“Junk” by R.D. Kimball
“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” Jasper croons. He is always crooning. Especially now. It’s his act, and the sequins on his jumpsuit glitter with stage light. Crooning. But he isn’t paying attention to himself just now, he’s thinking of a little wooden box.
He sings Sinatra to jaded old folks who have just gambled away their retirement funds for the seventh time. He tries not to look at them. A morbidly obese woman sits in the front row, puffing on a cigarette between the bursts from her oxygen tank. He can hear the damn thing over the house band: chunk-hiss, chunk-hiss. Stringy white hair and a massive white “#1 Grandma” sweatshirt. Makes him fucking sick.
“It’s up to you, New York, New York!” He holds out the last notes as the violins swell. Then a few half-hearted claps, he graciously recommends the veal, a “you-guys-have-been-great,” and then he’s out of there. He books it offstage and doesn’t bother waiting for a curtain call. He’s sweat-stained and smelling of beer even though he hasn’t drunk anything all evening. “Fuck this” he mutters, wondering how he’s managed to get through “this” for twenty years without killing himself.
The other stuff, the junk, that doesn’t help, but it’s not as if he could stop that. He needs it. He’s in his dressing room when that fact comes rushing back to him. He needed it. Needs it. No.
He’s been having a rough time distinguishing the past from the present lately.
He carefully removes his wig, the few strands of natural hair plastered to his scalp. Hasn’t he already done this? He shakes his head, taking out his phone and dialing a few familiar numbers. “Where’s the girl?” he asks. Mumbling. “Well, I’m asking now. A new one this time. Now, right fucking now is when. Send her up. Yeah, charge it to the house. Right.” He hangs up the phone and stares at the little wooden box he keeps next to his stage makeup. No. Not yet. Already. Always. But not yet.
Instead, he takes a shower.
When he comes out, shirtless, hairy gut hanging over the waistband of his blue silk boxer shorts and a towel around his neck, a knock raps on his door. Knock knock. “It’s open,” he says, and then it does open. And there she was. Is. Was. Tall and slender, green halter top and mini-skirt and stiletto heels and fucking tall, almost a foot over Jasper in those shoes. She has an exotic string-of-pearls smile, and Jasper looks her over.
“They didn’t tell me you’d be Chinese,” he says.
“Korean,” she corrects him.
“Whatever the fuck,” he grumbles. “They didn’t fucking tell me.”
She laughs. “Is it going to be a problem?”
He sighs, glancing at the box next to his stage makeup. “I guess not.” He sits in his chair, taking the box gingerly in his hands, unlatches the lid. The girl watches, nonplussed, as he places some substances into a spoon, and, with a cigarette lighter, begins cooking his junk.
“Want some help?” she asks and he shrugs.
“Yeah, sure, you can tie me off if you want.”
And after he finishes, readying his syringe, that’s exactly what she does. A tight knot in a section of rubber tubing around his left bicep. Veins bulge and the track marks are little airport men with orange cones in hand and waving and he bites his lip as a landing is made.
He starts sliding, then.
He leans back into his chair and stares blankly ahead. The call girl gently unties the rubber hose and watches his eyes glaze over into hubcaps.
“What do you need, baby?”
“Nothing. Everything. Nothing.” He slides off into an obscure corner of his head. “Just make it go away for awhile.”
And she laughs and says, “I can do Nothing, but it costs extra.”
He shrugs in response. “Do it.”
Music starts from somewhere, and she’s dancing.
Her shoes are off. He doesn’t remember her taking off her shoes. Was she taking them off now? No, they are already off, and Jasper watches her come out of her clothes. She is a writhing serpent, firm and bronzed beneath the hooker-clothes, but it barely matters to Jasper. Fuck it, the junk is beginning to work. Work it. Work it. Naked brown nipples and her belly button smiles knowingly.
“How do you like it?” she asks and he shakes his head.
“More. Not enough. I mean, too much.”
Her belly button giggles girlishly. “I understand.”
And then she takes off her skin.
It is a smooth, natural movement. She reaches to the back of her head and unzips her skin down to her buttocks. She slides out of it effortlessly and she is a red snapping machine made of muscle-cords and globules of fat. Her lidless eyes are a George Romero confection. He licks his lips, shaking his head to keep from sliding around the room. “More. Yes. Faster. Please.”
Snaps and ties, flesh and tissue. She slowly clasps and unclasps, working her way out of herself, shedding lingerie of tendons and cartilage. Her dancing becomes angular and frantic as the pieces fly, blood-frothed and mystical. Slowly. Quickly.
She is a skeleton now, down to next-to-nothing, and she’s laughing with an undisguised lust. Jasper, as always, a slathering junkie, he wants it. He needs it. “Give me oblivion,” he begs, his voice straining.
Her skull chuckles. “Are you sure?”
“Yes give it to me.”
In a brief moment of clarity, he recognizes the song she’s been dancing to. “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…” One by one, her bones are vanishing, making room for those lovely spaces that lingered beneath them. The nothing that was the only thing that Jasper ever wanted. “It’s up to you, New York-” he holds his breath as the last bone, a tantalizing femur, lays flush upon the void of his desire. This is nothing. This is everything. This is nothing. “New York!” Junk.
She is empty, and then he is gone.
|R.D. Kimball is a religious scholar, a Hawaiian shirt enthusiast, and a collector of vinyl records and interesting hats. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in places like Phantom Kangaroo, Yellow Mama, decomP, and The Red Cedar Review.|