Friday, August 29, 2014

The Bargain

By Jean Roberta

"Or perhaps in Slytherin,
You'll make your real friends,
Those cunning folk use any means
To achieve their ends."
- The Sorting Hat (in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)

“Jeanie, do you know what to do if a snake bites you?”

The grownups in my life asked me this question every time I wanted to leave my grandma’s house in Myrtle Creek, Oregon, when we visited there in the summer. The thought of rattlesnakes in the long grass rattled them. My relatives probably didn’t have a phobia, exactly, but they seemed obsessed.

I never actually saw a rattlesnake in the weedy patches of small-town Oregon. I suspect they stayed away from humans, accurately sensing that they wouldn’t get a warm welcome.

In the spirit of making friends with the monsters in your head or under the bed, I once imagined a conversation with a talking snake:

“Hello, snake.”


“Am I in your way?”

“Not now.”

“Are you planning to bite me?”

“Not unless you pissss me off.”

“Oh, good. Thank you. I’ll just leave you alone. Have a nice day.”

That was it. I stayed away from the places where I thought rattlesnakes might hide, and they left me alone. It seems we had a pact.

As far as I know, I’ve never had an irrational fear, called a phobia, but I’ve had several fears that seem entirely rational to me: fear of drowning when out on a lake in a tippy boat, fear of catching fire if too close to a flame or a hot burner on a stove, fear of suffocating when I had pneumonia at age eleven. Fear of being bitten by a spider in a dank basement or stung by a wasp in late summer, or by any other poisonous creature. Fear of an angry man who thinks the world is too full of women who are just asking to be raped and killed.

To calm my fear, I always use the negotiation techniques shown above. Strangely enough, most animals, insects, and even physical elements or processes seem more logical in these discussions than many humans.

“Fire, do you want to burn me?”

“I love to eat, and I love oxygen. Come near me when there’s a breeze, and see what happens.”

“Good warning. I’ll keep my distance, and keep something nearby to smother you.”

“Water, do you want to swallow me?

“Not you in particular, but I’m not fussy. If you can’t breathe in me, it’s not my problem.”

“Okay, I'll always bring an inflatable object.”

Deep breaths, caution, awareness, and some useful props – those always seem comforting.

In the long run, of course, nothing will protect me from dying. All living things are eventually defeated by something. So in some sense, the most debilitating phobia seems more rational than the baseless faith that keeps us going, day after day, as we tell ourselves the lie that the world is a safe place.

People with phobias, as distorted as those fears may be, are probably just more in touch with reality than the rest of us. For the meanwhile, I’ll keep telling myself that non-human forces are willing to negotiate.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Don't Go to Sleep

by Annabeth Leong

I can still hear the singsong chant in my head, in the dramatically deepened voice of a friend from school: "Don't go to sleep. Freddie Krueger's gonna get you." I can't remember if that's exactly the way it's said in the movie Nightmare on Elm Street, but the concept frightened me so much that I didn't actually watch the movie until at least ten years later.

I'm very aware of my helplessness while asleep—it's something I fear and fetishize in equal measure. The concept of a killer that attacks through dreams made deep instinctual sense.

I don't think I have any actual phobias. Not the sorts of wrenching tales Daddy and Spencer have told. But I won't get caught up in analyzing the clinical line between a phobia and a fear.

Sleep bothers me. I really wish I didn't have to do it. There are nights I try to fight it, sitting on the couch wrapped in a blanket, playing games designed to present one mesmerizing pattern after another.

Ani DiFranco sang, "Sleep is like a fever. I'm glad when it ends." So many mornings, I sigh in relief as soon as the clock flips to what seems like a decent time to be awake and climb gratefully out of bed. Other mornings, I mutter, "Fuck it," and get up even though it's only 2 a.m.


It's the dreams that get to me. I have long stretches of nightmares, night after night, until it feels as if sand is ground into the backs of my eyeballs and it seems so fucking cruel that my body needs to do this thing that gives my mind a chance to torture me.

At this point in my life, I categorize my bad dreams—only the very worst rise to the level of what I would call nightmares. I have practiced various dream techniques so that in most cases I know I'm dreaming, and I've got some ability to change the nature of a dream or wake myself up if things are getting too terrible.

In one recent nightmare, I walked into a shed with my brother (I don't actually have a brother). As soon as we entered, I realized we were in horrible trouble. A man waited there beside a looming chair, a variety of sharp implements laid out on a table beside him. I flashed to a dream I'd had earlier that night, of myself in a wheelchair, and realized that this man planned to amputate my legs. I ran out of the shed and found myself in a green, daisy-covered field, something from the sunny childhood past. Outside the shed, I was young and safe, but my brother was no longer beside me. I realized I'd abandoned him to undergo the amputation without me. Feeling guilty, I returned to the shed. "You can run into the past," the man told me, "but I'll always be waiting here for you. For all the years it takes you to grow up again, you'll know what's here." I wanted to run away anyway, but I felt like a murderer leaving my brother, who was already strapped into the chair, legs bloody. I struggled to wake myself, but that felt like another type of running away, another abandonment that came with moral implications. I was trapped in the dream, spiraling through my own mind, stuck in that terrible shed watching the man cut off my brother's legs.

