Too harsh to be a whisper, a voice calls her name.
The hairs on her arms and neck stand on edge: Oh no, no, no.
The man behind the voice tries a relaxed smile as he introduces himself; nerves are ripe on his face.
“I’m—” squeaks out, inaudible: he knew her name. She shuffles behind the man to an open door.
Her breath catches in her throat; the room is small, too small; the walls are closing in on her. His young, yet raspy, voice gives her quick instructions, a bit of pink rising to his cheeks as he avoids eye contact. He couldn’t be much older; thoughts of a chain smoker cloud her mind, weighing down on her consciousness.
Shy, he warns, “I’ll be back in three minutes. We’ll start face down.”
The door closes behind him. She hesitates, staring through the door he just exited: Can I go through with this? She had already paid at the desk.
Timid, she removes her shirt first, up over her head. Her yoga pants slide down her hips to the floor. Each article is piled off to the side of the room—everything but the skin-colored panties. She climbs under the peach blanket on the heated, person-size table, covering as much of her exposed skin as possible—there weren’t enough covers in the world—and laid facedown.
Her mind races, her breath comes short and fast, short and quick, shallow.
By lying here, she had agreed to surrender her body to another set of entitled hands. Her eyes sting, watering slightly; her throat tightens; her body goes rigid.
Naked flesh would be touched. Touched by a man’s hands. She had little influence over what would happen, much like her failed relationship, weighing on her mind.
Some touches never go away, fingerprints that don’t erase.
A nearly silent rap at the door: he enters.
The lights in the room dim, Zen music plays, chiming and tinkling in the stuffy air. Her chest is tight.
The blanket makes a ruffling noise, as he pulls away the covers holding her together. She is exposed. Clammy, meaty hands are on her flesh, oil now lathering her back. He says nothing; she says nothing. His aura is tangible in the room, his presence growing as her inner self is shrinking; hands caress intimately along her tensed back.
His hands remind her so much of the touches before. His are unintentionally sensual and timid, the softness lingering. Tingles and gooseflesh spread from neck to small of her back, shoulder to wrist; she knows he can feel the tiny bumps, knows he can feel her trembling. It felt like he was caressing her, he wasn’t applying enough to make her feel at ease.
She squeezes her eyes shut; his touches started just as soft, but became more like a threat, or a demand: MINE! GIVE! In a possession of the body in the fleshiest manner: she didn’t have a choice, she never had a choice.
He avoids all her intimate areas, focusing on her arms and hands. The feeling of his fingers rubbing her fingers felt—she couldn’t place it. It wasn’t right: intense; memories fluttered to her, when he had touched her delicately, then he didn’t. As he traces his fingers in swirls over her palms, angry bees buzz, scatter in her brain, consume her mind, grip her in a near tangible blackness, and trap her in her dark soul. He had done that; a shudder, goose bumps reappear. One of her nightmares is alive.
The idea of his flesh engulfing hers forces her to flinch.
He was a homely man, four years her elder. His smile couldn’t be called attractive, what with the tar buildup and crooked teeth. One rattail of a dreadlock flopped around in his curly, black hair on the right side of his head; this to compliment his various dark articles of clothing promoting the hemp leaf—when it wasn’t a smoking, lit joint. The beginnings of a beer belly formed at his midriff, taking away what very well could have been flat and muscular skin. His temper was unstable, flaring with his paranoia: someone was always out to get him. Most notably, he was possessive in a way she never expected.
She was but a child, unwilling to admit age really was just a number, there was nothing attractive about older. She couldn’t help herself; she was “in love.” Eighteen and ripe for the picking, he fell in love with her too—but he didn’t know what love was, not then, presumably not now. But she’d left him; it was all in the past.
Today is more than she’d bargained for, much like a cold night of the past.
The blanket is replaced on back, her physical exposure momentarily ended, but her mind was too far-gone. The oils had an all too familiar scent, coaxing memories of different ones to come to her now: light vanilla, mixed with tar and musky smoke. The way he smelled when he would tenderly rub her body—before he would become aroused. The masseuse avoided her sensitive bits. She preferred that he had not touched her there. This man is shy towards her body, not groping her nervous flesh. He moves the blanket from one leg, and only reveals from mid thigh down. Her breath catches, fast and hard, as she tenses.
Starting now with her feet, she sighed out her breath. She is grateful that he didn’t go anywhere near her thighs. It would have felt too familiar, too close, like that other man.
Looking away, he lifts the blanket, instructing her to turn face up and scoot toward the foot of the table. Panicked butterflies skitter through her stomach, which lurch in a sickly way. But she did so, eyes clamped shut, scooting painfully down the length of the table. The blanket was lowered around her, and she grabs for those insects dashing through the pit of her stomach; there her hands remain. He worked her shoulders and neck. Again, he felt too close. As if he was going to take her again…
The night she said “No!” wasn’t enough.
She couldn’t black out the scene. His puffy, thick lips sliding lower, lower down her neck, not stopping when he’d passed her breasts. Bile rising as he moved back to her mouth, persistently. Her tongue flooded with an acid and iron taste. His hands were rough when he became increasingly lustful, desiring more of her naked flesh than there was to give. Hands would skid along her bare ribcage, reddening and welting her fragile skin where his nails would break the surface. Flares of fire burned with each stroke, pushing again and again, even though she clenched her legs together. Lying still, rigid, unmoving wouldn’t make the agony any less.
He could never have her again.
Before much longer, the massage is over. He says he will wait in the hall, “Take your time.” That is all that is said to her, that’s all that ever was.
She sits up like she had so many times before: hair tousled, emotions exhausted, and blanket wrapped around her—exposed—her feet dangling over the side of another worn-in bed.