You have broken your word. By all rights I should not see you again. However, I will offer a reprieve, in the form of a penance. I was to appear at a certain East Village bar Friday at midnight, dressed in black miniskirt, heels, fishnet stockings, a black bra under an open black lace top embroidered with the words "SEX SLAVE." No underpants. Bright red lipstick. As a sign of my contrition I could drink only water, and I had to dance/go home, etc. with anyone who asked. If I brought a friend, or even an accomplice to keep an eye on me from a distance, I would never hear from her again.
It was Wednesday.
How had she known I had broken my word? Unless she was the blond Spanish woman after all? Or the one with the obnoxious kids. More likely the woman with the frying pan had told her of a visitor. (But she said her neighbors had gone away for the summer. (Unless she was the woman with the frying pan....))
Excited and intrigued, I reread the note.
Long before punk, or androgyny, or Drag Kings, I had foresworn skirts and heels, initially from principle, then by habit, so that I no longer know how to wear them. Or rather, for me, skirts and heels were drag. I had never felt like I belonged in them, though photos of me dressed in such fashion attest to the apparent normalcy of my appearance. I could never figure out what to do with my hands, and because I hated banging my legs together and hurting them, my knees always angled out- wards, which made me look wobbly and unconvincing in heels, not that (as I discovered) I could any longer fit into mine, and 56 / IANE DELYNN the Current's were too large.
I wasted $120 on a pair, amusing the salesperson gre, with my attempts to walk in them.
The skirt, the bra, the halter top, the stockings, lay on a chair next to the bed. The gel, mascara, foundation, eyeliner, were on the shelf near the sink. The weather, which had been dreary all day, matched my mood. In the natural light, where I had had to squint to see myself, my face had looked silvery, my figure mysterious, almost like a ghost. When I turned on the light, I no longer possessed the poignancy of the half-visible, but looked sickly and yellow. Funny pyramids of shadow appeared by my nose and under my lip. There were lines I did not remember, which now that I had brought them into consciousness, I would surely continue to see. My face was heavier than I remembered, and the silver glints in my hair seemed gray.
My skin did not glow. Perhaps it never had. My nose seemed thicker.
I held out my arms. Skin still firm, thanks to the health club, no skin hanging down. There were some black spots - hopefully freckles, but maybe moles! Were they new or had they been there my whole life? I could not remember.
I took off my pants. My thighs seemed heavy, my knees scarred. Even in the natural light, I could see the round outline of my stomach.
I put on water for the bath, and found some old bath oil the Current had brought back from France. I hate France. The oil had not been used in some time, and I had trouble opening the bottle.
My hamstrings were tight, and I slowly bent down from the waist, letting my hands touch the floor, to stretch them. I shut my eyes and smelted the oil and waited to see if tears would pour out of them. They did not.
When I opened my eyes, I saw, upside-down in the mirror, the round ass and thick thighs of a middle-aged woman. Who's that7 I thought, for a second.
I pounded my hand on the wall. Looking at myself in the mirror the normal way, I tried to see myself as I had in the morning. But it was hard to get the image of that upside-down ass out of my mind.
How dare I worry about what anyone else's ass looks like? I thought. But I did.
After the bath I put on the make-up. I had not done this in some time, and I had to wash the eyeliner off repeatedly before I got it right. I sat by the window. The rain had at least stopped; street- lights and headlights were reflected in the already drying puddles. The men had re-emerged, on their way to their perfect silent exchanges. I envied them their simplicity, their candor, their perfect understanding of their bodies, the way they separated the Realm of the Body from the Realm of the Mind, thereby becoming Rulers of both. We attack men for this, of course. Who does not attempt to destroy what one cannot have? But why could we not have it? Because men were simple, women complex? Because our genitals were curved, ridged, circled on themselves, like a mountain chain, so you could not say precisely where one lip stopped and another began? Because inside gradually became outside, and there was no dividing line? Because our veins fell out of our bodies, ugly and swollen, after giving birth, rather than staying inside where they belonged? Because our wet leaked out rather than came in spurts? Because it evaporated rather than left dried patches on sheets? Because we came not definitively but in waves, and sometimes it was impossible to say "how often" or even if "at all"? Because sometimes it was better to use a vibrator over underpants or sheet or even comforter, rather than touch our- selves directly? Because... because... because....