Sex Talk by Marcela Huerta
In the beginning there is no way to find out about anything except through touching my own body. I wait for my bath every night and ask to be left alone. The ritual encounter exists from the time the tap turns on and starts its pounding stream into the tub until the moment the tub is filled. I will lay down, then lift my stomach to form a perfectly curved bridge, running hot water as hard as it will go onto my crotch. I will see how long I can stay just like this, legs trembling, my eyes facing the immaculately clean tiled wall.

Occasionally the women of the house will walk in and they will smile and say hello but with this look on their face that’s like what the fuck is going on.

Maybe the first seed of the idea that desire must be private is held in the gently frozen smiles of women in a doorway. But this could just be in retrospect; no one ever stops me in the act, but slowly, the stares start to bore into me. Distance builds between me and my lover, the tub.

As the years pass, I struggle to embrace change. I cry on every one of my birthdays, finding myself further and further away from being small and free. My heart aches knowing I will one day develop past the age where Peter Pan can take me, too grown and too far from my own imagination. Preemptively mourning the loss of a white boy who would have flown right past my house anyway.

I do not want to accept the shower. Its speed and sound imply a portal between places. But eventually I have no choice. I walk up the stairs and past its curtain, rinsing my tears, my eyes already red behind the lids. My mother stands above me, holding back the weight of the water. When I finally open my eyes she looks like a perfectly solid shadow.

And so, in this time, a body is a monument, existing far away and up close without question. Everyone near me walks around with their tits out and the door open. There is no seam. My pores are available for observation. We pluck my mother’s chin hairs.
I lay encompassed by her stomach with my dirty feet in my sister’s hands as she sands the callouses. After, I beg to be made not hairy: hot wax on my legs, yank back, a look of peace in her dark eyes. The light on the strip reveals the follicle. “It looks like sperm”, someone had said on the playground once after I plucked a hair out of my own head and showed it to them, and I was left to wonder what the fuck sperm was.

There are photos of me meeting my father all over the house but I guess I don’t remember the day itself. Soon though, there are promises of weekend visits, which are short enough windows of time for the concept of having daughters not to get boring.

“¿Como es que nací?”

How was I born?

“Tu papá sacudió sus calzones en mi cara y allí apareciste.”

Your dad waved his underwear in my face and there you were.

I imagine them, the large white boxers being shaken gently but firmly in her face, my body rolling right out of them and into her arms. Such a simple act, and so easy to walk away from. It makes it all make sense. But then one weekend I open the door to the bathroom, not noticing he is there, and as he walks out of the shower, his penis hangs in front of him for eternity and I just know I haven’t been told the whole truth.

I cry for so long at this unknown unknown that I think I’ll die.

And the whole time all he does is yell into the distant, general vicinity of my mother about how ridiculous it is to let children walk into any room they feel like whenever they feel like it, while gripping a towel in front of his body. The door closes on me. I wipe blur from my eyes.
⬦⬦⬦
At age 12, I get a computer and nothing is ever the same. Within months, I develop a severe eye-twitch from my nine hour backlit days and must be put on the bench, an eyepatch further degrading my social capital. But until then, in the Miniclip.com Pool Hall I am a God. I stroll the main lobby to see who will join me in a private room. We start the game but the timer just runs and runs. My first words in the chat are always: A/S/L. But now, in this moment, I could not tell you the age or the sex or the location of anyone I fucked on the internet, because I remember nothing. They have become simple shapes and numbers.

My second question is always, How big is your cock? Bloated on my own lack of research, I leave the room enraged if it is smaller than 13”.

At this point in my life I have no respect for a small dick because I can barely contain the concept of a dick, and so in my mind they roam large. Sometimes I bring my own dick into the room, 13” soaring through my mind’s eye and into someone else’s. I think of these people now, unknown to me beyond their reactions to my elaborately unrealistic sexual scenarios, these strangers I used and know nothing about. These strangers who used me, and in the act, inadvertently committed crimes. I feel bad for them and I feel bad for me, but I needed to know. I needed to consume infinitely. I remember nothing but the way I felt. And I felt so good.

The type of ugly that is reflected onto me when I am 15 is different than the type of ugly reflected onto me when I am 7. It is more delicate and slips away in a breeze, nothing like the thick, youthful disdain children excel at. Some specialize in winning and others in losing; these people are beautiful and these people are not and it is a mysterious but unanimous decision. It must be understood and is not personal. Me I’m the fool who wants to know why I didn’t make the cut. Me I’m the fool who wants to see it all up close. Me I’m the fool who answers truthfully to the question of whether I’ve masturbated, and must spend the rest of the birthday party locked inside my own brain with a dunce cap on, red in the face.

