“Inside I still feel like the 23 year old that wanted to be your fuck toy” she said, her eyes a little wild and a little lost.
We have a long often tumultuous history, Aurora and I. We’ve spent as much time being enemies as we have being friends and only in the last few years have we been able to stand to be in each others presence.
Six or seven years ago, we had a very strong attraction and Aurora first presented the idea to her boyfriend at the time that she wanted their relationship to be open and more specifically, that she had an interest in me. Admittedly at the time I wasn’t sure how I felt about polyamory and the situation imploded spectacularly when (I learned much later on) her boyfriend gave his permission to her and then told me something entirely different. I felt betrayed and misled by Aurora, particularly because her boyfriend was a friend. He gave me the impression that she’d been dishonest and I was furious with her about it. She got the impression that I’d just played a game to see if I could get her to do it and she hated me too.
New Orleans is a small place and when you have the same circle of friends, it can feel even smaller. There was a palpable tension in the air after that and we couldn’t stand to be around each other. We were all in a band together and I stopped going to performances when I knew she’d be there. When we were forced to be in the same room, the animosity was undeniable and one or the other of us would find a reason to leave as soon as possible.
A few years ago while I was visiting New Orleans, we ran into each other and agreed to meet and talk. It was then that we discovered that we might both have been mislead by the same person and that we’d wasted years loathing each other. Even then, we were both a little reluctant to believe it and we harbored some distrust that would take us until recently to let go of. There was a sense of danger in talking to her that meant we kept a respectable distance while we decided if we really could trust one another again. I didn’t always mention to her that I was coming to town on some of my previous trips to New Orleans and I only told her last-minute that I’d be there this trip, feeling that maybe it was time to really put the past behind us.
She messaged me on Facebook days before my trip and we added each other as friends there, eventually trading phone numbers so we could text instead. She offered me a lift from the airport, but I declined, not sure I was be ready to see her and wanting to get acclimated to being back in New Orleans for at least a few days before I did. It wasn’t until the day before I supposed to leave that we finally made plans to see one another and even then I wasn’t sure entirely what to expect.
We agreed to meet for lunch at a Mediterranean place on Frenchman street and I took something of a farewell walk through the French Quarter on my way to see her. It was hot outside, even with the overcast skies, and I could smell the rain looming somewhere in the distance. I hadn’t seen her in almost two years when I spotted her through the window, standing close to the door. Her hair was shorter than when I’d seen her last and it has vibrant pink streaks in it now. Being face to face to her the familiar feeling of danger crept up on me but it was accompanied by fascination, which I hadn’t let myself feel for her in years.
She was wearing a shirt that hung long enough to nearly eclipse her tiny shorts and cowboy boots that seemed a colourful contrast to her pink hair. Aurora is a curious mixture of brash and vulnerable; she rarely holds back when speaking to me, even if she makes herself blush with the things that come out of her mouth. She often looks at me with equal parts want and contempt and I enjoy it. The look on her face when she saw me seemed determined, though I was unsure what of just then.
We took a seat at a far table and quickly found the playful tone of conversation that we’d shared in the past. There was a hint of trepidation behind it all, but also a feeling like things had changed, become unstuck and could move forward. We were deciding to trust each other as we sat there, even if it hadn’t yet proven wise to do so. Looking across the table at one another, the tension between us felt like it’d switched from push to pull. We flirted a bit and then she rolled her eyes at me as if she didn’t yet believe that I meant it.
“This is going to be like all those other times when you get me turned on and then don’t do anything, isn’t it?” she said, and I laughed, because we do have a long history of tension without payoff. All the buildup we had years ago was destroyed by a misunderstanding and though that was a long time ago, I didn’t feel her question was unfair.
“Want a lift to the airport?” she offered and I accepted. We agreed to meet at the friend’s apartment that I was staying at, because I needed to pack up and say goodbye to them before leaving. The we parted, we hugged goodbye and I had a feeling that she had something planned for the ride there.
She picked me up in her SUV and announced that we had a bit of time to kill, asking me where to go. I knew she already had a plan so I put the decision on her and we headed to her apartment. There really wasn’t much extra time before my flight, but I agreed to it, wanting to see how things would play out.
