Her quest, the events that brought her naked to Larry’s balcony under the gaze of a stranger, all started during the big freeze the previous February. A friend of a friend of someone Pam didn’t really know had dropped by her cubicle at the dungeon, the steel and carpet savanna that surrounded the watercooler at the office, and asked if she and Jolie were busy later that night.
“I know this guy that’s having a showing at Littlewood’s in SoHo. Photography. He’s afraid no one’s gonna show with this weather. It’s RSVP, and I’ve got some passes if you two want to go.”
Her oldest friend at the dungeon, the Fortune 500 they both slaved at Monday through Friday, Jolie was a tall, full-figured black girl with her hair cut close. She sported decidedly European facial features and a ready smile that made you want to do the same. Jolie had grabbed the two engraved invitations and said, “Sure, why not.”
The gallery was a small beacon of light that shined bright on three feet of powdery white snow on the sidewalk in front. The place was far from empty when they checked their coats and heavy wool scarves. It smelled like sandalwood, oil paint, turpentine, and…something else.
“What is that smell?”
Jolie sniffed. “Money,” she whispered.
“No, something else. Something…”
They both took proffered wineglasses and geometrically perfect cubes of cheese, and sauntered. The work was hidden. The only hint at what lay beyond the large white partition was a larger-than-life black-and-white photo of a rather unremarkable nude male specimen kneeling on bare concrete and licking the black vinyl-clad ass of a rather rotund black woman. The man’s hands were intricately bound behind his back, his eyes covered with a blindfold.
“Kinky,” Jolie said with a giggle as they stepped around the partition into the main gallery.
“Leather,” Pam whispered.
“That other smell. Leather.”
The show space was large. The white walls were blemished not by huge exhibitions of photographs, but by small holes that people stopped to peep into before moving on. The open space between the two opposing walls where people would normally congregate to sip wine and talk was covered by a carefully manicured Japanese rock garden. Furrows and ridges of raked gravel flowed in waves until they collided with a wooden frame that marked the edge and defined where people could and couldn’t walk. Control.
One large stone stood tall, almost phallic, in one corner of the gravel garden opposite two shorter, less-dominant rock obtrusions in a delicate opposing balance of space on a single plane.
“What the hell is this?” Jolie sounded indignant. She followed Jolie’s gaze and watched the line move. Heads would lean in and people stood licking their lips or scratching their heads.
They waited as a handful of laughing patrons of the arts lined up like schoolkids on a playground getting ready to go to lunch and started their trek. Pam noticed that by the fourth hole the line had quieted and marched on obediently.
She said little while she followed Jolie, who lavished each peephole with a unique critique. Each photo was large and set inside the wall some distance away. Each viewed only through a crudely cut hole. Not a diorama. It was like peeping in on a secret event. Being a voyeur to what was taking place.
The black-and-white photographs highlighted the contrast the subjects and props depicted. Leather, rope, chains, and vinyl. Whips and cuffs. Balls with leather straps and full head masks with zippers. Skinny, fat, voluptuous, and beautiful. A mix of black and white that went beyond definition of medium. All were photos of two people in a combination of same and opposing sexes engaged in intimate moments of dominance and submission. The viewer’s prejudices and predilections determined how the moment in time was seen.
“This shit is nasty, girl. Will you look at that?”
Pam leaned in to inspect Jolie’s idea of nasty. A woman of indefinable age, arms strapped tight up and behind her back with leather straps, a black collar around her neck, was swallowing a rather large fat cock. The woman’s eyes were covered, and a chain not unlike a leash you’d walk the family pet with was pulled tight between the woman’s black collar and the balled fist of the naked man that stood over her. Their bodies were covered with sweat. The man was wearing an ornate opera mask with black-and-white feathers that shot up at odd angles.
Pam had tugged on the top of her turtleneck sweater and looked around furtively to see if she was being watched. Another look, and she studied the collar the woman wore. The way it made an indent at the back of her neck. The way the chain seemed to strain. The strength in the man’s forearm. Ropes of muscle and a black carpet of hair.
Moving on, Pam searched for a Kleenex in her purse and dabbed her brow.
By the time they were halfway along the opposite wall, it was obvious Jolie was thoroughly disgusted. Pam was thankful Jolie was distracted.
“Now that’s my kinda picture.”
Pam stepped up and peeped through the hole. A stiletto wearing nude black woman with heavy breasts and a round, plump ass, that made you think she might topple at any moment, leaned over the ass of the prostrate form of a skinny white man nude but for a blindfold pulled around his eyes. In one hand the black dominatrix wielded a black leather riding crop that was landing on her subject’s back while she shoved a shiny black dildo into his ass.
Pam’s shiver was not one of revulsion.
At the end of the last wall they followed the line of onlookers around a corner, down a short white hallway, where they found a sign on top of a chrome stand that read: FIND YOUR PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE. A woman dressed in a leather corset, leather shorts that hugged her ass, fishnet stockings, and black stilettos raised a riding crop to stop them while a person walked through a curtained door.
“Can you believe the shit they pass off as art?”
