You burn me, she thought, as her lover kissed her lips and then bit her tongue. She’d recently read Stephen Thomas Chang’s “The Tao of Sexology”; had found a weathered copy of it in the used book room at the Bodhi Tree. According to that volume, the tongue symbolized the heart. She offered hers to him again and again.
thick hands of her loved but feared one. Where inside of her did the belief reside that it was ok to take this manner of treatment from him? What in her was broken that she could not recognize love without pain?
She pulled away for a moment, and inward. Circled her wagons and stroked the place on
her chest, over her heart, and kissed her own palms to keep what weak self-love she could.
He nudged her from behind with his hips, and she could feel what she always felt when he’d hurt her – the astonishing stiffness that grew almost immediately, that pricked her buttocks like the saguaro cactus that occupied space in the front yard.
He was brutish, with old-world sensibilities. He’d been born the youngest of five
to parents already in their 40s by the time he came along. He was raised like an only child; spoiled in the manner of many upper-middle class boys of Italian descent. Believed he was entitled to her tears, her fear, her trembling.
Oh, how hard she tried to squeeze back the burning tears. But the pain of her effort only made them come harder, heavier. She wanted to get away, but her upbringing diametrically opposed his and so she wholeheartedly believed she deserved the maltreatment, the humiliation, the abject disregard.
It drove him crazy to make her cry.
She’d been raised a solitary, only-lonely child, as she always thought of herself. She’d desperately wished for siblings, but her parents were too busy, they said. She’d always suspected that she was a disappointment to them, and that maybe they just did not want to make the same mistake twice. They barely tried to dissuade her of this belief, and so she learned to covertly ask for love, to allow her heart to be a stain on her sleeve. Many times she’d been asked why she was crying, even when she did not realize she’d felt sad …and she never thought of it as anything but who she was.
She did her best to nurse her wounds as quickly and efficiently as was possible, in the
privacy of her own soul, even as he watched, becoming hungrier by the moment. Finally, she turned to face him. A rapacious grin played upon his lips. There was something that drew her inexplicably to the danger that was this man. Against her will, she opened to him and he took her.
Her resistance abated and she gave herself to him. She had never developed much of a system of self-protection, so even though the interior of her heart was raw and scratched she loved him fully; gave him everything she had. He gobbled it greedily and with no regard for the giver. He ate her love the way a python devours a rabbit. It was tragic that she never knew she was worth so much more – that there was nobody to mirror for her the petal-soft beauty of which she was made.
She lost herself in his rough and selfish embrace. She was so open that although he usually only made love to her for his own gratification, she came and came, wildly, orgasm upon shuddering orgasm. This sparked his intensity even more; convinced him of his own virility. He did not know that it had very little, if anything, to do with him. Her acts of surrender were total, and so the slightest tingle within her could grow tremulously,
then tremendously, until her entire body quaked; until she became a tectonic plate and she abandoned all reason and reality to escape into her rapture.
He didn’t care. He didn’t notice. He just pounded into her; drove himself in like a downhill train.
Afterward, he held her out of sheer exhaustion and she buried her face in his steaming armpit and slept, breathing his pheromone-laden scent. He had brief moments of tenderness. He loved to watch her sleep, for instance. Her face was smooth and her skin the color of almond shells. She had wide eyes with heavy lids and dense dark lashes
that lay on her high cheeks like feathers. She had an aquiline nose and a perfect rosebud of a mouth. He found so appealing that as she slept, her mouth appeared to suckle, as if she were dreaming baby dreams of nursing.
Watching her rest, his guard always fell with a thud, and he would be helplessly and
privately in love with her. But when she woke her need for love was so apparent and he was a large spoiled child who could not see past the tip of his own Roman nose. He couldn’t push outside of himself and love her the way she so desperately wanted, the way he knew, intellectually, she deserved to be loved. There was no instruction manual at his disposal and he simply did not possess the raw materials. This caused great guilt in his heart and whenever he looked into her wide eyes he was reminded of this guilt and came
face to face with his own crippling inadequacies.
These he projected onto her at every opportunity.
Consequently, he was cruel to her and distant, which only made her want him more. He needed to own her; to completely possess her. He saw her mostly as an acquisition,
like his vintage Porsche, and like that automobile she was an object to be polished and buffed, showed off and remarked upon, tightly controlled and reined in. She dared not rebut anything he said or did or she would surely meet with his retribution.
His punishments were savage and delivered with absolute authority, utterly remorseless. He’d been cunning in his efforts to “keep her in her place” had she ever become what he
considered haughty or overly proud of her appearance, if she “made a scene” in public, if
she got “out of line” in any way.
