“Come,” she said, “I have a digital camera,” and paused. I cruelly thought, Everyone does, babe, and as if answering me, “But mine shoots the soul.”
“Nice,” I said. “Good for you. Take a shot of me and I bet you’d think you’d left the lens cap on.” I was going for clever without shutting her down completely. I could afford to play fast and loose. She was out of my league and we both knew it. If I was cocky enough, later, I could always blame my mouth. And if I got lucky, well, hell, I’d definitely want pictures.
She was the kind of woman you wanted to take home and turn into a mother or die trying. But you’d have to sell your soul to get a hottie like this. Men obviously did though, there being no other way to explain some couples. But I digress.
She had on casual and reasonable footwear; black boots without much heel that could be stood in all day, simple dark hose working their way up a long pair of legs, and just when your mind was ready to finish this image, a dark red skirt, only slightly too long to be considered a mini, obscuring that view. Unlike most women these days, she had no need to capture imagination with an inch or two of flesh. Instead, a white blouse tucked into the skirt, and if eyes were to dwell there, a narrow waist, flat stomach, and soft rounded hips could all be taken in with a glance, a bit of perfection for the old pornographic memory. Seven simple buttons kept the gaze in motion, another two unused. Lucky damn bastard that gets to undo those. And up here, the blouse pushed out enough to promise…where was I? Ah, a throat to explore for hours, unblemished flawless skin and hot pulse points, a long throat to entice. What can I say? I’m a neck man.
To neglect her face would be criminal. She belonged on the other side of any camera, the likes of her seen only on the pages of photographic essays on the female form. A pointed delicate chin, petite mouth, button nose, and anime eyes, ears hidden behind burnished auburn hair just long enough for this task, all coming together to make the world a better place. She hurt to look at. I miss anything? Oh, yeah, she had small hands, smooth unscarred hands. Nice wrists too. Both at the end of such slender arms. I could have easily fallen into her embrace.
There she was, from head to toe, or, more accurately, the other-way-around.
“So what do you say?” From out of my reverie I could tell she’d asked this at least once before.
“Sure,” I said, unsure of what I’d agreed to, but as she headed for the door, I followed.
It was a brisk night and I found myself constantly looking where brisk weather usually works its magic. In my defense, I would have been looking there anyway. So I’m a pig. At least I am honest, which is probably more than she usually got.
“My name is Veronica,” she said.
“Wipe away any tears lately?”
There’s the problem with obscure humor, when she plays back at you, there’s no way to know if she got the reference.
“Anyone ever call you Vern?”
“No,” she said. It got colder. “You won’t either.”
“Listen, how far we going?”
“Does it matter?”
“No. I guess not. It’s just I have a car back there.”
“I don’t get in cars with strange men,” she said.
To be honest I didn’t much pay attention to the route we took or the house we entered, my mind elsewhere.
Through the front door there was a drink in my hand and music in the air. She swayed in time and I dared not drink for fear of choking. She did not check to see if she had my attention, taking it instead for granted, as her due. Eventually I did take a sip, and another to confirm my suspicion. Mac 25. Single malt, above my appreciation, served neat, and slightly warmed, like she’d held it briefly before giving it over. But her hands had to be cold, I thought, so where has this glass been? We already established I am a pig, correct?
I glanced at her chest, breasts moving side-to-side, graceful and inviting, in this light shadows to be made out through the slightly less than opaque material. And that’s all I was asking for. One image to be imprinted on my soul. Something to take away from this evening besides a memory of a drink I could never afford. I knew how this was to end, at this point all I wanted was a movie to play in my head for nights to come, a depiction to keep lust company.
“We doing this thing?” she asked, never ceasing to move.
“What thing?” Gulp. Snakedance. Mesmerized. I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Your soul, silly. I’ll get my camera. Unless you want to finish your drink. I have more. But you’re not allowed more than two. That’s the rules.” She smiled. I melted. “I need you sober.”
Flashes of sex entered my brain and were nearly as quickly rejected by the reality before me. Way too difficult to enter fantasy with a living breathing woman upstaging herself.
“Not yet,” I said. Anything to keep her dancing. Well, anything besides joining her. I don’t dance, but she was making me question this resolution. Her lithe form, a decade (or maybe more) younger than me, muscles rippling. As if sensing my mood the music kicked it up a notch and so did she. Either by accident or deliberately, her blouse came untucked, and I now got to see that strip of skin before denied me. She seemed to be such a tiny thing, like something out of faerie, though she held nearly my height. I felt I could take her in two cupped hands, a captured butterfly. Perhaps my perspective was off, perhaps it was the scotch.
