Her skin felt like wet cardboard under the flimsy duvet. In the air hung the smell of damp towels. He felt nauseous when he stared at the blue bulb that pulsed from a cheap lamp on his bedside table. He wasn’t sure whether she felt the same by looking at the thick bible that sat drearily on her side.
The room had cost him thirty-five pounds; he’d paid half in cash and the other on a rarely used credit card. At least there was a mini bar he thought to himself as he turned over: after sex he always turned away, he couldn’t sleep otherwise. His chest was damp with sweat and semen; he’d drunk enough already but hoped that one more might ease the gut wrenching guilt that surged through his body.
She coughed, farted. He wondered whether the cough was supposed to mask the embarrassment of the fart but then she farted again, louder this time. He clicked his tongue. “Oh fuck off love, you ain’t been so polite yourself”, she barked. Okay, so he farted a few times earlier, he thought angrily. But he’d desperately tried to muffle the sound and trap the smell beneath the sheets. Hers, on the other hand, had a degree of rebelliousness to it, like something she was forcing out. He couldn’t help but feel she had a blatant disrespect for his presence. “Yeah, sorry” he said, retracting. “I can’t smell anything anyway”.
She lit a cigarette with her silver zippo, snapping the casing lid back down with a distinctive clunk. Had soldiers really tossed them alight into straw huts in the jungles of Vietnam? He’ll never know, and didn’t really care.
He turned to face her spotty back, her shoulder blades angular cliffs protruding from a pale desolate beach. He had the sudden urge to draw her closer, caress her lank hair, or squeeze her fragile skeleton until it snapped. Instead he drew his foreskin back over the end of his limp lifeless cock. “Got a spare one of those for me?” he mumbled. “Nah, saw some in the bar downstairs. Probably cost a fortune though. What’s the time?” He turned over and stretched for his watch on the floor. He was always wary of that watch, making sure he always took it off before any activities began. It was a birthday present from his mother-in-law and he’d be fucked if he’d let it get damaged by any of these cheap lousy whores.
“Three AM. Is that an hour already?” (he wasn’t surprised, he felt like he’d had more energy tonight and had performed considerably longer than previous excursions). “fraid so darling, finish this and I’ll be off”. She took a deep long drag on the cigarette and squished it into a glass ashtray, that she slid out from under the bed. “I can give you a lift it you want?” he said apathetically. “Nah, no need. I’m getting picked up,” she replied biting her upper lip. “Marcus is it?” (He was nasty pimp known for whipping the girls if ever they crossed him). “You ‘an ‘arf ask a lot of questions, don’t you mate?”
He got up and opened the mini bar fridge, taking out a miniature bottle of scotch. He twisted the cap off and downed it in one. “ He’s a fucking wanker that bloke”, he said bluntly. She laughed. “ Look at the hard man with his little bottle of booze and his tiny little prick”. She laughed again. Embarrassed, he climbed back under the duvet. “Well he is, isn’t he?” He said bravely. “What the fuck do you know? If he hears you say that he’ll cut your fucking head off”. She was right; he promptly left that subject alone.
She got dressed quickly, causing a ladder to form on the left leg of her tights. “Fuck it”, she snapped. “Couldn’t you ‘av got a room with a loo?” He shrugged. “Didn’t think we’d needed it”. She shook her head at him and wrinkled her nose “wanker”. He rolled the duvet around his legs tightly and spoke into his pillow: “what about the customers always right, eh?” She picked up her fake Louis Vinton bag. “I’ll be back for the money”. She opened the door and swiftly left the room.
He could hear her high heels tapping down the hallway to the bathroom. He closed his eyes and thought about not paying her when she returned. He’d done this once before when he left a Bangkok brothel through a toilet window. He’d got half way up the street when he was attacked by two Thai heavyweights with rubber cosh’s. They’d given him a real hiding and stole all his money. He had to spend the following week with the Thai police trying to lie his way out of trouble.
His thoughts turned to his house his was about to sell, his car that wasn’t breaking properly, and the blood that sporadically appeared on the toilet paper when he wiped his arse. He felt horny again, his dick growing disobediently.
She re-entered with her hair tied back and her face clean of make-up. She looked better, healthier. “You’d do well looking like that” he said encouragingly. She cocked her head and sighed, “there’s no one normal anymore is there?” He looked blank then shook his head in agreement.
She outstretched a flat open hand and produced a fake smile. “Fifty quid then. Ain’t no one cheaper this side of town”. He let out a sniffle of laughter (it wasn’t funny). “It’s weird, I seem to have lost some hearing in my right ear over the last hour”, he said quietly. “Fucking hell, i’ve been given some compliments in my time but that beats the biscuit. Probably all that screaming you did”. “I don’t scream do I?” “Not much”, she clicker her fingers. “Money”. He pointed over to his trousers that lay strewn across a large chair in the corner of the room. “Sling us those would ya?” She snatched them up and flung them his way.
He pulled out his wallet and thumbed through the thousand pounds he got out earlier that night. He was planning on buying several grams of coke from a guy in Tower Hamlets. “Fifty yeah?” He said. She rolled her eyes and nodded. He took out the notes and handed them to her. “Fanks” she said sharply. The headlights from a car pulling up outside swept over her face through a gap in the curtains. A deep bass from its stereo shook the glass in the windows. ”Marcus”, she said as she moved over to the window and pulled back the curtain. “Shall I come out?” he said weakly. She turned around and shook her head, “don’t”.
He propped himself up against the headboard and scratched his sweaty sack. “Well, see ya then”, was all he could muster. She put her coat on and wrapped a scarf around her neck. Could anyone actually love this woman, he thought. Probably. She opened the door. “ Suppose I’ll be seeing you again eh?” She said sarcastically. “Are you sure you haven’t got a spare ciggie?” He replied. She rummaged in her purse and pulled out a crumpled bag of tobacco. She tossed it to him. “Some in there with the papers, you can ‘av it”. He nodded, “cheers”. She shook her head and left the room. He stared at the closed door waiting for the sound of her high heels tapping to disappear.
He rolled up a thin cigarette and sighed heavily. He stared at the Picasso print on the wall in between the windows and realised he didn’t have a light. He placed the cigarette between his lips and dragged hard anyway. He could feel himself dozing off, his eyelids growing heavier and heavier. He placed the cigarette on the bedside table, strapped his watch back on and puffed up the smelly pillow he was leaning on. He nestled down and closed his eyes. He suddenly remembered to set the alarm on his watch. One hour he thought. One hour here, half an hour in Tower Hamlets and twenty minutes to get home (depending on the rush hour traffic). It wasn’t much time he thought before he’d be with his wife celebrating his fifteenth wedding anniversary.