The word that came to mind when
you made that sound,
he said, was
I shuddered. Agony. The word pierced me to the core, and I looked down, unable to meet his eyes, betrayed by the sudden evocation.
Agony. Used to mean a suffering of immeasurable depth. It fit the circumstance, key smoothly sliding into lock – at least superficially.
Agony. Why did the word elicit such a strong reaction?
And then I realized. Because that, at its simplest, at its purest – that is what I crave.
He finished securing the rope. Knelt down, level with my head, beard brushing my cheek. I felt the heat of his breath against my skin and turned my face, eyes closed, towards him. The rope burned its tendrils into my calf, clenching down on jeans, skin, muscle. Friction against friction.
I breathed through gritted teeth:
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
“You are going to entertain me.
You are going to tell me a story.
It will involve power, and terror.”
I watched his instructions appear on my screen, feeling a familiar mixture of heat and fear rising with each command.
Heat at the power and easy confidence behind those words, in his knowing that I am compelled to obey.
Fear at the challenge of weaving a story out of thin air, in the moment, having had no forewarning at all.
And fear of the prompt:
“You are going to tell me about the next time I pierce you.”
My heart leapt at those words. It is no secret that I hate needles. The sickly drag of metal under skin; the twin pricks of pain as my skin is opened up and made vulnerable; the dull throb and enflamed swath of skin that persists long after the initial piercing; these are things that I cannot process.
It is also true that he pierces me on occasion. Because he can. Because it amuses him. Because it is an unmistakeable statement of his ownership. And, to further drive himself deeper into my psyche, he has trained me to come from being pierced.
I licked dry lips and cleared my throat nervously. How do I even start this? Where is the setting for the story? The context?
But even as the questions ran through my head, I was already beginning to visualize the scene. I could see the low, warm glow of his nightstand lamp. There is a body there, on the bed, lying face down on crumpled sheets.
After a few false starts, I finally began.
We are in bed.
We have been playing – just as hard, and as primally – as we often do. I am lying facedown. My hands are tied in front of me – my wrists bound together with the remaining rope lashed around my waist, so that my hands lie between my legs.
I hear you move away, and the mattress shifts as you get off the bed to grab something from off the floor.
I hear and feel your body as you return. You set the object down on the bed. My heart begins to race when I hear the familiar “pop” as you open that black box. That terrible, black box.
I hear the soft crinkle of plastic as you withdraw 5 needles from the box. I turn my head away. I can’t look. I never can. You separate the needles, letting them fall onto the bed beside my body.
And, all the while, my lizard brain is screaming at me to move, to run away, to hide from the pain that I know is coming.
Instead, I hold very, very still. You’ve taken out the first needle, and I hear your voice above me, low and soothing. Speaking of your ownership. Reminding me that I belong to you.
I belong to you.
I belong to you.
I feel your fingers on my back, grasping for a chunk of skin.
I belong to you.
I try to mentally prepare myself for the sensation. It never works.
I belong to you.
It’s all I can do to not move, to not flinch at what’s coming. I breathe, breathe, breathe as you slide the first needle. In.
It’s all I could do, even in the telling, even in the imagining, not to cringe away and hide from that mental image.
I could feel the skin on my back responding, tingling and sensitive, as if in anticipation.
I don’t want to keep going. I don’t want to be pierced. But, at the same time, I do. It’s very confusing, Sir.
I let out my breath in one sharp exhale. My skin burns. It always takes me by surprise, the sharpness of that pain. I never get used to it.
It never gets easier.
Even as I am collecting myself, the second needle is in your hand. You slide it. In. Through. And back out, underneath the first. I groan through it, still holding very still.
With each needle, it’s harder to not move, to not thrash around and relieve the burning pain in my back.
With each needle, I feel myself growing wetter. It is almost impossible to ignore, and my hands are right there, between my legs.
As you slide the fourth needle under my skin, you tell me that I will come when the fifth needle is embedded in me. That I will come. Because I belong to you.
You take the fifth needle, rest it against my skin.
Come, you command, as you shove it in.
So I do.
While getting brunch with the Programmer this morning, I talked with him quite a bit about my spending the summer in Seattle. The conversation inevitably turned to the topic of poly management. The Programmer mentioned something that has made me realize what might be holding me back from fully accepting poly in my own life.
He told me that he views his poly group as a family, and that he sees his partners’ partners as akin to his own partners. In this framework, it’s pretty obvious to each member that it’s not a zero-sum game, and everyone wants everyone else to succeed.
