The phone rang. Another cry for help. Just what I needed right now, my personal little peepshow of pain.
I poured the steaming larvas into a wooden bowl, and took the phone.
"Hi, is this the, uh, crisis hotline?" A male voice, swaying, cocky, self-loathing. Maybe not right now, but chronically. My experience in the semi-professional (meaning: illegal) counseling of the depressed and psychologically unsound has taught me to identify their personality disorders. This one was masquerading self-hatred with an aggressive joyful arrogance.
"Speaking." I said.
"Listen, I got a question…", he began.
"Do you not know what to do?" Everyone suffers from the same things. I went through the list, to make this quick, and to get a kick out of the second he hears me predict his problem.
"Did your girlfriend leave you? Your boyfriend? Parents? Pet? Did you just come out of the closet? Did you get fired? Did a fire burn your apartment? Are all your belongings gone? Your books, records, movies, pornographic magazines? Do you get bullied at school, college, work, your retirement home? Are you too occupied by your work to care for your children or too occupied by your children to take care of your work? Are you hooked on pot? Big H? Crack? Angel Dust? Sleeping Pills? Aderrall? Ketamin? Vitamins? Going to the gym? Watching little children? Are you just unbelievably ugly? Does nobody love you? Are you dying? Is your life perfectly fine but a tinge too perfect, so that everything started to feel off and it's filling you with a permanent sense of dread and the desire to run? I know what you can do. Kill yourself."
I pinned the phone under my chin and stretched one of the grub to make it crack. The witchetty grub, also known as bush tucker, is a collective term for giant moth or beetle larvas, imported from the culinary traditions of the Indigenous Australians. They are traditionally served raw or lightly cooked over hot ashes. This is very à la mode now. Eating a cousin of what you would usually point your finger at and exterminate with a pre-emptive chemical strikes. Like the maggots in your trashcan, just bigger, better, juicier, exotic. I know this, and soon will my employers wil too. As their housekeeper, it shouldn't be my duty to teach them extravagant table manners, but this is how it turned out to be, and I'm compulsively following. With the knowledge of how to eat a giant Australian baby bug, they'll be very avant grade, and which rich pretentious asshole wouldn't want that. I pull its head off. When eaten alive, this ensures that they are dead. When eaten dead, this ensures good taste. Its soft headless insides surrender themselves to me. I take a bite.
"What?" The voice on the phone said.
"I'm not depressed.", he laughed.
"I didn't call because I'm in a crisis. Slow down, pal. Huh, and you failed to mention any of the issues that could actually apply to me, you should update your list.", he said.
"But I am not calling for that.", he assured.
"You are not suicidal but you call a suicide crisis hotline, blocking the line for everyone who might have an actual emergency." I said, more a statement than a question.
Not suicidal, I could believe that. But not depressed? Hardly. If so, I'd like to hear his secret.
"Listen pal, I wanted to ask whether you have an emergency on hold, someone who needs a real good reason to live."
I wondered what his problem was, what I failed to list it. I'm a great learner, I know every possible cause. But if I listed everything that can go wrong in ones life, they would, inevitably, die on the phone.
"That's the purpose of this hotline. Why are you calling to do my job?" This is my entertainment, and I'm not gonna share.
"Yeah, I know, this sounds a little weird, but hear me out. Is there any girl who is really depressed about not getting any?"
"Excuse me?" I could hear his lecherous grin, even though that was impossible.
"Sometimes you just need a good pounding to know why all this shit is worth it. And I'd like to offer my services, you know. I think this job is what I'm most qualified to do."
"You're calling to ask whether I can put you in contact with a depressed woman who wants to get fucked?" I could feel my professionalism slipping.
"Go kill yourself."
"Hey, I'm doing this for the greater good. I'm a martyr offering myself to the poor unfortunate souls that need a wake up fuck."
"You sure are." Martyrdom killed everyone I knew. Shut up. Kill yourself.
