Biteby Anna Mavromati
Ethan wanted to be bitten. The first time he told me to bite him he said I wasn't doing it hard enough. I was nervous about doing it, but when he told me to I sunk my teeth deep into his skin, which felt soft and firm at the same time. I bit down until I thought I tasted blood and then I pulled away.
"I'm not bleeding," he said, touching his neck. It looked shiny from my saliva. "That was the softest bite ever. Come on."
"I really thought you were. I tasted it."
I leaned forward to look at his neck. He wasn't bleeding. My teeth hadn't even left marks in his skin. He propped himself up on his elbows and leaned against the head of his bed.
"Don't freak out," he said. "I'll be fine."
I felt a little like I was a virgin again. I was scared and I was not good at this and I was very aware that both of those things were obvious.
"Do you want to bleed?" I asked. "I mean, is that part of it?"
Ethan shrugged. His dark hair was matted over his eyebrows and it almost made him look mysterious, even though I knew he was just a grocery store cashier who I had been sleeping with for the past two weeks.
"Let's just not worry about it this time," he said. "It's cool. I really just wanted to ask to see if you would do it."
He ran a hand through my tangled hair and pulled me into him.
"But I can do it," I said. "If you want me to. I could do that."
"Don't worry about it."
"Really. I just didn't know you wanted it to hurt like that. But now I can do it."
He held his hands up to his sides and looked like he wanted to laugh at me. But instead of laughing at me he smiled, patted my thigh and asked if I wanted a glass of water.
The next day I Googled "men who like to be bitten" on my computer at work. Some of the links that came up looked pornographic. A couple of news stories about shark attacks showed up too. The few sex advice columns I could find about it said that sensual biting should be done quickly to keep it kind of painless, and they also said to avoid making ugly slurping sounds while doing it.
One of my co-workers, Tuesday, called out to me from her cubicle, where she was eating a turkey sandwich.
"What how-to is that for?" she said.
Most of the data entry we did for our company—which was vaguely titled "Online Brands"—was for how-to columns and other informational articles. They were really more like lists of links to other websites where people could get information, but we called them "how-to columns" and "informational articles" anyway.
Most of our how-to topics came from popular Google searches. I was actually supposed to be looking up how to vacuum a bullet before I went on my lunch break.
"Some popular searches are out there about biting skin," I lied. "Like, in a sexual way. So I've just been looking into that."
"Sick," Tuesday said, and I couldn't tell if she meant that in a good way or a bad way.
Tuesday was a few years older than me—almost thirty—and was already divorced with two kids. She had a round, soft face and a tattoo of a Celtic knot on the back of her neck.
"So what's the question?" she asked. "Like, how to do it right?"
"I guess so. Maybe why people like to do it too."
"People like to do all kinds of things."
"Do you bite?"
Tuesday scratched at the side of her nose with a long, pink fingernail.
"Maybe sometimes," she said.
"I don't know," she said. "It depends. I'm not fucking Dracula."
Most everyone else had gone out for lunch and the office was an empty maze of cubicles and file cabinets. When the office wasn't empty it was just as quiet here though, I realized, but with more typing. It didn't seem to matter whether any of us were ever really here or not.
"It's been a while," Tuesday said. She breathed out a heavy sigh and raised her eyebrows. "I bit my husband sometimes, when we were married. I just did it every once in a while. I never really thought it was a big deal at the time."
"Do you think it's a big deal now?"
Tuesday didn't answer and she turned to her desk to take another bite of her sandwich. Her hair was pinned up in a bun and the black tattoo on her neck was visible. Sometimes when she was busy on her computer and I didn't think she would notice I would stare at the back of her neck and try to follow the course of one of the interwoven lines of the Celtic knot. I always got lost in it, though. The lines were just so intricately connected, weaving in and out of each other and looping around.
I thought about when I pulled away from Ethan after I thought I'd made him bleed. Something about it was still a little scary and exciting to me.
"I never bit any of my old boyfriends," I said. "I'd never even thought about it."
Tuesday turned her chair to face me, holding her sandwich in both hands. She was chewing and staring thoughtfully in the direction just to the left of me.
"I also have to look up how to vacuum a bullet off the floor," I said. I chewed my bottom lip as I watched Tuesday eat her sandwich. "I hope the boys are doing OK, by the way."
I'd never met Tuesday's sons, but I always thought it was polite to ask about them whenever I ended up talking to Tuesday at work. So far we had only really talked about four times before. This was the fifth time.
"They're with their dad this week," Tuesday said, still not quite looking at me or at anything at all. "They've been doing a lot of that 'male bonding' thing lately. And we've already got the bullet thing covered from a few months back. You just have to watch out for the back end of the bullet—that's where it's explosive. People don't think about that."
She crossed and then uncrossed her legs and took another bite of her sandwich. The florescent lighting in the office made her look more pale than usual which somehow made her look like she was ten years older.
"I could go out and get a drink with you sometime," I said. "If you're at home alone this week, I mean. If you want to get out and talk to somebody, we could go get a drink."