I accept my place and become externally demure, but inside I can’t help wondering if perhaps I am a stallion too exquisite for these people,
too bursting with raw sensuality and allure they cannot comprehend. I decide I must find out.

I apply to a private LiveJournal ratings community, where my acceptance promises to bring with it the influence of beauty. I too can become an arbiter of who is physically attractive. They find me beautiful. I find everyone beautiful. Once there, I’m less concerned with who can get in and more concerned with knowing everything about everyone, these rooms with the doors left wide open. Every post contains some arrangement of the word stamp—summer stamping, am i still stamped?, lurker but stamped—to confirm that yes, we have been pre-approved to exist in this space. I look at them to understand what goes into living when you choose to live in a place that’s not the place you are in. We develop strange, vibrant intimacies, fully exposed yet devoid of desire. I post pictures of myself the day I turn 18, naked with a waxed back, smooth and looking like a cello. sent this to my boyfriend today. Someone comments on my jawline and says we make a cute couple. We meet significant others, the only real names we tend to commit to memory. We throw going-away parties in the comments for those who decide to return to the real world. We know so much and also absolutely nothing about each other. A man gropes
👤blue_divide at a party and when they try to kick him out, he breaks a bottle over their head. They post photos of their bloody eye from multiple angles.

i just want to keep a record of it in case he comes back or something. But what can we do if he comes back besides comment on the aftermath? We don’t even know their real name. We say yes of course. Someone shares concealer recommendations. They hold keys to other, even more beautiful spaces I have no access to. When I don’t hear back from anyone after my interview at American Apparel,
👤demonforte messages me directly:

i work at that location i can explain what happened. lisa always says she only hires people she thinks are hot. you’re better off though, dont work here it’s dangerous.
⬦⬦⬦

Almost ten years later, long after I have given up on being regarded as professionally hot, a friend tells me about a private sex party company that pays really well. An acquaintance of his has gotten tons of gigs and he thinks I’m the type of beautiful that could easily break into the fold. He says it seems safe, and the main issue the girls run into is having to constantly refuse clients when they offer them cocaine or ask for full-service. The company rules are explicit about no drugs or sex with their girls, but you can’t tell the clients that or they’ll wonder if everything is worth less than they paid. So it’s up to you to seem like a killjoy.

It almost seems too good to be true: $2000 cash to stand perfectly still and naked on a podium, a painted Greek statue for the duration of a party. Who could possibly rival my mettle at the endurance sport of standing perfectly still while being stared at? I send dossier after dossier, auditioning for increasingly bizarre party scenarios: Mistress Emily, The Poetry of the Tit, Sexual Yoga, Beauty and the Absolute Beast. Suddenly I start to wonder why I am sending so many naked photos to the inbox of some random man for free, for the distant possibility of enough money to live off for a while. “Are you sure this isn’t a scam?” I ask my friend. “I really don’t think so. She told me she gets gigs, and I can’t see why she’d lie to me about it. But I mean maybe... ‘cause it doesn’t make sense you haven’t booked anything yet. I mean look at you”. I feel confident in both possibilities.

Freelance never pays on time. While I wait, I take jobs cleaning houses and book an interview to be a part-time sex chat operator. I’ve never been this fucking broke in my life. I am doing a workshop on Taking the Business of Writing into Your Own Hands and accidentally sign up for a year of HootSuite at $498.99 USD. My first overdraft. I dust a rock the size of my cat in a five bedroom apartment (cleaner has not been dusting the stone collection lately, please remind).

At the interview I wash my armpits and change into a silk blouse in the bathroom so I am not visibly sweaty after the hour-long bus ride. The juniors I’ve been emailing with tell me the CEO will be present. The job only pays $15 an hour, but at least it’s cash under the table. When the CEO comes into the room, the juniors stand, which I just think is so funny. The CEO sits across from me and both of us command attention, neither letting the other carry a sentence to completion. Everyone notices my nipples through my shirt, but in a way that makes it seem like I didn’t plan for them to. I have a 91 WPM score. I can start tomorrow. He welcomes me to the JessicaChat family with a firm handshake, and I smile my pageant smile at him.

