Friday, February 3, 2012

People are Strange When You're a Stranger

By Remittance Girl

When I was invited to collect my stories into a single-author anthology for Coming Together, the ACLU seemed like the perfect choice as a destination for the proceeds. I feel there are two opposing forces in society today. On one hand, there are very few products or services that don't, either directly or indirectly, use sex as a part of their marketing. We've gone from a society who could not mention sex in polite company to one that is inundated with sexual images, and this has, in my view, served to trivialize the human erotic experience. On the other hand, many publishers have become so scared of the cost of litigation that it is very likely that if Nabokov wrote Lolita today, it would not see the light of publication.

You often hear erotic fiction writers complain of censorship, but in reality there are many, many examples of explicit sex in literary fiction. Martin Amis, Jonathan Franzen, Philip Roth, Michel Houllebecq… it's perfectly okay to write explicitly about sex as long as you don't set out to arouse your reader. Make sex ugly enough, decontextualized enough, emotionless enough and you can be as explicit as you like and will probably be nominated for a Man Booker Prize while you're at it. Conversely, you're perfectly welcome to write as many hot and kinky scenes as your little heart desires, as long as you bed it in a romantic plot. True, you probably won't be recognized as high literature, but your book sales will take the sting away.

Somewhere in between the extremes of dystopian sex nightmares and high romantic adventurism lies the reality of most people's sexual lives. Sometimes ecstatic lust-filled experiences, sometimes nights of sexistential angst, sometimes a bit of both. This is where I write, because this is where I find the greatest opportunity for insight. In the interstices between our aspirations and our fears. I find that nothing magnifies the erotic fertility of that intersection as placing my characters on metaphorical foreign soil. Whether it involves an exotic setting or placing my characters in sexually uncharted territory, I enjoy watching them find their ways around. I hope you do too.

The excerpt I'm offering you today is from the story "Shellshock" which appears in the Coming Together Presents Remittance Girl anthology. Suffering from the culture shock of her new life in Asia, the protagonist trolls the backpacker district of Bangkok in Thailand, seeking the comfort of the familiar. She takes her unsuspecting one-night-stand back to a hotel room haunted by the ghost of a dead American soldier who may or may not be there.

____________________

My meal paid for, I lead him wordlessly by the hand back up Kaosan Road, through the smoke from outdoor grills and throngs of brightly clad tourists. The hotel doorman smiles. The boy at the reception desk doesn't bother to ask for the English boy's passport when I ask for my room key; they don't do that to foreigners. But I wonder if my soldier boy had trouble getting his girl up to the room. Did they ask for her identity card and a 50 Baht tip?

I know that Gary (that's the English boy's name) is more than a little surprised. I kiss him in the elevator to calm him, and my hand snakes down to his crotch. He's surprised but not, it seems, unwilling.

Someone's been in the room. The bedside lamp is on, the bed is turned down. The clothes I so carelessly left on the toilet seat are now sitting neatly piled on the desk. I start pulling off the ones I'm wearing.

"Wow." Gary doesn't succeed very well in his attempt to hide his confusion. "You're not even drunk."

Jesus Christ, I scream in my head, at least my soldier boy didn't have to deal with this. There's something to be said for making sex a financial transaction.

"Just take off your clothes."

And Gary does, because he's a sweet boy and he's obedient and it has probably dawned on him that, if he pisses around, I'm going to put my clothes back on and find someone else. I don't want to talk about his last year at university, or his heartless father who won't wire him a little extra cash. I just nod and rummage through my bag for a condom.

His body is pale and almost hairless and his skin is soft. He's carrying an extra ten pounds and when I push him down onto the bed, I feel it break my fall. The bed squeals in protest at this rough treatment, but it can't fool me. It's had a lot worse than this.

It's been more than a year since I've lain skin-to-skin with anyone. The soldier-boy too, because I can see him now in my head, climbing on top of the sweet Thai thing. Did she giggle the way Gary does?

