“What would it be like to fuck a man who finds such horrors beautiful?”
She would tell herself years later it was the discovery of the long-forgotten Slut List that changed everything. The simple act of unfolding those crinkled composition book pages had kicked down a locked door into a life in which she had been unbound, free, and bursting with the power of her presumed birthright. The Slut List, trembling in her hands, still faintly scented with dewberry oil and the blind hope of youth, had awakened in Jennifer Walters the dormant, vestigial desire to fuck simply for the sake of fucking.
It had been so long since she had done so without purpose. Nearly six years of marriage to Chris, much of the early years a pathetic burlesque in which she could not get pregnant no matter how she tilted her pelvis, no matter how long she allowed Chris’ lazy sperm to marinate in the blazing darkness of her vagina. Later, she rode him gently, slowly, marking slow time against the ticking clock of Chris’ malignant brain tumor, giving herself to him to help take his worried mind off the unavoidable truth of his condition.
He was dying, but on his own schedule.
The past week alone Chris had four grand mal seizures, the last of which occurred as Jennifer wept silently, stiffly, beside him, his muscles contracting violently against the bed’s stainless steel safety rails.
She had been Jenny Ryan then, and high school was lame, and it was Victoria Barber’s idea to create a Slut List so that she and Jenny and Cody Griffin with her crimped hair and red painted lips could keep track of their conquests. Studying the list now, and her looping girlish script, she was reminded how easy it had been. No boy had ever said no, and sometimes one of them would foolishly say he loved her, his raw adenoidal voice breaking under the weight of his sincerity.
Jenny had made meticulous notes beside the names of Johnnyboy Rogers, Maris Lukovs, Tim Anderson, Jesse Sanchez and on and on down the list to the Chinese kid with the tiny dick from Saint Gabriel’s whose name she never learned. She had come up with the symbol ȸ to indicate circumcised penises and the symbol ȹ to designate boys who were uncircumcised, a sort of dicks up/dicks down system like Siskel and Ebert at the movies. It all came back to her with savage clarity: whose cum tasted sweet and whose was bitter like bleach, who came too fast, who bit, who slapped her ass, who found her clit and who was totally clued out. Steve whatshisface wanted to fuck her in the ass and Michael Javits, the virgin, had cried in her arms when he was done his business.
Chris snored quietly in bed, his pain meds knocking him into another solar system he would not emerge from for another twelve hours. His body lay supine like a corpse, beneath the light bed sheet, and Jennifer realized she had been living in a house of mourning. She stood before their bedroom mirror regarding herself, the first tiny creepings of crow’s feet at her eyes. All those years of Bikram yoga, meditation, and healthy eating had left her body lean and supple like a bullwhip. But how many more years could she maintain such control over her body and its whims? Most of her friends had already tumbled down the rabbit hole of time, emerging as unrecognizable translations of their former selves. Victoria Barber had gone slack at the waist and hips after giving birth, her face spattered with an angry birdshot of rosacea. Cody Griffin cropped her hair short and wore it in a salt-and-pepper military cut. One of her silicone breast implants had ruptured, leaving behind a cruel scar and endless bouts of recrimination and depression. Others had simply let themselves go, wearing bright velour pantsuits and fleece vests to the supermarket and beyond, while some had turned ever so gradually into their mothers, right down to the needling tones of their voices.
She was the only person she knew of her cohort who still looked better without her clothes on than she did fully dressed.
Jennifer folded up the Slut List and placed it gently beside her purple vibrator at the back of her underwear drawer, then removed her wedding ring and dropped it into a kitschy Graceland ashtray full of loose change at her bedside. She dressed quickly so as not to give herself the chance to reconsider; she couldn’t bear the thought of seeing Chris quaking again in his sleep, so she changed her clothes in the blind dark of the hallway, slipping into a spaghetti strap tank top and tasteful mini skirt, a forbidden thrill racing through her blood.
She rode the subway ten, eleven stops to another neighborhood where she was certain she knew no one, and climbed to the street, her wedge heels tack-tacking on the gray pavement. The trees were in full bloom and they smelled like fresh sperm. Before long she found a discreet looking pub called Feckin Eejits. Two pale, unshaven men smoked beneath a lank tricolor Irish flag. They took no notice of her as she entered the bar, busy as they were cursing each other out about something she could not determine.
