Me, a Start
—I mean, she’s got the whole Black Panther movement behind her and I ask myself why a woman like her has to pick me up on the internet—and then feel the need to pour champagne down her throat before she can do it, she doesn’t look the type. I’d have thought her more likely to recruit me for some Black Lives Matter show, that’s the kind she is—she’s got that kind of laugh, anyway.
—Do it again.
—We’re sitting on the rug—been sitting there too long for my liking—and I get up and pull her to her feet, and she holds me and hugs me. Yeah. Runs her fingers up and down my back, not even under my top. Up and down. Anyway. I pull her towards what I guess is the bedroom and she’s trembling like she’s scared, big brown eyes like a deer. For a second I think, oh no, I’m not her first woman, am I? I hate deflowering women, please let me not be her first, let her just be nervous—nervous is okay, she’s old, after all. I can take it if she’s nervous about getting undressed in front of me. I lay her on her back and slowly undo the buttons on her blouse—she’s making these noises, must be relaxing—and when I get to the fourth button I think, that’s funny, it’s lighter down here. Funny, I think, her skin’s got this pale sheen to it—what’s she put on it, some teenie shimmer cream? Weird. I kiss her between her breasts and try to think of my ex, of her skin, her breasts, and I wonder if I can really remember the way she smelt or if I’m just imagining things when I tell myself I’d recognise her among thousands. I try to remember the feel of her, the taste of her. See her crying, see her going out of the door and me going out behind her, thinking, if she goes now, I’ve lost forever. Not just lost her, lost altogether.
Anyway, I keep getting off the point, the woman under me is making these sounds of pleasure, like she’s a digital answerphone message and I’m pressing buttons.
—What kinds of sounds?
—Yeah, and then?
—Yeah, I look at her skin that I’m kissing. I look more closely and I don’t quite understand what I’m seeing. Is it the light, I wonder.
—But it’s dark.
—Exactly, that’s what I tell myself. It’s dark—how can I be sure what I’m seeing? I look up at her, to where the weird moans are coming from. The woman has frizzy hair like me—in fact, her curls are even tighter—and her face is, like, much browner than the rest. Okay, so her body’s brown too, but there are these patches—I run my tongue over them and I think, Michael Jackson or what? What was that disease he had, or was it transplants, skin transplants? I think, hang on a second, what is this, does she bleach herself or is it the other way round? This isn’t aging here, this patchy skin, it’s blotches of tanning cream.
I’ve seen them on other women who use the stuff. I push myself up on her pelvic bones and see these photos on either side of the bed. On these little tables. Why do people have photos by their bed? I mean, what are they like? Do they look at them when they’re fucking and imagine they’re actually doing it with the people on the photos, or do they just not fuck and it doesn’t bother them that there are these faces staring at them while they have it off with themselves under the covers?
Anyway, I look at the photos by this woman’s bed as she gives these automated moans, and they’re all white—mum, dad, wedding photos, no idea, but whoever these people are, they’re hardcore albinos, all grinning away like they’ve something to celebrate. I twist my head from one photo to the next, then fix my gaze on the face beneath me, look her deep in the eyes again. Contact lenses. And the rest, too—there’s something fishy here.
I sit up and look at her body. It continues to writhe for a second, though I’m not touching it, then freezes rigid. She presses her chin into her breastbone, looking at me with her big eyes, I don’t even know what colour they are. Blue, green, grey? I tug at her curls and ask if it’s a perm.
—Exactly, lovely corkscrews. Did she always want frizzy hair or what’s going on here? She jumps up like she’s been stung by a bee, starts to get dressed, heads for the living room. I go after her. She pours herself champagne, takes a big gulp, looks at me, holds out her glass to me, I knock it out of her hand, put my face right up close to hers, scratch her cheek. Does it come off? I ask. Does it come off? She knocks my hand away, I knock hers away, then ask again: Does it come off? I’ll call the police, she says. Go ahead, I say. And push my nose into her curls. Is it henna or what do you use? Mm, that smells good, mm, have you rubbed tanning cream all the way up between your legs, between your buttocks? We were only just getting started, why did you get dressed, I haven’t seen it all yet.
She reaches for the phone, but I’m quicker and pull her onto the rug by her corkscrews. She screams and lashes out at me, and I grab her by the arms and drag her into the bathroom—she’s squirming like an octopus, but in she goes, into the bath—a posh bath for two, of course, very handy—push her under the taps, water in her face, water on her belly, water between her legs, take a pumice stone and sand her down a bit, tear off her posh blouse and set to work on her shoulders
—and lo and behold, the water
—the makeup runs down her, she squeaks like the sole of a shoe, an automated squeaky shoe—
—and I sand her a bit more, keep sanding, till everything’s red. Till she’s stopped moving. Till there’s no more squeaking, only little gasps. I go out into the living room, my clothes are wet, I grab the champagne bottle, take a gulp, stand in front of the bookcase, take another gulp, chuck the bottle at the piano, go out onto the street. Breathe the fresh air.
Tr. Imogen Taylor