He comes at me from nowhere: from the side, from the space between words, from the safe centre of a conversation. And I am caught, like a tiny bird, wings beating against the insides of his cupped hands. We're at a restaurant. He's counting out the money for the bill, smiling at me with his mouth while his eyes stay hard, his soul locked down for the night. When he speaks, his voice is so changed that I cannot help but feel afraid.
"Let's go," he says, pushing back his chair.
"What's wrong?" I ask, putting down my glass.
"Shut up," he replies, quite deliberately, and my breath is cut off at my throat. He stares, unblinking, as if daring me to speak. I swallow dryness and accept the dare.
"Is this what you meant?" I ask. "I mean, is this the kind of game you were talking about?" I am almost whispering.
"Trust me," he says. "Don't say another word." He stands up and comes around the table, grasping me firmly just above the elbow to pull me up. As he steers me out to the street, my body becomes limp and quiet. In the calm before the storm, there is nothing left to say.
He takes me to a beautiful condominium by the water. The bathroom smells of jasmine and makes me think of lotus blossoms floating in dark, carp-filled pools. I look up. There's no ceiling, just a high, huge skylight. I feel like I'm at the bottom of a well.
In the shower, the water hits my nipples like barbed wire in a blizzard on a Saskatchewan prairie. I quickly turn my back to the flow and notice that my hands are trembling.
Washing takes time. I keep dropping the soap, but I somehow get it done and get out. I open the door and switch off the bathroom light. I only know he's there when I hear him tell me to come closer. That's when I realize that I'm wetter than I've ever been in my life, and that's the fact that really messes me up.
He blindfolds me from behind and then spins me around and guides my hand down the length of a thin rod. I feel a tightening, an answering pull from behind my belly button to in between my legs. Write the sound of a sharply drawn in and open-mouthed breath". He presses the end of the cane against my lips before pushing me forward to bend over the back of the chair.
"Hold onto the legs to keep yourself steady."
He slices it through the thick air over and over again, nailing his target each and every time. I did not know that pain could be so sharp, or that darkness could explode on impact. From my white skin, shards of ice, white hot, spin out and shatter, shatter and spin out, and all the universe is taken up for me in this mirrored and excruciating heat.
I disappear. I am obliterated. I am on fire as he reels me up and around and back against the wall, entering me from behind, not gently, spiking up inside me like he's wielding a weapon. Molecules rush in, my whole body wants to re-align itself, to have its cells converge to ebb and flow in time to his moving in and out of me.
"You're such a lucky girl, getting this. You don't deserve it, you know."
I can tell his teeth are clenched, to help him speak through his arousal. It's all I can do to whimper, "I know." And then I gasp because he's pulled out and away, and then I hear him say, "Come here."
Afterwards, I leave him high and dry to fly my private orbit round the sun, so it can warm me up and keep me safe. The energy in the room changes and subsides and I drift slowly back, moonbeams and coffee grains cascading, and we are both still for a while.
Then I get up and go into the bathroom, closing the door behind me. I look deeply into my own eyes until the tears come, and then I sit on the toilet, crying softly. "I can't go on like this," I whisper to the bathroom walls. "I don't think I want to do this any more. I don't want to be this any more. I want to go home. I just want to be home."
So saying, I slide away from behind my eyes and go back to lie beside him on the bed. I throw my arms up and over and onto the pillow, crossing my wrists above my head as if my hands were tied.
I feel drugged, like a sacrifice waiting thickly for the moon to rise. For a moment I allow my body to hang suspended in the sugar-water solution of its own arrested movement. Then, like a baby rooting for a milky nipple, I follow my mouth down, and around, and into the space between body and bed, quietly pivoting on my own straight arms until I am lying face down.
"Please"" The word comes as an inhalation. It is not even really there, not even really spoken. "Please"" And again" "Please"."
"Hmm. Look at this." He pushes my legs apart slightly, grazes me there with his knuckles, teasing me. "Somebody's juices are dripping down her own inner thighs. Well, well, well. What a dirty, dirty girl."
He talks so tender and so sweet and so very black and blue and all the (fucked-up) love I've ever felt is in his words. All the love I've ever wanted is right here, written by him on the skin of my back, running in inky rivulets down my sides to soak into the mattress, staining every surface that it touches along the way.
With my flaming hair hidden under a black mantilla and my right hand tracing silent syllables in the air, it is all I can do to keep moving, keep feeling my way along the walls, keep remembering who I am, as I fall backwards, spiralling downwards, turning, drowning, trailing leaves and tattered pages full of sonnets, as I am pulled deeper and deeper into this reconfiguration of my life.