Saturday, September 3, 2011

Travelogue, Chapter 3, Part 1

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Penny heard the door shut and the jingle of keys. They’d gone out. She was alone. It was very quiet. She looked around the room, but there was little to see. A few unornamented pieces of furniture. A simple lamp, glowing yellow.

Practice her posture. Her lower back already ached a little from the strain of sitting up straight. She let her head hang forward, stretching tight muscles in her neck and down her spine. Mr. Craness and Marco would surely be out for an hour or two. Penny considered her next move. She could slump. She could undo herself and wander the apartment, even go out. It was possible, if she were careful, that she could slip back into her bonds before he returned, leaving him none the wiser. 

Nonetheless, she sat. She pondered his reasoning. He had left her loosely bound for safety, surely. In case of a fire, she could easily escape. But safety could have been ensured another way. They didn’t have to go out for drinks. Was he testing her? Had they really gone out? No, she’d definitely heard their footsteps on the stairs. And Mr. Craness was not a man of pretense. 

She thought about the history of their acquaintance. His method of teaching had always been gently Socratic. He had allowed her to lead herself to answers. Today was the first time he’d ever imposed a rule on her: Respect. Was that why he hadn’t tied her? He’d wanted her to have to choose to respect his wishes. Not just once, sitting down and allowing herself to be tied, but minute by minute as her discomfort grew. 

Her legs hurt. The edge of the chair was gently curved downwards. The edge fell just at the top of her calves and it felt like it was cutting into her. She adjusted her ankles as much as she could. The air was cooling and she wished for a blanket. To distract herself, she tried to recall the progress of her friendship with Mr. Craness. How had she come to be here, naked, anxious, and alone? 


Penny had first known Mr. Craness through his blog. She couldn’t recall how she’d stumbled across it. 

He’d started keeping it after the death of his wife. His brief biography explained he wanted to both mourn and celebrate their marriage. Writing, he’d said, recalled her vividly to his mind. As a reader, Penny found his stories equally vivid. Most of his recollections were erotic. It seemed he’d found his wife unendingly alluring, and their sexual exploits were recorded with a sensual precision that held Penny riveted. 

Sometimes Mr. Craness had mused on his youth, tracing how he’d come to be the man he was. Penny read these posts with interest. She’d come to greatly admire the man who wrote merely as “Crane”. It was illuminating to learn about his early mistakes and inadequacies. Eventually, she began to comment on these posts, noting similarities to her life. Crane had responded kindly, asking his characteristic leading questions. In one such comment, he’d appended his email, should she want to talk in more depth.

That had been at least a year and a half ago. Maybe more. 

It had been a time of transition for Penny. She’d had conflicts with her family. She had a terrible break up and moved into her own apartment for the first time. In her new isolation, she felt she was discovering herself for the first time. Her emails with Crane became increasingly essential to her days. Every question they discussed led to another. He encouraged her to use her independence to explore what she wanted, rather than rushing into new commitments. He reassured her after painful conversations with her ex that she was a worthwhile human being. He made her laugh when she felt at the end of her rope. Crane was steady in a way no man in her life had ever been. 

Meanwhile, she continued reading his blog. Sometimes he’d mention her obliquely. He wrote less about his wife, as the months passed. He instead told stories of observation: imagining the sex lives of people he saw in restaurants or on the train. His writing voice was different than the tone he used with her. He wrote forcefully. His wife had submitted to punishments and demands for obedience. The people he imagined were always engaged in exploring power dynamics. His imagination was often cruel.

To Penny, he’d always been gentle and kind. As the affection between them grew, she found herself wishing, sometimes, he’d be firmer with her. Shyly, she told him as much. “You’d like me to tell you what to do?” he answered. “We can see. Start by calling me Mr. Craness.”

“That will be hard,” Penny had written. “I’ve called you Crane for a long time.”

“It will be a good exercise for you, then. Work at it. Train your thoughts.”

The phrase made her shiver. Train your thoughts. Mr. Craness’s first, simple demand worked its way into her like a thorn. He’d given her a gift: his name. And he’d taken something away: a little bit of her freedom.

Remembering that day still aroused her. She learned, that day, how subtle a thing control could be. Her admiration of Mr. Craness deepened.

So much had happened since then... Penny smiled, reviewing scenes of lovers and adventures. Mr. Craness had been her rudder, but he steered gently, gently. He wanted her to explore where her desires led her. So when she’d come up with the idea of travel, she’d been surprised by his lack of enthusiasm.

In the face of her determination to go despite his warnings, he suggested she begin her trip with a sojourn under his tutelage. What had he propsed to teach her? “I think you confuse enthusiasm with confidence,” he’d told her. “You don’t know yourself well enough to be truly confident. You’re impulsive and it will lead you into danger.” His reasoning was unclear to her, but the prospect of an intimate visit with Mr. Craness had been irresistibly alluring. And now - here she was. Shivering, naked, and wondering if maybe he'd been all too right about her trusting nature. 

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