Fire, light, power, control, and, oh yes, the missing link of sex. You were wondering if I’d ever get there? I remember when we got a visit from a social worker after I was found with drawings of a teacher I had passed to another boy in sixth grade.  I had drawn her sexual accoutrements in exaggerated form and labeled all the parts like in health class with a long line ending in an arrowhead with titles on the other end.  She intercepted it and was shocked to see her face, completely recognizable, without a nuance of parody, on top of a naked body that was a pre-teen caricature of female sexual anatomy. In retrospect, I think that I was in love with her—the only woman I came into contact with regularly in those days

            The social worker had dropped in unannounced because there seemed to be no active telephone—there wasn’t—she showed the photo to Cyclops who eyed if for a long moment and said “I know exactly what to do about this.” to the social worker, a ex-hippy Florence Nightingale. Dad was dead tired and this was an extra burden adding to his fatigue. He sent me to bed without dinner, and I could hear him walking around the house pulling things out of drawers and closets and shoving them around, and I was grateful for not having to face him. 

            Around midnight, I found myself being dragged out of bed by my feet.  Dad was calling me names like pervert and jack-off and said that I needed to learn a lesson.  I stood in the cold living room in my jockey shorts and socks on the dirty worn carpet being questioned about why I had drawn the picture, who had put the idea into my head—Had I been touching the girls, other boys, myself—Were my sister and brother safe from my lusts and perverted influence?

            He grabbed a tee shirt out of the chest of drawers and tore it lengthwise and I marveled at the strength it must have taken to do this without strain or hesitation. He blindfolded me with the white over-washed cloth of my undershirt which, oddly enough, felt soothing in some way. Then a dry moldy smelling rag was stuffed in my mouth.  Later I saw that it was my own dirty sock that had been lying near the bed—. No, I am not going to change the fucking subject. Not yet.

            As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted. I had been struggling to breathe, but not just because of the rag in my mouth. He tied me to my own bed, the kind with a foot board with posts. He was using strips of undershirt and the knots weren’t very tight, but I didn’t dare try to escape.

            Here’s what you won’t believe, but it true as Ex-lax makes you shit. I felt my legs and chest tingle and smelled something like musky bitter almond. I realized that what was at first a trickle of warmth was the peach fuzz on my skin beginning to burn. Dad had started a paper fire in a wastebasket and placed it in front of my feet. I was being roasted like a suckling pig. Then everything went black. I woke up sometime that in the pitch black of night. He was gone but I was afraid to try to untie myself. Any horrible thing that you can imagine could happen to a body, I had imagined that night had already happened to me.

            Eventually I just sloughed off the bindings that were almost just hanging on me. I examined myself carefully afraid of what I might find. My jockey shorts were black with soot on the outside, the remnants of shame, and guilt on the inside. The flames had not gotten very high. The fire had damaged only the skin on my shins. The hair of my chinny, chin, chin. My pubic hair was singed gray white, like I had prematurely aged out of fear, like in the horror flicks, and the stubble disintegrated into a fine grit as I rubbed to see if the grey would come off.  He must have used the lighter there, because there really wasn’t much paper in the basket. I don’t know how I got untied. I didn’t dare ask the girls. I guess that I wanted to preserve some filament of modesty for them, and I was so ashamed, not just for what had happened to me but just thinking of what he had done.  I was ashamed for him.  Well, thanks for enduring my monologue. I had to get that out.

            —

            No, you’re doing just fine. That’s fine, barely a hint of friction as it glides.

            —

            Oh, I didn’t know that the silence seems creepy. Talking, hey, that’s easy for me.  Let me see.  Got it.

            So I want to tell you about my first date with Cindy. Of course, I didn’t tell her all of this stuff about my family, but it was in the back of my mind, like somehow she’d sense it from the moment I approached her. I went for broke one night and asked her out for a drink and appetizers. Holy crap, she agreed right off the bat saying that she was free that night and that there was a tapas place near the store that she wanted to check out. I was freaked because I had assumed she’d have excuses and I’d have to wear her down with requests and yes-buts. Or she’d have that ESP thing women have. Yeh, intuition, and step away like I a warm pitcher of spit.

