Slaves of Batailles
by Gina Frangello

 
 

I. Childhood of a Sadist, reconstructed:
You left me with this dream you son of a bitch, where I'm sitting in a theater alone. Knowing I am trapped but not really trying to leave, isn't that just like me? Then in comes Bataille looking exactly and nothing like himself, and he starts talking up in front where the screen should be. He's saying, "And I will assert the validity of this without proving it right now, which I will do systematically later, and naturally my assertion will turn out to have been correct." I start to laugh, I can even hear myself do it in my sleep, but he gives me a very stern look and says, "Furthermore I am not able to supply a definition of abuse at this time, and do not believe that I should be required to do so." And I'm thinking, Violence, it's violence, get the quote right, because I remember that page, the chapter titled "Affinities Between Reproduction and Death," and somehow this is about me because I'm pretty sure good ole G.B. never used the word "abuse" in his life. It feels like you should be a (wait, that was a Freudian slip, I meant to write, "It feels like it should be a . . .") joke, like something we'd have talked about, the way he went around in circles and never cut to the chase, but you don't come in, and there is no one else there to laugh. So I think I may be stuck here forever, bastard, because even when I wake up, the sense of something hanging, unfinished and unsaid, doesn't go away.

It took two and a half months for you to tell me jack shit, but after the first time you whipped me you told me everything at once. I wasn't even sure I wanted to hear it, two-day-old welts scabbing over on my ass, but it was like some long-solid dam of pent-up family history came breaking out of you like blood. So I can see it clearly, it's Boston I'm talking about now, the house you lived in until you were eleven. Some big fucking Hollywood set of Irish people swarming around like extras, all wearing caps and suspenders as if you lived in bloody 1910 or something, that's how I see them in my mind. Your family. Mother with the long dark hair you described and blue eyes that sometimes changed colors like yours. Only they'd be kind and terminally (no pun intended) maternal, not cold as a snake's. But wait, I'm trying to get the image right, get her out of these ridiculous Victorian clothes. It was 1961 when your father got that professorship in Michigan, and you piled up in the blue Chevy, said good-bye to your eight hundred cousins and aunts in Boston and left. The beginning of the end of your family, you said. But you didn't know that then, you're only pretending you did. Probably you were excited to be leaving those crowded streets, to get away from all the people, because you don't like people very well and I can't believe you did even then. It was 1961. Who knew how fucked up the nuclear family would turn out to be, how the future of America was being annihilated every time some dumb kid waved good-bye to Grandma, left her sitting on the front porch of her "ever-since-I-got-off-the-boat" family home? It was 1961, and I wasn't even born yet. Hell, who knew anything then?

CRUELTY AND EROTICISM ARE CONSCIOUS INTENTIONS IN A MIND WHICH HAS RESOLVED TO TRESPASS INTO A FORBIDDEN FIELD OF BEHAVIOUR.

You were probably a rotten little boy. Sure, now you try to act like you were some quiet little book worm, but no one who played racquetball (and fucked) like you did at the age of forty-two could possibly be telling the truth about that. It's just part of this image you have of yourself as introverted, isolated, unable to connect. Yeah, you're real tragic driving around in your slick little car (black, of course), making your hundreds of thousands a year taking other, even richer men to court. I'll bet you've never even screwed a woman with graying hair, except maybe your wife, but if she's got it she dyes it, I'm sure. So screw that image of you sitting there reading Fitzgerald, that's not what got some nun beating your ass, that's for sure. What had you done, really? Maybe dipped some girl's pigtails in an ink well, okay maybe not, you're not that old. Let's say you punched your brother, you admit you were always doing that. The smell of decaying wood was everywhere around your Boston school, a sharp contrast to the sterile smell of new carpet you'd later inhale in Utopia, I mean Ann Arbor. You breathed the rotten wood in deep as you climbed to the second floor and waited in the principle's office, your little cock hard in anticipation of being punished, hey, everything gives you a hard-on, and you were probably even worse then.

