by Donna George Storey
I kneel down and he ties the blindfold over my eyes.
Strictly speaking it isn't a blindfold; it's a silk scarf. My brother and his wife gave it to me for Christmas, a pretty thing with a floral design in crimson, deep blue and gold. But when I opened the gift, I was thinking: When will I ever wear this?
But I gave it a try. When we got home, I spent a good fifteen minutes in front of the mirror attempting to knot it into an appealing fashion accessory. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched smugly -- my brother had gotten him some Charlie Parker CD's.
Then I got the idea to wear the scarf as a headband, to keep my bangs off my face. Another failure.
"I can't do anything with this thing. I'm sure it was expensive, too. Do you think they'd get mad if I took it back?"
He walked over. "How about this way?" He pulled the scarf down over my eyes.
I could still see him hazily through the single layer of loose silk. He looked at me for a moment, his head tilted to one side as if he were deciding what to do. Then he kissed me. Hard.
When we finally came up for air, my lips felt tender, a little swollen.
I said, "Now tie it on so I can't see."
That was the beginning. I've lost count of how many times we've done it since then, but it's gotten us through this long winter. Sometimes he blindfolds me. Sometimes I blindfold him. It all depends on who comes up with a new idea. It's never the same. That's our unspoken rule.
Not that it's entirely unpredictable. He seems to prefer that I wear some sort of clothing: one of his shirts or a teddy, something he can eventually slip off me. After more than a year together, it still excites him to uncover my breasts, to weigh them in his hands as if he is touching them for the first time. That's one of the things I like about him.
I prefer him to be completely naked. The first time I blindfolded him, I was the one who was trembling. Although it was my idea that he kneel on the bed wearing nothing but the blindfold, when he actually began to undress with a cool smile, I almost told him to stop. I wasn't sure I really wanted to see his big body so exposed, a band of flowered silk over his eyes with the long, loose ends falling softly down his back. I thought it might somehow diminish him.
I was wrong. I'd never realized how beautiful his body was. Not that I hadn't appreciated it before, but I'd always focused my gaze on his eyes, his expressions. The rest of him I knew better by touch. But now, with his eyes hidden, I could see him with a new clarity: the rich, taut curves of his arms and chest, the hint of soft flesh at his waist that I found oddly pleasing. I noticed that the hair on his belly fanned out more luxuriantly to the left, and by contrast, his right thigh was slightly more muscular, a legacy of his college fencing days. It didn't take long for him to get hard -- it never did when we used the blindfold -- and I got to watch that, the delicate jerking movements of his penis as it rose and thickened, drawn upward by invisible strings which, I imagined, led straight to my hands.
I felt like a thief.
I felt my own desire grow in a completely new way. This time the familiar ache seemed to originate from behind my eyes, from the very sight of him unseeing. Then it seeped downward, bringing a warm flush to my cheeks and neck, making my nipples grow erect. When it finally reached my belly, it pooled there as a sharp, shimmering hunger.
I bent closer to feast, on the smell of him first, the cuminy scent of crotch, sharply male, yet intimate. Intoxicating. I'd never studied a cock so carefully, the web of tiny veins embedded in the skin like red lace, the puckered ridge below the head, as if the flesh had been pinched when it was still fresh and soft. With no eyes glowing down at me, urging me to lick and suck and swallow, I could gaze into that other eye, slit vertically like a cat's, or maybe it was more like a tiny, hairless cunt, what they'd have on Barbie if she were anatomically correct. I pressed my tongue against it, lightly, tasting bitterness and salt, the tang of soap, then took the whole smooth helmet of the head into my mouth.
At last I had the sound of him.
When he decides the game, he often feeds me things. A dish of rice pudding in baby-sized bites. Morsels of praline truffle he pushes through my lips with his tongue. And most often, his cock. I don't know why, but his semen tastes sweeter when I am blindfolded.
Once he slipped a tiny wedge of soft paper between my lips, struck a match, and instructed me to inhale. It was a joint. Where did you get this? I wanted to ask, but I knew I wasn't supposed to talk, so I just lay quietly next to him on the bed and took long drags whenever he held it to my mouth. It must have been good stuff, because soon I was tingling all over just this side of numbness, floating off the bed into the past. It had been years since I'd smoked a joint. I never bought drugs myself. They were always presented to me as an offering from a boy in exchange for what I could offer him in return. So many things had changed since then, but it took me back to a time when I was so dumb about men I might as well have been wearing a blindfold.
It's been a difficult winter for both of us. I knew things weren't going well for him at work, but I didn't realize how upset he was until that day when I came home to find him practicing with his saber.
