The woman’s thighs were heavy and wet.
She was slick with arousal and had grown used to changing her panties often and daily. As she boarded the train she felt moisture move between legs.
Settling into a window seat, the woman watched her reflection flicker with the train car’s fluorescent lights. The car was half empty and smelled of her musty lilac scent. In haste she’d forgotten pads. Screw it, she thought. Tonight I’ll bleed freely. Her jeans turned maroon as the air moved around her in strange hormonal waves. She was grateful there were ...
The conductor gave her a familiar wink as she stepped onto the deserted platform. Like a classic noir opening shot, the taxi pulled up out of darkness and delivered her, in silence, to the secluded cabin. As the cab’s taillights disappeared behind a thick forest line, she felt herself relaxing. Josey smiled to herself when she realized that she felt more normal in a place as alien and strange as her own body had become.
She made her way up the steps and stumbled through the dimly lit screened-in porch. The front door was unlocked. Swiping the wall, she hit a switch. Four large barn lights lit a pretty oak table to seat six, a modest kitchen, and a casual living room set. All in one pretty ‘A’ frame room.
She didn’t bother to unpack her bag. There wasn’t much: underwear, wool socks, a makeup bag, two scratch-offs, her favorite Malbec, and a few boxes of coconut water.
She threw her belongings onto a wicker chair and began to undress. She felt the need to get away from herself. Making her way to the bathroom, she wrenched her jeans over sticky legs and ran a hot bath. Her panic was gone. She dug up a wine glass and, Malbec in tow, eased her way into the boiling water, turning the foam bath into a similar shade of rose.
Josey closed her eyes as the hot water seeped into her organs. She was a frog with porous skin, gulping air in quiet chirps. She went over the long day that had led her there.
“There’s not enough blue,” he’d said flatly. Earlier that afternoon she had watched the squat man, her gallerist, hover over her paintings like a giant black fly. True to a fly’s character, the direction of his buzz was erratic and influenced by the smell of blood. “There’s just too much red.” She swatted his complaint with an eyeroll. The mention of red reminded her of the growing wet spot between her legs.
Every night that month Josey had woken to cramping, her upper thighs painted in a light wash of blood. She didn’t know why she was bleeding but had some guesses. As far as she was concerned it was like anybody’s critical moments in life. Josey would evade the issue. Just like the first time she had sex. When the guy asked if she was okay, pointing to the blood on the sheets, she acted as if she didn’t know what he was talking about. Just like before, she would ignore the blood and tell no one, not even her husband. She let herself bleed into a deep red secret.
“I like it red. It’s violent.” She said this in a near whisper while gazing out the gallery window. When she finally turned to look at him, she found an apathetic face. She quickly looked away, tossing her long white hair behind her. “Anyways, my paintings can’t always match your wardrobe, Hans. If you want I can get you a bowtie with hearts.” Her gallerist grimaced and returned his half focus to the painting.
Josey loved her paintings, she had made them, after all, but there were times when she witnessed people staring at them and she didn’t know what they saw. She was even a little confused as to where their admiration came from, and it made her uncomfortable to have a stranger’s eyes twitching all over her decisions. With a few words she politely exited the gallery and walked out into the glaring Manhattan neighborhood of Chelsea.
An ex-model, Josey knew what it felt like to be adored and she never wanted it to stop. She was only forty-five but already she felt the coming of invisibility. She missed the grease stains men left with their lingering looks. She missed the eyes of envy cast by other women who would never look as good in a halter top and cut-offs.
Even when she’d had the wherewithal to refer to such harassment as a product of Rape Culture, she enjoyed having the power to acknowledge, or ignore, the attention. Now that age was catching on and in between her legs, she felt a new kind of lack. She felt absent. She needed to match the remove she felt.
Josey needed a break from the everyday. She called her husband Asher to let him know she was leaving town. Even though they slept in the same bed every night, they hadn’t spoken in days. As usual, he was without affect. She stopped by her friend Ryan’s to pick up the keys, and then headed upstate, to bleed in peace.
The gentleness of the next two weeks slowed down her body clock. Josey bled while wandering through books, beach, and forest, and kept on bleeding. Sometimes she dripped onto the hardwood floor and imagined that the flecks would bubble up into a soft, wormy head, a character from her favorite horror film, Hellraiser.
She figured that in this way she could still procreate. Through her slow drippings on the floor she would build a monster and name it Lise, after the vengeful astronaut. Lise was infamous for wearing a NASA diaper to save time as she drove across the country on her way to kidnap the girlfriend of her ex-lover. Josey thought Lise was cool, in a desperate kind of way.
