Licking Our Wounds

Licking Our Wounds

by Elise D'Haene

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781497626379
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 05/27/2014
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 204
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Licking Our Wounds is Elise D’Haene’s first novel. An excerpt was published in the anthology Blood Whispers Two: LA Writers on AIDS, edited by Terry Wolverton. A work of short fiction, “Married,” was a winner in the 1994 Hemingway Short Story Competition and appeared in the literary journal Modern Word. Another story, "Self‑Deliverance," appeared in Hers: Brilliant New Fiction by Lesbians, published by Faber and Faber.

Read an Excerpt


I just had a pitiful orgasm. It doesn't even qualify as full-fledged. Let's just call it an org. It was fast, less than a minute to cum, and before the first beat of the clitoral tom-tom sounded, tears were pouring down my cheeks. Emotional cumming. The ache was loss and as soon as I conjured up a picture of your sweet sweet face and those moony eyes, well, all was lost. My vagina misses you too, like my heart, and both of us spilled forth, gushed tears and wet cum like two blubbering babies hungry for a nipple. What's that song say? I'm a whimpering simpering child, romance finis, and all that shit.

I had to try again, and since necessity is the mother of invention, I pulled out the electric toothbrush (you took the vibrator) to shudder speedily across my clitoris; not the bristles, but the smooth blue side of the toothbrush.

Nothing happened. My vagina packed up and left no forwarding address.

"I just can't stand the pain no longer," she said, as she boarded the bus and headed nowhere in particular.

Cup, I tried all my best material. You sucking me, engaged in serious mouth-to-clit resuscitation as your fingers skitter and slide all over and I beg you to enter me and wear me like a glove. Didn't even get wet. Dry as chalk and sore like slamming your palm on hot cement trying to break a fall from a bike that's too big. Shouldn't have been riding it in the first place.

Now, Cup, I'm lying here -- alone. My DKNY black skirt is pushed up around my waist, my DKNY black tights scrunched at my ankles, an electric toothbrush dangling like a sorry limp cock between my legs, and I'm screaming in my head, "Mona! Come back littleMona, please come back."

I remember the first time I told you that I named my vagina Mona, because it sounded like sorrow, like the word melancholy, and you laughed and then asked me to come up with a name for yours, and without missing a beat, I said, "How about Lizzie, as in Borden?"

After you squeezed my inner thigh until I apologized, you said, "Amelia, I'll call her Amelia."

Sure enough, you and Amelia have flown away and disappeared and my Mona's taken flight too, and I'm lying in a wrinkled heap, in my funeral outfit, fresh from another memorial service and I don't know where to turn.

The only thing I want is your head buried between my legs.

I call Christie and tell her there is no way I can show up tonight to pass out meals to dying people. She made that noise I so cherished when we were lovers: Fuck you meets I'm disappointed meets you're so pathetic. Of course, she's secretly thrilled that you're gone, Cup, and thinks I deserve every excruciating moment of anguish that's coming to me.

After she discharged that noise, she says, "It's important to keep commitments, Maria, at least it's important to some people."

(Fuck you.) "I wish I had your strength, Christie," I say. "I gotta go now, the dogs are threatening to eat me unless I take them for a walk. Bye."

Molly and Sadie are sleeping peacefully on either side of me, unaware that I've used them, shamelessly, to get away from Christie Madigan, whom I've come to refer to simply as "the Vatican." She has that awful effect on me, that quavering air of superiority. Her spiritual plane is soaring; mine hasn't even left the runway.

Christie was my first real relationship. Two years of dried flowers, lazy cats, antique quilts, oatmeal, and homemade bread. We lived in a wood cottage in Silverlake. It was cozy. We shared hushed quiet orgasms, tender and loving. We cuddled a lot.

After a year, I started having fantasies of squatting on the antique quilt and taking a shit. The only music I would listen to was Billie Holiday and Janis Joplin. I worshiped Sylvia Plath and I wanted my life to be a loaded gun, not a loaf of rosemary bread. I hated myself for hating it. I felt there was something bad inside of me for wanting to escape lazy cats, pots of dried flowers, and fruit tea. This was B.C., before you, Cup. Before death too.

I strip off my funeral gear and put a T-shirt on sans underwear. Theoretically, one wears undergarments to protect one's private areas. My privates have gone public, so what's the use?

