I’m on my knees and it stings. Cold concrete and gravel dig into my skin. Am I hurt? I have no idea. I’m bleeding a bit, certainly. There are little red pinprick dots on my teal linen dress. There’s the shock factor, too: a second ago I was upright, sauntering across the road and now I’m a crumpled mess, all burning palms and tears welling.
I fall often, probably once a month at least. I’ve stumbled home with laddered tights, tripped off the edge of a pavement and landed sprawled across the road, right in the headlights of an oncoming bus, loose change and the occasional tampon spilt across the Tarmac. Women (it’s always women, and for that I’m kind of grateful) rush to make sure I’m ok, and I try not to cry. Please, please don’t be nice to me: I’m ok, I’m not broken, I’m just so, so embarrassed. I pick myself up, dust myself down and get on the bus (because that’s the second rule of buses, dontcha know: three come along at once, and if you fall over in front of a bus it’ll always be the one you subsequently have to get on, grit your teeth and deal with the driver’s concern. He did almost run you over, after all.)
In short, when I fall, the physical pain and damage is pretty much the last thing to register. The first is the shock, and the second, hot and unshakeable, is the shame. I burn with it for days after the event, inspecting the heels of my boots for unevenness, mistrusting my every step. If only no one had seen me do it…
And yet at home, tucked up warm in bed, shame is one of the predominant emotions I seek out. I flick through the pages of erotic novels looking for just that: the moments where a character not only submits but allows herself to be shamed, humiliated. Where that shame and humiliation makes her come.
It makes me come too, despite being my greatest fear in real life. Or perhaps *because* it’s my greatest fear. Either way, the burn of shame is both agony and ecstasy, all at the same time.