Loving Cuff

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Loving Cuff by A. L. Kennedy  

I‘ve never liked public discussions of love. I’ve never liked pointless things in general and why spend so much time whining and obsessing over something no one can define? I used to try and describe it to people

but now I don’t bother. As you may have guessed, there’s no point.


But I could give you my personal definition of love. Or I could at least tell you what it makes me think of. Not roses, bells, hearts, even broken ones. I think of a thin, round, black leather case which was lying at the bottom of my wardrobe with the shoes, last time I looked. And in the case?


Clickilicklick, every trip. Snug in the leather, curved together one on another, a nicely heavy metaphor for many things, but to me they mean only love.


Ever tried them? Handcuffs? They are such indelible clich?, they will now always be automatically far more than themselves, loaded with sleazy authority, unexpectedly harsh. The three thick chain links between the cuffs really don’t give the freedom you might expect and the fit of the bracelets is indeed firm, tight, can even be painful. Given its way, the hinged arm of each cuff would swing right around, only your wrist, or some other inserted interruption will stop it.


These are not gentle things, these mean metal against flesh. They cannot give, may in fact even enjoy an element of struggle, allowing them to bite. Set into each lock is a little switch which can be flicked over to prevent the cuff closing too tightly and nipping the skin, compressing veins, rubbing the bone and nasty goings-on like that. Beside each switch is the word STOP.


Clickilicklick. STOP.


Because you should stop. Although they are so small and amusing, so very readily available and not even embarrassing to purchase publicly, quite a joke really, you should stop and not buy them at all. If you are like me. They

are the door you will open in order to go too far.


For us — for Steven and me — they made our game of Captain Bligh much less pleasant than before. And, goodness me, Bligh was already getting more than out of hand. My performance was beginning to be painfully pointless for Steve. I was, as they say, feeling no pain. One or both of us might have quibbled that Bligh never was — in any historical sense — anything like a lady. But then again, neither was I.


“Very well, sir, very well. The gunner’s daughter, you shall find, is waiting and you shall be restrained.”


Our accuracy was physical rather than factual. Steven squealed when I snapped on the cuffs with that quick flipclick you see in the films which takes a little practice but is worth all the effort, believe me.


“That’s . . . I’m sorry . . . that’s too tight.”


“What was that you said?”


“Ma’am, that’s very tight, ma’am.”


“Are you questioning my decision, sir?”


“No, ma’am.”


“Good. It would go hard with you if you were. Wouldn’t it?”


Oh, naturally, of course, this wasn’t all we did but this was what I aimed for, this was my consolation while we shared out all the landlubbery, preliminary stuff. The pedestrian rolls in the tedious hay were more or less proficient I suppose, but somehow they failed to impress. The good Captain was always impatient to get out.


After all, what did all that penetrative pitch and roll amount to? In the end? You know as well as I do. The graded variations on that particular, same old, theme:















You know. That stuff.


People write about it all the time and it never does a thing for me. With Steven, I would lie or sit or stand beside or above or below or in front or behind him and have never a thing done for me, thinking, “You shall be sorry

for your faults, sir. I shall make you.” Excellent motivation, that — never failed.


So, Clickilicklick. STOP.


But don’t stop. And off we go.


The best thing was to fasten him across the kitchen table. Naturally, we would require an empty house. I have never liked to trouble co-tenants with even conventional disturbances, knowing how sensitive I was myself to such intrusions. Sensitivity breeds sensitivity.


Our proceedings were more than averagely disturbing. A broad belt, vigorously applied, truly does swish in an endlessly fascinating way. It will not crack as a whip might in the air, but across the back, buttocks, legs, stomach. “And where else shall we go, sir? Will you trust your Captain tonight? Will you?” That’s the game. Wherever the Captain and I thought fit, there we would go and crack away remarkably. Re-mark-ab-ly.


With thought, we might have avoided the inevitable. I might have. I had, after all, known my emotional deficiencies for many years by this time. Given a situation I found so interesting, so releasing, I would naturally find it hard to concentrate on another person’s pain. I would forget they were there and be in danger of doing them harm.


“Take this in your mouth, sir, and bite. I’ll not have crying out, there. I will not.”


I would see the shiver of his muscles, the plum and scarlet bruising, the sheen of fear on his skin. Sometimes I would only swing the belt, or stroke

his back, and he would flinch. If I only inhaled emphatically he would flinch. I could make him flinch just by breathing. Nice.


Oh, and he got to come. Naturally. Being a good, brave sailor and doing his bit for the two we had to be to tango. And he came because I wouldn’t let him not — there was always that to be considered, having the power to satisfy. Pipe aboard the Captain and no hands are needed at the pump.


Not that I was utterly numb myself. I had a reaction or two, even calm old me. I’m still blood and flesh, I was affected. I wouldn’t be honest if I said I didn’t, in the end, enjoy what we did, relish it. So much so that away from him, I wouldn’t think of what we did. The images I could recall — and remembering that I did have the best possible view — were too strong, they would slide away from me under their own steam, showing me where they might lead next. It was far wiser to forget about it all until we were together again. By which time, the Captain would take charge and relieve me of my responsibilities. I always found the Captain a great relief.


And if all this were not enough in the way of monstrously damaging fiascoes, please bear in mind that the naked human body, in itself, is not something I find endlessly fascinating. I do not find it especially easy to look at. It is messily put together and has altogether too much skin when compared to other animal forms. I should know, I grew up watching both the male and female model put exhaustively through their paces. I do know.


Naturally, if you beat a man, you will eventually be looking not at him, but at what you have made of him. But looking at him before you have caused enough change on that body, in that body, this may be a problem. What will solve your problem beautifully and forever will be the handcuffs — love, as I understand it. Fix your man securely and you need only look at him when you wish, you will already know where to strike.


I am ashamed of the cuffs now, they are like a bad old friend from another life and I’ll not use them again. When I look for shoes I am half aware of the case. I push it further into the shadows and leave it be. The leather is slightly moldy now.


Do you know, now that I’ve given this thought, it feels right that I should just throw the case and the handcuffs away. I’ll do that. I’ll wrap them up in a carrier bag and dump them — go for a walk and leave them in a public wastebin where I can’t get them back and no one will know they belong to me. I’ll do that now.

Excerpt taken from forthcoming novel So I Am Glad. Copyright © 2000 by A.L. Kennedy. By permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

©1999 A.L. Kennedy and Nerve Publishing