How she came to be there is anyone’s guess. She could have crept her way in, past whomever it was who might be in charge of governing the guest list, hiding herself under the kind of folds of cloth a woman might wear when she wished to cover.
Not likely. There is nothing about her which seems to have been able to hide anything about who she was and what she might want among such company. She could have simply asked politely to enter, promising that she would only be a moment - speaking her business and being gone before any discomfort would ruin the polite conversation planned with the esteemed guest.
More likely she used what she knew - herself, her long practiced skill, entered into some conversation with the man at the door, not giving up her real intention, promising him some later consideration in exchange for him looking the other way for just a moment. It was the only real currency she knew and all she had to offer that he might want. She had long since shut the door on seeing herself in any other way but the brutality of object.
However it happened, there she was, creating scandal, but of a different kind than she might normally create - before tonight, and would surely have only been that which would have been considered between two consenting adults. This was of a different order. She knew she was walking into enemy territory. The men here knew her, but only in whispered ways - they would be stunned at her presence, drawing a thick line between her and them, so insistent would they be that there was no association here.
She had the look of a woman who knew very clearly what she wanted, even though she was unsure of how it would play out. She had surely planned this, perhaps spending most of the afternoon measuring her courage, the kind of courage which has such a hunger for life that it has become careless to death. There was such a possibility of life, such an acute kind of personal death which might come of this. She didn’t care - rather she cared for only one thing. There was only one thing.
When she entered, she did so soundlessly, counting on the shock and wordlessness of the assembled to allow her the time to reach her quarry. What would she do? Would she speak? Would she wait to be addressed? And then, there she was, outside the ring, wondering if she might pass into uncounsciousness.
He had noticed her as she made her way around the group to his place. Oddly, there was no trace of contempt in his following eyes. She had hoped, but could not have verbalized it. His face was so different than that of the other men. She had seen him before, but only from a distance and only the other day. Now, when he looked at her, any other judgement seemed to fade. She dropped quickly behind him, not from stealth, but from a kind of exhaustion which comes from holding back the force of years. All the blood in her racing heart stopped behind a dam which had seemed unbreachable, until now, was released to her extremities. The flood was complete in it’s purpose, as if all her bodily fluids simply poured without hindrance. This was not weeping. Shaking, convulsive heaving and sobbing took over the polite evening air.
Time lost meaning, unaware as she was of anything but this moment, so lost in hope and the desire to consume - or be consumed. She found herself clutching for the nearest part of him. His desert stained feet she held to her breast, the wet of her tears mixing with the filth of his unwashed skin.
She was kissing. Much more intimate than what would ever have been allowed either of the other or herself. That was the one act which she could not abide, under any circumstance. But this was not meant to arouse the body, not at least in the way she normally would. So different, so unthought.
Nothing about her intentions could be missed. It was falling out of every part of her being. Desperation, desire, pure and shameful extravagance filled the room. She felt utterly naked. She knew naked - it was not something which had normally bothered her, so disconnected had she become from years of trade. But never had she been uncovered as she now was. Nothing was hidden, nothing was held back, she felt visible, but only to him.
He did not flinch. It was as if this was the most natural thing in world. He abided, he did not take his eyes off of her.
The fragrance was unmistakable, bought from the proceeds of, and used in the plying of her trade, the scent of which always had for her a double meaning, never simple, always part of the deal, never simply enjoyed, always used sparingly. Now it was pure waste. Now, it seemed, the perfume had found it’s true home. The whole flask, every drop was co-mingling with sweat and tears and dirt of this time.
She had no where to go, no plan to carry her to the next step.
The other men in the room were silent, some with almost a kind of secret envy, never before had they seen such comfort. The silence of the others was more sinister, working out the details of their next move - this display could not be abided. Surely this man did not know her - did he? He was a respected teacher. Never before had they seen such abasement.
The whirring cascade of sight, sound and smell was broken by his words, as if all darkness which ever was had lain in wait for the blinding light of the morning.
“Do you see this woman?”, he spoke to the host, not taking his eyes off of her. See her? He could smell her, her shameless presence filling the room. But he did not see her. He could see only himself, so lost was he in every moment of his life now crushing him with fear and anger and loss for all that he had held as needful.
He went on speaking of kissing, washing, even of adoration! The room had been completely taken over by his voice, as he cut through flesh and bone with the skill of a old butcher. But this voice, this knife was of such beauty and strength that one could not yield, but could only be infuriated or released. Lines were being drawn around this choice.
Never before had she felt that any man had actually seen her, accustomed as she was to giving men only what they wanted to see. It was always part of the deal, she gave them this, they gave her that. His seeing was from a place she knew was different. His seeing made her visible, his words made her real, his face gave her a name.
The gathering broke without ceremony, most men leaving quietly pondering or scheming. The host had tried to recover his face, his honor, but discovered the futility of conjure any words or actions which might promise to return the evening to the way it had begun.
Several days later, she crossed paths on the street with one of the other men in the group. Now, in a reverse repeat of the other evening, her eyes met his, beckoning not bargain but something which in him aroused anger mixed with fear and a splinter of something good which his mind had never considered. His heart hurt in an unwelcome way.
He dropped his eyes and turned away. She did not.