“I do want ice cream.” His voice is muffled by my skin. “We’re making ice cream. Is there a problem?”
I shake my head and pull away to lean over the stove. I need to focus: I’m tinkering with the methods in this recipe, cutting a step that’s meant to take an hour down to seven minutes. I have an excuse: it’s hot and humid, not good weather to hold cream at room temperature for long. Mostly I’m just rushing, anxious to get my hands on him again. The infusion is steaming well, but not boiling. I worry it’s too hot anyway, so I reduce the flame just a bit. He brushes his fingers down my back. It’s a warm day. I can’t feel the heat of him standing behind me. Can’t hear his breathing over the sounds filtering in from outside. I stop stirring, close my eyes, inhale. I can’t smell him. Steam redolent with ginger masks every other scent in the room. If not for his fingers sliding down to my hips I wouldn’t even know he was there. His grip turns firm, pulls me tight against him.
“You’re going to scald the milk.”
“Am not,” I say, but I turn my attention to it anyway, pluck a slice of ginger out of the mixture to see if it’s softened at all. It has, and I decide it’s infused enough. Scooping it out is trickier than I expected: some of the smaller slices keep slipping away and disappearing under the surface.
“Anything I can do to help?” I worry he’s asking because I look clumsy and incompetent chasing slices of ginger through the pot.
“No. Wait, yes. Bring me the eggs?” He does, and I separate them (too slow!). Whites go back in the fridge, yolks get a vigorous whipping with a fork.
“Here. I need you to pour about a quarter cup of this over the yolks.” He pours, I whisk. I thank him and take back my place in front of the stove. I start talking, something about the properties of eggs and preventing custard from curdling or forming a skin. I’m rambling. If I just keep talking I won’t be distracted by his breath in my hair. I won’t lean in to the too-light touch of his fingers on my spine. I won’t turn around and find his mouth with mine. Dear God, I’m talking about curd cheeses. Someone should make me shut up.
His fingers brush my hair to one side. His lips touch my neck, just behind the ear. They move slowly, back and down. I close my eyes, just for a second, blocking out everything but the trail of his mouth down the back of my neck. I feel teeth, gentle, teasing. I stop stirring and rest my hand on the lip of the pot. It’s hot, but not quite hot enough to burn. This damn custard will burn if I don’t get back to it. I stand up straight, pulling out of reach.
He peers over my shoulder. “Is it done yet?”
“I put the eggs in five minutes ago. It takes time.”
He groans, gripping my hips through too-tight jeans. “Try a higher heat.”
I duck down to check the flame. Just where it should be. (I can’t help but covet his gas stove.) “Nope, can’t. I don’t want the custard to break.”
He doesn’t answer. His left hand slides under my shirt to rest on my stomach. His right fumbles with the button of my jeans. I lean back to press against him from shoulder to hip. His teeth find the back of my neck. I’m taller than he is, much taller in these boots. To nip me there he must have his head back, throat exposed…
I roll my shoulders back, shake my head to clear it. I focus on the stove, this custard and its infuriating need for attention. If I weren’t so damn proud of my cooking I’d abandon it. His fingers work their way down the front of my jeans, pull them uncomfortably tight against my hips. He pinches my clit ring between two fingers, tugs it lightly. “These fucking jeans couldn’t be any tighter if they were painted on.”
“Are you complaining?”
“Nope. Is it ready to go in the fridge yet?”
I sweep a fingertip through the custard. It’s thicker, but not enough.”Not yet. Two, three minutes.”
He drops to his knees, hands moving down, pulling denim to bunch around my legs. I stumble, trying to keep my balance in stilettos while he pulls. He slides his body between me and the stove. His breath reaches my cunt an instant before his mouth does.
“Oy, hot stove. This seems like a dangerous idea.”
“Don’t care.” His voice is muffled by my body.
I grip the counter with my left hand, stir with my right. Three clockwise circles, a figure eight, repeat. I want to grab hold of him, pull his mouth even harder against me. “You can’t wait ninety seconds?”
“I can, but…” he doesn’t finish, just presses the heat of his mouth against me, his tongue moving firm but slow, too slow. Fuck it. I swipe a finger through the custard again. It’s not as thick as I’d like. It’s thick enough. Somehow I turn off the flame, add white chocolate and stir it smooth. “Done. Make room in the fridge.”
I have him backed into a counter with my legs wrapped around him before we even close the refrigerator door. He fumbles for it, awkward and sideways while I start pulling his clothes off. He laughs. “Now who’s rushing?”
