Today I’m meeting him in an old office. I’ve been there before. White on off-white. A water cooler. A chair. Nothing unique or memorable. It’s the kind of place a man goes to hide. A place he can bring a nameless female to slip out of her black dress, lay across his cold, gray desk and wait.
“C’est jour de tempête, c’est jour de tempête, c’est jour de tempête…” This time it’s a poem by Julien Hommage. My master likes to remind people that he speaks four languages, one of them French. Usually poems make my stomach do little somersaults of embarrassment, but this is an order. “Memorize this for me,” his last e-mail said. “You will recite it on Wednesday in my office at 5 p.m. Mistakes will be punished.”
“Ton talon s’abat sur mon corps, frappe mon menton encore et encore.” My floor is almost done. Afternoon light illuminates the floor and I imagine cruel, heavy boots walking across it. “Ton talon s’abat…” I look at my phone, 4:17. I need to get dressed.
Sitting in the reception of his nearly empty office complex, I watch the nervous receptionist. She’s told me to go up the marble staircase several times but I am sitting, as commanded, on the left side of the couch, legs crossed, silent. I smile at her, keeping my face calm while my heart bangs out a very different story. The receptionist gets out her phone and stares at it intently.
Finally he appears at the top of the stairs, sees me and makes a quick gesture with his head. Shaking a little, I stand and try a confident walk, but I can’t control my knees. I stumble a bit on the marble stairs and his lips smile just enough that I can see his yellow, jagged teeth. We go up.
I wouldn’t call him handsome. He’s a man of average height, balding, a soft, round stomach. It’s not an issue. I’m not here to look at him. We reach the tiny, unmarked door. It’s colder up here, dimmer, but just as quiet. I hear the door open, but I’m not seeing clearly. My vision is shifting to the left. His empty modest desk is in front of me and I put my hands on it, legs apart. He stands behind me and slides his hands up underneath my dress.“You smell good,” he says, almost whispering. His breath smells like menthol cigarettes. “Thank you.” He grabs my hair and yanks my head back.
“Thank you, what?”
“Thank you, Sir.”
“Better. Get undressed.”
I unzip my dress, step out of my panties and unhook my bra. I lay across the desk before I’m asked, hoping to make up for my mistake. He watches, silent. He takes off his tie and stands above me, then lowers it over my eyes and ties. It’s tight..
“Have you been memorizing?” The soft, ragged end of a rope lies on my chest. It tickles between my breasts and then slides down slowly, slowly to my navel and then lower. He picks it up to start again, at my shoulder this time.
“Can you recite it for me?”
Desperately grabbing at images of boots and oceans in my memory, certain I’ve forgotten all of it, I hear my own voice. “Des vagues de plomb battent l’océan…” He doesn’t wait for a mistake.
He lashes my nipples, my stomach, and my thighs. I hear him take off his belt and then it’s there; biting, stinging. I think of waves slamming into one another, pupils dilating, black moons and glowing coronas. I hear myself give a little scream each time. The pain flares terribly and then dies, then burns again.
Finally he gives me a perfectly aimed whip right on my clit. I yelp and he puts his hand on my mouth. “Shhhh…” He keeps it there and I put my hand on top of his and then let it travel up his arm on to his cheek. I smile a little under his hand.
He moves but I stay where I am, waiting for his permission. He fills a little paper cup and then comes over to me. He lifts my head and gives me a drink of tepid, lead-flavored water. The tie comes off. After I lay my head back down, he lays his head on my stomach. I play with his thinning hair and wait.
“Did I tell you?” he says to my stomach, “I’ve got a book coming out.”
“No, Sir. You didn’t.”
He stands, goes to his brief case and then returns with a thick volume in a black cover. “This is one of my free copies. I’ll sign it for you.”
It’s heavy and the letters of the title are big and shiny with a crack running through them like an old building would have. They read America’s Fault – Our Future Death by Culture. There’s an impressive picture of him on the back. The photographer must have been a genius.
He takes it, pulls out a heavy silver pen and signs it quickly. The pen clicks and slides back into his pocket while he stares at me, watching my face. “You will read it,” he says, “and you will adore it.”