I didn’t remember the train ride home.
I didn’t remember Penn Station or the cab or opening the door to my apartment. All I knew was that I saw things on a Sunday in Autumn. I wrote them down in a little book, and I gave them away, and then I was lying in my dingy little bed.
I felt very still and very calm and very much a different person. At some point, I stopped shaking. At some point, I stopped crying. Then it was like I had woken up and there was dew on everything and everything was new.
I’d slept though; harder than I can ever remember sleeping. I’m not sure if I dreamed though. What can you dream about after a day like that?
When I awoke, I showered and touched my body. For the first time I realized how odd it was that in all the while I was in Mr. McIntyre’s world no one touched me; not really, not like they touched each other. Before I knew it, the water was scalding hot, and the bathroom was filled with steam and Eloise was banging on the door and yelling that she was going to be late.
I wore the pencil skirt my aunt had bought me from Macy’s. A pair of shoes I’d gotten for a wedding. A pretty blue blouse I bought a while ago but never dared to wear. Even the bra Marcy gave me and some underwear I bought for a date once. I treated myself to a blueberry muffin, and I was still at work fifteen minutes early.
In the office I slipped a page into my typewriter and closed my eyes and smelled the perfume Holly, the girl in the next office, wore. Something soft and floral and French. She was always pretty and sweet. I smiled at her, and she smiled back and gave me a quizzical little look.
Then the door slammed. The stomping. He came into the office like a storm. I told myself to look up, look him in the eye and I surprised myself that I could.
“Good morning Mr. McIntyre,” I said as boldly as I dare.
He took the mail I handed him and let a half smile slip from his mask.
“Eleven o’clock with Mr. Murphy. Lunch at one with your accountant. Drinks at four with-” our eyes met again.
“Coffee in fifteen, then get me my lawyer on the phone,” he took his mail, and as he opened his door, he looked back, “nice blouse.”
I was Cleopatra. I was the queen of the world.
Maybe I expected something to change. For him to do something to me. After the comment on my blouse, the day went as it always did. He was busy, I was busy, though maybe I wasn’t as nervous as usual. In fact, I was floating on a cloud.
On the train home, the memories came as I watched the gray sky out the window.
He beat her. He beat her like I’ve never imagined anyone could be beaten and she took it. Was it silly to think that I was so proud of her I nearly cried?
She did cry, at the end. All those blows with her own riding crop. His huge hand on her throat, on her face, on her bottom. Then he was holding her, and it was like I was watching the most intense movie ever made. He held her as she cried and he kissed her tears away, and she pulled his clothes off.
And then there it was.
I almost jumped out of my skin when Trudy touched my arm. “Breathe,” she said. I realize I hadn’t for a very long time.
There it was. Mr. McIntyre’s-every word for it was a bad word. There it was half hard, I guess. Though I couldn’t imagine it bigger or harder. Marcy looked at it with greedy eyes and then she was burying her face in his lap.
“Write,” Chase whispered into my ear.
I tried to get it down, but I didn’t have the words. I’d never really seen one. Well, at summer camp some boys went skinny dipping. Matthew Farrow, my prom date. He pulled it out, and I touched it for a second before getting out of his car and running home.
None of them looked like Mr. McIntyre’s though. It was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
Marcy had it. She sucked it. I couldn’t even be jealous. I couldn’t imagine anyone being in front of it and not sucking it. It was like art watching it slide in and out of her mouth.
Then he pushed her onto the floor. Her legs splayed when she landed. Purple bruises on her thighs. The pink of her. She’d shaved off all of the hair except for a bit on the top. It looked very different from mine, small and neat. I could see the wetness from my chair. I think I could even smell her.
Then, when Mr. McIntyre got on top of her, something happened. My heart started hurting. My head started spinning. When I heard Marcy moan and then they were moving, rutting, and it was all too much. I couldn’t write. I wasn’t supposed to watch, not after she cried. Not after she took all that. I was just a stupid girl. I was just a silly virgin.
Then, just like that, I was up and out of the room.
I heard Trudy laugh, I think. Chase said “stop,” but I was already up and out the door and running down the hall and crying. Then I was outside, on the huge porch. Out with the crickets and the bees and my heart and my mind out of control. Outside in a dress that wasn’t mine, peeking into a life that wasn’t mine.
I was in a world that wasn’t mine.
No one came for me, not for two hours or so. When Trudy and Chase finally came out of the house, they looked like they’d showered. Trudy was blushing, and Chase looked tired. They said little. They didn’t yell at me or even say anything about the fact that I left. They just drove me to the train and gave me too much money for a cab.
Back in the subway car on my way home, remembering, I wondered what would have happened if I stayed in that room. What would I have seen? What would he have done to the three of them, his playthings, his little club? Would it have eventually have been my turn?
Did I want that? I wanted it so much much I shook just thinking about it. At the same time, the idea of it was like looking over the Empire State Building and wanting to jump. It was too much. It was too scary and powerful. I was a mouse playing with a lion.