“Hey, we’ve got a time limit here. Still have to make ice cream, remember?”
I’m hungry for kissing. It’s not about sex, this hunger. It’s too feral for that. It’s a growl barely held in my throat, teeth fighting not to find lips, any lips, to sink into.
I could say “I want to kiss you,” but that’s not what I mean and it’s not enough. I want to overwhelm you like storm surge over the Keys. I want to smash into you unswerving and hard as a sledgehammer into drywall. It’s a desire not to kiss but to consume. I want to feel hot flesh under my mouth, to sink teeth in and not let go.
It’s not what I mean and it’s not enough. I’m not sure anything would be. I don’t much care. I want to kiss like there’s nothing else in the world.
I sent him a message on Fet a few days before the party: How full is your card Saturday night? He had only planned a couple of scenes so far, and he’d want a break from fire. He agreed to pencil me in for a scene. I swap to text message to ask how long I could expect to be too sore to visit the gym.
“I dunno, are you looking for an excuse, or must the gym go on like the eponymous show?”
“Oh, the gym will go on. At least, cardio will, no excuses allowed. Still, there’s something lovely about being horribly reminded of a good scene every time I attempt a workout.”
“Well, in that case you should schedule yourself a long vacation.”
It’s something I know I’ll miss about him, how loose and flirtatious we can be with negotiation. I tease and goad just to remind him to play harder, and he’s happy to oblige.
After I tell the worst joke ever and arrange to have someone bring me a robe and room-temperature water when the scene ends, I find the Fireman rummaging through his bag for toys. SAP gloves. Walnut paddle. Another paddle, smaller and darker. Nothing so easy on either of us as a flogger: tonight is going to be rough body work, hard and heavy. My favorite.
“I brought the sandman, if you want it.”
He beams. “God, yes.” The sandman is the heaviest of my new toys, two feet of 3/4″ copper pipe filled with sand. I fish it out and choose us a station, one with an AC vent he can stand under but which won’t reach me.
He comes in before I finish undressing. I decide to lose the heels, but keep my socks. The floor is clean, but cold. I move to stand at the station, glance over to see what he’s doing. He’s taken off his overshirt, changed his shoes. There’s a small crowd gathering at a discreet distance. I face the wall, trying not to see them. I watch his shadow instead. He moves smoothly, with too much grace for a man his size. The shadow is distorted, foreshortened. I can see him lifting something from the table, but can’t tell what it is. I close my eyes and try to stop thinking. I refocus on my skin: the lacquered smoothness of the cross under my hands, the faint gusting of cool air across my back. I’ll be shivering in no time if he doesn’t get started.
He leans in close. I can feel his breath against my cheek, a heavily gloved hand on my hip. “Let’s see if I hit like a girl.” I can hear a laugh, barely contained in his voice. I turn my face to grin at him, just for a moment, before the slapping starts.
It’s not hard. He’s testing, seeing which bruises are superficial, which run deep enough to make me wince. I hiss when he hits my thigh over a bruise a week old and the size of a paperback cover, still livid. He laughs.
I watch his shadow when he moves away and lifts something from the table. There’s no more warm-up. He moves in rough and thorough, punching, paddling, caning while I dance from foot to foot and try not to scream. A solid blow to the thigh and I cover my mouth to muffle the shout. He leans in, lifts my face. “You okay?”
“Aside from the fact that we’re playing to the Pet Shop Boys, and some bastard keeps hitting the same damn spot, great.”
“The thigh needs a break?”
“Nah, keep going.”
I see his shadow take a new stance. Oh, fuck. There’s no time for a deep breath. The first kick to the ribs has me howling, struggling to stay on my feet. The next dozen hit the same spot, easy and precise for him no matter how I sidestep and twist. I find the rhythm to it, time ragged breaths to exhale on impact. I don’t want to avoid this pain but my body rebels, and I have to grip the cross hard to keep from covering my ribs with my hands. I’m staring at the speaker on the ceiling when it stops, and for the space of a breath feel the lack where pain should be.
He grabs my hair, twisted into a tight bun, pulls it hard to arch my back, until I’m only touching the cross with the tips of my fingers. With one hand still gripping my hair, he starts to punch my shoulder, the same spot, over and over again. I hear him growl under his breath and snarl back, earning a bite to the neck before he shoves me forward against the cross again.
I feel cool metal against my back. The sandman. It slams into me hard, too cold. With this he moves, from ass to thighs and back again, throwing a few brief flurries of hits against my calves. I bite my shoulder to muffle the screaming. I stamp my feet, claw uselessly at the cross, in some vain hope that moving will make it hurt less. It doesn’t.
