I was two or three months into inhabiting Minneapolis when I met a cutie at this bar known as The Library. She was by herself and so was I. I spotted her early on and over time saddled up, figuring I’d just trot off if things broke awkward. Throughout this period of life I often idled in public with hopes that someone would chat me up. I didn’t really know anyone in this new city and spent countless nights wandering. I’d wait ’til the desperate ends of a bar’s closing or concert’s clearing to see if someone might scoop my soul for friendship or more. It rarely happened but this night was different. I was in shape and drunk enough from pre-gamed rum to find a pebble of confidence within. I reached for the pebble and with it we got to talking.
She was much too cute for someone like me — petite, young, and blonde. I was already twenty-five and in decline. She seemed quiet but still friendly. With these attributes she was kind enough to endure my queries as I struggled to make conversation. She said her name was S. That she was a math major who loved numbers. I said I was an English major who hated math. I told her I’d graduated though nowadays wasn’t up to much. That despite my lazy nature I still wrote about my life. This prompted her to say she was working on a book that told the story of her own. Before long she mentioned that she lived in the apartment across the street and would I like to join her. It was December and so we donned our coats and gloves before crossing.
We rode the elevator a few floors then walked the clean and carpeted hallway to her apartment. It was a two bed but her roomie was away for the weekend. The roomie’s door was closed but S told me the girl was always in there having loud sex with her boyfriend. She referred to her as “that Asian bitch.” I asked if she ever got revenge for the noise but she didn’t follow my meaning. I didn’t know if our situation was a hookup or a hang. Either felt fine to me.
In her room she had a keyboard and so sat to play it, removing her coat and sweater to free her arms. She wore a tank top and now her straps and shoulders sat exposed. Fuck she’s so pretty. I sat on the bed beside her bench as she thought on what to play. She threw out options but I said to just go with whatever works best. She sat silent for a moment then put her fingers to the keys. Soon she sang to the song they created. It might’ve been something from The Beatles but I can’t recall. Her skills were fine, much more so than what I gleaned from a year of piano and singing in the 2nd grade.
As she played I stepped around her room. It was spare and neat with white walls and a well-made bed. A few blocks down was a room of my own, one with a bare mattress and floor composed of cum rags. I stepped back to S and as the song reached its end then traced a hand across her. I rubbed her neck for a beat but things felt off so stopped. My misstep made me feel creepy but she acted as if it were nothing. She smiled and kept the conversation moving. We wandered to her living room and sat on the couch, arranging ourselves somewhere between a snuggle and awkward avoidance.
S took her laptop and showed me the book she was writing. It was at least a hundred pages. She scrolled through to sections she wanted me to see and would either read them aloud or point for me to do it on my own. It was a memoir concerning sex and alcoholics. It started with her banging guys for booze at fourteen. By the time she was sixteen the number of partners was over twenty, almost all from alcohol or party hookups. Laced throughout these early years were stints in and out of rehab. The writing was raw but composed with care. I was surprised at how much I liked it. With something to focus on it made our talking easier. We read for half an hour as she continually sought reassurance on its quality as a memoir. I gave her quick notes and told her how great it was.
We cuddled on the couch and watched the godawful movie In Time. Whenever I tried messing around she’d talk or study her memoir once more. She’d give me a kiss on the cheek then return her attention to the movie. For a time it helped fill our moments of silence. I gave up on our physical interaction and again got to chatting as we ignored the movie. I peppered her with the usual questions and corny jokes. In return she did the same.
As S and I spoke we each grew relaxed and more trusting. With that our words followed. I’m a crude person who rarely shies from sex talk or touchy topics and so probably cracked jizz jokes. In time it came out that she was a webcam model who did shows for money. I had many questions. In broad strokes she broke it down for me: She broadcasts on a cam site, slipping dildos in herself for thousands of peering men, some of whom tip for these actions. They pay for requests or take her to a one-on-one where she makes more money. She showed me folders of nudes from a professional photographer. She clicked through each in excitement, explaining how she was building this portfolio of sets to sell. I saw shots of her in the shower, pissing in a cup, and even stills from a video of her masturbating in the school library — a place I sat in front of for wi-fi. Finally she showed me shots of her fucking a glass dildo, her wet opening inhaling with joy. She said this dildo was one of her best friends. I couldn’t argue with that.
She wasn’t embarrassed or coy about these pictures despite her seemingly inward nature. I was almost shy, looking off while plying her with questions concerning her trade. I needed a moment to reconcile sitting next to the girl I’d just met with the person I now saw naked and masturbating. She told me how it works, the amount of money that rolls in, and how she sets her own hours. She told me of men obsessed with her. Of the time some guy paid her two grand for a suck and swallow. I was fascinated by this life, the freedom of doing sex work from the safety of home. She ran her own business. After all this we swapped numbers and said our goodbyes. We exchanged an awkward kiss at the doorway and then I walked home through falling snow. As I made way I thought on how it must feel to know you’ve carried thousands of men to completion.
That night through text she asked for my email then sent links to recliners on Amazon. She wanted an opinion on which to buy. She was camming to gather money for a nice one. To S it was almost boring as she’d been at it for some time. Unlike her I was fascinated by this alchemy of turning cum to cash. I’m interested in the alternative lives people construct and hers was the best yet. After our chair talk I told her I’d had a nice night, that it’d be fun to do again. She seemed open to this but also indifferent. I was just a guy and she knew nothing of my lonely life in the city. She told me she hadn’t wanted to kiss because I stank of rum and she was trying to stay sober. I guess she just hung at the bar to sip cokes and chat up the dorks that happened by.
A week later S asked to hang but I was already back to North Dakota for Christmas. I sent pics of my cute dog to make up for this absence. After S learned I was out of the city she stopped making contact. A few weeks into January I was back to Minneapolis and asked to get together. I was hoping this wasn’t it as I needed a lady in my life. I was in that delicate space of not wanting a girlfriend but also not wanting to be alone. Of the people I’d met in this city she was the only to not yet fizzle. But she must’ve deleted my number as she asked who it was. When I told her our connection she claimed to barely remember. Perhaps that was true. Maybe she had encounters like ours all the time. That in a sea of thousands I was little more than another set of needy eyes upon her.
A few months after we last spoke I spotted her at Target, waiting in the checkout with some guy she leaned against. I chose a lane a couple aisles off and was neither noticed nor remembered. As I thought of our night it felt almost odd watching her enact something so routine. But of course she was a human with a full life outside her profession: math, piano, and a memoir in which I wouldn’t even be a footnote. From her troubled teens she’d constructed something cool. In youth I’d had it easy but now found myself hammering a fair share of faulty boards. To me she seemed another shot nail. Perhaps I’d strike better on the next swing. For now I gathered my groceries and walked away, all the while wishing she’d become more of a friend than a memory.