I was sitting in the sun trying to collect my thoughts before I taught my next class. Things had not been going well, and I had the constant feeling that I needed to take a nap.
My fatigue was a product of my girlfriend's temper. Her sexual talents were such that with my cock between her tits it was easy to overlook her weekly fits of alcohol-induced rage: a broken television, smashed glasses, personal items dismissed from the apartment via the window.
In retrospect, the solution was simple: change the locks and quit answering her calls. However, as much as I hate to admit it, I was genuinely afraid of this woman, and not because of the threat she posed to my more fragile possessions: she routinely smacked the shit out of me. Because of my slight build, I learned early in life to extract myself from volatile situations with a quick wit or, failing that, a pretty quick sprint. Such tactics are fairly useless against an angry woman, as I discovered when Lorraine began ranting at me one night when I attended a poetry reading without her:
"I know you're just out trying to fuck someone else!" She whipped a book at my head. Luckily it was Gravity's Rainbow, which is not at all aerodynamic. "Some fucking poetry slut!" (Oh, if only such a slut did exist!)
I bore the constant humiliation of my girlfriend slapping me around in my typical manner: I got stoned. Whatever the drawbacks of marijuana, it's good for helping one forget the recent past. Alas, one of those drawbacks is that being high and being angry cannot occur simultaneously. During the days, though, I stewed with venom. I thought of men like Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart. They weren't violent toward women, but by God, when a woman needed straightening out, they didn't hesitate to give her a solid slap. Sometimes two, if the occasion warranted. I dreamt often of slapping Lorraine so hard it would knock her earrings off. However, the fact that I wanted my slap to be an homage to June Allyson's bitch-slap of Joan Collins in The Opposite Sex gave me the impression that I was not the man for the task.
All of this was swimming in my head when one of my students sat down beside me and said:
"So, you ever had any Absinthe before?"
The comment wasn't completely random. Gary was a student in my American literature class, and during a lecture on Hemingway I was prompted to explain a reference to Absinthe in a short story. He'd been the only other person in the room who knew what it was.
|It was hard to ignore the fact that I was sitting directly under the sun with a guy who claimed to be a vampire.|
I told him a friend had brought some back from Europe several years before, and I'd tried it then.
"Did it fuck you up?" His tone lacked the voyeurism of indulgence one might expect; it had a palpable clinical nature to it.
"I didn't have enough."
"Well, if you ever want some, let me know; I keep it around."
"You like it that much?"
"No, it's…" Gary took a drag from his cigarette and glanced around; we were more or less alone. "I practice vampirism. It's part of a ritual."
I turned my head toward Gary: he was a stocky country boy with coal-black hair and muscles shaped by labor and not the ridiculous repetition of weights; he looked directly into my eyes, and his eyes were the color of slate. I'd gotten used to students telling me completely bizarre and personal things — people are always looking for an authority figure to heap their issues on for some shred of absolution. And even though this was quite possibly in the top three weirdo admissions of all time, I thought it best not to laugh at his confession. But it was hard to ignore the fact that I was sitting directly under the sun with a guy who claimed to be a vampire.
"So what's with the absinthe?" I asked.
"Oh, that. Well, you know it's potent shit. Most people it just fucks up. But it won't even intoxicate a vampire. It's a test, you know. To see if you've got the gene."
"The vampire gene."
A scientific debate with someone claiming the existence of a vampire gene seemed rather pointless. I let the matter slide.
"So, do you like, you know, bite necks?"
"Do I look like I have fucking fangs to you?" He flashed his teeth.
I wasn't sure what a vampire who attended the local community college might have in mind when he said "a nice girl."
"Yeah," and his face dropped. "It sucks. I just can't afford to have the work done. You'll meet people tonight who've got them. Some are quality dental work. Some just look like shit because people file their teeth — that's just fucked up. Some people just get lucky by birth. But if I could afford them, I'd have them."
I wasn't sure how to respond to this, so I sat quietly. Then Gary said:
"How old do I look to you?"
"I don't know," I said. "Twenty-five?"
"You're older than me."
"Get yourself a woman who treats you right. You'll feel the difference in your blood." He smiled, exposing a mouthful of beautiful white teeth. "Just think about it. If you want to meet a nice girl, I know the place." I wasn't sure what a vampire who attended the local community college might have in mind when he said "nice girl," but considering my own circumstances at the time, I didn't need to bring any more drama into my life.
When I got home that night, I made the puzzling discovery that my apartment was littered with confetti. Upon closer examination I realized the confetti was actually the pages of my journals, which Lorraine had taken great care to manufacture into fantastically small pieces. Apparently, my private thoughts about her were not to her liking. I found a note in the bathroom that read: Fuck you. I also found my toothbrush in the toilet.
