CALL OF THE DAY: “I saw her at the food bank.”
I’ve talked to this man before. For a little while he was requesting me, I don’t know why. His half-hour sessions swung back and forth between young-teen rape scenes and drawn-out discussions of motivation, all of it with me asking questions to construct the narrative, because his monosyllabic responses and long, drawn-out pauses were black holes in terms of conversation, dense and heavy and not really allowing anything to escape and DEFINITELY warping my sense of time passing.
Today I started like I always do: what are you thinking about?
“A girl.” (You see what I mean? NOT HELPFUL.)
Where did you see her?
“At the food bank.”
“At the food bank.”
As my line of questioning reveals, he is back to the desperate young woman of previous fantasies: hungry, impoverished, knowing that she must do anything and everything that he wants or her family will not be fed, SHE will not be fed. He has played with this dynamic several times before, not of a rebellious, feisty victim, someone who struggles, but a girl who has had the fight starved out of her. I ask if he worked at the food bank, or used its services; he says, “I’ve been there before,” which to me sounds like he’s been a client in the past.
He says repeatedly that he just wants her hole, but that’s not all he wants, that’s not even half of it, it’s almost secondary to the psychosexual drama of his fantasy. I construct for him a little thought experiment, to prove my point: you wouldn’t want an eager teenage slut, would you, one who joyfully jumped up on the bed next to you and said, “yeah, baby, let’s fuck!”, one who gave you the same kind of hole, but willingly? “No,” he says. Okay then. So it’s not just her hole, it’s the hunger and fear that forces her to open it. We’re sticking with the oppressed one, the one he calls a whore because she has to fuck for food.
Now, I’ve been on food stamps and I’ve visited the food bank and I’ve been very hungry for a couple days in a row, but I have never been that starving. So I don’t know what that would feel like, but I imagine that I would not have a lot of energy left for strenuous positions or, you know, focus. He agrees: she lets him manipulate her limbs and body into the positions that he wants. Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to want me to be her; I don’t have to find the role-play headspace for that, he just likes the detailed construction of the backstory. So he gets her there, on a mattress in a cheap motel, and she has already been fucked by a couple of guys, and I can’t help myself, I wonder out loud, does she get better food the more people she fucks, or the better she is at it? Like, is there some sort of fucking-to-food ratio? “No,” he says. No. She just gets enough food to live, in exchange for being a publicly accessible hole. Why not, I think. There are many ways of forcing someone to do something.
He doesn’t come, he just wraps up the 30-minute call 15 minutes early. “Thank you,” he says. “I appreciate your listening.” When I call back the dispatcher to let her know he ended early, there are surprisingly no recriminations or exasperated sighs: “Yeah, he’s been doing that lately.” There are a few reasons why that could be. Maybe he’s not in a totally private space for the call, and someone walked in. Maybe my journalistic approach is starting to wear on him. Maybe he’s running out of money for phone sex.
Maybe he’ll be back at the food bank sometime soon.
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