He leans in close, running gloved hands over my swollen skin. I feel the heat of his body, smell clean sweat and copper over the polished wood of the cross. I lean back into him, press my bruised skin against his, wondering when he took off his shirt. His arm moves across my chest, holding me upright and slightly off balance. He’s breathing hard. I turn my face to his. His mouth opens to speak. I kiss him instead, hard, moaning into his mouth when his fingers find bruised flesh and push into it. I push back. Part of me wants to turn around and fuck him where we stand (not an option), another part wants him to start beating me again. I ignore them both: I’m not done kissing him.
He pulls away roughly, slams my hips into the cross so hard they bruise, and starts punching again. I lean into it, wishing I could hold back from shouting and groaning. He steps back for a moment. “God please don’t stop,” tumbles out of my mouth, and someone–not the Fireman–laughs behind me. I’m startled, but it’s only a friend bringing the Fireman water.
Something’s wrong when he starts again. Not with him; the pain is sharp and precise as ever. I breathe deep, stare at the ceiling, count silently to three. I feel–off. Slight vertigo. My hearing feels dulled. I’m not sure I can stand. “Wait,” I say. I’m glad it came out clearly.
He stops, steps forward with a hand on the small of my back. “Okay?”
“Yes. Bit dizzy. Is there water?” I drink, breathe deeply for a few seconds before grinning up at him. “Sorry. Continue.” We both laugh at that. It sounds too normal for such a strong moment. He starts in on me with the paddle. It stings before blending down into the heavier pain of fists and feet and metal. Then it sharpens. Every blow is almost too much. (Later he tells me he held the sandman behind his paddle to give it extra weight.) I hear myself sob, though there aren’t tears.
I know people are watching–I catch glimpses of them whenever I peer over my shoulder to smile at the Fireman while he pauses to switch toys or gulp down some water–but they’re far away, unobtrusive. All but one of them, that is. A redhead domme leans against the wall just a few feet to my right. Her stare is intense, unnerving. She’s like a lioness watching another predator with his kill, waiting for the right moment to snatch the carcass away. It’s unnerving, but I revel in it, stare back at her. Her eyes linger on my mouth when I gasp. It makes me smile at her. I’m immediately shy afterwards, and turn my face to the ceiling again.
He pauses for more water and she steps up, quietly offers to tag in while he takes a break. He grabs me by the throat and growls before I can laugh. He’s hitting harder now, on flesh already battered. His left hand moves slowly, sensuously down from neck to collarbone, breast to ribs. I sob in frustration, pushing myself into this too-gentle touch while his right hand continues to bring the sandman thudding down on my flesh. I scarcely feel the pain. I’m focused on the slow trawl of his glove, navel to hip to oh, please another inch–. The sounds I’m making plead. I don’t care. Neither does the Fireman. He laughs, low and quiet an inch from my ear and grabs my bruised thigh hard. “You bastard. Oh, God, you bastard.”
He laughs louder. I turn and hop down as he steps back, grab his water from the floor and drink. I know I’m dehydrated but it’s too cold and I only manage a few sips. I move back into position, bouncing on the balls of my feet. “Sorry, we’re good.” He shakes his head, smiling. Each blow is slower now, but just as hard. The next bout of kicking doesn’t last as long.
The sandman almost does it. I feel a tear welling up while he’s working my thighs. I wrap my arms around the arms of the cross, my legs thrashing too much to reliably bear my weight. Then the too-heavy sting of paddle-and-pipe hit again. And again. I realize I can’t feel all of it, that my body is moving as before but the pain feels dull, as if I’m wrapped in a thick blanket. The vertigo returns, stronger, and I hear the sound of rushing water. I say his name, quietly. He stops instantly, moves in to hold me up. “I think I need water. And to sit down.” He helps me to a chair before falling into another one next to me. He’s shaking and covered in sweat. “Are you okay?” I ask.
He laughs. “Beating you up is hard work!”
“I’m not complaining. Still think I hit like a girl?”
“Nope.” I look around. Robe and water had been promised, but not delivered. I stand up, marveling at the soreness of it. “Okay, I’m going to find my water. Shall I bring you one?”
“Nah, I’ll get it.” We both move back to the social area. I cover up, drink a liter in one long chug, and refill if from the tap. I’m shivering violently. I rummage in my bag for snacks: dried fruit and cookies.
