The heat in Carson’s groin was going supernova. It had gone nova
several days ago and he was just starting to learn to think on
top of it when all at once it became too much and he found himself
in his back yard doing handsprings, half-falling and half-leaping
onto his hands, his elbows giving and then springing back, launching
him back to his feet. He bellowed and snarled while he did this,
but it still wasn’t enough.
He settled for it as an inadequate substitute for having an orgasm
-- no, for taking his cock in his hand and furiously -- no, for
taking his raging cock in his shaking hands and
furiously, furiously --
But he couldn’t do that. He couldn’t do that because of the tubular
metal device imprisoning his penis, placed there by a woman with
the devil in her soul. A woman whose cruelty approached the infinite,
whose appetite for a man’s suffering dwarfed the cosmos. Carson
breathed into the ache. The handsprings did nothing about the
* * *
the practice of caging, an advanced form of sexual bondage, a
man is custom-fitted with a restrictive metal tube that prevents
him from touching or stimulating his penis. It also prevents the
penis from becoming erect. Some variations include interior bumps
or spikes, which cause pain when the penis tries to stiffen. Men
who wear the device report that the constant pressure of the metal
against their dicks is a torment, especially as time passes and
horniness increases, resulting in a steady state of semi-erection
(held in check by the snug metal tube). Simultaneously stimulated
and deprived of stimulation, the man and his dick become overwhelmed,
frantic, desperate to come. They’d do anything to get their hands
on themselves. Anything. Some spend hours on end tapping the metal
with spoons, trying to work up enough vibratory force to get themselves
off. It never works, and there they sit, groaning and swearing
and pulling at their balls, rueing the day.
“Comfy?” She hovers above him, smoothing his arm hairs away from
the silk knots around his writs, sliding her cool hands down his
arms. She smells of cucumber and melon. Carson breathes her in
and closes his eyes.
His heartbeat picks up speed as Nicole settles in beside him and
acquaints herself with his prone form: fair skin and black hair
at underarm and nipple; pleasing bicycle-and-Frisbee muscles around
shoulders and chest; visible pulse in the hollow beneath his ribs,
which are starting to heave a little, like a rolling mini-quake
that shakes you up but leaves no major damage.
muses, rises from time to time to brush her lips against a favorite
contour, a newly discovered freckle. She touches. Carson moans.
is the evening of the last day of a ten-day ordeal: ten days in
dick prison. Nicole likes it when he calls it his ordeal. Carson
has found that he likes whatever she likes, because when she’s
liking things, things get very, very hot. Painfully hot. Rolling
around screaming your lungs out begging Jesus for just one flick
of her tongue to the head of your cock, just one. That hot.
None of that is going on right now, though. Right now, they are
quiet with each other, the way they are when they begin, he waiting,
dreading and craving, she drowsing and taking her time. One finger
to peachy areola, round and round, and round and round. And down.
Nails softly across navel, tentatively following the furry trail
until it disappears beneath the sheet. His breath harsher now,
head and shoulder blades tensing against the pillows.
It’ll be a while, you know that, so just mellow. Mellow out
and take it as it comes. It’s nothing new; nothing you can’t handle;
nothing you can’t handle.
Her hand glides over his hip bone, on top of the sheet, and rests
on his thigh. He swallows and presses his teeth together, breathing,
then her hand slides up, collecting his balls in a tidy purse
made of sheet, while her other hand sprinkles frictionless lightning
sensations across him, into him, squeezing pressure and tickling
strokes through fabric make him arch and fight and sigh. Always
it’s this bad, this suddenly; always he thinks he can hack it,
thinks he can transcend, thinks if women can go through childbirth
with no drugs and just breathing then surely he can do this, but
God it’s like the first time every time, it’s just like the first
time she mmm took him on this oh, on this ride, this oh...
had she looked incredible, swaying to the music, barefoot
and backlit in his living room. He had no idea how he’d got her
there, that first time. There had been a party, mutual friends,
a work connection: she taught history and civics to Catholic high-school
girls, and he occasionally got brought in to teach the same girls
the craft of stained glass. Why, he’d asked her, did she teach
in a Catholic school? Because, she’d grinned, the faculty (except
for temporary hires such as herself) were piously celibate, and
the students were hormone bombs: the opposite of the boring work
environment. Plus, she said, priests were sexy in a neurotic,
intellectual kind of way, a sort of Woody-Allen-meets-The-Exorcist
kind of way. Nicole was by anyone’s standards a knockout, and
Carson had felt the pressuring stares of other males as he chatted
with her, hoping she wouldn’t scamper off somewhere when she finished
her beer. He liked her, instantly and a lot, and although he was
what his female friends called "generally not a pig" -- (but what
data were they using? What were the parameters of the study?)
