“This is what you want, isn’t it?” she said, tugging my hand down the front of her skirt and pressing it home into the hollow of her crotch. The material was thin; there was nothing beneath her linen skirt.
The sound of drunken conversation leaked out into the humid air. The shadows lay heavy across her face, turning her features to monochromatic stone, but the erosion was there, at the corner of her eye, where the light lay like a brand over her left cheek.
“How pissed are you?”
I shrugged. “Not very. Not at all, really.”
“Is that going to be a problem then? Will you get squeamish and develop a conscience?”
It was a challenge I didn’t bother to answer. Instead, I slipped my hand out from under hers, crooked a finger, and brought it up to brush along the line of illuminated skin. She had a light sheen of sweat on her upper lip. “What’s the hurry?”
“I misread you. My mistake.” she said. The words were clipped, angry. Shouldering her purse, she turned to go.
I caught her by the wrist. “You didn’t misread me.”
It was the truth. In the bar, I’d been interested. When she knocked back the shooter of tequila, I’d been interested. As she gathered her hair up off her sweat-damp neck while talking, and pulled it crossly into a ponytail. There was a tension to almost everything she did. As if every word and act were ejected with disdain. Now, as she responded to what she thought was a rejection, there was a barely contained violence to her. I liked it. And very few men are totally immune to a woman who wears no panties.
She tried to tug free – not with any determination – but I held on to her arm. When she turned to speak, I could see, even in the dim light of the streetlamp, she was crying.
“Then you misread me,” she muttered. “I’m not after a date. Just a fuck.”
“This is a strange place to be after a simple fuck. They’re so cheap to buy here, and far less complicated. For one thing, a bought fuck doesn’t cry.”
I wanted to make my point with clarity. In a city where you can get a whore for a night for under twenty dollars, the zipless fuck loses its attraction.
Unable to pull the caught hand out of my grasp, she swung the other one at me, fisted. It missed my face, landing on my shoulder with a thud that would eventually, I was sure, make a handsome bruise.
“Fuck you,” she hissed.
“As I already explained, I’m interested, but could we calm down a bit first?”
“Let go of my arm.”
“Only if you promise not to hit me again. Not that I mind a bit of anger. Personally, I’m into it.”
She glared, her eyes black in the gloom. The streetlamp caught on the tears like shards. I can’t say the sniffling was attractive, but my mind was still stalled on her state of unpantiedness, which overrode the nasal congestion. Lust is like that.
I felt her arm relax in my grasp, and I released it. But as soon as I did, she swung at me again, open handed. Her palm landed on my face with a force that both hurt and shocked me.
I’d had enough. “The next time you hit me, I’m going to hit you back. You realize that, don’t you?” I said this as calmly as I could. The slap had left a faint hum in my right ear and I couldn’t be sure of my delivery.
Instead of offering me more violence, she leaned her forehead against the wall beside me and began bawling in a way I hadn’t heard since primary school. It was full throated, stuttered with hiccups and there was, from the sound of it, a great deal of fluid of one sort or another being produced and expelled.
I looked around – certain someone passing by would think I was doing something awful to this woman. Then, not sure what else to do, I gave her a few tentative pats on the back.
Either she hid drunkenness extremely well, or this woman was out of her fucking mind. Most probably it was the later. And, yes, I should have given her one last friendly pat, and gone home, but there was still the maddeningly delicious fact that she was absolutely bare beneath that skirt.
The combination of wanton slut, strident bitch and blubbing lunatic had an unaccountable charm for me. I’m not particularly normal myself. I invited her back to my house.
She looked up, flicking a mess of damp, dark wisps off her face with an angry shake of her head. Then wiped her nose on her sleeve.
* * *
There was no way to read her acceptance. I puzzled it as we walked along the wide, silent boulevard. The pride of the French who had colonized the place, Le Duan was deserted at midnight. Only the occasional passing motorcycle shot through the thick, humid silence.
We didn’t talk and, every so often, I glanced to my side to be sure she was still walking beside me. Her feet made no sound on the pavement and it was then I noticed she’d taken off her shoes and was barefoot. Her sandals dangled by from a single hooked finger.