Pam laughed nervously at Jolie’s remark, leaving her position open to interpretation.
“I mean, what is all this chain and leather shit? Do they think people really get off on this stuff?”
She laughed again and had a thought. Your protests are a little too heated.
“Oh, c’mon, Jolie. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t let that hunk with the chain and funny mask do whatever he wanted to you.”
“Yeah, well, sure, girl. Or maybe I’d rather be the one pulling the chain.”
“So you’re the black dominatrix with the hunky boy kissing your feet.”
“My pappy always said, ‘Whatever floats your boat.’”
Pam fell quiet while the line moved up, and wondered what happened if the boat sank.
Jolie broke their reverie with a stage whisper as they stepped up to the leather-clad girl. “Hell, honey, that gorgeous hunk of man meat with the feathers on his head can do anything he wants to me.”
Jolie was waved through and Pam turned to look at the line. An eclectic mix of ages, races, body sizes, and dispositions. Some were chatting softly, while others were quiet to the point of reverence. Bored senseless? Scared shitless?
Then it was her turn.
She pushed the black drape aside and stepped into a space dominated by four full-color photographs. All bigger than life. Two propped against the wall on the floor and the other two hung a foot from the floor. They stretched nearly to the ceiling.
She stopped at a photo of a young woman kneeling, a ball strapped into her mouth, a leather harness capturing her body. A real chain fell from the woman’s collar in the photograph. In front of the large mounted poster was a small white pedestal. The model’s eyes were unmasked; her knees were spread, her chin up, and her gaze downcast. The real chain drooped from the collar in the photograph and was draped across a small white pedestal where Pam stood. A small leather loop on the end dangled so the observer could pick it up. On the floor were two black shoe prints with a legend: STAND HERE.
How much would she do? How many demands can be made of her?
While intriguing, the thought wasn’t titillating.
The next photo was the same. The only difference was the subject. A man. His harness included a loop that wrapped the base of his hard cock, pointing it up at whoever stood at the podium, and lifted the leather pull of his chain. His knees were together, but the rest of his pose was identical. Chin up, eyes down, arms disappearing around his back.
Would he do more than she would? Would he do me with another man? Better yet, would he do the other man for me? Am I sick because the thought titillates?
The third photograph was the old woman who dominated a man in an earlier photograph. She wore a leather corset with half cups where her withered breasts rested. The triangle of a leather G-string covered her pubic bone, and long leather boots covered her legs up to midthigh. The old woman’s arms were spindly, her skin blotched with liver spots, and her hands gnarled. The leathery skin above her breasts was brown, her neck wrinkled, her gullet covered in flappy folds of skin. But it was her eyes that captivated. Proud. Defiant. Decidedly dominant.
Pam looked away.
A real chain drooped from the old woman’s gnarled outstretched hand and fell to the floor, where it ended in a leather collar that rested on a red silk pillow. In front of the pillow was a rubber mat with marks that depicted the knees of someone kneeling.
Pam felt hot and uncomfortable and moved on.
At the last photograph, she found him. The man of the ornate opera mask, the top half of his face hidden. He wore a leather G-string that did little to hide his manhood, his half-hard cock shoved sideways, trying to break loose. His muscled legs and strong arms were covered in a carpet of curly fur. His chin was strong, chest broad and equally muscled. Another real chain fell from one hand and ended just like the previous photo’s chain in a leather collar on a red silk pillow.
Pam looked around to make sure she was alone. With trepidation, she stepped forward and kneeled. Looking up at the imposing figure, she blushed. Her fingers trembled when she reached for the collar and brought it to her neck. Not a real collar, it was a spring-loaded faux that snapped around her neck in one size that fit all. When she looked down her body, the first thing she saw was the shiny chrome chain floating below her chin.
Recalling the first photograph of the woman on her knees, she moved her hands behind her back and clasped them tightly. She opened her knees, raised her chin, and looked down across her cheeks. Then she saw it.
Along the floor was a strip of poster board with words printed in bold black letters. A message that would only be noticed by those who obeyed.
THIS IS WHO YOU ARE. DO NOT DENY IT. EMBRACE IT.
Pam shivered. She wanted to look but was afraid to. But she had
to look. She needed to know the face of the man who could dominate her even through a photograph. When she finally chanced a glance, she was disappointed. The feathered opera mask was still in place. Only black was visible through the eyeholes. She cursed the figure that dominated her.
I’d do anything for you, and I hate you. Another man? Four? Would I do a woman? Would I let a woman do me? Is it about the person who submits or the one who makes the demands?
Someone cleared their throat and she jerked, making the chain sing. Pam blushed and looked around to find the leather-clad girl leaning around the curtain to whisper.
“I’m sorry. There are a lot of other people waiting.
She grabbed the collar from her neck and threw it on the floor in front of the picture. His picture
. Pam jumped to her feet and ran past the girl. She shot into another brightly lit room, where waiters circulated handing out more wine and geometrically perfect cheese cubes. Goose-stepping her way past Jolie, who was talking to someone, Pam headed for a side entrance and practically ran headlong into the cold, snowy night, where she was finally able to breathe again.