I can’t remember the last time I was naked with a woman.
Just a shade of a gorgeous girl, she has angled, sleepy slits for eyes, a sleek profile broken by the thin triangle of her nose, by the bubble of her lips, and her breasts are bobbing shadows under the bath’s steaming mineral water.
I try not to watch her, but I like looking: growing up between brothers, never playing team sports, seeing a woman’s living nudity is novel. I make myself look away, only so that the pleasure in soaking up her shape builds interest.
Her form melts into the caved, dim space, like the stone Buddha bathing under a waterfall that grows beyond the grotto ceiling, like the fireplace dancing next to the pool, like the deep red ceiling soaking up the heat. I move towards her, enjoying the solid steam slowing my motion, making my arms and legs drag instead of run, like in a fantastic nightmare.
And then she breaks the quiet to speak to a woman who’s just entered, and the dreamland I’d built is dashed and shattered, like the water as her friend’s thick thighs chop into it. In a splash the Buddha is cheap plaster, the girl’s full face is hardly as enticing as her pretty profile, and we’re all lukewarm-enjoying the hole-in-the-floor Korean spa that I’d discovered on Yelp.com.
After lazy splashing and low talking, they both step out of the bath, into the sauna, and I’m alone with the water. My shadowland lights up again, its darkness only deepened between my break with it. My mind begins to play in the pool while my body anchors to the tiled bench lining the tub.
I like the pure, primal feeling of hot water lapping at my skin. I spend too much time in front of my computer, writing, my mind slaving, and for hours my most physical pleasure is my fingers flying across a keyboard. So I delight in being an animal, sweating out my thoughts, staring at steam floating away like an ancestor’s spirit, disappearing into the dark. But soon the sweat sponging on my forehead turns into thick drops dripping down my face, and the sloshing heat makes me itch to rise. The bubbling water slows my run, until I break through it up the stairs, making a short, fast walk to the smaller, cool pool.
I dip a toe in, and my whole leg shivers: it’s liquid ice. I pause, then I make myself go waist deep. I sprinkle my chest with water, and my hands go numb with every fistful. Each splash is like a freezing, burning lash, a wet whip. I gasped at first, but now I’m almost grinning, enjoying seeing how much I can take. I tell myself to get on my knees in the shallow pool, and I’m up to my neck in ice water, tingling. Invisible needles pierce me, till my stomach, my thighs, my feet are buzzing numb. I press my hands to my head: my fingers can’t feel my face, but my forehead, my cheeks, my lips love getting licked with the crisp water. It’s such a tease to be cupped in the coolness: I’m so thirsty after being boiled, but I keep myself from dipping my head and sucking the wet all in. My mouth turns dry, my breath raw, burning cold, like I swallowed peppermint. My mind tells me this must be bad for my body, to feel dizzy with pleasure in pain, but my thoughts hush themselves: Shh, shh, shh… Like the short waterfall spilling in front of me.
I can feel millions of goosebumps on my arms, but I force myself to relax, frozen up to my chin in the pool. Then suddenly I shake, I break, I make fast steps back into the hot waters.
Almost falling into the burning bath, I’m pulsing with unfeeling again, but my senses begin to melt, over-soaked in satisfaction. I sit on the bench, letting my body sway with the water as it gurgles up from underground. I rub my chest: being able to feel is fresh to my fingers. My breasts buoy in the little waves all around me. The rippling water makes small shadows on the shady bath floor; they look like ghosts of fish darting near my feet… I’m almost asleep when a Korean lady calls my name: “Krees? Massage?”
She shows me where to lie, face down, and I’m reminded that I never get massages; relaxing irritates me. But I wanted to feel someone force me into calm. She weaves her fingers into my back, unknotting my muscles. I float between my own inner reality and the world’s, until I feel her fold my arm behind my back, and grind her elbow into my waist. My eyes cringe, twisting out tears. I want to cry out, but I make myself stay still. She kneads deeper again, in and out, and that perverse pleasure shudders through me, that pride in enduring pain. Finally she stops, and when she digs into my left side I smile.
When she finishes, I wander back into the steaming bath, and its water takes me like a million arms, sucking me down into a delicious, hellish, hot hug. I fight it with the energy I have left–
Only to add to my pleasure of finally giving in.