This morning, he slipped quietly out of bed and moved, naked, to the kitchen to prepare breakfast for them. They’d attended a cocktail party the previous evening where she’d been friendly and charming to their male host. On their way home from this party, he’d commented that her behavior had been inappropriate and unappreciated. She’d shown what she believed was the correct amount and variety of remorse for her actions, innocent as they truly were. The host was his dearest friend and she’d only wanted to show him the affection due. Her lover had looked long and deeply into her chocolate eyes at a stoplight and his anger had seemingly subsided. She trusted that was the end of it and happily proceeded with the evening.
* * *
He’d been behind her in line at the grocery store, and she remembered taking furtive
glances over her shoulder at him as she waited. He was a complete cliché… tall, dark, and
handsome. She tingled under her summer weight cotton skirt as she peeked at him. She was nervous and distracted, and after she’d paid for her groceries, she’d left her keys behind on the counter. It was a busy Saturday afternoon and she’d taken the first parking spot available; at the far end of the lot. As she unwittingly approached her car and automatically dug in her oversized leather purse, she found nothing but her wallet and hairbrush and sunglasses. Shit. She had no pockets so that wasn’t an option. Hands in a panic, she searched the grocery bags for the missing items, and was so involved in her hunt she let out a terrified yelp when she felt the tap on her shoulder. She whirled around in the direction of the tap and came face to face with his Mr. America smile, his blue-grey eyes, and, to her great relief, with her keys dangling from his hand six inches from
her face. Gratitude washed over her like her morning shower, and although she felt uneasy about having been snuck up on, she relaxed into the intense eye-contact taking place between them… something inside told her she was his.
She smiled shyly at him. Forget these? he asked when finally he spoke, and he handed them to her. She thanked him profusely and turned to unlock her old Honda so she could sequester the groceries.
Can I help? he asked her, and without waiting for an answer, he began to unload her brimming cart and deposit the food in the back seat. She nodded in assent as he’d not left her much of a choice and together they packed up the provisions. When they’d finished, he grinned at her as he took the cart and walked it to its hitching post. She felt that same tingle again as she watched his jet hair shine in the sun, and noticed how his white t-shirt hung on his lank frame, his trusty 501s loving his behind as he walked. She wanted to pour honey all over him.
He returned to the car as if she expected him to climb in with her; his presence asked so, now what? Instead of handing him back the one sack with a loaf of French bread, half pound of butter, and a pint of half and half he’d stuck in the passenger seat so he could assist her, she asked where he was parked and offered to drive him to his car. I walked; he said… you can drive me home. So she did. And when they’d arrived he’d invited her in. She said she could only stay for a few minutes, because she had groceries in her car. He took back her keys and unlocked the back door of the car, grabbed all of the bags in two hands, kicked closed the door behind him, and let her into his house. He immediately refrigerated her perishables and put on a kettle for tea. He was so sure of himself that
she was bowled over. As they sat at the kitchen table and talked, she felt herself slipping into his hands.
His large hands were out of character for his body. He was tall and lean and long-limbed. He looked like he should have the elegant hands of a concert pianist. Instead, they were those of a farmer or a fisherman. They were not beautiful like the rest of him, but
they were strong and sure and she thought they’d keep her safe…
As their afternoon became evening and their conversation flowed with the wine, seamlessly from topic to topic, he rose from his seat to open the fridge and examine her purchases. He usually kept the bare minimum in his kitchen unless he was planning to cook. So he searched through her crinkly plastic bags until he found dinner. Without asking, he opened salmon filets and rinsed a leek and boiled wild rice and steamed an artichoke, artfully adding peppercorns and sliced lemon to the water, all before her dazzled eyes. She couldn’t believe it. They’d already discussed favorite authors, like Styron and Doctorow, in common; obscure films, like “Santa Sangre” and “Household Saints” they both loved; and she was becoming quite taken with him… and he cooks, too! she said out loud with a
big smile in his direction. He answered hers with one of his own. She felt comfortable enough to select a bottle of Australian cabernet-shiraz from the wrought-iron wine stand on the floor and she fished in the drawers for a corkscrew so she could open it and
let it breathe.
You didn’t ask, he said, with a frown.
She wondered if he was serious, but his smile and wink quickly put her at ease. She opened his cabinets until she located dinner dishes and two Mexican glass goblets and she set the table. She glanced around and spotted the stereo in the living room, next to which was a large hand-made wooden cd rack. She moved in for a closer look. Again, she couldn’t believe her luck; Kate Bush’s amazing 1978 debut “The Kick Inside” was her all time favorite album and there it was, at eye level on the rack. I think I might be in love, she thought to herself as she delicately inserted the cherished music disc and pressed the play button to glory in the opening sounds of whale song.