Later, your mother made you take down your pants and show her. You were embarrassed; you were nine and didn't like to get naked in front of girls. Your eight-year-old brother was dancing around in the dimly lit hallway outside your grandma's bedroom door, doing an Indian-yell of victory because you got hit. Your mother touched the marks, and her concern somehow made you more ashamed than being turned over the desk and beaten had. She said, The nuns care about you, they're only trying to teach you right from wrong, and you were relieved cause you were scared she'd go to school and make a scene. But later, in your bed, you worried it meant she didn't really love you if she could let other people hit you and then say it was their right. You even asked your brother, already well-acquainted with the Sister's paddle, if he thought it was true, and he looked at you like you were really dumb, like you'd forgotten for one minute that you were older and never asked his advice. But he didn't know the answer, so you figured it was God. That your mother was close to God and He must have wanted you to get your ass whipped because you were bad.

You developed a fear of Hell.

Sure, you say that now, but face it, it wasn't an entirely unattractive fear. Because after that first time, you started getting paddled a lot more often, waiting in a line of four or five naughty boys outside the principle's office with a rush of adrenaline running through your body. Listening to the other boys yell in pain made something tingle in you, and you wanted to be able to watch, but the possessive bitch always closed the door. When it was your turn, though, the idea of some other little asshole out in the hall getting hard because of you made you sick, and you never let out a sound no matter how hard she hit you, even when it was enough to make tears run down your face. You wiped them up before you'd leave the office, and pretty soon when you showed up again she'd tease you, say she bet she could make you holler this time. You wanted to kill her for having such a good memory, shit, didn't a bunch of little boys in light blue shirts and polyester pants all look the same? Oh, but not you, you must have been beautiful even then. And what kind of woman commits herself to a life of celibacy anyway, they've got to all be a bunch of closet perverts, right? Later you'd say that nuns and priests are the people in society most allured by transgression, that they pledge their lives to erotic rituals sanctioned by the church, rituals of pain and sacrifice that both center on and transcend the flesh. But then you were just wiping up your baby tears and runny nose, signing your name to the paddle the way you always had to when she was done beating you. She had about thirty of them in a corner, varnished wood, full of all the names of boys whose cheeks she'd made aflame. Boys she'd deflowered, in a way.

By the time you were ten you'd signed your name about twenty times. Had started masturbating while thinking of the girls on your block bent over the nun's knee and screaming in their little girl whines. In the back alleys of Boston, bony Catholic kids, freshly changed out of their school uniforms, congregated and had mock trials. The convicted had to go through spanking machines, and if it was a particularly brutal summer day, when the heat was so oppressive that the dogs curled up behind garbage cans looking for some shade, the victim had to pull his pants down first. Girls got to watch. Couldn't hit; it was a sin to touch a boy's bare ass. You noticed how some girls looked away if the boy started to cry, and others got a twitch in their hips under their skirts, like it was all they could do not join in. Those girls you and your brother started inviting over when your mother had one of her headaches and was holed up in her room. You played quietly in the living room, one of you standing guard. No dry, Protestant games of doctor for you: you played "Mean Teacher." One of you got to be the teacher, and the girls were the students who had been bad. You turned them over your knees and pulled up their skirts (not their underpants, you didn't want to go to Hell) and hit as hard as you could without them yelling. In a year you'd have found an empty storage room in the basement that you could access from an outside window, and there you could listen to their grunts in peace, not worrying you'd disturb your mother.

One time you and your brother took turns on one girl and got so aroused that you pulled her pants down and hit her until her ass turned red, and she got so scared she pissed all over you. She ran home crying and told her mother what you'd done, and her mother marched to your house and told your mother, who was listening to Mahler with the sound turned low and crocheting. You ran to your room and hid your face, so ashamed to have your mother know how evil you were that you prayed God would just take you then before it could get worse. But instead He only sent your father, who lectured you about how you must never hit girls, not even mentioning the pulling down the pants thing or the nature of the game, not getting it at all. And he grounded you instead of hit you, and then you and your brother had no one to torture except each other.

Which, although you would develop quite an affinity for it later, at the time wasn't as good.