I find the Fireman leaning exhausted against a counter, empty water bottle in one hand. I take it away and hand him a cookie. A good one, from a bakery he’s told me he loves. His eyes widen “Have I told you I love you recently?”
“Me, or the cookie?”
He says something around a mouthful of crumbs, but I’m distracted by the appearance of the friend who was supposed to bring my water. “Where did you disappear to?”
“I gave up after you started hopping around like a rabbit. I guess half an hour ago? If you can jump down for a drink and walk right back up for more punishment, you can get your own stuff at the end.”
“Wait, half an hour?” I look at the Fireman, confused. “That felt like it was near the end of the scene.”
“Yeah, it did. How long was that scene?”
“No idea. An hour?”
“Eighty-five minutes,” says a bystander.
Eighty-five minutes. The Fireman and I just stare at each other for a minute. “Jesus,” he says.
“I think that counts as your workout for tomorrow.”
“Yeah, but back to running Monday. No excuses, remember?”
“I don’t know, wait until you see how those bruises look tomorrow.”
It was four days before I could run more than half a mile. And well worth it. That was almost certainly the best scene I’ve had yet.
I could say he dropped. More accurate to say I dropped him.
I was nervous. He’s shy of electricity, and had never showed any interest in CBT before. Yet there I was, attaching electrodes while he whimpered and clutched his hands into fists underneath me. I couldn’t help laughing: “I haven’t even turned it on yet!” Of course that didn’t last long, I started shocking, biting, taunting while he tried not to cover his face. I moved his hands, too roughly, surprised that he didn’t resist at all.
“So. . . I guess I like electricity.” His voice was steady but his eyes were shy. I’m used to seeing his face confident and almost haughty, sure that he can take control back from me any second. This vulnerability is new. The vicious part of me wants to laugh, but I force it into a toothy grin. “Oh? Then you won’t mind if we try a higher setting.” He whimpers, closes his eyes. I’m sitting on his chest, I feel him tense up even as his breathing becomes steady and slow.
“I think I need to be tied up if you’re going to keep doing this.” I hesitate. I hate rope. I could use zip ties–but no, he’s very strong. If he fights against 1/4 inch plastic he will cut himself. I plan to make him fight. Rope it is. I tie his wrists to the headboard with a nameless, ugly knot. He gives it a look, pulling at it, testing its strength. The knots hold but he’s dragged us both a foot up the bed. That won’t do. I drag him back down by his feet and tie his ankles. He’s looking at me, wide-eyes and silent. “You okay?” I ask. He nods. I say “good.” I think Let’s see if we can’t change that.
I can’t say what happened when. I set the TENS unit to a 15-minute cycle. After that? There was pinching, slapping, mocking. He tried to speak, turned shy instead. I told him to repeat himself and thrust my fingers into his throat when he tried. I smothered him with my body, dialed the electricity slowly higher, smacked his thighs to keep them apart. There was a moment–he said “please” and buried his face in his shoulder without finishing the thought. “Please what?” He didn’t answer. “If you’re smart, you’ll beg me not to leave you tied up here all night when I’m done with you.” He jerked so hard then that I worried my ugly knots would slip, but they held. The TENS unit read one minute left. I picked it up. “Let’s see if you can handle the highest setting.” He was thrashing, trying grab hold of me. I turned the dial. He shouted then. “Less than a minute, you can do it.” I spoke softly. I’m not sure whether he heard.
The timer ran out. I found myself sitting on his thighs thinking oy, what next? Was that too much? Not enough? He wasn’t looking at me, and I couldn’t read anything in his face. So I asked “Do you want–” and paused, stupidly, caught between “to stop” and “to keep going.” In hindsight it’s obvious I should have called the scene as soon as I got paranoid. He crumpled visibly, twisted himself small and away from me as much as he could.
I untied him quickly, and he rolled onto his side, away from me. And I screwed up. If I did this, curled up and turned my back on him, it would mean “don’t talk to me, don’t touch me, I need stillness and silence right now.” So I started coiling rope and wire, organizing and clearing up, trying to give him space. I did this for about three minutes before he started shouting that I was worse than Hitler for not holding him.
Obviously I dropped everything and dove in to cuddle and comfort. Too late: he didn’t want me to touch him because he was too angry at me for not touching him. Two seconds later he clung to me like a koala to a tree and started crying. Thirty seconds after that he kissed me more intensely than he had in years. Then inexplicable laughter. Through the whole of this I sat bewildered, wondering what the hell was going on and when Godwin’s Law had jumped off the Internet and into my sex life.