-- he was quick to sneak a studious peek at her, full-length,
when she excused herself to find the bathroom.
he saw as she sidled and dipped through the crowd made him slaver
and growl. Inwardly, of course. Outwardly, he welcomed her back
with an affectionate (though not too intense) smile and several
seconds of thoughtful eye contact, vaguely (he hoped not spastically)
trying to make the most of his respectable height and Basque good
looks. He wasn’t just hitting on her. Really he wasn’t. His instincts
told him to behave better than that. But God, he thought, wouldn’t
it be good if she, if they -- ?
here she was, just days later, backlit and swaying, up on her
toes as she read his CD spines and sipped at the joint he’d rolled
them. He watched from the couch -- really watched. He couldn’t
not. The stretchy zipper-cardigan thing she wore made a neat silhouette,
just taut enough in key places to offer an idea of form, of firmness,
beneath. Indented below the bottom of that garment, a sliver of
white waist; then the rumply roominess of bandana-patched jeans,
which made him think of tackling and tickling and --
He noticed she was looking right at him and for a second thought
he should stop staring or apologize, but no, it was cool, it was
just right. Nicole was smiling easily and going through the business
of changing records. Planes and coils of incense smoke lifted
around her hips. Carson sank further into the cushions and watched
some more. To the Smiths’ rumbling drums and pretty strumming
she swayed, closing her eyes, pulling a long pin from her pile
of maroon curls and tumbling them about. The erection Carson already
had grew considerably more severe when Nicole unzipped her shirt-sweater-thing
and dropped it to the floor. Underneath was a faded, formerly
pinkish or purplish kind of thing, strappy, and smaller, much
smaller, much less of it, much more of her now. She had a bra
on but it must be a really flimsy kind, because the shape is
really natural and see how there’s just a little bit of bounce
when she walks, when she, when she’s walking over here...
And she walked over there, to him, and stood between his knees
offering him the joint, and he took it and set it aside and put
his hands on her instead. He felt her legs strong inside the rumply
jeans; he kissed her belly, kissed her hands, drew her down.
afternoon Carson and Nicole did everything two people can do to
each other who have any notion of being able to face the other
person or for that matter themselves in the mirror the next day
with anything like respect. Or even tolerance. They lunged. They
plunged. They fiddled, they fooled. They harpooned, slew, devoured
(as in sharks), broke (as in mustangs). Sweat-drenched, he rose
above her on his man-knees and shook his man-fists toward the
sky, roaring a man-roar of such sky-splitting alphaness that he
was sure the world knew his was the Ur-Package from which all
light and heat in the universe drew their force.
Two seconds later, she had him on his back gurgling and curling
up his feet like a newborn.
She rode him like a thousand spangled rodeo queens. Like the Furies
screaming into battle. Whichever way he thrashed and strove, she
anticipated, corrected, conquered. Her body clung to his as though
she were riding a dolphin, keeping up with its flips and frolics,
its sudden turns and slick aquatic maneuvers. For several millennia
he lay gasping and needing, hoarsely bellowing and dying, dying.
When at last, with a slow forceful grind, she ripped from him
an orgasm that he felt from the base of his spine to the base
of his brain, he sank into rest with a planet’s weight, into the
heavy rest of stones and wood.
A little while later they did it again.
It was slower the second time, more deliberate. Carson applied
some skills of his own, with hand and tongue, and Nicole reveled
nastily, languidly, beautifully, in her throes. Again they fucked,
and fucked and fucked and fucked, and this time Carson was able
to discern order, patterns of escalation and delay, rising action
and unbearable plateaus. It made sense -- a kind of tortuous,
brain-scrambling sense. He got it. And he knew he was going to
have to have more.