In the dream, Bataille has an extended phallus protruding from his three-piece suit. He carries a pocket watch, keeps staring at it, saying, Hurry up, we're running out of time. In the audience, full now, I raise my hand and ask, So is death as sexy as you thought it would be? But before he can answer, tell me whether his flesh being eaten by maggots underground turns him on, he has turned into Kathy Acker's B., and I'm going, Shit, not you again. Then the theater is transformed to a cocktail party at which Kathy herself is present, a razor slash across one eye. She is walking around just saying the word Cunt over and over to herself like a mantra, a prayer. If I were a disciple, I'd draw a hairy penis now, keep it in the text, but that was 1978 when it was hip to be vulgar because the average person still thought sex was dirty but had a lot of it anyway.

Now the average person thinks it's healthy to want to fuck a lot, just dirty to actually do it cause it could give you AIDS.

ON A COMPREHENSIVE VIEW, HUMAN LIFE STRIVES TOWARDS PRODIGALITY TO THE POINT OF ANGUISH, TO THE POINT WHERE THE ANGUISH BECOMES UNBEARABLE. THE REST IS MERE MORALISING CHATTER.

Maybe it really was awful for you, leaving Boston. After all, I've never had any kind of large, extended family or support system, so what would I know? You say your mother was happy there, that she still played piano in the house while your father was out TAing classes and finishing his Ph.D. The rest of the family (hers) thought he was crazy, a freak, studying so much and spending all his time on campus. Mother stayed inside and practiced, but when he came home, she rushed to the kitchen to cook. Her sisters cleared out of the house when he returned, too, scurried to their own apartments down the street. Grandma went into her room and shut the door. For the rest of the night he dominated the house with his silent, judging presence. Grilled you and your brother on your performance in school, insisted that once he got a job out of "this accursed city" you'd leave Catholic school, would be an altar boy only over his dead body.

Your father mockingly referred to your neighbors as "the masses," hated living on the small stipend that kept him trapped on your mother's matriarchal block. It was a street full of the sounds of chattering women, of music. You sided up to your mother while her sisters were over, listening to her practice, to them gossiping in the background. Their high, loud voices saying, Mary, stop for a minute, listen to what happened at the Kavanaugh's last night. Sometimes they said, Ryan is a solemn, distant man. Don't let him take you and the kids away from here or you'll never have company again. But always your mother laughed and said, You only see one side of him, you don't understand at all.

You never believed your father that you would someday leave, or even that he would ever finish school. He had been a student for as long as you could remember. When he actually got a position at Michigan and you moved, the world instantly became a disturbingly anonymous sphere. The new house was spacious; you and your brother each got your own room. But there were no children playing on the street, no kids-only places to escape the silence at night when your father came home. And at school there was no danger, no seventh grade teacher who was rumored to beat her students with the Bible when they were bad, no girls who were willing to climb through a narrow window to a basement room and pull down their pants. The classrooms were carpeted, and there was what was known as a tracking system. You were grouped with a bunch of nerds, while your brother had classes with the kids who didn't do their work and mouthed off. Of course even they'd have been the best-behaved children in the school back in Boston. The teachers had master's degrees instead of habits-your father was thrilled. No praying at school, no religion book describing the fourteen Ways of the Cross and how guilty you should feel. At church everything was bland and wooden. No stained glass depiction of Jesus being whipped, no red paint made to look like blood on the hands and feet of a flesh-colored statue crucified alongside the alter. It was a world without shame, without fear of divine retribution or even the immediate threat of physical pain. No urgency, no forbidden fruit. A world that believed in perfection, black and white dichotomies, existence without shades of gray. Practical. Sterile. Dull.