I could go on and on about the terrible dreams. There was the one where a doctor performed surgery on me over and over, cutting and recutting the same scarred spots along my abdomen, refusing to listen to my pleas that I needed to heal. There was the one where I found a strange movie theater in the middle of the woods only to encounter a blind projectionist who forced me to share his terrible visions and promised to follow me into my waking life. There was the one where my ex-husband committed suicide and I was the one who found the body.

There is the one where I am trapped in a broken-down car with my mother, and a gunman orders me to step outside. He promises that if I allow him to shoot me three times, he'll let us go, but otherwise he'll shoot her in the head. He promises he'll shoot me so it won't hurt too much. This has been a recurring nightmare throughout my life. Sometimes, he grazes my arm three times and it's okay. Other times, he shoots me in the heart, or in the gut.


My father was an insomniac. Typically for him, he took things to an even more intense level than I do. He slept two hours a night, from midnight to 2 a.m., and drank pot after pot of coffee the rest of the day. From 2 a.m. until sunrise, he worked out in his garage, doing hundreds of situps, hundreds of bench presses, anything to keep the sleep away.

When he was alive, I enjoyed the silent fellowship of this. Even hundreds of miles away from him, when I sat alone in my living room, too tortured by dreams to stomach a minute more in bed, I knew I wasn't alone. There was a warm place in the bottom of my belly, as if the early morning hours closed the distance between us. I used to be able to call him anytime, never worrying about time differences. He was always awake.

And I'll never forget the force of his dreams. Sometimes he fell asleep on the couch while watching Vietnam War movies. He ground his teeth like a demon, howled, and screamed. I could hear him from the backyard.


I had a roommate once who had a nightmare. She woke up in tears and cried most of the day. She asked me to pray with her. For hours, she refused to speak of what had happened in her sleep, and I was left to spin my own terrible imaginings.

When she finally confessed the dream, her story was simple. She had suffered a heart attack and been taken to a hospital in an ambulance, where she died. I tried my best to be compassionate, but within I was bemused. You've never died in your dreams before?


I mentioned that sleep isn't only a fear—it's also a fetish. In fact, it's a gold-standard fetish, one that works for me every time, one that never bores me no matter how repetitive the script.

I am sleeping, and someone comes in and touches me.

I recognize the many disturbing implications of this fetish, so it only appears in my work by accident—I've never had the courage to approach it head on. Still, it is in The Good Brother, and there's a hint of it in my story for Like a Chill Down Your Spine.

I ask my lover to do this as often as I dare. Strange that I spend so much of my life fearing the night, fearing the moment when I no longer have any choice but to lie down in bed, and yet I will lie down so eagerly to enact this particular game of pretend. I turn out the light and breathe slowly and deeply. Actual sleep fills me with tension, but in fake sleep, I find peace.

I don't always enjoy being touched when I'm awake. Sometimes I am like my character Celia, happy to touch myself but overwhelmed by the touch of another. When I pretend to be asleep, though, I can snatch pleasure in the darkness, uninhibited by the need to respond. I am so turned on my body buzzes.

I hate the labyrinths of my dreams, but when I fake being asleep, I relish the privacy. My body appears helpless. Perhaps it seems as if it's being used. In truth, it's more my own than when I'm awake.

In the strange in-between of the fetish, I am safe in the self-made darkness behind my eyelids, not subject to my brain's diabolical inventions, but also not tasked with the work of being aware and active. I come so easily, silently, drifting off into orgasm instead of sleep.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Circuitous Circuitry

by Daddy X

The dictionary tells me that a phobia is an irrational fear.

In that understanding of the concept, someone who nearly drowned as a youngster and still afraid of water would experience a rational fear, a predictable result of a particular incident. Water almost killed them, so they’d naturally be wary of the dangers. Nothing irrational about that. I guess that type of fear is not an actual phobia. Or is it just a matter of semantics?

Fear is a rational response to experience, an instinctive survival mechanism we employ to make similar experiences easier to handle. Or avoid.  A phobia is a perversion of that instinctive sense.

My younger brother committed suicide five years ago. He was a hoarder, unable to throw anything away, fearing that it would be needed somewhere down the line. Nobody, including myself, my father, mother or sister, was allowed in his house for at least fifteen years before he died.  It was an unspeakable scene.

