The shoelaces dangle as if exhausted from their vigorous rub down. Brad cleaned them. Before that he unlaced them. This process started when his eyeballs narrowed their OCD search light stare, as he reached one hand down to abrade a fresh scuff mark, surprised that such a display of disorderliness would have the nerve to occur in his presence. After all this, he retrieves some fresh laces from his dresser.
“When did that happen?” he exclaims.
“Babe, they’re shoes. They’re the closest things on your body to the ground.”
Brad grabs a paper towel, folding it into several squares. He wipes the scuff mark with dark enthusiasm, the whites of his eyes, extra orbital, and the black of his pupils stitched tight, like crudely mended holes in a dress sock.
I watch Brad lace his shoes, then tie them and retie them before placing them in a perfect parallel to each other by the door. He stands over his white Chuck Taylors with apprehensive authority. He dims the lights, and takes out a new pair of sheets from his laundry bag. I can’t fathom how he has a full load of clothes to be washed every day, but there they are whenever I come over, like an obsessive compulsive magic trick.
Brad lays his pillow in front of him on the bed, patting it three times in five segments from one end of the pillow to the other. I light another cigarette, and go into the bathroom. I peruse the vintage postcards on the wall, studying one in particular, a drawing of a buxom red headed pin-up, the sides of whose breasts tumble out of her leopard print top, her ass, bounding and stretching the seams of her skirt as she lies wanton and resistant all at the same time in the arms of a sea monster. A caption above her languishing body reads, “The Most Dangerous Creature Known To Man!”
I finish my smoke, and discover Brad refolding and fluffing his clean clothes. A surge of agitation scurries through my veins. I turn around, light another cigarette, and sit on the edge of the bathtub, shaking my foot with restlessness.
“Why you breathing so heavy, doll?”
“I don’t know.”
He walks into the bathroom, grabbing me by the neck with one hand. My head collapses between his thumb and fingers. He kicks my shaking foot, and wedges my legs apart with his body. I have a distinct sensation that if I were any other girl I would run and never come back. I often feel like this at Brad’s. I wonder how many women HAVE run out the door.
“Are they still doing interviews?” I inquire of the short, muscled bartender with perfect bone structure.
“Nah, man. I’m sorry. The owner’s done for the day.”
“What! I’m still in the time window for sure!”
“I’ll double check. Just a minute.”
I lean against the bar, trying to stay calm. After getting lost on the streets of the meatpacking district for over an hour in 90-degree heat, all dolled up, and constantly fighting with the beads of sweat above my red-lipsticked-mouth, I am in no mood for getting jerked around.
“I hate to say it, but the owner left.”
“What the fuck?”
I collapse onto a barstool.
“Let me buy you a drink.”
I stare at the cocktail list without focus.
“I don’t wanna’ be disrespectful Miss, but has anyone ever told you that you have a very film noir look.”
I feel the redness of my cheeks muddle into a mixture of sun, anger, and flattery.
“And, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but you have this…nah, I shouldn’t be so forward.”
“What?” My curiosity gets the better of me. He is a native New Yorker with a Humphrey-Bogart-flare.
“It’s a ridiculous thing to say to a woman I barely know, but you have this quality. This kinda desperation mixed with a bit of fuck-off.”
A cynical laugh bolts from my mouth.
“Or maybe it’s a lot of fuck off,” He chuckles, “Did you decide on a drink?”
“Brad.” He holds out his hand.
As he pours some Bullet on the rocks, without asking what or how I want it, he says, “By the way, I think the right amount of desperation is kinda sexy.”
“Baby likes to fuck?”
“Yes,” I moan.
“Brad pulls me to the side of the bed.
“Stay there,” he orders. He walks to the closet and throws a pair of tan panty hose at my body, then dims the lights. I pull the nylons on as high as I can, above my breasts.
“You’re the most erotic thing I’ve ever seen,” he says as if it’s something for which I should be punished. “Go stand in the corner.” He points to where the bathroom door meets the far wall of his apartment, next to two framed windows with a periphery of the east river. We hover over 34th on the sixth floor.
“Well, you know I’m not the most pussy-getting-motherfucker.” Brad begins his story with his head in a confessional hunch, yet not whispering, as we sit in a lower east side bar. I suck on the straw of a scotch and water with anticipation. Brad has informed me that at his present age of 45, he has only ever had four real girlfriends.
“One night I was out drinking with my buddies for my birthday. They said they wanted to make sure I got laid for my dirty-thirty. So, they led me to a booth in the back and shout, There you go man! You like blonds, right?”
I’m confused, but try not to interrupt the story.
“They busted my balls and said, Her name is Suzy. That’s what it said on the box anyway! They were all laughing their asses off.”
“A blow up doll?”
“You motherfuckers! I said. She was all inflated, just propped up in the booth like that the whole night. Engh … it was kinda embarrassing, but I went with the joke.”
“Did she have a hole?” I questioned.
