Jennifer's Mother: Part Two

Bound and Gagged

     The tall man turned to Mrs. Taylor who, sensing her knowledge of the house was about to be exploited, rose promptly. “May I help you?” she chirped in parody of a chambermaid.

     “You’re the tour guide, sweetheart.” He stepped behind her and, gripping her by the upper arm, pushed her out of the room.

     The stocky guy, the one with the rope, turned to me. “On the floor, kid.”

     Normally, I’d have bristled at that—the “kid” part, I mean. At 23, I no longer considered myself a juvenile. But under the circumstances, the belittling appellation had no more sting than an individual snowflake in a blizzard.

     “Hands behind your back,” he grunted.

     With my cheek pressed to the hardwood floor, I crossed my wrists behind my back. Kneeling over me, he tied them, fashioning a vice-like grip. Then, with equal effectiveness, he bound my feet.

     “Roll over and sit up.”

     I rolled onto my side and jackknifed into a sitting position.

     He unwound the bundle of rope, then began rewinding it—around me. First, he tied my legs together above the knees, then tugged the rope up and wrapped it around my waist. Then he pulled it up yet further to restrict my arms around the chest and shoulders. In the process, he fashioned a kind of harness, immobilizing me from ankles to shoulders.

I must have been terrified, Goldberg noted.

I shrugged. Yes and no, I said. By this time, I felt the intruders only wanted to rob the place. Becoming helpless was scary but, in a way, reassuring too: Once I was tied up, the burglars would have nothing to fear from me, hence, no reason to inflict harm.

The psychiatrist nodded.

Recalling the advice I’d heard about striking up a rapport with your captor if you ever find yourself kidnapped, I tried to initiate a friendly give-and-take.

How did the burglar respond? Goldberg asked.

He stuffed a cloth into my mouth, I said.

I stared down at the beige carpet, dejected all of a sudden as I remembered how I’d let the brute penetrate my mouth, wedging a wad of cloth in between my tongue and palate. As a boy, I’d always imagined myself in the hero’s role, like Superman rescuing Lois Lane or Clint Eastwood vanquishing the bad guys. Some hero I was!

I guess I'm a wimp, I said.

“Michael…” Goldberg leaned toward me in a show of support. “What could you have done?”

I was in a terrifying situation, she pointed out. And I’d done the right thing. Resistance could have provoked violence, which might well have harmed both Mrs. Taylor and me.

I smirked. I knew she was only trying to shore up my spirits. That, after all, was what I was paying her to do.

Okay, I sighed. Let me go on.

After stuffing my mouth, he wrapped it with duct tape. (I made a circular motion with my hand to illustrate how he went around my jaws and the back of my head with the tape.) Round and round, about half a dozen times, I recalled. He did a thorough job. And as if that weren’t enough, he wrapped a white cloth over the tape, knotting it behind my nape.

Goldberg made a sour face.

So there I was, I said—sitting on the floor at the foot of that loveseat, bound and gagged. I thought he’d leave me alone then, but he wasn’t finished. He ordered me back on my stomach. I wondered why.

With my cheek on the floor, this time cushioned by the gag around my jaws, I lay, puzzled. Then I felt my knees bend. My feet were drawn up and back, suspended from the ropes hugging my shoulders near the back of my neck.

I was hogtied? Goldberg asked.

I nodded.

With my heart pounding against the parquet floor, I lay with my cheek to the hardwood facing the entrance to the den, when Mrs. Taylor returned. The sight of me on my stomach with my feet in the air, rigged as thoroughly as any fishing boat that ever sailed, must have delivered a shock. I thought I detected the hint of a tremor ripple through her, an all but imperceptible widening of the eyes and dilation of the pupils. But if so, she recovered instantly.

“Well!” she let out a little gasp. “I guess it’s my turn.”

Donning a brave smile, she addressed the guy with the rope. “I’d like a comfortable fit. Are you the tailor?”

He told her to shut her smart mouth. The guy behind her growled out a name denoting female canine then shoved her further into the den.

When the binding and gagging were complete, we lay prostrate, side by side, facing left with our cheeks to the floor. Since I lay to her right, I could see her as well as picture myself. We must have resembled sister ships docked parallel to each other, our calves rising behind our buttocks like flagstaffs mounted in our sterns.

Obviously affected by my description, Goldberg shook her head. It wasn’t painful, she hoped—being hogtied like that.

Actually, I said, it wasn’t painful at all. In a purely physical sense, it was strangely pleasant or, at any rate, comfortable. That was the problem. I wished for pain—a little pain at least.

Goldberg looked uneasy.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I chuckled. I’m not one of those… What do you call them?

Masochists? she suggested.

Yeah, that’s right. I was no masochist. But having a little pain would have dignified the experience.

She cocked her head, not sure she understood.

I mean, I said, you can admire someone who endures hardship. Enduring hardship’s the stuff of heroism. But there I was, tied up like a calf at a rodeo—and perfectly comfortable.

Envisioning myself bound and gagged like that, I smirked at the beige carpet.

Sensing my feelings, Goldberg leaned forward. “Michael…”

I waved her back.

It wasn’t my fault, she insisted. I’d been overpowered, assaulted against my will…

I smirked. She might be a psychiatrist, but she wasn’t a man. How could she understand? I drew in a deep breath and let it out, as if self-loathing could be expelled that way.

After tying us up, I went on, they left, departing the way they’d come—through the front door. We heard their footsteps on the tiles of the vestibule followed by the door pulled shut.

Mrs. Taylor lifted her cheek off the floor and, with her chin barely above it, craned her neck around. I, who’d been gazing into the glossy, buttery-blond locks covering the back of her neck, now found myself looking into her eyes.

In an act of chivalry askew from his main intent, the burglar had avoided wrapping tape around her jaws. That would have required taping her hair down behind her neck, which would later have compelled cutting the affected locks to remove the tape. Instead, he’d applied discrete strips of tape to her lower face so that it now resembled a boarded-up store front. Some strips ran diagonally across the corners of her nose. Others plastered her cheeks horizontally. One cupped her chin, forming a sort of chin strap.

Above this mess of tape her eyes appeared, sensual, pure, and blue, like a pair of lakes glassy-smooth beneath a welkin sky. I felt pricked: Jennifer had those eyes. The very same. I’d seen them just days ago, when we lay together under the old poplar tree in the park.

Now, those eyes were gazing at me again, but they weren’t hers. They were her mother’s. Captivated by the similarity, I watched as those eyes seemed to deepen, like the color of water beneath a changing sky, acquiring a slightly darker tincture of blue.

I moaned into my gag. Was she all right?

She nodded slowly, purring like a sleepy cat.

In the corner, a grandfather clock marked out time. But except for its barely audible tick-tock, silence blanketed the house.

We stared at each other, guessing each other’s thoughts. Had the burglars really departed? Would they return? Should we begin to test our bonds?

Or wait?

Seiler Seiler
56-60, M
Sep 1, 2012