Fiction: The Boy Who Scraped His Knee Over and Over and Over
By Jake Hutton
I drove by it three fucking times. It looks like a house. It looks like the house I grew up in actually. It is a house, but it isn’t. Houses don’t have blacked out windows or red neon signs (they’re not that bright, I didn’t notice). Houses, like the one I grew up in, do have front porches, lawns, decorative shutters, and that plastic siding drawing horizontal stripes up the structure. And so does Number One Spa & Massage.
I pull in cautiously, but not too cautiously. It’s important when entering into semi-legal situations to behave in the correct way, even while driving. You don’t want to come in too hot. You look like somebody who could be a problem, somebody who might get too rough with a girl, get rougher when she tries to stop you, trash the furniture as you get thrown out with your refund and a chunk of her hair in your hand. Or worse, you could be a cop. Come in too tentatively and you look like a first-timer, somebody who doesn’t know what to expect, somebody who thinks $200 for a half hour and no table shower is reasonable, a fair price, probably the industry standard, do you have an ATM I can use? Oh, a $12 fee, well I’m already here...
No, one must construct upon their frame a facade that says, “I’m not a cop, I know what I’m doing, don’t try to fuck me” (respectfully). Life is all about finding balance. I can tell you this with absolute certainty because it is a lesson I’ve continually insisted on learning by sprinting face first into brick walls at both extremes and mercifully losing consciousness somewhere in the middle.
I try the door, it’s locked. Shit maybe this is just a house. No it can’t be, because I see my reflection in the window and my face is glowing red in the light of a sign that says, “Open 24 Hours.” I try the door again, still locked. Fuck, maybe I should just leave. They’re closed, the sign is wrong, I should take my money and go get fucked up and bother these poor girls with my sweaty heaving some other time. I turn to walk back to the car and get halfway down the porch steps before turning around and coming back. Fuck it, I drove all the way out here.
My face glows even redder as I notice the doorbell camera pretending not to have been staring at me this whole time. The nasally, accented voice coming from it sounds oddly curious, like she actually doesn’t know why I’m here. I quickly re-attach my facade.
“Hello.” A long pause. I probably should’ve asked a question or something.
“Yes?” What do you think?
“Hi, uh, are you open?” (Despite my growing boyish embarrassment, I haven’t forgotten about the source of the red glow on my face or the information it conveys, but you have to say something without saying, “Yes, I’m here for the handjob.”)
The door buzzes and I step through into the cramped waiting room. Immediately I’m greeted with more red light, but it’s more of a blood red. It’s hot, stuffy, claustrophobic. I feel like I’m in a womb. On top of the plastic tile floor sits a fuzzy, hot pink carpet. On top of that, a gaudy table, couch, and chairs looking like they’ve been pulled out of the throne room of a closeted French king. Something is off about them, like they’re stage props never meant to be sat on. They also seem small, maybe 3⁄4 size.
The walls are fake wood paneling. On one hangs a golden framed landscape of a tiny village at the foot of a tall mountain. On another, a portrait of a woman, tall and slender, wearing a fine silken robe. Her eyes are made up heavy and black and her pouting lips a brilliant scarlet.
She’s posed confidently, seductively, with a look like, “Are you gonna just stand there?” The third is blank, and the fourth has a door and a little window with a little woman’s head in it.
She’s Asian, not very pretty (not that I give a fuck). The deep wrinkles of hard life entering middle age break through her caked on makeup in pale valleys. Straggly strands of varying lengths escape the tight black bun on the top of her head. Her eyes black shadowed and her lips a wet, sparkling red.
She looks at me invitingly with a small, toothless smile. “How long?” She asks.
“60.” I hand over the preprepared fold of bills and her smile grows teeth. She's being too nice. I can’t imagine why, I just showed up at 8 pm on a Sunday and bought the cheapest thing possible. Probably gonna try to upcharge the fuck out of me once I’m naked and vulnerable.
