Take Initiative


Pink Glass

You’re special — I can tell.  I won’t ever touch you, he said, but my camera wants to watch your body.
He didn’t waste any time.  She needed to sleep, but something about his voice kept her on the phone.  The calm way he breathed between words.  What are you reading for school?  Macbeth, she answered.  Okay, no problem — I’ve read all his histories.  We’ll use that as our secret code, and I’ll text you where we’ll meet.  Secret code, she thought, that’s sounds stupid.  She looked around her bedroom, at the pink curtains hung by her mother, veiling her in, and the panes she wanted to break through, leaving behind only wooden frames and girly fabric sprinkled with glass.  She played along a bit: Sure, I like secrets... and surprises.  I changed into my pj’s.  They have apples on them.  Well, don’t tempt me, little Eve, he said.  Then he coughed and said, you’re in bed. He didn’t need to wait for her to say anything; he’d had plenty of practice talking to girls her age.  Put your finger in your belly button.  He waited.  I know what makes art; you must learn, he said, to own your own body.  She wavered.  Was he the real thing?  She had tried out freshman year and now this year and had never gotten the part.  She was sick of pink, wanted to be the sharp thing that cut, not the dull one, invisible off-stage.  Sara Barchiesi held the blade — acting queen of high school.  Always got the lead.

Where’s your hand, he asked.  She knew where she was going.  It was easy to put her finger there, in the tiny indentation that linked her forever to her mother.  Pink fabric, pink, flesh, pink life.
Now slide your hand down, he said, between your legs.  Her hand was burning, her skin gleaming, but it slid down, moving on its own.  Are you there, he asked, not waiting for an answer.  Ariel, Ariel—now he claimed her—keep your hand going.  Make sure you don’t have any piercings there.  Would she be cut, or be cut?  The pink oxidizing like the metals in Chem summer school, turning a deep red.
An artist must learn to lose memories, he said, we’ll create our own play for you. And then he hung up.

She fumbled to switch off the light.  Nothing seemed where it used to be.  Naked now, she bent down to find her comforter.  Roses. Tulips. Irises.  Imprinted in the fabric of pink darkness.  Mother’s gifts.

what is pleasure?



a dark tank is our home. 
the scent of chemicals is overwhelming, although we cannot smell.
we hear the voices murmuring, although we have no ears.
and the swirling water is fishy. 
though we have no tongues, the finned taste pervades.


Evil is a switch, Ariel thought.  Evil is a switch that can be turned on by what turns you on.  Once it’s on,  you feel the buzz all around you.  When she’d seen the online ad, she hadn’t known what the switch was, but she sensed it waiting, and she wavered.  Every night that passed, she trembled when she thought of it.  It had said, “strictly artistic thing.”  She thought the words themselves connected in a creepy way. 
Barely 15, she had always been labeled “artistic,” but to think of herself as a “thing.”  Well, that was not really what it meant.  But still.  Her trembling had not been unpleasant.

Then one night, she stopped waiting.  Her parents long in bed, the trembling radiated to her toes.  She had walked to her computer—her footsteps on the carpet becoming the steps of an older girl—and she had gone to the site for the ad again.  It had disappeared.  She continued to search, her brain powered by her young, thrilling body, and somehow, she remembered the contact info.  Again, not without pleasure.  She only hesitated a few seconds—the words “bad girl” surging from her stomach downwards—then sent her response off with a click of her finger, easy as flipping a switch.

Within a few minutes, she received an email from the videographer that said: I’ll pretend I’m your friend and phone you.  Send me your number.
    That was it.  All business.
    The exact wording of the ad flooded over her like a blush, “older successful videographer seeks beautiful teenager for projects—strictly artistic thing.”  Her heart palpitated—like the times when she had frantically hoped for a lead in the school play and had walked up to the list of names.  Propelled by this same swirl of dread and excitement, she didn’t know what to expect from this older, successful guy.  Would he, like the directors at school, not want her?  It stung; maybe it was good not to be wanted.  Then she wouldn’t have to buzz with worry and could calm the hornets in her stomach.

After she had sent her number, almost instantaneously her cell rang.  What’s your name, he asked.   When she told him, he gave a little snort, what did that mean?  Have you seen any Greek statues?  What the hell, she thought, and didn’t bother answering.  Then he asked, do you have any navel pierces?  No, she said quickly.  Check, he said.  What?  Put your finger in your belly button and move it around.  She hung up.
    That was it, she thought.  Phew!  What a weirdo.
Before she could put her cell in her pocket, it rang again.  Fully clothed in bed, she tugged her phone out of her jeans.  The pocket tingled, her cell hot in her hands.  She thought of herself, the too good little girl; her parents would never imagine her doing anything like this.  The phone rang again and she answered. 
    The switch was now on.