Wren

We hadn’t intended to go to the party, but a last-minute decision followed by a rallying of spirits saw us taking an uber out onto the highway and away from the Las Vegas strip. I    was the one who was initially reluctant and I was the one that decided later that we would go, changing my tune when the others seemed to be giving up on going without me. I sat in the front seat and watched the lights from the strip fade in the mirror as we pulled away from them. Athena and Frankie sat in the back, chatting about the night as we coasted along the empty roads. It was 20 minutes before the driver turned down the dark private street where the house sat and we knew as soon as we pulled up that we were at the right place because of the people gathered around outside.

A quick check by the woman sitting at the door confirmed that we were on the list and we were invited to go inside, through the inconspicuous house, past the pool and across a gravel yard to the separate building where the party was being held. We could hear the music before we even reached the building and when I turned the handle on the door, sound and light poured out into the night. It enveloped us like a mist, swallowing us as we walked through the doorway and seemingly into another world.

The room that we entered into was open like a warehouse; it had a cavernous feel to it with high ceiling and metal walls. The red lights that bled through the darkness painted everyone in a lustful tone and all around us people were engaged in acts that were befitting of it. Crossing through the room toward our host, we didn’t have time to take it all in before being led upstairs to the private part of the party. We stopped in the first room to grab a few drinks and were shown other rooms in which we could indulge if we felt so inclined. Finally we came to the main room of the upstairs floor where people were starting to gather to tie one another up. We spoke to friends who watched the show, but I sipped my drink and was distracted by the knowledge that Wren was somewhere close by. I watched lips move, but most of the words never made it through the waiting for her to appear and my contributions to the conversation consisted mostly of polite nods.

Wren and I had spent a lot of time together over the previous few days while attending the same conference, though we’d met a few months before and texted each other every now and again. I’m very good at anticipating what people will say or do, so the fact that she often catches me off guard is fascinating to me. I don’t know what to make of what’s happening between us sometimes because of that, but there is certain kind of happiness that can come from not having all the answers when you are accustomed to.

I felt her coming down the hallway through the dark, I knew it was her before I could make out her face. Her long dark hair was split into two braids and she wore a black dress with a white collar. She gave me a hug before being beckoned over to the lap of the man she was there with. She made eye contact with me as she sat on his knee and I    drifted away to join my friends who were watching the scene that was starting to take shape in front of us.

We sat quietly and watched as a man worked rope around a woman, whispering into her ear as he inflicted both pleasure and pain. He took out a knife and dragged it lightly across her skin as conflict crept across the faces of those in the room and a smile crawled across the woman’s face. Athena seemed anxious at the sight of the knife and she wanted to leave; Edgeplay isn’t for everyone and we headed back downstairs hoping she would be more comfortable. I turned to see if Wren was still there, but she’d already slipped away.

Downstairs there were many different things to draw your attention: people fucking in a cage, a woman dominating a cis man and a transgerendered woman, people in various states of dress and undress and we drifted from one show to the next as we made our way through the room.

I stole glances at Frankie and Athena to be certain that it wasn’t too much; too strange for us to watch together or too intense for people who work in the adult industry but who usually have a screen between themselves and the sex.

‘This is a very unique team building exercise.” Frankie said to me through a smile. Later that night he would tell me he was glad that I’d dragged them out.

It was getting late and the two of them wanted to head back,  so we made our way slowly back toward the street. The other two having gotten a head start on me as I moved slowly, searching for a glimpse of Wren, hoping for a chance to say goodbye. Athena and Frankie told me I had a few minutes before our ride would get there, so I   told them I’d be back and I headed back into the fray.

I  stepped through the door and stopped to look around the room, feeling her presence as I  had before; the crowd parted and there she was, standing looking back at me. She gave me the smallest little wave and a smile that matched it and it made me happy, and it made me ache. I don’t remember what song was playing, but in my memory it’s Kavinsky’s ‘Nightcall’ that runs through my mind when I think of the last time that I saw her.

I slipped out into the night and rejoined my friends as they made their way toward the street. The music faded into the background, broken up by the sound of crunching gravel under our feet. The stars shined over head, throwing a little light onto the barren yard and empty road. During the winter you can smell the earth a little more crisply in the desert and breathed it in deeply so that I could use that part of the memory to help find my way back to that night when I wanted to.

When our car arrived we stepped into it and I closed my eyes after shutting the door behind me. I listened to Frankie and Athena talk, the sound of their voices helping me break the orbit of the party, of the night, of the ache that her smile left.

The Marks We Leave

“Grand Central, by the information booth in the center of the station at 6pm.”

“See you there” she responded.