“Okay, come.” She opens the door for me. Her cozy, stay-at-home mom outfit drapes softly over a soft body; wide hips, thick thighs, large breasts hanging nearly to her waist. She beckons me down a hallway. “Second door on right.” As I pass the first door on the left I notice two pairs of children’s shoes, a boy’s and a girl’s, kicked aside, illuminated by a bright light peeking out from underneath the door.
She leaves me alone behind the second door on the right. It’s sparse: a massage table with a thin, white sheet, a sink with a toothpaste stained faucet, and a medicine cabinet cracked to reveal cough syrup, Benadryl, and a thermometer, the whole room only lit by a small night light. I take off my clothes and sit on the table.
Absentmindedly kicking my feet, I can hear the woman through the walls. She’s speaking another language but the tone is unmistakable: stern, serious, but caring. Probably telling the kids to do their homework or to stop fighting. Maybe it’s almost time for bed and they have to brush their teeth. I guess they’ll have to wait until I’m done. I take note of the thinness of the walls to remember not to get too loud during my panting seconds of ecstasy later.
She appears again through the door, again glowing with warmth. Instinctively I stop swinging my legs and straighten my posture. “Lay down” she whispers, and I do, putting my face through the hole in the table.
Now, the most awkward part of any massage with a happy ending is definitely the massage part. Despite the facts that that’s what the (glowing red) sign on the building says and that for all intents and (legal) purposes it’s what you’re paying for, it’s not the reason you’re there. You know it, the “masseuse” knows it. It’s a formality, really; play acting some kind of erotic build up in a show that only you two are watching. The whole time wondering: “How much is left on my time? When is the flip? Should I just end this charade right now and flip myself?” I won’t bore you with the details of this particular massage except to say that it’s more high effort than usual. (Also, I like watching her bare feet. I’m not necessarily a foot guy, but they’re nice. I can recognize that.)
After a few minutes she tells me to flip. Smiling, she lays a warm, gentle hand on my chest. I’m unnerved by her disposition. I’m not used to being treated this way, kindly, gently, with consideration. Not by anybody, but especially not by women of the sex trade. Usually it’s all business: come in, pay me, “come in,” get the fuck out. This woman is going off script, not playing the character as written, changing the lines, and I feel at a disadvantage.
As she’s about to ask the question, she feels my scars. I have a lot, some pretty nasty. They bulge up all over my torso like narrow ridges on a topographical map of some western state. What they imply is not immediately grasped by most, but what is plain to see and feel is that they are traumatic, permanent disfigurations from something painful and bloody.
She wears a pained look as she rubs her fingers along the raised lines and swoops, and a sad, sympathetic one as her eyes meet mine, looking for answers. In an instant when I see those eyes, my conscious facade falls and I am just me, splayed out, exposed, naked like the day I was born.
I can’t remember the last time anyone looked at me that way, the way adults look at children who hurt themselves. What’s funny about kids getting hurt (stay with me here) is that they often don’t cry until they see that someone else sees them. For some fucked up evolutionary reason, we need that tacit permission to let it out. A trip and fall, a skinned knee, then a look that tells you “I can feel your pain. It’s okay for you to feel it too.” And then the tears.
“It’s okay” I choke out, my nostrils flaring as I try to blink away the moisture starting to pool in my eyes. She moves her hand to my penis with a questioning gaze, and I nod. As she begins to stroke me she doesn’t break eye contact. With her free hand, she tenderly cups the side of my face.
I reach to her shirt and give it a tug. She knows what I want. She thinks briefly and decides to allow it. She removes her shirt and lets her heavy breasts fall. I move my arm around her back and squeeze her tightly towards me. Tears have started escaping my eyes now. She sees, I see that she sees, and more flow.
Looking at me with that same look, and stroking me at a slow, steady pace, she gently pushes my head to her body. I take her nipple in my mouth. “Ssshhhhhh” she assures me.
As she holds me, quietly humming some lullaby that I’ve never heard before, she rocks me back and forth. And for a few minutes, I let it out.
Jake Hutton is a 29 year old writer from Chicago. He's a college dropout and a recovering drug addict. In 2018, he co-wrote the award winning short film 4Corners, and is a 2022 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive Fellow.