Occasional glimpses of her bellybutton were reveled, offering up a carnal creation tale, this woman birthed like any other. Somehow, this reassured me.
I would have done anything to posses a stunning thing like this. And, yes, I realize I was objectifying her. To do other would be to keep her in the realm of the untouchable, a pretty picture on my wall, or perhaps seen on TV, even though she was bigger than this, the next big thing, a discovery unmade, meant for greatness, not the coarse gropings of a crass man. I know how the world works, or at least my world, and in my world guys like me don’t get women like her. They come with a sign only we can read, “Look, but don’t touch,” and from the earliest of ages we are beaten down with this, fluttering birds seeking mates, attracting stares, desiring desire, but not ours. All the preening and grooming, the dress and flirtations, meant for others. And it so obviously disturbs them when they cast their nets too wide, resenting the catching of unwanted attention, my attention, and my interest. So forgive me if I felt justified in objectifying what I couldn’t have.
Things were starting to get bitter. My misogynistic ass persona was surfacing. I needed to finish my drink, get the hell out of there, toss one off, and try to forget the whole affair (or lack of).
“Thanks for the drink,” I said. “I think I need to leave.”
“You can’t go!” Quickly she moved to a door, opening it. It was obviously a bedroom, presumptively her bedroom. It was done up in satins and silks, mostly shades of crimson accented with black and silver. Her bed consisted of a large mattress on the floor, like a college student’s, and I instantly tried to think of all that might once have occurred there. I failed. Nothing came to mind. Not one damn position. It wasn’t I thought this creature virginal, but could imagine no man worthy. I tried inserting a woman into this mental motion picture. This failed as well. Mortifying. She was so obviously meant for this act. At best I could picture her flying solo, pleasing herself on this wide bed, but even this image was elusive, and impossible to sustain in the face of her presence.
Veronica started to ransack the place, looking for something, but I did not join her, could not bring myself to cross the threshold. Like a vampire in the Age of Reason I would have to be invited in. I set my drink on the mantle of a dead fireplace, noticing it for the first time. It was full of ash, no fire in the grate, though it was cold outside, cold in here. I grasped for a metaphor, for a wiseassed comment, but again, nothing came. I looked regretfully at the remainder of the scotch, turned my back on the scene playing out behind me, and headed for the exit.
“Here it is! Wait!”
I looked over my shoulder and detected, for the first time, a flicker of desperation in her eyes. What did I mean to her? What could I mean?
“It’s late. I should really….”
“Please stay. Let me take your picture.”
I thought of those Bushmen, those African natives believing a camera capable of stealing souls, and laughed. What would they think of her contraption, her claim this camera was meant for capturing the image of a soul?
“Will it hurt?” I asked. And she snapped the first photo. “Wait.” A second. “I thought you’d need my permission to take those.” A third. A fourth.
Mischief entered her eyes; “I only need permission if I am going to use them for anything. I still haven’t decided if you’re worthy.” Again, as though she were reflecting my thoughts. No man, especially not me, could be worthy. She never stopped with the camera. There was no flash, just the near constant shutter click. Snick snick snick.
forward to take the camera, but she resisted, keeping it just out of reach, while still taking shots. Without thinking, I laid hands on her and was surprisingly not burned. I pulled her to me, and struggled for the camera. How easy to enfold her, to embrace and consume her, to pin her to the wall, to take and savor, kiss and ravish. It was a foregone conclusion who would win this conflict. There was nothing I couldn’t take from this woman. This thought filled me with a surge of adrenaline and with great effort I moved away, camera in hand.
“What’s the matter?”
Eyes closed, I took deep breaths, searching for composure. It was a taunt, a torture, to be confronted with the demands of biology hardwired into every man, only to step back, step away from the softness of her, the clean subtle scent. In a less civilized time she’d already have been mine. I wasn’t sure which persona this was, but I didn’t like him. He prevented me from even chalking one up to honor. I’d had the thought. Sin, not of deed, but sin nonetheless. I’d never do it, but I wanted to, wanted her pressed against me, wanted to play out those unimaginable scenes.
I turned the lens on her, vying for time, for space. Nothing.
“I think I broke it.”
“You just don’t know how to use it. Here,” she said holding out her hand.
There was no choice but to give it over. I did so gingerly, keeping my distance. This caused her some small amusement. A blush came to my cheeks as I thought how perceptive she’d been all night. Did she sense my thoughts? She had to know the passions she inspired.
