By Susan Tepper

He tells me he is thinking of going to Thailand this winter for the whores.  Nothing about this man surprises me.  He controls an important segment of the rock music industry.  He has power while I have none.  We are in bed in this fancy Monte Carlo hotel.  The halls have birds in the wallpaper and bird chirps that come from a sound system.  He has mentioned the chirps annoy him.  Our drapes are open and blowing a little from a sultry breeze off the balcony. 

But you and I are so good, he’s saying.  What do I need a Thai whore for, when I have you?  He’s stroking slowly between my legs.

I want to say: Are you for real?  That this makes me feel terrible.  Is he saying I’m a whore?   Has he paid for me?  No.  Has he bought my airline ticket?  No.  He has bought me food and will pay the hotel bill.  Period.  I don’t think it’s quite the same category as paying for a whore.  I almost loved you, my mind is whispering.

I push the sheet off.

What’s the matter?  he says.

Nothing.  I have to use the bathroom. 

Make sure you wipe front to back, he says.

Yes, I know about front to back.  I was well brought up.

He laughs.  Of course you were.  I just needed something to break the ice.

I turn and look at him.  Naked on top of the covers.  He has a full erection.  Hurry in there, he says.  I need you back.

Need.  Now there’s an interesting word coming from this man.  I continue looking at his erection.  Large, and does the job it’s intended for.   What does that make him?

Don’t be mad, he’s saying.

I’m not mad.

You have a gorgeous body.  Don’t be mad about the whores.

I could care less about the whores, I say.  But you should worry.  You should worry about catching a fatal disease.

And I’m thinking he will never have me again.  Not after the whores.  I step into the bathroom; towels cover the floor like a damp crooked-carpet nightmare. 

It’s his thing—spreading out the wet towels after showering.  I want to say, But the cool marble feels good underfoot.  I may have asked why the towels, at some point.  Whether he answered, I can’t remember.  

The wide bathroom mirror is glazed with smoky vines along its edges.  My face in the mirror looks the same.  My body.  Though the one-piece swimsuit has left an almost obscene bleached version of my skin contrasted against its tan parts.  Other than that, I’m the same.  Good, bad, indifferent, I don’t seem to alter.  Is this some personal flaw?  I would like just once for him to see the true me.  But I also know it would ruin everything.  The whores will ruin everything if he goes to them.  If he doesn’t, I will ruin everything.  One way or another, it’s poised to happen.

Susan Tepper is the author of four published books of fiction and poetry.  She has been nominated nine times for the Pushcart Prize.  Her novel What May Have Been (co-authored with Gary Percesepe) was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in  2011.  This is her website.