A Place of Great and Rushing Silence

by Fei Wu
Past midnight. Salary-men hurtle home drunk and horny to silent apartments, cold rice and a bowl of shriveled green beans swimming in oil. They glance at their still, sleeping wives and consider shaking them awake for a quick and furious fuck, but balk at the thought of worn beige panties, and tofu waists indented with the elastic bands of winter wear. Some turn to their computer screens; pant in the near-dark, faces aglow with artificial light.
Then there are those who phone Xin.

Half-past midnight, Xin’s voice swims through the signals of Shanghai. She’s been doing this for three years, and she knows the direction of their desires as soon as she hears their voices. She can get a man off in two minutes flat.
Sometimes the routine is punctuated by a challenge, and Xin turns reluctantly away from Weibo or Taobao and thinks about what sounds an anthropomorphic feline would make during intercourse, or how to compress her vocal chords into the approximation of a septuagenarian.
Challenging or not, they are always audibly satisfied. Sometimes it’s a harsh exhalation of breath, other times it’s “I love you, I love you”, or “you fucking whore, you fucking cunt”. This is Xin’s favorite part of the conversation. When the various gut-punched grunts spurt from distant corners of the city, Xin envisions a similar deposit in her bank account, and smiles.
Tonight, she does brisk business. She’s taken care of a foot fetishist, a cross-dresser, and three run of the mill motherfuckers. She has a headache; the last one’s wife must have been out, because he nearly took her head off with his howling. The noise has gotten to be too much recently; more and more often she puts on her sleeping mask and crawls into bed at dawn with a handful of aspirin and a cacophony of groans and whispered confessions bouncing around her head.
She doesn’t want to stay on; nevertheless she’ll wait till dawn. Tonight, she has a tryst with Halcyon.
At one A.M, he chimes on to QQ.
“Are you ready?”
“I don’t know you.”
“We’ve been chatting for a month.”
“What if you are ugly like a pig?”
“What if you are ugly like a dog?”
“I’m not! And dogs are cute.”
“Pigs are cute too. I am a cute pig man.”
“Ai-yah. You make my head hurt.”
“I’m not the one giving you headaches. It’s them. The sounds they make and the things they say to you.”
“What if I don’t like it? What if you are a bad man?”
“I can give you what you want, Xin.”
“You can really give me silence? I can’t take this anymore. Every night, so many secrets and loneliness flooding into me.”
“Yes, Xin. I can. I know it’s too much, let me help you. Give yourself to me.”
“Fuck. Okay. Come over.”
“ You know what to do?”
“I know. We talked about this. Just come.”
After he logs off, she sits for a long minute. Then, breath held, she sends an email.
Quiet and deliberate, she goes into her bedroom. She finds her sleeping mask in her bedside drawer. Looking down at the hot pink hello kitties printed on it, she feels vaguely ridiculous. She forces down the panic, and strips, leaving her clothes piled on the floor.
Naked, she walks to the door and unlocks it. She turns on the lights and sits in her office chair, facing the door. She smoothes her hair back carefully, puts on the sleeping mask, and waits in silence for Halcyon.
Twice, Xin hears footsteps in the stairwell and nearly chews off her bottom lip in apprehension, but they pass by her flat. She hears no warning footsteps when the door finally clicks open, and jumps in surprise. The chair squeaks.
“Hello, Kitty.”
Her nervous laugh cuts off when she feels headphones slide over her ears. The world is suddenly reduced to the pulsing of her heartbeat in her ears. When he runs his thumb down her cheek and over her lips, all of her consciousness is reduced to that point of contact. She parts her lips and he presses in.
Abruptly, he slides his hands beneath her and swings her into his arms. She tenses as ground falls below her, and clasps at his shoulders. They are wide, his shoulders. She smells cigarettes and aftershave. A tinge of sweat.
He walks into the bedroom and deposits her on the bed. He kisses her, once, and takes her hand. She flushes when she feels him wind around her wrist the silk scarf she placed on the nightstand, and flushes more hotly as he binds each of her limbs to the bedstead. Soon, she is splayed on the bed. Her head is filled with the sound of her breathing. She strains against the scarves unconsciously.
She feels his weight beside her and tenses, expecting touch. It doesn’t come. Her skin tingles, as if tendrils of electricity were reaching out from her body for him. He doesn’t touch her. She feels the heat of his skin as her hips and hair tremble against the sheets. He doesn’t touch her. She begins to writhe and struggle. Yet he doesn’t touch or subdue her.
Desperate, she gasps, too loudly.
It starts as a stroke so light she thinks she’s imagining it. A finger on her clavicle trails across her neck and between her breasts. The other hand is added to traverse her waist. Both hands roam across her body, and are soon joined by lips and tongue and teeth.
She tumbles through the fluid darkness, unable to control her body, lost to herself. Splayed and abraded, she can only moan, and she doesn’t know if she is begging or exulting.
His hands are her sole focus, and she becomes frantic each time they draw near her cunt. But each time he moves them away, and it sends her into a paroxysm of despair.
When he finally touches her there, it is as light as the first. The sensation is blindingly white. She hears herself screaming, but the noise cannot shut out the feeling of him pinching and stroking her. Two fingers slide down around her clit, and another two push into her. His presence is huge; in it she feels absolved, pinned to the sheets by sensation. Every time his hands move in her, it is like something is cracking deep inside her, a dam bursting or breaking apart. And when teeth and tongue and lips rejoin his ministrations, the dam bursts, and she is launched into a place without color or thought. A place of great and rushing silence.