CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
I was born covered with hair. My father joked he would have to save up for electrolosis. After a few weeks, the hair fell off, and the wolf went inside.
After I fall asleep, I wake up in three hours. To fall asleep again, I pleasure myself, as they say, but it doesn’t feel like pleasure. I imagine a handprint left on my flesh, like the chalk outline surrounding a crime scene. Even my orgasm feels like a sigh.
When I’m not having sex, I think about it. I suspect everyone does. I think about it even when I’m having it, but when I’m not I can’t remember what actual sex feels like. I think about having sex or some kind of physical brush with dozens, maybe scores, of people every day. As they enter my field of vision, I imagine tasting them. I don’t know if I think, in some flitting way, about first touching them. Whether strangers or people I know, I want to run my tongue along their cheeks and flanks.
I saw a man on the street who was wearing one of those polo shirts that Gardner used to wear, and I imagined Gardner in it, standing before me, the shirt tight across his shoulders, loose around his torso. I pushed him back on the bed and lifted the shirt, like raising a curtain. The hair on his chest fanned across his breasts, and furrowed downward in the center. He stretched his arms over his head and balled his fists, as I ran my tongue over his skin. It tasted like salt and soap, pliant under my tongue. He moaned as I teased his left nipple with my teeth and with my fingers tugged on his right, so that it almost hurt. I slid his pants down his hips. His balls were tight, symmetrical, his penis cocked, like the ears of an animal sensing prey. I felt current race from my nipples to groin, as if the things I was doing to him were being done to me. I wished I could convey how I was feeling, though in reality he’s dead.
I want to kiss Francie, a woman with whom I’m becoming friends. She talks about sex stylishly, conveying her understanding without boasting. I don’t know that I want to kiss her until I find myself studying an angle on her cheek. She has short blond hair, and a heavy gold necklace rests on her collarbones. I would like my fingers to travel down her breasts, which look heavy under her red chenille sweater. The velvety texture of the fabric seems like an extension of her skin. She wears musky perfume that clouds her from several feet away. This cancels my appetite for food. She has an easy way with my body. She puts her hand on my back and shoulders, says I feel solid. I am thinking about us on bar stools and she tells me about a panic attack she had while driving. She was taking an elderly man to see his sick brother in the hospital. The man and his brother were concentration camp survivors. The man’s brother was dying. Francie panicked imagining that her own lover was injured in a car accident, because he hadn’t called that day. I picture Francie’s hands on the steering wheel trying to stay focused on her friend and his dying brother, while she conjures a death that isn’t real. I imagine her hands on my ass.
On the phone Bruce tells me he has shaved his body hair. He says he isn’t human. He has been researching boars and pigs for an article and thinks his hair is the texture of boar bristle. So thick, he insists, it covers his legs, thighs, chest, and back. So dense and matted it’s like carpet. He does not shave to the skin, rather uses clippers to leave a quarter of an inch, so it won’t itch as it grows back. He is happy to see the contours of his body without the hair. He says that, to shore up courage to look at himself naked, he had to drink two shots of vodka. He says it took hours to remove the hair, even on his balls, which, he admits, now stick to his legs, somewhat unpleasantly. He understands the purpose of ball hair, but likes the look of his two small skinheads. He is planning to ask the barber to shave the parts of his neck and back he cannot reach. I say I will do it the next time I’m over. He’s incredulous. “You would really do that?” I say his hair doesn’t disgust me. I’m sorry he isn’t still blanketed with fur.
A conversation with Chase, a man with whom I do not have sex. We are talking about it, and so it feels like we are having phone sex. I think he must feel this, too, but I don’t say anything. We like each other’s minds. This is how it starts. The mind seems innocent, but talking is fucking.