She looked up at me like she was a bit confused and I felt the heat rising to my face. We didn't really hang out outside of work. I'd only been working here for a month and nobody in this office ever seemed to go out like that. I hardly knew anyone else's name here, other than the people in the cubicles nearby me and my boss, and I knew that most of the other people who worked here didn't know my name either.
"Yeah, maybe," Tuesday said in a nonchalant way that I took to mean 'no.'
Then we talked a little about the weather and how one of her boys was joining a soccer team.
While Tuesday was talking I found a message board thread about sexual biting. It was on some sort of health website.
At first I didn't like it, the anonymous poster wrote, but now I keep getting so turned on by it. Is there a scientific reason for this or something?
I scrolled through the responses.
"So have you ever bitten anyone who wasn't your boyfriend?" Tuesday asked. I think she was saying it jokingly, but I couldn't really tell.
A user named fancyjen039 wrote on the thread, It's perfectly normal, honey. You just got a fetish is all. One guy I was with once wanted me to wear a plaid schoolgirl skirt to bed EVERY night. I understand some of the time, but really EVERY night? You just gotta find somebody whose also just as into it.
I turned to Tuesday and saw that she was smirking at me a bit, her eyes squinting slightly. It was a curious, funny look.
I smiled at her politely.
"Sorry, I guess," Tuesday said. "But since you'd brought it up, I just thought I'd ask. Have you ever bit anyone at all?"
"I don't think my teeth are very sharp," I said. "Sometimes I even have trouble chewing steak. Like, I feel like I can't chew it to make it soft enough."
Tuesday raised her eyebrows and blinked like she didn't know how to respond to that.
"One time," she said, "I bit this kid on the ear when I was little. I mean, I really bit him during this fight we had. It was bad. He was all fucked up and he had to get stitches. I was a nasty little kid."
"Why did you do that?"
Tuesday's eyes were bright reflecting the florescent lights. This is the most I had ever really spoken to her since I started working here.
"I was just a fucked up little kid," she said. "He said something that made me mad and I wanted him to pay for it. And I wanted him to remember me making him pay for it."
Another commenter, a mick, posted on the message board thread, This is called masochism and its considered a mental illness. The girl biting you is sadistic, which is also considered a mental illness. Have fun being mentally ill together if that's ur thing.
I closed the window.
"I guess that's why I don't have any friends from grade school," Tuesday said. "Or many friends in general. I was in a lot of foster homes. I think that's part of why I was such a fucked up little kid, you know?"
I didn't really know, but I nodded anyway. I grew up in a boring Maryland suburb with the same boring, happily married parents my entire childhood. They only called me every few weeks now to hear me say that everything was going fine.
"I don't talk to my friends from college that much anymore," I said. "A lot of them are still in Maryland anyway, but it's weird. It's like we didn't really have much of a connection anymore after we weren't just stuck being in the same place. Sometimes I wonder if we would have really been friends if we'd just met out in the world somewhere."
"Like where?" Tuesday said.
"I don't know. Somewhere where we would really connect together, like, mentally. Maybe in Africa or something."
"I think my husband wanted to visit Africa," she said.
Half of Tuesday's sandwich was sitting on her desk, uneaten. She was scrolling through links on her computer screen, ignoring it. Looking at the half a sandwich was making me hungry, and I wanted to ask her if I could have it, but even after a conversation like the one we were having right now, I still wasn't sure I knew her well enough to ask her that comfortably.
"It must be really tough to have to share custody of the kids," I said. "I'm sorry. I can't imagine that."
I really couldn't imagine it. I felt so far away from how that must feel that the words I was saying came out sounding empty, like something I was just saying to be polite.
Tuesday waved a hand in the air, as if lazily swatting at a fly. I wondered if this was something she'd heard people say a thousand times, which is also what I wondered the time I asked her why her parents had named her 'Tuesday' and she just stared at me blankly and said, "It's just a name."
A few people filed out of the elevator and were returning to their cubicles around us. Tuesday hunched over her keyboard with one of her long nails pressed to her lips.
"I don't know if I believe that people in Africa feel more connected," Tuesday said. "That sounds like some bullshit to me. But, hell, who knows?"
For the rest of the week Tuesday pretty much ignored me. Throughout the day I would ask her how she was doing, and once I even offered to take her out to get that drink again, but she didn't respond to me very much.
"I still hardly know anyone in LA," I said. "So I really wouldn't mind going out sometime."
Tuesday shrugged and didn't look up for her computer screen. The monitor's glow made her face look kind of blue. She pulled out her earphones.
"You don't even go out on any dates?" she asked.
I hadn't heard from Ethan since the previous weekend, and although that was normal for us, every week the thought crossed my mind that the last time we were together might be the last time I would ever see him. It would either be because he wasn't interested in having sex with me anymore, because he got busy and forgot about me, because he started having sex with or dating someone else, or possibly because he had suddenly and unexpectedly just died.