Josey let her mind wander and rest, fill up with fantasies instead of anxieties. Josey had become increasingly horny over the last few months. She not only eyeballed both men and women, but now teenagers were viable options. She felt a kinship with them because of the uncontrollable and insatiable desire she knew they must also experience. She had even begun to strike up flirtations with strangers, which she’d never dared before. It was exciting to see people’s eyes move over her, taking her in as if she could still be attractive, with a little effort.
Josey had never considered herself needy, vain, or shallow, but now that she couldn’t reinforce the population, she felt as though she had lost a kind of value. She had lost the ability to make a soldier, a slave, or a king. She had lost their game. Josey knew that her remaining worth was fleeting and that she’d have to figure out a new set of values before everyone found her out. She hunted around for some hidden or forgotten talents and came up with a mental list:
- Drawing lopsided self-portraits
- Making cats feel good about themselves
Not bad, she thought. In that moment she had the irrational idea that she might very well bleed until she died, and she was okay with that. She had to be. She would let the walls dissolve on their own terms.
The following day was hot. Josey had woken early, to clear periwinkle skies and a desire to run. Flat feet punched the ground as she ran, grinding her flesh into her hipbone sockets. She didn’t care that it would culminate in pain. She wanted to feel her body. Perhaps she simply wanted to feel.
She decided to run to Antler’s General Store, a local market that doubled as a café. Josey was cooling herself with a tall iced mocha, sipping from a green straw and sweating onto a New York Times, when she noticed a young woman seated in the corner.
The woman had lengthy bare legs that sprawled haphazardly from under the small table. Her long torso steadied toned arms that hovered over a sleek black laptop. She was in deep concentration, unaware of even her own body.
Her total absorption in the screen allowed Josey to indulge a gaze. She was entranced by the woman’s soft, dark skin and assured movements. Her eyes wandered slowly over the girl’s perfect breasts, barely concealed by a loose black tank. The girl’s mouth parted slightly as she inhaled the blue abyss in front of her. Dark hair, shaved on one side, rolled out in cascades over smooth shoulder blades. Her body was taut and perspiring, wet and unaware of the heat she exuded. She was raw sex removed. Josey thought the girl looked like an emotionless island that Josey could catch her breath on.
A waft of her own intense body odor reminded Josey that she was a sweaty mess. She tore herself away from the scene and hit the path, stabbing the ground with the fullness of a flat-footed stride. As she ran, strokes of lightning lit up her brain in flashes of pain, but Josey showed no sign of suffering. For once her thoughts were elsewhere.
Josey went back to the café at the same time the next day and found the girl in the exact same pose. Taking a closer seat, Josey caught a glimpse of the girl’s computer screen. She seemed to be watching what looked like sex.
Flashes of flesh streaked the screen in golden and black hues. The camera closed in on a sultry middle-aged brunette. She was on all fours, breasts hanging loosely. She opened her mouth wide as a spurt of come shot onto her glossy pink lips. A hot blonde boy with a big muscly body like a surfer’s was jerking himself off onto the faces and bodies of several older women. It’s like an assembly or receiving line. Josey laughed at the comparison, thinking back to her own wedding and how the rice being thrown at her felt the same.
This young woman looks so alive, Josey thought. Watching porn in public was brave. Josey couldn’t help but feel vulnerable and high in the girl’s presence.
“I’m Josey. What’s your name?”
“Uh,” she said, not looking up, “name’s Trish.” The woman was absorbed by what she was watching, and every once in a while, clicking on.
“Looks like you’re pretty busy… but… maybe not as busy as them.” Josey pointed to the computer, where the screen now held one of the women being throttled from behind as the other women licked the surfer’s glistening torso. Josey imagined the storyline had something to do with a Mothers Against Drunk Driving meeting gone good. “Mind if I watch?” she asked, peeking over Trish’s shoulder, showing the slightest sliver of a smile.
Finally looking Josey squarely in the face, Trish removed her headphones, almost smiling, and replied, “Sure, if that’s what you’re into.” And then, “Is there something you’d rather watch?”
Josey smiled. “I thought you’d never ask. Do you have anything with older women, heels…and uh…blood?”
This was the second time Trish almost smiled. “Yes, I have stuff with older women and heels…but blood, really?”
“Yeah, I’m into blood. And older women. Big deal.” Josey shrugged her shoulders and tried to sound as New York City cool as she could.
“Well. It’ll take some time. I gotta run. Let’s meet tomorrow. Same time, same place.”
“K,” Josey accepted the dare, “looking forward to it.”