You are not interested in more pain. No cutting, no corsets, no daylong hangovers, no S&M. You are interested in numbing, a little, in what two glasses of wine does to your lips, in taking a sleeping pill, in putting your head underwater. Ice, scar tissue, that kind of thing.
You’ve had enough pain so far in your life. Surgeries, tumors, long nights of sweaty tremor. Your children are not yet a possibility, and though their promise glimmers like a beacon in the night sea, you have yet to understand that they will be real one day.
Mostly you are interested in feeling good. Pleasure. The opposite of pain. Your friends tease you for your weekly massages, acupuncture, your extravagant meals, your long walks, your slow dancing. But that is only part of it.
When Lou first gives you the slip of paper, you don’t know he knows this about you. Not yet anyway.
“Here,” he says, “You’d like this, I think.”
“What is it?” you ask, reading his scraggly handwriting, an address, off Smith Street, ten blocks from your home.
“Just go, if you trust me,” he answers.
And you do, so you go.
It’s July in the city and as you walk along the steamy sidewalk, your sandals catch on a wad of melted gum.
It isn’t late when you arrive at the address, but it isn’t early either. The old couples that just wanted dinner are getting out of the way of the new ones who will want more.
When you get to the door, there is no sign.
“Hello?” you call.
You step in, making your way down the steps of what appears to be a regular garden apartment.
It’s dark. Someone takes your hand. You follow, saying to yourself: I trust Lou, I trust Lou.
Through the door it is darker, and someone whispers dryly in your ear: We are here.
You can’t see them, but you feel them lift your dress up off over your head. For a second you are startled, and then ashamed, but you realize they can’t see you, they only feel you. And for some reason you let them.
Are you ok? Another voice asks. You nod. You trust Lou.
Someone cups your breast, someone strokes your cheek, someone, maybe someone else, or maybe the first person, traces a feather lightly up and down your inner thighs.
You are spun around, kissed gently, kissed less gently. You tilt your head back, exposing your neck, the wishbone scar on full display in the dark. Someone traces it with their finger, kisses its beginning and its end. You keep your eyes closed. The soft scent of oranges glides by you, and is gone.
When you leave, you take your sandals off and walk along the warm concrete. After a while you move to the yellow painted curb, smooth like silk and sky.
When you have your children, years later, nurses huddle around you in the stark white light of the operating room, arranging things, brushing up against you, holding your hand. Both of those times remind you of the swarm of that night. And though you are naked, you feel much less exposed.