26 May 2003
When she has about twenty pages left to read the waitress comes over and unobtrusively asks Zofie whether she's ok, whether she'd like to sit out back in the kitchens and talk to someone or have the café call her a taxi. Zofie apologises for the noise if she's disturbing other customers; the waitress insists that no, she's been quite quiet, but the staff noticed that she seemed very upset and were simply concerned about her. If she's ok then - Zofie apologises again and says she'll leave when after she finishes what she's reading.
Zofie has been silently weeping since she hit the three-quarter mark of the book. The waitress was right - there has been no noise for the past hour as the tears have streamed down her face, as her nose has reddened and her eyelids swelled. Even in the act of blowing her nose Zofie has kept the sound of her trauma to a minimum. Each page that she reads provides more insight into her condition and further recognition into what she is. In the few hours that she has been in the coffee shop Zofie has been shown the nature of her self, the consequences if left unchecked, and the long but uplifting road to salvation. She is unexpectedly reminded of a scene in her favourite teen vampire film: the beautiful blond man with his gang on a California beach, leather trenchcoat blowing in the sea breeze and blood dripping down his chin, as he tells his newest cowering recruit "Now you know what we are. Now you know what you are". Now she knows what she is.
Zofie finishes. Dazed, she stares out of the window for - how long? There is too much rushing through her head. She remembers buying the book and the clerk at the till commenting on it; he'd thought it was good but "kind of kinky" and that the ending was unexpectedly sympathetic. She uses the restrooms to clean herself up - she might be able to pass it off as hayfever if her housemates are still up when she gets home. When she returns to her table the bill is there but scrawled across it in red it says: "Call this a freebie. We hope it's all going to be OK - please take care in getting home". This smallest gentlest act of kindness is nearly enough to start Zofie's tears again.
In the walk home everything which was previously familiar is different. Looking up at the incredibly clear night sky Zofie realises that it is much later than she previously thought. The stars and the view across the valley, and the sound of the night-birds is changed. Her breathing has changed. More irritatingly she is starting to develop a post-crying headache.
On her return, the house is dark. Zofie brews a mug of peppermint tea and finds some ibuprofen and takes them back out onto the porch. Unexpectedly the stars and the night air are still there. So much has changed that evening that Zofie does not expect consistency. The smell of salt in the air gives her her geographical placing - is this still her town? Are these still her feet and her hands? There is so much to think about. Now she knows what she is. Will she become like the women in the books; books bought, she thought, for mild erotic entertainment but now she sees the whole picture and wonders why she didn't realise sooner. What will she become? Zofie is a scientist and she needs to extrapolate to the endpoint, to the end of the graph. Will she become bound, blinded, gagged, unable to breathe or walk, held to the tender mercies of a stranger or (dare she hope), someone she loves?
Some time previously Zofie had entered into a highly ill-advised love affair with a previously platonic friend. The sexual and emotional nature of the liaison had increased by increments. Previous to it Zofie had found it hard to imagine seeing Hannah in any physical context; the concept of she and Hannah's lips touching, or indeed doing anything beyond hugging was strange and slightly disturbing. After their first tentative kisses which lead to fully-clothed hours of snogging, Zofie rethought this; kissing Hannah was now real and good, but touching her below the neck in any sexual context was odd. As the relationship developed, so the boundaries were edged further and further away from the initial platonic centre. Seeing and touching Hannah without their tops and jeans on was odd; then being with her without their underwear was odd; then Zofie going down on Hannah was odd; then Hannah going down on Zofie was odd. By the time the affair reached its messy conclusion - the sex was wonderful but Hannah was unable to cope with the growing emotional attachment - Zofie had spent hours wandering around various sex emporiums wondering whether the use of anything double-ended and vibrating would be pushing things that bit too far.
Now of course glorious hindsight indicates that purchasing double-ended vibrating blue things might serve her well in what she is about to become. Will there be the same gradual expansion in her activities from mild games to full-blown living of it? She has a sudden rush of trivial worries. Does she need a membership card? Are there membership cards? Secret handshakes? A knowing look in the eye which will give her identity away to those in the know?
It is incredibly late now. The tea is cold and her headache has subsided, and Zofie is now suddenly very very tired. She gathers her belongings and heads back into the house. There will be time to think on this in the morning.