A few examples: His shower hadn’t worked for over a decade; he showered at the YMCA so no plumber would ever have to see the place. His basement was constantly flooded, and stayed that way for the same reason. Furniture, stairs and bannisters piled high with decades old newspapers and catalogs, printed out e-mails, dirty clothes, magazines, books, dried-up pizza cartons, potato chip bags, stacked alongside hundreds of brand-new and freshly dry-cleaned clothes. Dozens of new dress shirts languished in their cellophane wrappers. The kitchen hadn’t been used for years, almost impossible to get to the moldy sink. The only vacant piece of furniture was a folding chair where he sat at his laptop. There were no other empty surfaces available for anyone or anything.

School came easy for me. He had to work at it, and work he did. Since a youngster, he was an information junkie, always reading, studying while I was on the street or in the woods, learning other aspects of life. There were five years between us, so we wouldn’t be hanging together anyway, but other differences were obvious from the start.

How did his problems begin? Was it sublimation for his lack of serious relationships? Although he had friends as a kid, he never seemed able to make connections like our sister or I could. As an adult, he became successful, with a high paying supervisorial position, head of his department in pharmaceutical information. He made a small fortune in the stock market after an early retirement. He had two residences and a new car. He had women chasing him.

Conversely, he had stalked women too, and written to others who didn’t want his attentions, promising them riches, which he actually had. He just couldn’t get it right. Seemed his best friends were Catholic priests and religious fanatics. He read the Catholic canon for clergy every day, and his best friend friend continues to practice “matins”. Matins requires praying at specified times, thirty minutes every two hours throughout day and night.  What kind of hatred must one have for their own well-being to choose a lifestyle like that?

Who could know the root of his problems? He took a huge financial hit in the crash of ’08, taking him over the edge. What phobias or other misalignments influenced his thinking enough to justify a suicide?  

Every psychological case involves infinite complexity, and nobody knows it all when it comes to a human mind and its inner workings. We do know there is no simple concept that can define the mind’s circuitous circuitry. It takes a lot of misadvised tangential thinking to create a phenomenon so all-encompassing as to take over a life.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

acrophobia and flying through the air

For all of my life—or at least for as long as I can remember—I have had acrophobia—an irrational fear of heights. I could barely stand looking down from a second story window without a panic attack. I remember going to New York with my parents, taking the elevator to the top of the Empire state Building and being afraid to go close even to the observation spots. I could just see the protective wall and screening falling away and me falling all the way to the ground. Splat!
As I got older I tried to conquer that fear. I tried deep breathing when I was at a high place. I tried imagining I was only two feet from the ground. Yeah, well, that didn’t work too well. I scared myself so much looking down from the fifteenth floor window of a hotel room that I refused to get a room higher than the second floor after that.
So I moved along through life, avoiding heights at all costs. Telling people I got nosebleed if I got higher the ten feet from the ground. All kinds of stories. Then some friends of mine, who are RVing around the country, sent pictures of themselves ziplining. And it just looked like so much fun.
What is zip lining, you ask? A zipline consists of a pulley suspended on a cable, usually made of stainless steel, mounted on an incline. It is designed to enable a user propelled by gravity to travel from the top to the bottom of the inclined cable by holding on to, or attaching to, the freely moving pulley. 
Now of course you’d say, are you crazy? A woman with acrophobia wants to go ziplining? But the more I thought about  it the more I wanted to do it. So a few years ago when I took my family to Las Vegas over Christmas, my daughter made arrangements for us to go ziplining over Bootleg Canyon.
It was quite an adventure. First, a van takes you as closed to the top of the mountain as it can drive. Then the guides give you what felt like ten thousand pounds of gear to haul the rest of eh way to the top. When they asked if someone needed help with that I raised my hand. You bet. And huge thanks to my son and son-in-law who walked with me every step of the way on that twisty path to the summit.
I was so proud of myself that I didn’t get nervous our faint or throw up, even though we kept going higher and higher. At the top is a wide platform with four places for people to hook up. The guides help you into the safety harnesses and make sure every buckle is buckled and every strap in ;place. Then they position you on the platform and hook you to the pulley.

The zipline is in four separate sections, each section 2,000 feet long. There you are on the platform, and below you, more than a mile, is gorgeous Bootleg Canyon.
Again I was shocked that I didn’t have a full-blown panic attack. My kids kept checking with me to make sure I was all right and I assured them I was. The guide asked once more if I was ready. When I nodded he unlocked the pulley and gave me a push off.
And there I was, flying over the canyon at sixty miles an hour.
And I wasn’t afraid!