We pulled up in front of her apartment and sat inside the car for a moment when she told me we didn’t have time for games today and invited me inside. She was forward and also uncertain and I hadn’t decided myself just then how far I was willing to let things go.
She seemed nervous and a bit out of sorts as she led me inside, apologizing for the mess. She kicked off her boots and walked across the floor in mismatched socks, her shirt nearly hiding her tiny shorts and giving the impression that she’d already started to undress. She stopped in the middle of the room and faced me; I put my arms around her and all those times we almost kissed but didn’t were behind us.
We sat together on the deep leather couch in the middle of the dimly lit room, only having met a couple of hours before. In front of us a woman with dark flawless skin and long hair straddled the wooden pony; her wrists were tied to the front of it and the tail that plugged her trailed out behind her. The man she was with touched her gently before starting to spank her and I alternated between watching them and watching Veda’s reaction to what was happening.
Ian was convinced that Veda was my type and suggested that we go to see her at the strip club she was dancing at before we headed to Kinky Salon. In the upstairs VIP bar, Veda joined us for a drink and as is tradition with Ian when I visit New Orleans, he paid for a lap dance. Veda led me to the back and danced for a handful of forgettable strip club songs but what kept catching my attention was the collar with the lock on the front of it that she wore and I found myself wondering as she danced if there was any merit to it. The timer counted down and when the last song ended she stood and faced me.
“Thank you for being a willing participant in that lap dance!”.
“I like your collar” I responded.
Veda is clever and I have a feeling she takes a good deal of pleasure in seeing how much sarcasm she can pass off as sincerity. She has a beautiful smile that probably blinds most to the wild that hides behind it and I’d be willing to bet she leaves a lot of people feeling conflicted and confused by the way that she speaks to them.
After the dance, we told her we were going to a play party at Kinky Salon and she immediately expressed interest in coming with us. Ian paid the fee so she could leave the club early and we met her at a dive bar around the corner so she wouldn’t be seen leaving with us. I saw her through the doorway in street clothes looking like a very different person than the one that I’d met and I liked the contrast.
We took a cab to her place so she could get changed into something appropriate for the event and she asked opinions about what she should wear. When we got to her place Ian and I stood outside in the humid night air waiting for her to change and when she came back, she was wearing the tight red dress and black heels that I’d voted for. She climbed into the back of the cab next to me and we were on our way.
I’d been to Kinky Salon before, the organizer being a friend who always extends an invitation. When he found out that I would be in town for this event, it didn’t take much to convince me that Ian and I should at least stop by. Veda wanting to come along seemed in keeping of the experiences I’ve had of them in the past and I was happy to have her with us. We arrived just before midnight and were given a tour of the venue.
We grabbed a drink and went back to the room that Veda and I both seemed interested in, Ian having gone out to smoke before joining us on the leather couch watching the spanking over the wooden pony. Behind us a woman moaned and the three of us turned to see what was happening. She was tied down to a bench with her legs spread, wearing nothing only rope, with a vibrator being pressed between her legs by her partner.
Veda raised her eyebrows and said that she’d come hoping to feel something. She said she felt nothing at all lately and she wanted something that would make her feel alive, but the only thing that she felt watching people was envy that nothing excited her the way those moments excited them.
I listened to her tell me about the things she’d been doing that had made her feel nothing and a song came to mind as she spoke, the lyrics “watching me is like watching the fire take your eyes from you” running though my head as I watched her lips form the word ‘nothing’.
Her knees were turned toward mine and her hands were clenched in her lap as she watched the spanking happening in front of her. We’d only just met, but I got the impression that it isn’t that she doesn’t feel, it’s that she doesn’t feel in moderation. There is something about her that is very all or nothing and I watched the walls inside of her climb as we sat there in the dark.
“What does make you feel alive?” I asked her, but it was too late, they were already up.
“Being choked to within an inch of my life. Sex, while it’s happening.” she said, without the slightest hint of enthusiasm.
The scene in front of us came to an end and we wandered through the halls, peeking into rooms as we passed. In one of them there were people playing with electricity and that caught Veda’s eye so we stopped to watch for a moment. A man kissed a woman and I could see little sparks in the dark as their lips touched, the current passing through him to her.