She manipulated some settings on the camera, flipped it around, said, “Look, your soul.” On the small screen I could make out a mostly blurry picture, what I assumed to be me, but with another fiery image superimposed. Perhaps there were even three; there seemed to be the outline of a skull as well. It was difficult to discern detail. All were tones of red and orange with few contrasting shadows. A slight movement and this image replaced with another. In this, there seemed to be nothing beyond an essence, no identifiable facial features. Maybe an eye, a cheekbone, the side of my nose, but no way to be sure, and overlaid wisps drew all attention away from these. Another thumb push, another picture. I appeared tortured in this one, anguished, torn and hurt, and there were obviously two of me.
This was me. Of this I had no doubt. No trick photography, no preset pictures to pass off as me, no ghost image already taken. Me. But my soul? I wanted to find the notion ludicrous, wanted to deny it, but doing so would be denying myself. Reds layered into reds, murky Petri dish and freshly poured burgundy.
“What does it mean?”
“You’re a sick and twisted individual,” she teased.
I took the scotch back in hand, took a drink as she showed me the rest. None seemed flattering. All disturbed. Even the bravest of men would shudder when confronted by his soul. What man rests safely in conviction of his goodness? It was beyond me.
“What does your soul look like?” I asked.
“I’m afraid to look,” she said. “I’ve never shot myself. I don’t intend to. Now, somewhere I have paperwork.” And just like that she shut down, as I knew was destined to happen as soon as I forgot to banter, the instant I took anything seriously, the shift sudden, now all business. “Ah, here they are,” and she presented me with a model release form. Three pages. I gave them the diligence they were due. “How much do you want?” she asked. I was taken unaware.
“Nothing,” I said.
“I have to pay you. Have I nothing to offer then?” And she was flirting again, but I recognized it for what it was, a playful manipulation toward one who is harmless, an easy attempt to get one’s way without giving up anything of worth. “Have I nothing of value, nothing to offer in trade?”
“You tell me.” Yeah, sometimes my wit amazes me.
“How can I pay you? What do you want?”
It was obvious what she was doing. The register of her voice dipped in soothing poisons, meant to paralyze, to distract, to comfort. Too seldom did I get to hear a woman whispering so. It was obvious, and just as obvious I would fall for it. I thought once again of aboriginal abhorrence to photography, and decided if my soul was now hers, I was going to extract significant payment. “Not money, that’s for damn sure.”
“How about me? It’ll be a legal contract. See why I needed you sober?”
Like it could ever be that easy.
“Yeah, sure, just write that down, officer. How much? $200 bucks for the throw? I’m not paying anything.” Mostly, this was because I only had $20 to my name.
“I know. I’m paying you. And you imply I am a whore again, you’ll have only regrets,” she said, undoing the first two of seven simple buttons.
Under payment, she listed: Other Considerations. And I signed.
Lucky damn bastard, I thought as I finished the last five, tore her skirt from her, pushed her back onto the mattress, and began to leave marks on her neck. I insisted on evidence in the morning, while she insisted on being on top and faced away, but this was fine with me, to see her ass up close, to hold that yummy round ball, to see it bounce, what more could a man ask for? Besides, drink be damned, I intended to try everything with this woman. There was a whole night ahead of us.
The sex was unremarkable and over too quickly. Afterward, she cried and said, “I’m sorry, mister.” Sadly, I was used to tears after sex, but that mister business hurt. She curled into a little ball and I realized she was still wearing her boots; torn hose and panties allowing our last act. I myself was still mostly dressed. After all, this was to have been a prelude. We weren’t supposed to be into afterward!
“We’re not done,” I said, perhaps a bit too fiercely.
She lay back, as though to say, do your worst. For the first time I noticed the most marvelous of tattoos, a scarlet butterfly on the inside of her thigh, flying away from the place I’d wanted to be all night. I gathered her to me, took her tears on my bared chest, ran my fingers through her hair, kissed her forehead, said, “Hush,” as great wracking sobs overtook her. “Hush now.”
“I’ve done this before,” she said. “Many many times before.”
And I believed her. Suspicions confirmed, I was through with doubts. “The camera?”
“No, never the camera. The contract. The camera is to insure you weren’t already his. To insure I wasn’t wasting my time.”
And I knew what had happened. The price did not seem so high. How can the value of something of worth be known until it is sold? Do not feel sorry for me. Pity instead the others, those making the most precious of payments, and leaving behind their purchase. One soul for an evening with her? I would have done it, even had it been spelled out clearly beforehand in big bold print, but I was getting more than an evening. Other Considerations. Her. We’d agreed on her. This bedroom play was only the beginning. Our contract was for her, and I intended to never let her go. No other way to explain some couples.
I pushed her back, playfully nibbled at her earlobe, reached out…and smashed the camera.