* * *
. .shhh. . .imagine what it’s going to feel like when I take it
off.” Nicole murmurs against his neck, brushing soft kisses across
his forehead, cheeks, mouth. “Think about the sensation, of getting
hard, of filling up --”
“Jesus!” he whispers, almost whining. Ten days. Her hand still
cradles his balls, slipping under and around and across and moving
them, moving them against each other, sliding, stroking through
the sheet. Unable to stop himself, Carson pulls steadily against
the restraints at his wrists and ankles, punctuating his groans
with earnest yanks and dazed glares at the ropes.
Stop fighting it, stop fighting, just go with the flow, go
with the, oh shit Jesus how can she do this, okay, breathe, maintain,
it’s only another minute or two, just be, just be
Concussion rings through his tortured dick. Banngg. Banngg. Through
bleary eyes he sees Nicole give him her drowsiest, musingest,
evillest smile. In her cool white hand, a silver tong. One of
her favorite toys, the one she uses when she needs to bring him
to a state of alertness. After another purgative groan, Carson
lifts his head, tries to give his attention.
“Are you ready?”
was always saying he was ready for things and finding out he was
wrong, that he could not possibly have been ready, that no man
alive could ever really be ready for the things Nicole liked to
ready, no. In all honesty, no. But willing? Are you kidding me?
He was all over that kinky action. In fact, some of it was his
For example, it was Carson himself who brought up the notion of
their sex play extending beyond the immediate “session,” maybe
for a day or two. Well, maybe just one. Or maybe two, possibly.
Nicole’s face lit up like embers at the thought, a merry crackling
in her eyes. That night she put him through the aches with a wanton,
savage energy, dragging him down into an ocean of furious churning,
then tossing him helpless and weakly shouting on an arid, endless
shore, waiting, and finally casting him headlong into a crazy
bonfire blaze of imperative, of must, must
come, must come, coming now, have to be coming NOW
Bewildered, mostly out of his mind and half out of his body as
well, Carson registered cold, cold cold cold ice on his, on all
of it, a whole mountain of ice wrapped in a bath towel freezing
cold right all over his everything, and pressure, that awful pressure,
now receding and taking root in his guts, gripping and heavy and
hard as his penis hid, soft. And cold. He shivered violently,
and Nicole was there quick with untying hands and soothing whispers
and warm, warm blankets. She held him, a drowsy pieta, while he
whirled alone in the silence of his suffering.
he been ready for that? No. That was a whole different league.
A door opening. He knew it, even as he shuddered and winced and
waited out the night in her arms.
And soon, a day wasn’t enough. Two days, not enough. Three, four,
a week -- it wasn’t only the Big-Bang orgasms that kept him showing
up, although those did render the plain kind, the previous kind,
pretty futile; no, it was also the time in between, the time spent
in line at the bank or at the grocery store, brushing his teeth
or working in the glass studio: this ordinary time infused with
new, stupendous significance. He never just waited anymore. He
refrained. Every moment of every day was about the choice to refrain.
Of course, he didn’t refrain absolutely from everything, not in
the beginning. The deal was that he could do whatever he wanted
to himself, as long as he stopped before he came.
He did a lot of things to himself around this time. He didn’t
think there was a teenaged boy alive who put more felicity and
ingeniousness into his self-abuse. Not for him the Speed-Racer
pecker-play of youth. Filched magazines, pocket pool, lotion mixed
with Listerine? All strictly amateur. What Carson did to himself
rivaled, in both intensity and duration, the things Nicole enjoyed
doing to him, minus certain obvious positive factors that could
result only from her presence. The shower proved to be a particularly
trying time for him, as well as one of erotic ingenuity. As he
knelt in the tub, holding his rigid monster under the faucet’s
battering flow, gnashing his teeth and trying to thrust into the
cruel nothingness of the water, he knew he had become a hopeless
wiener-fiend -- but a scrupled one. He always stopped in time.
“Good answer,” she murmured, drawing from behind her back a gift
wrapped in red paper and red ribbon. “I thought this might help.”
And there it was: the cage.
It looked like fear itself, gleaming in its nest of red velvet.
It looked like salvation.
felt like a milk bottle in his pants. All week he was sure, as
he moved among his students, admiring designs and helping to adjust
acetylene torches, that the girls were staring at it, thinking
he stuffed. Hey, how about this milk bottle in my pants? Like
it? Wanna take a gander at the milk bottle down my pants?