Everyone wants everyone else to succeed in a family? The concept was difficult for me to grasp at first. How is that intrinsic to being a member of a family?
Enter in my own familial experience.
Not only did I spend most of my childhood either in school or under minimal supervision at home – and thus I believe never bonding very strongly with my immediate family members – I’ve never really been close to anyone in my family for most of my life. I had no interest in participating in the ‘family time’ my mother continually attempted to implement, and I was often happier going off on my own, whether it was hiking in the woods or working on school projects.
So, then. What does family actually mean to me? I hear the word, and its meaning (aided by indoctrination through popular media) and my personal association are at complete odds. I don’t think of community, closeness, or support network. I think of obligation, filial piety, and tradition.
Usually, it feels like a necessary evil.
I think of growing up being constantly compared, academically and physically, against my cousins and against my parents’ own accomplishments. How can I think of family as anything other than a zero-sum game against that kind of background? I think of my mother’s recent trip to Taiwan for a family reunion, and all of the married nieces and nephews with their children that will remind her so starkly of my lack of pursuit of a family of my own.
Perhaps, if I had a better idea of how to find or build the kind of community I want and create new, positive associations to this word, family, I’d be better equipped to fully accept polyamory.
I was 7, perhaps, or 8. Maybe older; time has faded some of the relevant facts, but others stand out the starker in comparison. My mother is sitting at our dining table, and it is late at night. She’s just come home, and others are seated around her: an aunt, and my father.
I’ve only passed through the dining room on my way to my bedroom. My aunt turns to me from where she has been listening to my mother talk of her night, and asks me, in Chinese, “Aren’t you worried? Your mother was just in a car accident!”
I shrug, keep walking. The shrug is more out of shyness and discomfort than anything else. Behind me, I hear my mother tell my aunt, also in Chinese, “See, she doesn’t care! She doesn’t care what happens to me.”
I kept walking, not looking back, and closed my bedroom door behind me.
I’ve never talked to my mother of that night, but it continues to come back to me at random moments, like tonight. You see, what I never told my mother, my aunt, or my father, was that I did not know the Chinese phrase for “car accident.”
I thought that my aunt had told me that my mother had been in heavy traffic. In my mind, that explained why she’d gotten home so late, and so I summarily dismissed the matter from my mind.
There are many things one might draw from this memory. I’ve gone through them all. But, tonight, I just wanted to record it here. A small scrap of a memory, but significant all the same.
(I’ve been sitting on this story for days, wondering if I should attempt to finish it before posting. I think I’ll try submitting this in parts. It’s getting pretty long, anyway. Also, this is one of two stories I’ve started writing, based partially on a comment Max made to me while I was home for the holidays. I’d taken a few pictures of our wooded backyard to show him, and he’d noted how deep the woods ran…)
I stopped and leaned heavily against a tree, trying to catch my breath. My throat was dry from breathing in the cold, crisp winter air, and from striding quickly up and down rocky wooded hillsides for an hour.
An hour. I swallowed the threat of panic that the thought brought with it. Instead, I straightened up and took stock of my surroundings, peering around for any familiar landmarks.
Trees. Trees, rocks, and more trees. Everything painted in the same dreary greys and browns of New England winter. For the hundredth time, I cursed aloud to myself for letting my mind wander as I hiked through the woods – childhood woods that I’d practically grown up in. I’d come out of my reverie to see, with shock, how low the sun was, and had promptly turned around, thinking I’d be back at the house well before sunset.
It was only after walking for half an hour that I’d grown anxious. Surely I hadn’t wandered this far into the woods? Perhaps just over this next hill…
But no. After I had crested that hill, only more woods came into view. That was when I’d become truly worried. I had agreed to housesit for my mother while she was out of town, grateful for a brief respite from the city grind. I’d come to appreciate the stillness that living in a small rural town offered after moving to San Francisco. Why not give myself a little vacation after having worked steadily these past two years?
To think that I’d get lost behind the woods of my mother’s house on the second day of my vacation. There wasn’t even anyone waiting for my return, nor to come looking for me after realizing I’d been gone too long. I sighed loudly, cursing again. I had stopped checking my phone for a signal half an hour ago, opting instead to turn it off to preserve its battery. In the twenty-odd years that my mother had lived here, the cell phone signal in our area had never changed. That is to say, there never was one.
The quiet stillness that I’d been so looking forward to took on a more malignant air here, where I couldn’t even hear any birdsong. I started walking again, trying to ignore the fact that the air was growing chillier as the sun sank lower in the sky.
