First, there was the craving. He could take care of it himself, but it would return by the end of the day. So he made the call. There was always excitement and anxiety in the hour that followed. There was hope that she would look just like her pictures. Maybe she would treat him like a girl that knew him and wanted him.
Yet there was also the fear that regret would hit as soon as he opened the door. Acne scars, track marks, a jutting stomach. He’d been there before, and he still went through with it. Sometimes he could see the marks of someone else’s hand on their skin. A fresh reminder of their busy schedule.
In the moment, he managed to tune out the bad and focus on the good. Once the moment passed, and once his money was gone, regret would set in again. It would only get worse as the day went on. His empty wallet was a reminder of his weakness. His phone showed him all of the girls he knew, all of whom wanted nothing to do with him. He’d scroll through pictures of his friends, in exotic countries with their arms draped over beautiful women.
He knew he was a failure. No one else would understand why he made the calls, or why he was struggling to stop. His parents would judge him. His friends would mock him.
The next day the craving would return. He would go to his computer and scroll through screenshots and videos, looking for the perfect one. He normally felt relief when he was done, knowing that his money remained untouched. Yet there was a pang of shame; the knowledge that he had no one.
His debt wasn’t a result of the calls, but the calls made it worse. No matter how he felt afterwards, he still savoured the feel of someone else. He couldn’t count the amount of times he made a call, only to take care of himself first and then cancel his request. It was part of the cycle. He could usually hold out for a few weeks before he gave in.
Then another call. Every time the sessions ended, he had to grapple with the fact that he’d been with more attractive girls for free. Yet those high points felt like a lifetime ago and the future didn’t seem to hold much promise.
There were pills in his drawer. He told the doctor he had chronic pain and the pills were the medicine. There was no pain. The pills were a last resort that became more appealing every day. They could end the cycle.
Cadeem Lalor is a Jamaican-Canadian writer. His experiences growing up in three different countries (Jamaica, Canada, England) influence his themes of identity and belonging. He has written five novels; three sci-fi and two fantasy.
Previous Publications: His short story “Memory Catcher” was published by Idle Ink on August 1st and “Embers” was published by Siren Call Publications in October 2020.
Memory Catcher: https://idleink.org/2020/08/01/memory-catcher-by-cadeem-lalor/
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