His name was Carth on Grindr. I guess it was short for Carthaginian. I didn’t know what a Carthaginian was, or what it represented, or what it would it mean to identify as one. I knew the term referred to an empire but I didn’t know when or where that empire had existed. What was he trying to say? Who was this man? My profile was very clear. In my photo my lips were puckered, my eyes narrowed seductively. Rose emojis meant I wasn’t giving freebies. I talked a big game on the app, but I had only turned one trick so far and had no idea what I was doing. That first was a fiasco. He was over six feet tall and probably weighed three hundred pounds. He seemed like a plumber or an electrician or something. Biggest guy I’d ever touched, in a sexual way at least. I brought him into my bedroom and we both sat on the bed. “What do you want me to do?” I asked. “Eat my ass,” he said. I had him lie down and flip his legs back over his shoulders. I leaned my face between his massive thighs and stuck my tongue right into a big clod of shit. That’s when I learned if a trick wants you to eat his ass it’s your prerogative to make him shower first. I’ve since learned that lots of guys don’t wash their asses at all. Many of them barely even wipe. What the fuck, right?
Carth said he didn’t pay for sex. He rejected the idea on principle. He was handsome enough, he said, not to need to. I pressed the issue anyway. I need help paying rent and bills, I wrote. I’m a student, I’m broke, I have many other options. Carth came up with a compromise. He would bring us to a hotel and I’d spend the whole night with him. He would get me high, feed me, buy me liquor, whatever I wanted. Plus he’d give me forty dollars. I knew it was a shit deal but the man looked like money. He had sugar daddy written all over him. If I made him happy maybe I could turn this into something lasting. I agreed to his terms. He said he’d pick me up in his Mercedes. I gave him an address down the block from me. I don’t know how this really protected me. If he’d wanted to hurt me, he wouldn’t need to know my address. He’d just need me to get into his car, which I was doing anyway. You learn things pretty quick as a fledgling hooker. You have to, or you’ll end up getting hurt. Carth could tell I was green. From the moment I agreed to his terms he was fully in control.
The Mercedes SUV was beautiful. Clean and fresh, with that new car smell. Carth went ninety on the interstate, smoothly weaving past the other cars. He drove us out to the south suburbs where he’d made a hotel reservation. On the drive I tried to tell him about utilitarianism. I wanted him to think I was smart for some reason. “It’s basically like a numerical science of pleasure,” I said, repeating what I’d heard in my grad school seminar. “You can use it to design schools, or prisons, or systems of government. The goal is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain within the system.” “It’s time for the system to burn,” he said. “It’s time to light the whole thing up.” He was the first Black person I’d met who was planning to vote for Trump. I didn’t like Trump but I liked guys who liked Trump. There was a danger to them. An instability. It signified a particular veneer of masculine strength, and beneath that facade, a more perilous masculine fragility. I’d gone on a date with a communist a few weeks before. The date had been terrible. The communist seemed so weak, so soft. His skin looked like putty. It was like he’d bent himself over and was just waiting for the world to fuck him in the ass. He gave me a look before he tried to kiss me, like I was the vessel for this cosmic pegging. I pushed him away, crinkling my nose at the rancid whiskey breath he exuded. His watery bottom eyes widened in shock. “Sorry,” he kept saying. “Sorry. Sorry.”
Carth was just the opposite. He smelled of expensive, tasteful cologne, and had thick, ropy muscles. He showed the muscles off as he drove, making them bulge beneath his T-shirt sleeves as he shifted gears. He didn’t talk much. He asked questions and let me speak, sometimes nodding or smiling in response. He rested his hand on my thigh and my heart skipped a beat. He said I had to ask permission before I did anything, even use the bathroom. He told me I should call him daddy.
“What do you do for a living, daddy?” I asked.
He smiled. “Baby, I’m just a corporate Chad.”
