Hangover be damned, I hopped out of bed and slinked over to the bathroom in the nude, ready as ever for another day. I’d installed a makeshift kitchenette in the upstairs bathroom, right on the ledge of the scum-lined tub, and while I emptied myself I prepared a modest breakfast. As I sat on the toilet, fried egg sandwich in one hand and mug of black coffee in the other, I bent over and stuck my head down between my engorged thighs to watch the slow release of my bowel movement, as was my custom. I liked to confirm the size and shape of my excretions, to make sure they looked the same way they felt coming out. As I watched, a warm gooeiness oozed down my forearm and elbow. The yolk of one of the eggs in my sandwich had broken, and was now pouring over my thigh, coating the ends of my hair with a thick and yellow jelly. The smell of feces, metallic urine and buttery egg yolk mingled so playfully in my nose it inspired a song within me, and I began to hum as I sucked the stuff off my frazzled split ends, finished my sandwich and bore down to force out whatever remained in my intestines. That morning cup of joe always went right through me.
I hadn’t bathed in, goodness, I don’t know how long. Several months, at least. I also hadn’t brushed my teeth, my hair, hadn’t cleaned the house in eons before that. My hoarding habit began in my teens, starting with the compulsive acquisition of beauty products I seldom used, but it quickly accelerated, my tastes and habits becoming more and more bizarre with time, and now, I was a sludge hobbyist, a crap accumulator, a high priestess of bile and waste. I felt one with the sea of putridity I lived within, the visual derangement I had harvested, all by the use of my own hands, or rather, by the lack thereof. I’m lost to tenderness when I think on it for too long. Rotisserie chicken carcasses lined the staircase. A blackening patina of mold stretched out over my loveseat and vintage swayback chairs, full of the air’s old, stale moisture. Forcefields of gnats hovered over the piles of rotten artichoke hearts, chunky cream of mushroom soup and fuzzy five-year-old focaccia rolls. Something gorgeous and rotten brewed within me, too, deep in my loins. Once a month, when I began menstruating and my sex drive was higher than normal, I would wet my nakedness with just a splash of sulfuric water from the well and rub the wet filth around my body, moving the mud about with my hands, lathering it deep into my cellulitic skin. The catamenia flowed from between my legs, down my ankles, and I would stick them together until the discharge dried, and I smelled of sweat, aged bacteria and bloody copper. Orgasmic. How I loved the stench of decay, the spoiling descent back to the earth, the order and divinity of my grime, the circumference of puss. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Everyday I’d get dressed with my back facing the dust-coated mirror, looking over my shoulder as I watched myself pull my years-old high-rise briefs up over my rump. When I bought them they were a crisp shade of white, but now they were crusty, a desaturated brown, the crotch stiff, the elastic threads at the waist popping and breaking as I squeezed my ballooning body into them day after day. I liked to look in the mirror to see how many new holes I’d acquired in the back of the panties, or how wide the pre-existing ones had stretched. When I took them off at night, I would look in the mirror then, too, and squeal with delight at the reddish rings around my thighs and belly, left from how the panties squeezed my body with all the strength the weakening elastic still had left. The way the briefs severed my porkish and jiggling belly, the way a plume of my body’s filth bloomed before my eyes when I released the waistband and it slapped against my gurgling flesh, the wriggling in the firmament of my groin, my life felt whole from the sleaze of perfect rot.