When we first started going out, he gave me a demonstration of fencing moves. I liked the way he looked in that white jacket, the single leather glove on his right hand, but I wasn't so sure about the wire mesh mask. It made him look like a huge insect. Or an executioner.
"Forget The Three Musketeers," he told me, "what you want to do is keep the blade within an imaginary frame around your body, to move as little as possible and still protect yourself. More important, though, is reading your opponent. It's a game of chess, move and countermove," he said. "And when you get it just right, it's the best feeling in the world."
But as I watched him, so graceful as he advanced and then retreated, it seemed less like a game than a strange and beautiful dance.
This second time, it was different. He wore no mask and his T-shirt was stained with sweat. There was a fierceness in his concentration, his brow furrowed, his lips pale. I don't even think he saw me at first. Again and again he lunged at his imaginary opponent: a feint to the chest, then the quick and fatal strike to the head. I could see the cold satisfaction as he watched the body crumple to the floor. Whoever it was died several times over.
Finally he turned to me. He was too far away to touch me with the blade, but he extended his wrist toward me as if he were pointing me out to some unseen stranger.
I frowned. "Hey, watch out, you could hurt someone with that."
His mouth curved into a slight smile. "That's the idea," he said, tilting the saber back in salute.
I've been having troubles of my own: my father's second heart attack, and talk of surgery. The first time I went to visit, he came with me. As we walked through the corridors, the pallid florescent light and muted antiseptic smell began to make me feel ill, so I reached for his hand, the only warm, real thing in the whole place.
He waited in the hall while I went into the room. My father was sleeping. He looked so old, his body sprouting tubes and wires, his face all creases and shadows. My mother was sitting by the bed staring down at the book on her lap. I glanced back at him, leaning against the wall across from the doorway, arms crossed, gazing straight ahead. His expression was patient, blank. I knew he didn't see me then. I wanted to be where he was -- far, far away -- but my mother pulled me back with her cool lips on my cheek.
When she saw him, she stiffened, but, ever courteous, walked out to greet him. I watched them come together in a brief, guarded embrace, watched his lips move as he said something to her, watched her nod without really looking at him.
I'd known from the beginning that she didn't really approve of him. Does he love you? she asked me once, almost under her breath. I shrugged because that was the only answer I could give.
I wonder if she could have understood if I had told her about the blindfold?
One of my best ideas came from my mother. Going through her sewing box, she pulled out a square of deep red velvet and said, "Remember this? It's from that dress I made you for Christmas when you were -- how old -- eight?" The fabric was soft with age and I instinctively rubbed it over my hand, up over my wrist. It felt especially nice when I ran a velvet-covered finger along the inside of my arm. I was so lost in my sweet memories of that dress, how grown-up and glamorous I felt when I wore it to church on Christmas morning that I didn't realize for several moments that I held in my hand the perfect surprise for our next game.
It was a good one. After I blindfolded him, I had him lie face down on the bed and guess what I was rubbing over his skin: the tip of my nose along his spine, the loose end of the blindfold across his shoulders, my finger in the valley of his ass, my breasts across the back of his knees. I saved the velvet until last and stroked the length of him with it like I was polishing a precious, breakable object. He usually didn't make much noise when we made love, but by the time I was done with the back of him, he was almost mewing. And more than ready to turn over.
I dusted his chest and the discs of his nipples, then forced myself to linger at his belly, soothing the skin in small circles, ignoring the cock that reared and twitched with each new caress. At last I wrapped the velvet around it and began to polish it like a newel post, with careful attention to the glossy knob. It was then I told him about the dress, about how I wore it with white tights and patent leather shoes and had a bow with holly on it in my hair, and about how thrilled I was when all of the adults told me I looked so pretty.
"I'll bet you were cute," he said as I lowered myself onto him and started my slow ride.
So cute, I told him, that even my oldest cousin -- the one I had a crush on, the one who lives in Texas now -- gallantly offered me a turn with his train set. Before I'd always had to beg and whine. But that day, I felt like a princess. And in trying to figure out what was different about it, I had my first inkling that the way to get something from boys is to look pretty. Then they'll do anything for you. "Isn't that true?" I asked him.
"Uh huh," he replied, arching back into the pillow.
Not long after that he asked me to kneel when he put on the blindfold. Then he went on to position my body with his hands, telling me to keep my back straight, my shoulders down, my chin up. He told me not to move, not even to smile. He proceeded to caress me, starting at my cheeks just below the edge of the blindfold. He traced my lips with one fingertip, drew ovals on my chin, brushed my neck and collarbone with feathery strokes. I managed to hold myself still until his hands moved to my breasts. That's when he had to remind me of the rules and rearrange my body in the proper position. He even reprimanded me for breathing too quickly. "Slow, baby, nice and slow," he whispered, smoothing the tension from my lips and jaw until I was quiet.