“Yeah, she was one of those upgraded dolls. You could fuck her face OR her pussy. Verrry fancy shmancy,” he added, playing up his New York accent. Then when we were about to bounce outta there they put me in a cab with this thing, and sent me home.”
“What’d you do with it?”
“I don’t know. I can’t remember.”
“That’s too bad.”
“Oh, you know, I do remember.” Brad shakes his had as it comes back to him. “I thought I would deflate it, and toss it in a trashcan on the street, but I guess I was feeling pretty cheeky from all that booze. So, I hopped out of the cab, and left her in the back seat. I said to the driver, You like blonds right?”
“What’d he say?”
“He said, fuck you, man. So, I threw a twenty at him and walked off.”
“Do you think he…used it?”
“Enh. Probably. Taxi drivers are all perverts anyway.”
I laugh, as he continues.
“Well, they have to be. They drive around all night long with people making out in the back seat. A bunch of voyeurs, all of ’em!”
The story somehow endears him to me even more; the candidness of it.
Brad walks back as I stand in the corner with my legs shoulder width apart, encased in nylon. His pelvis begins to crash into me. The bathroom door rattles as my ass bangs into it. Whenever I hear this noise I know the mania is building.
He yanks me around, pushing me onto the bed.
“Wrap your arms and legs around me,” he demands.
I burrow the insides of my knees into his hips, choking his neck. He pins me to the bed, as the hollow of his hand cinches like a noose around my neck, tighter than usual. I punch him in the shoulder to signal for him to let up. He punches me back. We start kissing again, that haphazard type of fuck-kissing.
Brad never touches my pussy unless it’s covered in pantyhose. He sits up, still on top of me, and punches my thigh. He’s been punching more lately, but we never talk about it, and there is no safe word. I kick him back, and he punches me two times, twice as hard.
“I only do that, cuz I know you can take it,” He says in a casual voice as he climbs off, sauntering across the room to retrieve the scissors.
“I know,” I say, although I’m not really sure what he means.
Brad grabs my hair, rocking back and forth as he stands over the bed, holding the scissor above his head, opening and closing them over and over. He stops, closes them with a sharp enough motion that I can hear the blades brush past each other over hid music, and points them at me.
“You my little fuck doll?”
Brad digs his fingernails into the layer of nylon against my pelvic area, grasping until he has a grip on the fiber, then stretches it away from my skin, first rubbing it against itself, becoming more and more turned on with the texture of the grain and the rustling sound. “Shhhhhhhh. Shhhhh. Shhhh,” He whispers along to it, putting his ear as close as he can.
He holds the scissors in his other hand, waving them like a tide of motion accompanying the sandy texture of the pantyhose rolling between his thumb and forefinger. He, then, brushes the underside of his erect cock against the pantyhose which still sits taught against my thigh. Brad uses the edge of one scissor blade to prick a tiny hole in the nylon that is gathered in his grip, and cuts the hole into a slit down between my legs. Running one of the blades along his tongue, his brow tenses. His eyes open wide, and he flings the scissors across the room, as if he can’t stand the sight of them anymore. He sticks his fingers, then hands through the hole of the pantyhose as it widens, and begins tearing them apart with an emission of violent unidentifiable urges. The fabric rips in a dozen directions over my body, exposing actual skin beneath the tattered nylon, nipples, navel, and soft white curves, escaping from their web of restraint.
Crawling on top of me, he smashes my face to the side, and starts singing along to Human Fly by The Cramps as it plays in the background.
Brad stops, and begins to whisper as if he were talking to other people in the room, thrusting close and tight.
“She likes it. Yeah, she likes it. She likes to get fucked.”
He comes with several heavy grunts.
His sweaty torso covers me like a rained-on-tarp. I make the tally in my head of how many times we have done this exact scenario since I started seeing him two months ago. Thirty.
“I never really liked penetration till I met you,” He says, “I always felt disappointed by it.
“Well, I guess we’re a good match then.”
“One time my aunt was standing in front of the mirror, fixing her skirt. This was like when I was a kid, maybe 13. And, she accidentally flipped her skirt a bit too high. She was just wearing these pantyhose with nothing on under them. No underwear.”
I listen to Brad, but don’t say anything.
I wake up with the smell of the coffee, and Brad breathing heavy as he does his daily two hundred and fifty push ups. I watch him count the wooden slats in the floor to measure the exact distance between his hands. After that he brews three cups of coffee, one and a half for each of us, and hands me my mug.
“That’s my girl. She drinks it black,” he says, holding my chin, looking at me with pride.
“Yeah, I like my coffee like I like my blow up dolls,” I kid with an ironic tone.
I wait for Brad to laugh, smile or at least give me shit for making a dumb joke, but instead he appears agitated, and walks back to the kitchen.
“You still up for that Giallo flick tonight kid?”
My phone buzzes with a text from Brad as I walk to the train.