After he’d stabilized, I tried to ask about it. Meaning I started with “Did I break you?”
“No, I think that’s what sub drop is like though. You were asking what I wanted, and it jerked me out of my mental space.” He took a deep breath. “Please don’t ever do it again.”
“Pull you out of your headspace, or hurt you?”
“The headspace thing. Hurting is good.”
It could have ended worse. I keep telling myself that. But clearly I still have a lot to learn here.
He is on the floor, on my striped beach towel, bound with words because I don’t have the patience for rope. I walk around him, admiring, toying with the switch in my hand. He doesn’t try to look up, just follows my feet with his eyes. I’m wearing cork stilettos flecked with gold. They shine, bright gold in the harsh light around his face, quicksilver in the black light by his legs. He shifts when I move out of his line of sight, and I pause, waiting to see if I will have to remind him to be still. I’m nervous, uncertain. I’m aware of the others around us, though no one seems to be watching. Being aware of them annoys me, makes me feel that I’m putting on a show, that I’m not in control.
I keep walking, idly touching him with the end of the switch. I wish there were more light, or a bench to put him in easier reach. I prod at him, trying to see him tense, which touches make him nervous, which ones make him hopeful. I flick his left thigh and his whole body jumps. I smile and hit him again, holding the switch loosely, tapping a quick rhythm up and down his thigh. He starts to flinch and wriggle after a few minutes, so I put one foot on his calf, just enough pressure to remind him to keep his leg still. His whole body relaxes in an instant. I lean forward to strike with a bit more force, watch his skin turn slowly red. I crouch by his legs, put my hand on his thigh to feel the warmth of it.
“You’re very quiet,” I tell him. “May I try a bit harder?” I drag my fingernail across the redness on his skin, and he flinches.
I grip the switch tighter, still crouching. I’m too tall to use the switch standing while he’s on the ground. I bring it down on his right thigh, hard. His mouth is a hard line, closed and silent. Again, thwack, the line not quite parallel to the first. This irks me, so I make another mark crossing them both. He makes a strangled sound.
“Sorry?” I sit back on my heels. “Does this (thwack) hurt?”
“More or less than this did?” I pinch the redness of his left leg, rougher than I mean to.
He makes a sound like a dog sneezing. “More.”
I “tsk” and immediately regret it (everyone sounds ridiculous making that noise). “Are you saying that this hurts more?” I hit him again, a few inches below the marks I’ve already made “or are you asking for more?”
“Yes,” his tone is shy, a little too quiet under the club music. I have a moment of delight, a moment of wanting him just for that shiver in his voice, but he clears his throat and it’s gone.
I stand and pace–crouching is just as uncomfortable as it looks, and moreso in heels–trying to decide how best to position myself. I walk in front of him, nudge his chin with the toe of my shoe to make him look up. “Full sentences, please. What are you asking for?”
He closes his eyes. For a moment I think this isn’t working, we’re going to have to stop now, but he opens them again, looks steadily at the floor, and says “Please, cane me harder, miss.”
“Good boy.” The phrase doesn’t seem to affect him, but I smile anyway, thinking of someone it would. I move to kneel between his feet and lay into him, keeping beat with the rest of the song, and the next one. “You’re very quiet,” I can’t decide whether to be impressed or annoyed: I know from experience that this switch stings like a wasp, and he has a few welts coming up purple on his calves and thighs.
“I was trying to please you.” He’s speaking quietly, so that I have to lean in and ask him to repeat himself. His leg, when I rest my hand on it, is hot to the touch.
“Did I say I liked to hit quiet boys?” He whimpers (adorable!) and I wait, count silently to three. “Did I?”
The scene gets better after that, becomes a heady blur of images I can’t string together. I lean in asking questions, trying to keep him talking to hear his voice break. I’m scratching his shoulders, whispering in his ear, when he starts to beg, “please, miss, step on me.”
I hesitate. “We didn’t discuss that,” but I slide my foot onto his thigh, scrape the point of my heel over the red canvas of his skin.
He’s saying “please” over and over between mewling, ragged breaths. I don’t move at all, don’t say a word, and he’s pleading. I couldn’t move if I tried.
My mouth is dry. “Full sentences,” I mean to whisper but it comes out loud.
He gives me paragraphs. He begs, voice shaking, and I am transfixed by it, the desperation, the rambling nonsense, the sudden eloquence for which he is later embarrassed “Walk over me and turn me gold like Midas,” he says, amid groveling and moaning that he deserves to be impaled.