At the memorial service today, I was thinking how insensitive you are Cup, for not being there to pay your respects. It occurred to me, though, that you probably don't know that Eduardo is dead, and I can't call you because I don't know where you are. Then I realized that Eduardo belonged to Christie's circle, and that you hardly know him, and I hadn't even seen him for over a year, and then it all came crashing down. The only reason I wanted you there today was for me, not him, just so I could hold your hand, and after the service we could come home and go to bed, and forget, for at least those moments, forget that friends are dying, one by one.

Your departure, Cup, is one thing. As for Mona's leave of absence, I don't know what I'll do. I feel as if I've lost a vital organ, and there's no one around with a donor card, offering me a transplant.

I reach over to the bedside table and grab a book from a pile of yard sale paperbacks I bought. Wouldn't you know it, Portnoy's Complaint, the book that began this long whine:

* * *

I'm twelve years old and poring through the pages of the latest paperback I've swiped from my older brother Joseph. Technically, I steal them, if mom finds out, but actually, Joseph puts the books he's done reading in a pile for me at the back of his closet. We have an agreement.

Today I'm reading Portnoy's Complaint. I'm halfway through it, and I still don't know what the complaint is. I don't really understand half of the books Joseph reads, I just stuff the words into my brain.

I'm lying in bed in the middle of a sunny Saturday afternoon. It's hard to find peace and quiet in the house. Noise is constant. Outside, in the backyard, I can hear the high-pitched ting of the ball as it's kicked into the air by my little sister Beth. She squeals and Paul is yelling at her, "Run the bases stupid." They have a regular weekend game of combat kickball with our neighbors, the O'Brien's. They have ten kids in their family, we have seven. Mr. O'Brien and my dad work at the same auto plant.

So, I'm reading away: "While here is a honey of a girl, with the softest, pinkest, most touching nipples I have ever drawn between my lips, only she won't go down on me." I stop. Contemplate the words. Go down on me. Suddenly I find I'm staring at my bedpost. The sleek, shiny wood ball. I put the book down and climb on top, just like getting up on my brother's bike. I bounce a little and swivel and pretend I'm Annette Funicello on the Mickey Mouse Club riding her horse. I gyrate and wriggle and feel the most joyous pleasure imaginable. I'm stunned and wonder, does everybody know about bedposts?

When I climb down, I put my hand between my legs, and I have a big wet spot on my white painter's pants. Did I pee without knowing? I unzip to investigate and scoop up with my fingers a substance that's gooey and sticky and in my twelve-year-old mind I figure this was where Elmer's glue comes from.

I go back to the page:"... it is her pleasure while being boffed to have one or the other of my forefingers lodged snugly up her anus." I stop, again, and dreamily gaze at the bedpost. Boffed? I'll have to ask Joseph what that means.

My mother flings open my bedroom door. I slam my legs shut and my face heats up red. She has a basket of laundry in her arms which she drops to the floor. "Maria, fold these clothes for me."

"Sure, Mom," I grunt, as I carefully cover up the book with my hands, and tightly squeeze my legs.

"What's that you're reading?" She grabs it from my lap. "Joseph!" she screams.

"He's not home, Mom, I stole it from his room."

She glares at me. "I've told you a hundred times, Maria, you are not allowed to read grown-up books." She swats my leg. "Now fold those, and then go outside and play with your brothers and sisters. Go have fun!"

"Okay," I mumble, knowing I have just discovered the most fun thing ever.

She begins to leave, and then turns suddenly. "I'm doing a load of whites, take those off so I can wash them, they're filthy." She's pointing at my pants.

I panic. The wet spot! The Camel nonfilter hidden in my pocket that I also stole from Joseph! "No mom!" I bark, "I just washed 'em!"

She eyes me suspiciously. There's a tense pause. "You kids," she whines, and then leaves.

I love my white painter's pants. They have these little loops on the side where I rest my thumb and pretend to be a cowboy. All these pockets and secret side compartments where I slip my stolen cigarettes and matches. I never get caught. I'm a bookworm, not a brat. I don't get into much trouble, except for stealing Joseph's books. Mostly, I do what I'm told.

I begin taking a lot of baths. All objects, including the bedpost, come to life. Umbrella handles. Shampoo bottles. My little brother's plastic football with the ridges. I am a bookworm, who takes a lot of baths, and does what I'm told.

