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from the June 2019 issue

Search: Porn

Montenegro’s Stefan Bošković on a writer, his editor/lover, and a double dumping.
 

I look at the clock again. Forty minutes separate me from dinner. I’m nicely dressed. Elegant, in gray. Perhaps I’ll change my shirt. He’d like to see me in garish colors. I have orange shoelaces, at least. I sit at the computer and listen to the ocean. Photos of the sea in slideshow are supposed to bolster the feeling. It doesn’t help. I’ll jerk off again to calm me down. It doesn’t work terribly well because I can’t find the right video. The kisses sound boring, the panting is fake, huge cocks flash like drawn sabers. After all, I don’t need a fight tonight. I’m above that.

I open a new window and type Google Trends, then my name in the search box. A turquoise rectangle appears on the graph—that’s me. I’ve been searched for twenty-two thousand times. I don’t think I’ve done it more than a thousand myself. I look at the clock again, then at the graph. I’m happy with the statistics. How about a little comparison: I enter Colson Whitehead. He’s highlighted in yellow. He sure whops me in the statistics. About fiftyfold. I try to come up with new words. I type God. Colson and I vanish with the click of a mouse. The Orange God outstrips us on the platform. No mercy on any of us. My thoughts accelerate and double up. Justin Bieber outdoes God. The Venerable takes up only a third of Justin’s box that contains billions of views. How to overtake Him? What could be more advanced than God and Bieber? It’s not easy. I type PORN and everything else disappears. Justin Bieber and God hang on the graph like the finest of threads. Thin needles for deadening a dental nerve. And bluish PORN stands out boldly. Like a cock in your mouth. Like a planet that will never break asunder. I listen to the ocean with a downsized window and stare at PORN. My gaze slides to the clock in the right-hand corner of the screen. Twenty minutes till dinner. I call a taxi, don’t change my shirt, and trip over the doorstep as I leave.

I wait at the door. I try to relax or find a pose to pack my body into so I’ll look cool enough when I speak. I ring, and the bell makes everything fucking fall apart. My knees are like jelly. She opens the door and introduces herself: “Nora.” “I’m . . .” “Arsen. I know,” she forestalls. I wait for her to invite me in, but that doesn’t happen. She stands there with a frozen grin, like a ceramic figure. While I’m thinking about how to slip and shatter into a zillion pieces, he appears behind her and says: “Why don’t you come in, you’re standing there like a cheap ceramic figure.” I’m about to say, “If only Nora would move aside,” but as my voice slowly emerges, she zips out of the way, and I blather some incoherent noises that make them laugh. “I’m glad you find me funny.” “We’re glad you’ve come,” she replies.

The corridor stinks horribly of wet socks. Nora says the octopus will soon be ready, it’s been cooking for four hours. I’m surrounded by books in the winding corridor as I work my way to the living room. Nothing can mitigate the stench of half-cooked octopod. Not even a bullet to the head or the smell of gunpowder afterward. The table is neatly set with plates and silver for the soup, salad, and main course. Nora puts on a nocturne and turns it down with a dose of good taste. I drink the pinot grigio and try not to listen to Filip’s drooly-mouthed bullshit. Nora runs cheerfully to and fro around the table, and then around Filip, periodically kissing his hair. He’s perpetually smiling, I don’t see any boredom in his eyes. He looks more stupid than ever. Nora sits down next to him and tells us the octopus is just about ready. She and Filip make love when the planets collide, she pronounces next. Filip confirms the collision with a short, juicy kiss, but her hands take hold of his head and make that kiss long, longer, the longest. Filip tells me with a discreet glance not to stare.

I lower my gaze, and when I raise it again they’re undocked, just swallowing each other’s saliva. I take the thumb drive out of my jacket and suggest to Filip that he read the story “Transparent Animals” again, which he expressly doesn’t want in the book. In my book. We’ll talk about that after dinner, he says. I’m not sure we have anything to talk about until then. Nora touches his hair. I want to bite one of the forks. The thought makes my teeth hurt dreadfully. I hope and pray for quick-cooking octopus. The cretins are sure not to have tenderized it properly. How simple it would have been to have chicken.

I sweat like a horse and take the conversation back to the story. Filip realizes I have a serious problem and says he’s not going to publish the book unless it’s exactly what he wants. I consider it to be the most important story, I’d sacrifice four of the others just to have it. The expression on his face doesn’t change. His gaze is deep, his eyes as clear as the winter sky. He doesn’t look stupid now. I notice Nora is squeezing his hand. A sign of support, I suppose. Unnecessary, because he’s monumentally obstinate. The silly bitch doesn’t know that. Filip still thinks “Transparent Animals” should be left out entirely. We don’t speak for a time. I believe silence will lessen our differences. If that’s true, it will be me who backs down. Nora goes off to the kitchen. I sum up the facts so he’ll see I’ve tried hard to satisfy his objections regarding “Meteors,” “At Death’s Door,” and “Transcription,” although I hated doing it. I agree to omit a few problematic sentences in “Transparent Animals,” but leaving out the whole story is a horrible thought. “I’ve always considered the world and the people in it horrible,” Filip tells me. Until he got to know Nora and new colors. “You betrayed us,” I say. He smiles and replies that we didn’t go any further than a springtime affair. A knife to the stomach.

I guzzle the wine and ask him if he likes women now. He says he’s never liked men, but sometimes he feels the urge to ram it up a butt. I feel like a tawdry souvenir from a short trip. Nora comes in and informs us it’s snowing. That makes her euphoric, and she grins like a hyena when she mentions the almost-cooked octopus. She sits on Filip’s lap and stuffs her tongue down his trachea. He chokes and enjoys. I look toward the window, and my gaze tries to break through the curtain and spot the snowflakes while I listen to their revolting sloppy sounds. I return to the conversation about the book. Filip wipes the slobber from his manicured beard and takes a sip of wine. He says there’s no book, nor will there be. That’s what he’d decided, but he didn’t have the courage to tell me. I ask for an explanation.

“There are no events, no experiences, none of your character traits, no developments, none of your threads of anyone’s situations, no emphasizing the drama of individual moments, no anecdotes, metaphors, or symbols, no delimiting, narrowing, or tapering toward the end. None of your stupid pornography. So there’s no book. No book! Your book doesn’t exist. I am God on a plush designer chair, who pisses into your mouth from the third floor. You lowly hacks and squid are bottom-feeders, you expect great things of life. Your little tentacles will never reach up to my gleaming jacket.”

I scan the room in my utter dismay. Many of its corners seem obscure, not completely visible. Nora thinks the octopus is ready. I have a sudden nosebleed. My hand shoots out to save the tablecloth from damage. She brings napkins. I solemnly throw them at Filip, who tries to catch one in his teeth. I leave without saying good-bye because I’m breathing through my mouth. Nora is behind my back. Her voice follows me down part of the corridor. Then it disappears.

I stand in the silence. Big snowflakes fly past beneath the streetlamp. I’m cold. I curl my body, bending over my shadow. Black circlets of blood are neatly spaced against the white. I’m hungry. Remnants of the smell cling to my clothes and hair. My nose has stopped bleeding. I’d love to undress and stand in the snow until it buries me completely. Then, in the morning, I’d roam the streets like powder snow and vanish. I’m not sure where to. Perhaps I’d try to rise up into the sky. Or disappear in the computerized sound of the ocean.
 

"Search: Porn" © Stefan Bošković. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2019 by Will Firth. All rights reserved.

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