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I only learned how to tie knots so that I could teach men how to tie me up. This is a thing some of us are lucky enough to learn—what you want, and how to ask for it. The first time, I’m twenty and it’s Valentine’s Day and a near-stranger ties my wrists to his bedposts. He turns on the gooseneck lamp by his bed and angles it toward my body, a hot yellow spotlight that burns through my tights. “Off,” he says, and rolls them down, slipping them over my ankles.

“Don’t rip them,” I say, as he strips me. I’m being impudent. His fingertips drift across the delicate skin of my soles and I feel my toes curl in response.

“Don’t speak,” he says, and a sharp prickle of delight ripples through my chest. I close my eyes, I open them. I wait to do as he says. This is the beginning of it, the gloaming. He tugs my panties aside to finger me and I lose myself willingly as he thrusts in, I sink to the bottom of his touch and never want to surface for air.

How to describe the place I go when I’m told to obey. The deep satisfaction of losing control. The rush of being brought to the razor’s edge of pain-pleasure-pain. Would you believe me if I told you it was just as good as being surrounded absolutely? Would you believe me if I told you it was my favorite way to disappear?

Vermont again, in the place where I return to in dreams. It’s deep blue night and the woods are making quiet noises—insects and tiny animals skittering in the brush. The hoot of an owl. The wiry chatter of moths. Through the thin walls I can hear the forest susurrating as Chris ties my hands above my head, and I submit to him entirely. I give myself over to his care. I would do anything, I think as he enters me, as he makes a fist and pulls my hair, as I turn my neck to expose my throat. Anything. All he has to do is say the word.

Since he left the city I haven’t been wearing my bondage collar anymore. It feels silly to wear it without someone to see me in it, someone who makes me want to drop to my knees and beg.

Unless he’s deleted it, there’s a photo of me on my ex-boyfriend’s phone where I’m in that collar, a fur coat, no underwear. My face is cut off—you can only see the curve of my lower lip, parted, expectant. The long metal chain attached to the collar leads to his hand, out of the frame. He took it last Valentine’s Day.

Once—I put on the collar and gave Chris the lead to let him do as he pleased with me. The chain snaked across my stomach. He led me in a circle. He put me on my knees.

It’s summer. We’re in bed. I’m teaching Chris how to tie me up, using his wrists as an example. I fold the length in half and pass it doubled around his hands, then wrap the middle and tie it in a square knot. He tests it out, can’t work his way loose. “Now me,” I say, guiding him through the process, watching as he loops it around, as he ties it tight. “Again,” I say and he pins me to the bed frame.

Months later, he’ll tie me to the iron posts of my bed. When I ask him why he likes it, he’ll say I move too fast. It keeps me in place.

Months later still, he’ll be the one to leave, and I’ll remain.

I put my collar on again, writing this. I slip my finger through the smooth steel ring. I tug on it, wishing someone was here to tug it for me, to force me out of myself, to help me disappear.