Submit (Page 25)

Submit (Songs of Submission #3)(25)
Author: C.D. Reiss


“Anything else?”

“I don’t know if this guy is worth it.”

“They never are, mija. Not one of them.”


We wove words under popsicle trees,

The ceiling open to the sky,

And you want to own me

With your fatal grace and charmed words.

All I own is a handful of stars

Tethered to a bag of marbles that turns

Will you call me whore?

Destroy me,

Make me lick the floor,

Twist me in knots,

Turn me into an animal?

Will I be a vessel for you?

Slice open our lying box

Through a low doorway for our

Shoulds and oughts.

Choose the things I don’t need,

No careless moments, no mystery.

And you need nothing.

My backward bend doesn’t feed.

Will I ever own you?

Tie you?

Can I ever collar you?

Hurt you,

Hold you, and own you?

Will you ever be a vessel for me?

“That,” said Jerry from behind the glass, “is exactly what I’m talking about. That is a song.

“Thanks,” I said into the mic as I took off my headphones. I’d laid down the piano track first to get the tempo down, then I’d sung over it as I listened. “I’d like to do that second chorus again.”

“It’s that or you lay in the theremin. We’re short on time”

My little electromagnetic box sat in the corner. The second chorus was going to have to stay the way it was. I needed to lay in a track with an instrument played without touching it, or the whole song wouldn’t work. The lyrics were the culmination of all my fears, but there had to be a portion of the music that was comforting and sweet. Anything less would have been unfair.

Jerry didn’t know that I hadn’t actually composed an accompaniment for the theremin. I told myself I hadn’t had time, but the fact was, I didn’t know what I wanted out of the thing. The sounds it made were the opposite of Gabby’s percussive composition, and the two things together made no sense at all.

As I stood in front of it, listening to my voice and the piano together in my headphones, I reached for the instrument. My hand crossed the electromagnetic field and made a note. I moved the other hand between the metal poles, stroking the music, not touching a thing, the vibrations caused by the lack of physicality. The hand dance became a sensual thing, as if I touched an imaginary man who had come too close to me when I felt vulnerable, who had touched me when I hurt, and who had made the mistake of caring about me when I asked him to. For those sins and the mistake of letting his skin touch mine in a dangerous way, I’d shut him out.

“Can I start over?” I asked Jerry, who was flipping dials in the control room.


Then I played the thing with all my anger and sorrow, flicking my fingers into the air to create notes of apology in measures of longing and grief.


I got back from the studio feeling as though I’d just played to a stadium crowd. Jerry was going to remix the whole thing and review it with me in the next few days. Until then, I was high. I had to shower and change before meeting Kevin and Darren about the Vancouver piece.

A Fiat was parked in front of my house. I recognized it as the one that had been parked in Jonathan’s driveway the second night we were together. On my porch stood his assistant in all her blond sullenness.

“Hi,” I said. “I don’t think we’ve met?”

“Kristin.” She didn’t shake my hand or smile, just handed me an envelope. “I’m supposed to wait until you read it.”

I tore it open. Inside was a sheet from Trend Laboratories. In the top right corner, Jonathan had scribbled, Sleep well.

Under the header were the words TEST RESULTS. Smaller words lined up beneath that. Many were no more than jumbles of consonants, each with two checkboxes. Positive and negative. Negative boxed were checked all down the line. I did a purposeful check for HIV, and when I saw the Negative box checked, I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Do you want to come in?” I asked.

“I’m late.”

“Can I give you something to pass back to him?”

“Sure.” Though the word itself implied that giving Jonathan a note would be her pleasure, and though her tone was completely professional, her posture and stony face told another story. She was probably a Harvard MBA passing notes between her boss and his mistress.

I unlocked the house. “This won’t take a second.”

I had a box of receipts, and I dug through it until I came to the one from the Echo Park Family Clinic. I circled the prescription for my morning-after pill and wrote, You too, in the upper right-hand corner. I stuffed it into the envelope, went back outside, and handed it back to her. I knew what I wanted to do.

He hadn’t texted or called since he’d spanked me pink in the hotel room. I knew he was giving me space, taking the pressure off. He’d broken a cardinal rule by entering me without a condom, but I wasn’t such a child as to think I had no responsibility to protect both of us. I could have checked. I could have been more diligent. When his dick felt so good in me, I should have known. It wasn’t as if I’d never felt an unwrapped penis before.

I held my phone, feeling the heft of it in my palm. I could call him. I could reach out to him, and we could discuss him tying me up and hitting me with riding crops. Or chocking my mouth open so he could f**k it. Or sharing me with his buddies. How far did it go? How deep was the kink? I had no idea. I’d shut him down pretty quickly.

I put away the phone, deciding to give it an hour. I wanted him to have that receipt in his hands before I called.


“Why should the space be limited?” Darren asked. “Space is visual, and it’s your problem. Time is aural, and that’s between Monica and me.”

“This is a representation of human limitation,” Kevin said, his posture twisted like a spring, leaning forward, fully engaged as always. “We have no authority over space and time in reality, and any control we wrest is, by its nature, false.”

“So Monica and I will dictate the space, and you’ll dictate the tempo. We work from there.”

I leaned back, arms crossed, legs stretched, and ankles twisted. I had nothing to add. They were in an epic intellectual pissing match. None of what they said mattered, and it ran counter to the original vision, which was to remove the intellectual from the emotional. But they’d started the minute we entered Hoi Poloi Hog, also known as HPH.