First Night at Somerset Apartments

Bird on a Wire

TW: prostitution, sex involving a minor

As the door clicks shut, I am spitting the chewed remains of a stick of gum from my mouth onto the grass, an attempt to purge all my emotions in the mangled wad. There is a body still breathing heavily behind the door, in the dense and stagnant air of the apartment. The body still damp with sweat—I can see it, feel it, even now, as I walk to my car.

I counted the numbers on the doors all the way to forty while savoring the taste of fresh peppermint gum. This was all too new. Breathe. A line of four dark windows stood between apartment forty and forty-four. As I walked past two of the black windows, I heard the door click open ahead of me, as if whoever was there was waiting, watching through the thin curtains. The screen bobbled for a moment, indecisive. I walked past, acted casual. It opened wider and I reached for the knob. A dark hand pulled the storm door open and I stepped over the threshold like it was supposed to happen naturally.

Clouds in the city paint the sky red with the blood of capitalism. Do I think I’ll feel better if I move my thoughts up, move my head to the clouds? The courtyard is without ornament, and my steps ring dully in the vacuous space. The steps shock the air around me—will someone hear? I jump to the grass for the rest of the walk. It’s not working anyway, the clouds.

The walls held nothing but the deviant activities to come. A laptop supported by a stack of books showed a porn playing, two dad-types fucking without a condom while wearing leather boots; a young boy in a speedo watched from behind a bush. When would it be his turn to join in the fun? I was led away from the screen to the bedroom; I would never know now. The entire apartment was dark, save for a strange glow beneath the bed. As I bent over to take off my belongings, I tried finding the source of the light, but it seemed to be coming from the undercarriage itself. No quick movements should be made, the make-believe etiquette guide in my head was telling me. No reason to cause anything unexpected to happen.

Air berated by the sound of thousands of bugs screeching from the small wood just beyond the apartment complex. The shrill sound buries itself into my skull. Skin perfumed with sweat, with his cloying body odor. The ground itself appears to transform into a giant, moving sidewalk, revolving its way back toward the apartment, making the distance to my car increase with each step. I try not to run from the place. I know he is still watching from behind the lank curtains.

I asked him if we could turn on more lights; I could barely see his face. He just pointed to the bed, his face painted the color of obsidian, nose and cheekbones jutting out, catching the light. We sat down and talked. I was shaking too much to be of any use to him now. He was twenty-eight, a PhD candidate. New to this “gay thing” were his words. My turn to lie now. In that moment, twenty-two, not seventeen. A Bachelor’s degree in the works, business, and, obviously, selling my body to keep up with rent payments. Laughter now, sweet and sour in its flavor.

In the car, my hands shake on the wheel. My fingertips seem permanently stained white from grasping the bed sheets in the empty apartment. I manage to squeeze the key into the ignition and I turn the headlights on and just sit there, letting the air conditioner churn out cool air to blow across my face. The artificial ozone is almost comforting. The smell of him is being blown away, out through the cracked windows and into the unreadable summer evening. There are no tears yet, thank god.

You’re so good at this. Thanks. You’re amazing. Thanks. You look so young and fresh. Thanks. You know just what you’re doing, don’t you? Thanks. Our bodies wiggled together on his spartan sheeting. He craned his neck forward to look at my face, wrenching my neck toward his to make it more accessible. Thank goodness he didn’t think it was appropriate for two men to kiss or that would have been the moment. He pawed at me as he pushed my long hair out of my eyes and looked into them. And I looked back like Lot’s wife looked back, unsure of what expression I was returning as I was fucked into a pillar of salt.

When road meets tires, a small spray of water from a leaking hydrant is kicked up and hangs in the air. A song is playing somewhere, on the radio or from the recesses of my memory—boy meets girl, a proposal, marriage. It’s all wrong. All wrong. My blinks last longer than would normally be allowed by sensible drivers. Eventually my eyes shut and the song plays louder and louder, so loud that my screams are not in danger of being heard through the blasting chorus. My eyes open and it’s still the same; it will always be until the end of me.

When he left himself inside of me, he slid off and ran to the bathroom, returned cleaned and clothed. I heard him gargle something at the sink, pointless since my mouth did the brunt of work that evening. More idle talk, the shuffle of money in an apologetic way. An alleviating joke followed by more of the sweet and sour, as we walked to the door. Before it was unlatched, he leaned in for a final feel; it was given, a bonus, a few points of extra credit for Mr. PhD. My teeth gnashed the gum in my mouth harder and harder, a failed attempt to detoxify as I was ushered into the night. The door clicks shut and I look around, look for the faces staring out of the dark apartments, laughing and pointing. But none are there as I walk past the forty windows, just my own reflection, unreal to me.

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