It also felt like the seventh circle of hell. He’d grown accustomed
(or almost so) to the constant friction of his shorts against
his erections, had even found himself musingly trying to discern
with his blunt dumb head where the fabric, seam, and zipper of
his baggy trousers (the only kind he dared wear anymore) met.
But, distracting as that was at times, it was nothing compared
with this. Nothing. The tube was not distracting; it was frenzying.
Carson didn’t muse, or play, or ponder or wonder or think. He
And she knew it would be like that. She knew every morning of
that week when she helped him put it on; she knew in an even worse
way when they met for lunch after his class; and she knew in the
worst way of all when she took it off in the evening, stretching
him out in the bathtub and laughing musically while his freed
penis filled and sprang and bobbed in the water. The sounds Carson
made at these times were unlike any others he’d made before; the
outrageous rush of blood, the fast-fast hardening, made him think
of decompression chambers, of divers coming up too fast from depth,
of the bends. When, on each of the first three evenings, Nicole
stroked him to orgasm with a nubby washcloth and lots of Suave,
he screamed like a breech birth.
On the fourth day said he wanted to go longer.
That was fine with Nicole -- but she insisted on making crazy
love to him first, shouting her joy (and he shouting his) to the
* * *
“How are we doing there? All right?” She raises her head to check
on him. His haggard groans have given way to a faint, imploring
sigh; his lashes flutter as his eyes roll in beatitude. The tube
is off. He has crossed the desert and lived to see the oasis of
the tenth day. Nicole ministers to him, moistening his lips with
her kisses and surrounding him with the sweet abundance of her
hair, a profusion of rosemary-infused curls. Her hand maintains
him in the position of a royal scepter, gripping him majestically
at the base and drawing his skin taut: a revelation of violet
flesh and wild nerves.
he breathes. “Touch.” She has anointed him with an oil of spice
and wind; he feels the movement of every wisp of air, every tendril
of smoke from the incense that burns nearby. He can feel Nicole’s
pulse beat in the heel of her hand and along her thumb; each gentle
wave tricks him into thinking she’s moving her hand, moving her
thumb, letting it trail upward along his own moving veins, upward
to graze the burning pillar of him -- but she never moves and
he is racked, crucified in his desire. She gives a small squeeze
and his voice rattles, a final beseeching prayer, Please, please;
why are you doing this, why?
* * *
God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?
The words haunted Carson, as did the gory crucifixion images he
had studied in preparation for his first large commissioned work.
Pleased with his teaching, and impressed by the favorable mention
of his work on a local TV news show, Saint Mary of Magdalen Church
had chosen him to design a replacement for the stained glass window
that, like a lot of other stained glass windows in recent years,
had been vandalized. Nicole had been with Father Rhys when he
found the window destroyed, spray painted and smashed with branches
hacked from the poplar trees in front of the chapel. Glass and
foliage littered the altar and the first row of pews. Father Rhys
had reacted stoically, but Nicole had found herself crying, keening
actually, not for the loss of the window (which she’d always thought
had been kind of generic and uninspired) but for the boredom and
impoverishment of imagination prodding whoever had needed to take
such an action. Unnerved by the proximity and volume of such feminine
distress, Father Rhys had calmed her with a safely abstract discussion
of the question of Mary Magdalene’s identity: Was she indeed the
unnamed sinner, the “woman of bad name,” who burst uninvited into
the house of Simon the Pharisee and, undeterred by the jeering
of the upright people of the household, washed Jesus’s feet in
her tears and wiped them with her beautiful hair? Who, weeping
in penitence and in abject love of God, was finally held above
her accusers by Jesus himself and given a place at his side? Was
this harlot the same who wept with the Blessed Virgin, who tended
the Savior throughout the Passion on the Cross, and who would
be the first person to witness the Resurrection?
Nicole couldn’t answer that, but she found it incredibly sexy
that the old priest cared so much.
knew nothing about the Bible or about saints or anything religious,
really, and he wasn’t especially curious. At first, it was only
the size of the job that interested him; that, and the pay, and
the exposure. He flipped through dozens of art history books,
hoping to find some intriguing variations on the scene Father
Rhys had chosen: the Magdalene clinging to the foot of the Cross.
