Friday, May 26, 2017

Dear Corey

            Dear Corey,
I was na├»ve enough to thing you could be “the one.” Of course, you were the only outed guy in town that was actually attractive. As usual, I was wrong about you. I’m mad at myself for taking so long to realize this.
            Part of the reason I feel I latched onto you was because I had searched so long for another guy and we ended up working together. I was so stupid for thinking you would ever feel the same way about me. After all, you’d previously had a relationship with another boy in school and had already felt what I was so desperate to feel myself.
            You were probably the biggest reason why I applied at the same restaurant you worked at. I wanted to get to know you and possibly have a real relationship for once. It’s pathetic, right? My thinking at the time made sense to me, for some odd reason. I must have thought you were as desperate as I was.
            I suppose I’m still glad I got to know you. We had some similar experiences: coming out to our peers, which is an arguably difficult obstacle. I finally started to feel comfortable talking about my sexuality for once when I was around someone else who had been through a similar journey. I’m still amazed by how accepting all the other employees were, although everyone that stayed employed for a significant time was under 25.
            The fact that we had different experiences with finding out who we were still baffles me. For your whole life, you’d knew you were gay. I discovered I was bisexual at age 13. You’d had more negative responses from your peers when you came out of the closet (of course, you did that by kissing another guy at school in front of everyone). I did over Facebook and had only a few misunderstandings.
            At work, you were such a dork. That’s what made you even more attractive to me. You would always talk about a new video game were playing or the dirty joke your friend said that day in school. And you were cute. That’s why I fell for you, I suppose. For some reason, the combination of characteristics seemed to make up the perfect guy to me.
            It was really hard for me to tell if you expected me to come forward and confess that I had a crush on you. I hinted every now and then by giving you a hug or something. But you still seemed a little blindsided when I told you that night when we were closing the store together. You were preoccupied with wanting to get back with your ex. I respected you enough to encourage you to say something to him, because I wanted you to be happy.
            You never directly responded to my confession to you. That caused so much uncertainty that my anxiety skyrocketed. I remember waiting the next day for you to text me to talk further, but you didn’t. I knew I fucked up. Later that night, I decided to text first, to ask how things were going for you and you unexpectedly replied, saying you were still trying to figure it out. I gave you advice to say something to your ex. I knew once you knew if he wanted to make up that you wouldn’t suffer from the uncertainty that I was feeling.
            The night I found out you both had made up and had gotten back together, I was absolutely destroyed. From what you had previously said, he didn’t seem interested in you anymore, especially when he seemed to be avoiding you in school. I wasn’t expecting it to turn out the other way. When I drove home that night, I cried so hard I practically had to pull over. It didn’t help that I had sad music blaring (Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You,” to help you get an idea). You were finally happy and had the courage to speak up, the same way I had to you earlier. But the fact that it wasn’t me that was making your dreams come true gnawed at me until I was raw.
            The one thing that I hated about you is how you continued to talk about your boyfriend in front of me. It was as if I was just another one of your many lady-friends for the next few weeks we worked together.  Did you have any idea how much it hurt me? I had just professed my feelings for you not long before and you acted as if I had never said anything.  
            It also baffled me why you’d gone back to him. He would act like a dick to you at school, mostly in front of his other friends. Not to mention the occasion when you told me that he would have rather spent time scrolling though straight porn on Tumblr than spend a night with you. I couldn’t imagine why you wanted someone who acted like they didn’t want you, when I wholeheartedly wanted to be with you.
            As you remember, we both coincidentally quit our jobs on the same day. You’d stormed out earlier in the morning due to the regional manager’s bad scheduling and I put in my two weeks notice a few hours later. I was later persuaded to stay until one individual who we both disliked pissed me off enough that I put my notice back in.
            I didn’t see you since you left until I was hired at a different establishment. You had actually been hired there earlier. If I had known you worked there, I might have actually applied somewhere else, to avoid reliving what you had put me through.
            My feelings for you had returned after a mutual friend (who also worked at the same store with us) told me you had broken up with your on and off again boyfriend. Maybe I still had a shot; who knows?
            We actually didn’t work together until a few weeks after I was hired. Probably because of all those damn training videos about cashiering I had to watch. There were so many and the technology in the back room kept freezing up or failing to load. Once I was finally up front with you, we still talked and joked around. It was almost like our last job, only there were more customers and less time to goof off. I was actually happy to know someone else that worked in such a gigantic store.
