There was nothing that I didn't dare to do to so and so. I stopped her when she rushed to take off her clothes. I told her to kiss me and she did as I said. She pressed against my body and wrapped her arms around my neck, kissing me for a long time, often asking, "Is that enough, is that enough?" She kissed me deeply and thoroughly, her tongue going almost everywhere she could reach in my mouth, and yet she seemed distracted. I closed my eyes and imagined it was you, your lips and your passionate kisses. But it didn't work. The more she kissed me, the more I felt it was not you. And she apparently grew impatientit was precisely because she became impatient that I insisted on having her continue to kiss me. I held her around the waist with my hands, not allowing her to move. We two looked like we were struggling with one another. Later, everything finally went in a different direction because she snuck her hand from my neck and started to touch and fondle me. She was nervous and I could understand her nervousness. She didn't know why I wanted her only for kissing; she must have thought it wasn't sufficient, that the kissing alone was not going to satisfy my desire and therefore her desire was even less likely to be satisfied.
She fondled me anxiously as if to say, even though my kisses didn't seem to satisfy you, there is something more that I'm willing to give you . . . we started to make love, but you were everywhere before my eyesI'm so obscene, but I beg you not to throw away the letter. In the end I felt horrible. On the one hand I imagined it was you who lay under me, my beloved, but when I did, the guilt I felt was so strong that it kept me from achieving the pleasure I could have had. The guilt was so strong that I couldn't tell who exactly lay under my body then or exactly what I was doing after all. Eventually I had to use my hand to . . . I could only get release with my own hand.
I'm willing to let you curse me ten thousand times. Only when you curse me does my empty soul find a peaceful place to go. Where can my soul rest safely? Maybe I demand too much. Why, when I kept getting those prizes I dreamed ofsuccess, fame, national and international awards, family, children, admiration, beautiful women, money, etc.and the rest . . . did my anxiety only deepen?
I had a woman before I was married. She was a one-legged woman, fifteen years older than I was. She was a sa
Excerpted from The Bathing Women by Tie Ning. Copyright © 2012 by Tie Ning. Excerpted by permission of Scribner. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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