For the October issue of Marie Claire, I put on my Louis Theroux hat (sort of) and investigated the booming world of erotica. As part of the feature, I attended an erotic writing class, given by the lovely Rachel Kramer Bussel. After the class, I was asked to write a short story and send it in for her critique. Now, as you know, I’m not an erotica writer and quite frankly, I doff my cap to those who find it easy. It isn’t. It’s dead hard.
You can read all about my adventures in erotica land in Marie Claire (and read my last column while you’re there!) but since space is at a premium, they were only able to print part of my story. So I figured, what the hell, I’d put it up here.
Sorry mum. The following has not been edited. It might not be very good. It is not safe for work, children or anyone who might blush at the use of dirty words. You have been warned…
Two Months and Twenty-Seven Days
I just wanted the day to be over. Not a single second has gone by when I hadn’t had someone peering around my door, wanting something, needing something, demanding attention and now it was almost eight. Eight o’clock on a Friday night and I was still in the office, reviewing proposals and filling in other people’s spreadsheets. Living the dream.
‘Nat, go home.’
His voice made me jump.
‘Joe,’ I breathed out, almost smiling and pressing a hand to my chest. ‘You scared me.’
‘I wouldn’t be able to scare you if you weren’t here,’ Joe shrugged on his jacket and shook his head. ‘If I’m leaving, you’re leaving. I’m the boss, right?’
‘You’re the boss,’ I agreed with a sigh. As pissed as I was at still being in work on a Friday night, what point was there in leaving? A quick glance at my silent phone told me what I already knew, that all my friends have already given up on me for the evening. They were out drinking cocktails while I was on my fifth cup of coffee checking for typos from people who should know better. Joe was still standing in the doorway, half a smile on his face, dark hair mussed up by his own busy day and his red tie loosened, declaring the day done.
‘So leave,’ he ordered. ‘I’ll see you Monday.’
‘Monday,’ I acknowledged him with a nod, flicking off my monitor and closing my eyes. When I opened them, Joe was gone.
It felt strange to stand in my heels while I waited for the elevator, I’d been sitting for so long. Did I even eat lunch today? I did know I’d had way too much coffee, my nails couldn’t stop tapping against the smooth glass screen of my iPhone. I almost jumped out of my skin when it buzzed into life in my hand. But that was nothing compared to the reaction I had when I saw his name in bold type, lighting up the screen. I reached a hand up to my hair, smoothing it down as though he could see me and felt my heartbeat pick up. Somehow, I forced myself to breathe out through my mouth, pushing the air out through my lips as slowly as I could. Then I opened the message.
‘I’m at The Standard. Room 1720. Be here in thirty minutes.’
Nothing on earth could steady my pulse after that.
It had been months since I’ve had one of these messages. Months of sleepless nights spent staring at my phone, willing it to ring. At first I thought he was punishing me, just making me wait just like he had done so many time before but then a month passed with no communication at all. Soon it was two months. In four days time, it would be three. The tension in my shoulders melted away, trickling down my spine until it settled between my legs. I checked my watch and pressed my lips together. I had thirty minutes to get to The Standard.
There was no hope of a cab at this time and so I was forced onto the subway. Down, down, down, every second that passed ticking louder and louder inside my head. I snagged the last seat on the L train, the creepy old guy pressed up against my bare legs doing nothing to calm the shivers running along my skin. The train lurched into life and then we were moving. I was on my way to meet him at last. Even though I knew exactly what time it was, I took out my phone to check at every single stop and reread his message over and over. It had been so long, I’d almost given up. Almost. My eyes fixed themselves somewhere in the middle distance while my mind scrolled through an instant replay of our last encounter. It had been a Sunday afternoon, I was at brunch with my girlfriends when the message came and ordered me around to his place in twenty minutes. I’d found it more difficult than it needed to be to excuse myself but I couldn’t tell them where I was going, they would want details, they would want to know things I didn’t want to tell. Keeping him a secret was the only control I had over this. My fingertips tingled with the memory of climbing the stairs to his apartment on unsteady legs, knocking on his door, the look on his face when he opened it to me.
