Fresh Fever

Unidentified photographer, Weegee in car, ca 1943

And when you finally came, you came like fucking Krakatoa.


You were up before the alarm. It was starting to get light outside and for a second you thought you overslept. You reached for your phone, it was only half past five. Nerves you whispered to yourself. Calm the fuck down. Babe, breathe, just breathe. You could hear it raining outside, and inside, 10 hours of Epic Thunder and Rain: Sounds for Relaxing, Focus or Sleep still going strong on your laptop. You scored your eyebrows lightly with your fingers, then dug your knuckles into your eyes and pressed your eyeballs deep into your head. You can do this, it’s here. Just breathe and get up.

You looked once again at your phone and wondered if you had time for a quick rub. Your record was seven and a half minutes and right now you had twenty-five. You cupped your breasts over your T-shirt and squeezed them so hard they hurt. You grabbed your throat with your left hand, lined up your fingers on your jugular and slid the right hand down. Good for the nerves, yes, but is there enough time? You closed your eyes and started scanning inside your head, trying hard to find the stuff that worked when you needed it to be quick. Teenage pool sex? The beautiful Indian boy with almond shaped eyes, long, black curly hair, drilling his blonde nymphet (something like Sue Lyon when she was fourteen) from behind? Or the late night multistorey car park lesbian 69 in the Midnight Blue ‘89 Cougar. They’d scratch its bone white leather interiors with black patent heels and fire engine manicures and smudge the windows with cummy fingers.

Here, tried and tested, young, olive skin ass in a purple thong and a black man biting into it like it’s a peach. Actual biting, not pussy pretend biting. You played the black man with your mind’s eye, with teeth so white they were almost violet. You traced over with your finger to see if it was working. Nope, nothing. Desert dry. Maybe anal? Brute? A giant black hand stroked the girl’s shiny brown hair and pushed her head flat into a pillow so she couldn’t breathe. Too rough. Fuck, forget it, there’s no time. You weren’t going to force anal on this little thing at five thirty in the morning. You had overdone it this week because of all the stress and now there was no juice left. You’d have to wait a day or two for it to come back. Defeated, you got up.

Shower, shower, shower. You said everything out loud as you got ready. Shampoo. Conditioner. Hammam shower gel. Foam face wash. Towel. Cream. Comfy bra. Comfy knickers. Comfy socks. The word comfy made you feel safe. You’re good, girl, you’re good. If you’re not gonna jerk off, you deserve a puff. You know why? Because you paid your dues, you paid your dues! Comfy leggings! Manically switching between I, it, you, she, they, made you feel like you were at a party. And a party was good for the nerves, sometimes. Once your boots were on, you felt apocalypse ready. You surveyed the room, neatly draped the towel, unplugged the mini radiator like the host had asked, fluffed the pillows and grabbed your joint from the ashtray, a hash tobacco mix, it would be your last puff for a while. You saw yourself in the mirror and immediately cupped your breasts again. Ugh, why are they getting smaller? You had started losing weight because you were anxious about travelling and the poundage was going from all the wrong places. You pressed your thumbs into your nipples. Whatever, just come back afterwards okay?

Downstairs you scrunched your backpack to see if it was dry, it was. Thank god. You’d washed it to get rid of the dank hash smell. The smell that had gotten you into that situation with the Uber driver the night before. What was his name? Driss. Driss came on heavy. If you want more drugs, you can get them from me. Trust me I can get you anything, you’re not going to find that stuff so easily anymore. You told him you were travelling and didn’t want anything. Where are you going? He asked. Take me please. You look like the type of girl who likes to have fun. If you hadn’t been so high and paranoid you would have laughed at this. He was wrong about you. He’d mistaken you for your ass, which was plenty, a defining feature impossible to ignore no matter what you wore, noted by girlfriends and random men alike, and often understood by the latter as some kind of invitation. You weren’t a girl from a fucking Pepsi ad. You didn’t like to have fun. You hated fun. If you liked to have fun, you wouldn’t be leaving in the first place. He would never know your truth, but it was simple. You could only be happy if you were denied and deprived, not fed and fucked.

Passport, check, wallet, check, phone charger, check, sustenance, check, laptop, yep, pouch with random shit, check. You opened a small gap in the zipper of your suitcase and shoved everything in at the top, careful not to crush the poster size photo of you and the fake psychic you met in Rome. The psychic had no problem with looking like an utter fraud, she used pieces of coloured glass instead of crystals. She told you that your life was about to change drastically. And here it was, the fucking change. A hot planet with a fresh new FEVER! Lock, check!

You picked up your phone and tried to find a car nearby, there were several. Tap, tap. Zulfikar was on his way, you had fifteen minutes. You secretly hoped that he would ask you where you were flying to and if you would take him with you and that you looked like the type of girl who liked to have fun. You would respond to this sexual charge with nothing more than silence. The exchange would be awkward and meaningless, pathetic even, but would fit neatly into your pocketbook of fraudulent yet insistent enactments of puritanical behaviour. Surely, there was nothing as kinky as that. This false antisexuality made sure you were rarely penetrated, a pastime you considered to be better suited for animals. It wasn’t sin you were afraid of but submission because submission meant weakness and for your type of girl, weakness meant death. Deep inside, however, you knew these myths were for the purposes of self-preservation only, you wished, rather than believed them to be true.

You made a small coffee, swirled it round your mouth and spat it into the sink. Actual caffeine would kill you right now but you needed the taste to get rid of the nausea. It was either this or scotch. You washed the strawberries and put them in a bowl next to the sink with a handwritten note to Natalie, your host, asking her to enjoy them and to stay safe! Your place is wonderful and I would love to come stay again the next time I am in Paris and when everything is normal again, you whispered as you scribbled. Normal? You had lost that last week and it wasn’t ever coming back.

