when her snoring wakes me. I guess the time at about 11am, maybe later, judging by the height of the roaring sun outside. I squint as I look towards the window from the bed, sharp rays coming through the blinds and making the dust in the air dance. Carefully, so as not to wake Jennie, I swing my legs out from under the covers and onto the floor. I finish the wine and place the empty bottle down at my feet. They feel warm on the sun-drenched floor.
I find two socks – not matching, but close enough – and pull each one over my toes and round my heels. My head is sore and spinning, a feeling I welcome each morning, but my dick is throbbing too, something that I’ve yet to get used to. It reminds me of Jennie and being inside a body. I miss the girls on-screen, their floating heads and tits.
What am I doing?
I’m now naked but for the socks, yet I stand up and open the window, violently pulling up the blinds to get to the dirty glass. Behind me, I feel Jennie shift and then hear her moan, a deep throaty moan that contrasts with the squeaky cries she gives when being fucked. A breeze comes in from the window – a small breeze, but a breeze nonetheless. It feels good. I look down; beneath me, fly like people scuttle around, hopping and bouncing and crossing streets and driving cars. They buy, they sell, they fuck, they cry. They overpay at a fancy restaurant, they underpay the homeless artist in the subway. I look down more, so I’m gazing at my socked feet. One of the toes peeks out of a hole. The nail is yellow and black in places, ridged from a fungal infection I’ve never bothered to sort. Behind me, my phone vibrates on the bedside table. I hear Jennie shift in the covers, yet I am still captivated by my own rotting nail.
Smack. Thud. Jennie throws my phone at me and it hits my bare ass then falls to the floor. I curse her, but she’s already turned around, her naked pimpled back moving up and down as she breathes. I pick up the phone: ‘Test results received: negative for chlamydia.’ I run to the toilet and throw up the wine.
Mariah Feria is a recent graduate from UEA where she studied American Literature with Creative Writing. Fiction is her true passion but she also enjoys travel writing and blogging. She likes to explore feelings regarding the body in her work. Her blog is here and you can follow her on Twitter here.