Submit (Page 26)

Submit (Songs of Submission #3)(26)
Author: C.D. Reiss

The furnishings were found objects rescued from street corners and thrift stores. That included the lighting, the sockets of which had been fitted with bulbs that seemed specifically designed to cast as little light as possible. The sunless, dark blue sky of the October evening didn’t help the lighting situation at all, burnishing the faces of my two companions a deep bronze.

It was lost on no one that I sat with two of the three men I’d shared my body with, but it wasn’t discussed. Art was discussed.

“Either of you guys need more coffee?” I asked. They were both on their second espressos.

“I’ll get it,” Darren said. “You guys got the last two.” He got up and went to the bar.

Kevin didn’t say anything for a second, and neither did I. He’d get to it if I didn’t try to fill the empty space.

“You need a partner for this?” he asked. “Because I didn’t ask for a team.”

“You would have had three of us if Gabby hadn’t gone swimming while overdosing.”

“Was that a cheap shot?”

It was my turn to lean forward. “I don’t work well alone. You know that. I do my best work with other people.”

“You have to get over that.”

“You’re not feeling threatened, are you?”

He leaned back in his seat and gnawed on a lemon rind. “You do not like being challenged, Tweety Bird.”

My phone blooped, and I glanced at it. Jonathan.

—Jesus Christ, the Echo Park family clinic? Are you serious?—

—Problem?—

—Let me count the ways—

I was considering what to reply when it blooped again.

—Can we stop this and talk before I have an accident?—

I had a wisecrack at the ready regarding the meaning of the word “accident” and possible incontinence problems that could be serviced at the Echo Park Family Clinic for a nominal fee. I kept it to myself. “I’ll be right back,” I said to Kevin, not responding to his questioning look as I took the phone outside.

The street was active with dog walkers, phone talkers, deep kissers, and loud laughers. The traffic was loud, and I had to pinch one ear shut when he picked up.

“Hi,” I said.

“You walked out of there with more diseases than you walked in with.”

“You’re being a snob.”

“Snobbery is a defense against low social position. Ego sum forsit.”

“I can’t believe you just said that. Even without the Latin part.”

“Which I botched, really. Because I feel like I’ve botched everything with you.”

I let the silence hang for a second, checking in with my memory of him, the way he moved, the way he spoke, his scent, his breath. Then, I thought of Carlos’s blacked-out page from the institution, the ex-wife he may still love, the woman in San Francisco, and of course, the submissive thing.

I took a deep breath before I broke the silence. “We’re both not saying the same thing.”

If there was a way to hear a smile on the other end of a phone line, it would have deafened me. “I’ll be home at ten or so, unless you want me to come there.”

It hadn’t occurred to me to do anything at my house, and the idea was appealing, except for Gabby’s empty room and Carlos’s envelope, which made a huge mental racket for an inanimate object.

“Ten is fine.”

He breathed. Was it a sigh? “I look forward to it.”

I went back in to watch the other two great f**ks of my life talk about the dialectics of emotion.

CHAPTER 24

I got out of there at nine forty-five with a head full of multi-syllabic words and no solutions. The boys were still talking about what it all meant in the grand scheme of things and seemed to be enjoying each other’s company more and more as the espressos went down. As I got into the Honda, I decided that if they ended up sleeping together, I’d promptly become a lesbian, then banished the thought.

Jonathan’s gate was open like a mouth ready to swallow me whole. I parked in his driveway and shut the car, sitting there for a second and watching the bougainvillea vine swing in the autumn wind. The yellow pad I’d been working on stuck out of my bag. I’d dashed off some notes during my talk with Kevin and Darren, but the page with my fears about Jonathan remained.

What if he collars me? Slaps me? Spanks me? Bites me? Fucks me in the ass? Whips me? Hurts me? Displays me? Gags me? Blindfolds me? Shares me? Humiliates me? Ties me down? Makes me bleed? Fucks me up? Chocks my mouth open. Pulls my hair. Fucks my face. Calls me whore. Tells me to lick the floor. Destroys me. Makes me hate myself. Turns me into an animal.

I dug around my bag and found a pencil. I leaned the pad against the steering wheel and crossed out some things. It was probably wildly incomplete, but a starting point.

What if he collars me? Slaps me? Spanks me? Bites me? Fucks me in the ass? Whips me? Hurts me? Displays me? Gags me? Blindfolds me? Shares me? Humiliates me? Ties me down? Makes me bleed? Fucks me up? Chocks my mouth open. Pulls my hair. Fucks my face. Calls me whore. Tells me to lick the floor. Destroys me. Makes me hate myself. Turns me into an animal.

My remaining list didn’t leave him with much room to maneuver, but I didn’t see any of the crossed-out stuff as negotiable. The front door opened, casting a brighter light on my paper. Jonathan stepped out and went to the edge of the porch. Clutching my little pad, I got out of the car.

He leaned over the railing. “I thought you’d passed out in there.” His hand gripped the railing, and in the light, each vein, each bone, each hair came to life as I imagined it on my body.

“I’m fine.” I went up the porch steps as I’d done twice before, more guarded than the first time and more turned on than the second. He stood to the side of the door, waiting for me to pass. I didn’t.

“You’re not coming in?” he asked.

“I want to say something first.”

He leaned in the entryway. “Okay.”

I had words. I had plenty of words, but they all ran together and made no sense. I handed him the pad. He glanced at me, then down at it. I’d never felt so naked in front of him, even fully clothed in pants and long sleeves. He was looking at my limits. I couldn’t imagine anything more intimate. I felt tingly heat all over my chest and cheeks when he glanced back up at me.

“You forgot to cross off anal sex.”

“I tried it once. Didn’t like it. If you’re better at it, I’ll have another crack.” I paused. “No pun intended.”