But then he started up again, rolling my nipples between his fingers like he was fine-tuning a radio, rubbing one breast then the other with a spit-moistened palm. He knew my body. I had my proof then, if there was any doubt before. And all I could do was squeeze my eyes shut tighter and tighter under the blindfold as my cheeks began to burn and a fine sweat rose like lubricant on the skin beneath his hands. Soon my chest was throbbing so violently my ribs ached. By then he'd moved down to my belly, drawing strange shapes that sometimes -- just sometimes -- extended farther down. Then he'd come back to tease my belly button with a wet finger, stroking, circling, slipping softly inside.
All the while my clit was growing heavy and hot. I imagined he could see it, poking out between my lips, flushed scarlet, shameless in its need. When he finally did touch it, I shuddered, earning me another scolding.
"Now, now. Don't you remember? Good girls keep still and quiet while their wet, swollen clits are being rubbed."
By then there was nothing I could do to stop myself from whimpering, Please, oh, please, I think I'm gonna come, but I guess the rules suddenly changed, because he pushed me back on the bed and entered me with an urgency that surprised me, that tiny part of me that was still capable of coherent thought. How could just touching me -- a statue -- excite him so much?
The experience of orgasm in general is something I can easily conjure in my mind, but specific ones elude me. Even when I remember the circumstances of the lovemaking, the things we said and did, the climax blurs into a vague bliss. An ending. But that orgasm is one I still remember in my body, a searing rush of pleasure bursting free, my skull blasted open to the rush of night wind, the chilled fire of the stars. I remember marveling afterwards that we had done it: We had found a way to make each time better than the last.
Of course it couldn't go on forever.
Earlier tonight I convinced him to watch an episode of an English TV series about a king with too many wives, one of my favorite shows as a child. But as I watched it again, I realized there was a lot I didn't remember. The growing sense of doom, the ugly marital quarrels, the political intrigue, the scene where the queen's musician was blinded under torture with a knotted rope. It was altogether too gloomy, so I didn't complain when he started reading something halfway through. I decided to be satisfied he was there with me, idly rubbing my toes with one hand, holding the magazine with the other.
I noticed, however, that he started paying attention again when the queen was imprisoned on trumped up charges of adultery. When it got to the execution scene, he put down the magazine. And so we both watched, transfixed, as the queen glided in, made her poignant farewell speech, knelt down before the block. The lady-in-waiting tied a narrow, snow-white blindfold over the kneeling woman's eyes. In that one moment, before the sword, the actress looked more beautiful than ever, at least those parts of her set off by the blindfold above and the low-cut dress below: her pouting crimson lips, her fragile neck and the swelling of her breasts that rose and fell with each breath. I remembered something else from long ago, my brother and cousins in the back of the station wagon on a hot summer day, talking about that same television show. The only part of interest to them was when the queen "got her head chopped off." At the time, I didn't understand the edge of excitement in their voices.
But now I did.
We turn to each other with identical crooked, tight-lipped smiles.
"So that was your favorite show?"
"Mmm," I reply. "I'd forgotten about that part."
We sit in silence.
Then I say, "What do you think goes through someone's mind at a time like that?"
He thinks, brow furrowed, then shakes his head.
"So what do you want to do now?" I ask.
He shakes his head again. "I don't know. I'm in a weird mood."
I'm well aware that interesting things happen when he is in a weird mood.
I give him a sidelong glance. "Do you want to blindfold me?" I can't remember the last time we made love without it.
He looks at me curiously. "That would be too weird."
"But I want you to. I guess I'm in a weird mood, too." I poke him. "How about it?"
"No," he replies sharply.
"How about 'yes'?" I say, taking up the challenge. I'll overcome his reluctance, make him want to do it. Before we had always glided into the game together, willingly, but I discover that this new element of conflict excites me.
He seems uneasy. "What's with you tonight?"
"What's with me? Who started this blindfold business anyway?"
"You didn't take much convincing, if I remember correctly."
This goes on until I ask, "What are you afraid of?" That's when I know I've won, even before he stalks off to the bedroom and returns with the blindfold balled up in his fist.
"Should I get undressed?" I ask with a coy smile. I am still expecting him to smile back, still waiting for that flicker of desire in his eyes. It's always the last thing I see before the blindfold goes on.