* * *

When I was a child, I played like a child, I thought like a child. Then there came a day when I left behind my childish ways. This developmental hurdle was ushered in by Helen Gurley Brown and Cosmopolitan magazine.

I'm fourteen and in my parent's bathroom and I'm rummaging through my mom's toiletries. It's become a peculiar habit of mine. I'm a scavenger of all her scents and smells. The sweet aroma of the White Satin perfume my dad gives her every Christmas. The pink bars of Dove soap she buys only for herself. (We kids get plain old Ivory or whatever is on sale.) The box of Calgon blue bath beads, called Midnight Luxury. And, my favorite, Pond's cold cream. My mom's nighttime smell. She used to leave slight traces of it on my cheek or forehead when she'd come into my bedroom, bend over me, and whisper, "Night punkin." I'm too old for that now.

I unscrew the lid, and inhale deeply, dip my finger into the white oily goop and spread it on my cheek, just like her, then wipe it off carefully with a tissue.

I reach way way back in their bathroom cupboard, the top one where my mother puts her stuff to keep it away from us kids. I reach past my mom's makeup bag and her Estee Lauder's gala collection of ten different colored lipsticks, past a basket filled with rose-shaped soaps. Then I push aside the pile of musty old towels we got after grandma died. That's where I found the magazine, hidden where a kid's arm shouldn't be able to reach, unless that kid is me and I've already learned how to balance myself, one leg on the bathtub and one leg on the toilet, in order to snoop.

One of the magazine subscription cards is sticking out like a bookmark. Page forty-six. Sexual Advice for the Seventies Woman, by Dr. Mark Goodman. He has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and works as a consultant to media and television on maximizing sexual appeal. I'm fourteen. I want to maximize anything about me, except my thighs, especially my breasts, and sex appeal?! The doctor is all smiles, he has dark wavy hair, nice long sideburns, a thick moustache and beard and big sensitive eyes just like Cat Stevens.

It was just one word that caught my eye. On page forty-six, in Cosmo magazine, one word that absolutely changed the entire course of my life. There was no fork on this path that diverged in the wood. No pondering, this way or that. I had chanced upon a one-way road. Mark was describing, in detail, cunnilingus. Up till now it was just me rubbing this little spot that felt good. Now, I had a picture in my head, a scene involving another person.

I hesitate. I think of school -- the nuns. Suddenly Sister Rose pops out like toast, in her long black habit, right in my parent's bathroom.

"Leggo of my eggo!" I scream.

"You are turning your back against God and all that is sacred," she roars, pointing that ruler right at my crotch.

Then, I hear Cat Steven's voice, so sweet, so truthful, "Morning has broken, like the first morning, blackbird has spoken, like the first bird..."

Pond's cold cream beckons from the cupboard. I stare at Mark's face, his inviting smile, and Sister Rose dissolves like bath beads.

I read: "A woman's clitoris can be described as her little nub of joy. It is a man's responsibility to understand what I call the woman's clitoral personality." I stop breathing. My eyes bulge. Just a little pitter pats between my legs.

"Place your hands securely around her buttocks, grasp and pull her toward you and tease playfully with the tip of your tongue."

I'm so moved at this point that my legs are starting to shudder, so I slowly make my way over to the toilet to sit down. I'm gripping the Cosmo like I've never gripped the written word before. Mark discusses the clockwise rotation of the tongue interspersed with sucking!!

My bell bottom jeans mysteriously fall to the floor. My J.C. Penny white cotton briefs for girls creep down to my knees. I have a dollop of Pond's on my index finger.

I close my eyes tight. (If I don't see myself do this, then God won't see me either.) The Pond's stings slightly on my clit, my fingers twirl and twirl on my little nub of joy. In my fantasy, the tongue spins around and around. I'm making noises, brand new ones, ones I've never heard before.

Quickly, I reach over to the sink and turn on the faucet to drown out my moans.

I'm breathing so deep my belly extends like a balloon as those lips suck and suck so delicately.

"Sweet the rain's new fall, sunlit from heaven..."

