The third of four men

3. The Cathedral

I turn onto my side, my phone in my right hand, my left slipped between the cushiony warmth of my belly and the scratchy lace of my g- string. My little fingertip brushes wire and furze but this hand will move no lower, not today, whatever the temptation.

And this is some temptation. Early Sunday morning, unwashed and underslept, a scroll of exquisitely detailed filth unfurling on the screen held inches from my face. An email notification arrives, and there’s a video. Thirty seconds worth of thumb and fingers, wrapped with care around swollen flesh and moving deftly; a naked thigh; strange bedsheets. Three days before I sent him an equivalent clip, so this is fair exchange. An eye for an eye, a fist for a finger, although perhaps neither of us was keeping track.

It doesn’t take much, often, for an exchange of this kind to be begun. Two words, really: ‘show me’.


I have to get up, leave this bed, end this conversation, get on with my day. I let him know that I have neglected to bring clean knickers, and will have to go without, naked underneath the same pair of lace tights with holes in the waist I was wearing in the upskirt shot I sent him four days previously.

– I want you to tear another hole in those tights

– Okay

– think about you walking around the city with cold air on your cunt

– I can do that

Flat on my back I wriggle out of my dirty underwear. I pull the tights on and spread my legs, thrust my thumbnail into the fabric between my thighs, and tear. I rip the hole larger, and my thumb grazes one lip and comes out glazed. I lick it clean, pull my skirt down, and reach down for my boots.


I am wearing a little dress, big boots, billowing winter coat, headphones, unwashed hair fat with curls, blood red glitter nails, no knickers and hosiery that are, above the thigh, more hole than tight. The sun is doing its best to shine from behind a a silver- grey cloud, the Sunday streets are quiet, and I stomp down the pavement glorying in an empty belly, a bassline and that cold cold air on my pussy. I might be tired but fuck me if I don’t feel like the Queen of the Universe this morning; a Holy Grail combination of Fuckable and Unfuckwithable.


It’s like a cathedral, this station. Everything is marble, steel and echoes. A subterranean cathedral, with the same majestically high ceilings and- on a Sunday afternoon, at least- the same sense of ease, calm and restfulness. The worship doesn’t happen here though; glide onto the escalator and within seconds you’re overground, surrounded by the tall brave temples with their high glass doors, a pixelated ticker tape emblazoned across one building which unspools news and numbers.

Whenever I come to this station I am struck by its hard industrial beauty, but I’m alienated too; I sing lyrics in my head about worshipping at the temples of Mammon, and feel empty wandering through the attached shopping centre with its shop windows full of crisp- collared cotton shirts, trim steel wristwatches, perfumed unguents and office appropriate jewellery. I look down at the the warp and weft of my 40- year old coat and the leather of my boots, cross- crossed with creases like laughter lines, and think about the hawkers in 17th century London who would amble shit- smeared dockside cobbles toting baskets and shouting ‘What d’ye lack? What d’ye lack?’ Those cobbles are pavements now, the hawkers only ghosts, and I lack nothing, since they’re asking.

I don’t need to ride the escalator this time; I’m just changing lines. I’m on my way home. I’m in no hurry.

The seats on the platform are carved out of marble, cold and smooth. I sit down to wait for the train, lifting the heavy wool of my coat to lie behind me as I sit. My skirt hoiks up behind me so that nothing lies between my flesh and the marble; no coat, no dress, no tights. No barrier of textile, just my cunt, pressed against the cool hard surface.

I sit, and breathe for a little while, my legs crossed at the ankle, my bags at my feet. On the other platform there is a rush of air and motion, synthesised bleeps and a recorded announcement as a train arrives, deposits its passengers, and leaves. I sit, and think about the heat between my legs and the chill in such close proximity, how the cold is making me feel so much warmer.


Minutes pass. I take my phone from my pocket- a reflex move, I’m underground, I don’t expect to have reception. But there you go, three bars. I open the messaging client and start typing.

-I’m on the underground, sitting on a marble seat. There’s nothing between me and the marble. It feels excellent.

I wait, a few seconds. He starts typing.

– Fuck. The thought of your cunt pressed against that marble…

He asks if there’s any way I can photograph it, but there are enough people around that it’s logistically impossible. I sit with my phone in my hand, tapping messages in response as he describes what he’s been doing for most of the day- lying in bed, cock in palm, taking himself to the edge of orgasm and then stopping, drawing the whole thing out as long as possible. Thinking about me sometimes, I’m sure, but not just me. Letting minutes and hours pass by in a state of mild fugue, slipping into that space where all that matters for a little while is hand and flesh and thoughts of others.

A train arrives, heading in the right direction. The doors open, passengers embark and disembark. There is muffled footfall and murmured conversation and the train swoops away. I sit and look at my phone and type messages, read his responses and imagine what he’s doing. My cunt aches. Another train arrives and departs, and another, but I stay where I am for who knows how long. I’m going nowhere.


Eventually it’s time for me to make a move. I stand, rearrange my skirts, switch off data, plug my headphones in and pick up my bags. Spotify kicks in, that same playlist; an urgent blast of harmonica sawing queasily into my ears, an angry Londoner growling about religion and money, power and lust. As the train doors seam themselves shut and we move out of the station I rest against the door, propping myself up as the music blasts me back to awareness, out of my own fugue.

These tights will need to be discarded when I get home, and I’ll need to find the money for new ones. I think about the cathedral, about what I have come to worship, what I have substituted for the pursuit of Mammon, what I seem to have decided will be my currency instead. How poor and rich I am. How much and little I lack.

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