Don’t Worry, I’m Clean – Chandler Morrison

I was nothing before I got sick. I believed things about myself. I believed the world made sense and my existence meant something. Driving through the canyons at night, getting high and listening to The Cars while the city breathed beneath me, I believed I was participating in something that mattered. I looked in the mirror every morning and the face looking back at me was a comfort, a salvation.
Bad things don’t happen to pretty people.
Disease is for the ugly and the poor.
These are the lies I believed.
“You have to stop losing weight, doll face,” the photographer is telling me. “You’re starting to look washed out. There’s only so much I can airbrush.”
I shrug noncommittally, don’t say anything. My smile flashes. So does the camera. Turn, pose, repeat.
“There, yeah, right there. Your cheeks don’t look so hollow from that angle.”
I won’t be able to keep doing this for much longer. My looks are on borrowed time, and there is no medication. Not if I want to keep the Mercedes and my high-rise overlooking the Pacific, and I do. The illusion of hope, some prepackaged possibility of longevity, is not worth sacrificing that which makes life livable.
After the shoot, I’m chatting up the photographer’s assistant—some dumb miniskirt from Milwaukee whose empty skull has allowed her ample room for whatever ridiculous dreams brought her here. Lately, I’ve had to rely more on my face and my charm for these transactions; I used to be able to just flex my biceps or flash my abs, but my rapidly atrophying muscles have robbed me of that luxury. In any event, I don’t mind the added challenge, the mild straining of effort. It makes it more like sport.
In my bedroom back at the condo, she asks if I have a condom.
“Don’t worry,” I tell her. “I’m clean.”
She tugs at her hair, looks out the floor-to-ceiling window at the rolling ocean. “I’m not on birth control,” she says.
“I am. And I’ll pull out. Just in case.”
“You’re on…male birth control? Is that…even a thing?”
“Sure. It’s, um…experimental.”
She shrugs and says, “Okay.”
As I’m fucking her, I try to picture it happening. I don’t exactly know how these things work, but I like to imagine sick, deformed cells latching onto healthy ones, devouring them, transforming them. If only this girl knew what was happening inside her body right now. She’d be mortified, but she shouldn’t be. This thing I have given her is a gift. It is the ultimate profession of love, and I do love her, even for the silly, pea-brained cum-dumpster she is. I love her because she will carry on my legacy and deliver it to countless others, who will in turn become my disciples by proxy, re-gifting my gracious offering of enlightenment among an endless, labyrinthine network of soon-to-be-sages.
Because that’s what it is—it’s enlightenment. That’s what I’m giving her. Before today, she was both prisoner and captor, slave and master, toiling away in a vacuous hell of her own design. After our sacred coupling, she will unwittingly go about her errant ways, but not forever. Eventually, whether through a routine checkup or an anxiously scheduled appointment after a series of troubling symptoms, she will get the News.
I look into her eyes and I want to tell her how everything is going to change for her. Not at first, but soon enough. I want to tell her the first months will be hard as she grapples with her new life and struggles to sort through a myriad of very confusing emotions. I wish I could tell her how it will all be worth it. “When you come out on the other side,” I’d whisper to her, “you’ll want to thank me for what I’ve given you, but by then I’ll be gone.”
I can’t tell her this, of course. I can only pull out and come on her face. She finger-spoons globs of it into her mouth and gives me a smile full of frothy white disease. Some of it dribbles down her chin. The rest she swallows.
After she leaves, I watch from the window as she walks out of the building and gets into a Lyft, disappearing into the lines of traffic on PCH. From up here, the cars look like toys. I wonder if any of their occupants are among my disciples. Since my diagnosis, I have bedded 393 people—267 men and 126 women, including this most recent one. Men are easier and more promiscuous, thus serving as more viable vessels. The likelihood of high transmission rates among them is greater. It disappoints me that I’ll never know the true extent of my reach, but even if only half of my couplings resulted in successful transmission, the exponential nature of viral spread is in my favor. By the time I’ve finally succumbed to the corrosive elements of my own gift, I hope to have a potential outreach of a hundred thousand or more.
I sigh and do a couple lines of coke before lighting a cigarette and sitting on the sweat-dampened bed. I wish I were without limits. I want to reach everyone in this city. I want all of Los Angeles to see life as I do now, and then I want them all to die in a series of great, exhaustive breaths, leaving behind an empty empire of advancing nature and crumbling infrastructure. That is my dream, my truth, my raison d’être.
We must all abandon false purity, divorce ourselves from the fallacies of health. The only way is in the path of the Benevolent Sickness.
It will deliver us.
I am delivered.
I will deliver.