“Three Hundred and Fifty Dollars” by Noah Wunsch, NYC

BLOG,Money,New York August 8, 2011 10:00

topic: MONEY medium: TEXT, VIDEO

as shared at a PenTales Event themed “Making Ends Meet”

The email simply reads, “I’ll pay you three hundred and fifty dollars. Three hundred and fifty dollars.” I lie down and I think about this. I think about a three, a five, and a zero. How pretty they look altogether with no periods to dash out the mass. The plus. The surplus in my checking account, or the credit bill I owe. I think about what’s being asked of me for the three hundred and fifty.

This wasn’t really what I had expected in doing research. Mind you, the research was on sex parties in New York City, but that was supposed to be for me and my date. For the two of us. For other “like-minded” couples. For uh…literary endeavors.

The want and need of the academic community to hear what it’s like for me, a young New Yorker to go and watch and maybe, maybe (cough absolutely) participate. I did what anyone in my place would do. I entered that long and dark-lit hallway of Craig’s List classifieds. Reading through the “Couples-for-Couples” section and looking for group events. This wasn’t my first research sesh, and by now I knew that you wouldn’t get a response without a description and a picture of you and your date. A girl that worked for the magazine with me said she’d be my date, so we did an amateur photo shoot and thus my sex party excursion had begun. Sex party, not sex couplet, which I suppose would really just be normal sex…or some version thereof.

I don’t know which ad he posted. But apparently I had replied. And he wasn’t having a sex party. Wasn’t part of an organization. A group. Or even a couple. It was just him and apparently he wanted another him with him. A he. A guy. A boy. A man. A me. He asked on and on, this and that. Would you do this? Nope. How ‘bout that? No. What if I threw in a blender? Nuh-uh. A toaster? NO! He wanted me to, shall we say, pleasure myself in front of him. Now why did I keep responding? Because a girl likes to be sought after every now and then.

Now, I know what your thinking about this guy…and probably me. What a fucking weirdo. Ew. No way. That’s disgusting. Now, at least in my mind, at the “That’s disgusting” thought, things started to shift. It was less “That’s disgusting!” And more…“That’s…Dis…Gusting?” Because in reality, what is he asking me to do? He’s asking me to do something that I’ll most probably do with or without him present. And he’s asking me to do this something with the added bonus of three hundred and fifty dollars. It could be dangerous, but hey, walking down the street can be dangerous. Not quite an apt comparison, but still. A new email comes in, simply saying, “Please.”

And suddenly he shifts. He isn’t a pervert. No. He’s just a very sad, lonely old man, who just needs that pat on the shoulder. Maybe he’s a repressed politician. Or a silver-headed news anchor. I start creating the story line of this man’s life. Married with two perfect kids. Girl wearing pink. Boy wearing blue, football after school, meatloaf at night, “Charlie Rose” at nine. A novel whose chapters kept repeating themselves. The middle over and over, and I’d simply be the end. A momentary end. A three hundred and fifty dollar end. His whorish savior.

Another email. “If it makes you more comfortable, I’ll come to your place.” That would definitely not make me more comfortable. But would it make me feel more comfortable going to his house? I remember reading a post from the other day. The writer posted the ad as a warning to all. Someone had been posting on the “Woman Looking for Men” wall that they were a tight-torsoed Asian woman. Apparently the writer responded to the ad and was encouraged to come over to the lovely Asian woman’s home. He knocked on the door, but it was unlocked and slightly ajar. A voice told him to come in. The lights in the apartment were off except for a light glow down the hallway. He walked into the candlelit room, finding a half naked man, wrapped from head to belly in a white sheet, looking at the writer through two holes cut out of the white sheet. The writer punched him in the face and ran out.

Was this guy the ghost? Was I actually thinking about becoming a male escort? A gigolo. Richard Gere, before the gerbil fiasco? The idea of it was kind of exciting, but how would this fit in with the rest of my life? How would I continue my life as before? Could I? Would I be able to talk to my mom? Pet my dog? Go to class, sit down, raise my hand and talk about Pride and Prejudice? It might be fine the day after, but my neurosis down the road would not be able to handle this.

“I’m really sorry,” I respond. “But I don’t feel comfortable with this.”

A few minutes later he replies, “I understand…” There was ACTUALLY an ellipses! The sonofabitch was guilt-tripping me. And for a moment I genuinely did feel bad for the “Charlie Rose”-watching, meatloaf-eating man.

But then another email comes in saying, “How about four hundred?” And I block him.

Every now and then, when I’m under my covers, getting nice and cozy, physically speaking, financially speaking, completely fucked, I think about Leland. That’s the name I gave him. Leland. I think about Leland and wonder how he’s doing. Wonder what he’d say if I contacted him tonight. Wonder how much it’d be.

A hundred?

Two hundred?

And I wonder at what point I’d say yes.

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