Authors: Anastasia Vitsky
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica, #Romantic, #Romance, #Contemporary
I have to blink rapidly. I know I’m being a baby, I know that of course she has a life of her own, I know this is a volunteer thing and she didn’t sign on for life, but I thought...was counting on...I can’t believe this is happening. I wonder, in a slight panic, if after the wedding she will be too busy adjusting to her new life for her teaching. And not just my selfish reasons, but she’s said herself that she’s not entirely certain she wants to be married to her boyfriend. I wish she could have the fun and anticipation and exasperation of preparing for her wedding. Not this insane hurry-up reminiscent of a 1950’s shotgun wedding.
We talk at great length about the pros and cons, her reasons and doubts and fears. I understand her wanting to please her father—and she wants to marry soon in case he doesn’t make it—but it’s still too soon.
“But if you don’t love him...why don’t you wait? Just a few months. Giving away your entire life to another man is too important to decide just yet. You should be able to enjoy your wedding.”
She laughs ruefully. “I know. But there’s nothing I can do.” Forces a smile. “Now come on, you look so sad. Sadder than me, and I’m the bride-to-be.”
“I am. I thought your wedding would be something special, something to anticipate.” And I thought we would study together for a good long while... In the smallest part of me, the secret unspoken selfish part, I feel incredibly let down. Just as I was preparing myself...I promise to attend her wedding, but it’s with a heavy heart that I say good-bye. For who knows how long. Her wedding, her honeymoon, getting-adjusted-to-marriage...if I could picture her happily married it would be one thing, but this... I am left to wonder if I expected too much, if I allowed myself to hope in vain, if I was foolish enough to think someone could fulfill my needs. She is just a tutor. But sometimes our heart listens not to reason...
Three weeks later, after the “till death do us part” (death of the couple or death of the ill father who precipitated this wedding?) and endless pictures and waving goodbye as she leaves for her honeymoon, I imagine her opening the letter I secretly tucked in her purse. I’d written many and torn them up, including one for her new husband. “Be good to her. If you make her cry, I will kill you.” Needless to say, that did not get delivered. But the one for her, the one that finally made the cut, was just a short note saying I wished her the best and hoped that we would still keep in touch.
I turn back to my studies, intending to make good use of this time, but the formerly exciting fairy tales only make me remember how much I enjoyed our study together. I give myself a mental shake and put the books away. Enough mooning about that. She’ll come back, or she won’t. Either way, I’ll deal with it. I managed before I met her, and I’ll manage again.
In the past few weeks I’ve had a lot of spare time, a previously unknown luxury. Even my roommate’s constant partying isn’t enough to fill my days. Normally I would relish the time to space out in front of the television or computer, but these days time weighs heavily on my hands. Out of curiosity and rather self-consciously, I type the word—the word I can’t make myself think—into my computer search engine.
The sheer number of results, combined with the graphic photos that come up, leave me speechless. Is my lurking, barely understood curiosity/longing/wistfulness a sign of some underlying psychological problem? Is this “thing,” this desire, only manifestable as some sick kind of pornographic deviant sexuality? I enter a chat room, two, three, and my initial elation at discussing this desire with others rapidly dissolves into confusion. I don’t want to collar my name and call strangers Sir and Lord. I quickly tire of men who belittle my lack of interest in sex. My desire for discipline is taken as a permutation of an unpaid whore’s come-on.
At first I turn to the Dommes thinking that a feminine touch would be softer, but instead I receive tongue-lashings for wanting “it” without the seemingly requisite accompanying sex. The ones who deign to speak with me merely use me for their mind games. I am their pet one day and verboten the next. The only consistency is the bitterness of the break-up drama.
I am left to wonder if this feeling of mine is wanting the unattainable. I want to feel...I want to experience...I want to maybe actually be hurt by someone I love. That sounds so mental. I don’t mean romantic love or sexual love, but the “agape” pure love that knows neither gender nor race. Love itself. After being touched and leered from a young age, I’ve learned to distrust physical contact. Never mind romance.