So let's talk men for a moment. Men and the desire for chaos and pain. Now, I hope you'll excuse this politically correct generalization, but it seems to me pretty much a phenomenon of privilege to sit around all day glorifying anguish. That the bullshit about Dionysus affirming life by being torn to shreds is easy to swallow if the closest you've ever come to being ripped apart is a titillating jaunt to the principal's office (or, shall we say, spending your youth at Schulpforta and your young adulthood being lauded by the big dicks of Leipzig?) How quaint to speak of the nobleman (oh, sorry, was that two words?) loving his enemies, of villains in whom there is nothing to despise but ever so much to honor. I guess old Friedrich wasn't referring to the guy I met in Camden Town last month, the one who didn't own a toothbrush and forced my thighs apart with a sweaty, bristly knee, who kept me pinned beneath him on a stained mattress in his squat until after the sun was up, then tried to kiss me good-bye at the door. Of course maybe I just wasn't looking hard enough, you know I always jump to snap conclusions about people. For example, maybe once he had wanted to chop his mum up to bits for burning the cheese on toast, but refrained. And weren't you always the first to tell me how my father really wasn't such a bad guy either, was just over-protective? But then you never had the fortune of seeing him purple in the face, dripping scotch-stinky sweat onto my skin. I hate to disappoint you, but he didn't look real honorable then.

I wish I could get this ex-Catholic, ex-hippie code of yours, though. Wish I understood why sometime in the sixties you turned your back on a martyr God who causes the hearts of old women in babushkas to race with longing for a purity they will never reach, in favor of a sacrificed, ancient god of pleasure who makes the minds of intellectuals race with images of a frenzy they will never dare attain. And was it a token of love that you not only wished me suffering, illness, betrayals, humiliations, but offered them by your own hand? I was glad not to take your pity, glad you never offered, considered it a compliment of the highest rite. You really struck gold with me, didn't you? A disciple without even knowing it, I let you purify my sins by fire, worshipped at the feet of your philosopher gods by instinct alone. Only it was the despicable that bound us; you were not that noble man. And me, I was exempt from honor altogether. I was not a man at all.

In Ann Arbor, your mother went to church every Sunday at first, made you and your brother go too. But the intellectual deacons who attempted to reach out to her were all affiliated with the university, liberals who made her nervous. The church was politically active, talked about segregation, Vietnam instead of repentance and sin. By the time you were fourteen, she'd stopped going altogether. Though her penchant for the piano had caused relatives at home to view her as special, in Ann Arbor she was an outsider: an Irish girl with a thick Boston accent and no college education. Your father tried to get her to go back to school, but she was too intimidated. Her headaches grew worse. The doctors said it was all in her mind.

You were in love with your mother, of course. Oedipus had nothing on you. She could do no wrong, while your father was a cold tyrant in your eyes, though you never in seventeen years of living at home heard him raise his voice. Every girl you dated seemed a pale comparison to Saint Mary, with her porcelain skin and kind, changing eyes. They were too content, the girls in Ann Arbor, not tough and guilty like the Catholic girls in Boston, not soulful and depressed like your mother. Even when you kissed them, felt their soft breasts under their sweaters on dates, they seemed devoid of mystery. Those flat chested girls from home with their scabby knees seemed infinitely sexier, and the thought of the women they were blossoming into was enough to drive you mad. But when you fucked your first girl at sixteen, you discovered a thrill not unlike pissing on a picture of a queen. Her straight, pale hair and chiseled features, her floral skirts and delicate beads, all being pushed, contorted, violated. She was in your year at school, a straight A student, secretary of the senior class. An idealist, she wanted to go down South over the summer and work for integration. Once you'd had her a few times, you started to test her: made her take off all her clothes and spread her legs before you'd kiss her, stuck your finger up her asshole once and wouldn't take it out until she begged. Since you knew you were being a jerk, you kept expecting her to dump you, but she didn't. Maybe she was afraid she wouldn't find another date for prom, or maybe she considered it a learning experience being humiliated, who knew? You were planning to break up with her before her birthday so you wouldn't have to buy her a present; your brother thought that would be a waste of money and you agreed. It was getting dull anyway, screwing someone who didn't get the game. Her blushes when you pushed her down on her knees were getting old. She was no good anyway, dragged her teeth, and no matter what you did to her she never came. You little neophyte, you couldn't even grow a beard, though you were trying to be Kerouac or Dylan, and you'd read about female orgasm but never seen one in the act. The thought obsessed you more than the possibility of being beaten with the Bible had once. The biggest question of your life was: why waste your time with a prissy little bitch who can't come?

