The first in a series of texts (either nominated or of their own authorship) sent to me by the first of 8 critical interlocutors. This one was offered and authored by Ivan Crozier.
All life-forms gather at the edge of the sea – creatures that swim, that fly, that crawl, that cling to the rocks among the seaweed. New life was born in the rock pool, scraping its way up the hard surface towards the green hills and then to the grey cities of light. To return to these littoral zones is to revisit the beginnings of life. To survive here is to master binaries: the land and the sea; movement and permanence; love and pain. She keeps alive by breathing underwater; I remain by throwing myself into the sea to be returned by waves (of love, of pleasure, of desire, of pain). Each time I survive I am stronger and know more. I see her move and I follow. The edges expand, and the void created is filled with new life. Time is kept by the rhythm of the sea - those pulsing movements that start deep below the surface, held inside the dark water until they swell up and burst in waves that grip tight round our wrists, hold our breath, squeeze the life out of us in cries, leave us gasping and amazed that we are still here. It seems that nothing has changed, but each wave is unique. We do not remain the same when one washes over us.
* * *
You opened my horizons by plunging me into new depths next to the sea. Not by drowning me, by hurting me; by using that pain to push me deep into my body, deep into myself, holding my head under until I am contracting and expanding and do not know which way is up, and can only work it out by moving away from the direction my tears are flowing. You open me by breaking me. I am ready to be destroyed.
You took me among the boulders near the shore. I had cut two canes - two sapling branches, one thicker, both flexible. I knew that you would hurt me with these in ways that I would have to grow to cope with. You put the gag in my mouth, taking away dignified lines of communication; I could now only grunt and moan until you release me. You tie my hands - rough jute around my wrists and elbows cutting into my skin. My veins pump slightly. The way that I am lying I cannot move my hands to protect myself. I cannot cover my eyes, or wipe the spit or tears or snot from my face. All you will see is my back and my arms, as I hang my head. I lie against the rock, rough enough for me to cling to when I needed support, smooth enough to comfort me when I press myself into it to escape the pain you would inflict, still slightly warm from the sun. I always feel nervous before we start – like it is a game that I am not going to win unless I roll a six. I wonder what my body will be like; I wonder if you will like it. I wonder if I want this as much as I think I do. Then I remember that I always do and I feel warm, like that electric moment just before I touch a body that I have wanted for a long time, and finally that idea is about to become real. My resolution dissolves, as it so often does. I feel my breath change and my body opens for you. I’m caught out again, as I stretch myself before you. I know that you are going to destroy me, again.
How do I hold my body so that you want me, but not too much? If it is too much, you will tear me apart. You look at me at those times like you want to eat me. I need you to pity me, not to damage me. Instead of hitting me to take me out of my self-consciousness, you draw my attention to it and make it worse. You make me reflect on my self, on how I hold my body, imagining what you see when you look at me vulnerable in front of you. I cannot melt away to nothingness to avoid you; I will become nothing only after you start. I close my eyes. I cannot bear to be in a place of such beauty and be made to think of myself.
You start, punching me like I was punched at school. You are hard with me and I am surprised. What I had imagined was not what I was getting; I already have to cope much more than I was anticipating - when I only thought of the profits, and not of the losses accrued along the way. I have no choice but to let this pain sink into me until I can bear it, until I can feel myself give myself away to you with each blow, stripping me away, but always keeping me present with a rhythm that runs counter to the regular waves lapping the shore. The more you hurt me, the harder it is to bear. But I know that when you stop - when you take up a weapon - I will be wishing for the return of the heavy thud of your fist hard against my ribs, chopping at me like the flesh of an enemy. I concentrate, but you break this by hitting me harder. I am always adapting, my body is always adapting as it twists under your blows. Not the fluid movements of fucking or dancing, but the spastic writhing of my body in pain. The moments between these blows start to stretch out, I feel myself reacting more and more, even muscle making its threshold known. I move to protect myself. I move to distract you. I move because I like to play with the sensations in my body. I move because I want you to find me hot. I move because you make me do it. Sometimes, it is true, I do not flinch. Today, my body moves to cope with how hard you have started.
