I make sure I don’t love them.
It’s hard to love prostitutes as it is; when you’re one in a long line of men paying for sex it hardly inspires devotion. But for the lonely soul, the temptation to fall in love is there. When you’ve lived as long as I have, it’s easy to see the beauty in people.
Petite, blonde. Skin so smooth you could roll a coin on it. She’s lounging on my hotel bed, legs crossed at the ankles, unlit cigarette dangling between her fingers.
I picked her not because she’s vain, stupid, or an intrinsic liar. (I’ve learnt that with enough exposure even these qualities can become loveable). I picked her because she chews loudly. After sex she always has chewing gum, and each loud, wet open-mouth chew is an offence to the senses.
It’s the small things that grate the most. Any multitude of sins can be forgiven, but the little bad habits stick.
Another loud chew. She blows a bubble and its pop shatters the silence of the hotel room. For a moment I hate her, and that’s safe.
“Another round?” she says, lazily. “Got an hour to kill.”
My body is tired but the wolf inside is eager. Three days to go until the next full moon.
She takes my silence as consent, spits out her chewing gum, and sits up next to me. Her hands run down my body but there are other things on her mind: her young daughter, the overdue bills, and her fear that she is getting too old and soon no one will book her anymore.
That last thought inspires a dangerous flash of sympathy. I push it – and her – away. For a moment instead of Antonia I see my wife, her skin rippling and transforming as the disease infects her.
“Not interested,” I say. It’s clear to both of us that my body disagrees.
I can sense Antonia’s dismay, her delicious vulnerabilities. We lock eyes and I realise a part of me has begun to care for her, open-mouthed chewing and all.
I get dressed. “You stay here. Have what you want from the bar.”
She lies back on the bed, shrugs. “See you next week.”
I’m already at the door, hand on the handle. I bow my head and want to tell her that she’ll never see me again, that I don’t hate her enough anymore, and that my love could turn her into a monster.
Instead I nod, and lie: “I’ll call you.”
I shut the door behind me before she can reply.