"Sometimes, something like that, sure," I said.
When Ethan and I first met during my first time going out at bar downtown I found out he went to a university near where I had gone to high school, and we thought we might have a few acquaintances in common if we were thinking about the same people. The bar was a dive with cloudy, water-stained glasses and neither of us have gone back there again.
Tuesday held out an open palm, like she was offering me something invisible.
"Then there you go," she said. "You know someone."
"I don't think I really know him though," I said. "I mean, it isn't like that."
"Is he seeing somebody else? That's what I found out my husband was doing."
I stared at her. I didn't know whether or not Ethan was seeing somebody else, but something about the way Tuesday asked the question made me realize that the answer had to be that he was.
"Forget him," I said, not sure whether I was talking about Ethan or her ex-husband. "We'll go out sometime. We'll have fun and take our mind off of these things."
Tuesday cocked her head to one side and looked up at me. She was pretty in her own way, but she was one of those people who you could just look at and tell that they hadn't had an easy life. She wasn't that skinny, although she wasn't really fat either—she was just thick, like she was wearing armor beneath the black pullover sweater she wore to work.
"No offense, kid, but I'm kind of doing my own thing," she said.
She put her earphones back in and probably didn't hear me when I said, "Oh. Yeah, well, me too, I guess."
She turned back to her monitor again and I realized the glow it cast on her expressionless face made her look a little ghostly. I probably looked this way when I was at my computer too.
As I walked back to my own cubicle I could see that she was watching a movie on the screen. It was the old black and white "Dracula," and Bella Lugosi was creeping toward an unconscious woman's bed. I turned away because I already knew what happened next.
Ethan called me and invited me over that weekend. It was late Saturday night and I showed up wearing a black mini-dress, as if I was coming by his place after a party.
I climbed on top of Ethan and straddled him, playing with the waistband of his pants, biding my time before I tried sinking my teeth into his neck again. I felt like a cat playing with its prey before going in for the kill. It was a powerful feeling.
Maybe after sex I could casually ask him if he was seeing other people, without accidentally implying that I would ever want a relationship with him myself. I didn't know if it would bother me if he said he was dating around, but it also wouldn't bother me if he assured me that he wasn't. Maybe during sex I would scan his skin for other people's bite marks. Or maybe if he had sex with someone else tomorrow, she would be scanning his skin for marks from me.
"It's so nice to know someone here," I said, unbuttoning his shirt. "Being the new girl is weird. There are so many people in this city that sometimes it makes me feel more alone than usual."
Ethan reached around my back and struggled to unhook my bra.
I was feeling kind of nervous about telling him all of that, but I was also feeling grateful that Ethan wasn't my boyfriend and would probably never be my ex-boyfriend or my ex-husband in the future.
I leaned forward and put my mouth against his shoulder. I figured now was as good enough time to start as any. I closed my eyes and bit into him as hard as I could, clamping my jaws together fast, forcefully. It took me a few seconds to realize he was shouting.
"Ow, hey—hey, wait, Alex—ow" he said.
I dropped my jaw to release the bite and pulled away. Ethan gingerly put a hand to his shoulder, frowning.
"Jesus," he said. "That really hurt."
I smiled at him. He kept his hand held over his bitten skin.
"I think you might have actually drawn blood or something," he said.
"That's what you wanted, right?"
"You wanted me to bite you. Harder than the last time, right?"
"I just didn't think you'd do it like that," he said.
I slid off of his lap and sat on the bed beside him. He had a very plain room and I was never able to get much of a sense of his personality from it. He had a cluttered desk with his laptop on it and some old sports magazines and mail. He had a bed. He had a TV set that I'd never seen him turn on. My own closet-sized apartment wasn't much better. I still hadn't even finished unpacking from my move from the east coast yet.
"I just thought it might be fun for us," I said, "if I actually did it this time. You know?"
Ethan's eyebrows were low, so low I could see them below where his hair would stick to his forehead when he started to sweat.
"Oh," he said. He turned his head awkwardly to look at his shoulder. I could definitely see the imprint of my teeth in his flesh this time. His skin looked pink and sore. He looked up at me and in a way he had never looked at me before. He looked at me for a long time like he was studying me—the way someone looks when they're reading a book or trying to figure out why a faucet is leaking. I realized that I was probably looking at him the same way. He looked a little bit different to me when he made such a serious expression. Somehow, now when I looked at him, I could tell that he probably looked really unassuming and friendly when he was ringing up an old woman's vegetables at the grocery store. I could see how he must have looked when he was a kid too, with the same shaggy hair and slightly puffier cheeks. He probably told the other kids he could jump farther off of the swing set than he actually could. A lot of boys at my elementary school did that.
"Will you bite me now?" I asked.
"Really hard like that?"
"It's probably going to leave a mark."
"Just do it. I'll like that."
He leaned in close and I could feel his breath on my neck. He moved slowly, like he was hesitating, but he didn't pull away. I closed my eyes and I waited for it to hurt.