"Do you want credentials? You can go outside and ask anyone. Unless you're in Nebraska, you're sure to find someone who knows someone who knows someone who once fucked Victor Mancini. I'm regularly flying Mile-High Club, too. I'm the one answering all the Craigslist ads others are too reasonable for. I'm the one going to sex addict self-help groups to get laid. I'm the one who'll fuck every bridesmaid on every wedding he wasn't invited to. I'll give you a hint: That's every wedding I can find."
To expand on his credentials, he told me about anal beads. Pegging. Rimming. 69. Nipple clamps. Scat. Watersports. Some things he'd keep in his inventory, and some, he'd try only once. He didn't care to specify which was which. I ripped another head off a grub and took a sip of the stale unsweetened coffee that the house owners had left for me to drink. To be more effective. It was a long night ahead. The coffee made me sick, scat brown brackish water. I still drank it. I should have bought myself… soda or a milkshake. Childhood comfort food. This was not my childhood, but still, I've been assured that this is supposed to be comforting and bringing up the good childhood memories. He told me everything about his comforting childhood memories, and his first porno videos, including sexual animal abuse, his first magazine, his first boob grab. How his mother always gave him into host families and abducted him after a few years had passed. Freudian shit, he says, she never let me have any other woman in my life. It wasn't even his biological mom. He had been kidnapped. He just learned the other day, he said.
When people talk to strangers they never have to see again, they can finally let it all out. It's all a matter of time. Even when they dialed the wrong number, if I can keep them long enough, they'll tell me all the dirty details. So did he. That was his childhood.
My childhood was: Learning. Working. Getting bad haircuts. Religion. Stripping myself of everything individual. Of the pleasure of food, sleep, play, sex. But I didn't tell him any of that.
The slippery, limp larvas in front of me had begun to look like a pile of dildos.
"Are you… only looking for women?" I asked, focusing my detached monotone in an attempt not to falter.
"Uh, yeah, I called for chicks. Didn't I mention that?"
"You did.", I said.
"Why? You… actually got a man who'd be in for it?" He sounded careful, reluctant and suddenly not so confident anymore.
"I might.", I said.
"Oh. How does he look like? How old is he?" He was trying to hide the fact that he probably never thought about a man in that way. He tried to hide his loss of sexual confidence, too used to be a powerful beast. Men were his big unknown. It was just fair. To me, everything was the big unknown. I had never felt the drive for it. For anybody.
Victor, or what his name was, he was caught off guard. But he was horny, and he needed someone tonight. He didn't have time to be picky or adhere to his sexual orientation too strongly. Maybe I had just helped a big self-revelation, that would be a first.
"Well. He's around thirty…", I began.
"Oh. Oh that sounds fine."
"How old are you?" I breathed a little more heavily. There was cold sweat on my forehead, my hands, everywhere.
"Twenty-five. So, go on, what does he look like?"
"Long hair, probably didn't have a haircut since his late teens. Second-hand clothes, plain, not very well matching. Fixed often. Untrained, maybe even a little chubby around the belly area. But otherwise scrawny. Not a nice sight. A real ugly creep." My voice started to shake.
"Oh." He said.
"Uh, was that supposed to sound enticing to me? You either gotta practice your sales pitches, or you got a real twisted sense of appeal. I'm looking for depressed people, not depressing sights.", he said.
"Well, he's not that ugly.", I defended myself.
"He's average. A diamond in the rough. Not too intimidating, but something to work with. He's a promise of improvement."
"Uh-huh… Then tell me: Does he take it in the ass? I got a bit of a butt-trauma right now. Almost died of anal beads."
"How… how do you die of anal beads?" I didn't even know what anal beads were prior to his call.
"You plug up, and collect all the shit inside of you. You collect until you're all filled up. Until you collapse. Complete organ failure. Poisoned by how full of shit you are."
"I'm sorry" I said, even though I thought it's hilarious.
"I can hardly push a log without cramping up. Might change in the future, but I really don't wanna risk it now. So, does he take it up the ass?"
"He… doesn't know." I said. My monotone was slipping. My voice became hushed. Shy. Uncertain.