I aimed for elevation, thinking – hoping – that if I got high enough above the treeline, I could at least spot a road or rooftop. The terrain was rocky and, despite there being no snow, the leaf layer was slippery underfoot. As I climbed up towards a rocky outcrop, I could feel my calf muscles straining. I reached the top of the crag and sat down to rest.
The landscape remained unchanged; a sea of grey, leafless branches stretching out to infinity. I could feel the panic welling up in my throat, harder to swallow back this time. I felt like screaming, if only to give voice to all that panic and anxiety. I bit my lip to stop myself. I couldn’t lose it, not now.
Where the hell was I? Curse these damnable woods!
I nearly jumped out of my skin at the sound of another human voice. I’d been so distracted and distraught, I hadn’t noticed the footsteps behind me. I spun around.
Standing a few feet away from me, a slim hiking stick resting in one hand, was a man in a faded leather jacket. A small hiker’s backpack rested on his shoulders, and the other hand held lightly onto one strap. A short beard framed his face. I was still sitting and found myself having to look up at him. His brow was furrowed, and as I scrambled to my feet, he asked, “Are you hurt?”
His voice was gruff and low, and, if I had not felt such relief at being found by someone, I might have noticed an edge to his words. I shook my head.
“No, but I think I’ve gotten a little turned around. Thank goodness you found me! Could you point me back to the main road?”
“Of course. If you just head that way, you’ll find an old logging road about a fifteen minute’s hike away – ” He gestured off to my right with his hiking stick, and I turned to follow the direction he was pointing in.
The stick caught me in the ear. My head jerked back – in surprise more than pain, – and I stumbled. Before I could fully register what was happening, I felt a hand grab my wrist and pull it sharply up behind my back. My shoulder screamed, I arched my back, and I buckled as he put weight against the arm.
I landed jarringly on my knees. The man gave a short, sharp push of my caught arm, and I fell the rest of the way, my face landing in a pile of leaves and dirt. His knee dug into the small of my back, pinning me down against the forest floor. My brain finally caught up to the danger I was in, and I screamed as loudly as I could.
My ears rang. Any attempt to struggle made my shoulder seize in pain. His grip around my wrist was vice-like, and I heard myself pleading with him as he twisted my other arm to my back.
“Why are you – ? Please, no – please don’t hurt me… What do you want?”
His only response was to dig his fingers into my hair and pull my head back. I felt the cold air brush against my exposed throat and shuddered. He did not say a word, did not try to stop my screaming. Instead, he was tying something around my hair in a rough, tight ponytail. Then I felt the same material being wrapped tightly around my wrists. It felt like twine, a thin length digging painfully into my skin.
I whimpered. The cold sharpened the pain in my shoulder and the added pain from whatever bound my wrists to my hair.
With a final, cruel tug, he finished binding my wrists, and I finally felt him take his weight off the knee in my back. He ran his hands down the sides of my waist, then hooked two fingers through the belt loops of my jeans and pulled.
This renewed my attempts to struggle, and I twisted my hips wildly and kicked out, trying to dislodge his hands. His knee came down hard again, knocking the wind out of me. He leaned over my body until I could feel the bristles of his beard brushing against my cheek. I felt his breath warm my skin as he finally spoke again.
“Scream and struggle all you want, girl. There’s no one around us for miles. There is no logging road.”
My whole body convulsed as the weight of his words sank in. I shivered, feeling his hands return to my waist. The cold air hit my hips and ass as he slid the jeans off.
“I’ve never liked candy corn.” I wrinkled my nose at the proffered bag. He continued holding it out, rattling the bag slightly as if to make the brightly colored candy somehow more enticing. I shook my head again and raised a hand as if in self defense.
He laughed. “How is it possible not to like them? They’re almost entirely made of sugar.” He withdrew the bag, shook a few pieces onto his palm, and, throwing his head back, dumped them into his open mouth with obvious relish.
I made a face and shrugged. The wind was brisk today, tugging insistently at my hair and making the fallen leaves skitter around our feet and the park bench we sat on. It was a classic autumn day: sunlight filtering through the trees and creating golden pools on the ground, the almost chatter-like sounds of desiccated leaves rustling in the wind filling our ears, and that deep, piercing scent of almost-frost in the air. I leaned back on the bench, closed my eyes, letting the sunlight warm my eyelids.
“I just remember them tasting funny. I guess I was pretty picky as a child, though,” I amended, trying to think back.