Except then suddenly your mother got one big headache that wouldn't go away. That turned out to be a brain tumor and killed her fast, lying in a hospital bed with her sisters flown in from Boston praying around her like a gaggle of would-be nuns who were just too pretty for men to let get away unfucked. Your brother wouldn't set foot in the hospital, spent all his time with his friends like it wasn't happening. Your father too was useless, wandered the halls silently, unable to speak or offer comfort while she wept from the drugs, said she was afraid of going to Hell for having abandoned the church. You sat next to her in a vigil, would not let go of her hand. Whispered things to her that your three aunts (who you had come to refer to as "the witches of MacBeth") couldn't hear, God will be lucky to get you, don't be afraid, it will be beautiful, better than here. She held onto your hand so tight that you knew when her strength was waning, when her last breath was coming just by the slow measure with which she let go. But you still held her fingers until they started to grow cold before you let the nurses make you leave, got up to find your aunts and tell them. It was four a.m. on the dot when she died, thereafter always the hour you most hated to be awake, the one you never again slept through sober. You kept asking God to please take her, don't let her have been right, please take her someplace nice where everyone will treat her better than they did here. But it was hypocrisy since you didn't believe in God anymore anyway, had spent the past two years scoffing to your friends about your religious past and reading atheist manifestos. If He were punitive, your prayers might have done more harm than good.

Really, like any God you could fathom was gonna listen to a perverted, disrespectful little fuck like you.

II. Exorcism (aborted):
So maybe it's after the fact, but by the way, I read all those books you used to talk about. From what you've indicated, you were almost my age when you used to read them, and boy were you dumb. Oh, sure, I understand that people weren't very bright in general then, I mean, these were the days when The Brady Bunch was taken seriously rather than considered camp, but come on, you supposedly have an I.Q. well over 150 and I would have expected a little more from you.

When Bataille's Erotism came out in English, you were only twelve years old. You read it in college, the same time you were reading all that Existentialist shit where every page starts out with some sentence like, Today was a very bad day. I guess I can understand, you were just a repressed little recovering altar boy with no one but rosy-cheeked ex-cheerleaders-turned-hippies to fuck, and after your mother died, death was kind of a big deal to you. But give me a break, that shit about prostitution could have been written on crack. I mean, I quote:

A man cannot usually feel that a law is violated in his own person and that is why he expects a woman to feel confused, even if she only pretends to do so; otherwise he would be unaware of any violation. Shame, real or pretended, is a woman's way of accepting the taboo that makes a human being [my italics, not his, he said this with a straight face] out of her. The time comes when she must break the taboo, but then she has to signify by being ashamed that the taboo is not forgotten, that the infringement takes place in spite of the taboo, in full consciousness of the taboo. Shame only disappears entirely in the lowest form of prostitution.

Now I apologize for sounding like a student here, but fuck you, that's exactly what I should be, and I have to ask how you could have swallowed this crap when you spent your entire childhood in complete fascination with your own shame, your own violation at the hands of an ugly, Italian nun, and the similar debasement of other boys. Weren't we women only an afterthought for you? So why did I end up having to be your barometer, your gage of what was humiliating, walking some sick line between the base prostitutes of your wet dreams and your prissy W.A.S.P. wife and high school back-of-your-car fucks? And when G.B. walked into my dreams waving his testosterone stick all over the place, I thought of you thinking of literature as religion's heir, and wonder if you fancied me and my stories as some Christ figure you could put on the cross and still call yourself an atheist and not feel like Marx would spit on you if he met you on the street. But he would anyway, wouldn't he, since if I can be like Jesus, I can also be the poor worker you're exploiting with your fat wallet and fast car and male privilege, and don't try to reduce me you son of a bitch cause there's always another side, you know that, you taught it to me. And you'll never read this because if we ever meet again, I'll be too busy trying to have no shame, trying not to be human, but I am, and just thinking about you accidentally when I'm out, about what we did, makes me have to turn around and go home, embarrassed to be seen by anyone on the street, afraid they can smell it on me, that I am a whore.