“Hey, kid. I’m not feeling well. Gonna’ stay in.”
I feel bludgeoned by a sense of all dressed up and nowhere to go.
I decide to go to the Giallo flick by myself. The description on the flyer, taped to the door of Anthology Film Archives, a theater on 2nd and 2nd reads,
A former prostitute is in charge of a successful magazine with an obsessed admirer, who systematically slaughters her models, and supplies the mistress with pictures of their disfigured corpses. The more he kills, the closer the killer gets to slaughtering his obsession.
I sit through half of it, and decide to go to Brad’s. I know he’s lying to me. I can feel it.
The doorman grins congenially.
“It’s Brad’s new lady!” he says, toasting the full moon with his cigar.
“The prettiest one yet!”
At first my ego is boosted by Angelo calling me the prettiest, but as the sentiment as a whole sinks in, I feel my arms begin to tingle, a visceral reaction with a logical conclusion I don’t have patience to process.
I hit number six, and glide up to Brad-land, trying to convince myself that I’m not as unwanted as I feel.
Raising my hand to knock, my knuckles halt. I hear voices, Brad’s, and a vapid-sounding female. A terse giggle slices through the empty hallway. The tingling in my arms buzzes with yellowjacket fury.
I can’t knock, and I know Brad would never leave the door unlocked, but I try the knob anyway, surprised that it opens. Human Fly seeps through the stiff and narrow crack as I put every ounce of restraint into being as stealth as possible.
“Brad! Stop it! Don’t hurt me!”
“Shhhh. Baby likes it. She likes. Yeah, she likes to get fucked.”
Whoever she is, she doesn’t sound like a willing participant. But, what if she does like it? What if they’re just playing, like Brad and I do? I push the door open, hoping the sound of the creaking never rises above the music. I crouch down, and crawl through the opening, over to the breakfast bar that looks out onto the rest of Brad’s apartment.
I stay low, and peer around the corner.
Two glasses of red wine sit on the night stand; one empty, one full. A lipstick print skips across the edge of the empty one. There’s a mess of used condoms strewn over the floor, cluttering the usually pristine push up station.
Brad thrusts into a blond plastic blow up doll, covered in nylon. He chokes her neck, as her inane face bend backwards, her upside down eyes smacking into my gaze with a stubborn placidity, blue and wide. Her red mouth gapes with glossy lipstick.
Brad covers her mouth, and turns his head to the wall, and I hear the same insipid high-pitched voice from before as it drizzles out of his mouth like the syrupy voices from phone sex commercials.
“Please, Brad. I’m scared. Why are you doing this?”
He sits up, straddling her, holding a pair of scissors, vertically in the air. He sings along to Human Fly, which is either on repeat, or this is the longest moment of my life. Brad rocks back and forth, his eyes closed in sadistic euphoria.
I got a garbage brain
It’s drivin’ me insane
And, I don’t like your ride
So push that pesticide
As the song continues he just hums a long, until his eyes seem to sling from his brain, opening stark and wide. He sings some more.
Bzz, bzz, bzz!
“No please don’t. Stop. I’ll do anything!”
Even as the lyrics change, he continues to sing Bzz, bzz, bzz, louder and louder each time, waving the scissors above his head in bizarre dainty circles like a tiny lasso. He then lowers them down in front of his closed eyes, and opens and closes them over and over.
Bzz, bzz, bzz!
Brad’s eyes pop with psychotic ambition. He stabs the doll at rapid fire pace, all over, while strangling her plastic neck. He looks down at her face, and watches it deflate with fascination. The final whoosh of air leaves her body, now seeming like human breath, more human than Brad’s. He pauses, still studying her flattened visage, that generic hideousness pancaked below his grotesque hunker. Appalled, I stumble backward, knocking his framed photo of Vampira off the wall.
“Goddamn it! What the fuck was that?”
As Brad jumps off the bed and reaches for his robe, my legs catapult me out the door faster than I know is possible. I pound the down button, looking back and forth between the elevator and his apartment.
OPEN, DAMN IT!
As the elevator finally opens, I hear Brad’s door.
“Scarlet! Come back! It’s not what you think!”
Brad runs toward me, his black silk robe, flapping against the muscles of his torso. By the time he reaches the elevator, the door shuts, as he just misses his chance to pry it back open. Only the flash of his features appear in the disappearing crack of hallway light.
With red lipstick.
Bio: Aimee DeLong is a writer, and performance artist, living in Brooklyn. She enjoys creating characters that explore themes of simulacra, spectacle, entitlement, and the blurry line between the sacred and the sinful. Her fiction, reviews and interviews have been published in such places as The Rumpus, 3AM Magazine, Brown Bunny Magazine, Antique Children and Everyday Genius. She’s a recipient of the Famas Poetry Prize. Aimee is also a featured fiction writer for The Native Savage. More writing can be found in the newly released Anthology, Johns, Marks, Tricks and Chickenhawks, out from Soft Skull Press.