I am at my peak. It is nothing like how I imagined it would be, but somehow everything I remember. It feels like being at the bottom of a waterfall with water going up your nose, everything so loud you can’t think of anything else. I see more dicks in one day than I’ve seen in my entire life. I talk to three, then four, then ten men at a time, about their jobs about their wives about whether their dicks look fine. I am immovable, unshakeable. No fantasy is beyond my scope. Wow, you are so awsome, Gerald writes me. Ted says, You have a very mature intellect after talking to me about his divorce for an hour straight. I can’t help but care about them. I think about them when I’m cleaning. I say, “My friend Jack was talking about that just yesterday”, when someone brings up the flood along the Mississippi river at a picnic.

I have a call after my trial shifts are over and the CEO puts me on speakerphone so I can hear everyone in the room applaud me. “We’ve got a star on our hands boys,” he says. He’s shocked at my capacity, he thinks there’s a real market here. They’re curious about testing out local chat suppliers, since the men they hire overseas, while significantly more affordable, struggle to keep up with demand. This past week has shown them this is going to be an excellent fit. Two more Jessicas will be joining the team.

“Once we finish sorting out the system, we’ll add commission. You’re gonna be rolling in it”.

You are going to be making this same amount of money for a very long time.

“Soon we’re gonna add even more girls, and when we do you’ll be leading the charge on all of them!”

As soon as we can, we will have you managing other people, without paying you more!
I think it’s funny that he thinks I’m falling for this, as if I am not also spending all day lying to people. But what can I do? Nothing else seems to be paying me enough to live. I’m up till 2 am every night looking for jobs in my field, many of which pay less than chatting does. I up my weekly shifts.

Maybe it’s the ever-rising standard (Elise has gotten to 15 simultaneous chats, girls, let’s think about upping our capacities!) or maybe it’s the non-stop requests for photos of Jessica (please jessica please i have been such a good boy) but I start to get tired.

The Jessicas and I send a message on WhatsApp: They won’t stop asking for pictures of Jessica. Suddenly my inbox is flooded with photos of a white blonde woman with large breasts. where did these pictures come from? don’t worry girls, everything is on the up and up! they’re from a cam girl we have on staff. Ah. So we are the Jessicas of the written word then, the Jessicas of the imagination. There are other Jessicas in charge of being beautiful.

I get my period, but it doesn’t go away. I start getting dizzy whenever I clean. When I call my mother to tell her, she seems so sad for me. She tells me she got paid the same when she was a cleaner, but it was cash only; she thinks it’s obscene that they’re taxing me. I tell her I’m going to stop soon, as soon as things pick up at my other job.

Sometimes trying to survive makes me feel like I am slowly killing myself. I think of the parties, those now distant fantasies that I would be deemed the type of sexy that men pay three months worth of rent to look at, instead of the type of sexy that gets $75 a day cash under the table.

I fly home for Christmas because there is no excuse not to, considering I had to quit my cleaning job and now work entirely remotely. My sister buys my ticket. When I get into the airport I am nauseous and exhausted. At the family get-together I tell everyone I am working in online customer service. Later I tell my mother I talk to lonely men on the internet about whatever they want, but get paid cash. The first question she asks is whether I have to send photos. The second is whether it pays ok.

“Bueno ya, pero no son mías. Más o menos.”

Well ya, but it’s not really me. More or less.

Her apartment is so tiny the only place I can do my shift is at the dinner table while she watches TV on the couch next to me. She puts a mug of hot parsley water next to me for my uterus and the nausea the antibiotics give me. It’s my last shift before I’m off for the holidays, and it’s busier than usual. I can’t stand up to go to the bathroom for the whole five hours. I can feel myself start to take it out on them, cruelly poking holes in their little fantasies, as though it is their fault, what I am going through. Ted understands why Jessica did it but wishes Jessica hadn’t gotten implants. I respond: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The shift feels like it takes a year. Right before I sign off, Paul wishes Jessica a Merry Christmas and I almost cry. When I finally close my laptop and stand up, my eyes are dry and the inside of my joints shove against each other. I feel like sandpaper.

“¿Que te pasa?”

What’s wrong?

“Me duelen los ojos.”

My eyes hurt.

She looks at me, then slaps her legs to call me over. I sit on the ground in front of her. I close my eyes and she starts to brush my hair out. When there are no more knots to pull through, she takes a comb and splits the sea straight down its widow’s peak and braids it on either side. I can feel every follicle pulling against my scalp. By the time she gets to the fraying tips I’ve already fallen asleep.

Notes:

The line “Some specialize in winning and others in losing” is taken from the book Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano.

All names and usernames have been altered.
Rat Chat Magazine