There is a bird trying to forge a home for itself in the chimney. Dust from the era of a former tenant—Ms. Johanna Anne Vanderwaal, her Holland and Barrett rewards card would allege— lumbers through the brick laid canal before arranging itself into a Rorschach at my feet. Today I see a hog roast. There is evidence of a 5am sourdough-and-sunflower-spread binge in my hair, crusty little crumbs burrowing themselves into the shelter of my laptop vowels: U. I. O. One room over, there is a man named Dave jerking off to the disintegrating sole of my left work loafer via Instagram video chat. “Stinky shoe. You’re such a stinky, stinky shoe,” I hear him sweet talk to the Geox patent black slip.
He would prefer to physically be in my boudoir. More specifically, he would prefer to be fastened to my bed by a leather harness with the shoe— “has got to be the left one”— suctioned to his face by surgical tape for three to five hours. I told him the future is a vast expanse of possibility, but for now he must prove his legitimacy by video chatting the Geox for fifteen to twenty minutes and PayPal-ing me £80-90 within one to two hours. “Shoe. Such a smelly shoe. How long did you wear this stinky shoe today?” His voice squeaks and cracks filling a confusing sonic space between absolutely terrified and too sure of itself.
“I wore it yesterday alone for six hours in direct Scottish sunlight,” I lie. “Can you smell the bulgogi? I always find red meat excretes through my toes.”
“I can. It’s so, so stinky,” he sounds like he might cry. I remind him he is on the countdown. 12 minutes left.
I’m back to scheduling my afternoons by the minute because obsession distracts me from the reality that I don’t really have anything concrete to do. The reason he must finish in twelve minutes is so I can have one minute to pack my phone into my purse, put my loafers on, and walk eleven minutes to Co-Op by 4:58pm to anticipate the 5:00pm yellow labelling of all the soon-to-expire produce about to be put on offer.
More dust emerges from the chimney with renewed urgency, as if the house has caught food poisoning in the last half hour. I think I hear the bird chirp. Maybe more than one (does she have chicks?), but then again it could just be Dave moaning on about the sole of the shoe.
“Smelly, smelly shoe. You’re such a bad, stinky shoe,” he coos nowhere and to no one.
“Dave,” I try to reason with him, “does it ever bother you that the joy of jerking off to the sole of a malodorous work loafer is a luxury for only the very, very wealthy? I mean, maybe the very, very in love, but less so.”
“How long would you leave me tied to a bed with your shoe tied to my face?” He interrupts.
“The genesis of the fetish community really comes down to a class issue, don’t you agree?” I ramble on.
“Can I cum in between your toes?” His interest in levelling with me is minimal. He is on a primal pursuit.
“Dave, we agreed, if you show me the money within the next half hour, I’ll maybe let you sniff my feet at a Holiday Inn Express.”
“Holiday Inn Express,” he laments, carrying out the s’s of express like a Junior Varsity football coach mocking a child with a lisp, “I thought I was coming to your flat.”
The birds flap among their gravel and I look down at my feet. The toenails are distinctly oblong like my grandmother’s who is 3,000 miles away and embedded in her own Dave-like plight of sexual oppression. Never having had the gusto to seduce the Scottish Javelin thrower of her girlhood fantasies, she feels cheated not only out of love, but of life. I think of occasions of my own when I haven’t been able to get what I want sexually. Upon first entry, most. The line between completing the act in a manner that is most often adequate, but at times lovely, and a way that achieves every perversion you’ve ever entertained in the safety of your childhood bedroom is a largely insurmountable bridge. It takes an alarming amount of courage to ask for what you want, even if it has to be more or less a business transaction. I acknowledge my privilege as a young female, I don’t freak people out nearly as much as a skinny, translucent skinned, Instagram interloper. Even if there are hesitations or confusions, if bold enough to ask, I most often can get what I want without much ridicule.
More gravel and bird chirping. More moaning about malodour. No PayPal transaction to justify the moaning about malodour.
“Is this really your stinkiest shoe? Is there a stinkier shoe?”
“For the last time Dave, it’s my stinkiest shoe!” I shout from the living room.
