The Drowned Man

Posted on March 30, 2009


By Spencer Dew

At first, after Beth left, there was relief, like a tourniquet undone, then that standard aching loneliness, some subgenre of boredom, simultaneous with a refreshed horniness, no longer the horniness of a man trapped in a dead end thing but the horniness of a man outside any relationship and, also, the horniness of a man without any decent prospects, which circled back into a kind of self-pitying depression, which I numbed with drinking for a week or so, till all these indulgent emotions segued to a more practical concern with the literal emptiness of the apartment, Beth’s departure having also been the exit for the couch and the kitchen table, the television and a whole ensemble of supporting-cast appliances – toaster, microwave, coffee machine, etc.

So I went down to the meth house at Montrose, by the river, the place advertised in all those fliers packing-taped to utility poles, walls, and the occasional tree, all through the neighborhood – garage sale every weekend, prices negotiable, all items must go. I bought a flat-screen television, high definition, digital, some drywall still clinging to the threads of the screws on the metal mounting in back. I bought a cordless phone. I bought a metal clamshell that, when greased up, turned sandwiches into fried, sealed envelopes. After trying it out, I settled for carryout that summer, but the other purchases were a success. I spent my evenings flipping through muted channels, dialed in to a party line – connect live now, chat with local girls horny and ready to talk.

In reality it was mainly just men, men of multiple desires, those who wanted to talk about fucking other men and those who wanted to talk about watching other men fuck and those who really didn’t want to talk about men at all or those who just wanted to talk so much about women getting fucked that some mention of men and their members was necessary. The men on the line were gay or bi or straight at various points on any number of slippery spectrums. A few too many wanted to talk about kids, preteens, young stuff, family, or weirder things, both terrifying and alien. There was a man who wanted to be cannibalized, and there was a man wanted to sacrifice a girl to Satan, and there was a man who asked a lot of detailed questions about the last time I went to the dentist. But there were also, after a wait and some trial and error, men who wanted to talk about their experiences in college, or celebrity fantasies, or how all they really wanted was to see their wife or girlfriend fucked hard in front of them, maybe forced, certainly a whole gang of guys, a train. And they always wanted to be there, watching, either aroused or horrified, restrained or waiting to join in. There was one man I connected with twice, both times totally satisfying. He wanted that eye treatment from A Clockwork Orange. He wanted to be strapped down with his eyeballs pinned open, an unwilling voyeur, verbally humiliated by her and me and my team of tough punks who all took turns jizzing on her face. I got off on the image and, frankly, on the level of arousal, the rasp and rattle in his breath as his voice went and all he could do was moan and gasp and shoot, surely, the same sort of thick hot strings I shot, all over the empty apartment’s wooden floor.

There were days, even weeks, when I’d speak to no one in person except the counter folks at Lucky China Hut #2, where I ordered by number, negotiating only condiments. They charged a nickel for every packet of soy sauce or sinus-skewering mustard, one fortune per bag, extra fortune each 25 cents. I worked in a cube without windows, and I came home every day to the telephone and the television, the image on which would sometimes freeze, and sometimes the signal would go and everything would turn black, but most disturbing was when two frames would overlap in a kind of camouflage pattern, scattered cubes, the audio distorting and skipping. Digital television was no longer the work of pixels, but something finer, more complex, prone to new forms of broken reception. I’d spend hours going back and forth between the video channels and the Spanish channels, looking for anything sexy – dancers in cages, nightclub scenes, a particular weathergirl who’d gesture in the cold fronts with deep pencil-skirt knee bends and deeper cleavage. I’d call the party line, come, hang up, then call back half an hour later, a pattern I’d repeat till I was too worn out, dehydrated, at which point I’d flip to something else, to which, in turn, I’d fall asleep, usually, in my chair.

A man was preparing to live underwater, and then he did, three days, a stage magician, the guy who, in the past, stood for a week on a pillar and was buried alive and walked across a wire from one flying plane to another, scenes from all of which were replayed in the buildup to this, the biggest stunt, the underwater living thing. I saw it, pieces of it, what seemed like hours, though there wasn’t much to see, just paddling, pointlessly, his hands at his sides like the arms of a turtle. I watched the bits about how they built the glass, the background, and interviews with doctors, scientists, some information about the pearl divers of the Pacific, the secrets of their craft, the history of humans holding their breath. There were men who wanted me to fuck myself with things they expected me to find around the house – a hairbrush, for instance, a cucumber. There was a man who wanted to tell me about his neighbor, who was sunbathing outside his window, topless, in another time zone. There was a man who wanted me to piss inside his wife’s bowels, to stay in after fucking her, spreading her, reaming her out, to stay in till I softened and to empty my bladder inside her. Yes, yes, he said, and then he growled and moaned.

I got one fortune cookie scroll a day, and I collected them, for whatever reason, maybe rooted in childhood, maybe thinking that they could somehow add up to something, a secret code, their bland aphorisms – you are good at making friends – their supposedly lucky string of numbers, their Chinese characters with phonetic key: Dian-hua means telephone, I was told, and I said, Yes, she loves it, she’s licking my asshole, she’s probing my asshole with her tongue, she wants it, she wants to be inside me, she wants me in a way she’ll never want you. Being with me makes her a freak, I said, a nympho. She’s my whore, I said, and came with him, hard, gasping after, my peripheral vision sparking, my heart racing and my knees half numb.

On the fourth day of his stunt, while I was at work, the magician suffered a lung collapse. I watched the replays later, muted, trying to find a friendly voice. All attempts at revival failed, and while I thought it was fake at first, a gimmick, it was real. There was a woman that night, older by the sound of her, and she’d been watching the magician, too. She had me put a bag over my head, a plastic bag, a Walgreen’s bag, over my mouth, suffocation play. She wanted to watch me drown. I’m inside you, she said, Oh, God, I’m ramming this dildo inside you and you’re so tight and I’m holding your head under the water and I’m so close, so close. I tried to breathe, the bag constricting over my mouth, panting, a slapping sound. Then I exploded, a fountain of sperm, a prolonged orgasm burning up from my prostate. I tore the bag down around my neck, sucked air, coughed, felt a pain in my right eye, my right temple, my ears ringing. Oh, fucking God, I said. She was moaning, roaring, and under that I could hear the wet sound of her hands, quick and strong against her cunt, inside her cunt, and she said, Oh, yes, that’s so good, and I said, Beth, Beth, Beth, Beth, Beth.


Spencer Dew lives in Chicago. He is the author of the story collection Songs of Insurgency [Vagabond Press, 2008], and is a regular reviewer for Rain Taxi Review of Books.

Posted in: Fiction