I arrived at Central Station early, finding a post on the balcony that gave me the best view of the grand hall. I looked for her, knowing I’d be able to spot her even from a distance. I sent one short message telling her which side of the information booth to wait for me at and then I watched. So many people flowed through the terminal that it made me think of the water of a shallow, rocky river, but when I saw I knew without hesitation that it was her. She looked down at her phone at my incoming message and I made my way to where she was standing.

We hadn’t met yet; we’d only exchanged messages and emails after she’d written to me with a very blunt introduction:

I’m attracted to experience, so I’m attracted to you. I’m still really new to this world, but learning from someone as honest and mature as you seem is something I would definitely appreciate. I’d love to get to know you more.

She was traveling the week before and had just returned to New York that morning; I was leaving the next day. We had one day to meet because she would be in Paris when I returned and we’d agreed that we didn’t want to wait for over a month; we needed to at least say hello face to face. In the few hours between her coming and my going, we made time for one another.

I descended the stairs into the grand hall, studying her body language as I drew nearer. She was eyeing the terminal nervously and checked her phone for further instructions, not noticing me as I approached. The crowd closed and opened and with each parting, I took in another detail about her.

Rowan is small and fair-skinned, with a bright smile, expressive eyes and Venetian blond hair (I liked the way that it framed her face). She wore a purple dress printed with flowers and it had small buttons that ran almost the length of it. Her shoulders were bare and the moment I saw them, I wanted to place my lips on them. She seemed both resilient and fragile at the same time and I felt from the moment that we met that she wanted me to leave a mark on her so that she could prove that she could take it. She didn’t seem inherently submissive, but rather; like someone who wanted to be dominated.

I came to stop behind her, waiting for her to turn toward me, but she didn’t right away. When she finally faced me, I said hello, startling her and she gave a nervous little laugh. We left the station together, less concerned about where we were going than we were about being able to talk openly regarding the things we’d corresponded about before agreeing to meet. Where does one take a pretty young woman in the middle of the day to publicly discuss the things you want to do to each other in private?

Choosing a general direction we headed away from Central Station, walking close together. We didn’t have any particular destination but we both needed to move so we let the moment carry us, untouched by the chaos swirling around us. Plumes of smoke billowed from food trucks and people leaving their nine-to-fives scurried across intersections as tourists halted and stared up at buildings that can touch low-hanging clouds. Her hand brushed mine once, twice and then I took it.

Coming to the library and it’s vast open lawn, it felt like the place to stop, sit, talk. We picked a spot and sat down in the grass, looking up at the sky; it looked like it might rain. The clouds were thick and heavy and grey, but they didn’t dampen our mood at all. She kicked off her sandals and we spoke as she let blades of green grass poke up between her toes. I pulled a piece of it out of the ground and rubbed it between my two fingers as I glanced at her, taking in everything about her as we talked. We laid back in the thick grass and looked up past the trees and skyscrapers while we talked about who and what and when until they closed the lawn of the library and asked us twice to leave.

I took her hand and we left the library, joking about how having just graduated college one of her goals had been to have sex in the stacks. She said it out loud and blushed when she did, giving the impression that she’d thought about it before and was picturing the two of us behind the rows of books in that very moment.

I let her lead me in the direction of Central Park and we talked along the way. The handful of conversations that we’d had online prior to that left lots to discuss. We held hands almost the entire time and walked quickly, coming to the center entrance to the park as the sun was fading. I studied her face, which made her nervous and I liked the fact that it did.

“You are looking at me!” Rowan said.

“I like to look at you” I responded, refusing to look away until I was satisfied.

We stopped and let a family pass us and it was then that I pulled her close and kissed her for the first time. Her lips were full and I’d been thinking about kissing them from the moment I’d seen them in photo. She made me promise to at least kiss her if we were to meet and it’d been easy to give my word. My hand slipped around her waist and she trembled but pressed herself against me as though to steady herself. She felt like trepidation that was plated with resolve.

I took her hand again and we continued to walk through the winding paths of the park. We passed beneath one of it’s bridges and just then a man started to play the saxophone. We smiled at each other and rolled our eyes just a little because it seemed so cliché but I think that it made us both secretly a little bit happy . We found a bench that was as as alone as you can hope to be in Central Park and sat down closely next to one another. Just as we did a cool breeze came along, picking up the may buds, sending them swirling across the paved path. People ran, pushed strollers, skated past us; when we were alone, I kissed her again.

She laid her head on my shoulder and we toyed with the idea of where we’d go next, but it seemed like we both already knew and were just waiting to say it. We alluded to where we’d hoped the night would take us but had attempted to curb expectations. It was obvious though that parting ways wasn’t something that either of us was seriously considering.

“Where do you want to go?” I asked.

“Where do you want to take me?” she answered.

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