The usual warning: If you don't want to read about my sex life, don't keep reading.
I've been doing readings since 2001 when my story "Monica and Me" was published in Best Lesbian Erotica 2001. That's a long time, and have hosted my monthly reading series since October 2005. You'd think I'd be better at reading or speaking in front of a crowd. But I'm not. I don't have the ease, the ownership, of the stage as you see stage performers or comedians or even other writers do. "Tremulous" was the word I believe Mike Daisey used last night to describe my reading (which you can soon watch and judge for yourselves).
I looked it up at Merriam-Webster:
Main Entry: trem·u·lous
Etymology: Latin tremulus — more at TREMBLE
1 : characterized by or affected with trembling or tremors
2 : affected with timidity : TREMBLE
3 : such as is or might be caused by nervousness or shakiness (a tremulous smile)
4 : exceedingly sensitive : easily shaken or disordered
— trem·u·lous·ly adverb
— trem·u·lous·ness noun
Here's the thing: he's totally right. My voice did and does shake. I'm nervous. I don't dislike it per se, but it's usually not until the moment I get up there that I realize, "Wow, this is really personal and intense." It's why I can read a story like "Lap Dance Lust," which I've read many times to Tsaurah Litzky's erotica class at The New School and at readings, but something like "Your Hand on My Neck," which I read an excerpt of last night, not so much. I guess I feel like I'm the opposite, or try to be, in my writing. Part of why I'm working on these pieces about rough sex is that I want to try to demystify what it's like--or rather, what it's like for me--because I hate the way things like that are perceived or tossed around, like they all evil. It makes a very strong boldface blurb but...what does it really say? But anyway, as much as in my head I can be all, "I'm standing up for us slutty bitches who are into rough sex," when I'm live, in front of people, that's not who I am at all. I'm wishing I'd chosen a safer, easier topic. I'm nervous about what people will think of me after. I'm editing on the fly a piece that's not yet done. I chose to read it at True Sex Confessions Night because it's a true story, my story, anyway. I would love, I would pay for, the top's side of this, the Eliot Spitzer or whoever. I would throw that sucker right into Best Sex Writing 2010 ASAP if I could find the perfect piece about what it's like from the other side. I could, of course, ask the person I do it with but...I haven't yet. That probably says a lot.
Anyway, it's a lot easier to type these words, or blog them, than speak them. The writing, when it comes (which, lately, is rare), it comes unconflicted, raw, pretty much finished when it leaves my head. The writing, in comparison to speaking out loud, is easy, having people look at me and expect entertainment from my twisted words, not so much. Probably always will be that way if the last 8 years are anything to go by. So yes, tremulous, that's me. If you want something else, go to another reading series.
Excerpt, story to be published in the tentatively titled Please, Sir: Erotic Stories of Submission, edited by me, published by Cleis Press, April 2010 (I am still editing the book, please be patient.)
Your Hand on My Neck
by Rachel Kramer Bussel
Your hand on my neck is all it takes to make tears race to my eyes, to put my body on red alert, to let me know that I’m about to go insane. It’s that simple…yet of course your fingers going for the jugular will always be more complex than I can ever truly describe. It’s the fastest way to get my attention, to snap me out of whatever meandering place my mind has wandered, back to where it should be: on you. Forget about when you raise your hand to spank me or reach for my nipples to pinch them or even when you grab my arm to slam it against the sheets or shackle my wrist to your bedposts, all of which you know I adore, your hand on my neck is what makes me unbearably, almost impossibly wet.
Is it because you were my first? Is it because I trust you more? Or is it because those tears that rush forth, the gasps that claw their way to the surface, the panic that bubbles just below the surface, speak to me in a language deeper than words ever could?
Sometimes, because you know me so well, because you know what it does to me, you do it while we’re sitting across from each other at a restaurant. To an outsider, it probably looks like a light caress, like your hand could just as easily be stroking my arm, your thumb caressing my inner wrist, or smoothing my hair, or tracing my lips. And you could be doing any of those things, but you’re not: You’re wrapping yourself from thumb to forefinger around the expanse of my neck, pressing just enough to make my lips go slack, my breath get short. You’re telling me so much without saying a word, and my first instinct is to do what I do in bed: bend my head back, elongate my neck, shut my eyes, give more of myself to you.
But we’re in public, so I wait, and soon the moment passes. A couple can hold hands, under or even above the table, or play footsie, with no problem, but the intimate of choking is probably pushing the envelope, even in Manhattan. Still, I think about it, even while waiting for my burger and fries, about how it feels when you press harder, when my through constricts and the gasps become sobs and I want to thrash and struggle so I can feel you clamp down harder...