‘Hi,’ I had whispered. He didn’t say anything. Instead, he pulled me in through the door, slammed it shut and pushed me up against it. Hard and without words. Before I could understand anything other than his mouth on mine, I felt his hot hands against my skin, my underwear slipped to the floor and he was inside me. It was only when I heard the mechanical voice of the L train announce our arrival at 8th avenue that I realised I was shaking.
I cleared my throat as I stood up to get off the train and clutched my bag around me, protection against the bustling crowds around me. I was so on edge I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone touching me but him. I didn’t know if I could stand it. The hotel was a short walk away, if I hurried, I should be on time. He would be pleased. Catching the eyes of beautiful women on the street, I forced myself not to worry about my outfit, my make up, my choice of lingerie. I knew none of it would matter and besides, I was as well put together as I ever was. Ever since the messages had started, almost a year ago, I had started to take a little more care of myself, just in case.
The first time, I’d had more warning. Technically, it had been a date. At least, we’d arranged to meet in a public setting and we’d manage to order two drinks before his hand reached across the table to mine and he suggested we go back to his place. All the good advice I’d ever listened to was forgotten. He was so beautiful, all dark hair, dark eyes and easy laughter. I remembered nodding. I hadn’t even said yes, just nodded, and fifteen minutes later, we were fucking on his kitchen table. After that, it all became so simple. An email, a text. Never a phone call. Always a time and a place. Sometimes instructions. Occasionally a photograph. It was addictive. But then it had all stopped, so suddenly, and I didn’t know what to do. He ignored my messages so I stopped sending them. Instead, I lay awake at night, imagining his hands on me, pretending it was his tongue I could feel and not my fingers. It had been a long three months. Two months and twenty-seven days.
I listened to the sound of my heels clicking down the sidewalk, keeping time with my pounding heartbeat and ragged breathing. I knew this was a bad idea, what good could come of it? What if he wasn’t there? Or even worse, what if he was and then I didn’t hear from him again for another three months. Or six months. Or a year. I shouldn’t be at his beck and call this way, I shouldn’t be dropping all my non-existent plans to meet him at a hotel thirty minutes after he deigned to text me when he’d left me hanging for three long months. Or two months and twenty-seven days. I should make him wait. I should go home.
But the memory of his breath on the back of my neck, the sting of his palm, the sound of his voice when he had taken away all of my other senses… I checked my phone one last time and kept walking. I was two minutes late. He would not be pleased. The elevators in the hotel teased me by adding moments to my journey. Dragging out the last few seconds by blinking numbers above my head but never quite making it to the ground floor. It had only been half an hour since I left the office but it felt much longer. Almost three months longer. I only had to keep it together for a couple more minutes, I reminded myself. And wasn’t that what I did every day? Keep it together? Answer people’s questions, solve their problems, make things better? Not with him. He was the only part of my life that was out of control. Completely and blissfully chaotic. The elevator finally chimed its arrival and I stepped inside, avoiding my flushed reflection in the mirror. I never quite recognised myself when I was with him.
I stood in front of room 1720 and swallowed, my mouth was too dry, my face was too hot, my legs were too weak. It was eight-thirty three. I was late. There would be trouble. But there was no turning back now, I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to. And I didn’t want to. I wanted something else. Instead of turning on my heel and running for the hills, I raised a tentative hand and knocked gently, counting down from ten until I heard the handle rattle and the wood creak.
‘Hi,’ I whispered.
He stood between me and the door, his face like thunder.
‘You’re late,’ he said.
‘I know,’ I replied. ‘The trains-’
‘Fuck the trains,’ he held out his hand and pulled me inside. ‘Next time I tell you to leave the office, you leave. Yes?’
‘Yes,’ I let him push me back onto the bed, catching my breath as I fell.
‘Yes what?’ Joe asked, pulling off his loosened tie and trapping my wrists in his hands.
As he tightened the fabric around me, I felt the worries of the day slip away. Two months and twenty-seven days vanished. Everything disappeared but him. I smiled.