Fiction: Innocence

By Daniel Schulz

The question consistently annoyed me, because it was the only one he ever asked me, the only thing he wanted to know about my life, if I had a girlfriend. It seemed the only thing, he wanted to know about me, even if my face had just been pounded to a pulp. As if going out with a woman, would change my social status and the outlook I had in life. As if going out with a woman, was something that would make me a wholesome person. Looking at me this way, broken, tired, and alone, he concluded that the best he could do for me, was get me a woman, as if that would finally shut me up when I wanted to talk with him. It even went as far as that he had tried to pass on a girlfriend who had become too attached to him. Sitting there on his couch, he asked me to look after her. He was worried that she was becoming too affectionate toward him. Because his first sexual experience had been a disappointment, he did not understand how she could have a crush on him after she had had her first sexual experience with him. Hanging on his lips with her eyes, she would sit there in his apartment and occupy his couch. Hendrik kindly tried to discard her like he did his own first sexual experiences, wishing more welcome ones into his life.
Living in this revolving door that was his apartment, he almost made the impression that he wanted to get rid of me as soon as I came in. – “Have you got a girlfriend yet?” he asked. The answer was, of course, “No.” – “Loser,” he said grinning from ear to ear. – “But I got a date,” I replied. – “Oh, do you?” he mused, his eyes fixed on other things, as if I was the most unimportant thing in the room, “That’s nice.” – And then he drummed his fingers on the table, looking me straight in the eye, as if he was waiting for me to report on what was going on with me. Maybe he did not believe me or maybe he was waiting for me to report, like he always did when he had been out on an adventure. His silence was so curious that, staring back at him, I raised my eyebrows up until my forehead wrinkled. The expression on his face was an examination of mine. – “You’ve got five minutes.” he snapped at me, “You’ve got five minutes.” –