What is this shame worth, though, if once I'm home I always come for you, even though you can no longer see? And did you ever wonder what your mother thought looking down (or up? Hey, that's your trip, not mine) while you let my blood run down in a screaming sacrifice to your own demon guilt? Now that you are gone, and it's me spilling my own blood in the sink, is it her eyes that make me ashamed, keep me human? Is she watching me still?

THE URGE TOWARDS LOVE, PUSHED TO ITS LIMIT, IS AN URGE TOWARDS DEATH

A family falls apart quickly. Following Mary's death, the three of you could barely look at each other, your father ashamed of his neglect of her, overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with his children alone. You and your brother avoided him as much as possible, hated each other too for your respective family roles. It was the beginning of your life as a loner, and you embraced it as much as you could anything at that time. You even swore off sex for awhile. After all, everyone knows any philosopher worth his weight never gets laid.

Fancying yourself the next Heidegger, that lasted for some time. But the celibacy part, not long. In college, then law school, you went through a series of girlfriends, all of them just long term enough for you to end up hating each other. They'd call you weird, tell their friends how you wanted to tie them up, pressured them into a sordid menage trois with your roommate. You thought it funny, how these things never seemed to bother them until after they'd been dumped. Truthfully, provided you weren't bullshitting me (and let's remember honesty is about your only virtue left), listening to your stories made being a woman almost embarrassing. I'd blush for those idiot girls if only I knew how. If I hadn't been one of them too.

It wasn't until your late twenties, though, that you actually hit a woman. Hey, it's not like you run across such opportunities everyday. Your wife (and mistresses) didn't get off on being bloodied by your belt, and you had no compulsion to beat anyone against their will. Only with a calculated cruelty that had nothing to do with rage and everything to do with control. You knew from the first time that nun made you walk to the corner of her office and get the paddle, then sign your name after she made you cry, that the civilized, voluntary nature of it was what was most degrading. To make your pain feel like a deal in which you were an active, willing participant. To give you a sense of collusion with the hand that left the bruises that had you sleeping on your stomach for days.

You must have thought you'd found Mecca when I walked to your closet and handed you (okay, threw at you) your belt, got down on my hands and knees without your having to push me, tie me. So much better than your first Masochist Mistress who wanted you to force her. Cause you don't want force, you want assistance. Like the girls who walked into that coffin-like box during your magic acts in high school, you needed me to want it, to help you saw me in two. Maybe you dreamt for years of someone who would orchestrate her own destruction, none of that accidental shit you went through with Mom. No, the next time somebody dies, it will be clean as a laboratory, unthreatening as a Physics experiment. That's right, baby, all under your control.

So could I really be so pathetic? That after burning my first Psych book at eighteen, I would end up with a Freudian nightmare like you? Or is it just my own projection that you spent twenty-five years trying to lose something as valuable as her, and you thought it could be me? You told me things, but in the end I know only this: triages of sevens, holy numbers to your unholy sacrifices. At twenty-seven you whipped a married woman with a Biblical name until she bawled like a baby and begged you never to leave her (which, of course, you did, for your wife.) At thirty-five you visited your first S&M bar, and while said wife was home singing lullabies, you were watching women get chained to a stone wall and tortured. (Then went to a hotel and made your lover du jour get down on her knees and present her ass for you to fuck, and she cried, and you got impatient and never saw her again, you cold bastard.) At forty-two you described both incidents to me while I was bleeding from your teeth, burnt from your candles, still cuffed to your apartment-in-the-city bed.

Oh, but I loved those stories. You weren't even touching me when you told them, and I swear I almost came.

ECSTASY BEGINS WHERE HORROR IS SLOUGHED OFF

"That struggle and inequality are present even in beauty, and also war for power and more power . . . How divinely vault and arches break through each other in a wrestling match; how they strive against each other with light and shade, the godlike strivers-with such assurance and beauty let us be enemies too, my friends! Let us strive against one another like gods."