Jennifer took a seat at the scratchitti-etched bar across from a mirror plastered with old newspaper clippings of Sinn Fein martyrs and a heroic color portrait of Gerry Adams and his virile grey beard. She ordered a Tanqueray and tonic and scanned the quiet room. Anonymous groups of two or three talked quietly around small round tables, sipping dark beer from pint glasses, their turned backs providing the practical effect of body armor. The bartender wore his hair short like a colloquial school delinquent, and a pair of round, gold-framed glasses that gave the impression of extreme stupidity; he was clearly overcompensating. A handsome dark-haired man smiled at her from down the bar and raised his glass in greeting. His black hair looked somehow edible, slick like licorice candy. His face had character. He smiled back, and she felt a rush of wetness between her thighs. Jennifer popped the lime wedge into her mouth and sucked out the pulp, the man with the edible hair watching with exaggerated amusement. She imagined going back to his place, and him fucking her with hard-driving hip thrusts, then teasing her with the slow withdrawal of his cock, withholding it, withholding it, and then when she could not take it anymore, slamming it home so his balls slapped hard against her ass in an oh god explosion of electrified nerve endings.
He was walking over to her now, and she felt excitement thrilling through her veins. She had forgotten how easy it was. He moved with the confident swagger of an upwardly mobile six-figure man used to getting what he wants. But when he came around the bar she saw what he was wearing on his feet, and instantly lost interest. He wore those hideous toe shoes, red ones, that promised to give the benefits of running barefoot without actually being barefoot. They looked ridiculous, like flippers, like clown shoes, like a cold shower, and Jennifer threw the remainder of her drink back in one burning gulp.
“I see you’ll be needing another,” the man said, a wry smile on his lips.
Jennifer scoured her brain for her travelers’ Portuguese, picked up during a semester abroad in Brazil nearly twenty years ago. “Desculpe, eu não falar Inglês.”
The baffled expression on his face made her want to laugh out loud, and he tried again, though circumspect this time, lacking the rooster strut of his previous statement. “Do you mind if I buy you a drink?”
Do you mind? Jennifer laughed, flashing her teeth at him and threw at him the cruelest Portuguese she could remember. “Burro de merda!, Burro do caralho! Toto! Rego do cu! Pichota! Picha!” And she finished with her favorite, “Olho do cu — asshole,” which she remembered literally meant, “The ass’ eye.”
After he had beat his retreat out of the bar, Jennifer heard a slow clap of congratulations at her back. She turned to see a slim long-haired man with a ragged beard alone at a round table applauding over his empty pint glass. He wore large black gauges in his ear lobes and had colorful, intricate tattoos running the length of both arms. His septum was pierced like a cartoon bull.
“Nicely done,” he said, rising from his table. “You just cut his balls off and fed them to him for dinner.”
At first glance, he was not attractive — skinny, unkempt and consciously alternative with a capital A, a little too downtown for her taste. But, as he approached her, she saw his tattoos in detail, one of which featured a blue-limbed bird-like creature devouring a naked woman whole. Beneath that, the figure of another unclothed woman found herself trapped from the waist up in a translucent blue egg. They were beautiful nightmares, and his black eyes were pure darkness, reflecting nothing. She wanted to search those eyes and find herself in them.
“I’m Magpie,” he said, extending his hand. There was dirt under his fingernails, and she recognized the familiar sweet sandalwood smell of Nag Champa on his skin.
“Jane,” Jennifer said.
“Sweet Jane,” he whistled tunelessly. “Well, now that we know each other, let’s get out of here.”
It was not a question and she obeyed. In the street he lit a hand-rolled cigarette and expelled smoke into her face. “Your tits are small,” he said. “That’s nice.”
The sun had set completely now and they walked side-by-side down a quiet tree-lined street.
He seemed to have entirely lost interest in her, smoking his cigarette with fascination, blowing double smoke rings perfectly, one inside the other.
She realized she could not place his age, twenties, thirties, older? So she asked him how old he was
“I’m five-hundred and sixty-two years old,” he said, stopping short in front of her. “You’re in your early forties, right?”
“I’m thirty-nine,” Jennifer responded, wishing she’d given a more playful answer.
“Doesn’t matter to me.”
Magpie’s studio was on the top floor of an industrial garage that smelled of motor oil and burnt metal. When he flicked on the overhead light, Jennifer was surprised to see how neat the place was. The apartment was furnished in minimalist style and the polished oak floors were bare and uncluttered. Two framed pieces of art hung on an exposed brick wall over a black leather couch.
Magpie pulled an unmade Murphy bed down from the opposite wall and went to fix them both a drink at a marble island separating the living space from the kitchen.