            After almost two months, my feelings for you started increasing. One day, I thought about straight up asking you out and getting everything off my chest. But last minute, I couldn’t work up the courage to speak up. I kicked myself for not doing that.
            During the middle of June, my family and I left on a camping vacation to the northeastern part of the state. I couldn’t get you off my mind. The uncertainty of what you would say if I ever said something again was eating me alive. That whole two weeks affected me so badly that I never wanted to go on a vacation with my family again. The stress was impacting my interaction with them because I was so focused on constantly wondering what would happen if I explained my feelings for you again.
            Through the last week of the vacation, I had made up my mind that I would finally come clean with you and say something. I practiced how I would say it when I took walks alone around the lake. But I then saw when scrolling through my Facebook news feed that you were traveling to look at a college in Colorado. At that point, my heart sank, because there was a chance you would be leaving.
            On the day after my family got back, I went through your checkout lane and you confirmed you would be moving during the upcoming fall out of the state so you could attend that college so far from here. I was disappointed and knew I would have to give up.
            Just seeing you at work was enough to depress me. It was a constant reminder that I had waited too long, that I would never know if you would ever consider being with me and that I would probably never see you again. Then, you got fired in July because you had called in too many times. Not seeing you anymore allowed me to heal somewhat. I started feeling a little better about the situation and started forgetting about the unquenched loneliness I had been feeling for so long.

It’s been a few months now and you’ve since left the state. I’ve made so many more friends at work and I can comfortably say I have gotten over you. I don’t think you’ll ever realize how much you affected my life, for better or worse but I hope you’re happy in Colorado and doing well at the school you chose. There will probably always be a special place for you in my heart, but I have since moved on to pursue bigger and better things.
This post is a true story that I wrote for a creative writing course in my sophomore year of college. Due to privacy reasons, certain details have been changed.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Unfortunate Tale of Orange Socks

This post contains graphic content, including, but not limited to, strong language and sexual assault. It is based on a true story, inspired by an unidentified woman bearing the same nickname.
Artistic rendering of "Orange Socks" by Carl  Koppelman

            I’ve wandered my way through Oklahoma mostly by walking, occasionally trading rides for sex, the distance that tuckers would take me would represent the distance I’d go to make it happen. My last customer wasn’t particularly gentle and I’ve spent the past two days walking along the roadside with bruised thighs and an aching groin. Even if I was up to prostitution at that moment, I couldn’t because there are so few cars that pass me. The occasional breeze is nice when each vehicle drives ahead of me, yet they ignore my outstretched thumb.
           The mosquitoes are particularly bad in this part of the state. I can’t stop scratching all the bites I’ve gotten from being out in the open for so long. I reach down, feeling my fingers move across the bumps on my unshaven legs and sense my long, dirty fingernails scrape away at my swollen skin. It’s so hot outside and I regret the fact that I couldn’t afford to buy new sandals. My feet are overheating in the pair of tattered Nike Bruin sneakers I have worn for the past two years.
          I’d left home at sixteen and spent time under bridges, in vacant buildings and cheap hotels before I roomed with my grandma in Tulsa until she got sick. She died in November of 1978, almost a year ago. I honestly think she was the only person who ever gave a rat’s ass about me. I run my fingers through my wavy, reddish clumps of hair, which I often do to calm myself down when unpleasant thoughts come to my mind.
          I always remembered being called by the nickname “Socks.” My neighbors told me a story that one day when I was real little I’d run from our trailer to theirs, wearing nothing but the stockings on my feet. They said I wanted to get away from my drunken father who was fighting with my momma that morning. I don’t remember that day or ever having a real daddy.
          It’s late October now and I haven’t been able to afford a hotel room in a few weeks and generally spent nights on quiet roadsides or under bridges. I’m usually able to make up to fifteen-dollars a pop for each trucker who’d me suck him off. I never really liked hooking, yet it was the only honest way I could come across money.
          When I start feeling fatigue as the night approaches, I find an overpass to sleep under for the night that seems less busy with traffic. The last time I ended up waking every twenty minutes because a damn truck would drive above me. I plan on heading to a gas station in the morning. Its sign peeks from the trees not far from where I rest.