“Then maybe your memory of their taste is outdated, and you should try them again to update your memory bank,” he suggested playfully, and I heard the crinkle of plastic close to my face again. I opened my eyes and gave a mock sigh.
“Okay, fine. Just one…” I dipped two fingers inside the bag and withdrew one candy corn piece. Gingerly, I put it on my tongue, letting it rest there briefly before biting the candy in half. The familiar sickly sweetness assaulted my taste buds, and I grimaced.
“Ugh! Nope, they’re just as awful as I remember,” I spoke through the pieces of candy in my mouth – pieces I now refused to swallow. I turned my head away to spit the candy out onto the grass.
“Wait. Here.” His hand on my shoulder stopped me, and I turned to see his other hand, half-cupped, raised level to my chin. I blinked.
“Um. You – you want me to spit it out in your hand?”
I hesitated. I wanted to ask why. I wanted to just ignore the offer and spit the candy out on the ground. I wanted to look away from his suddenly serious eyes. My mouth half-opened, full of questions and mild outrage and protests. But no sound came out. Seconds ticked by as I looked at him, trying to gauge how serious he was. My eyes narrowed. Was this some kind of game? A test? An opportunity for ridicule?
The corners of his lips curled slightly in a smile that was more a challenge than a taunt.
I made to spit the candy out, thinking he’d pull his hand away and laugh. Instead, he just lowered his arm slightly, so that I had to bend further down to avoid missing his hand. I felt oddly, ridiculously committed to the action now. I pushed the two pieces of candy out of my mouth, depositing them – and a generous coating of saliva – onto his open palm.
My face flushed at this thing I’d just done. Flushed with embarrassment … and – something else?
I gave him a sidelong glance, but he just smiled and pulled his hand back, closing his fingers around the candy. He turned and threw the candy a few feet away. His face, when he turned back around, held only a gentle, satisfied expression – no malice or mocking glee there. I swallowed away the lingering taste of the candy corn. Not quite knowing how to dispel the strange, confused sensation that had suddenly filled my chest, I just wrinkled my nose at him again.
He laughed lightly, ran his clean hand through my hair, and gave the back of my head a few gentle scritches.
I closed my eyes again, letting the sensation of his fingers in my hair melt away my confusion.
“Why do I feel like I’m being patted on the head like a puppy who’s been good?”
He laughed again.
Continuing with the theme of whips, here is part of a journal I wrote about Max’s visit, where I describe our scene with my whip. It was a … breathtakingly powerful scene.
Standing there, facing you, I felt awe at the way my whip came alive in your hands. It was a beautiful sight: your body and the whip moving together; the whip flying and curling in the air towards me; the liquid electricity flowing down your arm and through the length of leather, making the silk cracker hiss. At that moment, I stopped seeing the whip as an instrument. It became an extension of your will, your touch, and your energy. I could feel its yearning to make contact with my skin.
And with each throw, I could hear the whip sing – an expression of pure joy at fulfilling its maker’s purpose. Finally.
I watched my whip, listened to your words, felt the sensuality in the first few light touches – almost caresses. There were not many of those. Time sped up as I felt the whip hit me like a punch to the gut, or a blazing trail of fire. Time slowed down between strokes, as I emptied my lungs and fought the instinct to curl into a ball and hide from the searing pain. Holding my arms above my head only made my belly curve outward like an invitation. I could not see through the white-blinding sensations. All that existed was your voice counting out each stroke and telling me not to move, the force of the whip across my body, and the throat-shredding sounds being ripped from my lungs.
A lifetime later, you reached “20,” and it was over. There are no words I can really use to describe my relief at hearing the finality behind that “20” – seeing you coming towards me, wrapping your body around mine, bringing me down to the floor while I clung to you – combined with the ecstasy I felt at being able to withstand the pain, hold still and keep my arms raised while you whipped me. The two states, relief and ecstasy, merged and expanded to fill my body, and were exhaled out through the sobs that I could not hold back.
The pain faded remarkably quickly and just as quickly was replaced by giddy pride. Pride in taking that pain, but also pride in my whip flying straight and true in your hands, and the delight and joy you took in wielding it. Knowing that the catalyst of this electricity, and heat, and power, and magic, was something I created with my own hands made me want to laugh through the sobs, to exult in our connection.
You told me you’d never done a scene like that – never used a whip on the person who’d made the whip. I could not stop grinning. Neither, of course, had I. I felt high as a kite; I suspect you felt similarly.