The pictures fascinated Jennifer and she studied them intensely, forgetting herself entirely. In the first, a black and white line drawing, a six-breasted maiden with long hair and pale, luminous skin was bent at the waist against a sylvan backdrop nursing a trio of suckling fawns. In the next drawing, a beautiful, lithe, full-haired woman with a long, slim erect penis and ample pubic bush, walked awkwardly beside a beastly gorilla of a man whose penis was thick and brutish amid its own wild thatch. They followed closely behind a tiny naked man who led the way with an absurdly enormous erect penis of incredible girth, so large that it obscured his view forward.
“That one is Beardlsey. Some people think his work is grotesque, but I think it’s beautiful.”
Jennifer turned around to see that Magpie had undressed and held two drinks in his hand.
“Drink up,” he said, offering a half-full jam jar to Jennifer. “Applejack. It’s homemade.”
She took the drink and it burned on its way down like cheap sinus-burning brandy.
Magpie’s cock hung limp like a dirty sweatsock against his pale thigh, and he stood expectantly, his lips parted. “Why don’t you get me started.”
“Are you going to wash that?”
“We’re all God’s children. Aren’t we? “
“Well, I’d like to use the bathroom.”
“Over there, behind the curtain,” he said, slapping her on the ass as she passed him.
Jennifer studied her face in the bathroom mirror and asked herself, what the hell am I doing here? Magpie was repulsive in every possible way, but his confidence was astounding, otherworldly.
She felt now that she was here she had to go through with it, not out of obligation, but out of curiosity. What would it be like to fuck a man who finds such horrors beautiful? She wondered briefly whether he expected her to be shaved; it was never her thing, too Alice Liddell for her liking, but she had let it go with Chris being sick and hadn’t trimmed herself in a while.
She imagined Chris at home alone in bed, unconscious and she tried to muster empathy for him, but it had been so long since he had been the person she had fallen in love with, that she only felt resentment and anger. She was too young to be so familiar with terms like glioma, neoplasm, mesencephalon, corticosteroids — she was not a doctor after all, and had never bargained for Chris’ regular vomiting, and dizziness and loss of coordination. She reasoned that it could hardly be a problem if she were to fuck Magpie on his unmade Murphy bed. After all, it was Chris who had betrayed her and their dream life.
Jennifer checked her face one last time and pulled back the curtain. She was flushed from drink, but Magpie did not notice. He was already on the bed stroking himself quietly with his eyes closed. He must have heard the curtain rings clacking because he called out, “Strip.”
She did so quickly, dropping her clothing carelessly to the floor and slid her lips over his cock, her tongue flicking up and down the tender, smooth skin of his shaft. It tasted of dried sweat and funk and when she took it whole it pulsed in her mouth like a living thing, not a part of Magpie, but something separate, a life force all its own.
Soon he pulled away and entered her roughly from behind. He was larger than Chris, and Jennifer could feel her organs shifting at the hard slamming of his cock. She felt like she was being split in two.
Magpie whispered, “I’m going to fuck you so you stay fucked.”
It was not an unpleasant sensation, just different, with Magpie’s ammoniac breath huffing humidly at her ear. She focused on his cock sliding in and out of her, aware of her slick, inflamed cunt accepting him like a gift. He slapped her hard on the ass and her entire field of vision turned red for an instant. Then he was biting her neck and shoulders and back, and wrapping her hair in his fist and pulling it taut so that her scalp barked at the pain. She focused on the intake and outtake of her breath, the rhythm of their two bodies moving in sync, like a ship at sea on rough waters.
He came in a sudden rush, and moved slowly back and forth inside her for a long time before he pulled out. She climbed on top of him and kissed him on the mouth and he pulled her close with surprising desperation. His pock-scarred chest was pale and concave, a Latin phrase tattooed across his pectorals in brave Gothic letters. She rode him closely, their sweat-coated torsos sticking and unsticking with their movements. Up close, there was something beautiful, almost hypnotic about his face, those black eyes, still empty and dark and inscrutable even as he was inside.
Jennifer felt the burning sizzle of lightning bolts gathering at her heels and fingertips, a swirling hurricane of energy surging throughout her body, a rising crest of colors, rising, rising poised to explode. She ran her fingers through his long hair, grasping his scalp with her short nails.
Her finger slipped into a hole in his skull, and she froze, terrified, her orgasm stillborn in an instant.
Something was deeply wrong with this man, that hole in his head. He was still cupping her ass with his hands, easing her forward when she said, “Stop.”
He did so, a dreamy smile on his glowing face.