            I had chosen a small and not very busy place. It was originally just a shotgun bar, so the tables were lined up along the wall opposite the counter. Closer to the entrance than to the back tables, an antique silver and crystal chandelier that didn’t seem to belong in a new, upscale place, cast a yellowish light that was more somber than romantic. Over the white linen, tea light candles flickered at the bottom of tall cylindrical lamps of red translucent glass covered with black fish-netting. For the three tables near the back, where black sheer curtains sequestered the bathroom and back exit doors, these lamps provided virtually all the light. I steered the hostess away from the front restaurant and toward more intimate seating, and landed the third table from the back.

            Cindy didn’t seem to notice this little ploy, and after barely looking at the wine list–I had never seen anyone order from one-she confidently ordered a glass of tinto, that’s what they call red wine.  I said I’d try the same. I admitted to knowing nothing about tapas and she ordered for us both. There was just a moment of awkward silence before Cindy started asking me about my family and telling me all about hers.

            —

            Yea, you could say it wasn’t the best ice-breaker. Not the way for her to position herself as a sophisticated, cosmopolitan, girl about town, or at least I had thought that was what she was trying to do. I made up a family life to tell her about that was pretty much based on “Leave it to Beaver.” I even invented a brother who had sheltered me through high school, and told her how great it was to have him on my side against kids that hassled me because of my skin condition. That was my way of introducing the subject of how ugly she thought I was. She didn’t bite though. At the end, it was awkward again. I didn’t dare kiss her, even after sitting there in the near dark for two hours, and the wine and all. I just put a limb arm around her shoulder as she gave me a polite hug at the subway station.  Enough for me to inhale her perfume—Yes, it’s the same one I asked you to put on.

            The bottom fell through when she came to my apartment after the second date. It had gone marvelously.  I even held her hand as we walked a little row of trees near the park on the way to my place.  I thought I’d start with something we had in common.  Boy was I wrong. I showed her my etchings, so to speak, my collection of prosthesis parts.

            —

            If you could only see yourself. That look on your face tells me you probably think that I cut Cindy up in pieces and have her parts here in my backpack. No, Cindy’s safe and sound. I am the injured one; can’t you sense its permanence—

            Yes, I am a bit freaky, but fuck; I am no damn psychopathic killer.

            —

            OK that over with.  Where the fuck was I.  Oh, yes. She had freaked out at my place, and I was hoping that it would just wear off, like the slight headache you get from bad wine, not a hangover really, but unpleasant. Instead on Monday, after I’d started work at the bench on some cheek fleshware, she walks up and throws that wonderful object in your hand on the bench. If it hadn’t hit some fleshware, the comb would probably have shattered into shards of jade. I am not sure if jade just breaks or splinters. She was talking a mile a minute saying she never speak to me again, even at work, but I had tuned her out, yeh, even her, because all I cared about at that moment was whether she had done permanent damage to the precious object. Enough got through to know that my my job was kaput. She had complained to my boss. Something about me setting her up for a freak show at my flat and with stolen property from the store.

            —

            Yes, I was in a rage, and I did think of all sorts of nasty things I could do to her, and I have quite the imagination. I even went to her place a few times and stood under that weeping willow, but the spell had been broken, she was no longer a princess, neither Cinderella or Rapunzel. All I could see was that anger and disgust in her face, which is why you were pissing me off a few minutes ago, too much like her.

            —

            You’re changing the subject I see, But Oh, I probably do this about three time a month if I can afford it, especially if I find someone as attractive as you. Sort of a treat, a present to myself.

            —

            No, they don’t have to be Asian, or Ukrainian, thin or tall, blond or brunette, none of that.  Just kind of innocent and naughty, and great hair. That’s important. But my job taught me that it doesn’t have to be their own.  I’d be a hypocrite if I were prejudiced against people that need some augmentation. That would be pathetic.

            — Yes, I know my time is almost up.  No, I don’t need to touch you, not that way.  Just keep combing your hair.