Fucking Esmerelda

Fucking Esmerelda

On my first trip to Europe I thought, Jeez – I’m cool and bohemian because I crash in train stations and have one meal a day. I thought it was edgy to drink Tesco’s home-brand beer and steal food from hostels. This was naïve; my last pilgrimage showed me what it’s like to be real scum. Sailing through the Bahamas on my dilapidated boat, I sat eating rice for three straight days and saw real, dangerous hunger in comrades’ eyes while we discussed the feasibility of hunting, killing and eating a pig. In Cuba, where most foreigners are rich, I sold my phone and razor to pay for my flight out. In Mexico I became so malnourished from a diet of canned frijoles and pineapple that my friends called me “Mally” and strangers often gave me money. And then in San Francisco, I slept in a leaky boat in a fishing marina and got my lunch and dinner from churches. I was selling shitty Mexican knick-knacks – blankets, jewellery, jumpers, shirts – which I spent my last 200 bucks on, to pay for booze and cigarettes. I was pushing myself to the precipice of poverty. I don’t know why; maybe I wanted to see what was over the edge, to feel it, to taste it, to be it. I had been trying for six months.

As I sat in San Francisco’s Dolores Park with the crappy Mexican trinkets sprawled out in front of me, I found myself watching people on the street. I ground my jaw with jealousy while I imagined what their lives must be like¬¬. The simple things hurt the most: unlocking their door with their very own key; opening their overflowing pantry, full of colour and life; feeling the steam of a warm shower as they masturbate; drifting off to sleep on a white mattress, stirring and waking up at 2am only to pull the fresh blankets up and fall back asleep. I would go back to the marina each night, sneak past the fisherman working late on the dock, jump the security fence and run in the shadows to the boat I slept on. Inside the 20-foot sloop, I’d lie down alone in the wooden berth, light a couple of tea lights, smoke a cigarette to shake the paranoia of being caught and kicked out, and think of these people – these happy, laughing, eating, warm, cosy, comfy, privileged people – and wonder if it was possible to be content with nothing, if superfluous things, consuming, contributing to society, actually brought you happiness.

They do. And thus I learnt how to survive in the wild. They say necessity is the mother of all invention. I say fuck that: hunger, sleep-deprivation and poverty (also virginity) will drive a man to his own death. So I figured out how to convert my good looks into a warm bed, legitimate home-cooked food, affluence, and a French mid-forties ex-ballerina who couldn’t speak English, had a body like a rake with ghost skin, and a personality that made me want to hunt pigs and commit suicide.

Her name was Esmerelda. I knew from the moment that I sold a crappy Mexican necklace to her for 20 times its original price that she was going to be trouble. She invited me to drink beers with her in the park. She bought me food in restaurants, told me about her cruel ex-husband, how she came to America for a fresh start. When she found out that I had been evicted from the marina, she offered me my own bed and cooked me al dente pasta. I hated her. But if I wanted to keep living in San Fran, I needed a house, and hers was up for grabs. And what a house – stone and tall, clean and quaint – it had a rooftop balcony that cast a shadow over the entire fucking city. And it was in one of my favourite places in SF; the hip and trendy North Beach was the perfect juxtaposition to my self-inflicted poverty.

Every morning, I would walk down the cobble-stone streets that connected hundreds of bohemian book stores, boutiques, groovy bars and beat-generation nostalgia to the local deli. I’d buy eggs and bacon with Esmerelda’s money and notice that everyone was smiling, and instead of feeling alienated by it, I enjoyed it because I was smiling too. The whole area seemed reserved for entrepreneurs, old rich hippies, people who think living on a hill makes them better than everyone else and one twisted dude who thought he could manipulate his way to wealth.

I lasted two weeks laughing at her horrible jokes, making excuses to bail and be with friends, patiently translating words in her phone. She would always insist on directing the conversation, her limited English making her otherwise incapable of communication. A normal discussion of five minutes would take us two hours. She never had anything interesting to say. Her accent bore into me like a drill made from baby screams, and when she spoke in her broken English, I grew angry and frustrated.