          “Can you wait a fucking second?!” I shout.
          I’m in the bathroom of the gas station I observed last night when a violent, angry pounding interrupts my thoughts. A man shouts a series of insults on the other side of the door, apparently in desperate need of a midmorning piss.
          I wring out a dirty towel I stole the week before from a clothes line over the sink and place it underneath the hand dryer nearby. Once it’s moderately dried out, I place it along the front of my underwear. It’s “that time of the month” for me and I have to save what little cash I had for food. I can’t really spend much on tampons when I have been trading my body for rides, rather than for money. So far, my towel method had worked decently, when you consider the circumstances of my lifestyle.
          I jump when I made eye contact with myself in the dirty, cracked mirror. This is the first time I have seen my reflection in months and I’m surprised by how dirty my hair had gotten. It gives me a much more feral look to match my wide-set hazel eyes and thick, bushy eyebrows. I ain’t what lots of people think of as pretty, but it don’t always stop the horny truckers who’ve been traveling for days who are eager for any kind of pussy. I was often told by one of my momma’s many boyfriends that I was too ugly to ever be a whore, but I guess I proved him wrong. I never ended up saying anything back to him, because he drank himself to death the next night.
          As soon as I unlock the bathroom door, the man on the other side barges in with a scowl. “About damn time!”
          “Fuck off, man!” I scoff as I size him up. I’m tall for a lady and I look him square in the face, meeting his angry eyes. He wears a dirty work uniform with “Jim’s Hauling Co.” embroidered on the breast pocket. Dark, abundant chest hairs peek from the wife-beater he wears underneath.
          Minutes later, he is on the floor groaning as I increase the speed of my hand around his rager. Despite the fact we got off on the wrong foot, he decided it was worth eleven to get a hand job from me. When I finish, he lets out a deep breath and lay back, his head and rests it against the edge of the toilet.
          I raise my eyebrow and he caught on after a minute and pulls out his worn wallet from his back pocket and pulls out two crisp ten-dollar bills. He outstretches his hand with a casual smile.
          “You have change?”
          “No,” I reply as I stuff the money into my bra.
          I push open the door soon afterward, greeted by a young woman’s high-pitched gasp as she sees my latest client stuff his manhood back into his pants behind me. Her eyes are wide with surprise and I tell her to get out of my way. She looks as if she’s never seen a man naked. I feel kinda sorry for her if it’s true.
          I spend the next hour and a half on the streets in town trying to hitchhike. I was about to admit defeat when a blue truck slows as it approached me. I looked up as the man driving flicks his cigarette at my feet and laughs when I jump away. I retract my thumb and extend my middle finger, which makes him guffaw into his beer.
          When I was in my early teens, I actually saw some value in a life with a roof over my head with my mom’s abusive string of boyfriends living underneath it. Since momma worked most of the time, it allowed most of them to stay home and drink. She didn’t pay much attention to me and the father figures in my life often paid too much, usually spanking me for leaving my few toys lying around or forgetting to clean the house. My mind wandered so often that I forgot to run after it when I should have.
          After I’m done fuming over the ass who laughed at me, I sew a homeless man on the sidewalk and sit down next to him. He looks about forty, but by the way he’s been living, he could have been a lot younger. He strums his guitar and sings about city life and his missing dog. A few people passing by throw change into his guitar case. I kind of wish I had enough to give but I need to make the twenty dollars I made this morning last as long as I can.
          The man reminisces about a long-lost love he had as a teenager and it reminds me how I never got to have that sort of thing in my life. The only people who had ever wanted to fuck me were the old janitor from the high school or my mom’s ex who ended up getting his ass whopped for molesting one of the neighbor’s kids.
          None of the boys my age were interested in the stocky, tall-for-her-age girl who could knock around anyone who pissed her off. I’d started hooking by twelve in exchange for cigarettes and then money. What I lacked in attractiveness I made up for with my handwork and whatnot.
          After a week in that particularly unremarkable town, I have decided to move on. I spent all of my money on as much cheap food as I could find. I sit under my bridge and dip the long nail from my index finger into a near-empty jar of peanut butter and observe one last glance at my home for the past seven days. I take a deep breath and prepare myself for a day of finding a ride – and a client that can get me out of here.
