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     It starts like this.
     I say, men are shits. He waits for me to say more. I'm quiet. Maybe I shift in my chair. Maybe I tug on my skirt or run my fingers through my hair. Okay, I'll own it, I say, I don't feel safe with men.
     You chose a male therapist, he says. This is an old conversation. It varies little with us. I think he's waiting for me to vary it. I'd like to, but I don't know how yet.
     I don't feel comfortable with women, either, I say. Women? I don't know anything about women. Men, I know. They're the enemy.
     I know he's thinking well, I'm a man, what about me? Why the hell doesn't he just ask? He doesn't. Fine, I say to myself then aloud, I feel safe with you. There. Okay?
     I think he knows what I'm thinking.  That's how well he knows me. He knows I feel safe with him. I haven't let a man touch me for two years, but I feel safe enough for him to touch me. If he touched me, I could be alive again. He can make it safe for me to feel again. I need to melt. He can be the heat.
     He's so formal, coat and tie, polished loafers. But I like loosening ties.
     When is he going to say something?
     He'd like to touch me. I know when men want me. Sometimes I know it even before they do. He wants me. I want him.
     He wants me.
     And I want him to want me. It makes it safer, somehow.
     We've been here before.
     I tell him I have fantasies of seeing him outside the office. He says, you have a pattern of enticing men to respond to you sexually. I translate: you're saying I try to get men to come on to me? He nods, stays formal. It's not necessary to repeat that pattern with me, he assures me, this relationship is different. Given your past, he says, it shouldn't surprise either of us that you are trying to generate sexual intimacy between us. But in this relationship, it's something we can work to understand, not a destructive pattern to act out again.
     You use sex as a currency, he tells me, as he has many times. Treasure your femininity, he says, don't barter it.
     He says again that he won't gratify my old needs.
     But he wants to. They always want to. Anyway, this relationship is different. He said so himself. We both know it.
     His office is warm. The afternoons are short. The light in the office is muted by night.
     It's only five feet between our chairs. May as well be a mile. But my desire, I think, can reach across it.
     He watches me, waiting.  I watch, too. His chest, I think, rises a millimeter higher with each breath. That's how I know I'm his. 
     I get up slowly, all hesitation I don't feel. My eyes are glued to his. His are always glued to mine. They never wander. But I do.
     Now, I do.
     His eyes stay locked on where mine are supposed to be. For a moment, as I rise, they stray to my breasts, and then, as I stand, he stares at my crotch.
     His eyes are surprised. I say, you're too far away.  I step once and lower myself to the edge of the table that's off the side, between our chairs. I don't bother to tug down my skirt. Our knees are less than a foot apart. That's better, I say.
     Time passes. But not much. He asks me, a barely detectable crack in his voice, to get back in my chair. Before he's done with his request my hand is on his knee. I say, you're the only one who cares about me, really cares about me. He closes his eyes for an instant longer than a blink. My fingers are moving.
     He takes my hand and removes it. He is trying so hard to do what he keeps telling himself is right. He asks again for me to go back and sit down. He says, go back. He says, please. We need to talk about this, he says. Instead I move from the table and sit on the arm of his chair.  I embrace him. One of my breasts is pressing against his shoulder.
     This is right. I'm his.
     He says my name. There's a melody in it I've never heard before. Something is dissolving.  There's a plea in his voice. A plea for what? He doesn't know yet. I know.
     The power has shifted.
     I didn't plan this for tonight. This won't stop with an embrace. It never does. My underwear isn't what I would have chosen. Oh well. He won't see it long.
     His pleas continue. He tells me to get back in my chair. He says, don't, as I unbutton my blouse and shed it. This is destructive, he says, as I tug on his tie.
     I hear him, but I don't hear him. Why?
     Because I need him. Because he wants me. I have to respond to that. I must. He's nurtured me, encouraged me, helped me discover me. He wants me is why. And I don't want him to take me. Part of me says he's earned this. I don't want him to leave me.
     And I'll never tell. I've never told.
     His protests dissolve as I reach behind my back and arch my chest toward him. He watches, grateful, as I roll my shoulders forward, first one, then the other. Then I extend my arms, to him, and shrug out of my bra.

 

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Signet Paperback ISBN: 04512128192

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