|On Your Mark (Published in Scarlet Letters, 2003.)
Don't believe me for a minute if you mark me and I look at you
with a glare.
Instead, search for the easy grin hiding beneath my eyes and know
that for days afterwards, I'll finger your impression. I won't
cover it. I'll watch it fade slowly, hoping by the time it's gone,
you'll be back around to replace it with another. I'll pull my
hair back on purpose, and make it look coincidental. When someone
asks who gave it to me, I won't say your name. I'll smile suave
and smug and coy, and shrug my shoulders -- knowing full well
they'll know just who from my smirk alone, leaving them to imagine
how or where or when I earned my stripes.
The first hickey I ever got I wore like a medal. I don't remember
which one it was exactly, but I have a good idea who it was from.
I relished my friends in braces pulling back my hair who'd yell-whisper,
"Ohmigawd!" I could taste their excitement, finished with the
aftertaste of envy. I wore a turtleneck out of the house when
I left -- one of those with a repeated small pattern on it, hearts
or rainbows or tiny turtles, the sort that apparently invited
the shop teacher to snap all of our visible bra straps -- but
rolled the neck all the way down in school, not wanting to hide
it from even the most disapproving eyes (which may be the best
eyes of all). It was an ugly eyesore of a mark, but I thought
it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
Nothing is blemished in my blemishes: I find no flaws in a flaw.
I'm a sucker for pain and hard sensation that makes its mark.
I like to be brought sharply, harshly to my senses, but I'm not
a submissive: I relish the fight and the struggle and working
my ass off not to be broken, taking each lash or bite or pinch
with a sharp intake of breath and a hot shot of adrenaline. I
like the ones who are so sure they can break me best; they try
so hard, for so long.
So, you can leave more than hickeys if you like. Bruises, welts,
lashes, burns, scars, stains, teeth marks, pinpricks, rashes:
I crave and cherish all. The other night your intent thumb left
a circular bruise on my mons, red and tender from your fingers
pumping in and out of my cunt, holding tight to it. I'd set the
ball of my hand on it during the next day to feel the lingeringsoreness
and remember where I'd been the night before. The marks you left
on my neck were deepened by your other hand, pressing on my windpipe
just enough to make me dizzy. I'd remember this with the same
They're the wardrobe door to my private Narnia. I look at them,
touch them, someone else sees them and asks or gasps and I'm right
back inside the last fevered place I left. My head swims; I feel
flushed and heady. My sexual memories are visceral and sensate;
I am ever-willing prey to a swift assault of images, sounds and
scents. Just one glance in the mirror and the room smells like
you, of fresh-mowed grass and laundry soap on velvety, worn cotton.
The smallest touch of this sore spot or that one and you're here:
your eyes shut tight, lower lip sucked in slightly, the baby chick
fuzz of your just-shorn hair tickling my nipples and thighs.
I bruise easy; the usual curse of the fair-skinned is absolutely
my boon. Much of the time, no one intends to leave marks on me.
If I don't cry out or wince, I can trick them into leaving me
with these prizes unknowingly and tease them about them later,
but I won't mark you unless you ask.
That's a half-truth. There are times I'm so caught up in the fever
and the frenzy that I suck or bite forcefully, and initially,
I don't know I'm marking. But if you don't stop me, brush me away,
say no... I'll realize in short moments what I'm doing and suckle
all the more; harder, deeper. If I leave a mark and was left without
myself, I'll hint or ask for one in return. Just to be fair, you
know. For symmetry and balance, you know. Because I envy yours
and want one of my own, knowing you might get all of the images
and memories from yours and I want them for myself.
A woman at a cosmetics counter the other day spied my spotty neck.
In the most subtle way possible, she eyed the marks, halfcocked
a brow, and gestured to the rack of concealer samples. I shook
my head, subtly, in return. I wanted to ask, "Would you?" Knowing
she would, but she'd only cover it enough so as to look like she
made the attempt at decorum: not so much that it wasn't still
visibly green-blue under the thin veneer of cakey porcelain pancake,
and that the effort to conceal didn't make it stand out all the
Once every five years, I allow myself a tattoo. The rule is, I
have to wait those five years, and then spend at least a few months
working on the flash. The five year rule is in place because without
it, I know I'd look like Bradbury's illustrated man by the time
I'm 40. The adrenaline and the endorphins are addictive: each
time round I plan a piece slightly larger than the one before,
and look forward to the afternoon or evening spent high on my
own chemicals, remembered in color and line just beneath my skin.
This year I'll be able to get another, larger than ever, crossing
over muscle and bone, and before I've even got the piece designed,
I'm relishing its sensation and its significance. All of my marks
and stains, my scars and blemishes, the wounds and the weft of
my history as evidenced on my skin mark time, not merely flesh.
They simultaneously exist in one moment, celebrate and document
those past and anxiously tease and toy with moments to come.
My purpled emblem from last week is nearly invisible now: no one
else can likely see it, but I can hear the hushed vespers of its
ghost haunting my skin and sinew. You'll be back round tonight,
you can freshen it up. I'll make a point of pulling my hair over
my shoulders and showing you how much it's faded; invite you with
the blank canvas of my long, pale neck, my round ass or my tapered,
You'll accept the invitation, if I'm lucky, if I don't look like
I want it as badly as I do. I'll glare at you when I find it.
I'll feign shock we both know is false and plastic, and I'll mark
time with my brands, savoring the permanence of their impermanence.
I might not ever tell you these things. But you won't believe
me for a minute if you mark me and I glare.