Peaks and valleys: all part of the landscape of my body. It’s been a long journey getting to know this terrain with such intimacy – there was a point in my life where I couldn’t bear looking at myself naked in the mirror. Now, it seems, I am at the opposite end of the spectrum: when I take a shower, I strip in front of the bathroom vanity, fascinated at my reflection, turning this way and that to see how the muscles stretch and move, where folds appear and vanish, and, more recently, what new marks and bruises I’ve acquired.
And, of course, all of this photography.
It is all so narcissistic; sometimes I revisit old posts and feel my face flush with embarrassment at my brazen self-obsession. Other times, I am again drawn, fascinated, to a body that is simultaneously foreign and familiar to me. I find myself staring at my hands, palms, fingers – the way tendons link bone to muscle – in plain wonderment at their ingenious engineering.
It must be the dreariness and rain that has got me in such a somber, reflective mood. I crave desert and dry sunshine. I feel the wanderlust growing like an itch in my tailbone.
It’s time to get a move-on.
“Let’s play” he says, all grin and glinting canines. My reaction is instinctual: survival. I lunge for his throat, for the thick jugular full of life and heat, biting down on skin and heartbeat before he can do the same. As teeth graze skin and I taste sweat and musk along my tongue, I wish for claws over these weak cuticles, for the ability to sink down into flesh, deep to the bone, to carve my presence there. So he never forgets.
But already I feel the vibrations of his laughter against my tongue, and he lifts me bodily, still attached to him by the throat, fingers pressing between the bars of my ribs. I bite harder to tease out the russet taste of his body, while his fingers move north to find my own snappable neck, oblivious to my hands grappling against his wrists.
Squeeze, and white flares out against the edges of my vision.
Squeeze harder, and my jaw goes slack, desire for air overpowering desire for flesh. I forcefeed tiny gulps of wheezing air down a constricted larynx, but it is not enough to extinguish the sunbursts in my skull.
The final, sputtering moan that escapes through my swollen tongue is not of my own doing, but rather milked from each air-deprived cell of my body, fed up to his hungry ears, drawn out by his thumbs pressed close to my vocal chords, and I don’t have enough oxygen in my lungs to thank him (Thank you, thank you, thank you; but the bridge between mind and voice has crumbled) for this hard-earned euphoria.
And in an instant it is over, gone: nothing pressing against my airway, no fingers laced like wire around my throat. Air rushes into the vacuum of my lungs faster than I can gasp. As I lie there panting, I see only his wild grin coming into focus, and his voice coos, low in my ear, “Now, wasn’t that fun?”