No such luck, though; there seemed to be one standard vision,
one way to do it. But, as his friend Natalie pointed out, a job’s
a job, and a big job is rent plus a ski weekend or two -- no vacation
without vocation, har har. So he settled down and got to work.
borrowed a bible and looked up all the references to Mary Magdalen.
As a character, she’s given pretty short shrift in the text, he
thought. Most of what was there focused on the hair-and-feet bit,
which Carson had always found pretty debasing and misogynistic.
He still did, for the most part, although he’d never known that
(according to the devotees of Saint Mary of Magdalen) the
act symbolized the giving up of her physical charms and her renunciation
of the material world for the love of God. She, in fact, was the
first true penitent, and Jesus let people know it, telling those
who put her down that their lack of forgiveness would weigh more
on judgment day than would Mary’s minor moral slippages -- because
of the great love she had shown. And when, six days before his
crucifixion, the disciples yelled at her for anointing his head
with expensive oil that could have been sold, Jesus defended her
and said that her deed was good and that wherever in all the
world this gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told
as well, in remembrance of her.
stood for many, many hours in that church, trying to recall what
he had never been told, in remembrance of the woman from Magdalen.
six weeks later, it was written:
The second most remarkable aspect of Carson Moore’s recent
piece is its vibrancy. The artist (artisan, Carson fumed)
has discovered how to bring blood, a pulse, a rushing river of
breath and emotion to what is, after all, a hard medium: glass,
shards, edges, outlines. The most remarkable aspect of the piece
is its originality, its sense of moment. We’ve all seen the scene,
Mary Magdalen sobbing piously at the foot of the Cross, Jesus
bleeding and looking skyward, making his final mortal plea, “Why
hast thou forsaken me?” But we haven’t seen it like this. In Carson’s
rendition, Mary is not a weeping wreck. She is a friend; she is
rock-solid. There is intimacy. Her gaze, though sorrowful, radiates
absolute trust and trustworthiness. Jesus’s eyes turn toward the
grieving woman, and in them we read an entirely human want of
comfort, of solace. It is a bodily want -- but not the one we
might expect, having heard some things about Mary’s checkered
past. Rather, the longing transcends both erotic desire and relief
from pain; it goes deeper, speaking directly to a universal human
need (and the one that gives the Passion of Christ its enduring
vitality). It speaks to the need for love. It is often said that
Jesus “died for our sins,” but this interpretation ignores the
significance of love as the primary theme in his crucifixion.
For love of man, Jesus willingly went to the cross, the apex of
un-love; the jeering hatred of the crowds, the whips and stones,
the crown of thorns versus the steadfast devotion and faithful
tending (at great risk to herself) of Mary: this is the human
and spiritual drama that Carson reveals for us in shards of glass
damn,” is what Nicole said as they stood before it on the night
beneath the official unveiling. Outside, a robust halogen street
lamp pinch-hit for the sun, illuminating the window. Carson still
had the keys to the chapel, and Nicole had brought along some
chocolates and wine to celebrate. She stared at the window, hugging
herself and twisting gently, ruminatively, from side to side.
When she turned to look at him, her eyes were bright and wide.
“Honey? Sweetheart? Don’t get mad at me for saying it, but I think
you’re an artist after all.”
didn’t get mad. He wrapped his arms around Nicole and kissed her
forehead, kissed her eyes, kissed her mouth. He pressed his face
against her delicate neck, her proud breast, and they sank together
to the floor, sinking and rising into the truest of communions,
beneath the savior and the saved, comrades in exaltation.
“You’re all right. Shh. You’re all right. We’re almost there.”
Nicole is raised on one elbow, her face close to his, whispering
comfort and encouragement. She dips her mouth toward his when
his moans increase, as if tasting, drinking the need in his breath.
can’t -- ah, God, I can’t. . .” Carson’s voice drifts into babble;
his eyes shut tight, his head tossing, pressing first one cheek
then the other into the sheets, a fever victim in a light sheen
of sweat. Space and air whirl bitingly around the head and shaft
of his penis, which Nicole waves loopily, holding him at the base.