          The day has already been hot and sticky and it’s still morning. I haven’t bathed in I don’t know how long, yet it’s a sacrifice I didn’t mind making when I decided to live on the road again after grandma died. When I was little, I went long intervals without being washed by my neglectful momma and her boyfriends, so it was something I was used to, anyway.
          After a few more hours of walking the streets and attempting to flag down drivers, I got another man to pull over and told him I need a ride. When he asked for what I’d give in exchange, he lit up when I explained I’d go all the way for some additional cash. He was middle-age and wore a long beard, his head balding a little at the top of his head. No ring was on his finger, so there’s no surprise he was so open to this opportunity.
          I open the passenger door of his semi and he soon drives me to a secluded, wooded area he said he’d passed earlier this morning and we undress. A few minutes later, I lay in the back of his vehicle gazing out the window, ignoring his attempts to make eye-contact as he thrusts on top of me until it’s over with.  I cringe when he pulls out and kisses my neck tenderly. After that, he tosses a crumpled fifty on my uncovered chest.
          “You wanted that ride now, right, hon’?”
          “Yeah,” I muttered.
          The ride feels like hours when I think it was probably only twenty minutes. Time passes slowly when you watch all the trees out the window as you move alongside them. I get out of the truck when he stops in Georgetown, a city outside of Austin. I leave without saying a “goodbye” or a “thank you.” He waves when I catch a regretful glance back, but I ignore him. I’m a transient prostitute, not his wife. I know I ain’t the only hooker who resents every man who thinks there’s more to a single-time screwing.
          The streets are densely populated with people. I feel like I encounter a few hundred in the first few minutes I scope out the downtown area. I smell the all-too familiar odors of urban city life – cigarette smoke, bad restaurants and exhaust. I think about settling in an alleyway nearby, but I decide against it, not knowing who or what I might encounter once night arrives.
          After few hours I spend of walking, I discover a bridge that seems unused and I quickly sit down, relaxing my aching body. It has been yet another, unsurprisingly humid and miserable day. I hope that in a few more hours, it will be dark again and the city will quiet down a little. A bag I carry since I went shopping last is running on empty. I knew need to do more shopping again the next day. I yawn loudly and my eyes close. I decide to do it the next day, as I’m too tired to do much of anything. I curl up into my usual position and rest my arm underneath my head. I always got teased by grandma for being a side-sleeper.
          “What the fuck, Roger?!”
          “Don’t you give me none of that, you miserable little cunt!”
          “How dare you talk to me that way in front of the kids?!”
          The couple’s arguing shakes me from my slumber. It is so dark around me; I can only see a few feet in front of me. I’m facing away from where the city’s dull lights shine in the distance. The shouting is coming from directly above me, on the bridge. I lay, huddled in the brush below, out of anyone’s sight.
          “I told you not be talking to that sumbitch!”
          “He treats me a helluva lot better than you do, you asshole!”
          After the woman spits her last line of venom, I hear a loud, quick noise that must be a slap. I cover my left ear with my hand and I press my other ear into the ground to try to drown them out, frantically stroking my hair with my free hand. Hot tears start streaming from my eyes as I remember the turbulence of my childhood.
          “Why isn’t Socks ready yet? I fuckin’ told you to have her ready by ten o’clock!”
          “I could care less! She ain’t pretty enough to get her damn picture taken anyway!”
          “I’ll do it myself, you useless piece of shit!”
          The next morning, in the early hours of dawn, I find myself staring blankly at the gray sky above me. I didn’t get much sleep last night. Too many bad memories got stirred up when I heard all that fighting. I think it’s gonna rain, based on how the sky looks.
          I get up and eat my breakfast of saltine crackers. I toss the empty bag into the weeds, forgetting all the badmouthing of litterbugs in grade school. I have  finished all of what I had to eat and plan on heading to the store I saw on my walk yesterday. It looked pretty big compared to the gas stations I’d usually frequent. I hope I would have a better selection to choose from than potato chips and peanut butter.
          I wince as I stand up. I have had pains in my pelvic area off and on for the past few weeks and they feel twenty-times worse this morning. I have a feeling it’s related to my line of work, which I admit, isn’t the cleanest. Most of my clients didn’t use protection and I sure as hell can’t afford to buy some for myself.
