In her profile picture she was holding the phone, which she was using to take a mirror selfie, at mouth level. Now he understood why. She smiled broadly as he walked toward her, baring an intimidating sliver of gumline.
The patio heater was glowing just for them. The icy streets in this once-bustling neighbourhood were deserted. He focused on the intense eyes from the picture.
She was drinking bock beer, while he had a glass of white wine.
‘When I’m in a relationship, I always blow those dating apps off my phone,’ she said in her disappointing Southern accent.
One hour later, he knew the full resumes of all of her colleagues and herself; another hour later, he had met her entire family, followed by her collection of exes; and at some point in the fourth hour they had arrived at the subject of masturbation. ‘And with that hand, or fist, rather, I put indirect pressure on my G-spot as I rub my clit on my wrist.’
When it was time to say goodbye, they stood across from each other awkwardly.
‘What should we do?’ she said. ‘I guess we should keep distance for now, right?’
Two days later, the curfew was expanded to include the closure of all bars and restaurants.
They kept texting. Sometimes they’d be at it all night long – there was nothing to do outside anyway. Frozen streets, closed bars, friends that kept their distance.
‘No, I’ve never swallowed,’ she wrote, ‘but then my exes were kind enough to pull out well in time.’
He was lying on the sofa desperately craving a warm body and typed, ‘Oh really?’
‘Even in my last relationship, which was kind of, um, wild and perverse, I didn’t let him.’
He sat up straight and started guessing. What was her kink?
‘Golden showers? S&M?’
‘I don’t think you’re like that,’ she wrote, ‘but that’s okay.’
‘We’ll save it for another time.’
The first thing he noticed about her house was the smell. Was there broccoli on the menu?
‘We’re having Thai,’ she said. ‘You like spicy?’
While she was in the bathroom, he looked through one of the large windows. Outside, a salt truck beeped its way down a street covered in white frosting. Needlessly: there was no one out, no one could slip.
‘Okay, order’s in,’ she said. ‘Wine?’
‘You mean …’
‘I ordered takeout, yeah. This is the closest to having staff that I’ll ever get.’
Over her plate of pad ped mu she unfurled her remarkably conservative views on feminism. He felt inclined to correct her but remained quiet.
As they cleared the table he snuck a quick glance at his phone. It was past curfew.
‘One of my exes,’ she said as she used a piece of toilet paper to wipe the cum off her hand and breasts, ‘liked to be bitten.’
He rolled onto his side. The orgasm had been slow to get going because she kept interrupting the blowjob with stories about her exes.
‘How do you feel about that?’
‘The idea that I could bite off your dick.’
‘Not great, to be honest.’
He couldn’t get to sleep. The offensive smell of broccoli lingered in his nose. How would she like it if he threatened to bite her clit to pieces?
She rang the doorbell a beat too long. He opened up.
‘People are avoiding each other on the streets,’ she said, ‘Everyone is in a hurry.’
He hadn’t left the house since the previous morning.
After dinner, after sex, she told him about her last ex. How they somehow accidentally found out he liked to be kicked in the balls, and she liked to be hit in the face.
‘You liked that?’ he asked as he tenderly caressed her butt and back.
‘It was the excitement of knowing that someone could assert their physical power over me, thwack, just like that. The looming fear that it could happen again any moment. It made me want to provoke it. So I’d hit him too, from time to time.’
He gave her a gentle slap on the butt – way too gentle.
‘If I’m not roughly manhandled when I’m being fucked, I feel almost nothing.’
He wondered how many times they’d had sex by that point. Eight? Nine? Sure, he could hit her in the face, but he was afraid of the world that would open up if he did. That tender touch would never again be enough.
He stood at her door. Determined. At the most, a little worried about how she was going to take it.
The street was deserted; a biting wind whipped past his damp nose.
Yesterday, two hours before the curfew, someone from his publishing house had stopped by for a quick glass of wine that they would normally have had in a café somewhere. After the second bottle of Picpoul de Pinet she jumped him. All shame abandoned, far away from other people’s eyes. In the vacuum of forced isolation. She bit him, sucked his neck and his shoulders – but tenderly, maybe even lovingly. In the morning, she woke him with little
After she left, he looked at himself in the mirror: a pale man covered in purple bruises.
With that same body, he was now standing in front of the door, which swung open.
‘I have to tell you something weird,’ he began.
After the confession, she was quiet for a moment. Then she hit him in the face, hard. He grabbed her wrists and pinned her to the floor. He smelled the broccoli and drew back his fist, a wild urge to beat her until she bled shooting through his pelvis.
He lowered his hand and got up.
She flung herself down onto the ground, clawing at his legs. He kicked her hands away. In the stairwell he heard her cursing die down behind him.
It was still light out. In the deserted street, no one saw him get on his bike and ride away forever.