Imagining the sex lives of strangers

That woman sitting by the bar with the straight spine and pencil skirt: there is something intangible about her. She is bleached into partial nonexistence by the light above her head like a shadow caught in the beam of a torch. The woman carefully crosses her knees. Long, insect-leg fingers around her glass, she looks up, frowns, narrows her eyes as she pulls him into focus. She graciously offers a smile. The man gives her a tentative kiss on the cheek. He sits, talks, and she listens. An almost imperceptible nod animates her face every so often. He has a biro smudge on his hand and a button is missing from his cuff, thread unravelling.

Besotted is the word he would use. He is besotted. In its truest sense, it means to become a sot or sottus: a drunken fool. To find yourself besotted is to become intoxicated, utterly stupefied by alcohol or emotion. They are in the hotel room now, pastel prints on the wall and a laminated brochure by the telephone. He watches the woman pour herself a white wine. She has the hands of a strangler, he thinks suddenly. The nails are short, skin roughened by work and age, yet slender-boned, elegant. Perhaps, in another life, she would have been a pianist. Her fingertips, as they weave their way up his chest towards his throat, are harder, coarser than he had imagined. For a moment, he thinks of childhood, of the reptile-house, remembering the startling texture of that warm undulating snakeskin as he first touched the creature held out before him – not slimy or even particularly smooth as he had expected, but like dry patent leather under his palms.

Later, the man is cruciform on the bed, the woman astride him, just as she inevitably ends up being each time they meet. He knows not to struggle. Her hips pin him into the springs of the mattress, her cool, bare thighs pressing against either side of his ribcage, squeezing the breath out of him. He attempts to thrust again, but she stops him, those hot, slick muscles inside her clenched around his cock so that he is caught. She breathes silently, mouth curling around wet lips, and gives a quiet laugh. He is immobilised. His cock is clamped tightly in place, captured and suffocated. She moves those cruel fingers down. One dances on the hard little nub of her clit and he feels the first tremor ripple through her. She strokes herself hard now, firmly, selfishly, circling with her fingertip, barely moving on the outside yet pulsating, wriggling, throbbing against the bulging head of his penis, contractions moving down, crushing him. It hurts. The woman’s face is inscrutable. Her cunt constricts tightly, again and again, coiling. It is the most intense and wonderful physical sensation he has ever felt. He hates it. He loves it. He whimpers aloud, breathless, the pain and ecstasy drawing him suddenly close to an orgasm of his own. The woman squeezes down once more, then slides up and off, leaving his cock wet, swollen, bobbing helplessly without her. He wants to sob. She smiles, skin flushed but otherwise just as composed as she first appeared in the bar earlier, and offers him a drink. All he can do is nod.


I had a dream about a femsub on a boat. My point of perception changed several times, as often happens in dreams. At one point I was the handcuffed, blindfolded woman. At another, I was her lover, restraining her arms. Most of the time I was neither character, just an impassive, discarnate observer of two people I’d never met on the dark, gale-spattered deck of a car-ferry. It was the overnight crossing. Both the roar of the waves and their taste on the turbulent air hit her as soon as she was pushed, hands cuffed behind her back, out of the door and onto the deck. Despite the blindfold, she knew that her lover – gripping her arm slightly too hard, shoving, dragging – was the only other person out here. The boat slept fitfully, stirring and groaning. She could feel the storm against her face. The salty wind, her invisible assailant, slammed into her body from several directions at once, becoming something other than air, almost solid, the texture of hot tar, and it pushed insistently at her, tried to knock her off her feet. She wore sandals. The metal deck was cool, puddled, seawater pooling around her toes. Its surface was slippery. Gravity toppled one way, then the other. This predicament had been her fault, of course. She had craved the steel around her wrists. She had wanted the restraints, the danger, that tingling ache in her shoulders as her arms were wrenched back behind her. Another step, pushed forward. It might have been raining, though perhaps the splashes she could feel were merely the remnants of smashed waves, tiny pinpricks of horizontal water cutting into her skin. Her lover forced her to take another step, fingers biting into her arms. The boat tipped again, and she stumbled. She sensed that she must be close to the edge of the deck. There would be a railing, wouldn’t there? A flutter of panic. An intake of breath. A rushing, gushing, excitement as her toe rested on nothing. There was only blackness between her wide eyes and the thick blindfold. What lay in front, in the emptiness where her foot hung, unable to venture further – the top of a flight of steps? A ledge? A lifeboat? Or just space, stretching out in front and below, just endless darkness and cold, salt water between her body and the horizon. If her lover let her fall, she wouldn’t swim. Even without the handcuffs, the current would pull her under before she could even attempt to breathe, words lost in the ferry’s mighty wake. The thought of this made her cunt twitch involuntarily. Her own insignificance against something as big and as powerful as nature itself, against another human being who held momentary control over whether she would live or die – oh fuck – the prospect caused her to her tip her head back against her lover’s shoulders, the dizzying helplessness overwhelming her for a moment. She could be made to disappear. Nobody would see her fall. One tiny body vanishing, with an inaudible splash, into an infinite sea. Without warning, her lover tugged at the blindfold, pulling it roughly away from her face. Her eyes adjusted, and she felt the click of handcuffs being undone. The rest of the deck stretched out in front of her. Just one step down, then more of the same white painted metal and a bolted-down bench, damp with spray. Not the edge of the Universe then, after all. She threaded her trembling fingers through those of her lover, and watched the first torn, red blush of sunrise above the flat horizon. At some point, the couple’s narrator woke up and decided to turn their experience into a hurriedly-typed, overly-descriptive blog entry.



She has never held a gun before. It is heavier than she had imagined it would be. The pistol’s grip is still warm from his hand. She wonders how easy it would be to pull the trigger, and if this would cause it to fire. In films, characters sometimes flick down the hammer with a firm, confident clack-click before they shoot anyone. She is not sure whether she is supposed to cock the gun like this, or even if the safety catch is still on. In all honesty, she doesn’t know where the safety catch is.

Despite this, she shows nothing. Her brows are locked, eyes unblinking, watching the back of his head. The orange street light turns his hair to amber, to threads of dripping tree sap. If she fired the gun, she imagined that his head would be sticky to the touch, skull broken like a boiled egg. The pavement is wet. He is kneeling, fingers knotted together behind his neck, just as she has instructed. He is shaking. There are words coming out of his mouth, muttered, sobbed, whispered. Perhaps he is praying.

It occurs to her now that it is not a gun at all. It is just her two fingers, held out in the shape of a pistol. Her weapon is mimed. He knows this too, yet perhaps he has forgotten, just as she did.

We play-act. It’s what we do when we take our roles in a scene. There were games we played as children when, just for a moment, the monsters were real, the cupboard actually was a portal to another universe, and if we stepped off the ledge we just might fly. Actors sometimes lose themselves, albeit temporarily, in the characters they play. When a fantasy becomes so vivid that you feel it solidifying around you, like frost forming into patterns on a window, then you know that it must be a good one.

She presses the tips of her loaded fingers into the back of his head and tells him that she loves him.