Working 9 to 5

Age 21. New York City.

I remember I sat on the cold, piss-covered tile of the men’s bathroom holding on to a moist rail above my head, recuperating from soreness that heated my neck, my thighs.

Perhaps he had been too rough with me. Perhaps I had not deserved the reckless banging, his heavy, calloused hand at my throat affixing me to the grainy film along the tiled wall as I stood compliant but alarmed. (I’d said ‘affix’ in my mind, confused it, however applicable, with ‘asphyxiation.’ To die engorged with an angry cock and a fake, gold watch ticking impatiently beneath my chin seemed less than honorable.)

We were strangers, all of the men then, strangers, and I expected nothing more, nothing less from them.

He hurried as most men with little regard for the women they pollute do. He held his head down as he fumbled with the tarnished silver buckle of his belt and shoved my legs apart with one bent and jabbing knee. The erratic undoing, unzipping. The upward yank of my ripped t-shirt, one large palm grabbing at the full weight of my breast, mashing the flesh up and back, scissoring the nipple between spread fingers.

The back of my head ached. Knock, knock, knock with the thudding beat from the club outside the bathroom door, where sweaty bodies convulsed and collapsed in rhythmic, intoxicated motion, the mixed allure of indulgence and pain. Each violent surge of his body into mine strengthened his grip on my throat. Fingers pressed deeper, palm pressed deeper. His muscled arm, mass. My throat constricted. Gasp the air. Push it down.

My limp compliance. My balance on one leg, one high-heeled foot. How he enjoyed this! I can see him even now. Look at his grooved brow, creased with concentration. Look at the gutters formed within the rolling folds of his forehead. His bloodless lips pulled tight across stained teeth as he came inside me, nostrils flared with the rushed gusts of completion, a job well done.

Two, maybe three minutes had passed between his solicitation and clean escape, and yet I knew the cowlick in the center of his thinning blond head spun clockwise. The intimacy in this information sent me to a place far from my destructive present. How his mother must have fretted over the cowlick’s prominence. How she must have wet the defiant hairs before a bathroom mirror and combed them flat. Cursed as they sprung back stiff, united, toward the light.