The conversation went close to nowhere. She was nowhere to be found impressed by me and she looked at me in disbelief during our discussion. – “O gosh, I will never loose my virginity,” I realized, making her flinch and raise her eyebrow. I wish there was something I could have done, but my stupidity was out in the open now. There was nothing to be done. All this pressure on my shoulders to loose what I still had, was starting to unravel me. After all, I was twenty-three years old. She looked at me bemused, as if I had been arrogant enough to think that I ever had a chance to get together with her. Maybe she was right, but, in a way, my comment was very befitting of the topic we were actually talking about as it was total suicide to speak these words. Now she knew I wanted to sleep with her. Moreover, I had made it seem that she was a means to an end and nothing more. Even calling the coffee we shared together ‘a date’ might seem ridiculous to her. She wasn’t interested in me, not one bit. Could I blame her?
This was the difference between Hendrik and me. I had nothing to say, nothing to tell. I was not a salesman able to work his charm on others. My humor was not meant to persuade others. I was not good at seduction. Resting her chin on her fist, she leaned back in her chair and stared right into my soul. Trained as a financial advisor, Linda crossexamined our conversation as she would a balance sheet. Mustering me as I hunched over my coffee, she reexamined our previous exchange. She wasn’t getting anything out of the economy of our date. Linda paid up and left for the door, feeling both bereft of a small portion of her lifetime and her money as I held my head in my hands questioning my own stupidity. At least I was still on topic.
It did not come to a surprise to me, when I found her in bed with Hendrik later, who acknowledged that he already had heard all about ‘our date.’ Both laughing at me on this occasion, I could not help but acknowledge my own despair.
There was no changing it. I was a no good conversationalist. Maybe that is how I got the idea to offer money for sex, because then I would hopefully have to talk less. At least then I would know how sex worked and wouldn’t be afraid or insecure about how my body worked, I thought. At least then, I would not be worried what would happen, if I ever had sex with anyone else. The reason I said what I had said to Linda was exactly that: fear. And there is nothing more unattractive about a man than his own fear, the reason we bulk up and act sovereign. Our own pride is secretly our shame, emotional blackmail dressed as self-confidence. The longer I stayed a virgin, the less attractive I felt to other people, the more clear it was that I was either stupid or unlikable or both to others. Being a man and being sexual were one and the same social status. There was a certain ease I yearned for in my life, which I saw in others moving through theirs. And I wanted to be like them in that regard, I wanted to be at ease with myself and the world that I was living in.
At the time, prostitution had recently been legalized in Germany. It no longer was condemned by the law in the usual way, as a criminal act. It was regulated. Mistaking legalization for decriminalization, this opened up a whole world to many people, including women who advertised themselves as ‘hobby prostitutes,’ who sold sexual services in their free time in order to earn some pocket money. It seemed like the right place for me to ask for an appointment, because these women were doing what they were doing on their own accord. I found an advertisement I admired and we phoned. I told Celine my concerns and that this was my first time and asked her, if I could book one-and-a-half hours with her and her girlfriend. Though the photos on her site did not show her face, her voice sounded very kind as she confirmed our date.
Hesitantly knocking at the door, I saw it open before my eyes. The chain only allowed a gap to open, a gap she peaked through with her head. She asked me for my name as if it were some kind of password. When she received it, the door closed and opened again. This time without a chain. Entering, I felt it close behind me, where she was waiting for me dressed only in a bra and a tartan skirt. – “Hi, I’m Kate!” she said smiling, almost thrilled. We shook hands. – “Pleased to meet you!” – “Likewise!” she replied, and invited me to follow her up the stairs, leaving her bare bottom swaying in front of my face. Entering the room there was a chair and a giant bed, but no one else to be seen.  – “Celine is in the shower,” she explained, “Can I get you anything? A coffee, an expresso?” –  “Coffee, please.” – “Perfect. But first! Do you have the money?” – Pulling it out of my pocket, I handed it to her, watching her count every bill. – “Perfect,” she smiled, “Make yourself comfortable. You can place your clothes on the chair.” –
Shy as I was, I looked at the chair in angst. The situation was surreal. What was I doing here, exposing myself to two strangers like this, laying myself bare to them and all my desires? I managed to take off my jacket with some contemplation. That was all, when Kate came into the door with two coffees. It was the first time in my life that I sat down with someone, who asked me what I might like and told me things she liked and did not like, telling me her limits and boundaries, instead of just drawing them. Coming through the door, Celine was slightly surprised to see me, but did not hesitate to exchange three kisses, left, right, left on each cheek, like a boxer. Her face looked nothing like I had imagined it too be, did not match the faces I knew from magazine covers. Not approving of what I felt, I appreciated her for her kindness. She was married and had two children, which is why she did not put up her face for everyone to see in the ads. Kate, on the other hand, was freelancing as a professional programmer and was interested in having sex for money on the side, as literal hobby. So they had good reasons not to show their faces to the world.
Kate turned on some music that she liked. She didn’t like the silence. Not for sex. She wanted it to be nice. She liked me, she said, which surprised me. I liked her, too. Finding each other sympathetic, we put the coffee cups to the side and started to engage with each other, my body passing from one woman to the other, playing with one and being played with by the other. Tonguing them both and giving them what they wanted from me.
It all remained surreal, the whole experience I had here. Passing from one to the other, it almost felt as if I was outside of my body, watching myself fuck. There were four of us in this room for sure, Kate, Celine, myself, and my body and I had no connection to the latter. It was as if something was missing and yet, otherwise, there were no regrets. I felt relaxed. I felt passionate. Now that I knew how my body felt, how it functioned, I no longer had any worries about being able to perform. Suddenly there was an ease within myself, which allowed me to let go of myself a little more, instead of feeling like a sinner, condemning myself to hell. I no longer had to stutter in these matters of sex, because I finally realized the beauty that was in it. I could feel it on my skin and taste it on my lips. Their sex, their pleasure, my sexuality. It was as if a crack had suddenly opened in the door of my mind, a tiny bit of light let in. If only I had had more time…
Looking back that might be my only regret. That there was not enough time for us to explore each other, nor any initiative, because, though we were strangers, I was a customer and kissing, as a rule, was out of the question. Kate, after all, had a girlfriend and Celine had a husband. So that did not come to mind. Then there was the matter of time. There was no freedom to explore each others bodies, because there was no time, because time was money. And just like the walls of this room, which were clear cut, there were borders between our bodies, intimacies we could not explore, because of the relationship we had established here, which was business. On the other hand, both Kate and Celine knew what they wanted and what not and expressed it. There was an honesty in that. They knew what they wanted or tolerated and what they did not. It was something that gave me hope that it would be impossible for me to go too far, because they told me when I was doing something wrong and what they really wanted and cared for. Maybe this small detail was the reason that there remained an aspect of it, which felt nice to me and in some aspects beautiful.
No question that both Hendrik and Linda would call me a loser for this. There was a certain art to seduction, a certain rush that you got from seducing another person, akin to the rush that a salesmen gets, persuading a customer to buy a product he does not even care for. That rush you get from winning someone else over, proving that you are likable. That rush that comes with a commission and a feeling of accomplishment. There is a certain prestige that goes along with it, the way you handle human beings and let yourself be handled. You are not supposed to sell yourself out to two women. You are supposed to win them over. Yet, looking at how Hendrik treated some of the women he was with, I had no desire to be like him. And I had no desire of sitting in his living room and hearing him tell tall tales about how he seduced them. I had no desire of sitting in his living room and telling tall tales about myself, no desire of having my encounters becoming trophies and posing like a winner, even though the story did finally come out one day, when I told it to the wrong person. Linda laughed at me that night, crying out that I was such was a loser. It made me curious, though, “Would you have preferred that I lie through my teeth just to get into your pants?” –
Though I am far more at ease now than I ever was before in my life, prostitution has not provided what one might call a solution to my social awkwardness. I still tend to hold back, hesitate, and overthink. I still have problems to interact with other people, read the signals they give me, understand their signs. Men are supposed to be extroverts, but more often than not I wish that someone would just approach me without wanting to take control over my life. Maybe that is why I am so unconcerned with my own honesty: It gives other people a choice, instead of winning them over against better judgment.
I think about this often. And the kindness I experienced with these two women. Sometimes I daydream what would be, if I had all the time in the world, that is money. Staring out the window of a bus or a tram in the middle of all these people around me, I often think about this story. And you can say what you want, that the reason for their kindness was my cash, but one day, however, the dream I was having, stared back. One day, however, when I was riding the tram home, I saw a woman standing in the back. At first she didn’t see me. Then, for no explainable reason, she started smiling at me. Why, I did not understand. But as she passed right by me at the station, grinning from ear to ear, I realized that the apartment building she was walking towards, when she got out of the door, was where she lived with her husband and her two kids.

Daniel Schulz is a U.S-German factory worker, writer, and researcher based in Cologne. He is known for his short story collection Schrei (Formidable 2016), his work at the Kathy Acker Reading Room, the exhibition and book Kathy Acker in Seattle, as well as his publications in Fragmented Voices, Versification, Café Surreal, Cacti Fur, The Wild Word, Shot Glass Journal, Outcast Press, the anthologies Tin Solider (Sarturia 2020), Corona-Schnee (Salon29 2021), Jahrbuch Lyrik 2021 (2021), Heart/h (Fragmented Voices 2021), The Clockwork Chronicles (Madhouse Publications 2022), and the catalog Get Rid of Meaning (Walter König 2022).