Kink is not a cure for grief.
Getting dressed up is not a cure for grief. Wriggling into silk and sequins, slinking in front of a full- length mirror, dancing at your own reflection, rejoicing in the sight of your own bare shoulders and nape… none of this will bring them back to you.
Lipstick is not a palliative. High heels will only lift you so far out of your feelings. Straightening your posture and throwing your shoulders back and raising your chin is a power pose, it’s true, and to be recommended… but dressing up can only do so much.
And yet… it’s worth a try.
I am in the dungeon, bent over the bench, my knees resting on padded pleather. The man behind me is brushing the tails of a flogger across my shoulder blades and rubbing the small of my back with his hand. I am in my happy place: half- naked in front of a room full of strangers, bra and dress pooled on the floor and my knickers pulled down around my thighs. He asked if I’d like to take my knickers down myself, rather than have him do it, and I said yes. Afterwards we talk about how him pulling my knickers down might have had a edge of humiliation to it, and while that’s generally something I’m into and need, it would be surplus to requirements this evening.
He puts the flogger back in his bag, and returns to spanking me. His hands are soft as they move across my skin, gentle and reassuring as they land. Hard taps and soft slaps, alternating cheeks, a palm smoothing across my hips and haunches and then a flurry of hits, a volley of smacking sounds ringing around the white walls of the dungeon, lit by the glow of fairy lights.
He bends over and reaches his hands around my front, pulling and tweaking at my nipples. I wriggle, and grin, lifting my head off the cushion in front of me and resting my weight on my forearms. People are milling around, chatting, sipping from their beer bottles, watching what’s going on in the dungeon and the smaller, red- walled room next door. I cannot stop smiling as he plays with my tit with one hand and spanks me gently with the other. I am lulled, my eyelids heavy. He checks if I am okay and I nod enthusiastically, floating in a state of mellow contentment.
I am by now used to more pain than this. I am used to teeth on my shoulder blades, a cane to the top of the thighs, a ruffle of green leaves thrust between my legs spitting their toxins across my buttocks and labia, the sting of a thumb and forefinger pressing my nipples. I am used to being treated like a sturdy thing, well- made and able to withstand hard use. I am not used to this level of uninterrupted delicacy. Tonight however, after the last few days, it is precisely what I need. It is not a cure, but it is medicine.
In the corner of the red room a small woman with smooth black hair is being tied and kissed and held, her arms held beneath her back as a hand slides into her underwear, investigates between her trembling legs. Watching, I can almost feel the breath of two hot mouths on her neck and breasts. I sit on a low sofa, my legs tucked elegantly to one side, my fingertips running over the thick- bunched bugle beads on my silk skirt, and smile as I watch a man lying on his belly on the double bed, twitching and jerking in happy anger when a stalking Mistress throws back her arm in triumph and thick length of cane lands on his bare arse.
A man standing in the doorway looks at me and smiles. I smile back, and look away. He is dark, sparely built, handsome, and when I look back he is still smiling.
One of the men in the corner grabs a fistful of black hair and yanks the woman’s head back towards his chest. She yelps and bares her teeth with delight. I feel a thump between my legs, a missed heartbeat. I get up. I can’t watch this. It’s making me miss him too much.
I am sitting in the dungeon on a wide plastic rocking chair. The sparely- built man has my foot in his lap and is massaging my toes and the balls of my feet. I take a deep lungful of breath. He raises my foot to his mouth and kisses my toes, looking up at me from beneath his dark lashes as he does so.
This is awkward, because I am a sub, and it’s not in my nature to want someone physically below me like this. It feels enormously pleasant though, ticklish and warm and relaxing, but the main thing is that he is enjoying it so much, and it is good for me to think about giving pleasure at no cost to myself.
I am distracted, however. Directly in front of me a Dominant man is flogging a woman. He is shirt-sleeved, compact, whirling the flogger back and forth, joyfully kinetic, dancing like a boxer, engaged with his entire body. Every so often after a crescendo of strokes he will crouch in close to the woman prone on the bench, embrace her urgently, whisper, breathe, pause, shaking slightly with exertion. He is whaling on her, and I don’t know if I could take half of what he’s dishing out, but I am transfixed, desperate to know what it would feel like to be on the receiving end of such exquisite effort. I slide down in my chair a few inches and pull my skirt up, bare my thigh and scrape hard at my skin with my fingernails, clawing at myself like a lazy animal lying in the sunshine.
The man with his foot in my lap smiles and turns to look at the Dominant play, says that watching him I look like a baby watching a Disney movie. I burst into laughter, picturing my face. I adore all of this, this Fantasia, of unaccustomed conversations about consent which unfold with every second like a flower captured in stop- motion, of beautiful people with faces depersonalised by masks next and those unbeautiful rendered gorgeous in their embrace of bare, open- hearted liberty; their bellies and thighs, stubbled heads and ageing upper arms, snarling mouths and downcast eyes, scars and stretch marks and cankles, wrapped in latex, harnessed, suspended, encircled in leather. At home, embraced, laughed at, loved, accepted.
I laugh, and wonder what I am doing here, now, after all this, so soon, so few short days after kissing a stone cold cheek and smoothing hair hair back from a statue’s forehead. Kink is not a cure for grief. I am not cured of my loss.
But I don’t want to be. Grief is proof of life. Life is the cure for grief. I am living.