And yet the human body needs touch, needs intimacy...and a part of me longs for intimacy in this way. Not lust. Love. I want to feel someone’s hand on my bottom, the striking sharp blows of flesh against flesh, straining against something bigger than me. Implacable and restraining and loving, holding me while making me cry. Someone who will let me fight against and draw away and protest, let me fight until the bad feelings are all washed away by pain and tears and the lovely warm throbbing afterward. Kisses and cuddles and stroking me as I cry with abandon. I am left to wonder if I want too much.
And when she comes back, if she comes back, whether this unspeakable desire will ruin our relationship.
I could say that she abruptly pushes her chair back and stands up. Or that she paces in tight circles in front of me. Or that her mouth is drawn tight and her voice has become brittle. But what it all amounts to is this.
I didn’t think she became angry. Even her tongue-lashing four weeks ago after my aborted attempt to withdraw from the language institute was measured, deliberate. Setting limits. Telling it to me straight. But this time it is anger. Pure and simple.
Of course, it didn’t start out that way. At first it was the cheery exchange of hellos, looking through pictures, discussing the changes in her life now that she’s become a staid matron, and happily unwrapping the exquisite tiny decorative plate from her honeymoon in the Philippines. And on my part, it was the sheer delight of being reunited with her, mitigated only by my scathing self-disparagement. What a little idiot I was, thinking marriage would end our relationship. She’s married, but she’s a teacher as well. Except for the thin gold ring on her left hand, we are exactly the same sipping tea in our forget-me-not china cups and enjoying each other’s companionship.
Until the phone call. She had invited me to come in to “catch up” after our month-long hiatus, and in the midst of our chatter she asked about my other classes. It was so unexpected that I felt the blood drain from my face. I’d truly thought this would be a tea-cookies-and-photo affair. Otherwise I would have prepared some story...
“Yes? This is Mira’s advisor...mm-hm...yes, the honeymoon was wonderful, thank you.” My ability hasn’t developed enough to catch the blur of the following words, but I gather that she is checking on my academic record. Last week was final exams. “Are you sure you’ve got the right student’s record? Student number 7605489? Yes, that’s right...mm-hm.”
By the time she hung up the phone, I have already assumed the hands-clasped-together, head-slightly-tilted-downward-and-to-the-side, and shoulders-hunched position reserved especially for these occasions. And there’s only one word to describe her reaction.
“What on EARTH were you thinking skipping class for three weeks? Not even showing up for your finals? And then
right here chatting for thirty minutes without ONCE bothering to mention that, ‘by the way, I failed all of my classes while you were gone’?”
, I think feebly, but I’ve frozen into unresponsiveness. I could never, ever have imagined that she would raise her voice.
“What the HELL happened to you last month?” she storms.
Only the clock ticking and her constant footsteps answer. What am I to say? That last month she awakened in me some stirring I’d never known before? That, just as I was beginning to acknowledge this unspeakable desire, she suddenly had to leave? That I was left to wage a battle of my ever-increasing desires against all the proprieties I had learned growing up? That what I felt for her scared me? Not romance, but something deeper. A kind of connection. The hours scouring the internet hoping to make sense of my conflicting secret feelings, and the despair that maybe I had become some kind of sexual deviant? And in the midst of all this, conjugating verbs and making vocabulary flashcards became immaterial? I am motionless, speechless. Suddenly she slaps her hand down on her desk.
“I take it from your silence that you have nothing to say for yourself?” The question is pointed, accusing.
, I plead silently. Numbly. I have too much to say. So I say nothing.
She closes her eyes and takes a long, slow breath. She sits down and carefully controls her voice.
“Mira, please tell me that you were hospitalized for three weeks and you were physically unable to go to class. Tell me that the registrar mixed up your records and this hooky-playing, irresponsible, future-trashing student is anyone but you. Tell me that you didn’t just casually throw away your entire school year’s work. Tell me anything, because right now you’re putting yourself in a very bad position.”