The next day after class I asked Gary just what he meant by a "nice girl."
"Come and see for yourself. I'm going there tonight."
I considered this. "On a Tuesday?"
I met Gary (or rather, Count Gary, as I'd begun to think of him) later that night outside the bar that hosts Purgatory. I'd researched it a little on the Internet that afternoon — it was a monthly gathering of the leather and BDSM communities. It seemed safe enough, but whenever someone admits to being a vampire and then invites you to attend a place called Purgatory with them, well, I feel a background check is in order.
As we walked in, Gary put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Tonight you'll feel like a new man." The leather of his jacket creaked in my ear.
In my daily existence, I am most often dressed like a nine year old on his way to baseball practice: Converse sneakers, jeans, and a jersey-style t-shirt with three-quarter-length sleeves. However, I was surrounded by extras from Interview With the Vampire or a Renaissance Festival. I felt like the Southern preppy in Count Gary's court.
My mood might have tepidly approached something close to genuine fear had we been in a place more "dungeon-esque." However, we were at a bar known for its regular booking of tribute bands, and a leather-clad person with honest-to-God fangs doesn't look that threatening in front of a sign advertising two-for-one Jell-O shooters and $1.50 margaritas on Fridays.
The music resembled a genocidal massacre mixed with asphalt production.
After we'd paid our $10 cover (it seemed only fitting one should pay a nominal fee to gain entrance to Purgatory), I followed Gary to the bar and ordered the best beer available — a Corona, for Christ's sake! Oh, Purgatory indeed! I discreetly popped two Percocets in my mouth, crunched them up and washed them down.
Gary stood at such a distance from me that it was uncertain as to whether we actually knew each other or not. I sat on a barstool and waited for the warm bliss of the Percs to wash over me, and watched as the medievally clad crowd circulated and exchanged greetings. Whenever anyone saw Gary they gave an enthusiastic wave. His reply was a terse nod in every case. Whenever their eyes fell on me they all appeared to snarl. I smiled politely and raised my Corona.
This went on for some time, and because no one was speaking to me — including Gary — I was soon tipping back my fifth Corona and considering a cab ride home. The Nine Inch Nails that had been pumping on the stereo since our arrival had given way to something resembling the sounds of a genocidal massacre mixed with asphalt production, and it was decidedly not conversation friendly. The scene seemed a terrible waste of a buzz, and I felt as though I were literally buzzing. Humming, in fact.
A petite girl with purple streaks in her hair and ample piercings walked over to Gary and curtsied. He smiled at her and opened his arms; when he embraced her he pressed his face into her neck. She was wearing a thin black dress, dog collar and a pair of bright white Keds that glowed under the blacklights. Gary yelled at the girl, "This is my friend, Kevin." The veins in his neck stood out, but he was still barely audible over the music. I leaned my head close to theirs.
"Heaven?" she said.
"Kevin," Gary repeated.
"Oh." She turned to me and smiled and curtsied again.
Gary pressed his lips to my ear. "Okay, you're all set. I've got business to take care of. I'll see you later. Or maybe not." He gave me what I can only characterize as a wicked smile. I grabbed his arm before he could walk away.
"What? Where are you going?"
"I'm going to find something to eat. Amanda is yours for the night. I set it all up. She'll treat you right. Remember that when you're grading finals." Gary winked.
"How do you know her?"
He smiled at me again: "She's a good source of food." I let go of his arm and he pressed into the crowd.
As soon as he was gone I said to Amanda, "Can I buy you a drink?"
|She looked me dead in the eye: "When you fuck me, choke me."|
"I don't drink." She had the most wonderful dimples when she smiled, and a shy way of looking down. I almost missed it because of the piercings.
"You don't drink? My God, how do you stand it?"
That bashful smile again. "I try to keep my body clean for others."
"Really? You looked like a dirty girl to me." It was my turn to smile. Oh yes: I was flowing with the buzz, reaching into my bag of tricks. In the glow of neon beer signs it was hard to tell if she was blushing. She looked me dead in the eye:
"When you fuck me, choke me."
This was far outside the scope of my bag of tricks. I smiled politely at her and flagged the bartender to bring me another Corona. I downed it quickly as Amanda and I smiled at each other. Occasionally she leaned into me and seemed to say something, but I couldn't hear a fucking word over the music. I smiled and nodded, and that seemed to be working fine. When I was done with my beer I jerked my thumb toward the door, and she and I walked out into the warm night.
"So what's the plan, Amanda?"
"What do you want it to be?" She didn't say it with the flirtatious sarcasm of a sorority girl, but with the submissive tone of someone who genuinely wants to please.