I had been looking for a boyfriend, though. A lover. Someone to roll around in my bed of dead skin and vinegar-y sweat. Someone whose loins came alive at the scent and sight of squalor. I put on the nearest dress, sniffed it deeply to be sure it stunk, and squished through the sewage-soaked carpets and out the front door. The new day outside was sunny and cool. My car was my favorite part of my fetid lifestyle, what with all the leftover food I kept in there for times of starving desperation. I opened the rusty driver’s side door and caught the scurrying of dozens of massive cockroaches, a good omen. If ever they didn’t appear I knew I was in for an orderly, boring day. Plunking my fat slop into the seat, I was grateful to notice a half-eaten chili cheese dog with extra onions from last week on the floor of the passenger’s side. Gingerly, I picked it up and cradled it in my palm, close to my face, to assess its condition. The reddish-brown color of the chili was darkening, turning black and stiff on top, and the cheese, it had sweat and bubbled and took on a peculiar shade of blue in the early fall heat. The meat smelled of hot feet and wet dog, the bun stale, the whole thing caked with roach and rat droppings. My loins jumped as I placed the biohazardous food onto my wet and waiting tongue, and I masticated with my eyes closed as the cold, slimy thing within my jaw turned to a warm mush. I had no choice but to feel arousal wriggling between my legs, prickling at my nipples. Before swallowing I opened my mouth to look at the spoiled hunk of mess in the car’s rear view mirror, how it coated my tongue and lined my teeth, and I chuckled with smiling eyes and my tongue hanging out, swallowing the globular mass, the muscles in my throat forcing the shit down into my belly, full and expanding and warbling.
I arrived at the tavern, Mckay’s, at 11am, two hours after it opened, so I could give the early-bird bachelors the opportunity to show up ahead of me and take a good look as I waltzed through the door. At home, I had everything I needed, was fully satisfied with the shape and color of my disgusting life, except I yearned for the warmth of a man’s touch. I’d seen the whores that frequented this place, the permanently-sunken-in faces of the ultra-skinny hussies who had recently retired their crack-smoking habits, the bar rats with cropped bangs who dressed up every single night in their platform boots and fishnet stockings, just to go home with a guy who put all the effort of his entire family tree into fucking her for twelve seconds, with not an orgasm in sight. Pathetic. I wasn’t looking for a quickie nor had I ever smoked crack: it suppresses the appetite too much, and I liked to eat. This bar full of ruffians and slothful drunks had to be the place where I’d find my one true lover, my Adam, my everything.
Night after night I came here and had my share of beer and liquor, trying to attract a man by flashing him my brown-toothed grin, or lifting up the bottom of my dress and sending a piercing miasma of vaginal funk through the smoke-filled tavern, but they never approached me or made eye contact with me. They’d yell things like “Dammit, the fat bitch is back again!!” or “Jesus Christ, it smells like dirty pussy in here!” or “Did someone order a fuckin’ filet-o-fish?” No, no one ordered a filet-o-fish, because Mckays did not serve any seafood. The stench was emanating from me, from the grand squirming within me. Truthfully, I was surprised at their hesitation to come sit at my booth and lock eyes with me, cataract-to-cataract, and tell me how much they adored my lack of decorum, the extreme reeking that leaked from my armpits. I was beginning to tire of the same routine: coming in, requesting a double order of mozzarella sticks and loaded potato skins, drinking three beers and five shots of whiskey served to me by the bearded bartender who pinched his nose shut every time I approached the bar, everyone running the opposite direction as they smelt me approaching… but something told me, something within me gave me the powerful conviction that tonight would be my night.
After I ran out of cash and had to stop ordering plate after plate of Irish spring rolls, I stumbled outside to figure out how I would find the man with whom I was meant to share many passions… I just knew he was here tonight. Would I find someone with dead, beady eyes, sitting completely hammered in the corner, and suffocate him within the fungus of my body’s fat rolls? Would I knock him unconscious with a big waft of my undiagnosed halitosis, breathing directly into his mouth and nose? No, no, too forward. What would I do? I was but a poor maiden yearning for her king of worms.