My chest feels like it will explode, but I can’t respond. I can’t breathe. Her voice is fresh-burned steel, hard and soft at the same time.
“Mira, do you want to leave this school?”
I numbly shake my head.
“You want to study here, don’t you?” A small nod.
“Are you angry with me because I left for a month? Do you want to be assigned a new tutor?”
At last her words break through my numbness, and I gape at her in horror. I shake my head vigorously.
“I want to study with you!” I manage to croak out.
And I like you so much it scares me
, I add silently.
“You do? So where does failing all of your classes fit into this scheme?”
Walk away...leave this school...put the horror of the past month behind me...anything...
except I know I can’t leave. Too much of me has already been invested here.
“Stand up, Mira.”
Silently, hesitantly, I set my purse onto her desk and rise to a standing position. I smooth my ankle-length peach jumper nervously, straightening the simple white cotton T-shirt underneath. I allow her to bend my body, positioning my hands on her desk. She takes out the sleek polished stick of hickory, and even as I close my eyes I can’t help bitterly noting the irony. This is what I wanted, right? And yet not like this. Oh God, not like this. I thought it would be sharp stinging pain but lots of love, comforting and holding and security. Not the heart-piercing knowledge I have disappointed her, disillusioned her. I didn’t think she would be angry. I didn’t know I would be fighting back the tears even before she raised the rod. I didn’t know I would be awash in abject humiliation. Because, when it comes right down to it, I’d rather go back and undo the last month than to see her angry.
She gives me a short lecture, most of which never reaches my brain. Something about how I’d agreed to this last month, that so help her I was not going to throw away my talent and abilities, and even if I’d missed her that was no excuse to give up on my classes. The pain is sharp, rapidly building, but it doesn’t touch the icicle ache in my heart. I lose count as I bite my lip, cursing the pain and myself for causing this situation. I cannot look at her after she finally stops. She says my name softly, over and over.
“It’s over. We’ll start again next week,” she says.
But inside, I disregard her words. I am no longer her star student. I am the disappointment. The quitter. The throbbing, pulsating fiery heat in my bottom can’t even come close to matching the anguish in my heart. Concerned, she rests her hand on my cheek.
“It’s over,” she repeats. “We can see about re-enrolling you for next term as a make-up session.”
I fixedly gaze at the stacks of papers on her desk, shivering. Her arm reaches around my shoulders, bringing me in close. I can’t help myself, and a strangled mewl muffles itself in her shoulder. She strokes my hair and hugs me tightly.
“It’s all right, honey,” she says reassuringly.
“It’ll be all right.”
My leaden arms remain at my sides. But the warmth of her words begins to melt the icicle pain in my heart.
I cough, then sneeze, and cough again. My eyes water and my nose runs so profusely that I grab the entire pocket package of tissues from my purse and hold them to my face. Mop my eyes, nose, and take a deep breath only to erupt in sneezes again. I give my best glare to Juan, the kid next to me who can be no older than nineteen at the very most. He and his buddies have just returned from break, and his every hair reeks of smoke. I am not allergic to smoke, but the pungent, nearly visible fumes would clog all but the most formidable of sinuses.
The other students giggle at the sound of my nose-blowing, but it’s either blow my nose or be unable to hear. Lee Sonsengnim is less than amused, though.
“Mira,” he reprimands as if I am a kindergartener. “We don’t blow our nose. We dab gently.”
“We” don’t do anything
, I want to say.
nose. Learning a foreign language doesn’t make me a child.
I might enjoy the benefits of a “second childhood” in a foreign country, but that does not mean I really want to be treated as a child. I made the mistake of complaining about the smoke smell to a classmate once, and Lee Sonsengnim told me that no one could help smelling like smoke.
Double standards suck.
Because I am re-taking the classes I failed last term, the faces are new to me. The textbooks are new. Even the teacher is new. Earnest, strict, and as meticulous as a freshly sharpened pencil. He told us that he taught middle school until he was asked to replace the teacher who resigned over break.