The house began to fill with sensual delights;
from the aroma of steaming artichoke,
to the subtle bouquet of the wine, and the angel-voiced Kate; and as she felt a little moisture start to gather between her legs, he came up behind her to make his first move. She could still feel the shudder of pleasure that had coursed through her as he kissed a spot on the nape of her neck that drove her crazy whenever it was touched. His left hand tangled in her long, glossy hair, holding it out of his way as he kissed her. He wrapped it around his fingers until it pulled at her scalp just enough to hurt, but not badly… just enough to underline the sweetness of the kiss.
She gave into it.
But as he began to play with the top button of her linen blouse, the oven timer buzzed and he dropped her hair as if he were dropping a towel or a sponge or some other inconsequential object. And rather abruptly, dinner was ready. They sat back down together. He gazed at her as if she had three heads.
Aren’t you going to serve? he asked.
Surprised, she rose to remove their food from the stove and oven. She filled their plates and placed the comestibles onto the table as he poured the wine. They toasted to good food and good music and dug in at the outset of the fifth cut of music, “The Man with the Child in his Eyes”. The seasonings were wonderful and the wine heady and she forgot about her earlier discomfort and they enjoyed their meal and one another’s company.
Although her lover was demonstrative with his affections, there was something decidedly unloving growing beneath the surface. It was far too late for her to pull away now, though. She’d invested her entire fragile heart in this man, and she’d be damned if she let a tiny nagging feeling get in the way of a love like she felt for him. It was little things that kept her hooked… his vast knowledge of the arts, for instance. He could identify a Kandinsky or a Picasso at a hundred paces. He was filled with parable-like lessons he dispensed easily for her education. It was easy to overlook the parts that weren’t so attractive.
He inspired near worship in her.
* * *
She looked up from her reverie in time to see his tanned, nude form reenter the morning glow of the room. He bore a wooden tray loaded with scrumptious-looking goodies. She let out a delighted squeal. He set the breakfast tray on the bed. He beamed down at her, but was that the barest hint of menace in his eyes? Not wishing to ruin the moment she dismissed her fleeting impression.
He stretched out his hand to her, helped her up and, pulling her closer to himself, he
loosened the spaghetti straps of her short diaphanous nightie, slipped them down her arms, and denuded her. His left hand fell tentatively onto her right shoulder.
Without warning, he began to apply pressure to her shoulder, so that she was forced onto her knees. She remained silent; knowing whatever he had planned for her would be that much worse were she to complain. His pushing persisted until she was down on all fours, at which point he threatened a slap if she moved.
She had no idea what was to come. She saw no option but to comply.
His feet moved to the bed. She heard the sound of breakfast dishes clinking together. At
once, she felt a searing circle on her flattened back as he placed a freshly boiled cup of tea directly onto her exquisite skin. She winced but dared not cry out. The first cup was joined by a second. Her narrow back was on fire. He then set a large bone china plate heavy with pancakes and syrup between her kidneys. She felt the cold steel of cutlery. He admonished her to keep her back level and not drop or spill a thing… or else. Then he casually dressed himself in jeans, a blue-gray pullover that exactly matched his eyes, slipped his feet into leather thong sandals – and exited through the front door of their bungalow.
His pace was a leisurely one as he strode the mile to the market to pick up a newspaper and coffee beverage. She prayed against all logic for his speedy return and perhaps relief. She dutifully maintained her mesa-like posture for the better part of an hour as she waited for him to come home.
Her back wept in its agony, but she did not budge.
At long last, she heard the lock click open and hoped he’d come into the room and admit
to a sick joke gone awry. By now, her muscles shook, her knees sore from the surprise of the hard wood floor, her wrists ready to break. Instead of coming to her, he snapped on the stereo and relaxed into his favorite chair to read the paper and enjoy his cappuccino.
Instantly, the smallish house filled with the overstated bass and misogynist lyrics of what he knew to be her only truly loathed style of music – rap. That heavy bass pummeled her head and her viscera simultaneously, making her feel queasy and nauseated. Her back screamed under the weight of its burden. She blinked hard to contain her tears. She spoke awfully to herself, calling herself weak. Ridiculing herself for being so stupid, spineless, deplorable for tolerating, for inviting his behavior. She never blamed him. He was god in her eyes. She took all responsibility for his actions on to herself.