Nearby were three rooms with sheer curtains and we peeked into each of them on our way down the hall. The people inside of them were tangled together and some of them looked back at us, giving me the impression for an instant of not knowing who was the watcher and who was the watched.
When we left the party, Ian caught a cab home and Veda and I made plans to go elsewhere.
“Make sure you look after her” Ian said before we parted.
“I’ll look after him“ Veda chimed in response.
We caught a cab to another bar where some of her friends were, but really only to collect Natalya. When we had we decided to head out to the another swingers club, presumably in pursuit of the feeling that was eluding Veda. We grabbed a pedi cab and the three of us sat shoulder to shoulder in the back of it as it weaved in and out of traffic over the tattered roads. The other club was closed, so we headed back into the French Quarter instead.
Natalya spoke with a thick Russian accent and was blunt in a way that I really appreciated, asking me what I did for a living and if I’d been a customer of Veda’s. She was fair skinned and wore a teal jumpsuit that made me think of Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle and she spoke unabashedly about the kind of sex that she likes, asking us if it was stranger to want to piss on someone or wanting to be pissed on. Even the pedicab driver got involved as she took us the 20 or so blocks back into the quarter, chiming in on the subject of pornography when it was mentioned that it was my line of work.
We stopped at Laffites Blacksmith and had a drink together there because Natalya wanted to flirt with the bartender but after one drink, we left. Something seemed to have frustrated Natalya and she stormed off ahead of us as we went in search of food, leaving Veda and I to walk alone.
“Don’t worry about her, she does this sometimes” Veda assured me, probably realizing I was a little concerned to let Natalya storm off alone, given that New Orleans isn’t the safest place. Truth be told though, I was happy to finally be alone with Veda for at least a moment.
Clouds hung low in the late night sky as walked along the uneven streets, with Natalya pulling further and further away. The rain started with a sprinkle and then the sky opened up on us, trapping us beneath an awning as we hoped it would relent. We leaned against the window of an art gallery watching the rain pour over the edge of the balcony above us and we talked. The streets filled with water as it continued to pour and it felt like we were somehow cut off from the rest of the world by the falling rain. I got the feeling I was hearing the real Veda for the first time in those few moments that we stood on Royal street together taking about macabre decor and travel while leaning almost shoulder to shoulder against the glass. I wished then that I had more time in New Orleans to get to know her.
Eventually we gave up hope of the rain stopping and caught a cab the last few blocks. We pulled up in front of the restaurant in time to cross paths with Natalya who hopped into the cab as we hopped out after deciding she just wanted to go home. We grabbed a bite to eat without her and Veda chatted with other friends who were getting off of work, introducing me to them as a porn writer as they came to say hello. I chatted about work with them, having colorful conversations about what would make for a good porn script. Someone offered Veda and her roommate a ride home and they decided to take it so we said goodnight there.
I walked back to the friend’s apartment who I was staying with and passed Cécile on my way, giving her a hug as she stood out in front of her bar. I considered coming in for a drink with her, but it was late and my mind was still on Veda so I said goodnight and made my way back to the place where I was staying instead.
New Orleans never fails to provide me with colorful moments and every time I visit I consider what it would be like to live there again. I thought about all the people back home that I want to share that city and those moment with and at the same time I sort of enjoyed having it all as my own. I have another life there and in some ways I’m a different person. I have to find my way back now and then and spend an evening with someone like Veda or have an experience colorful enough to remind me of that part of myself so that I can bring it back home and carry on in my own skin. New Orleans is my escape, it’s my adventure and it’ll always be home to me.
I wasn’t sure she’d seen me waving hello as she passed behind me, so I turned to put my drink down on the bar and felt her arms slip around me from behind. I turned to face her and wrapped my arms around her too, both of us squeezing tight.
Cécile and I have known each other for years and have spent time together in both Amsterdam and New Orleans. She’s very direct the way that the Dutch are sometimes known to be, often changing subjects without segue, but she’s always warm and always sincere. I think sometimes people don’t know quite how to take her, but I adore her for the reasons others find her hard to figure out.
