Associated Market, Fifth Avenue
This is the basement of a grocery store. Two flights up the produce section and all the cranberry juice you could drink in a lifetime, but in the dungeon there is no mixer for my vodka. It’s not that kind of party. I drink it straight, warm, from a plastic cup, and I drink too much. After the first cup my tongue is numb and the rest goes down easy. She, my love, the woman—the girl—I have sheltered with my body every night for years, she is strung up in the corner of the room, crucified by her own will, leather-shackled and naked. Men/women stand, hip-cocked, silicone dicks (dishwasher safe) trapped in cotton briefs not meant for hips so wide. They pretend. Their ringleader whips her, beats her, this one I have kissed and bandaged and bathed, so careful in places where a washcloth is too rough.
I can’t watch, but I can hear. When the floor tilts I sit down and soon beside me is a man. He says his name is Patrick, but that is not his Christian name. He looks like a Julia, a red-headed Julia, red hair that now flocks his still delicate jaw line. The leather straps crisscrossing his chest do not cover the mastectomy scars.
I want to feel jealous, but I only feel alone. We say, “Sex is not love,” but maybe it is. This is not sex. This is not knowing. The leather, the rubber, the latex separates even when they are so close as to be inside, inside her as I have been, up to the wrist. Every time I think, “eviscerate,” but I am too slow. I am too tender. It’s the pain that brings her to the end.
I don’t hear anymore. My cup is empty. There is only Julia’s hand—still a girl’s hand but with hair at the knuckles—pulling my own into his lap. Doctors cannot make penises. They can only take things off, close things up, chemically enhance. He cannot feel my touch, and his body is not reacting to mine. The part of him I touch isn’t even his body. Maybe there is something of him curled inside, something too small to stand on its own. I imagine it: a snail inside this shell, clinging, pink, too sensitive for the light.
My love is on the cross. My underwear and my name are my own. I kiss Julia and later, after I put my finger down my throat, I will still taste his Carmex.
When I leave, I leave alone, stumble the two blocks to our home, all two hundred square feet of it, barely enough to hold the both of us. She will come home hours later, pink and swollen, and she won’t take a shower before she climbs the ladder into our bed. She will smell like sweat, but not her own. My mouth will taste like the positive end of battery, because of the bile, black-green before it hits the water then yellow as it dilutes.
I will try not to touch her, not at first. Her back will be lashed raw and radiating heat. But in what’s left of the night, we will fit together like always, but this time even though I am gentle it will be enough to hurt.