No longer able to endure, her body sagged and she cringed as she felt the now tepid tea running down her side and then her leg, the mug crashing but not breaking on the floor. She tightened, anticipating his wrath. Her expectations were met when she felt him stomp into the room and sidle up ominously next to her. He loomed over her like a shadow. Then he pulled the sweater back over his head, unbuttoned and let the jeans fall over his once-again bare feet, and tossed the clothing pile across the room. Then he was behind her, stroking her. She hadn’t counted on this change in him… or had anything changed?
She couldn’t be sure.
He knelt at her rear, reaching between her legs to stimulate her. She was so taken aback she forgot to be afraid. She even forgot about the sickening and insistent thump of the music. She had no way to resist him. He lowered his face to her and doubled the stimulation, his tongue matching the music’s driving rhythm. He watched intently as she began to move, as the pancakes slid off the plate, over her posterior, onto the floor. The other cup of tea now lay upended and emptying next to her knee, the plate tipped off her lumbar spine, the flatware scattered beneath the bed.
She gave herself again, ignoring the pain, the mortification. Sex was her chief respite,
and she backed into him for more.
With all he had, he shoved her hard face down on the floor. He’d worked her enough so that she was still ready and he sunk himself full length into her as he flattened her delicate breasts against the wood. He was almost double her weight. She bit her lip to keep from screaming under his pressure.
She loved this man despite herself, wanting only to please him. But as he took violently that which he believed belonged to him, all of his humiliation of her, his manipulation, his indifference to her vulnerability engulfed her like a tsunami and something deep inside her self broke open.
Her indignance, her anger, her rage were at once all encompassing. In that flushed moment she resolved to change it all, no matter the cost. Her eyes darted wildly across the floor… and there it was. She’d spied the large and expensive hand crafted steel fork under the bed, just within in her grasp.
She felt her ribs close to cracking as he fucked her mercilessly. If there was any hesitation in her at all it flew out the open window as his huge thumb invaded her anus.
Her left hand extended as if possessed. She watched as it reached for the fork. She glanced subtly over her shoulder and saw his head was back, eyes closed. No more, a voice somewhere inside her said.
She saw the fingers of her left hand wrap themselves around the handle of the utensil.
She regarded her hand as it withdrew itself and its passenger under her chest. Peeking over her shoulder again, she observed him still in his own universe, oblivious to her
presence, the cleft at his throat soft and exposed
– and her hand struck.
The solid fork sank easily into his trachea. His eyes flew open in shock, and he was stunned into temporary paralysis. He slammed to his elbows as she scrambled out from
under him to avoid being showered with the blood now dribbling freely from the four neat wounds in his neck. He labored to hold his own weight and the fork sank deeper into its target. Although he tried, he could not scream. She gaped in mixed fascination and horror as that scarlet fluid spread on the floor and blended with the tea and pancake syrup.
He pushed himself with tremendous effort and difficulty onto his knees. She feared he would rise and come after her.
The inner voice now became her master. NO MORE!!! She screamed as the large plate that had held the pancakes came swiftly down upon his head. Her arms flew up automatically and protectively as the bone china shattered into shards and exploded about the room, and his right temple caved in. NO MORE!!! She cried as she hurled at him every heavy thing in her view that she could lift. She chucked with great force her old wind up alarm clock in the direction of the stereo, which toppled from its precarious place atop the television, and the hated music ceased at once.
He’d managed somehow to extricate the fork from his throat, but was unable to draw breath and therefore unable to speak, to protest, to berate her for finally acting on her own behalf. He kneeled helplessly in front of her, losing life and color by the second, his eyes panicked and pleading. As she looked at him, she realized she had nothing left to give him.
No more, she continued to insist.
How do you like it, you unbelievable bastard? she hollered at him, reaching into her closet grabbing, and then donning her heavy black leather platform boots. She remembered those boots. He had given them to her as a gift because he said they turned him on.
What about me? she’d wondered.
She swung around to face him and almost slipped in the sticky puddle spreading at his knees. She pulled back and delivered a kick to his chin that knocked him backward. His head struck the corner of the oak nightstand on his way down. That was that.
He lay face up; his eyes open in an ever-expanding pool of his own blood. He stared up at her emptily. She grabbed from the bed his fluffy down pillow, dropped it onto his face, and sat down hard on it, in case the job was yet undone. There she remained, well after it was no longer necessary. No more, she said out loud to herself, her voice strong to her own ears for the first time. No more, she repeated, as she rose from her perch, peeling the pillow from where it had stuck to the syrupy spot on her buttocks. No more she smiled to herself as she walked, tracking his blood through the house, and wearing only her boots, out the front door and into the traffic of Crescent Heights Boulevard.