The thin cane cuts. When you hit them again, they hurt more. The bumpy nodes of remnant branches break my red skin and tiny rivulets of blood trickle down my back. You know I am in an agony that intensifies with each blow, stretching my body back until I can lower myself for your cane again. You know that I am trying with everything I have to stay still for you. You know that I want to give this all to you, to have you take the flesh from my carcass. We both know that I cannot do this, so we have to find out how far I can go. To find out exactly how free of this life you will make me when you reduce me to my body. It is now that the tears are flowing. It is now that I start to sob. It is now – as your blows cut up my skin and I pull myself tight to push this pain put of my body, only to be hurt more by your next swing. I get through this. I think of the look on your face, the silent look with which you are regarding me. You are not negotiating new territory with my body - you know well how to read me, and how to push me just further. You do not need me to talk, you only watch. Each hard cut of your cane pushes me deeper under the surfaces of my body into the teeming life that has been trying to evolve out of the darkness. With each lash you reduce me to only what is taking place in this moment. I am disintegrating.
* * *
When you stop, I think of myself. My tears. My face streaming with saliva that the gag won’t let me swallow. I wonder how you can look. You tell me that I am not scared. You tell me that I am in pain, but that I am not fearful of you. You tell me you want to see my fear. You do not really know how close it is to the surface, or that I am not sure which part of me is keeping it from crashing on me. You reassure me, you make me take my breath, you tell me what you think of me. And then you start to hit me again.
* * *
This bigger cane bends with each blow. It is heavy, wet, yet thin enough to bruise as it is so flexible. It does not cut open my skin like the thinner one - but the pain is so much more intense. I do not know how many lashes to expect - at no point do you tell me what you will do. All I know is that this is the point when I started to break. I remember you photographing my face as spit flowed from me. I remember you hitting me in order to capture the images of my face that I have never seen before. I remember being completely unable to look at the landscape - that its beauty hurt my eyes as much as you hurt my back and that I needed to hide in an ugly darkness in order to escape from pain you were inflicting on me. You stopped and made me look at a point of lichen on the rock. I knew I was breaking and you were holding me there by keeping me in a meditative consciousness. The pain became increasingly unbearable. Crying was not enough to help me. And then, after you had moved position to sit above me on the rock and could hit directly into the uncut parts of my ribs, something strange happened. A tiny bit of warmth from your body seeped into me. On a single point this sensation of utter pain sublimated into an intense sexual pleasure - I was more aroused than I ever thought possible in a state like this, like a blast of poppers through my system I blossomed and writhed as I was giving you my body. I responded to your blows like they were passionate kisses, my body clenched and spasmed like you were fucking me to my core. And as I passed through this stage of intense, fulfilled desire that accompanied your frenzied blows, my mind opened. You stopped. I stopped. Everything stopped. I had never been so high in my life. This was a pure, intense lucidity, an inkling that my place in the world made sense – because I was in it, not out of it. I collapsed back in on myself. I told you I could not take any more. And as I said this, I remembered being told by someone I trust that this was the hardest thing for a masochist to say. I wanted to give you more, but I had nothing left that I could willingly give.
* * *
The minutes that followed are indescribable. Everything was too intense and too perfect. The golden-pink light cut under the clouds and shone off the water. I was warm. I was in ecstasy. You watched me as I could only look at the clouds, or out to sea, or over the hills, my back throbbing, my hands regaining their blood. I was incoherent. I crazily searched for signs for where I had been - a shell I had laid my eyes upon, the piece of lichen that looked back at me like a candy skull. As I sat down, as tears exploded from my eyes and I cried and I laughed and as I came back to earth in your arms, I started to shake. Then it would stop. Then I would reassure you that I felt better than ever. And so I grew to fill these spaces where the edges of my existence had been stretched. This is how you make me every time.
I did not think I could take any more pain than this, but I could. After you had hit me, you cut me. Not a delicate pattern or a long line, but the words detruis moi. Destroy me you did. You broke me down and then photographed what you had made, turning this pleasure, this pain, this overload of sensations, into a work of art that explored the realm of the senses, entering me directly through my body. All bearings had been lost as I was thrown around in the waves of your desires, lost in the water, not knowing what would wash up on the shores. What remained was a new life that emerged at the edge of the sea.