The chimney starts to spew its shale at an increased clip, matching my aggression and compounding Dave’s disregard for my sanity. I stare at the dump and will continue to without addressing it for two months. I am trying to communicate my similar loneliness to him, trying to connect.
“Are you taking the piss? You’re the scammer! £300 for 30 minutes at a Holiday Inn Express? Are you out of your mind?”
“YOU were the one who named your prices, Dave. What I do here is helpful, honest work and I will not be taken advantage of at a Holiday Inn Express,” I argue with the aggression and urgency one can only muster for someone they’ve met on the internet two hours prior.
Having relocated to Scotland alone, I have Estonians to drink myself into paralysis with and Lithuanians to lick if I fancy, but I haven’t watched a movie with anyone for six months. The nuances of my sexual desires haven’t been fulfilled in equally as long. I am partying and making people laugh, but I haven’t cracked an egg for anyone but myself since New Year. I think about how a year ago I hand washed the dishes and poached chicken for my brother and his friends who gathered around the table, unnervingly stable for 17-year-olds just discovering the border between the two-pint-feeling and alcohol poisoning. I wiped dry the same plates we’ve been eating off for fifteen years using the rag we’ve had for twelve and felt so whole I was unsure if I’d been drugged. I was so full of life and purpose washing the dishes and poaching the chicken I felt I couldn’t contain it and the excess emerged from my eyes. Then I realised if I could be the person so overcome with gratitude from poaching the chicken and washing the dishes, why would I ever do anything else?
I ask Dave to tell me when he last poached a chicken for someone he loved.
“How many hours do you think you’d leave me tied to the bed with the stinky shoe on my face? Two? Three? Could you walk by every few minutes and just say ‘haha smell my shoe stinky boy’ do you think?” He responds.
“No hours, Dave,” I say, “because I will not continue to let you rob me.”
“You’re a scammer!” He squeaks.
“YOU’RE the scammer!” I shout. The birds chatter with a matching level of unwarranted rage.
“Holiday Inn Express…” He whines.
“I am trying to help you. I understand the frustration of harbouring perversions and I feel shit you have to pay to get what you want, but I can’t help unless you pay me,” I reason through my dissonance.
“Just let me see the shoe one more time.”
“No shoe, Dave. Tell me about your family.”
“Shoe. Stinky shoe,” the singular track of his brain forges a fascination in me that collapses into frustration.
I thought I was doing more for him. I thought, if broached, he’d want to talk about how unfair it is, about the nature of human sexuality, about how fetishes can only be fulfilled if one is fortunate enough to be an oil baron or otherworldly attractive. I thought we’d talk about how we were just normal people wanting to explore the unsightly ridges of arousal. I thought we would talk about all this, but, like everyone, he was just in it for the free wank.
“I’m going to report you!” I am screaming now.
“Please don’t, I promise I will pay you!”
“You have not only stolen my Sunday, but the integrity of my work loafer!” I acknowledge that I am slipping into a dramatic diatribe. “I am only trying to talk to you and help you and you have been nothing but a shoe sniffing scammer. You are getting blocked.”
“Fuck you!” Even with profanity, his tone cannot be described as anything more malicious than meek. Then, an afterthought, “I bet your shoes weren’t even as stinky as you said.”
I put the left loafer to my nose and aggress my iPhone camera. “It’s minging, Dave! £300 worth of stink! But you’ll never fucking smell it now,” I nonsensically slip into a Southern accent, “Not ever! Not at the Holiday Inn Express, not nowhere, Dave!” I click out of the chat, block @Dave04120, and begin to sob. The birds harmonise their chirps with my instability as more sand waterfalls sadly onto the oak. I swivel the soles of my feet in the ash and sit down to inspect them. I slouch down and sniff the left one out of curiosity, waiting for a twitch in my loins. When none arrives, I realise I wouldn’t pay £300 for that either.
Kiki Dy is a writer, drinker, and dreamer. When she’s not busy crafting essays or copy, she is probably shortening her lifespan in some fun-filled manner. You can contact her via Twitter, which she intends to use professionally despite her username.