As I dug into the dregs of the trash can in pursuit of something nice to chomp on, a weak moaning drifted by my ear. I paused my vigorous chewing of the chicken tenders I’d found, soggy, soaked in the wet of humid garbage. The moan, I heard it again. It was one of desperation, confusion, of someone in need of help, and quickly. The sun was setting now, lighting up the sky with a menacing red, and large clumps of deep gray clouds migrated closer to one another. The electricity and threatening stillness in the air suggested an impending thunderstorm. I needed to find out who that whimpering was coming from right away, lest the skies open up on me and I be forced to lug my huge and drunk body back home amid the torrent. Above me on the wall of the building, a line of lamp lights coated in cobwebs and dead flies turned on, illuminating the asphalt. I could see more clearly the collection of broken bar stools, unused milk crates, and a far-off Dumpster, behind which lay a hand with stiffened fingers turned up toward the heavens.
The near-lifeless voice sounded again, coming from the same place as the hand. An urgency snapped inside of me, so I leaned on the wall and sucked down my tenders, hardly chewing, never taking my eyes off those fingertips. Upon completion I wiped my grimy fingers on my dress and slowly stepped toward the sound of distress. Half of me felt nervous, unsure what exactly I was looking for or whom I would find, but there was a tugging inside. I couldn’t help myself.
A gusty wind travelled through the narrow aisle behind the tavern, sending a powerful, decaying odor in my direction. I perked up, now alert, truly intrigued. A massive ratking rolled past me in the dusky silence, squeaking and violent, a mammalian tumbleweed. My wobbly, drunken steps carried me closer to the Dumpster, and once I reached it I was greeted with a vision of pure ecstasy. A shirtless young man, body bloated and reeking, lay there on the ground, adorned with bubbling blisters that wept into leaky puddles beneath him. A family of rats gnawed at his swollen face, and he clutched something firmly in his left hand. His flesh, bright red and ghastly green, a large spot in the front of his pants indicating he had soiled himself, both number one and number two, and many times over. He wore one shoe on his right foot, and the filthy sock on his left was soaked in drippy postmortem fluids. Were it not for his wailing, one would’ve been sure he was dead.
I was completely, utterly smitten. Alas, I finally found him. He was my reason for coming to this blasted bar, night after night, hundreds of dollars spent on Reuben sandwiches and two-dollar lagers, being rejected by the lowest scum, by men who were so repulsive they didn’t even deserve the gangrenous glamour of death’s disintegration. He was heaven-sent, the only man I could ever truly desire, my prince of putridity, forever and ever. I loved him deeply, firmly, and I had to tell him, right away.
“Hiiiiii,” I eked out, bashful as all hell, standing over him. My face flushed, realizing he might be looking up my dress. I felt so giddy, like a grade-school girl with a fiendish crush.
“Uuuuuungg… huh?” The man’s body squirmed slightly, and despite the extreme bloating of his face I saw him furrow his brow, disoriented, trying to focus his eyes on the person who stood before him.
My hand flew up to my mouth, suppressing my giggles. He was talking to me!
“Umm, I uh, I couldn’t help but notice you back here. Are you alright?”
“Iontreallyknowhhhhh,” he groaned, his eyes shifting. “D’you know what day it is?”
“It’s Thursday, about 7pm.”
“Ohhhhhh, shiiiiiiit. I was supposed to be dead already.”
“What do you mean, mister?”
“Ohhh yeah, I tried t’kill myself on Saturday. Mmmmph, these oxys do not hit the way they used’ta,” the man’s words were slurred, his voice phlegmy, weary and mumbled, nearly incoherent. “I must’a been in a coma for a while.”
Speechless, I was. My sweetheart, he was a real man. He was so unafraid of the bitter thrill of death that he took his life into his own hands, eager to face the eternal funk of life’s end. Everything about him made my heart sing. The way he lay there so vulnerable and weak, in need of me, it was enough to make me cry. He stank, too, worse than I did. I envied his stench, in a way, but another part of me was grateful, proud to have found a man I had to keep up with. They always say a man should lead, don’t they? My sweetie, my half-corpse honey, he did just that. Standing there, I peed myself, the urine droplets bouncing off the ground and hitting my ankles, just to make him proud.
“Hey, couldja help me out?”
“Yes, of course, whatever you like,” I replied, overzealous.