“It’s so good to see you!” she said, broad smile on her beaming face.
She ran her hand along the shaved sides of my head and I loved the feel of her fingers as they traced the scars there that I forget about until my hair is short enough to see them. She took my face in her hands and smiled at me, studying my face.
“You’re really beautiful” she said and kissed me on the cheek before nodding in the direction of the man she’d come into the bar with. “That’s the boy”.
I’d seen him in pictures from their trips together, but hadn’t met him before. She’d taken him home to Holland and to visit family in France, which I knew meant she was serious about him. I liked seeing her so happy.
We talked for a little while about their trip, including the fact that she’d thought of me when walking past the place in the Red Light District where I’d lived for a little while. She ran her fingers along the side of my head while talking and the ease and familiarity of her company and her touch fed into my feeling that in coming back to visit New Orleans, I’d come home.
“The last time I saw you, you had a lot of sadness in your eyes. I don’t see it there now. That’s good” she said and her smile made me smile. She hugged me again and then went to sit back down with her boyfriend.
They left just a little while later, but she stopped to see me on the way out the door. She wrapped her arms around me tightly when we hugged and kissed the side of my head as we made plans to see each other the following night.
“You’re beautiful” she said again, her eyes bright and warm, her fingers reaching out to touch my face as she walked backwards toward the door before turning to disappear down the steps and out into the humid night.
A familiar song came on the jukebox and I looked up to see the bartender smiling at me. She’d put it on, knowing that I’d sing along with it and we mouthed the words to each other from across the wood and copper bar. I ran my fingers along the same places Cécile had, feeling the scars under my fingertips and enjoying the unevenness of the three small places where I’d been cut and stitched years ago.
“Show me how you do it
And I promise you I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you”
– The Cure
It’d been some time since Harper and I had last spoken. I’d asked her to meet me and she’d said she wanted to speak to Laila first just to be certain that it was alright; for one reason or another enough time had passed since that was supposed to happen that it sort of became awkward that we hadn’t spoken about it again. Saturday night she wrote to me and after apologies on both sides for being remiss, I asked her if she’d like to meet me so we made plans for the following day. She sent me a text early in the morning and we agreed to meet at noon to grab iced coffee and go for a walk together. The walk from the coffee shop to the park gave us time to talk a bit and we fell easily into a rhythm with one another as we looked for a quiet place to sit and continue the conversation.
It was a warm day and we found a place in the shade, laying down in the grass next to one another. I watched bee’s circle flowers nearby as we talked about books, feminism, sex and sci-fi. Deep green blades poked up next to her pale skin and when she rolled over on to her stomach to look at me, I noticed the shape and style of her glasses and then the pretty eyes behind them. She said the name of an author out loud as she gave me a recommendation on something that I might like to read and I made a mental note of the title The Dispossessed to look up later.
Harper is someone who I find interesting in a number of ways, her intellect and perspective being high on the list of reasons why. Her candor about sexuality and the way she expressed the freedom of choice and communication in polyamory also made an impression on me. The reason that I asked her for book recommendations is because I felt certain that she’d give me suggestions that I was unlikely to have come across on my own and she did not disappoint.
Laila is seeing Daniel, who is seeing Harper. Harper and I talked about moments that we have in common via the people we are seeing, as seen from opposite sides of the same situation. It was nice to be able to have another person to relate to about some of the challenging things that can come along with polyamory and at the same time be able to celebrate with them the better parts of what it’s brought into our lives.
People streamed past us on their way into the park as we asked each other questions while laying languidly in the Sunday afternoon sun. Harper moved down the hill just a bit, chasing the sun as the shadow from the tree behind us grew longer. We turned up toward the sky and I watched as the few clouds that dotted the otherwise clear sky floated by in no real hurry to get anywhere. I looked over at her and I thought to myself that she seemed like she’d slipped out of time; she felt strangely like she was from the past and the future all at once. There is something about her profile that makes me think of the 1920’s, but I can’t seem to put my finger on exactly what it is about her. Her way of thinking though, is anything but old-fashioned.