Without warning, she slaps his cock against his stomach and stars
explode behind his eyelids. The ache disappears for a moment,
then roars back up like a Mack truck. He can’t hear her, himself,
or anything for nearly a minute.
baby.” Smoothing his damp hair from his forehead, Nicole moves
up onto her knees and nestles between his parted legs. “You’ve
been through so much.” Reaching forward, she rests her hands on
his shoulders, then slides them languorously across his chest,
tracing the bow of his bottom ribs, the banding of muscle at his
hips. From there, she rakes her fingernails down the insides of
his thighs and back up, just letting her thumbs caress the skin
of his scrotum. His cock thrashes in time with his head. Carson
sobs without sound.
set of fingers, then the other, wrap themselves around his penis
and Carson is filled with a fiery white light. The fingers move
and are innocent, tentative. Just the tips travel along his length,
up, up, up, down, down, down. Like a patter of rain. Carson’s
hips thrust and bounce back down on the mattress, once, twice,
then resume their slow, dinosauric undulations.
Nicole bows down, elbows planted at his sides, hair tumbling onto
his skin. Her pink tongue darts out, a flash of atomic heat against
the heart shape of his glans. Nerves blaze; bones shudder. He
barks a truncated “ahh” -- “a!” Tongue swipes him again, a sudden
lash, he feels the presence of Kali, the Destroyer goddess, the
Avenger with her long red tongue and black, all-seeing eyes, consuming
all poisons and purifying the world with the blast of her gaze
and her red tongue, her tongue of pain.
“No. . .”
Nicole grins; this he can hear. “No more of this?” Her tongue
swipes again, then her teeth grip, sinking in and then her lips
press wetly and smooth, smooth inside and it’s nearly over, so
although it is over, her beloved teacher and friend dead after
unspeakable hours, Mary feels no change in the texture of her
anguish. It is as if the ragged punctures in his hands and his
feet were made to match the one in her soul. In honor of the festival
of Pasch, all the crucified men have been taken down from their
crosses. Those who still live have their legs broken by the soldiers,
but Jesus is already dead. Pontius Pilate grants permission for
the disciples to take the body, and they wind it in a linen shroud.
Mary accompanies his body to the empty tomb where it will lie
until the burial and stays there until she is forced to return
home. For two days she weeps without cease. At sundown on the
Sabbath, she is allowed to go to the market to purchase oils and
spices with which to prepare Jesus’s body for burial. The next
morning, at first light, she and the other holy women journey
to the tomb, which they find empty: Mary has lost him again, lost
even this. Frantic, she summons Peter and John; they find the
cloth that had been wrapped around their master’s head and leave,
dumbfounded, to confer with the other disciples. But Mary does
not leave. She is not able, not able to suffer any more of this
loss, and she cannot stop herself from staring into the sepulchre
and searching for the body that is all she had left. So desperate
is she to find him, to have him again, that she ignores the two
angels sitting where Jesus’s head and feet should have been, until
they ask her why she weeps.
doodled while his eyes skimmed the text again. He still wasn’t
getting anything he could use. Two weeks had passed since the
director of Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church invited him to
submit designs for a new window, an even bigger piece than the
one he’d just done for Saint Mary’s. Carson thought he detected
a bit of iconographic one-upmanship on the part of the pastor,
who, when asked what scene he had in mind, had said, “Well, if
Mary’s has the Passion, we should probably have the Resurrection.”
(Window envy, Nicole said matter-of-factly.)
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where
they have laid Him," Mary answers. Someone Mary assumes is a gardener
enters the tomb, and he, too, asks her why she is crying. Mary
begs him to tell her what has been done with Jesus’s body. The
man speaks one word:
an instant, she knows. She whirls. Her stricken body collapses;
she sinks to her knees. It is him. It is him. Her heart cracks
open and she reaches for him, but he motions her away, commanding:
“Noli me tangere.”
not touch me.
“Don’t. No. Don’t stop, don’t stop this time!”
stop she does. Hands off. The curve of her smile. He burns.
* * *
“Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”
has been a miserable three weeks of searching fruitlessly for
inspiration, but finally Carson has found his subject, his point
of entry into the story he will soon render in glass. It was there
all along, but Carson didn’t recognize it until he came across
one Renaissance-era painting among thousands of Renaissance-era
paintings of the scene. Noli me tangere. On the left is
Mary, kneeling on the ground, her fingers twisting in the fabric
of her mantle -- cruel that she cannot put her hands on her lover.
