About ten years ago, I dated a masseuse named Valerie. Well, masseuse in training. She was passionate and enthusiastic and she practiced as frequently as she could. That meant I got a ton of free massages. Obviously, since we were a couple, those massages would escalate and turn into that usual thing couples do, but it was only after she felt she’d gotten in a good practice session.
After one of our, ahem, “sessions,” Val looked a little confused but also relieved. I asked her what was up. She told me the sores she had on the inside of her mouth didn’t hurt anymore. We’d talked about those things before. She said they weren’t contagious, thankfully, but she’d had to endure them for most of her life and they were intensely painful; sometimes even debilitatingly so. Doctors prescribed an ointment for her to put on them when the outbreaks occurred, but they barely took the edge off. Plus, she was deeply attached to the ideas of natural healing and homeopathy and all that, so she very, very rarely used the medication. But that night, for the first time in a while, I could tell she wasn’t powering through her pain. She genuinely felt good and had no idea why.
Her pain returned a few hours later. As always, she did her best to ignore it. Fast forward a couple days – another massage, another occasion for sexy times. Midway through, she stopped kissing me and exclaimed, “that’s it!” I didn’t know what she was talking about. She rolled off me and stuck her finger in my mouth. Not really sure what the hell was going on, I just sat up on the bed and let her do whatever she was doing. She pulled her wet finger from my mouth and stuck it in her own. I saw her rubbing the inside of her cheek. Her face brightened and she informed me, with complete certainty, that my saliva was taking away her pain. I laughed and said something encouraging despite thinking she was nuts. Then she hopped back on me and I completely forgot everything she’d said.
The next day, I was lying face down on her massage table. She was doing her usual, outstanding work while I stared down at the floor through that little padded hole where one’s face goes. Without any warning, there was a blinding pain in my head. I passed out. I have no idea how long I was unconscious. When I came to, I tried to get up, but I was completely immobilized. I couldn’t turn my head or lift my arms. It felt like I was taped to the table. Not only that, but there was something metal in my mouth. I couldn’t close my jaw or even dislodge the thing with my tongue. I yelled around it. Valerie, who’d apparently been standing next to me, simply said, “shhhhhh.”
I saw her hand and arm appear in front of my down-turned face. She held a small, glass baking dish, which she placed on the floor under my mouth. “I’m sorry if the speculum is uncomfortable,” she said. At the mention of the word, I gagged. A thin column of saliva drooled from my gaping maw and landed inside the glass container. She reached under and gathered a dollop of the fluid onto her fingertip. Her hand disappeared from my field of view, but I knew where it was going. I heard her moan with relief.
“I’m not sure how long I’ll keep you here,” she informed me. “But don’t be loud.”
In response, I yelled. A hideously sharp pain erupted from my lower back, right around my left kidney. “That’s a 3 inch long pin,” Valerie said. “Please don’t scream anymore. I hate hurting people.” I shut up.
As the hours went by, the bottom of the pan grew slick with a cloudy puddle of my saliva. I heard Valerie walking around the house, doing laundry, washing dishes; basic, everyday activity. The clatter of pots and pans told me it was almost dinner time. I was ravenous; I estimated it’d been almost 24 hours since I’d had any food.
Glorious aromas wafted from the kitchen as she cooked. My salivary glands went into overdrive and I drizzled their secretions into the waiting container. I heard Val walk in and she placed a plate piled high with spaghetti carbonara and what appeared to be a pork chop directly next to the collection pan. My mouth oozed.
“You can’t have this,” she whispered in my ear. “But feel free to enjoy the smell.
She walked away and turned on the TV. The room filled with sitcom banalities as my body leaked its desire for the meal into the waiting dish. I wanted to cry.
At some point, I fell asleep. When I woke up in the morning, the plate of food was gone. The house was quiet. I assumed Val had gone to class. I gargled out a weak yell, but there’s no way anyone would’ve heard it. I was so incredibly thirsty. The smell from the collected saliva was absolutely horrendous. I could see particulate matter dotting the glass bottom, probably old food that had detached from between my teeth. My mouth felt terribly dry. Saliva still leaked from the glands, but it was thick, almost like corn syrup. The color was milky gray. When it hit the stuff that was already in the pan, it separated like salad dressing. Oily liquid swirled to the top. I couldn’t believe how much I’d produced over the last couple days.
The sound of the front door opening heralded the return of Valerie. She walked over, putting her sneakers in my narrow view. I felt her scratch the top of my head. “You doing okay?,” she asked, sounding genuinely concerned. I muttered something obscene from around the speculum. She bent down and picked up the pan. Saliva sloshed thickly against the sides. “I’m going to let you go today,” Val informed me. I choked out a sigh of relief.
I saw a knife for a second and was certain she was about to cut my throat. Instead, she sliced through the duct tape that was holding my head to the table. I craned my neck upward and tried to shake out the awful muscle cramps. In front of me, I watched Val carefully pour some of the accumulated spit into a glass. She brought it to her lips and took a tiny sip. I almost threw up. She didn’t swallow right away. I could see her swishing it around her mouth and aerating it as if she were a disgusting sommelier sampling a fine Brunello. She smiled at me as she swallowed.
Valerie reached into her purse and pulled out a small handgun. Of course she had a f*****g gun. I didn’t move. She calmly told me she was about to cut me loose but if I ran before she could talk to me, I’d get shot. I nodded.
She cut the tape away. I was suddenly self-conscious as the smell of my old spit was replaced by the ammonia odor of when I’d pissed myself those two times. “Don’t worry about it,” she whispered. After everything was cut away, she apologized in advance before pulling the tape off my head to unsecure the speculum still violating my mouth. Chunks of hair came with the tape and I winced. I let the metal instrument drop to the ground. My jaw felt like it’d been pummeled by a prize fighter.
I stood up and Val pointed the gun at my chest. I stretched, slowly, then sat back down. She took another small sip before she spoke.
“When you leave, I know you’re going to call the police. And I know I’ll get arrested. But I just want you to know how much I appreciate you for helping me.”
I didn’t say anything. She was nuts. Obviously. She gulped down the rest of the cold saliva and put the glass on the coffee table. The pan was still 75% full.
“You can go,” she told me.
I grabbed my car keys from the table and left. As soon as I closed the door to her apartment, I sprinted as quickly as my cramped legs would allow, got into the car, and drove away. As I went home, I called 911 and did my best to explain what happened. They said they’d stop by her place and see what was going on, then they’d visit me at home. Sure enough, a few hours later, the police visited my apartment. They told me Valerie was dead. Self-inflicted gunshot wound. She’d left a note, but all it said was, “you’ll understand soon enough.”
A year later, I started getting sores in my mouth. The pain was indescribable. They’d last for a couple days before bursting. They’d eventually heal, but two weeks later they’d just reappear. I was missing work because I couldn’t even breathe through my mouth without searing agony. The doctors gave me some awful-tasting ointment to put on them, but it might as well have been water. Nothing helped.
I didn’t want to, but I started sleeping around. Men, women, it didn’t matter. Partner after partner crossed my bed. Finally, I found one. Then another. Then another. Seven years later, they’re up to a gallon of production per day. The flavor took some getting used to, but hey, the taste of medicine doesn’t matter much when it actually works. The trick, I learned, was to keep my producers hydrated and fed just enough so the quality doesn’t drop off. Early on, my little cows (that’s what I call them) used to be pretty boisterous in the mornings when I went to collect their “milk,” but they’ve calmed down over the years. I just hope they know how much I appreciate them. Deep down, I bet they do.