I remember the time I studied abroad in England, the many sleepless nights spent poring over texts, writing notes, preparing for exams and masturbating too frequently that I had rubbed my member raw. Back then, I was plagued by a terrible case of insomnia. A pervading cloud of potent vapors that lifted my lids with its cold, burning tendrils. I was helpless against it, and at the age of eighteen one has yet to occupy their passions completely, nor understand ones place. I often wandered the streets, attached by nothing, not even the reality of the pre-medicine degree I pursued, or the notion of taking over my fathers neurosurgery practice when he retired to move to Italy with mom. There was a bottomless anxiety that propelled me every night into those streets to greet the faces of strangers.
Normally, I would walk half a mile to the public park and chance a peek at the benches near the center for potential late-night liaisons. I wouldn’t have to get too close before I could discern if the park was empty or occupied. If there was a man being pleasured, you could hear it. If it was a woman, you know damn well you could hear that, too. After only a week of this light voyeuristic behavior, I grew dissatisfied with sounds. I wanted something more vivid.
I started by buying a cheap pair of binoculars. I have never felt so foolish in my life as I did that fateful night while crouched in the bushes, aiming the binoculars at the moaning mass of bodies at a distant bench. You might as well have had your eyes closed when choosing to use binoculars for nighttime spectating. Night vision goggles were an absurd notion. I was not a spy, nor was I interested in paying a large sum for a piece of equipment I would likely outgrow.
At first I didn’t have the guts to do what I did, so I stopped at the corner store for a twelve-pack and brought them back to my dorm room to drink alone. After I finished nine bottles I felt like I might vomit so I laid down for twenty minutes, took a shower, dressed, then returned to the welcoming night.
The night smelled of fresh rain that recently passed through. My boots greeted the paved road with harsh thuds. The bars and clubs had their doors open and people stood outside smoking and laughing. None took notice to me even though I saw them looking at me in my mind and asking me where I was going, what was I doing? I was merely enjoying a stroll. I am a student, I am of no concern to you. Yet, I heard their voices clamor in my head and challenge every aspect of my existence, every subtle nuance of emotion, and briskly toss me aside into the heap of mad men. Why did they have to recoil at my presence? I had just showered and my coat was pulled up to my nose and the hat I wore hid my mat of thick brown hair that I never touched with gel or oil. I liked it this way, gliding down the street, listening to the people enjoy this moment in their lives, one they would either completely forget or remember their entire lifetime.
A man asked me for a dollar and I said I didn’t have any money and he said “Well, god bless you. You’re no better off than I am.” And I said, “Thanks, you too.” Before shuffling off at a slower pace as to appear fatigued by the moment of interaction, in hopes of instilling a sense of pride in the beggar that his confrontation with me had been meaningful. Just look at how he walks now! Before, he was in a rush. Then, I asked him for a dollar and he was poor like me and so he walks slower now, weighed down by poverty.
I continued walking slowly as I approached the park and pulled down my hood to get a better view of my surroundings. There were three people across the street smoking cigarettes who might have seen me enter, but that would not be a big deal as they likely saw many people walk in and out. I walked across the grass away from the main path, towards the familiar bush that afforded acceptable cover and a decent view of the nearby bench. Before approaching the bush I fell into a crouch at the soft sound of female moans. A lump in my throat, a knot in the stomach. I bowed my head and began to crawl through the wet grass, icy water soaking through my pants and bathing my shin.
I laid on my belly at the feet of the bush and watched a young man having sex with a woman who was on her back, legs limp around him. I pulled at my belt and freed the button of my pants, unzipped slowly and began to pleasure myself. Just as I got started, the young man was about to finish. I tried desperately to stroke myself to completion to meet his climax and failed. I removed my hand and exhaled a long, quiet breath. The man kissed her four or five times before leaving. The woman remained on her back. I stood to my feet and slowly left the bush. The sudden rustle of branches and flutter of leaves did not stir the woman in the slightest.
I said, “Hello.”
Still, she did not stir.
“Excuse me,” I said.
Her chest rose slowly, naturally, and I became unsure she was awake. I approached the end of the bench where her head rested on a coat and looked down into her bright green eyes whose pupils were fat like pennies, her nose dusted with blue powder, her bottom lip pierced and quivering. I greeted her once more and saw that nothing on her face registered my presence.
I said, “I’m going to have sex with you now. Is that okay?”
She stared up at the overhanging branches that shifted under the light breeze. Her lip quivered more fiercely now, and I bent down to kiss them. She smelled like vanilla and sweat.
“I will be real quick and gentle, okay? My name is Michael. I think you are beautiful,” I said.
I walked over to the opening between her legs and let my pants drop down to my ankles. Her warmth was enough to inspire an erection that I pressed into her. She was very wet and I came after two thrusts. She began to gag and gurgle so I withdrew quickly and watched semen fall down her crotch into darkness as I pulled my pants back on and fastened the belt.
I said, “Thank you, you are so beautiful.”
She was still gurgling and it began to make me feel queasy so I said, “Are you okay?”
Her chest stopped moving. I watched for several more seconds and still did not see it rise.
“What the fuck is going on?” The man I saw earlier making love to her had appeared with a paper bag and a bottle of vodka and dropped them, rushing to the woman’s side.
“Abby, wake up!” He said, slapping her face. “Wake up! What the hell happened? What did you do to her?”
I took a step back and noticed a drop of semen fall from her leg and I heard him screaming at her, and then at me, and he started to sob and pound at her chest so I ran back down the street past the smokers, the bum, the clubs, the corner store, and back to the dorm where I locked myself in for the weekend.
I read a collection of short stories and wrote in my journal about a friend then watched a western film by Sergio Leone called A Fistful of Dollars. I was able to sleep eight hours in one night so Monday was excruciating as I was awake for lecture.
I stood from the desk and stretched. Nostalgia hit hard tonight. I gathered my tools and went for the basement door. The key wouldn’t go in right away, a symptom of age. Finally, it opened, and the voices came up the stairs through sobs. I smiled and descended the wooden steps.
These days, I am more careful with my late night excursions. The women I meet now do not die right away.