Sunday, 8 April 2012

7. A paralytic spiral of indecision

I am lying on the single bed in the back bedroom at Sally's flat in my underwear. My arms are crossed, my left palm on my right shoulder and vice versa. My wrists are tied to my chest with intricate knots of black cord. My thighs and ankles are lashed together with a series of intertwining loops.

A joss stick burns on top of the chest of drawers near my head, in a holder shaped like a long green leaf. I watch the smoke spiral up into the air. When I was a child I loved the smoke from joss sticks, the way it's so heavy, the way it curls with the slightest movement of the air.

Sally has been working as a dominatrix for about a year. She often works with people who want to be tied up. I had never thought about this before Sally began doing it for a living, but tying people up isn't something that comes naturally. If you just get a rope out and start knotting, you won't be very good, and your client won't be pleased, and they won't come back. Sally needs to practice tying people up before charging £200 a session for it, and she likes to use me.

In return she'll usually cook me dinner, which is what she is doing at the moment in the kitchen; she checks on me periodically, but I like her to leave me alone as much as possible. Because of this, she is always careful not to tie me near the neck.

 I can smell the food. Salmon marinaded in honey and soy sauce. Rice. Steamed kale with melted butter, sprinkled with sesame seeds. A glass of sharp white wine cold from the fridge.

Sally is currently learning Japanese rope bondage. This requires thin rope, intricately looped and knotted. It needs to not only work as restraints, but also as a work of art. I look down at myself, as far as I can. Black cord on pale skin. Sometimes Sally takes pictures of me.

I'm not sexually turned on by bondage, or indeed by any variation of BDSM. I find it fascinating, both psychologically and aesthetically, but it doesn't arouse me. I do feel a certain amount of kinship with people who are interested in it, because they can be insightful, interesting and thoughtful people. I've often found this to be true of people whose mentality or inclinations are not widely socially acceptable. You're more or less forced to think beyond surface level in order to reach a compromise between yourself and the world. (My personal sexual needs are, by the standards of the people Sally knows, vanilla to the point of boring. I require a consensual and friendly sexual encounter with 1 (one) attractive and pleasant man in a private location. There are no accessories or acts I feel to be essential).

However, I do find being tied up extremely relaxing. You can't do anything but wait to be untied. You surrender everything, all choice, all power. All the crap we have to do every day - watch TV, go on the internet, eat, write blogs, all the decisions we have to make every five minutes - it all has to be put aside. All you can do is exist, staring at the white Aertexed ceiling, at the joss stick, for the indefinite period before being untied. And there is always the possibility you might not be untied for some time.

While Sally is my friend, and I know that she'll untie me as soon as I ask her to, she has absolute power - if she chooses to say no, I have to stay tied up. I don't even have that much choice. Of course, she doesn't ever say no, and if she did it would be a difficult point in our friendship, but the possibility is there so the decision, technically, lies with her. This means bondage is essentially a complete abdication of any responsibility whatsoever, even the responsibility for my own body.

As someone who always shops in small supermarkets simply because the level of choice in big ones sends me into a paralytic spiral of indecision (I have been known to spend 15 minutes walking up and down the cornflake aisle staring at the 50 different boxes and freaking out about which one I want) this is an extremely attractive state of mind. The complete lack of any control over externals leads - well, for me, anyway - to a state of meditation approaching trance.

Thoughts float randomly in and out of my head. I remember, with hallucinatory clarity, standing on the quayside of a fishing village (the sky is steel grey and at my feet the sandy marshes stretch out towards the water. Two seagulls quarrel over a fish head. The after-taste of an oyster is on my tongue like the essence of the sea).

Put out the lamps. Light the moon. Light the stars. I'm tired of bright unwavering electric light. I'm tired of sex without passion and laughter without joy, tired of concrete instead of trees. I'm tired of having control, of being in control, of having to be controlled. I'm tired of my world, tired of advertising, Facebook, television, being lonely, falling in love with the wrong people, having to be in charge. I wish I was anyone anywhere else. I wish I could start again.

Sally comes in. She is whip-thin, with long black hair. Her eyes are such an intense blue they look like they're lit up from inside. She wears black, she always wears black, it's an image thing. She leans down and starts working at the first knot with her thin musician's fingers.

"It's time," she says. 

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