          I wonder what passing drivers think when they watch me limp toward my destination. The short walk is nothing compared to what I’m used to, but my ankles are little sore, though, especially when I walk upward on a steep hill.
          I push open the doors of the chain supermarket and a rush of cool air welcomes me inside. It’s so great to be someplace where I could enjoy air conditioning. Shelves line the floor with stacks of food. My stomach growls loudly at the sight, despite that I ate the full pack of crackers minutes earlier.
          A few people stare as I make my way down the aisles. I’m unusually self-conscious about my appearance. My greasy hair falls in tangles at my shoulders, my legs look hairier than most of the men walking past me.
          I see a man whisper to his wife standing next to him. I’m able to read the word “trash” from the movement of his lips. He had just caught a glance at me and chokes down what I recognize as laughter. I stare him down and keep walking until I’m inches from his beady little eyes. I raise my shoulders high to make myself bigger.
          “You better stop that,” I growl.
          Undaunted, the man glares back, unblinking. “Or what?”
          “I’ll fucking beat your ass.”
          I walk away before I’m sure I’ll start throwing punches. It really pisses me off when people talk shit like that. The man snickers when I limp around the corner, thinking I was out of earshot. I’m proud of myself for not kicking his as. It took a lot of courage not to turn around and start wailin’ on him. Dumbass deserves it.
          I find a reasonable supply of food for the money I carry safely under my shirt. I had to grab a shopping basket because my arms got too full. The young man at the checkout totals my order and when I absent mindedly hand him the fifty, he stared back, confused.
          “You’re thirty-one cents short, ma’am.”
          “Ugh,” I say. ”Take the last thing back.” He reaches down and grabs a box of cookies until I abruptly stop him.
          “No, no, no. I don’t want the apples.”
          “You’re holding up the line,” snarls a familiar voice from behind me. I look back to see the same man I encountered earlier. He sneers as his wife looks away, trying to avoid confrontation, apparently embarrassed.
          With that, I abruptly step away from the register and hobble quickly out of the store, ignoring the stabbing pain coming from my hips. I’m already sick of the damned town. I need to get out of here. Hitching a ride would be so much easier, since Georgetown is more heavily populated.
          After fifteen minutes on the street, I have a guy opening his door for me. As I climb into his pickup, he asks me where I want to go and I responded with “as far as you will take me.”
          “It’ll cost ya,” he replies. It somehow doesn’t alarm me when I see him narrow his brow and grin wickedly. I’ve had a few folks look at me that way before I fuck them.
          “Fine.” I say.
          He pulls over by the trees and he removes his clothing. I slowly do the same, watching him as I move. He slyly asks if I needed any help and I shake my head.
          “Lie down.”
          Obediently, I submit to my usual position, staring at the sky to try to focus on something other than a stranger’s presence in my body. I’m looking up for a few minutes and nothing happens. I sit up and he hits me square in the face. Blood starts pouring from my nose and I’m about to cry out, but he covers my mouth.
          Instinctively, I bite down, hard and he rips his hand away. I’m punched once more and he knocks the breath out of my lungs with a kick to the gut. I scramble away, trying to escape toward the sound of moving cars in the distance. He grabs me by the ankles with unexpected strength and pins me to the ground. His eyes are savage, devoid of any humanness.
          I start screaming. Blood-curdling shrieks echo through the trees. My attacker, somehow fueled by this frenzy, grabs a nearby rock and smashes it against my forehead. I black out shortly afterward.
          Hours later, I drag myself upward, my head spinning and throbbing. I’m still nude and judging by the dried blood caked on my inner thighs, the man who attacked me got what he wanted without having to drive me anywhere. Out of habit, I start to bring my hand upward to run through my hair. I stop when I see half of my fingernails are broken. I really put up a hell of a fight.
          My clothing is nowhere to be found. He must have taken it as a souvenir or just to get even with me for fighting back. My feet sting every time I take a step, since the trees around me are mostly pines. A glimmer of hope appears when I see my socks a few feet from where the trees end. Nothin’ else is there.
          I inhale sharply, bend down with a jabbing pain in my lower body and slide the worn, orange socks over my feet. The nails on my right foot poke out from a large hole near my big toe. I limp forward, covering my groin in the fading daylight as I emerge from the woods with the dread of flagging down a driver who might have a set of spare clothing.

Copyright 2017 Ashton Furler