Dryback is a term I coined for an American-born Mexican who’s wholly disconnected from their culture. Coomer is online slang for someone who masturbates compulsively, hoping the next nut will erase the total failure of their existence. I’m both. The subway car I’m riding, a Manhattan-bound L, shakes as it rounds a tight corner. My face twitches as I try not to reach for my phone. I stare at the open book in my hands, praying its ink will bleed into a John Currin print I jerked off to once. The words don’t budge, so I pull the device from my jacket, then hold it face-level to bypass the lock screen. I tap the Chrome icon, and a white page reading “No Internet” greets me. I exhale. Urge sated, I slide it back into my breast pocket.
For weeks, I’ve been forcing myself to read on the train ride to work. This stab at weaning myself off mindlessly scrolling the net consisted of staring at a slim volume of Carver short stories and struggling through a paragraph or two before my stop. Most mornings, I would turn my wi-fi and data off to wrangle my focus before swiping onto the subway platform, but, despite my reformed habits, the exercise was proving futile. I’ve been scrolling for so long that my inner thoughts and monologue presented as tweets and Instagram posts in my mind’s eye. Even reveries of sex from my youth were framed by the user interface of Xvideos as I mentally commented, “very nice. girl’s name?” under them.
In lieu of reading, I’m thinking about a tweet I read once that claimed incel status is reevaluated every five years. I’ve had sex, loved and been loved by women amid long-term relationships, but my situation was shifting as I neared forty. That same tweet also suggested that pussy from one decade didn’t transfer over to the next. It’s true. Memories of fucking in my twenties felt no more real than a clip from SpankBang as year four of my sexual dry spell approached. There wasn’t a sense of anger or frustration at my looming reclassification as an involuntary celibate, though. Those sentiments were a thing of the past, replaced by a soothing, all-encompassing apathy. The train’s automated voice announced my stop.
I walked up the subway steps, wincing against the brightness and chill of the day. I turned my wi-fi and data back on and waited for the onslaught. The push notifs of news apps and social media platforms hit so rapidly that the haptic response of my phone coalesced into an extended drone against my palm, like a call to prayer. I answered it, bowing my head towards my screen for the short duration of my walk.
The roll-up security grille of the wine shop I work at slid into place as images of my fingers getting mangled in its mechanism flashed in my mind. I turned the alarm off, then took a moment to appreciate the temporary liminal space that would transform into a blank commercial area at the flick of a switch. Dust floated in the thin beams of light that spilled around the blinds we used to keep UV rays off the juice as I checked the time. Fifteen minutes until open. I left the lights off to keep early birds out and started counting the register.
The balance sheet's done in pink ink, a sure sign my co-worker Lina closed. The woman's twenty-six and still dotting the "I" in her name with a heart. Her handwriting style is so feminine I'm positive I could jerk off to a written summary of the Haditha massacre in it.
After the count, I have just enough time to get a glass down. The preamp that powers the shop's speakers turns on with a satisfying click. My phone connects to it via Bluetooth, and I put on a boutique reissue of a '70s yacht rock record the algo suggests for me as I walk into the stockroom that doubles as our employee lounge.
On a foldout table in the back sits a constellation of bottles left by wine reps for my manager Mel to go through, hoping she'd order a few cases. I could count on them being here most days, and it was one of the biggest perks of the job. Mel was adamant the staff be familiar with the product, so drinking wasn't frowned upon during work hours. Intake-wise, I pushed against the boundaries of what was acceptable, but they didn't pay me enough to be sober.
I pulled the cork on a cab franc, poured a healthy amount into a store-branded, stemless glass, then inhaled. Forest floor. Kalamata olives. I took a sip, then sat down to let my mind drift. The shop mercifully opened at 1:00 PM, so I’d lived an entire life before my shift started. Sacred pre-work hours spent staring emotionlessly at my phone on the hunt for jerk bait.
This morning, there was a moment of sadness when I realized I was over a decade back on the Instagram page of a woman I’d rung up at the shop. The feeling faded when I opened a carousel of ten pics from a Cabo vacation she’d gone on in 2017. I pulled down the front of my ratty briefs and took out my flaccid cock. It resembled a coiled, mud-caked grub wrenched into daylight from the dark comfort of a rotting log. One glance at it, and I lost the desire to cum. I tapped a tab to save the photo set for later, then navigated back to the top of the woman’s profile. A birthday last week. My brow furrowed as I did the math on how old she was in the beach pics. The sum equaled something that coaxed blood into my cock, unfurling it like a balled-up straw wrapper allowed a drop of Pepsi. A typical morning.
I checked the schedule to see if Lina was working later to give me something to look at. She wasn't; only me and Eduardo tonight. I headed to the sales floor, unlocked the door, and flipped the lights on. We don't sell hard liquor, so customers wouldn't start trickling in for a few hours, and there was some light work ahead of me before I could waste the rest of the afternoon on my phone.
