I want you starved for touch. Said a lover. I want you when you haven’t been fucked all week and you’re dying for it.
But he does not understand that one thing has nothing to do with another. You tell him about the ritual.
You fly home, envelopes wedged in your backpack between Moleskine and MacBook. They have a name that isn’t yours written on them in varying handwriting. Sometimes it’s just an initial: M.
One of them sometimes says The Queen.
The envelopes are occasionally heavy enough to be surreal. But never for a second do you feel you have not earned them.
You never sleep on the last night of tour. You stayed up late last night playing music and defiantly messing up your hotel room, finally alone with your thoughts. Your eyes feel full of sand now, on the plane. You drown out the safety announcement as best you can via your headphones and drop two Hydrolyte into a bottle of water.
It’s hot and humid but you revel in it, free of hotel room air conditioning. Time for the Big Shower.
Suitcases flung open, still packed but mined of bathroom products. Work phone tucked away in pocket of your backpack. It will stay there all day.
You drop your clothes on the floor where you stand. Turn your music up loud enough to hear over the spray. You step in.
The water hits your scalp; you stand first with your chin down then turn your face slowly upward like a plant toward the sun. Every part of you is wet, but you continue to stand there, eyes shut tight. Just one more moment before you begin to wash. You often remember, in this first minute under the spray the first time you met one of your friends, another hooker. How she’d found herself describing this very same shower to you;
I wash my hair; I pull it back. Tight, tight, tight.
And she’d mimed it then, dragging her ceramic blue eyes to almonds. Making an imaginary ponytail.
You emerge, skin scrubbed, hair soaked, feet pumiced, teeth flossed and brushed. Every physical trace of them thoroughly removed, and with it their essence. The good, the bad and the ugly.
You only pat yourself dry briefly before turning your skin glossy with a thick layer of cream. Your face is naked, unfamiliar after two days of war-paint. You do not care about being beautiful right now. Only alone.
They touched you everywhere. You must take your body back. You must take yourself back.
Wet footprints over the floorboards, damp skin against the air. Climbing into bed. You slide on a kaftan. Clean soft cotton against your skin. Worn because you want to press the fabric to your thighs, over your cunt. The way it moves against you feels like the touch of a new lover. Magnetic. Inevitable.
Lying back, hands pressing down on your lower belly. Slowing your breathing. The sudden rush of love for your body. The gratitude for the money it makes you. Your body is a soldier for your soul.
I’ll love you. I’ll bring you home.
Lifting your heart, closing your eyes. You search for the right memory. Your mind is a mosaic of ghosts, lovers from years ago and weeks ago too.
They rise within you and you either slip into them or cast them to the side. You spend a moment or two with each. Stroking your palms idly over your inner thighs and pubic hair. Pressing fingers in a V each side of your labia. Your mind drifts, you are tired but you need this. Who are you thinking of today? Flashes of the way some held you so tight in their arms, how they’d worshipped you. How hard they were. How deep in you.
But more than this. How you’d felt. The pleasure you’d felt. The abandon. The release. This is for you. Not them. You work for it, steering your body into your thoughts. To make love to phantoms. Covered in their kisses, impaled on their cocks, limp at their voices. A sweat breaks on your brow. Yes, closer.
Your body protests a little. A twinge of pain from old crushed nerves under your right collarbone, shooting up to your neck and down to your wrist. It is guilt. The misplaced dogma girls are raised in. Your pleasure is only for the pleasure of men. Your pleasure is invalid.
No. You answer. Raising your heart again to smooth the frayed nerve bundle. No, I am my own.
And you triumph. You let your throat open and cry out with nobody to hear it. Relief floods your chest. Your head thrown back, jaw slack, fingers wet.
You are home in yourself again.
— Photography by Emma Salmon – The Blacklight Sydney —