Shame, such a shame
I think I kinda lost myself again.
(‘Dissolved Girl’, Massive Attack. Lyrics throughout.)

 She had not slept well but her stomach flipped trying to drink her coffee.

She had both longed for and dreaded this booking, feeling out of her skin with anticipation.

It had been four months since the only other time she’d met him, and could not remember much. Only that his beauty and silence had knocked her sideways. That he’d been enormous, strong enough to pick her up and fuck her in midair. That the sex should have been excellent, and may well have been. Except she couldn’t be there with him. That despite her intense attraction to him, she hadn’t been able to brush off the performative veneer. That she could barely recall it at all. That she had become something autonomous and hard and wild.

It had made her terribly uneasy. a seed of an idea had been planted, that perhaps something was wrong with her. This morning she might know for sure.

He was early, almost twenty minutes early. Others would have certainly copped a sharp reply, but she simply swallowed hard over her dry throat, pulled denim shorts over simple cotton Calvin Kleins and texted him back.

Coming down.

It was 7:45am and as nervous as she was, an eerie calm settled over her too. That wildness waiting within. The Animal.

The lobby was large and gleaming. Marble, metal and glass. He stood out, even in the corner. An organic shape so sturdy and still amongst the oscillating black suits.

They saw each other at the same time and she watched him unfold to his full height.

Despite forgetting his face, she had not misremembered his beauty. He was one of the most glorious men she had ever slept with. Let alone been paid to sleep with.

As he walked toward her, she willed herself to try harder to remember him this time. She knew it was very unlikely she would ever see him again.

So tall – 6’3”? Thick dark hair even longer than the first time, brushing his shoulders and restrained at the nape of his neck. Shoulders so broad he might have been able to sling her across them like a scarf. Spanish or Greek? Had he told her? Wait, it was something a bit different: Macedonian.

Alexander the Great was a Macedonian Prince.

He towered over her in the lift. They regarded each other serenely. His face was broader and flatter than the Hollywood actor he resembled, she now observed. In October, she’d asked him if people often likened them, and he’d looked down at the floor and nodded, in exasperation or embarrassment she wasn’t sure. “Yeah…yeah they do.”

Now in front of him again, she had started to fall away from herself on the inside already. She couldn’t help it. She had become so adept at leaving her body that she could not stay. Even when she longed to simply remain a woman in bed with a man.

Inside the room, he wordlessly placed $700 on a ledge. A wad of fifty-dollar notes balancing on their edge, standing vertical.

Eyes downcast, he stripped off the grey t-shirt. His shorts and shoes. Like her, he’d worn cotton Calvin Kleins and these were now on the ground too. He shed his clothes without arrogance and stood in the morning sunlight quiet and still. As though humbly gifting her the sight of him…and yes, a gift it truly was.

Long, lean and broad. A body clearly gifted and worked on doggedly for many years as well.

Remember this. Blood thumped behind her temples as she took a small step closer.

You are spectacular.” She admitted finally, and felt his complimentary reply fall to the floor between them. Not allowing it to land on her.

She crept closer again to breathe in his skin. Nose almost touching his sternum. A clean aroma of cotton and something earthy and deep. She could somehow feel his scent. She was shapeshifting.

You don’t need a shower.”

She wore only her underpants already and his long fingers stroked her through them. He was speaking to her softly, saying more than the first time. Was he kind? He seemed kind, gentle, but she wasn’t listening. Straining hard to stay with him and at the same time being autonomously spirited away to the dark place within. Too guilty to remain. She couldn’t meet his eyes at all, did not even know their colour. Instead slitting her gaze and hungrily, clinically cataloging him into her brain as best she could.

Inside her, the familiar wall of disassociation was creeping higher. The line between what she knew to be herself and the other creature that dwelled within her. Remember, remember, remember this… even as she pleaded, she knew she would not.

Cause it feels like I’ve been, I’ve been here before,
and I’m not your saviour but you still don’t go
Feels like something that I’ve done before
And I could fake it but I’d still want more.

It was The Animal that fucked him. Something of her but not her that licked the sweat from his neck and demanded he hold her harder in his hands. Indeed, he even named her, pulling her to him with a wry smile.

“You’re an animal.”

And she was.

She could not allow him to make love to her. Mentally, she kept him at arm’s length, even though it hurt. He might’ve wanted to be tender with her, but if she allowed it she would break.

Her pleasure felt frustratingly distant even as she came, and came again. A dot of light at the end of a dim tunnel.

Fate, made to fade. Passion’s overrated anyway.
Say it, say my name
Need a little love to ease the pain.

He was destined to be reduced to a few frames, a hazy mental pornography. Like a little pile of Polaroids for her to keep, fading quickly over time.

Him unfolding to greet her in the lobby.

Their noses and lips brushing.

His thick, dark hair wound around her left hand.

The Animal flinging shopping bags from a table to better glimpse the mirror, where he held her from behind. Standing on tiptoe to only just fit into the cove of his long legs.

Breathing hard and drenched in sweat, lying side by side afterward.

Strangely and most prominently of all, the moment she’d noticed she was clutching the pendant around his neck, the edges nearly cutting into her palm. She’d been begging him to put his weight on her. He couldn’t get close enough, even from inside her. Could he tell that she was trapped?

The pendant had three stones in a vertical line. Immediately, she was unable to recall if they had been red, or blue, or green.

It had been the day before her 35th birthday, and two days before his 36th. A useless fact they’d uncovered in a few stilted minutes of conversation. It was only when they spoke that her nerves were evident. She’d hated how she’d sounded. Like an awkward teenaged girl. She’d chattered on in a high pitched voice that was not her own.

Sitting in the ruined bed afterward, she clutched a sweaty pillow close to her face and considered screaming into it. All the linen was soaked and would have to be changed. He’d noticed and apologised for it as he was leaving. A few tears slid down her face. She’d screwed up her eyes to get them out, trying to assess her grief. Would she ever truly feel a man ever again, or only be like a performing seal for life now?

She felt hollow, starved and full of fury. That day, The Animal had won.


— Photography by Emma Salmon – The Blacklight Sydney —