[Editor’s note : Rosalyn D’Mello made her literary debut with A Handbook for my Lover, a contemporary non-fictional work of erotica.]
One summer morning during our first year together, I woke up to find your moist body glued to mine. The night had been sultry. I’d shorn off all extraneous layers, had shed my clothes hours before; so when I woke up, my black body was reflecting light.
Half awake, half asleep, still lost in dreams, your fingers wandered across my body like pilgrims in search of the Promised Land, finally arriving at the threshold of my cunt. You lost the battle against sleep. Your now limp fingers bore witness to this defeat. They floated in the wet of my spill. I saved them from drowning. I taught them how to swim, how to tread the waters’ depth and stay afloat.
I surprised you with my gesture, rescued you from the snares of sleep. You drew closer, buried your lips in the warm cove where my neck meets my shoulder. I continued to walk your fingers through worlds buried undersea, submerged hallways and ancient palaces. You cast away my grip so your fingers could voyage independently. You travelled through desolate routes, went in circles, but refused to stop to seek instruction. You ambled your way into hidden continents until finally you arrived at the core of my second heart and tampered with its pulse.
You held me as I released that final ounce of breath that would bring me back to the sun-curled morning.
We lay in the speechless afterglow of that self-effacing moment. Your arms encasing me, your mouth drawing in the air from mine as if encroaching on the privacy of my pleasure.
Then, candidly, you opened your mouth, rippling the texture of the stillness.
‘What do you think about when you masturbate?’
I remember clearly how you uttered the taboo word, with a stress on the first and last syllable.
What I forget is my reply. It must have been incoherent. I must have been surprised by the forwardness of your question. I wasn’t sure if it was designed to invade the secrecy of my fantasies or if it stemmed from your desire for knowledge that was otherwise forbidden.
Later, so I could offer you an answer worthy of your intrusiveness, I sought out the origin of the word and found it was inherently deviant—manusturprare, to defile with the hand.
I defile myself regularly. There are days when all I do is lie in bed and defile myself.
Imagine the stark contrast of my ebony fingers nudging against the haughty pink of my cunt; the dialogue I conduct between skin and flesh; the reaching into my cavernous core; the time spent in shameless combustions; the momentary quenching of an eternal thirst.
My fingers serve me best. They are dexterous and adventurous. They know and love the texture of my cunt; the soft, smooth edges of my labia; my perky, elated clit. They know of secret entrances, of shortcuts and escape hatches, of passageways that lead to buried treasure. They are high priests in this Holy Ground, my sanctum sanctorum.
There are days when I drip despite myself as if writing in silent ecstasy. I wake up wanting and cannot shake away the urge to defile myself. My feet guide my body through the restless world of the living, but my thoughts lie suspended in some other ethereal realm. I drip until I start to spill. My nipples are alert and graze against the fabric of my clothes. My pores are receptive to every slight brush of wind. I am all cunt, all receptacle, all slush.
On days like these it is nature that seduces me with her wild scent of laburnum or chameli, or the silly feel of her grass against my bare feet, the fleeting banter of hedonistic pigeons making love in thin air, the cantankerous laughter of fresh, green leaves. I participate in this world outside my body. My surface exterior is deceptively calm. No one would know of the scent of wet earth newly born in my cunt. I tease myself. I continue the charade. I let the spill build into a flood, until I can no longer wait, until I must hurry to my bed and tend to my hysteria.
I use the first three fingers of my right hand, the ones I use to write. My thumb waits outside, by the brink, for fear of drowning. My index finger and the tallest one begin to trace circles outside the mouth of my cunt.
An orgasm is a tangible thrill. Imagine it as clay slowly slipping into being, guided by the contours of fingers held against the sleek, sizzling spin of a potter’s wheel, the dizzy circumference churning mud. There is shape-shifting, a delicate rise and fall until the walls evolve, until the reliefs acquire definition; sweeping curves, measured lilt. The peak is that immediate moment when the pot is suddenly complete and is separated from the wheel. Leftover are sighs, then the opening of eyes, the curling of toes, the clasping together of thighs, the return from Wonderland.
Often I read. I lie in bed, let loose my hair, unfasten my clothes, hold a book a few inches away from my face and begin to swallow words. I don’t stop to chew, I let them slide along my throat into my belly so they can enter my blood and course through me.