But he just stares at me coldly. I've never seen him quite like this before.
I sit up. "Well, what should I do?"
"Just get down on your fucking knees."
He doesn't seem to be pretending. And I'm not pretending when I jump, when my jaw falls open in surprise. I really am afraid of him. Afraid to meet his eyes. Afraid to breathe.
I stand up and look around the living room for a place to kneel. The coffee table takes up most of the well-worn oval rug, but there is plenty of scarred hardwood floor.
"Can I get a pillow or something?" I attempt another smile.
"Shut up and kneel," he says
So I kneel and he puts on the blindfold.
The floor is hard and cold. I hear the tip-tap of his shoes as he leaves the room. I am alone. At first my mind is racing as I wonder what he could be doing. But then, as I wait in the stillness, with the blindfold on, I begin to feel safe. This darkness is familiar, with its memory and promise of pleasure, of yielding myself to him. The very air seems to press against me, heavy and faintly moist, the boundaries of my body softening with each breath.
Suddenly I hear footsteps behind me, a faint metallic clink. My shoulders tense, the air grows thin. Something very cool and smooth settles on the right side of my neck. In the next instant I realize it is his hand. In a glove. A leather glove. It rests there for a moment, the fingers gripping my throat. The leather grows warm, sucking up the heat of my skin. Then it begins to move, stroking my neck, brushing my cheek. I sigh.
"Do you like this?" His voice sounds far away.
I hesitate, afraid to get the answer wrong. "Yes."
"Then enjoy it while you can. Because after tonight I'll never touch you again."
"What? What do you mean?"
"I mean, this is the last time."
His hand slips away.
"I don't understand. You're leaving me?"
"Don't worry, when it's all over, you won't care."
"What are you going to do?"
His voice is low, mocking as he turns my own words against me, "What are you afraid of?"
I swallow hard.
It is fear, this tightness in my chest, the tingling where my neck curves into my shoulder, the very place a blade would strike.
But he wouldn't really go that far, would he?
Maybe he just enjoys watching me like this, the way my breasts quiver with each gasp and my lips part in an "o" as if I'm about to come. It would be more like him to tease me with the saber, to ease the cool metal up between my thighs so I'm forced to ride it, avoiding the edges with exquisite care. He might even hold it to my neck as he pushes his cock into me and whispers The last time, the last time, the words alone awakening tendrils of pleasure deep inside my cunt. And the ending would be sweet: No slow, gray withering, but a flash of silver behind my eyelids, a crimson flush rolling across my skin, a princess suspended in the prime of her beauty.
"This is part of the game, right?"
At first he doesn't reply. I hear the floorboards creak, another clink of metal. Footsteps circle around to my left and stop somewhere in front of me. Then he snorts, a soft hiss of air. "Don't you see I'm tired of playing your sick games?"
For a moment I am aware of nothing but a coldness spreading up through my chest, down my arms, settling in my fingers as a dull, distant ache.
But suddenly I do see it, hovering against the blindfold: the image of myself as he really sees me now, as he must have seen me all along. A body -- exposed and vulnerable -- but not beautiful, not beloved.
"Why are you doing this to me?" I cry out, half-choking on the words as I collapse to the floor, chest sagging onto my knees. I don't want to cry, not in front of him, not now, so I press my palms over my eyes, but the tears come anyway, stinging as they rise, spilling over into the silk.
Hands grasp my shoulders. I twist away instinctively but they hold me fast, and I begin to feel, through the cloth of my shirt, the warmth of skin, a gentleness in his fingers. Then he pulls me up, murmuring something I can't hear through my own sobs. I struggle to my feet and bury my face in his shoulder. He strokes my back, swaying.
As I cling to him, I say less in accusation than wonder, "You were torturing me."
"Isn't it what you wanted?" he whispers.
"No. I don't think so. I don't know," I say. In truth, I don't think I'd ever really been aware of what I was asking him to do.
"Believe me, I didn't mean to hurt you. I never want to hurt you." His arms tighten around me, squeezing me with a force just short of actual pain.
It is the blindfold that suddenly seems unbearably tight.
"Take it off now. Please?" I could pull it off myself -- it has always been a voluntary bondage -- but I want him to do it. I want him to break the spell.
His hands fumble at the knot. Then he pulls the scarf free.
I look up and see that his eyes are wet, too, like wounds. I lean toward him. He closes his eyes, and so do I, an unthinking act that all lovers do. In that simple darkness we find each other's lips. I want at this moment nothing more than the exquisite, ordinary comfort of his lips against mine.
It is enough.