We left the park in the early afternoon and went out in search of food. Sitting across from each other in a tiny restaurant, we ate empanadas and talked about music. She assured me that her taste in music wasn’t cool, but I knew lyrics to songs from almost every band she mentioned so I’m inclined to disagree with her. She is a bit of a mystery to me despite the things we have in common and I like that she isn’t an easy read. I sat across from her, appreciating her company as the conversation returned to poly relationships and the people that we share in common. The time passed quickly and before I knew it, it was time to go.
When we’d finished I walked with her back to where she’d left her bike and said goodbye there, wandering off into the city by myself in search of something new for my apartment. With an orchid in hand, I headed home, thinking about the conversations that we’d had and looking forward to more of them.
She was bent over my bed and I pinned her wrists behind her back in one hand, running the other over the thin fabric of her panties. I could feel how wet she was beneath them and the little gasp that escaped her throat when my hand made contact made me smile.
“Tell me what you think about when you touch yourself” I said.
Her mouth turned up at the corners and parted slightly as I ran my fingers back and forth between her legs. She’d confessed to thinking about me a few days before while getting herself off, but I’d waited to ask her what she’d thought about until just then.
Her voice was barely a whisper as she gave me the details and her legs shook as she came close to coming; I wanted it to last so I slowed the rhythm of my hand. She told me about all the things that had run through her head that morning as I pulled her panties down and ran my hand over the warmth and the wetness between her legs, sending a new shiver that I watched travel from her hips to her knees. Her wrists still pinned in my hand I stood her up by the shoulders, turned her to face me and pressed her back down on the bed. She kept her hands behind her, even though I’d let them go and I liked that.
I was already hard when I climbed onto the bed, lifting her with one arm beneath me into a better position. She told me more things that she’d imagined while pushing herself against my cock to take all of it deep inside of her. She was still for a moment as she got used to the feel and I moved, slowly at first, as she started whispering again. Words poured out of her in spurts of half-remembered imaginings about my hands, her hands, my mouth and the faster she spoke the harder we fucked as she came closer and closer to coming.
“Do you want me to wait to come?” she asked and I told her not to.
“I want you to come with me” she pleaded, but that wasn’t the point and I told her not to.
I didn’t want her to hold back; I wanted that moment to be about her. She was cradled in my arms when she did and heat poured off of us into the cool air of the room as she took a moment to catch her breath. I was still inside of her, still hard as she squirmed and tightened herself again me. She closed her eyes and for an instant she was somewhere far away, lost in the moment.
“Did you?” she asked and I shook my head no. Whether or not I had didn’t really seem important then just then, because I was lost in the moment too.
Arianna picked the place and I got there a little late, which is uncharacteristic of me. I’d come to meet her after work and the walk took me a little longer than expected (she’d picked the place we would meet, knowing the neighborhood better than I do). I arrived just before she did, poking my head inside to see if she was waiting before spotting her walking up the street.
Standing on the sidewalk I watched her approach, taking note of her gait and her purposeful stride as she covered the distance between the two of us. Her blonde hair is short and cut in an angular way that frames her bright smile and eyes which were hidden behind her dark sunglasses. She gave the immediate impression of intelligence and self awareness and I liked that; everything about her had a bit of sparkle to it.
We’d been talking via a dating app and text messaging for a week and during that time I’d learned that she was here studying for her PhD. I also came to realize that strangely we’d lived in both New Orleans and New York at roughly the same time, even possibly sharing a postal code once. She loves to travel and is more than happy to explore the city alone, but like myself, she would rather do it with someone else.
She travels to remote places for work often and has a lot of great stories about the places she’s been. She recounted the terror of having been in a shark cage but her story only made me want to have that experience for myself. She’s been places and done amazing things that I haven’t and I really find that very appealing.
We’d spoken in passing about my work and how that often shuts down the conversation and while she seemed perhaps a little hesitant, it wasn’t enough reason to prevent her from accepting my invitation to go see a movie and have drinks. I hadn’t told her about this blog though, or about my time in front of the camera for that matter; only the work that I do now, which is mostly done inside a pretty average office.
