Thursday, May 12, 2016

Protected: The Game

Like many of the games we ended up playing, this one started in bed.

We were talking, like we often did in the wee hours of the morning, with the sweat-soaked sheets still smelling of sex, our bodies still warm and tangled, our faces still lit up by the neurohormones that, at least in my case, made sleep impossible.

We began with the standard conversation: his travels (7 months on the road and counting), mine (suspended until further notice), childhood memories, old lovers, sworn secrets. Somehow our conversation led him to this question:

“What would you do if you opened my backpack and a whip, handcuffs, and a ballgag fell out?” he asked, leaning over me, the reflection of the lights from outside adding a mischievous glint to his eyes. 

I laughed, then cocked an eyebrow at him. I pondered on the question for a while, determined to come up with a winning answer.

“I’d wonder how you were able to make it past all those airport security checks untouched,” I said, climbing on top of him and pinning him down as I shot back another question in retaliation.

“What would you do if you opened my backpack and a bunch of used condoms fell out?” 

He laughed, then cocked an eyebrow at me. I watched him think. A few seconds later, he sat upright so we were face to face. 

“At least I’d know you practice safe sex,” he responded with a grin, before kissing me. 

We proceeded to tumble across the bed in a series of ‘what ifs’; both of us trying to out-sicken the other with the contents of our imaginary backpacks: a set of sharp shiny knives (his), a jar filled with the dead skin I’d been peeling off his sunburnt back (mine), violently sketched drawings of me in various states of mutilation (his), a wedding ring engraved with a secret husband's name (mine). 

The objective was to come up with something so abominable it would make the weaker one of us want to end our little affair. But in the face of (hypothetical) weird fetishes, extreme sexual deviance, involvement in voodoo and adultery, or even apparent death, neither of us flinched. 

After playing round after spirited round, I finally fell asleep, nodding off to the sound of his breathing and lulled by the thought of other, less gruesome ‘what ifs’…

A week and a half later, on our last night together before he was to set off on his journeys once again, we found ourselves playing the same game.

Both of us had been tiptoeing around his departure all day and night, talking, laughing, kissing, touching with the energy of something that was in its peak and not its denouement. 

As a consequence of this denial, a lot of things were left unsaid. Determined to say at least one of those things, I devised a plan: I'd start our strange game again, veiling what I really wanted to say in the form of one casual, abominable question. I thought it was brilliant.

When he started to pack his bag, I took it as my cue to pounce.

“What if you opened my backpack, and a wedding ring fell out?” I asked casually, shrugging a shoulder for good measure. 

He looked up from his pile of rolled-up clothes and cocked an eyebrow at me.

"I already know about your secret husband,” he smirked.

I took a deep breath, not quite ready to explain my winning question. Yes, it was definitely something abominable, as the rules of the game go. But in the scheme of my little plan, it was only a poor approximation of what I actually wanted to say.

“No, I mean, a wedding ring, from me, for you?” I squeaked, afraid that I had betrayed my true intention for playing the game, even more afraid that I had finally won.

In response, he said nothing. Only looked at me for what felt like a long time, half-smiling. Then he stood up, wrapped me in his arms, and kissed me on the forehead.  

As it turned out, I lost that round, but I knew at some point it had stopped being a game for both us— somewhere in between my shaky little voice uttering an abominable question, and his calm eyes continuing to look at me unflinchingly.

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