On her knees, face buried in her folded hands, Tanya waited for the flip of the switch that would shut off her brain and engage her body. But, no matter how hard the burly stranger fucked her, it just wouldn’t come. It was a measure of her desperation to be anywhere other than in her own head that she didn’t tell him to stop and leave. Just a couple more thrusts, just a few more and it would happen.
Any minute now.
It wasn’t that she felt nothing. There was the meaty thud of his hips against her buttocks. The curious sense of being filled and emptied. The jolt of her body. His ragged, spiraling exhalations, sounds of a body labouring towards its pleasure. The scent of sweat and musk and the acrid tang of latex. The hotel detergent used to launder the bedspread. Its weave was harsh beneath her knees, and prickly against her cheek. Its cherry redness bled out to the edges of her vision.
It had always worked before.
Now the weave of the fabric was just another data set with a million minute inconsistencies. A tug here, a pulled thread there, a curve in the weft: each imperfection irrefutable evidence of all the people who’d ever fucked on this bed, or thrashed in their sleep, trapped in troubled dreams in this airless, soulless, moderately priced hotel.
The reception desk knew her. Each time she checked in, they handed over her key card with a bland, seemingly impenetrable smile before she left to wait in the bar. Tanya knew what lay beneath it, because she knew people. She knew their obediences, their complicities, their betrayals, their grand weaknesses and their little quandaries. The small battles and the large compromises of the common man. Data could tell you everything if you looked close enough and long enough.
And she had looked too close. Too long.
Jeremy, the man who, at this very moment, had his sheathed cock firmly rooted in her cunt, was married with two children. He worked for a public surveyors office as an inspector of commercial properties and took the occasional under the table payment, not to fudge his reports but to expedite them. The money funded his hobby restoring vintage boats sourced on eBay. He didn’t fuck around much. Not a bad man really, just weak. A man who had something to lose. That’s why she’d chosen him, the product of a carefully filtered search algorithm.
Now he was standing at the foot of the bed, plowing into her, in a faithful reenactment of his preferred porn, which he usually accessed between 11 PM and 1 AM, presumably after his wife had already gone to sleep.
When Tanya had consciously stepped into the flow of his life, she had found him affable, good-humoured, and a little self-effacing. He’d been a little heavier than she expected, but she liked that. The tattoo on his shoulder had been a surprise. Not mentioned in his medical records, it proved to be a small delight. She enjoyed it when reality revealed something not there in the data. A tiny rebellion, a free radical, a flaw in the system.
She turned her head and stared at the dressing table mirror by the side of the bed, watched the muscle beneath that little rebellion flex as he took a better grasp of her hip. He was looking down at her ass as he fucked her. It wasn’t, she had to admit, a spectacular ass. Age and hours of sitting in front of monitors hadn’t been kind to it. Normally, she didn’t care, but right at this moment she suspected it was why he was taking so long to come.
“Okay,” she said, and let her knees fold and rolled sideways onto the bed. “Enough.”
Jeremy was quiet for a moment, then turned and sat near her. “Is there something I’m not doing right?”
Tanya fished around in the swaddle of bedclothes for her knickers and pulled them on. “What?”
“You don’t seem like you’re into it.”
“Neither do you.”
“I was. I am. You just seem…” he searched for the words. Tanya felt sorry for him. “You’re not horny at all, are you?”
She gave him a sympathetic smile. “I thought I was. I guess I’m not.”
He reached for her bare shoulder and caressed it. “If there’s something special you’d like me to do? Because I’m up for – you know…” The words trailed off and his hand cupped the back of her neck, his fingers kneading into the muscle.
Nothing could have made her feel worse. Self-disgust bubbled up her throat. She almost said it – those vapid words: it isn’t you, it’s me. But she caught herself in time.
Suddenly she wanted to tell this intimately-mapped stranger everything. All of it. She wanted to come clean and let him know everything she knew about him, his wife, his mortgage, his job, his coworkers, his car, the location data he had enabled on his smart phone, the amount of his last gas bill. But most of all, she wanted to tell him just how easy it was to crack his password on the internet dating site, how static IP addresses were the devil, and how it had taken her all of 2 hours to crack him open and know more about him than his mother knew, even now that she was dead.
But she didn’t because, for all her sins, she wasn’t evil. Not really, truly evil.
* * *
In the taxi on the way back to her flat, Tanya tried to hold on to the only thing the evening had provided. A brief moment of sincere regret. The warmth of his palm on her shoulder blade and the way all her secrets piled up behind her tongue, and her decision not to turn his life to shit, by swallowing it back down. There was a sweetness to that moment. A single, honourable gesture in the midst of all the crap.
But it ebbed away, diluted into nothingness in the onslaught of data. Beyond the taxi’s window, Tanya was counting blue cars and memorizing number plates.