Thus spoke Nietzsche, D(ead)WM, the same source of such pearls of wisdom as: "The happiness of man is: I will. The happiness of woman is: he wills." And don't forget: "Let man fear woman when she loves: for then she makes any sacrifice and everything else seems without value to her. Let man fear woman when she hates: for deep down in his soul man is merely evil, while woman is bad." Wait, didn't my father say that? To think all the time I was lying there with his dick up me, I had no clue he was teaching philosophy. Tragic, all the knowledge I could have acquired if I hadn't been so damned busy crying. Little girls, I swear they'll get hysterical at the drop of a hat.

Okay, I know you'll say that now I'm quoting from your guru's most simplistic text. But it was your copy I borrowed way back when, in the margins the markings you'd made at twenty, parentheses around the passages you liked, comments written in your nearly illegible, left-handed scrawl. Around the line, "You are going to women? Do not forget the whip!" you simply drew a bracket, wrote, Funny. Then, in a different pen, the style of your handwriting more current, you wrote (to me, to see if I would find it?): Figuratively bullshit, but literally true.

At least you never liked Sade. I guess he's too blatant for your oh-so-subtle, urbane sense of decorum. If the word "bugger" ever passed your lips, I'd have pissed myself laughing. All that vulgarity splayed out in an almost anti-erotic spectacle: you claim you never made it past page one hundred in Justine. But when your buddy Bataille wrote about the Marquis, he made it sound good. Right up your alley in fact. Like all that pomp and circumstance of feces and cum was merely the assertion that tenderness is completely divorced from the interplay between eroticism and death. It all seemed to flow together, to be part of some divine order. Not just some lonely pratt in a jail cell trying to vent his anger and get off.

So tell me the truth. Is that why you never held me afterwards? Why you'd sit and watch me try so hard not to cry I thought my chest would explode? If I looked up you'd be half-smiling, your eyes always gray after a torture scene, intent on me. I felt so naked I thought my skin had been turned inside out, that you could look up every hole and see the secret, ugly self that only my father had seen. There were times I thought I'd die, start weeping and never stop if you did not come take me in your arms, make it somehow okay that I'd let you do what you'd done, show me that you were the same person I sat up all night with talking to about books, ideas, while you sipped tea and rubbed my feet. But you didn't hold me, never touched me at all until long after I was calm. Still, if it hadn't been for the flashbacks, the phantom of my father, I swear even that might have been okay. Better luck next time, but then you know all about the jealousy of ghosts.

The first time I fucked another man after you, though, I almost fell asleep in the middle. I'm getting good at it finally, after almost a year. And you're in bed with your long-suffering wife (too bad sainthood's not so fun once you marry it, huh?), or maybe up already as the hour approaches four, long-since acclimated to the insomnia that's plagued you since a year before your mother's death. Are you thinking of me? My skin is so unmarred now (other than the cuts on my arms, my own doing) that you wouldn't even recognize me. And you, have you carried our habits on to some other woman who you have to hear scream to get your fix? Or maybe all I taught you was the value family life: safe and sane, as colorless as Ann Arbor, as devoid of blood, of pain, of gray? That we could intertwine with and come for others after the nights my blood flowed into your mouth is proof of everything I do not want to believe. But of a reality I should have learned long ago by my own hand, moving fast beneath the blankets, thinking of my father, one finger inside me as he raised his belt. From the fast, wet urgency in my cunt whenever I closed my eyes and heard him, Tell me you want it, the crack of his hand mixing with the heat between my legs, my tears lost beneath my climax, my words to appease him negating my pain. And even now that you're nothing but a character in this story, I'm still your obedient pupil, copying quotes that would make your dick rise so fast I'd have dropped to my knees.

You'd better believe it, though-this time-I'd bite.

Yeah, I finally read those books you talked about, asshole, and all I can say is I hated every word. But I have to give you this, you practice what you preach.

THE TRUTH OF EROTICISM

IS TREASON