The flat-topped rolling cart wobbled under the weight of clinking glass as I pushed it through the aisles. I stocked each section by country, region, and, in some cases, style. Washington state. Sweden. The United Kingdom. Eastern Europe. Sparkling. Biodynamic, sustainable, and whatever else fell under the nebulous umbrella of natural wine. It’d been difficult to get any French and Italian product in lately as climate instability had severely limited production. We kept some on hand but stored it off the floor unless someone asked. The less I thought about the empty Cali racks, the better. I swept, mopped, and that was it; hours of free time to scroll infinite ass online.
I sat behind the register, pulled out my phone, and glimpsed my tired reflection in its darkened screen. I'd been uninspired lately as the hunt for material that could arouse my desire, dulled by years of overstimulation, didn't hold the same thrill. Now that performers are so open about selling, a rush was rarer to come by as the days of clicking a Reddit or Mega link that would change my week were over. Porn's pivot towards AI, deepfakes, and streamers was so quick that I wasn't sure I enjoyed what I consumed anymore.
I scrolled through lifeless, overlit live streams as my routine of cycling through the usual forums and apps began. For me, a lot of the attraction came from being able to project my desire onto a performer. The new breed of online sex workers didn’t satisfy because they overlooked what was so alluring about porn and femininity and had become genderless salespeople. I wasn’t interested in the relatable best friend archetype that had taken hold of the profession and missed when fatherless and molested were popular character traits. Under the bright glare of a ring light, there was nothing for me to grab onto. Younger gens, brain damaged by being raised by an iPad, didn’t seem to have a problem with it.
The type of porn that I grew up with is gone. Or, at least, it’s harder to access. Every gen goes through this as standards and practices change. I came up with the lo-fi, handheld digicam shot productions of the aughts. It was impossible to tell when the material, amateur or pro, featured incest, non-consensual performers, hidden cameras, or trafficked women. Those conditions are the allure now, but I never considered them then. Most of that was removed from the net after years of lawsuits and strong-arming by credit card companies. None of it registered as immoral until they replaced it with the hi-def, over-lit, often solo, verified stuff that followed. The juxtaposition, I’ll admit, was jarring.
The play counts on those old videos were astronomical. Game 1 of any NBA Finals and World Series combined only managed two-thirds the viewership of a 360p clip of a poverty-stricken Euro-orc banging out his questionably of age slave(daughter?) in a decrepit apartment. That type of viewership must have driven big money insane. They couldn’t show a Miller Light tall boy sliding into teen pussy during commercial breaks, so they adapted and found a way to profit without resorting to explicit P-in-V action: use algorithms to hook everyone and their families on creating and consuming soft-core, then sell the data—the Coomerfication of America. My youth wasn’t even that long ago, yet I never could have imagined living in a time where every mother, daughter, sister, and wife was implying hole online for a foreign conglomerate. It was all porn now, minus the sex.
Eduardo walked in thirty mins late as my buzz tapered off. I hadn't moved in the last four hours and my eyes hurt from staring at my screen. I blinked and stretched, trying to regain human status as he feigned clocking in on the work computer.
"I got you," I said. I've clocked him in on time for years, no matter how late he's been. It was less a gesture of kindness and more me not wanting to get to know someone new if he got laid off.
"My man. What's open in the back?"
"Cab franc. Top me off while you're at it." I handed him my glass.
I watched him walk into the stockroom. His gait, low-slung and confident, announced something primal and defiant that whipped up feelings of inadequacy in me. I considered myself better than Eduardo due to my knowledge of film, art, music, and appreciation of nature, yet I still harbored feelings of jealousy toward him. He's a legit Latino who grew up in New York and could easily navigate the trappings of our shared heritage. Even though I was born in the south, steeped in reminders of our motherland, my sheltered upbringing had crippled any chance at a deeper kinship with my Mexican brothers and sisters. It hadn't bothered me when I was young, but as society became more atomized, I'd begun feeling like I'd missed out on an important cultural lifeline.
As the night wound down, Ed and I shared a bottle of Zweigelt an attractive wine rep had dropped off for Mel to sample. I poured myself a second glass as Eduardo turned his phone to me with a smile. On it was a video of the wine rep kneeling, nude and oiled on a gym mat, encircled by a group of men wearing only sneakers. There was a grunt as one shot the first of many ropes that would eventually coat her face. The clip had a soft dreamy quality to it and the way the light sparkled off the load she smiled through made my cock twitch.
“Nice. Real or fake?” I asked.
“Does it matter?”
An hour later, I locked the shop’s door from the inside and pulled the blinds down. Eduardo had peaced out early, so I had the place to myself. I cranked Tamia’s “So Into You” through the shop’s speakers and poured myself another glass before starting the count.
My drunk thoughts reeled as I walked in the blinding cold toward the subway. Despite my efforts to dull myself to the world with porn and alcohol, I couldn't ignore that something was missing. Every facet of my daily routine's texture was sanded down to the point where I was slipping rapidly toward a perfectly optimized void with zero resistance. And for what? I needed to connect to something soon or…nothing. I would likely accept spiritual defeat and rot.