My mind is like a movie screen. I'm lying, splayed across my bed, my butt is being held firmly, the lips come toward me, I raise my supine head in order to see -- to reach my hands out to grasp my made-up lover, and it isn't Dr. Goodman, or Cat Stevens, or the bedpost. It's the model on the cover of the magazine, her name is Cindy, and she has long dark hair and she's wearing a black negligee and her lips are slightly pink from Estee Lauder's Cimmaron Rose.

I'm lost, swirling and swooning in my parent's bathroom in Pond's Now-Warm Cream.

I leap off the toilet, startled and bleary. Those lips in my mind weren't surrounded by a moustache or beard or even stubble. They were all hers, soft and full, slightly glossed with a touch of rose. I knew this was trouble, with a capital T that rhymes with P that stands for pink -- lips.

I grab some tissues and wipe myself. I flush the evidence down the toilet. I flush twice, just to be sure. This sensation washes over me: on the one hand a feeling of such satisfaction, like putting that last piece into a puzzle, and at the same time, a desire to toss the puzzle into the air and start over.

I gaze at the cover. Cindy's poutier and bustier then she was in my mind. I stuff the magazine back where it belongs, hidden under my grandma's musty towels.

When I emerge from my parents' bathroom, into their bedroom, it feels as if I have new eyeballs. My little brother Fitz is sitting on their bed watching Romper Room.

"Are you a good dooby?" he asks, holding my mom's hand mirror toward me.

I don't answer. I ruffle my fingers through his hair, and turn the mirror toward him. "You are, Fitzy," I say. "You're my good dooby."

I hop up on the bed with him and he curls into my lap. When Captain Kangaroo comes on, Fitzy is silent and wide-eyed, he sucks his thumb and giggles when Mr. Green Jeans appears. I fall asleep during the storytelling, and wake up with Fitz pulling my hair, needing to go potty. I take him downstairs, to the kids' bathroom.

He sits unsteady on the edge of the toilet, his little boy stomach pools out as he strains to make himself go.

I'm thinking, as I sit on the floor, hugging my knees to my chest, that Fitzy and I are both crossing over into new territory. We're expanding. Our bones and skin, our eyes, what we see and hear, and most importantly, what we know and understand. New shapes and words and sensations adding to the old, and there's no turning back.

Perched on the toilet, his legs dangling above the floor, Fitzy begins to hum, "Row, row, row your boat," high and sweet, like a girl, and then points to me.

"Gently down the stream," I sing, "Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream."

* * *

A dream, Cup. If only I'd wake up and find you asleep next to me and an eager Mona tucked safely between my legs.

My forefinger is lodged snugly between the pages of Portnoy's Complaint when the doorbell rings. Unlike Mr. Portnoy, there's no spare anus around to lodge into. I open the book slowly and I'm punched by two big bold words: "WHACKING OFF." Shit, Mona.

I hear the door open and I assume it's Christie, here to keep herself company and continue pestering me like a reporter from Hard Copy about why you left, Cup.

"I'm in the bedroom," I yell, figuring Molly and Sadie will do their ferocious dog-being if it's a stranger.

I have the book draped over my eyes, and a wet washcloth over my groin and still no underwear. I moan as I lift the book, so Christie will know just how badly I'm feeling, and staring quizzically at the washcloth on my groin is Peter.

"Peter?" I say, "If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake."

He hands me one of the wrapped meals from Angel Food. "Someone died," he says, "so we had an extra." He bounces down on the bed. "You're tragic!"

I unwrap my meal. Chicken breast, green beans, sweet potato, and a brownie. "What are you doing here?" I ask.

"I came to cheer you up."

"I don't need cheering up." I start to pick at the beans one by one and pop them into my mouth.

Peter grunts. "Look, girl, you've got to forget that old snack, she's gone! Live like I do," he says, then grabs the brownie from my plate.

"Good idea Peter. I think I'll drive over to Griffith Park, climb through the bushes. Suck off some guy, then call it a night. No names, no phone numbers, no sticky sheets."

"Women," he snorts. "Look, Mia, here's my motto: What's too painful to remember, I simply choose to forget."

"I feel better, Peter, thank you."

"You do!?" he smiles widely.

"Yes, I've already forgotten that you're here. I don't know who you are. Now go home. I'll call you tomorrow."

He turns at the door for one last look at me. "Tragic," he says in dismay, "but I love you."

Copyright © 1997 by Elise D'Haene

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