Damn straight!
It was actually exhilarating. And freeing. It was unlike anything I’d ever felt before.
And I was so proud of myself when I worked my legs and body at the approach to the next problem, landing without kicking anyone or destroying myself. At each station there is a guide who unhooks you from that pulley and hooks you up to the next one. So there I was, off again flying over Bootleg Canyon.

And enjoying it!
Can I just say it was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever done. And surprise! I was ready to do it again!
As you can see by the pictures, it really was a blast.
Since then I have actually stayed in hotel rooms as nigh as the twenty-third floor and not had the urge to throw up or fall down on the floor.
And I can’t wait to go ziplining again.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Phobia Follies

Sacchi Green

I’ve pretty much outgrown the only phobia I can remember. Strong preferences, sure—I’d much rather communicate by e-mail than use a phone. And as I get older I seem to have inherited my late mother’s tendency toward paranoia, especially when it comes to the health and safety of loved ones, from my eight-year-old granddaughter to my 94-year-old father.  But none of those are phobias.

The phobia I did have in my youth is so commonplace that I’m embarrassed to even mention it, but I might as well. Arachnophobia. I’ve wondered whether as many people are afraid of spiders as are afraid of snakes. Is there some deep significance, some psychological clue, to being freaked out by too many legs rather than no legs? I don’t mind snakes at all, assuming they’re not poisonous.

Well, it doesn’t really matter. My phobia was always on the mild side. As a teenager I was only comfortable with spiders when I was wielding a long vacuum cleaner hose, but now that I’ve taken to gardening I’ve made my peace with the critters as long as they’re outdoors helping to keep down the population of undesirable insects, and I do my by best not to disturb the intricate structures of their webs. Even when I find them indoors I’ll escort them outdoors if I possibly can, which doesn’t help them much if it’s freezing outside, but doesn’t make me feel as guilty as squishing them (and makes less of a mess.)

But we’re here to discuss phobias, so I’ll stop tiptoeing around the subject. When it comes to insects, I can totally understand how the feel of tiny feet creepy-crawling on your skin can set off panic alarms. For most of us it’s not a full-fledged phobia, not once we’ve shaken/brushed/flicked the critter off, or swatted it into oblivion, but for some it is. When I was trying to figure out what to write on this topic, I finally remembered, with great relief, that I’d written a story about this very thing, an erotica story even, and to my amazement I managed to get it published in Alison Tyler’s anthology Twisted. I took it as high praise when a reviewer/writer I respect said that my “Stag Beetle” was the most disturbing piece in the book.

It’s really quite a short story, so maybe I’ll share the whole thing here.

Stag Beetle

Sacchi Green

She touched the little box in my pocket and smiled like an urchin sure of a treat from an indulgent uncle. "Is that my present from Japan?"

I gripped her wrist. "Is that a hand in my pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

Kit, brow puckered, tried to puzzle out my mood. "Well, of course I'm glad to see you!" She tried to wriggle her fingers against my thigh. My grip tightened.

What am I doing with a girl too young to get a Mae West reference, even by way of Jessica Rabbit? "I'm glad to see you, too, Kitten.” A warm, loving, beautiful girl. “I did bring you a present, but that isn't it. Careful now. Don’t let the lid come off." I drew her hand slowly out of my pocket. The white box emerged, still intact, the thick rubber band now perilously close to one end.

"What..." Kit jerked an inquisitive finger abruptly back as the cardboard lid twitched from some inner movement. Her expressive eyes widened as the significance of the tiny ventilation holes sank in.

"Do you really want to see?" Kit had an involuntary horror of creepy crawly things. "My old students remembered that I'd been interested in their collections when I taught there, and thought it would make a fine present. I couldn't refuse. It was an honor."

Kit had met me at the door wearing only a silk shirt, open down the front; now she tucked her hands firmly under her armpits as she hugged herself for comfort. "I don't know...maybe..." She pulled herself together and let her arms drop to her sides, body taut, scared-kitten face firming until it could have been a smooth stone carving of Bastet. "If I don’t see it, I’ll imagine something worse."

"That's my girl." Warm, loving, beautiful, and smart. And eager to please. I opened the box, my hand curved close just in case. The stag beetle, two inches of black shell and another inch of chitinous "antlers", peered over the edge. Kit inclined her head just enough to get a good view, the trembling of her body barely perceptible.

"They're quite beautiful, in their way. And harmless. I'll keep him in a bigger box, a very safe box, and feed him fresh fruit--bananas, mangos, sweet peaches." Was it accidental that Kit's shirt slipped aside just enough to reveal the soft peachglow curve of her breast? A startling inner vision of the black beetle moving across that sweet tender flesh sent tremors over my body, too. "It's an ancient tradition for Japanese boys to collect and breed stag beetles as pets. They’re quiet, and don't take up much room." Am I babbling? Don't overdo it, nitwit! 

"It was an honor, wasn't it.” Her hand came out slowly.  “Only boys keep them? It must be their way of honoring you as Jess, instead of the Jessica they knew ten years ago."

"Yes." A tangle of emotions gripped me. Pride in her bravery fought with a need to push her limits, to see how much she could bear—and how much I could bear before nothing mattered but fucking her so hard she screamed like a wildcat.

"I want to hold him," Kit said. "Really." She held steady, the faintest of shivers rippling across the tender skin of her arm, while the beetle took a few steps along the back of her hand and wrist. She was pale and somewhat breathless, still frightened on a level logic couldn't reach. “I’m not sure I can hold still. Scary things…sometimes they feel so…so…I don’t know. Maybe you could tie me up?”

“How did you guess the real present I brought?” I picked up my backpack and nudged her toward the bedroom. She lowered herself carefully until she sat on the bed, her back against the brass bars at its head, never looking away from the glossy black presence now innocently exploring her forearm--until she felt the wide silk obi wrap her tightly just below her breasts.

“Oh! How beautiful!” The delicate bamboo leaves embroidered on a pale gold background distracted her for just a moment, until I raised her arm to her chest. Her gasp shook the insect just a bit, and then he kept on, up over the mound of her breast. She was visibly shuddering now, barely keeping her hand from scrabbling at the beetle.

“There’s a whole outfit in my suitcase to go with that, kimono and all,” I said conversationally, while I tied her wrists securely to the bars with the ends of the long sash. She gave a sigh of relief when the bonds held however hard she strained at them.

“Thank you so much!” It didn’t matter whether her gratitude was more for the gift, or the restraint. The relief vanished when the stag beetle crept along to her nipple and poised at its tip, feeling for a further foothold. “Jess…” Kit said tightly, then held her breath.  

I reached out to re-route him, but she shook her head. “It’s…okay. Okay and…and awful at the same time.” The beetle turned back, revealing the nipple darkened from pink to rose, and so temptingly erect that I could barely resist it.

A lovely flush lit her skin. No longer just struggling to please me, she had crossed a line from fear to arousal, like pain giving way to pleasure. Heat surged through my own body.

By the time the beetle descended between her breasts and over her belly almost to her navel, she was whimpering, not so much like a frightened kitten as a very hungry one. Her thighs twitched, and her wrists strained at freedom, but she wouldn’t beg.

I was the first to give way. “No more!” I retrieved my new pet, tucked him gently back into his box, and set it on the nightstand. Then it was my hands that made her skin flush and thighs dampen, and my not-so harmless mouth that forced her nipples to a rigid pleasure indistinguishable from pain, until her cunt and clit needed all my attention and I drove her on from mewling cries to howling release.

As we nestled close together afterward, catching our breaths, Kit reached up with her now-freed hands to stroke my face. “Isn’t it lucky,” she said, with a mischievous twist to her kiss-reddened lips, “that really, really scary things turn me on?”          

What am I doing with this warm, loving, beautiful, smart brave girl? Getting luckier than I'll ever deserve, that's what.

So there it is! My post on phobias done quickly and painlessly! Which is a relief, because at midnight last night I had just finished laboring over a guest post for Lisabet’s Beyond Romance blog, so I was happy to have an easy time with this post. Check out my rant Beyond Erotica over there, if you feel like it.
(See how I worked that in?)

Friday, August 22, 2014


Spencer Dryden

I want to be careful with this topic. It's too easy to relay seemingly comical stories that are insensitive to genuine suffering.

Years ago I had a client who always took the stairs when I would see her at the office building where we both worked. She was trim and fit. I always thought she did it for the fitness. Once at a conference, at the host hotel, we were headed up to the same hospitality suite far above the city. She was headed for the stairs, but I persuaded her to ride the elevator with me. She must have been ashamed to tell me of her affliction. The door closed and sure enough, the elevator lurched, then stopped. I though she was going to die right there. The door opened in only moments. We exited, she was hyperventilating. She breathlessly confessed her phobia at the edge of tears. I walked the stairs with her.

My sister-in-law is deathly afraid of flying. It started when a cousin, a flight attendant, switched flights with another attendant as a favor and ended up on a flight that crashed on take off, killing everyone on board.

Occasionally she ramps up her courage and tries to fly, but more than once has freaked out at the gate during boarding. These days when someone freaks out at an airline gate, it brings the bright lights of Homeland Security to add to the pain and humiliation. It's been an expensive and heartbreaking ordeal for her and my brother-in-law.

I thought I would have nothing to contribute of my own to this topic until I pulled the lens a little wider. Phobia's are irrational fears. When I think of the damage and opportunities I missed because of irrational fears, I want to weep.

To begin, I have a deep-seated fear of authority. I blame it on being a Catholic of the early baby boom. We arrived like a tsunami, a crush of new humanity. Institutions were overloaded. Martial law was required. We were trained to be quiet, obedient and to never, never, disturb an adult, especially with questions. Curiosity was crushed with the same grinder that was applied to rebels and misfits. Questions distracted adults from peace keeping duties. "Look it up", or "you should know that" were standard answers even though the recipient couldn't read yet.

In my generation, kids at school were spanked, knuckles rapped, legs whipped with the tassels of the cinch chords on the habits of the priests and nuns. Boys were routinely slapped across the face. Pain and public humiliation delivered by God's ordained people awaited anyone who was out of line. I got the message.

One story from my past is illustrative.

I started grade school in 1956 at a Catholic school that looked like a prison. I still tremble in fear remembering the hallways and classrooms.

My class had 57 students and one teacher. We had the old fashioned desks that were attached to skids. She could push a whole row of students. She was the crabbiest, meanest adult I had encountered in my short life.

Parents brought children to class the first day. I remember trying hard not to cry in front of my dad, but I was so frightened.

We were to go home on the school bus. My fourth-grade sister was to meet me at a designated spot to be sure I got on the right bus. I came out of school at the end of that first day to a sea of kids and a line of busses that extended over the horizon. There were no adults escorting children to busses. My sister didn't show. I timidly asked the first bus driver if his was my bus, holding up my bus pass. He yelled at me that I was supposed to know that. I scrambled back down the stairs, chastised that I had disturbed an adult with a question.

The busses left one by one; my sister was still nowhere to be found. It seemed hopeless until I realized I knew my way home. Sure, I'd be crossing busy streets but I set out with more assurance of success than Columbus, and I wouldn't have to disturb any more adults.

I arrived home to find my sister in hysterics with my mother trying to unravel the mystery of my disappearance. Then suddenly, there I was. We were both in trouble then.

Nearly 55 years later, it's still a source of humorous controversy between my sister and me. Did I go to the wrong spot or did she ditch me? I think she was more traumatized than me. She was in such a katoozle (a family word for a melt down) over losing me that a teacher had to drive her home. We both felt humiliation beyond redemption for failing at such a simple task.

I have millennial children. These days when a child gets lost, it's the adults who get a beat down and not hapless children.

That was just the beginning of a long life of fear and trepidation. All my life I have cowered in front of authority figures, stood by mute  when I've  witnessed injustice, failed to try many things for fear of failure-especially to follow my heart instead of expectations.

If I could trade all that for fear of flying, I believe I would. Although I might end up with a much longer walk home.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

I should probably be afraid of wives, but...

by Giselle Renarde

I don't have any phobias. I only know one person who does (as far as I'm aware) and she's the wife of a man with whom I had a 10-year affair. Snakes. She's got a phobia of snakes. I always found that incredibly... telling...

Over the years, I've developed quite a fascination with this woman.  Even when I was 19 years old, I made up little stories about her in my head. Not uncharitable stories. As a horny barely-legal teen, I just found it perplexing that a woman could go YEARS (decades?) without having sex with her husband. Baffling.

In 2010, I started a much bigger little story about this woman. This time, I did it on paper.  Okay, on the computer. That's where the magic happens.

In my imagination (and my novel The Other Side of Ruth), she turns into a lesbian who only comes to terms with her sexual identity later in life, when her queer neighbour Agnes sees what she's been hiding all these years... even from herself.

Here's a (very much unedited) excerpt from The Other Side of Ruth, which is in the earliest possible stages of production. I'm not sure I can even call it "Coming Soon" yet, because it could be a while.  Although thank goodness I've finally finished the first draft.

Only took me four years...

Agnes swept across the hardwood in stocking feet. Her socks were black with little white ghosts. “You still live with that bald guy?”

“Lawrence? Yes.” Ruth watched Agnes slip into the front room. She ached to follow, but couldn’t bring herself to move. “That bald guy is my husband.”

A sour sensation gripped Ruth’s stomach.

He’s my husband.

She took a sip of her peppermint hot chocolate, and that helped.

“I always thought you were too good for that dude.” Agnes tilted her head to read the titles on the built-in bookshelves.

Ruth watched her through the stair railings, not knowing quite how to respond. Was that a compliment?

“You always looked so young and beautiful, out there working in your garden. And he looked old. Way too old for you.”

Ruth laughed without meaning to. “Lawrence looks younger today than he did ten years ago. That’s how it is, for men. They’re the lucky ones.”

“Bet you could still get lucky.” Agnes looked Ruth straight in the eye. “If you really wanted to.”

Was that…a come-on? Ruth felt the heat in her gaze despite the distance between them. Rumour had it Agnes was a girl who liked girls, even in high school. But why on earth would a beautiful, buxom young woman like Agnes be interested in Ruth? She wouldn’t. What a silly thought.

“Well?” Agnes hadn’t moved, and yet Ruth felt the girl’s hot breath all over her skin, making her prickle inside and out.

Ruth choked on her tongue. It felt too thick for her mouth. “I don’t know what you mean.”

Agnes approached slowly, her hips waving side to side. She had on a black belt, though her tight grey jeans would surely have stayed up on their own. The buckle read ‘Pet My’ set against the retro image of a snarling Halloween cat. Another Agnes original, no doubt.

What must her father think of her “art”?

“I mean…” Agnes stood at the base of the stairs, then fell to her knees, straddling Ruth’s feet. She leaned slightly forward, and then further forward. If she’d worn a low-cut top, it would have been hanging open—and Ruth would have looked. “If you ever wanted to… I mean, do you want to?”

Agnes leaned in, leaned close, and that’s when Ruth realized she was about to get kissed. She focused on Agnes’s pink lips because, goodness, they were so full and beautiful even without cosmetic enhancement. She found herself drawn to that mouth, moth to flame.

Ruth’s chocolate-mint breath bounced from Agnes’s lips back to hers when she said, “I want to.”

When Agnes’s hands landed at Ruth’s sides, her attraction transformed to fear and she was tried to escape. But Agnes insisted. The back of Ruth’s head met a stair.

Nowhere to hide. Their breasts met with every breath, and Ruth found herself hoping the girl would press those gorgeous spheres fully against her chest. She could feel that sensation on the horizon, like a blast of hot anticipation. Yes, she wanted it.

Agnes kissed her, softly, on the lips, and Ruth’s whole body turned to liquid. She would have dripped down the stairs if Agnes hadn’t been there to hold her in place. When that new tongue infiltrated her mouth, she moaned. The heat was unbearable. She felt itchy on the inside, where nothing but a kiss could scratch—a cause and cure wrapped into one.

How long had it been since she’d been kissed this way? Since she’d kissed her husband, even? No, Ruth had never kissed Lawrence like this. Not in all the years they’d known each other. Theirs was a marriage of minds. He’d appealed to her intellect, not her body. Not her mouth. Not even her heart, perhaps.

She kissed the girl lying on top of her. This was the pressure she’d hoped for, the beautiful bliss of breasts on breasts. She wanted to touch them, but she didn’t. She resisted because, of course, it wouldn’t be proper. It wouldn’t be at all proper to reach up and grasp those gorgeous tits, to squeeze them like ripe melons, feel them yield to her palms. It wouldn’t be right to strip Agnes bare and suck her nipples, or to reach down to those fiery depths and ram her fingers inside the girl’s wetness.

Oh, yes!

What Ruth wouldn’t give to plant her face between Agnes’ thighs right now. Lick that girl fast as anything, take those lovely lips, that engorged clit, take it all in her mouth and suck until Agnes exploded. Ruth would have her screaming to the rafters, crying out for more and then begging for mercy.

Agnes eased away from Ruth. Her lips glowed bright red and glistened with wetness. Ruth’s heart pounded in her ears, but astonishment kept her from moving or speaking. In any case, what would she say? Thank you?

Agnes backed away, smiling, staring. This was like a dream, like the ones she used to have back when she remembered her dreams. The good dreams. The fantasy dreams. Ruth throbbed between the legs when the girl tossed her hoodie over her arm and picked up her shoes.

“You know where I live,” Agnes whispered, her voice gritty.

She slipped out of the house in stocking feet. Ruth watched through the window as she stepped down the garden path. Her firm breasts bounced when she turned onto the sidewalk.

Ruth sat on the stairs, sipping her cold hot chocolate until the sun cast orange streaks across the far wall. She ought to start dinner, but she wasn’t hungry. And she’d long ago given up playing the good wife, cooking for her husband. They lived as roommates. Housemates. She’d come to that realization long ago, and it seemed preferable to any alternative she could think of.

But a new alternative presented itself. A strange alternative, a curvaceous alternative, a kissable alternative. And Ruth was undeniably attracted.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

No You Don't

There was this one time.

About ten years ago I was doing some work with my job that took me down to the country of Belize of all places.  Belize is a lovely place to visit if you have a reason to be there or on a vacation in one of the pampered tourist areas.   Of all the countries I've visited though, the people of Belize entirely redefined my perspective on what poverty looks like.  There are some terribly poor people there among the tropical beauty of the beaches and countryside.

There are also Mayan ruins, a place called “Xunantunich” (zoo-nan too-nik) which means “Stone Maiden”

These ruins are still under excavation so when the people I was working with had a day off to be tourists some of us piled off to visit Xunantunich.  The Mayans are by no means extinct as a people.  Some of the indigenous people of Belize and part of Guatemala are direct descendants of Mayans and some still regard themselves as Mayans.   When you visit a place under excavation like Xunantunich there are finished structures that have been retrieved from nature, but its not like the Indiana Jones movies.  What you see are these lumpy looking hills with trees and jungle growing on the sides of them.  Hills that look natural enough and yet, not quite right. Buried in the hills, like graves, are buildings where people lived and worked.  If our own civilization ever collapses someday out tall buildings and houses will someday look like lumpy hills.

The pleasure of history, of museums, of historical places is the association of the imagination.  To realize that these places were once alive and important to people.  That people like yourself lived here, fell in love, gossiped, has families, worried about the future.  Worked hard, loafed.  Worshiped and speculated.  And then all things pass away.  When you walk along the green paths among the ruins you come to the small and narrow foundations of what were once private homes, where people lived their lives, gave birth and died before the conquistadors arrived and upended everything.

In the midst of the excavations , there is a pyramid called “El Castillo” which means “the castle”, probably a modern name.  El Castillo is quite a landmark and appears on the beer bottles of a  locally brewed stout which everybody drinks.  El Castillo has a band of images that surrounds the sides of it.   On the reverse side is a stone stairway that leads up from the ground to the top, about 130 feet straight up, where there is an observatory of some kind where the Mayans would observe the stars or perform whatever rituals bound them together.  The stone steps are a piece of work as in “Yeah, that guy.  He’s a piece of work.”  They are as narrow as a step ladder, close together and almost vertical.  One hundred and thirty feet of vertical.  No hand rails.  At the bottom of the steps are broken rocks and debris where workmen have been clearing things.  Certain death if your foot slips.  I couldn’t wait to climb it.

And why not?  Tourists, and students, some of them in sandals and back packs were whizzing up the steps and taking selfies at the top.  I put my foot on the first step.

It wouldn't move.  My body wouldn't move.

I had never experienced anything like this.  It was a mind and body split.  My mind wanted to go up, see the top, see what Mayan priests saw, take pictures of the surrounding land.

Nothing doing. 

My feet were planted in cement.  I could go anywhere else, even climb partly up the other side, but those vertical stairs;  I tried and tried.  Each time my body froze as if it had nothing to do with me.  I never made the climb.  I stood by and watched other people climb up and down like angels on Jacob’s Ladder.  A couple of times I went over to the steps and put my foot on them – and all though I wasn't consciously afraid my body would go no further.

This was one of the first times I was made aware that there are deeper levels to our minds.  We know that as a concept, but it’s a strange thing to have some deeper level, something beyond your self awareness, put a heavy hand on your shoulder and prevent you from doing something you consciously want to do.  It goes back a little to a previous post where I mentioned to Lisabet about how a person’s consciousness could simply be snipped into two people like a flatworm.  It reminds me that we are not who we think we are.  That personality and ego may be an illusion, a construct, and that the totality of our personhood may be much more complex and mysterious, and largely out of our reach.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fear of Phobias. J.P. Bowie

Phobias are funny things really, and some of the funniest things are what people have phobias about. If there's one about bad grammar I should insert it here!

Some of the longest words have phobia tacked on the end -

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia- which actually means fear of long words. Love it.

I am only too aware of the word homophobia, but heterophobia? - not so much. And in a recent article I was reading on the internet a guy used homophobia instead of hoplophobia - a fear of firearms. "Yes officer, he was pointing a queer at me!" Although after watching the mess in Ferguson, Mo., I think I'm suffering from hoplophobia.

Love this one too -

Consecotaleophobia- the fear of chopsticks. I dare anyone tell me they knew that one!

Here's one I definitely suffer from  -
Logizomechanophobia- Anyone?  Fear of computers. Oh yeah, I tremble every time something goes wrong with my pc and I dread having to call the help line. I feel so stupid when I can't understand a word the guy is saying. "Sorry, can you repeat that again...and again?" They get quite angry with me.

But while I'm at the computer and banging away at my next erotic epic these strange little phobias cannot be overlooked -

Medomalacuphobia - Fear of losing an erection. Well, so far none of my heroes has had to worry about that
Medorthophobia- Fear of an erect penis. Who is this idiot?
Megalophobia - Fear of large things. See above.

Some of them seem just made up to suit the phobia -  
Acousticophobia - Fear of noise for instance
Aerophobia - Fear of flying. I could've made that one up.

Then there's Agoraphobia - Fear of public places like markets. Well, if I lived in Bagdhad you'd never see me in a market place 

And last but not least - sometimes when I'm swearing at my computer and calling it spawn of Satan and other devilishly choice names, I  might be suffering from
Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia- the fear of  the number 666.

There really is a world of phobias out there!

Th-that's all folks - is that Animationophobia?