It’s the reference to Midas that convinces me. Half a dozen interpretations of that myth in this context swirl half-realized through my mind in an instant. I’m uncomfortably aware that several of them are not pleasant, but all of them are in some way aesthetic.
I stand carefully. I rest the point of my switch on the ground for balance, make sure to keep most of my weight on my toes, and walk, carefully, gingerly, up from his calves to the top of his thighs. Even moving slowly, this takes less than a minute. I’m out of breath as though it were an hour’s climb up a mountain. He starts to shake, and I step down. He’s sobbing. I gather him up in a spare towel, hushing and holding and stroking his hair. I’m unnerved, a little frightened: I had not meant to make him cry. When I ask if he’s okay he smiles, says “good,” and “thank you, miss,” and snuggles into my arms as though he doesn’t have a care in the world. Within minutes he’s joking and laughing with someone else in the room while he puts his clothes back on. I ask what he was thinking, when he mentioned Midas. He blushes, says that it didn’t mean anything at all, that he was only thinking of my gold shoes.
His fist is part of the pain is part of my shoulder. It lands again and again, knuckles conspiring with scapula to gnash like teeth at the muscles between. He punches the same point over and over, until I lean forward too far, trying to get away, not wanting to get away; until he pulls me back with an arm across my chest, until I lean into his fist again. The air feels too hot around my mouth. I gasp, filling it with curses, inchoate sounds.
He leans in. Asks “okay?” almost too quietly to hear over the music, over the quiet space settling around my mind. Harder, I think. “Good,” I say. He sits back. His fist is part of the pain is part of my shoulder. I hear the beat of music, feel it in the impact followed half a beat later by a fugue of white pain like a tooth cracked in half, nerves exposed. I hear voices, calm, sitting at the same table in matching chairs, hear my own voice curse softly in order not to interrupt their conversation. I move into the half beat between impact and pain.
He moves. Shifts to pummel the left side. Back and forth. Six beats on the right. Four to the left. I slip between. The music isn’t a phenomenon of sound anymore. It becomes the beat, the pain, the image of shoulder blade slicing through a pulp of muscle. I twist, lean forward, wish I were sitting backwards in this chair so that its back could stop me pulling away. His arm across my chest again, coaxing me upright. “Okay?” “Good.” I’m amazed that I can speak, even a monosyllable. Sound and pain and light and pain are blending into one sense that I can only describe obliquely. The surface of the table, the bodies in the room swimming across my vision like the green and violet fringes of a migraine.
His focus moves to the right again. It’s surer on that side, steady and bright and explosive; the silent, impossibly hot flare of a spark in a jar of oxyacetylene. I push myself back, towards him, though for a moment there is no him, only moments of bright impact followed by a welling up of soreness. I focus on breathing. I choose random numbers and convert them to base six. List favorite words beginning with P. Anything to keep my mind clear above the pain. Then his arm moves around me again, and stays there, holding my torso rigid and upright as he punches hard, harder, and I am pulled into it wholly. I try to bite back an unmistakably sexual moan, but my mouth won’t close. I let my head fall back against him, eyes closed. “Okay?” he asks. “Fine.” I know it isn’t the same as good, am not sure how much more I can take.
The impact is lighter now, no less pain but the force of it no longer shakes me from wrist to hip. I think I’m approaching a limit, like I’m surfing a good wave but losing my balance. The point of my scapula burns. It will crack from stress and heat, spill marrow, burst shards through skin. The sounds coming from my mouth are cracked already. His fist moves, not far, from infraspinatous fascia to teres major. I lean back into it and for a moment the fist-is-pain-is-shoulder bites down hard enough that I forget to breathe, only for the length of a hiccup, only until the next blow forces air out and I remember to bring more in after it.
He pulls me back against him. I hear song instead of beat, see objects instead of images. I relax. Sit up straight, rotate my shoulder to feel the damage. He flexes his hand, offers water, talks in low tones. I press the fingers of my left hand under my shoulder blade, twist my body to provide resistance. I hear a frown in his voice. “You okay?”
“Yeah. There’s a crunchy spot.”
“Like a knot?”
“Here?” Two knuckles, pressed against the knot.
“There.” He hits the spot, hard, precise, I don’t know how many times. When I rotate that shoulder again, it moves more smoothly.
A day later he sees a picture of the bruises, looking small and innocuous on top of muscles too sore to carry a purse without wincing. I get a message: “Note to self: SAP gloves and kicking next time…”