That would make anyone who knows how filthy the streets of Saigon are shudder. It gave me a sense of her intense vulnerability – not an unpleasant feeling – and I reached down to her free hand, clasping it in mine. But the minute I did, she shook it away.
“Don’t you at least want to pretend we’re lovers?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s just humane.”
“Fuck humane.” She said it with a quiet brutality.
What else could I say? But her remark, so casually tossed at me, turned me cold. Who gave a shit if she was not wearing underwear? Did I really need to get laid that badly? No.
Call me squeamish, but the idea of fucking her had lost its allure.
We walked the rest of the way in silence and, as we turned down the alley leading to my house, I was formulating polite ways to make some excuse and send her home. I’ve always found it hard to admit I’ve changed my mind and, after a few moments, I realized I had to say it anyway. We’d reached the gate of my house; my keys were in my hand.
“Look,” I said, feeling like a shit, although I couldn’t explain why, “this isn’t going to work for me. Let me call you a taxi.”
She didn’t respond.
I waited until the silence became almost unbearable, then I unlocked my gate and pushed it open. “Come on. I’ll give you some coffee so you can sober up, then we can get you a cab.”
Again, she said nothing. For a moment, she stood glaring at me with the kind of hatred you only see in the eyes of religious fanatics.
“Fine.” She spat the word and stepped into the tiled courtyard. “What a fucking asshole,” she muttered as she passed me.
I’ve been told that, when I get really angry, I develop a rather alarming smile. I could feel it stretching the skin on my face as I pulled the gate closed, crossed the courtyard and climbed the steps to my front door. It was dark in the yard, but I could sense her behind me as I bent down to take my shoes off before letting myself in.
“You’re not coming in,” I said. “Not after walking all the way in bare feet. They’re filthy.”
“They’re not.” She slumped down onto the stair and pulled up a foot to look at the sole.
I opened the front door, glancing down. “They are. God knows what you’ve caught walking around like that.”
“How the fuck are you going to give me coffee if you don’t let me in?”
Frankly, I was hoping she’d forgotten the offer of coffee.
“I’ll wash them,” she said, abruptly. “Where’s your hose?”
Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath of the moist night air. Suddenly I felt worn out, and a mild metallic pain was gnawing at my brain, behind my eyes. Bad red wine.
“It’s over there.” I pointed vaguely toward a rusty spigot in the corner of the terrace. “Suit yourself.”
As I walked into my living room, I heard her turn the water on. The house was dark and I switched on a few lamps on my way into the kitchen.
Only when I’d filled the kettle and put it on to boil did I admit it wasn’t her feet I didn’t want in my house; it was her mind. Well, this is something close to the edge of the world, I reminded myself. The foreigners who end up here were, for the most part, misers, misfits or losers. I knew which one I was and I was pretty sure about what she was, too.
When I brought the coffee tray into the living room, she was lounging on my couch – absolutely naked – with her legs open as wide as it was humanly possible to spread them.
* * *
It took me a moment to work up an appropriate reaction. My cock twitched to life, like the predicable, mindless moron it was. I took in the display: the petulant expression beneath the tangle of curls; her nipples, small and nearly black against the skin of her small breasts; her hips canted, pushing out the bones to make a well of her lower stomach. The sharp tendons of her thighs stood out from the bandage-white skin. They quivered with the tension of her spread. Between them, her cunt was bare and splayed: her inner lips brutally crimson.
A lit cigarette dangled between her fingers. She took a drag and exhaled a stream of smoke up at the ceiling, leaving her gaze to settle there. “Fuck me,” she said in a small, absent voice.
I put down the tray so as not to drop it and tried desperately to will away my erection, only to acknowledge the futility of the effort. I had also forgotten to breathe.
“You…” I swallowed against a dry throat. “You can’t smoke in my house.”
I kicked myself mentally for the complete inanity of my response, but the cliche of blood-flow is truer than anyone cares to admit.
She took another deep drag and then casually let the burning cigarette drop onto the tiled floor, as if she were at an outdoor coffee stall. “Fuck me.”
“It’s what you want.”
“No!” I barked, stooping to retrieve the burning cigarette and stubbing it out with vehemence on one of the saucers on the coffee tray. “You need to get dressed and go. Now!”