I don’t know whether I want to have sex with Chase, apart from desiring everyone. He is lanky and dark skinned. His hair is thick, chestnut colored. He smells like cedar chips and loose tobacco, I imagine, though I have not sniffed him. He doesn’t realize his skin glows. His smile devours whomever it’s pointed at. He has smiled at me, though it doesn’t make me feel wanted. For that I need eyes, not teeth. The hands of men are warm and like cups. I tell Chase that a penis is tit and that the smells and tastes of male bodies—the clean clay scent of their underarms, the salty tang of semen—are what tit is to a baby. He says that, to him, tit is penis. Inside the thing he wants is an instrument that can nail him. When he says this, I cease wanting to have sex with him. At the same time, I don’t want to limit sex to men who don’t fear me.
I go to a party in a famous building. The rooms are Brobdingnagian. Forty guests dot the scape of couches, chairs, floors, and walls. Waiters in navy Armani jackets pass makis filled with duck and filet mignon. The host’s dog, a malamute with a charcoal mask across its wheat colored face, is named Alice. Alice chooses me. Whether I am standing or sitting, holding food or empty-handed, she stations herself before me and gazes up with desire. I like her best, too. Her plush haunches billow out. Her plumey tail widens at the end and sweeps the Persian rug in rhythm to a song inside her. Her ears are filled with fur, like cups made by Méret Oppenheim. I stroke her back and shoulders, such muscle. She whistles through her velvet nose, places a paw on my lap and lays her chin on her leg—a torch singer stretching out on a piano. I bury my face in her forehead. She smells like my perfume, floral and smokey.
Chance calls himself a masochist. He means he can find comfort in a squalid apartment and a life that depends on others to change their minds.
Janey eats to cork her anger, though I never see her eat. Thin and frail, she claims she gorges. She says she is sexually excited by humiliation. In her fantasies, she shows her desire, and her lover toys with her, making her wait, maybe feeding her, maybe not. He positions her in front of a table and tells her to bend over. He tells her to stretch out her arms, and he ties her wrists with a silk cord. He lowers her panties but doesn’t remove them, so they dangle around her ankles. She feels the hairs feather on her ass as the cloth brushes her, and she can smell the leather vest he’s wearing over his blue silk shirt. He rubs his crotch against her ass, and she can feel his erection jutting against his fly and the cool silver of his belt buckle grinding into her skin. He undoes the lacing of her corset. She surges at the feel of his fingers on her back and waist. He rebinds her more tightly, parts her legs and puts two fingers inside her, telling her she’s flooded, holding his fingers up to her face, telling her to lick them, which she does, tasting herself and smelling his fingers, which are sweet. When she tries to look over her shoulder, he pushes her head down. When he feels she’s about to climax, he leaves the room. She remains in that position, not knowing when he’ll return.
When Janey says, “I’m not into pain,” I say, “I like pain,” which makes her laugh in an uncorked way. We are sitting across from one another in her apartment, each on a couch. She has built a fire. The couches are crowded with pillows. I stretch out, burrowing into these pillows, and feel the flames toast my feet. She has set a plate of chocolates before me. They are dark and taste bitter-sweet. It strikes me I’m not hungry for food the way I am bodies. This isn’t true. I would eat the world if it left no marks. I used to think that eating people wouldn’t hurt me, and it didn’t, really. It hurt them. When it did hurt me, there were no visible reminders. “How much pain?” Janey asks.
I smile, showing teeth. I tell her that my hands, too, are tied and that I’m wearing a corset, but I’m not on a table, I’m across my lover’s lap, and he’s naked. He strokes my flanks and I feel warm against his skin. I try to squirm away, but his grip is firm. He presses against my neck to keep me in place. I feel giddy, as if I’m directing a movie, but then I pull away, seeing myself from above, and I feel sad. It’s like a slap. I’m curled up in a ball, smelling my tears. They taste sharp and bitter. And then I feel leather cut into my skin. It is my lover’s paddle, warming me like a burning flower. He says, “You like feeling I own you.” I say, “I do,” knowing it excites him to wish it were possible. Sunning ourselves on rocks before padding off again into the woods, he says, “Your skin looks like a field no one has discovered.” He hits me, leaving footprints. “Tell me you like being marked,” he says. I say, “I do,” and the pain spreads as I remember someone’s face in my fur, and smell her perfume, and wish it would seep under my skin.
My lover unties my hands. Maybe I love him. But the truth is, it doesn’t matter.