‘No-one would believe this. You can do it. You deserve it.’ That’s what Rick told himself. He was plucking up courage.
It was nine in the evening. Midweek. A typical February in a South Yorkshire shithole. He’d followed the instructions – ‘..go past the welding place, then the row of shops with the kebab place at the end. Wait just past there. I’ll come out.’ The rain wasn’t too heavy, so he left the wipers off and watched the row of terraced houses ahead of him on both sides of the road. As far as he could tell, the grimy bricks stretched on up the hill and into the night forever. He wondered just how many people were behind the dirty front doors and if they’d be watching out for strangers.
‘Man…..what am I doing?’ He tapped the steering wheel. It was his first time. At the start he’d been hesitant but then he’d gotten several offers and, after all, money is money. The equipment was in the back; everything he’d need for any situations, even banana flavoured condoms. His phone beeped.
He read the message. It was from the contact. She’d be there in two minutes.
At home Rick’s wife was making dinner for their three daughters. She’d had a tough day – she was the main breadwinner – and cursed Rick for not being the go-getter he should really be, and for not putting the wine in the fridge. She didn’t care where he was, probably with his friends watching football, but hated the fact he wasn’t there to be instructed anyhow. She was good at instruction. Rick was weak. He was dependable for it, along with his faithfulness, and his clean living. She knew he didn’t do drugs, ever. And hardly any booze. Good old Rick. Good old predictable, stoical, calm, feeble, Rick. You knew where you were with a husband like him. She liked that. It gave her room to wear the pants and wield the real power in the relationship. A marriage was all about the winning, and with him there was no chance of her losing. He was broken good.
Towards the limit of the light of the streetlamp, Rick saw someone walking up towards the row of cars where he’d parked. ‘Red umbrella,’ he’d been told. ‘Beige coat. Blonde hair.’ He squinted through the watery windshield. The car lights were off, though the engine was running. He thought about putting the high beam on but his gut instinct told him to wait. After all, it wouldn’t pay to get this thing wrong. There would be serious repercussions. He was nervous as hell. How would he start this off? Was it just a question of rolling down the window and saying hi?
Her advert had asked for a professional photographer. Rick wasn’t professional, it was just a middle-aged hobby; something to give him a good reason to spend time in the spare room each evening after he’d cooked dinner and washed up. Things had got too far, too quickly. She was a porn star. Not famous, but she looked hot, and she was only in the next county. She’d hired him via a porn site – he could hear the creaky stairs at home well enough to watch porn up there with the volume on mute each evening – and this was now real. It was the most exciting thing he’d ever done. He started to get a hard-on. She got closer…. She was enormous….
‘Holy fuck,’ Rick said out loud. She looked nothing like her pictures. She was at least three times the size of him, maybe four hundred and fifty pounds. Red umbrella, beige coat, blonde…vague resemblance to the woman he thought he’d been communicating with. He started to panic. Could he take the photos? Yeah, of course…just a job…point, click. But he knew that the photos were not the main reason he was there. In the frenzied messages arranging the thing there had been talk of sex – of part payment in kind. She was expecting it. He had been, too.
She drew level with the car, stopping at his door and seeming to fill the world. Rick sat rigid with fear, gripping the steering wheel and looking straight ahead. She tapped at the window. Her face looked like it was bigger than a truck wheel. ‘HEY! Come on, love, it’s pissing it down,’ she bellowed through the wet glass.
For a few weeks afterwards, Rick thought about her whenever his wife shouted at him for a badly mopped floor, or when the Soaps were on TV and he was being told to watch, but his newspaper was being turned too loudly. He could still see her face as he’d jammed the car into gear and screeched up the road, leaving her standing there in the rain waving her fist and kind of jumping in the dirty night. It was a horrible sight. He’d received a couple of abusive emails from her over the next few days but chose not to reply.
Rick went back to the evening masturbations in his spare room. It was just about all the thrill level he could take. ‘After all, why rock something good that you already have,’ he thought. He was prepared to stick things out. Get on with being cocooned away from those dangerous vicarious dreams. Three kids and a dull job was ok by him, after all. He knew he would always be a failure in his wife’s eyes, but breaking free, making something of himself, being who he wanted to be, wasn’t ever going happen. She would make sure of that.
I knew Rick as a friend. He was aching to be someone, he just didn’t know who or what. He was a guy who’d talk to everyone in a bar for far too long just in case one person liked him even a little bit. He needed a dream, but was unsure of the contents, or the end. When I had an overdose one time, Rick was the first friend to come round a few days later to my flat and see if I was doing alright. He was a genuine guy. But he had those secrets.. He’d sit and tell me about the life he was on the verge of living; or, as he put it, ‘being my own man, Ben, for once.’
I always thought he’d nudge around on the verges of call girls, covert smokes of weed, and the odd weekend away with the boys and a fumble round the back of a seaside pub. He was never going to ride off into his personal nirvana like he said. It was a pipe dream. His balls were in a vice and his direction was always skewed. At least, that was my opinion. Your dick is not the greatest compass in uncertain terrain. He was never going to work it out.
Rick told me six months later that his wife had left him. The guy was younger, wore sharp suits, snorted coke, was headed for the top. That same night Rick typed out an email – “Hi Tracey. I’m sorry about that time before. Can we arrange something again? I’ll pay. I think I love you.”
He pulled over past the kebab shop on the terraced street a day later. He was going places.