Jennifer could still feel his cock beating inside her, his blood pumping. She rolled off him and lay beside Magpie on the bed, a queasy feeling in her stomach.
“What is that?” she asked. “That hole…”
“The hole in my skull?”
“Yes, that one.”
“It increases the flow of blood to the brain and creates a sort of higher consciousness, like being permanently high.” He stroked her back, but there was nothing erotic in his touch now. “It’s better than mescaline, better than mushrooms.”
Jennifer wasn’t sure if he was joking, but his unsmiling face told her he wasn’t.
“You put a hole in your own skull?”
“It’s the oldest surgical practice known to mankind. It’s been performed for thousands and thousands of years, all the way back to prehistory.”
“And you walk around with a hole in your head.”
“Not all the time. I’ve got a cylinder plug made of polished bone.”
The sweat cooled to ice on Jennifer’s skin, and she felt revulsion at the grotesque horror show that is the human body beneath the skin. Nothing had ever felt so wrong to Jennifer before.
“What are you?” Jennifer said, wrapping his sour bed sheet around her shoulders.
“You know that feeling when you do a headstand? Instead of the blood pumping upward from the heart to the brain, it gives the heart a chance to rest, and washes the brain with oxygen, refreshing the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, the pineal gland, you know, the third eye with fresh blood, nutrients.”
“And I suppose you are some kind of doctor.”
“I’m not a ‘doctor’ doctor, maybe a medicine man, maybe a shaman.” Magpie chuckled patronizingly. “Sweet, sweet Jane.”
“You know, my name’s not Jane.”
“Names don’t matter. Only the spirit matters. I am Magpie today, but tomorrow I might be Imhotep or Khufu or Hieronymus Hitler.” He rolled over and shuffled through a chest of drawers beside the bed. “I’ve got an idea.”
He opened a small velvet-lined wooden box which contained a small drill, a surgical scalpel, hypodermic needle and several vials of clear liquid. “Are you feeling open-minded?”
“Are you out of your mind?”
“Yeah, yeah I am, and you can be too.” Magpie laughed, as if he had made a joke. “Forty-five minutes to enlightenment. It won’t hurt. Tetracaine hydrochloride will take care of all your worries. I’ve got some heavy-duty Canadian antibiotics in the fridge, so risk of infection is low.” He caressed her hair almost lovingly as he spoke. “I’ll take you places you’ve never imagined. Just wait till I’m inside you. It won’t hurt a bit.”
“Wait,” she practically screamed, pulling back from his tender caress. “You want to fuck me in the head?”
“I just want to increase the flow of blood to the brain, the sexiest of all sex organs, and then I’ll just slowly insert the glans, the head of my penis into the orifice, not deep, just the tip. You will feel like you did when you were fifteen again, like you’ve been touched by the index finger of God. Intimacy on a cosmic scale.”
Jennifer trembled beneath the bed sheet, horrified. “I think I’m going to throw up.”
“There’s a basket beside the bed.”
“I have a husband at home. He is sick in bed with a brain tumor and he’s going to die, and you, you just casually talk about drilling a hole into my head…”
Magpie looked genuinely shocked. “I didn’t know you were married. I don’t need that kind of static in my life.” He whistled tunelessly again. “I thought you were some desperate cougar in need of a good screw.”
“Well, I’m not.”
“I’m not judging. The body needs what the body needs.”
“I didn’t need this,” Jennifer said. “I didn’t need it at all. You disgust me.”
“When was the last time you were fucked, I mean really fucked?”
Jennifer was silent for a beat, “Asshole.” And then again, barely audible, “Asshole.”
“You’d better get home to your man. He needs you.”
Jennifer gathered her clothing off the floor, feeling her throat constrict. “You know, you’re a sick fuck.”
“Go home, Jane Doe. That’s where you belong.”
Out in the street, Jennifer looked back once at Magpie’s apartment, his studio light still on above the garage. She caught her breath, with a deep shuddering intake, a tide of darkness sweeping over her. What have I done?
Jennifer walked in no particular direction, her feet carrying her anywhere but home, deferring the moment in which she would have to face Chris. Of course, he would know immediately what had happened. She looked like she’d been mauled by a werewolf, her skin chewed raw at the shoulders, neck, her hair a sweaty tangle, Magpie’s animal scent all over her. She walked, farther and farther from where she was supposed to be, numb, throbbing, street lights flashing from red to green, her breath shallow, stricken, knowing that a life of regret and remorse awaited at the end of her journey.
Art by Yvonne Martinez.