He asks if I’ve been tied up before. I tell him yes, and he wants to know for how long. Tell me about it, he says. I feel shy; I don’t want to go into details. We’re sitting in Vesuvio’s at four in the afternoon, drinking gin and tonics. He has his hand on my thigh. I’m madly in love with him—we’ve known each other three weeks. I’m not ambivalent like I usually am, everything about him seems perfect: his close-cut black hair, the way he puts his tongue down my throat when he kisses me, his blunt, square hands. He’s the sexiest man I’ve ever been with. It scares me that I can feel so happy. None of our friends think it will last.
I want to tie you up, he says. I want to do things with you that you’ve never done with anyone.
A man at the bar is doing card tricks. He holds up the queen of diamonds and shows it to a pale, pretty girl in a black leather mini-dress, black fishnet tights, and heavy black combat boots. The girl looks bored. She glances over at us and sees me watching her. She takes a card from the magician’s deck, looks at it, and sticks it back in.
We get drunk sitting in Vesuvio’s. At seven o’clock we’re still there, kissing passionately, his hand under my T-shirt squeezing my breast. No one pays any attention to us. The magician is still there, too, talking to another woman. He holds up the queen of hearts. Finally we get hungry and walk around the corner to Brandy Ho’s and eat Kung Pao chicken and Szechuan shrimp, sitting next to each other in the red leather booth. I feel like I’m in an alternate universe. Everything looks familiar but it’s different than before. The sexual intoxication is overwhelming, I can’t function in the real world: I haven’t called my friends, paid my bills, read a newspaper since all this started. I don’t want it ever to end. I feel vulnerable and it’s terrifying; I can’t help being in love with him, even if he leaves me or treats me like shit I can’t hold back the way I usually do, I have to give him everything. Then I won’t know who I am anymore.
With his glasses on he looks like a different person: shy, slightly studious, younger. It’s as if he’s in disguise; I don’t recognize him as the same person I fuck. I like him in his glasses, like the idea that there are things about him no one could ever guess from the way he looks. He takes his glasses off, sets them on my kitchen table.
Take off your clothes and stand against the wall, he says.
I peel off my T-shirt, drop my skirt and underwear, and lean against the wall, facing him. He tells me to put my arms above my head. We’ve just finished dinner. He pours himself more wine and tips his chair back, drinking the wine, watching me.
Don’t move, he says. He leaves the kitchen. I hear him pissing in the bathroom. I’m excited, scared, I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I close my eyes, listen to the stream of piss hitting the water in the bowl. My neighbor in the next apartment starts playing the clarinet. She’s just learning so it’s all honks and squeaks. The walls are thin, I’m worried someone will hear us, I don’t want anyone to hear us. I don’t want anyone to know what we do together, what he does to me.
He comes back to the kitchen, zipping his pants. He takes an apple from the bowl of fruit on the table.
Open your mouth.
He shoves the apple against my mouth; my teeth sink into it. I’m gagged. He’s not gagging me. I can drop the apple any time. I want him to dominate me, use me; I want to be his slave. I have to understand submission, why it’s so erotic for me; I can’t reconcile it with the rest of my life. I’ve never let myself physically explore how I feel because intellectually I can’t accept it. Women are shit, they’re only here for men’s pleasure, men control everything.
My beautiful slut, he says. Look how wet you are. He puts his middle finger inside me, then in his mouth. He unbuckles his belt and takes it off in one smooth motion.
One Saturday night when we’re fucking the condom breaks. I know I’m ovulating, I don’t want to get pregnant. He calls a sex information hotline and asks what we can do, and they tell him there’s an abortion pill I can take; I should call a doctor to prescribe it.
I call the advice line at Kaiser and get put on hold. I wait forty-five minutes, then a voice comes on the line and says there’s one more call ahead of me. I wait ten more minutes. The woman on the other end tells me she can’t help me, I need to talk to Doctor X. I ask her to connect me. She connects me to the wrong extension ; the people there tell me to call a different number. I hang up, dial the main hospital, and ask for Doctor X.
He’s not on tonight.
I explain what’s happening. The woman on the other end insists that Doctor X isn’t there, and no one else can prescribe the pill. Finally someone else gets on the phone and tells me that Doctor X is being paged. I’m put on hold again. A Muzak version of “We’ve Only Just Begun” by the Carpenters plays, followed by the Beatles’ “Here, There, and Everywhere.” Twenty minutes later another person gets on the line.
Can I help you?
I think I’m being helped. I don’t know. I’ve been on the phone for an hour and a half, I’m trying to reach Doctor X.
I want to scream at the person on the phone but she is very nice, it’s not her fault, there’s nobody to blame, I don’t want to scream at her. I don’t want to have a baby. I’m thirty years old, I work at a café and never have enough money for art materials. My mother was a painter, she stopped after she had me. I can’t be a painter if I have a baby. He doesn’t want a baby either. Not this way, he says. Not by accident.
Please hold, the nice person says. I listen to a few bars of “My Cherie Amour.” A minute later Doctor X gets on the line.
You have to come to the Emergency Room to pick it up, he says.
Can’t you just call it in to a drugstore?
We have to see you, he says. There are certain risks involved.
He says that if the pills don’t work and the fetus is female it could be turned into a boy by the hormones. Masculinized, he says. The fetus might be masculinized and if you decide to have the baby there could be problems.
I don’t want to have the baby, I say. I want the pills. If they don’t work I’ll have an abortion, but I’ve had three abortions already and that’s why I want the pills. Please, I say. Can’t you call it in?
You have to come to the Emergency Room, he repeats, sounding annoyed. We have to have a record that we’ve seen you.
I hang up. It’s ten P.M., we haven’t had any dinner. He puts his arms around me.
He says, I hate to see you go through this.
I hate doctors, I say. I hate Western medicine. I hate Kaiser, you never see the same doctor twice. Nobody knows you or gives a shit about you, you’re a name on a chart. Why can’t they just give me the pills?
Let’s go eat first, he says. I’ll take you some place nice, we’ll forget about this bullshit. The Emergency Room will be open all night.
He takes me to North Beach. We drink a lot of wine. I start to feel better, now it’s an adventure we’re having together instead of a lousy experience. We joke about it, he puts his hand over mine on the red-and-white checkered tablecloth. I’ve never been so in love with anyone. I tell him I don’t think I want any children.