Helo is packing for a trip, and I am watching him, sitting on the bed. I ask if I can help with anything. I am told I can do the dishes, but later. For now…
Two minutes later I find myself in the “downward dog” yoga position, my ass in the air, back arched, toes pointed in and heels out, with an egg timer balanced precariously on the small of my back. This, Helo assures me, is helping him keep track of time while he packs. I can hear him moving about the apartment. He has thoughtfully laid out the yoga mat – last time my elbows got some pretty bad rug burn. He pauses once and a while to adjust my posture and lift my hips. I love the feeling of his hands on my hips, pulling me up. At first, the position is easy, but after not much time, my arms begin to ache. My legs can hold the position forever, but my upper body strength is somewhat lacking. “Breathe!” comes the call from the other room, and I do, I try, but keeping the position for this long really hurts. “Can I switch to dolphin, please?” I ask. He agrees, adjusts my hips again, and keeps packing. I lower myself onto my forearms and rest my forehead on them. My arms shake. I vow to put in more time with the weight machines at the gym.
Finally, Helo is done packing and gives me a break, but not much of one. I am back in downward dog, this time with my panties (lacy, white) pulled halfway down my legs. He paces behind me. I know he’s got the cane. “What do you say?” he asks, the opening words of our ritual. I do not disappoint in the answering. “Please, sir,” I say clearly, bracing myself. It stings, it hurts, and then it burns. I breathe. I do not make a sound. He waits, but not for long. The cane taps across my skin, prompting, waiting… I take a deep breath. “Please, sir.” The pain slashes across the back of my leg, stinging. Only recently have I begun to realize the precision and skill it must take to wield a cane well. My lover is good at it – though tonight he pauses to inspect my skin, to make sure it hasn’t been broken.
We continue in our ritual. At some point I dissolve into dolphin pose again. My arms begin to shake. “Please sir, my arm is going numb…” Helo repositions me, on my knees, back arched, head down and arms stretching out in front of me. This position is more painful, somehow; my body cannot move with the strokes as much to diffuse them – I cannot run.
Instead, I flinch away. Not often. Helo always pauses, waits for me to get back into position. He doesn’t have to say anything… I do it on my own. I want to obey. I want to make him proud. “You asked for this,” he reminds me, once, gently. “Yes, sir,” I say between sniffling. It’s hard to feel poised and beautiful when you’ve started weeping into the yoga mat. But he’s right. I did ask. It’s sometimes hard for me to ask for things like this, because I suppose I am afraid the answer will be no. I wanted Helo to leave marks on my body, marks for me to remember him by, so I can feel him, while he’s out of town.
The strikes come faster now, or at least I perceive them to. I’m tapped out, I usually am when I begin crying, but one of the thing that I love about our ritual is that it’s not up to me. I don’t get to decide when my beating is finished. And I can take much, much more, not for myself, but for Helo. That sense of panic, of feeling lost, adrift, that can set in with others, is thwarted by the knowledge that he is there to catch me and pull me back.
He stops. I remain in position. He goes into the other room, comes back, pulls me to my feet. It wasn’t the meanest beating I’d ever had from him, but we were pressed for time, and I hadn’t been expecting to cry. Foolish. I bury my face into his shoulder, crying, and he holds me for as long as I want. His arms feel good around me, his body against mine, his jeans against my bare skin, the way he smells… everything dulled and heightened at the same time. “Thank you, sir,” I say shakily.
“Would you like to see your marks?” I nod, and we walk to the mirror. “Oh,” I say, looking at the thick red lines, some of which have welted up. My skin feels like it is on fire. I caress them gingerly, smiling. The thing I notice the most, though, is how unbelievably aroused I am, my upper thighs slick with wetness. It’s shocking to see it in the mirror, though I am not sure why.
I follow Helo into the bedroom for the second part of our ritual…
Afterwards, before we leave for the airport, I still find time to do the dishes.