For months, I kicked around the idea of creating a Kickstarter to keep me in school, but settled on posting a whiny Facebook status about how badly I needed cash.
I added a line at the bottom of my post about how — if anyone transferred me money over Venmo — I’d do whatever they requested in the ‘what’s it for?’ section to feel like I’ve actually earned it.
It was meant to be funny, a joke, ha-ha, but my friends actually took me up on the offer.
My girlfriends mostly made requests for me to ‘remember to smile’ or to compliment them or to tell them my best joke. Cutesy stuff. Excuses to give me a dollar or two or five.
And then there were the fuckboys that asked for nudes – and I provided. I didn’t care how many boys saw my boobs. I needed the money to get myself through college, to catch up on my rent, to stock the cabinets with something more filling than Ramen.
I’d only made about fifty bucks from the whole thing – until I received a notification for $500 that made me choke on my homemade coffee.
I didn’t recognize the name of the guy at all. Morgan Alexander. I figured I must have known him though, he must have seen my Facebook status. How else would he know what I was up to? He sent a request and everything, asking me to take ‘a series of provocative photos with a knife’ and send them to a specific email address: MorganAlexander@gmail.com.
So I obliged.
I stuffed myself into a lacy blue bra and posed with the knife rested against my cheek, between my teeth, and hovering over my neck. I figured the guy had some sort of fetish. Some bondage, BDSM, masochistic shit.
For 500 bucks, I really didn’t give a damn.
And a few days later, when the same guy sent over $1,000 for me to email him again, I still didn’t give a damn. Even though he wanted a video this time. Even though he wanted to watch me draw a heart on the wall in my own blood.
I wish I could say I hesitated, that I had enough dignity to call the idea crazy, but a grand almost covered my rent for the month. I wanted to shut up my landlord, save myself from another eviction.
And, honestly, I wanted to make the stranger happy to see if he’d send even more money in the future. I wanted to test my luck.
So I propped my phone against the counter, pressed record, and stood in front of its camera with the same knife I’d used in my photo shoot.
I forced a smile as I rested the blade against my palm, sliced the skin open, and dipped my finger into the ooze. Then I scribbled a heart onto the wall, as big as I could without having to draw more blood.
After I finished recording and bandaged up my hand, I tried to wipe the design away, but the red lines turned to red smudges. No amount of water or bleach removed the stain, so I ended up covering it with a picture frame and forgetting all about it.
Except every so often, when I would try to grab a water bottle or a broom, my hand would sting, reminding me of what I’d done.
But I didn’t feel ashamed. Guilty. Embarrassed. I felt proud. Like I’d finally figured out a way to beat the system. To survive as a twenty-something.