It was a sordid courtship structured purely along economical lines. Supply and demand. I needed heroin; he wanted sex. I had exhausted all other possible means of obtaining money. I could not find anything to pawn or exchange. I was too feeble to steal anything that day. All I had left to bargain with was my vagina.
He drove the rusting, red Citi Golf down to the river. Two large thorny bushes off a dirt track formed a hideaway, partially obscured from the nearby passing traffic hurtling down the freeway. The heat of the day and the withdrawal made me sweat profusely so that my t-shirt was damp with perspiration and the back of my thighs stuck to the torn vinyl seat.
The solidity of my denial dictated that I should, at the very least, go through the motions of more traditional and acceptable foreplay.
“I didn’t know you liked me like that,” I smiled coquettishly and looked up at him from under my damp eyelashes. He frowned. His black skin shone with sweat. He smelled of it too; musky, manly, repulsive.
I needed to use first, to be outside of my body while he was inside of it.
“Can I have the quarter please?” He retrieved the plastic teardrop from the car’s ashtray and handed it to me. I grabbed at it and he held it just out of reach. “Sex first.” His tone was firm.
It was non-negotiable. He was having no part of my delusional mating ritual. He motioned for me to move over to the back seat of the car. “Do you have a condom?” Not that I cared but it seemed as though I should. In a former incarnation, that would have been the next and most obvious question. He frowned again and wordlessly dismissed my request.
Awkwardly, I clambered over the hand brake, and lay down across the back seat. My neck was supported uncomfortably on the armrest on the back door, the window winder in the back of my skull. I unbuttoned my shorts and pushed them down over my ankles. Panties next. I waited, exposed, as he climbed into the back of the car and fell on top of then into me.
His shoulder pummelled up against my jaw pushing my head further into the hard knob of the window winder. The hot metal of the seatbelt buckle burned into the back of my leg. I wanted to scream. I wanted to bite a chunk of his flesh out of his shoulder. I wanted to be anywhere else. Vomit rose up from my stomach and I gagged then swallowed hard. I shut my eyes tightly and braced for his unsympathetic, awkward thrusts. In the darkness behind my eyelids, I imagined a younger version of myself – innocent yet knowing – admonishing me for taking things this far.
Finally, it was over. He has come and his full dead weight crushes my hip bones and my ribcage. I feel the wetness leak slowly down my thighs. I am engulfed by the smell of sex tinged with subtle violence.
The small, familiar voice in my head tut, tut, tuts slowly, reprovingly.
I silently tell her to fuck off and grow up.
This was how things were in the real world.
The comforter had been a gift from my mother; I would never have chosen it for myself. It was white with a blue and yellow network of linear shapes, lines and squares. I could never determine the pattern it followed though I knew one existed. The yellow was too yellow, a processed margarine kind of yellow; and the blue was just too blue. The comforter was completely ineffective in the role for which it was designed. Too hot for that sweltering summer day in January. It was never cold so it provided no real comfort.
The pattern was a busy one so that if I stared at it too long then looked quickly at the grey-white bedroom wall, the image would still remain, floating about a ruler’s length away from my eyes. Too blue, too yellow. Far too cheerful.
But that day another colour joined and disturbed the dizzying motif: red.
A few crimson drops now blackening in that stifling heat in my small, cramped bedroom. Blood from the syringe which he had used to inject heroin for the first time.
Disbelief, fear and sorrow lobbied for space in my mind while an unfamiliar, almost vampiric urge rose up to join them.
“This feels…. fucking…. amazing…” His words were helplessly drowned in his smack-fuelled stupor. He unfurled his long, heavy frame and sank back onto the lumpy futon mattress. The hypodermic syringe dropped from his limp hand and landed next to me on the bed where I perched, watchfully. I wrapped my arms around my knees, hugging them and rocking slightly.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I was supposed to have gotten him clean. I was supposed to have loved him better. But three months later and it had only become much worse. Three months of sweaty, failed detoxes, outrageous transparent lies, overdrawn bank accounts and unskilled petty theft.
I felt so sick and I felt so in love. He looked so peaceful. Everything seemed hyper-surreal, cloaked in cotton wool and watercolours.
I picked up the needle – an unforeseen and worthy rival for his affections – and, palm outstretched, presented it to him.
“Here,” I said. “Show me how.”