"Hey… that may sound crazy, but I kinda get the impression that… this guy is you."
I should hang up.
"Are you a virgin?", he asked.
He got me.
"Or are you in the closet, looking for an adventure of self-discovery?"
I shouldn't play with fire. I should keep to what I know: Telling people to end their lives. Look for them in the mausoleum, hoping that one will return to kill me.
"Hey, are you still there? Hey, that's fine, I'm not making fun of you! You're so lucky, man. Not having sex must be such a relief. Wow, how my life could've gone without all this sexual shit using me up..."
"Why do you say that.", I said.
"Why would you ridicule me like this.", I screeched.
"Sex is the only way to free yourself. It is the only way to distance yourself from educators, parents, the things they've taught you. It's a rite of passage and claiming power."
He burst out laughing, and I ripped a witchetty grub into witchetty pieces.
"Who told you that?", he asked.
"Some weird religious brainwash-cult dude? Jesus fucking Christ, man!"
He laughed even more.
"Whoever told you that never had it! Sex is the opposite of freedom. Sex is the thing that makes you a slave. Forget being independent. Forget being productive. Forget thinking clearly. Every smallest thing reminds you of sex. And then, everything else ceases to matter."
"It's chasing one high after the other. It's incapability of being with anyone in a healthy way. It's self-destructive mutual masturbation."
His chuckle became pained.
"If you're not distracted by sex… geez, are you in the White House or something? People with self-control must be so successful. A loving family, a good job, a well-developed personality, not being a fucking failure who is always chasing the next tail."
I came out on top. Before I broke down, he did. His composure was crumbling for me to witness and enjoy. Reality TV breakdown. And with his confession, my last hopes of catharsis crumbled too. If sex wasn't the sure way path to get out of my conditioned slavery and repressed life, I had no options left. I had done it all. Lying, shoplifting, unpure thoughts, murder. Everything but sex.
"Believe me. Do not hope for sex. Stay away from it. It will destroy your life." His words were too certain.
"But… I want to see for myself.", I said.
"I want to know. I need this to grow and become independent from what I've been taught to think and be."
"You're not going to find it there. But who am I to tell you how to handle your sexuality. Don't listen to me, I'm the worst role model. You don't even know me. Hey, this is crazy, why are we even talking about this shit. On the phone. Two strangers."
"Where do you want to meet up?", I burst out.
"You want to have sex with me?", he asked.
That was a good question. He could be a sex maniac and rape me. He could be a maniac and only kill me. My emotional reaction to these possibilities was… nothing. Dying wouldn't be that bad. I could probably take that risk. I had nothing to lose.
"Yes.", I said.
"Are you depressed?"
"Well, that's ironic, seeing that you're the counselor at a suicide crisis hotline…"
"Yes, ironic.", I say, tense, holding onto the wooden bowl of giant baby bug dildos.
"And you offer help to people who have problems with sex even though you're a sex addict.", I counter.
"Nah, I just really want to get laid.", he said.
"I can understand that."
"No, you can't."
"No, I really can't."
He shifted around. He was getting restless.
"Where are you? Are we even in the vicinity? Or was that a tease..."
"I'm…" I didn't want to hand out my address on the phone, but the state would be save enough.
"I'm in Oregon right now.", I said.
"Shit. I don't even have a car, man."
"Neither do I."
"If I still had an erection when I arrived, I'd probably have a serious medical condition."
"Tomorrow is a work day too."
"Let's just do it like this."
"On the phone."
There was silence between us. I could hear something rustling on the other end of the phone. I opened my trousers to compare the sound, and my impression was right: He had his hand in his pants and it was moving too. I listened to his calming, even breathing, I gave my crotch a careful stroke. My breath hitched. He chuckled, knowing what I was doing, and I heard him pumping his erection to it. His fist was slapping against his base, rubbing against jeans fabric. I followed, and the sparks running through my body shocked me enough to mewl.
We were both survivors with no idea what to do with our lives. We were terrified, and rubbing one off.
And then, I hung up.