"Well, you mentioned the matter of choking . . . " The way I said it sounded oddly Victorian, but regardless I felt the signs were pretty clear: Gary had set this up, she knew the deal, and it seemed stupid to stand around acting as though the night wasn't going end up like this anyway. At least once or twice in my life I've stumbled into easy hookups like this and been smart enough to latch on. Conversely, I've managed to fuck things up about two dozen times or more. Probably more. I try not to dwell on superlatives in matters of failure.
Her impish smile blossomed into fierce seriousness. "You can do what you want with me, but do it hard, and drink me up."
As hammered as I was, I recall thinking: Do people really talk like this? But then I remembered the scene inside: the goth aesthetic, all the people who clearly thought The Gimp was the best character in Pulp Fiction. At this point, everything was beginning to seem like a dream. This little girl standing in front of me was begging to be hurt, and I wanted to hurt someone just as badly as I'd been hurting lately.
"Well, Amanda — " the thought passed through my head that this girl and my mother shared the same name " — where are you parked?"
Curiously, her apartment did not bear the stony coldness of a bourgeois succubus's lair, decked out in crystals and dragons and fairies, but appeared instead to be a showroom for Pier 1; she had an amazing collection of throw pillows.
As soon as we were in the door she was on me: she was small, maybe a hundred pounds, and it felt effortless to have her clinging to me, legs wrapped around my waist. Normally I don't feel very manly when fucking a woman, more like a beetle clinging to a lioness. But her tiny body made me feel enormous. I could have crushed her. We fell among the throw pillows, her hands working my clothes off with professional ease. As her tongue worked its way into my mouth, I felt not one, but two, studs in her tongue. Oh, sweet bliss! I nearly came right then.
She hiked up her dress and said, "Spank my ass."
I was never one to turn down a little ass chapping.
I complied with her request. I was never one to turn down a little ass chapping. But with each smack of my hand she said, "Harder!" Within a few swats my hand was hurting — it reminded me of playing baseball as a kid, the way the wooden bat stung your hands and wrists when it connected with the ball. I reached up and grabbed the dog collar from behind, yanking backwards as her teeth latched onto my lips; I pulled harder and she came loose from me, splitting my lower lip as she did so.
"Fucking goddamn!" I said.
She ran her tongue across her lips and smiled. That's when I caught a good glimpse of the fangs. Before I could say anything, she said: "Wait right here."
The warning signals in my brain were at Def-Con Two: Get the fuck out of here. But I had lapsed into an opiated euphoria, and I began to imagine her as my vampish girlfriend and how her throw pillows and accent rugs would blend seamlessly into my own apartment and my menagerie of colored glass votives. And Lorraine — she'd quit fucking with me if I had a new girlfriend with fangs.
"I've brought you something special." I opened my eyes; Amanda was holding out a drink to me; her other hand held a shimmering light, and when I sat up to take the drink I saw it was a knife.
Well, so this is how it ends, I thought. I don't know if I was completely twisted or what, but I felt unusually calm — all my problems were about to disappear as I became the victim of some serial killer. It was really quite liberating.
Then she handed the knife to me.
"You don't have to be gentle," she said. She began to peel off her clothing. On one wrist I saw the single tattoo of a razor blade. On the other wrist, the tattoo read "cut here;" the words floated above a dotted line. A mummified kitten was stenciled onto her stomach and chest. (I found this somewhat charming as I own cats, and I had to repress the urge to say, "Oh, a little kitty . . . "). She sat beside me on the couch, kissing me with that slight bite, and guided my hand with the knife toward her thigh.
"Taste me," she breathed, and she guided the knife lightly along her leg.
I've never been much for blood — mine or anyone else's. As a child, my annual physicals were something of a nightmare for all involved, as I was (and remain) quick to faint at the sight of a needle or blood being drawn. Even a visit to the dentist presents serious obstacles. Novocain not only numbs me, it puts me into a coma.
"Taste me," she breathed, and I felt her hand pressing against mine, guiding the knife lightly along her leg. I could feel the blackness beginning, as if a small pinhole had opened in the back of my head letting all the anger and resentment I'd been hoarding about the circumstances of my life float into the night.
When I came around from the vampyress' sweet embrace, I woke to sunlight. I was sitting on the couch, fully clothed. No one seemed to be in the apartment but me. Had I fallen asleep and only dreamed a meeting with a vampire? Be it so, if you will; I didn't stick around to find out. I made a hasty exit and found my car. When I looked in the rear-view mirror, I saw the cuts on my lower lip.
It occurred to me that Lorraine would have driven by my apartment last night; she would have noticed my absent car, perhaps even waited for me. I could not begin to guess what loss I was about to return to, but I felt it prudent to stop on the way home and purchase a new toothbrush. n°