When I looked up it was to watch her languidly slide a hand, fingers splayed, between her legs. Even from that distance, the flesh sounded wet as her fingers skated over it. The tip of her finger worried her clit for a moment, and then she reached down, pushing it into her opening.
I hated this woman. I wanted her out of my house and my life just as fast as I could manage to eject her. I also wanted my cock buried in that tight, hot cunt with a ferocity that brought tears to my eyes. Conflicted didn’t begin to describe my state of mind.
Paralyzed, I watched her slump further down the sofa. She paused for a beat, then joined her first finger to a second and plunged the pair deep inside herself. Her hips rose up to meet her hand and she began to fuck herself almost viciously, raking her thumb across her clit with every inward thrust.
This wasn’t someone masturbating luxuriantly; it was like being a witness to self-inflicted violation. It told in her face. There was no pleasure in there, just manic desperation. And, oddly enough, that made me harder. If she had gasped and moaned and writhed, I could have focused on her selfishness and maintained some sense of distance. But it was so visually clear that she was only performing this act as an illustrated set of instructions, I couldn’t stop myself from falling into the vortex of it.
Even as I unbuckled my belt and unzipped my chinos, I damned myself for being weak. A black tide of self-hatred climbed my spine as I stepped around the coffee table and between her legs, freeing my erection from the confines of my boxers.
“Let’s get this straight. This is what you want,” I growled, tugging her hand away from her crotch.
She looked up at me with a sickening sort of triumph. One hand under her ass, I raised her hips. I angled my cock and shoved myself into her with all the rage I had inside me. The lizard part of my brain was determined to fuck that obscene expression off her face.
* * *
That first thrust felt so fucking good. Everything I had imagined it would be. Fiercely hot, impossibly tight – she had the angriest cunt I’d ever been in. It was monstrous, delicious. I ploughed into her over and over, bracing myself against the back of the sofa, lifting her until the blood rushed to her head, giving her pale skin a deep rose flush.
Her muscles seized me until it felt like I would never be able to pull out of her. I knew I wasn’t going to last, but it was a ghost of a thought; I didn’t care. My pulse was thundering in my ears, pushing me on, goading me to fuck her harder, faster, until my thrusts matched its rhythm.
Suddenly her back arched, her muscles went rigid and her heels dug into the back of my thighs. That initial spasm was a door swinging open. I plunged in, through her orgasm and came as hard as I’ve ever come in my life.
The vertigo was overwhelming. My knees almost gave in. It felt like minutes went by and still I could not stop erupting into that dark, angry cave. And with every spurt, I could feel my own rage abating.
When my vision cleared, she was staring up at me. The triumph had gone, her features had softened. She nodded, trying to catch her breath.
“Yup. That did the trick,” she said.
I pulled out, let her hips drop onto the couch and collapsed into the cushions beside her. I couldn’t think of a single thing to say. It felt like my soul was full of gaping cavities and she’d put them there.
“Admit it, it’s what you wanted.”
I stared at her mutely.
She sat up and gathered up the mess of her hair, pulling it back and tying it with a rubber band that had been on her wrist the whole time. “Admit it!”
Never in my life had I felt so completely manipulated. The self-hatred came flooding back, settling heavily into the pit of my stomach. And I had no doubt that she knew exactly what I was feeling. She’d orchestrated it all.
“You’re like a disease,” I said finally. “You know that?”
This isn’t normally what I say to women I’ve just had sex with – usually we kiss, and fall asleep and eat breakfast together – but the words tumbled out before I could stop them.
They didn’t faze her. She fished her cigarettes out of her purse, lodged one between her lips and stood up. “I know,” she said, with a small snort that I assumed was a laugh.
She walked out of my living room, naked as the day she was born, and onto the darkened terrace. I assumed she’d left her clothes out there.
Of course, I should have relented and been polite. I should have gotten up and seen her out. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I sprawled on the sofa until I heard the outer gate slam shut and then fell asleep.
I spent the next week trying to mentally paper over that evening. Every time I thought of her, it was like a nail rusting away in my brain. The harder I attempted to forget about the whole debacle, the more vivid and present the memories became. I had no idea what she’d done to me; only that I craved it with suffocating intensity. By the following Saturday, I found myself back at bar where we’d met, looking for her, like a junkie jonesing for a fix.