I read Nin, and Winterson. Miller. Anne Carson. Angela Carter’s Black Venus, Michael Ondantjee’s ‘Cinnamon Peeler’ (You could never walk through markets / without the profession of my fingers / floating over you), or recipes by Miss Lawson, or by Laura Esquivel, or Gertrude Stein, who has this to say of ‘Roast Beef’: In the inside there is sleeping, in the outside there is reddening, in the morning there is meaning, in the evening there is feeling. Please beef, please beef, pleasure is not wailing. Please beef, please be carved clear, please be a case of consideration, ‘And of Salad Dressing and an Artichoke’, Please pale hot, please cover rose, please acre in the red stranger, please butter all the beefsteak with regular feel faces.
Words are aphrodisiacs. They evoke the smell and feel of the substances they suggest. They tempt and lure with their promise of tangible things, and of worlds outside of my reach. They inflict me with lust, they fill me with want. Words become substitutes for your touch.
Hell is a world bereft of words. There are days I live through it, when episodes of language lie constrained inside my lungs, when residues float to the surface betraying the script I had in mind. I, the onanist, take shelter in the dark, warm cave of my cunt. I inscribe upon my walls, I make word paintings, I write songs. I scribble at will and colonize every inch of available space. I mark my presence inside my body and listen to the echoes of spoken words. My vagina is the archive of all my greatest works that I can never read.
Sometimes I make love to silence. To elusive, wordless sounds; the interstices between raindrops, or typewriter keys, the pauses in lyrical refrains, the soft gasps of breath between syllables, the lines buried between lines, the vacant silence of vacant hallways, the imagined solitude of abandoned cities, the second-long break between the flapping of bird wings, the hush that follows after bells have tolled, the loneliness of crumpled sheets, the wordlessness of the mute, the grand echoes of mountain passes, the curled silence between the ebbing and flowing of tides, the wisdom of angels and the aftermath of their delirious, choral songs. To these, and more, I come.
I don’t wail as I do. I listen to my body gush. My skin quivers, my head stretches away from the rest of me, my feet gasp, my heart beats vociferously, you can feel its raging pulse anywhere you touch, my eyes shut themselves, my lips part; so my mouth is now open and what follows from the bit of my being to the tip of my tongue are cries as delicate and lively as a swarm of butterflies. They flutter by and leave their wings behind.
Sometimes I make love to you. I rummage through memories… of the first time we fucked on the night we first met. I couldn’t help myself, you would say later, when I asked you why you did what you did, why you unmasked my body and plunged into my depths. I wanted you. I had to have you. You lost your tongue inside my mouth the first time we kissed. I had to remind you of the lateness of the hour, the vanishing of the moon, that I lived in another part of town and had to get home before dawn. How you pinned me against a slice of wall and sprawled your lips against my nipples. You’re not going anywhere. And how you groan when you come, like a warm, suffering thing. Mornings when you hurl your body against me and tweak my nipples like they were switches you could turn on and off. How you lick my teats and kiss my knees, the feel of your beard against my breasts, the hunger in your breath, the scent of sunlight basking on your skin.
Sometimes I recall the taste of you in long-drawn moments with my mouth between your legs. You close your eyes and lie still and erect. I wet you with kisses, then lick you with my tongue until you start to spill. I make all kinds of patterns against the blackboard of your skin. I draw you in and out. I place you deep inside my throat as if I were swallowing you whole. You gasp and stretch and clasp my hair with your fingers. I plunge forward and retreat, repeatedly, in a soothing spree. You relent. You feed me all there is to feed. You are a secret recipe, one I can never untangle with my tongue; such perfection of taste, such exacting proportion of salt to spice, such delicate consistency.
Sometimes I make love to this city under the cover of the open sky. I cocoon myself in the cool breath of the evening sun. Trees glisten, flowers prepare to close for the night. Amid forsaken rooftops, birds take flight for a final search of scattered grain, some swoop against the tops of trees and make vertiginous circles in the air. I too take flight. I begin my ascent towards dizzying peaks, altitudes I could never surmount with my bare feet. I traipse along the outskirts of the aether, I touch the voluptuous flesh of clouds, I submit to the burning skin of evening stars.