You wheeled your suitcase out the door and down the stairs. Zulfikar was ten minutes away. Perfect. The streets were empty and the rain had stopped. You lit up on the steps. You hardly gave a shit anymore and you reckoned no one else did either. You took a long drag and the ecstasy was immediate, god bless hash, weed, everything. Why was there nothing else in the world like this? You closed your eyes and there it was. The entire Milky fucking Way. Seconds later you were swimming through the high, you had grabbed a dolphin by the tail and the two of you were surfing through its creamy waves.

I’m going to have you all, you said out loud to the spliff. You know why? Because I don’t know when we’ll meet again. It was too late to change your mind now, you had to leave. You couldn’t go back to Milan because that was out of the question. You forgot why you were leaving in the first place but it had something to do with your mother crying on the phone begging you to come back. Please aa jao, please, in between sobs you immediately recognised as fake, which was as good as real when it came to your mother. Your mum used tears like the psychic used chunks of coloured glass, both worked even if no one believed in them. You finished the spliff and named it Jeremy as you stubbed it out on the step. You knighted Jeremy. Thank you Sir Jeremy for your services to your country and to your queen. You immediately reconsidered why you were only a queen and thought perhaps you should be an empress instead. You were highhh! You saw a car turn the corner. A silver Peugeot, AY-817… yes that’s it. The ride was here. You put on a pair of latex gloves you had kept in the pocket of your jacket and wrapped a bandana around your mouth and nose. It was all you could find. The masks had sold out days ago. You suddenly felt sick.

Zulfikar was a pretty face from what you could see and dapper, probably Kashmiri. His eyes were the colour of honey and his gloves and mask were both black, he looked like an assassin, HASHSHASHIN DNA! There were sharp lines everywhere; long straight nose, cut jaw, fine jacket. The creases at the front of his off-white slacks were like knives. He opened the door for you and put your suitcase in the back. When you got inside you ducked your head immediately so that your eyes would never meet in the rear view mirror, even by accident. The seats were dark grey leather, almost black, which crunched like it was brand new. As always, you had to pin the scent and this time you concluded that the car smelled like dusk and petrichor. You scanned the back of Zulfikar’s neck, his haircut was very fresh and you could tell he had just showered, he was a bouquet in human form. You wanted to graze the back of his neck with your ring finger like one might graze the edge of a petal, Kashmir ki kali you whisper inaudibly. He confirmed the terminal and you set off. You looked out the window at the empty Parisian streets and had no idea how but you suddenly started crying uncontrollably. They weren’t streaks of tears but more like sheets of tears, as if your eyes were very short waterfalls, flooding your cheeks and chin and your fucking bandana mask with buckets and buckets of salty water. Zulfikar tilted his head, but didn’t turn around. You sank further in your seat, sobbing.

So, what’s the problem? He asked, his voice deep and dark, like a rare coffee liqueur.

I don’t know. I’m afraid and very sad.

We all are, but we’re not crying like this.

You appreciated the over familiarity and the arrogance, qualities you’d come to expect from those types of guys, you know, the ones with the nice, generous eyebrows, but you couldn’t stop crying or even take a breath for that matter. You were feeling the weight of a giant boot on your heart. It was as if the entire car was literally filling up with your tears and you were drowning inside it.

Is it about love?


Don’t worry, you’ll see him again.


You were stopped at a light so he turned around and looked at you. You had never cried in front of a stranger and your knee started to shake. Your eyes met and you instantly felt robbed of all your secrets. You were always torn about outing yourself in front of a Muslim man, a brother, and in this case an assassin, but the world was going to hell and you didn’t care anymore.

Stop crying. You’ll see her again.

You and Zulfikar didn’t speak after that. You went back to your Milky Way high which was one of the two beautiful things in your world right now. The other beautiful thing was your – your neighbour, but you had left her behind in Milan. Everything else was a steaming pile of shit, so you clutched the high even tighter because it was literally all you had. Except now you had grabbed a giant Roc instead of a dolphin, you were flying not swimming and the flight was bumpy. When you reached the airport, Zulfikar opened the door for you and put your suitcase on a trolley. You didn’t make eye contact and you didn’t thank him. From there on everything was a blur. The exodus had taken place in waves and you were catching one of the last flights home. While searching for your check-in desk, you felt a slight tickle in your throat, a scratchy gift from the hash. Scared that even the slightest sign of a cough would have you ‘noticed’ by security you suppressed the itch causing two sharp streams of water to jet out of your eyes. At check-in, the woman asked you if you knew of the quarantine situation where you were heading. It’s two weeks, mandatory, you know that right?

Yes. I know.

Before the passport control desk you joined a line for a compulsory temperature reading. As the nurse held the thermometer to your forehead, you considered disclosing the fact that you did indeed have a FEVER! That like a female ferret on heat, you were going to BOIL to death this very instant because it had been three years since you had last had sex. That you were going to die from aplastic anemia right there in the middle of the airport, a lonely woman, a tragic cliche of the times we live in. You tried to imagine what kind of response this would elicit and struggled to find an image. Like the cough, you suppressed this impulse for awkward hilarity, a ruse you often employed to cut the tension and connect with strangers. Especially those in charge at airports. It was one of your more dangerous activities.

Have you recently had a flu or a fever, miss?

No, you answered and shuffled on. But I’ve suffered everything else, you said under your breath.


Raja’a Khalid is a Saudi-born artist and writer from Dubai.