I stood on the lip of the subway platform, thinking about the ass I’d seen on a woman through the window of a yoga studio moments earlier. Round, toned, and lycra-clad. Perfect. I’d left my book at work, and my phone battery had died mid-scroll as I waited for the train. Thankfully, the lights of the L were bending around the dark tunnel. I boarded, took the last empty seat in the packed car, and closed my eyes as the convoy lurched forward. No phone left me with the unpleasant options of engaging with my thoughts or my surroundings. I took a quick inventory of the people swaying in unison with me as we barreled through the tunnel toward my neighborhood. Nothing of note; the usual ultra-scrubbed crowd of 20-40 somethings.
At the next stop, a young couple sat down beside me. The girl was hot, but the guy was unmistakably fucking above his weight. While he adhered to the trappings of the influencer caste he aspired to, there was no mistake that he was in the fake-it portion of his make-it path. Couples with such a wide disparity in attractiveness used to signal that something was right in the world, but those days were over. He likely compensated by taking and editing hundreds of photos and shooting hours of video for her social media daily. Relationships for their gen were mostly business entities. There had been little resistance to the idea culturally, as it was a natural extension of the lifestyle branding that had engulfed every part of society for the last fifteen years. I like to think I wouldn’t enter a media intern-type relationship, but who knows what lows I would sink to for tight, laser-smooth pussy at this point.
Three years ago, an influencer named Erin briefly considered me for a director of photography boyfriend position. She’d grown a large following online for her self-developed practice of “Load Reading.” A type of divination where she claimed to read someone’s life, energy, and future based on the pattern of semen splatter in relation to the navel after pulling out. The consistency and amount expelled figured in somehow. She made thousands a month telling people their spouse was cheating or they were about to get a raise by interpreting their cum shot pics.
We had nothing in common, but she’d overheard me explaining Rudolf Steiner’s rules of biodynamic agriculture to a customer at the shop and thought I was of a similar spiritual mindset. After our first night together, she realized her mistake, but our undeniable sexual chemistry bought me a month of stilted conversation and incredible sex. The last time we fucked, she asked if she could do my reading for her fans on live. I declined, and she looked down at my cum on her stomach with disgust before rubbing it between her fingers and consulting the Gods. After a moment, she opened her eyes and told me with a straight face that my load would have produced a retarded child. I’d committed the cardinal sin of withholding content and was swiftly excommunicated from the church of nubile influencer pussy.
I glanced at the single screen the couple looked at—analytics for one of her pages. All the graphs were trending downward, which didn't bode well for him. She clicked the screen off to speak to him. I couldn't make out her words, but I saw the guy's reflection nod wearily in the window across from me. The conversation got heated as passengers in our section of the train noticed a fight brewing between them.
I considered switching cars to avoid watching the poor guy get eviscerated. I felt for the kid. Burnout was high among these types of couples, and this was likely a daily occurrence for him. The youth had no qualms about having it out in public, but the thrill of observing this type of blowout had lost its appeal. Her partner looked at the floor for an answer. I’d been there, and no reply was coming from the fire-retardant rubber mat today. The train pulled to a stop, and the doors hissed open. My chance to escape passed as curiosity kept me bound to my seat. We began moving again, and track noise obscured most of what was being said between them, diffusing the situation momentarily.
“I’m tired of it! Take a pill, and fuck me on cam or get out of my apartment!”
I regretted not switching at the previous stop as new passengers looked up from their phones at the outburst. The display wounded those who'd watched from the start as the collective hurt for the guy became palpable.
“Give me your phone,” she said.
He handed it over. She stood on her brightly colored platform Crocs and walked to the ED advertisement displayed above the train’s door. This was too brutal. With any luck, the train would jerk and send her head through the glass. No dice. She lifted her partner’s phone to the ad and scanned its QR code. A pleasant chime emitted from the device, alerting everyone within earshot that the guy was subscribed to receive dick meds the next day after a brief consultation with an online physician. The car ground to a halt, and the couple got off. I watched a few riders in my section put their phones down, no doubt moved to consider, briefly, the terror of the current cultural climate.
Gens Z and A were primarily in the content creation business, and it was a cutthroat market. While cruel, the girl had a point. If she wanted a roof over her head, she needed to fuck on cam. Her gen spent its critical formative years inside, waiting for the moment they could enter the online flesh trade. Most were Godless sociopaths, but it was difficult to feel anything but empathy for them. The empire had crumbled long before they were born; forged in the aftermath, they were better equipped to deal with it than I was. They had to be. Their parents had edited and filtered their pics from the womb, so their brains were in self-preservation mode from the jump. I envied their numbness to the circumstances of modern living. Everywhere I looked brought me pain if I let it, and the ability to remember anything before it was like this felt like a curse.