Her drunken pale and bony hands would climb all over me at night. I knew all she wanted was to be fucked in exchange for all her selflessness and generosity, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, I hated her too much. Her dyed red hair, glistening in its bee-hive, her myriad of black band t-shirts affecting youth, her tattoo of the Kurt Cobain quote, “The worst crime is faking it”, that she would repeat over and over. I was using, manipulating, taking, and giving her nothing in return. Fuck her shower was good.

Esmerelda by Jaz Kaelin

‘Esmerelda’ by Jaz Kaelin

My plan was to spend two months. I found profound pleasure in toasting bread, slurping coffee, sleeping with a quilt, flicking through her bookcase and watching people torrent through the streets from the safe heights of her balcony. Inhaling cigarette after cigarette, inhaling San Francisco, inhaling affluence, inhaling the other side, the glorious other side, the lavish, verdant, insurmountable other side; to confine these pleasures into a word would be to trap an arcane elation between the musty walls of banality. To fall on the layman’s term that says everything and nothing; I was happy.

I had a bag full of Mexican gear, found an awesome park to sell it in, and met some crazy SF characters to party with – I wasn’t ready to leave. I found strength in not wanting to go back to my previous life. I was confident in my abilities to deal with her bullshit; it was better than the alternative. I’d just wank out my hatred for her each day and continue living it up in SF.

It wasn’t long before the initial weirdness seeped through. Esmerelda became jealous of my interactions with other girls, storming off and swearing at me in French whenever I showed interest in anyone but her. The more I pulled away, the closer she came. She began looking deeper into my eyes, touching and feeling at every moment and was offering me more money than before; things were getting heavy.

It all came to an end one drunken night when she pushed my immorality to its limits. I remember sitting at the computer in my/her room while she circled around me, diving in sporadically for morsels of contact – a stroke of the arm, brush of my hair – then retreating back, circling again, waiting for me to go to bed so she could devour me alive. It was two in the morning and we were both drunk and tired. I was sure I could wait her out again as I had done many times before. I typed away, editing some shit story about Mexico while she lingered. 3am cruised by in silence, the awkward tip-tap of the keyboard buffering her carnal intentions.

By 4am I was fucking tired and over it. I had been preparing myself for the last hour and I knew before I lay down what had to be done. Recognizing the defeat in my eyes she scrambled on top of me. Her red lips rushed forward, her tongue moulded from cigarette butts, her bony hips dug into mine. Her body was pale, old and wrinkly, bony and frail. An ex-ballerina sounds good around a table, but feels horrible between your fingers. This wasn’t meant to be enjoyable; it was time to seal the deal, to pay the rent. Bored and impatient, but mostly disgusted by the foreplay, I flipped her on her back and ripped off her beige, sagged and stained underwear and prepared for penetration. My money was about to enter her bank and my conscience freed from moral debt when she broke away from the kiss and halted, covering her sagged nipples with her skeletal arm.

What the fuck now, I thought.

“No, no, no, wait, we cannot,” she insisted.
I stopped, shocked and stunned, sure that I was doing the right thing.
“Isn’t this what you wanted all this time?!” I said, confused.
“Look at me,” she pleaded. Our eyes met and then she confessed, “Scout, I love you too much.”

In a single moment of clarity I knew I had fucked up. I thought heavily about what I had done while she bent down to suck my dick. I had tricked this human being into loving me so that I could live off her earnings. I made her laugh, feel wanted, fall in love, then drank all her booze and smoked her cigarettes while I bitched about her to my real friends. I was fucking scum. I pushed her off me, feeling too sick to even cum. I had some friends who I knew had found work fruit-picking in Canada, and resolved to catch a bus there the next day.

I booked a greyhound on her computer and went to the local print shop to get the ticket. She walked me to the bus stop; her red heels echoed through Frisco’s silent streets. We hugged, she cried. I sat alone in the bus and put my legs up on the seat next to me, not wanting to be disturbed. I pulled out a mandarin that I had taken from her fruit bowl and as I dug my thumb into its porous skin, the bus drove away and I left Esmerelda.

Cover by Elle Hanley, artwork by the incredible Jaz Kaelin, whose portfolio you can check out here.