In the hotel suite he brought out his phone to show me pictures of all the trans girls he’d banged, plus a whole separate album with just photos of his main squeeze. She looked hard as fuck. Passable and porn-ready. He said she was a meth addict and a prostitute from the hood. I wondered if he was her pimp, or if he paid her to date him. He scrolled through the albums, showing me his various conquests:
“This girl studies linguistics,” he said. “She’s a PhD student, like you. Lives in Urbana.” He zoomed in and scrolled around to show me her brow, her Adam’s apple, the small breasts pushed together and held in place by a black sports bra. “She’s pretty,” he said, “but her stomach fat protrudes too much. She eats a lot. She needs to do more cardio.”
“What about me, daddy?” I asked.
“You look good,” he said. “But you need some work. I can see your shadow. You should try color correcting. Or use a different foundation with more coverage.”
He told me Latinas and Asians were the most passable, followed by Black girls, and then White girls at the bottom. He said trans girls from the hood had a special term for girls who don’t pass.
“They’re called hons,” he said. “As in, aw, you look so beautiful…hon!”
“Am I a hon, daddy?” I asked.
“Of course not, baby,” he said. “You’re true trans. Here.”
He slipped a powdery pink cube beneath my tongue and handed me a glass. I sipped, then swallowed the cube, wincing at the taste.
“Grey Goose,” he said. “Smooth, right?”
My stomach was empty when I swallowed the pill and within minutes I was seeing tracers. I waved my hands in front of my face. Flashes of blue and pink light followed their movements. Carth put on music and we danced around the room. He took off his shirt and let me feel his muscles. He put his arms around me and squeezed, like a boa constrictor crushing its prey. He kept grinding his teeth, hard. His mouth was right next to my ear and the sound made me wince. It was crunching and screechy, like nails on a chalkboard. We rocked back and forth, me nearly crushed by the pressure of his arms. There were four more pink cubes on the table. Within a few hours we’d taken them all.
“This shit is pure,” Carth said. “MDMA. Never buy drugs from dealers, baby. They cut ‘em with all kinds of nasty shit.”
“Okay, daddy. I won’t.”
He didn’t want to fuck until the drugs had worn off. He made me go into the bathroom to clean out. I stuck the enema nozzle up my ass, squirted myself full of water and waited. I got on my hands and knees and stuck my ass in the air, shaking it back and forth to swirl the water around. In the shower my skin felt dry and my jaw hurt. I was coming down. I wanted to be back in my own bed. I wanted a Xanax. I didn’t feel like having sex at all. Why did I agree to this?
I’d been fucked hundreds of times, and by dicks way bigger than his, but I’d never felt that much pain before. Never anything like this. He put maybe one drop of lube on his dick and just jammed it in.
“Push,” he said. “Push like you’re taking a shit.”
“Can you please use more lube…daddy?” I asked.
“You got to learn to take it,” he said. “My girl can take it without any lube at all.”
He pushed in and out slowly. It continued to hurt. My body was rejecting him. I asked him again to use more lube. He didn’t respond. He said nothing. After that I just laid there and let him finish.
The next morning Carth rubbed his jaw, winced in pain. I got the feeling he did this a lot. This whole thing. The drugs, the girls. Maybe every weekend. Maybe more. I imagined my photos going into his album. Me becoming part of his trans girl collection. I wonder if I’m still there now. Not me, but the ghost of me. The ghost of the girl I used to be.
“You’ve fulfilled your part of the deal,” he said. “So I’ll fulfill mine. Here you go, baby. You earned it.”
“Thanks daddy,” I said, shoving the bills in the pocket of my jeans.
I barely remember the drive home, or anything that happened after that. I probably laid in bed all day. I probably ordered a cheeseburger and had it delivered. Or maybe Chinese food and a smoothie. I probably watched a bunch of crap TV on Netflix and bought wine from the corner store and got drunk. I probably argued with my roommate about dirty dishes, or Bernie, or money for bills. I probably smoked weed. I definitely smoked cigarettes.
That night I received a text message from Carth.
Hey baby, it read. I had a great time last night. So lovely to meet you. I have one question I’d like you to answer. Please be honest. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate me as a lover, and why?
Underneath the muscles, he was just as insecure and fragile as me. All of his confidence had just been for show. The ball was in my court now. The roles were reversed. I was in control. He was mine.
1, I wrote back. Then I blocked his number.