There is a moment that my friend Clara refers to as ‘the reveal’ in dates like these, where the question comes up that makes keeping things vague difficult and I inevitably answer honestly about my work. It’s not something that’s often very fun and while sometimes it’s taken quite well, other times it can make the rest of a date awkward.
That ‘reveal’ moment happened with Arianna while we sat next to each other at the bar, drinking cocktails and waiting for the movie. We were talking about putting out fires at work and she laughed saying how that must mean very different things for each of us. She gave me an example of what it was like in medical research and I asked me what the last one that I’d had to put out was.
I answered her honestly about a situation that had come up with a director and I saw her counting the degrees of separation between myself and talent. She was polite and asked follow-up questions, laughing a little along the way, but I could see that it had all become a little more real in that moment and the tempo of the conversation fell a bit, as did the corners of her mouth.
After the conversation about my work, something in the tone of the conversation had changed. It wasn’t huge and it wasn’t glaring, but the rythm was different and the back and forth report we’d had before wasn’t coming as easily. It made me think about all the things that she didn’t know yet and I wondered at what point it would prove to be too much. Having performed? Seeing other people? This wasn’t the line, but I felt like I’d find it sooner or later.
Saturday night I had plans with Laila. We were to meet after she spent the day with her father and his girlfriend, who were in from out of town. Polyamory created a strange situation in that they would spend the night at Laila and Daniels apartment (sleeping together in his room), unaware that she’s seeing multiple people. She apologized for not introducing them while they were in town, but I understood her reasons why. Still though, it felt a little strange not to meet them and I was a tad bit jealous.
I spent the day instead talking Arianna, who is someone new that I met via a dating app. It’s a new one that I decided to give a try, where women are the first to speak if there is a match. She was my first match and she messaged me almost immediately, starting a conversation that flowed easily over the previous few days. We exchanged numbers and texted about bad movies so I asked her if she would go see one on Sunday and she agreed.
Arianna is ‘age appropriate’, which is one of Veronica’s more amusing judgements of suitability, because we’ve both dated people who were, perhaps, too young for us. When either of us is seeing someone who is close in age, we congratulate the other with that phrase.
Arianna and I have both lived in New York and New Orleans and spent extended time in Paris, so we had plenty to talk about and a lot in common. We also strangely lived in those places at the same time making this the third. ‘Our twice missed connection’ is how she put it.
I fell asleep on the couch Saturday night waiting for Laila and woke up not feeling all that great. The fact that I napped should have been a warning sign that something was amiss, especially when coupled with the possibility of Laila being exposed to a hit-and-miss strain of strep throat. Even though I was under the weather (and not much fun) She decided to stay the night. We laid on the couch watching a movie together as she ran her fingers back and forth over the freshly shaved side of my head. I laid my head in her lap and faded in and out as she played with my hair, the movie becoming white noise in my hazy stare of mind.
She came to bed with me and stayed close, fretting over me as I tossed and turned my way through a fever and chills. The next morning she went out and got croissant and fresh fruit for breakfast and got all the things to make a lemon tea that she knows is good for the throat. It was very sweet of her and I appreciated the lengths that she was going to in order to take care of me. It’s rare that I’ve had that in my life and honestly I’m not always comfortable with it. I’m a particularly willful creature and it certainly says something about my feelings for a person if I’m willing to let them do things for me.
Laila stayed with me most of Sunday, curled up next to me on the couch offering to do things for me as I let the day slip away. I was a little sad to have to text Arianna and tell her I couldn’t make it to the movies with her, but luckily she was understanding and was willing to reschedule. Laila put another movie on and I slept on and off, one hand holding her foot. I opened my eyes once or twice and saw the sun glowing in the reflection of the building across the street, marking in my mind the hours that had passed and how many remained in the day.
When it was time for her to go, I walked her to the door and hugged her goodbye.
“I can tell you aren’t feeling well, because that was the gentlest hug you ever gave me!” she said, referring to the fact that I typically hug like I mean it.
She waved as she rounded the corner and I poked my head out of the door to catch the last glimpse of her as she slipped out of sight. Stepping back inside I closed the door gently, turning the lock as I thought about everything that she’d done for me. Back on the couch, I wrapped my arms around one of the pillows and I drifted feverishly off to sleep again.