He's trying to remember all the things he was told about making a woman happy. But he doesn't know me. He doesn't know this woman at all. And, as he fumbles with my nipples, I slide off him just long enough to roll the condom down onto his erect cock.

"Don't you want to fool around a bit first?"

"Not really." I climb astride him, pushing myself down onto his dick.

"Wow." He opens his mouth to say something else, but I stop him.

"I'd really like it, Gary, if you'd just be quiet and fuck me."

In the next bed, my soldier boy is possibly more polite. But perhaps he doesn't have to be. I can see him, between her legs, pushing his cock in and lowering himself on top of her sweet, brown body.

To Gary's credit, he doesn't sulk. He grabs my hips and pumps up into me. All the pretence of social niceties is gone, and I am glad, indescribably glad to be sharing skin with anyone.

It's the truest of all true things that I see in Gary's face as I ride his cock. That beautiful serenity of absolute pleasure that changes only in shades with every thrust. He reaches up and makes handfuls of my breasts, and I let him now, because I know it's out of need and not of duty. Besides, it feels good when he loses himself in sensation and squeezes hard. It keeps me from drifting over to the other bed and into the body of the soldier boy who is pounding himself into the girl like his life depended on it. Perhaps it does.

I can feel my orgasm long before it arrives, a plane in the distance and my body the control tower. The landing lights in my belly light up to guide it in. Gary's cock has grown huge inside me and there's a pleasant dull pain each time he thrusts upwards.

"Fuck—this is too good." he says. "Yeah, I know exactly what you mean." There are sirens going off in my head. All my neurons fire at once and I start to come. I hear echoes of my soldier boy; his grunts keep time with his hips. Wordless and animal, the inhuman stuttering of being alive and absolutely human.

Gary gets it. He can feel it around his cock as I orgasm, and he holds my hips still for the last few thrusts it takes him to get to the same place.

I sleep in a stranger's arms. But he's not strange because he's been inside me.

___________

We've all been strangers sometime and we know what it feels like to feel the sand shift beneath your feet. But with that sense of strangeness also comes an interesting liberation: borders evaporate and roles lose their clarity. Have you ever been a stranger in a strange land? Literally or metaphorically?

Come on, tell me your story.

The e-book I am donating to the "Share the Love Blog Bash" is my novella The Waiting Room, published by Republica Press. Leave me comment (don't forget your email address) and you might win.

Bio: Remittance Girl lives and writes in exile in a small Southeast Asian country, where she teaches and grows orchids in a house with a large mango tree and a cat called Seven. She holds a Master of Arts in Writing.

Driven by the conviction that eroticism is an overlooked but essential part of human nature, Remittance Girl believes that examining this important part of our lives is essential to gaining insight into what motivates us, frames our social interactions and forms our interior sense of self. Erotic fantasies, even very dark ones, give us clues with which we can decipher the symbolic language we use to express who we are and how we fit into our society.

Her novellas and short stories have appeared in electronic format on her own website, at www.cleansheets.com and in the Erotica Readers and Writers online gallery. A number of short stories have appeared in print anthologies. Visit her at remittancegirl.com

18 comments:

Dijeratic said...

What a beautifully written example of desire for the simplest of things to heal over a greater need that may not have a definition. You know how, with great economy, to give an insight to a character's experience - it isn't merely 'erotic,' just a moment, but one steeped with deeper longing, that something we can never quite touch.

I've plenty of experiences being a stranger, but one of the oddest ones has involved not even leaving my home, but learning the strangeness of the online relationship. I shared a rather whimsical and sometimes flirty 'friendship' with a young woman who lived in another country. We shared the usual details of our lives, but built around that a kind of playful alternate space that was never too far one way or another (it was never sexual, though I'm sure there was for a time a mutual attraction).

It has lasted quite a few years, but it wasn't until I realized she had fallen in love and was in a relationship (one that I was quite outside of, no introductions were ever made), that I realized how much I stranger I really was. In this 'relationship' I was marginalized, almost kept like a secret, though there was nothing secretive about us, nothing that should have been.

