Man in My Closet
The man chained in my closet looks just like a software developer, even when he’s stripped to his socks with a ball gag in his mouth. He’s got horn-rimmed glasses and a cowlick that flops forward when his head lolls. Despite the fact that he’s splayed out in handcuffs like da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, he looks like he’s about to give a lecture on user interfaces. But that’s just conjecture; I don’t actually know what he does when he’s not chained in my closet. He could be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, for all I know. Here, he is known only as dog.
I like the smooth hardness of the whip in my hand, and the meaty thwack of old, dead flesh striking smooth, new flesh. I like the muffled unh he makes into the ball gag. I like the way his butt-cheeks clench when I smack them, and I pretend they are my butt-cheeks, smooth and tight, with red welts rising on them like Braille. I think I’d like to be chained in somebody’s closet, naked and spread, as though I were someone worth debasing.
Today I had lunch with my mom, which means two hours of listening to her prattle about my perfect sister the perfect lawyer and her perfect trust-fund husband. When I get home, I skip my yoga workout and head straight for the leathers.
The pants fit me like skin, with holes cut in all the right places so my body can breathe. I brush green powder across my naked eyelids in bold strokes that cover up the inadequacies lurking there, until my eyes look slanted and catlike. Scarlet lipstick, and I am no longer an unwed daughter pushing thirty-five. I am Mistress.
I open a cabinet in my living room and decide I feel like the paddle today. It’s broad as my hand, oak, and it turns his skin a fetching shade of pink. Gripping the wood, I flick on the bulb of my walk-in closet. Dog, spread against the wall, lowers his head in my presence, blinking as his eyes adjust to the light. We don’t acknowledge each other, our faces impassive, accustomed to our relative positions in this one-bedroom world. A week must seem a lifetime when you’re chained in a closet.
His cuffs unlocked, he drops into position at my feet. I rest one foot on his back, my spike heel digging into his flesh.
“You get your beating early today, dog.” My voice is hard like glass, barely recognizable. When I’m Mistress, I try to channel my mother. It makes me capable of doing things that surprise even me. “I want you to show me how much you like it. Understood?”
He nods, the only form of communication he is permitted.
In the beginning, dog was eager to please. He looked to me constantly for approval while licking my five-inch leather boots or galloping on all fours around my apartment so I could ride him like a horse. He looked to me with a need more naked than his genitals, soft and swinging between his legs, a need that only made me want to whip him harder, to lash the pleading out of his eyes.
It only took me two days.
He hates the paddle. I can tell by the way his body tenses before each stroke. I try to imagine what it feels like, a bigger, spread-out pain compared to the focused sting of the whip. I’ve tested it out on my own thighs before, but it’s not the same when you’re the one in control.
“Show me you like it,” I repeat, bringing the paddle down in swift, even swings. He raises his bottom in the air to meet each one. Sweat trickles down his forehead, drips onto his horn-rimmed glasses. I feel myself relaxing, hypnotized by the rhythmic smacking of the paddle. As for dog, he doesn’t make a sound. Not one.
I’m impressed. Later tonight, I will whip him as a reward.
“Sit up,” I say when I’m done, and he rises to his knees. His glasses have been knocked askew. I take them off, wipe them with a silk handkerchief pulled from my bosom, and gently slide them back in place. His eyes are pale gray, and they’re locked on mine. He doesn’t lower his head, even when I try to stare him down. I should draw blood for that, but I don’t.
Instead, I look away.
I sip wine and watch So You Think You Can Dance while dog eats from a bowl on the kitchen floor. I love watching the dancers move around each other, interlocking and separating like pieces of a constantly shifting puzzle, their arms and bodies meeting with rigid fluidity. When I was a kid, I used to dream of being a ballroom dancer, but once my mother caught wind of that dream she stopped paying for ballet lessons. “You’d better focus on getting into college,” she said. She wanted me to become some sort of professional, the kind who wears two-piece suits and carries a leather briefcase.
At eighteen, I left home and became a stripper, opening my act in a miniskirt, jacket and tie, no blouse. I figured it was a fair compromise.
Dog finishes his dinner and creeps into the living room, positioning himself on his hands and knees so I can rest my feet on his back. I wonder what it’s like to be a piece of furniture, to fulfill a purpose just by being. I envy dog for the way he’s been stripped of pride, stripped of choices, for the way he’s grown comfortable with being nothing.
When my show is over, I think I will make him put on his bit and horse tail. I could use a good ride to clear my thoughts.
I come home from a meeting with the loan officer at my bank and head straight for the vodka. I’ve saved up enough cash for a down payment on a house, but I have no credit or proof of income, a fact he pointed out to me with a condescending smile. I picture him naked and hanging upside-down, picture what I’d like do to him with a paddle and a five-inch needle.
I toss back three shots before I start to feel like Mistress again. Dog is doubled up in the closet, wrists to ankles, suspended from the ceiling. I make artful use of a peacock feather, enjoying the sight of him writhing in mid-air for a while, but the clock is ticking and there’s no point delaying the inevitable. I stick my thumb and forefinger down the bosom of my leather bustier and retrieve a tiny key. His eyes fix on it, a gleam of silver pinched between my fingertips.
“Our contract ends today, dog,” I say, unlocking his feet first and then his hands. “You’re free now.” I save the ball gag for last.
I feel a pang as I watch him stretch a bit, awkward in his new freedom. I’ve never been sorry to see a client go before, but I’m absurdly glad when he kneels at my feet for a final beating, even though he doesn’t have to. I make it extra hard and extra long.
Back in his clothes, a button-down shirt and khaki slacks, he still looks like a software developer. But he seems to fill out his business casual a little better than when he first came here, as if ten days of being splayed out in my closet has stretched him, made him taller. As if clenching from the beatings has built up his muscles.
At the door, he counts out hundred-dollar bills into my hand.
“It doesn’t seem like enough,” he says. “It seems like I should do something more to repay you.”
I look at the bills stacked in my palm. I look at him, larger now in his clothes.
“Actually,” I say, “there is something you can do.”
“Name it,” he says.
I glance toward my closet, where the chains dangle, limp and empty.
“Do you know how to crack a whip?”
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED