by Nora Bonner
My latest lover has twisted a bruise on my left breast, in the chunk of skin below the nipple. He’d insisted this act was for my pleasure. I’ve no recollection of the pain it took to make this brown and green mark surrounding the purple dash where he’d pinched the hardest. It certainly was not something I requested. No one had taken such aggression on my body before. When I’d told him to stop, he insisted that he knew more about pleasure. He insisted that I liked pain. This exchange occurred only seconds after he had slipped his fingers inside the still-wet me and insisted he was an alpha.
And I—this is how I responded—I am an omega.
He asked, What do you mean? and I told him: I am the last to know about these things.
No, he said. No, that’s not what I mean by alpha. With his free hand he combed his fingers through my limp strands to the base of my neck, then gently tugged.
I’m an omega, I insisted, brushing his hand away. I felt nothing dear as he continued to grab at my hair and to get him to stop, I tugged off his t-shirt I’d been wearing since our most recent round of sex, which had happened a mere eight hours beforehand, when we were still in bed and throbbing for coffee. Neither of us had left the apartment yet on that Sunday afternoon, though I was starting to consider leaving when he referred to himself with a term reserved for aggressive dogs.
And then he brushed his lips between my breasts and I thought, if this lover is going to deny what I have to say, I’d prefer him to deny me like this. My prior experiences have taught me that when a lover covers my skin with this sort of gentleness, I’m left ripe with longing. This particular experience proved that when a lover grips the skin above my breast, tugs and twists, as this lover did in the next moment, I am left pale with shock.
You like pain, he insisted as he pinched.
I’m done, I said.
He gripped my arm in the way of alphas from old timey old movies and television shows, and as he did so I figured: He thinks he is Captain Kirk. He thinks I am his Janice to yank across the Enterprise. Enough, I said, slapping his clutch away like a mosquito. And with that, he promptly dropped my arm.
I packed my things and drove home, wondering how it was that this lover who, in the Saturday night beforehand, had cooked me a three course meal consisting of roasted chicken doused in lemon and the specks of black pepper he cranked from a pepper jar, a bed of arugula sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil he dripped from a mason jar, and a baguette he insisted he baked himself that smelled faintly of butter and rosemary–how could a man capable of such sensuality suddenly appear so senseless?
The stress of this.
I hadn’t smoked in three and a half years, but once I hit the highway, I stopped at the corner store for a pack of mellows, then lit one with the glowing lighter beneath the tape deck and sucked nicotine twice before remembering to roll down my window. All the while his words echoed within me: you like pain, you like pain.
I sure as fuck do not, I told the memory of his voice, no longer regarding him as a lover, but as a danger who crossed a strange line I hadn’t known existed. Or maybe I had. Perhaps it’s the same line crossed by strangers groping us on crowded subways. Do those strangers also think they are alphas? Before that afternoon, I had never before heard a man insist he was one.
What I want more than anything is to remember this lover for his meal, not his bruise. To remember how, the night before, his clumsy ballroom dance steps made me laugh on his balcony loud enough to wake the neighbors so I insisted we go inside. I’ll even take the memory of his sloppy ejaculation on my naked stomach, before he wiped me off with tissue from his nightstand, then balled it up and missed the trash can near his dresser. I joked: I’m not picking you for my team.
I’m not picking you for my team.
You like this.
I can’t remember what it felt like when he twisted my skin, so how could I have liked it?
I encountered the bruise for the first time in front of the bathroom mirror, with a steaming shower spraying behind me, beyond a curtain plastic curtain that would hide me from the world. Once hidden, the hot spray scalded as I scrubbed with delicate scents—peony foam in every place this self-proclaimed alpha brushed me with his lips. When I climbed out of the shower, I wiped away enough fog from the mirror so that I could see this bruise again, now fainted against my chest and reddened by hot water. And that’s when I felt it, this pain he insisted I liked. I had not planned to step into such a hot stream of violence, but this is the sort of experience I tend long for when I see this bruise.
I am therefore certain I am what I said. I am an omega. I am the last. I am always the last to know whether I am in pain.
Nora Bonner is a fiction writer and writing instructor from Detroit, Michigan. Her stories have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Shenandoah, Quarterly West, Juked, The Indiana Review, The North American Review, Hobart, and The Best American Non-Required Reading. She recently earned a PhD in Creative Writing from Georgia State University.