“I uhh… I still wanna die… it’s good to finish what you start. I think there’s some pills left in the bottle I’m holding. Could you help me to swallow’em?”
“What? But I don’t even know what your name is yet,” I said with a tightness in my chest. I didn’t want him to go.
“Mmm…. I’d tell’ya if I remembered.”
Just then it occurred to me that anything I had with him would have to be temporary, as he clearly did not have much life left in him. Though his mind seemed mostly intact his body was badly spoiled, and it was only a matter of time before the sludge of decomposition reached his brain. My heart splintered. The way his body continued to leak their death liquids, it seemed they leaked only for me, for my pleasure alone. He was so beautiful, his odor so perfect and pungent. How would I bear life without him, now that I’d found him? I didn’t have any other option, really, than to give him the pills. At least, in death, I could make him happy, and maybe he’d remember me in the afterlife. Love was often a fleeting and messy thing, I’d heard.
“Of course I’ll help you,” I said, a lump of emotion in my throat. I squatted over his body as our stinks interacted in the wet air between us, and I pried his rigor mortis-ed fingers from the orange pharmacy bottle in his hand. There was still a good forty tablets of thirty-milligram oxycodone rattling around in there, and I opened it with tearful, longing eyes, dumped half the bottle in my mouth and began to chew, the chalkiness of the pills sticking like glue to the bits of chicken tender and potato skins that still remained lodged in my teeth. With great reverence and adoration, I leaned over my lover’s body, inhaling as much of his scent as I could, the hairs in my nostrils singeing one by one. I pried his lips open and pressed mine to them, letting the pill mush slide off of my tongue and into his mouth. With great effort, he swallowed, closed his eyes and said, “Thanks lady, you’re the best.”
“No, you are!” I proclaimed, with heartbreak on my lips, totally overcome by the great satisfaction within me. The sky finally opened up and it began to pour, but I no longer cared about anything but the time I had with my lover. I took the remainder of the pills, washed them down with a half-empty bottle of flat cola I found in the Dumpster and removed my dress, curling up on the ground next to him in the pouring rain. Love overtaking me, I decided to never leave him, no matter what. I lay there in his wet and rankness, in the rain, watching his already shallow breathing slow even more until he was fully unconscious. If this was the end, if this was all that I’d know of a real romance, I wanted to have him, I needed to be satisfied by him. My dying wish.
The wriggling in my loins resumed, for the first time since I’d left home that morning. The sensation was chaotic and torrential, overwhelming and arousing. The pills now taking affect, I drowsily straddled my lover’s lap with my quivering naked body and unbuttoned his shit-soaked pants, and as I slid them down on his thighs a flood of writhing, sticky, yellow maggots slinked out of his crotch, out of his ass, the head of his penis. My loins erupted too, and my own family of bloody maggots found their escape from my menstruating vagina and they slimed down my legs on their way to converge with his personal infestation. He really, really was the only one for me. Crying huge tears of love, I mounted my lover’s flaccid, necrotic dick and made love to him, amongst the maggots that squished under us, and the trash, and the rats that resumed the greedy gnawing at his face, under the majesty of the violent walls of a cleansing rain. We fucked and fucked, hard and deep and long, until the pills took me over and my massive body collapsed on top of his as-good-as-dead one, and we lay there forever, the maggots covering every inch of our bodies, our decaying waste endlessly entangled, to rot back to the earth, to the soil and sea, to the start of all things true and good.
— Lindsay Temple is a fourth-generation Florida native, a left-handed lapsed flautist, and a devoted connoisseur of cruciferous vegetables. She writes essays, fictions, and is working to heal her fractured relationship with poetry. When she isn’t writing, she can be found watching Kitchen Nightmares while sipping Italian soda, or trying to get over her fear of frogs. Lindsay only burns two types of incense: patchouli to start the day, and opium before bed. She is working on her first novel. Read more of Lindsay’s works here.