It is possible to develop feelings that you don't intend and the most important thing to remember is that you are not entitled to anything. This can be a kind of trap, one in which you can never describe your hurt, or ask for anything. The only way out is to simple disappear.

Victoria Blisse said...

Sex isn't always fairytale stuff, I also like to place my charachters in unknown territory to see what they'll do. I also like to use humour with my sex because sometimes all you can do is laugh!

Annabeth Leong said...

Thanks so much for this post, and for your writing over the years!

As far as the stranger in a strange land question, after my divorce I found myself navigating the totally confusing world of dating/pickups/etc. I had been married young, and had literally never experienced this before.

I met a man in a club and kept telling him I didn't know how to behave, didn't know what the expectations were, didn't know what I was signaling to him. (Was it OK to dance the way I was dancing? Did that mean more than I meant it to? What did it mean to go home with him? Was I supposed to have feelings? To not have feelings?)

He turned out to be an immigrant to this country, and his experience of confusion about customs, tradition, and language turned out to be something we bonded over... But I grew up right here, I had just emigrated from "married" to "single."

Remittance Girl said...

Wow, what a great example of the different ways in which people can be strangers, Annabeth! When we stray from our accustomed roles, or from our places of origin, it's just as much terra incognita, isn't it?

Michelle said...

A great change of expression of the intimacy between people...

Annabeth Leong said...

Thanks! It definitely leads to terra incognita, and this often means we connect with each other in unexpected ways. One of my favorite examples in your work is "Motorcycle Hug" -- such a sweet, unlikely story, that feels like it's only possible in the uncharted territory you describe in your post above.

Suzanne Graham said...

Thanks for the excerpt! It's nice to "meet" you.

Anonymous said...

Very intense. Your writings always have a somewhat hypnotic effect on me, both physical and mental. Odd but true. I enjoy it.

Alessia Brio said...

You are brilliant, as always!

Garceus said...

Hi RG!

I have your book riding around in my eReader at all times. I've always loved the sound of your writing voice and your daring at description, such as "feeling my orgasm before it arrives."

I have been a stranger in a strange land too, definitely, with no job and no language. So i know a little of the desperation of the immigrant.

Always loved your writing RG.

Garce

joder said...

Such a sexy excerpt that drew me in! I'm definitely going to find more of your works since I enjoyed the writing style seen in this story.

joderjo402 AT gmail DOT com

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hi, RG,

I'm so glad to have you here. Living in a foreign country, I have this kind of culture shock almost daily.

And I agree with Annabeth - "Motorcycle Hug" is one of my favorite of all your wonderful stories - and for those of you who love romance, definitely one of the most romantic in RG's collection.

Sacchi Green said...

Beautiful, beautiful writing, RG.

Anonymous said...

Yes, being in a position where I've had to be the "date" of a man who was over twice my age. I didn't know what I was doing there, but we got along, and it was kind of an out of body experience. I could see myself eating my dinner, and talking with him, but it didn't feel like me at all! He drove me home afterwards, and I settled back into myself. It was one night that I don't think I could forget--

forum_forums@yahoo.com

Ms. T Garden said...

Good googly moogly! I'm impressed with what you wrote because it's not what I normally seek out. I felt disinterestedly intensely interested. I know that probably didn't make a lot of sense, but it was as if I could feel her disconnect but intense connection to him via the sex. It wasn't the blasé thing that perhaps a sex worker would have felt, business as usual, but a you're here for a purpose let's make it happen. Her strong desire for the human connection but not the emotional one was keenly felt as well.

As always, I'm impressed.

Remittance Girl said...

As CT participants are excluded, the winner of the comment raffle is Ms. T Garden. Congrats.

Jean Roberta said...

Hi, RG! Great post: your erotic writing philosophy followed by an excerpt that can be understood on its own. You're a hard act to follow. :)

Ms. T Garden said...

I really like to win. More importantly I love to win things that I actually want. Since I admire RG very much as an author this makes me happy indeed.

Thank you!

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