The Gland – Jazz Boothby
December 6, 2022
It was neither day nor night. And terribly hot. The sky was yellow and it was almost impossible to breathe. I sat in my room vegetating, the sludge still rotting in my gut. My head had a constant searing pain that forced me to keep both my eyes open. Suddenly, the pain rose in a violent surge and I whined aloud, then vomited.
I had chosen a town on the coast. It was beautiful but I was not alone in admiring it. The honey hued stone buildings were teeming with tourists. They were fat and pink and spilled out of the shops and into the streets. The hotel’s caretaker was kind. He was so wrinkled he looked like he was made of clay. He smiled often, his wide-set eyes would close entirely as the corners of his lips curled up past his cheekbones. On my first night, he offered me something to eat. The dish looked like eggplant. But it was hot and wet and bitter and stunk like fish. He sat there, watched me take a few bites, and then stood up from the table. He came back with a spoonful of dark chocolate. Just you wait, his eyes seemed to say. I couldn’t imagine anything I wanted to eat less. The food weighed in my stomach like a heavy sludge and brought sadness to my body, an unpleasant wetness which thrashed around my insides.
Puking had brought me back into the room. I looked over at the bed, which was wet with urine. Ashamed, I removed the bedding. Why was I still wetting the bed? I thought of Todd and the rubber sheets. I shuddered.
I entered a convenient store uneasy with pain. My clothes were stuck to my body, my thinning hair pasted to my head. I approached the register, and met a scowling face that somehow only seemed meaner when it smiled up at me.
“Do you speak English?”
The mouth smiled again. This time, flirtatiously.
“A little. Are you an American?”
The pain in my head seared again.
“Yes, I am. Do you have medicine? My head hurts.”
“You can go to the pharmacy.”
I dry-swallowed four paracetamol tablets and bought sunglasses. The lenses were already severely scratched and my vision cracked and hissed. I walked to the beach and knelt in the sand.
I considered how many different types of medication were in my system and thought that it was remarkable what one man can get used to swallowing.
I surveyed the bodies surrounding me. Some were young and brown and beautiful but many were fat and pink. The bodies swooshed in and out and I thought that whoever had managed to make us all think we needed to go on vacation was a good liar.
A young man walked past. He wore a white speedo which made his tan seem even darker.
What a tan.
His hair was heavily gelled and you could tell he had a strong core. His genitals were bulging, his balls just barely squeezed into the bathing suit. I had been taking cialis for several weeks. The doctor said they were able to save all my nerves, but he wasn’t sure when exactly they’d wake up. I layed back on the sand and closed my eyes and thought about his balls.
A woman stood above me. She was wearing a lime green bikini. Two stars were tattooed at both edges of her groin. She smiled down at me, her hands on her hips.
“You are The American. And how are you? How you feel?”
I vaguely recognized this face; scowling, cat-like. Her nose was big. Sitting up, playing it cool, I smiled back at the woman.
“Better. Now that you’re here,” I said lamely.
She sat down next to me.
“Bradley. Nice to meet you.”
“Are you having a family?”
“No wife? No babies?”
The woman opened her palm, revealing several pills wrapped in tin foil. I looked down at the pills, and noticed a sizable middle, most likely fattened from motherhood. When she spoke, her eyes worked left to right, then right to left, never settling on me.
“Do you want to be high?”
We walked down the coast, to a different cove. We staked out our space, only slightly removed from the drunk teens and the naked homosexuals. Marta wrapped the tin foil around the pills and smashed her phone down on them so violently that it startled me. I gasped and became embarrassed. She laughed as she unfurled a beach towel and told me to cover her. With the wind obstructed, she lit the bottom of the foil and inhaled. I followed her lead and became high almost immediately.
Marta began talking about the volcanic islands we could just barely make out in the distance. She said that the water around them sometimes caught on fire, but she wasn’t sure why or how that was possible. She told me about her children. I was listening but only sort of. I was thinking mostly of my wet sheets and especially of Todd.
Those last few weeks before the trip, despite trying, I couldn’t muster up the goodness to dial down my misery around him. I had swollen breasts and I was still stuffing panty liners in my boxers. I knew I was unpleasant to be around, a downer, but I couldn’t help it. When I’d rant or weep, drooling and incontinent, Todd’s expression would grow ever sadder, to the point that it would make me laugh. I was out of my mind then though, I reasoned. This vacation would bring me back to myself.
On the beach overlooking the volcanic islands, I could feel Marta’s tongue in my mouth: hot and dry, rough as sand. Then, warm and squishy; which made me feel like I was kissing a dog. She pulled away, saying something. I was surprised by how much effort it took for me to lift my head up and look her in the eyes. She was no longer scowling.
“What did you say?” I asked.
She laughed awkwardly, wiping the corners of her mouth, “You taste like vomit.”
She reached into my pants, grasping around, adrift.
“Is there something wrong?”
“Forget it,” I replied, my teeth gritted.
I laid her down on the sand and covered her with the beach towel. I started to finger her absentmindedly. I began to think maybe the surgery had been vital. Look at me now, I thought, I am on vacation, I am not alone, not entirely unhappy, unheeded. Why should I trample over something that had been vital with my misery? I am so tired of being cynical.
As I laid there, fingering Marta, I thought back to one day when an old man had come up to me in the oncologist’s waiting room. His fat body was trembling and his hairless head bobbed up and down. As he lurched towards me, he puckered his lips and said in a child’s voice,
“I got a boo-boo. Do you do too?”
I laughed out loud and Marta looked up at me, puzzled. She felt more and more foreign to me as I went deeper inside her. She lifted her torso up and began shouting,
“More, more,” she cried, her voice almost sounding human.
As my hand slid deeper inside her, everything became vague, dark, almost silent. I began to think that even if I had not gotten sick, or stayed at that particular hotel, or gone to this beach, or chosen this town, I still would have found Marta and she would have found me.
Marta cooed loudly. I beamed down at her, her face bathed in sunlight. She cried out as her belly rose and fell. She dug her long, painted nails deep into my shoulders.
I thought she may have been faking it.
I almost said this to her but then a heat surged in my face, behind my eyes and cascaded throughout my body, fizzing away in my skin. All of a sudden, I remembered someone. The color purple? Yes, the color purple. Small teeth? Big, swooshing tits? Who was this person? I looked at Marta’s face. I leaned closer, squinting. Her features were chiseled but her stomach was chunky and reminded me of a pillow. The warmth rose again and then I slept.