Her body is concave, caved in, with shock and with want. Especially
want. It is physically knocking the breath out of her. While her
chest and shoulders slump, her head is flung back and heavily
to one side, as if it, too, will soon fall. Her eyes, though,
are wide open and riveted on the face of Jesus, who holds one
hand toward the sky and the other down, toward her. He is the
bridge between Heaven and earth, not yet claimed for the one,
no longer belonging to the other. And Mary, penitent Mary, she
is the other. She thought she had given up all attachments to
this world; she thought she had emptied her heart of all but love
of God. But it isn’t true. In the end, she learns it isn’t true.
She loves him. And she wants him -- Lord, Lord, how she wants
him. His flesh has healed but in her mind he still suffers alone
and untended where she could not reach him. Her want incinerates
not touch me.
studies the composition of the painting. Just as Jesus’s hands
delineate heaven and earth, so does the hand held toward Mary
seem to bisect her: head above the hand, body below. It is is
flexed at the wrist, its fingers splayed in a gentle gesture of
rebuke; it could be a hand saying “stay” to a dog. All that is
below the hand obeys its mystifying command: Mary’s body appears
deflated, weak, incapable of motion. But above the hand, her white-edged
eyes are wild, leaping toward the beloved, springing at him. Her
mouth is open slightly, gasping, or begging perhaps. The forbidding
hand is below their line of sight -- her eyes do not see and her
mind cannot grasp what is warding her off; the gesture works on
her body like an imprisoning spell.
is something else, something extra, about the gesture that Carson
can’t quite identify. The arm nearly straight down, wrist angled
up, the index finger raised higher than the rest. The hand is
tensed but open. It is expectant. It is about to pick something
up. But look at the lines; look at what that first finger extends
toward. It is reaching for a lock of that significant hair, and
beneath it, Mary’s breast. The Son of Man is also a son of woman.
Even if he doesn’t belong to either Heaven or earth, still he
loves both, craves both, craves what is most essential in each
realm. He is trying to explain to her. In this moment, both are
too, wants without end.
* * *
It is time. Yes yes yes it is time it is time...
flickering tongue, her pressing, delectating mouth, the sensations,
the movement, the heat, the pressure, the boiling, thundering
magnitude, he kicks, he thrusts, he cries out in ragged gasps,
more, more more more it is time --
is with him, his guide and protector, his fellow traveler in the
open plains of need. She lays her hand flat on his breastbone.
“Keep breathing,” she murmurs. Her other hand tenderly raises
his gorged, tensed scrotum on nimble fingers, shivering and jouncing
the sore, shiny bundle. His angry penis no longer waves but thumps
itself imperiously against his abdomen, rising up, rising to demand
its right, to drum out the command that it is time.
she unties his hands, his arms tremble and contract like wet newborn
limbs. She kisses him deeply on the mouth and gently holds his
face in her hands until he is able to open his eyes and look at
her. He sees a corona of rosy curls, the solar music illuminating
her eyes, her loveful smile. She stretches her body next to his,
skin on skin from breast to belly to foot, sharing sweat and sheen.
He is shut-eyed and silent now, and still except for the geologic
heaves of his breathing, his stomach and pelvis locked in a final,
finishing thrust that waits only a moment more, only a moment
hand closes around him and slides with slick ease slowly to the
crown. Full strokes, firm and real, opening skyways and lightning
clouds inside his body, one, two, three, firm and real, gaining,
gaining, scorching all the hot places, searing and squeezing.
His hands clamp to his face, grip fistfuls of hair, her strong
fingers, the hill of flesh at the heel of her hand, pushing him,
pushing him, and then his hands open, seeking, wanting. His hands
open, one up, rising to the sky, one down, noli, the commanding
hand held close between her body and his, below their line of
vision, one up, one down, down seeking hers, the heat, the want,
he is the bridge, he is not yet, one hand open and aspiring,
one hand tensed and gesturing the unbelievable, the not of this
world, and she obeys, and he breathes.
Marie Drennan teaches media
writing at San Francisco State University, and is about to finish
an M.A. in Creative Writing. "Ascension" is her first foray into
erotic fiction, and although she doesn't know what possessed her
to write a dirty story (for a fiction workshop led by the chairperson
of her department, no less), she really liked doing it and plans
to continue. Ms. Drennan's boyfriend wishes to state that he in
no way figures in any of the author's work.
© 2003 by Marie Drennan