She Of Underneath
She Of Underneath
A Story by Jennifer Benningfield
"I don't wanna sleep! I just wanna keep on loving you!"
Carrie's first fourteen days at Wells Fargo were terribly defiant of neat description. She anticipated moments of struggle, she predicted fits of despair, but she could not have foreseen how overwhelmed she felt throughout. The pre-closing department, of which she was a part, reviewed REO contract packages: the contract itself, the lender's pre-approval, buyer's proof of funds, everything needed to be present and in order before moving on to the closing department. Acuity of mind and vision made the pre-closer (or contract specialist, depending on whether one wanted their job to sound either more mysterious or important) a valuable member of the team. Carrie certainly could not afford to let crappy '80s power balladry invade her brain while determining if Karen Forrest signed each and every line required by law.
"Why can't I be thinking about cookies?" she muttered under coffee-splashed breath.
She couldn't afford the vacation of her dreams, or the meal of her dreams, but the orgasm of her dreams was entirely within reach. Mindful of the brain's status as the body's most vital sex organ, Carrie decided to make hers feel extra special.
The open-air kitchen area was occupied by two women as interested in Carrie as she in them. As the pair impatiently waited on a pot of coffee, Carrie turned her back to them and pretended to ponder the vending machine.
"Why were Brad and Carrie fighting?"
Just like the perpetuation of canards, sex toys have pros and cons.
"I'm pretty sure she's been sneaking around with Ed and Brad found out."
The Silver Rocket. The Black Diamond. Who wouldn't want to use a vibrator that sounds like it should have its own entrance music?
"Whaaat. Oooohhhh woooow."
F8. A package of blueberry Pop Tarts fell to their doom.
"You don't know who threw up in the bathroom sink, do you?"
Pro: if by one's self, one's self is in control of the toy. One's self can adjust the intensity and angle as they feel fit.
"So do you think he'll be stupid enough to not break it off with her?"
To improve the fit and the feel.
Eric's cubicle sat across from Carrie's. Eric ate a donut every morning. And afternoon. The same donut. The same sixteen ounce cup of coffee, as well.
Con: a toy can place undue emphasis on the goal to the detriment of the journey.
"I was the one who threw up in the bathroom sink," he chirped.
Carrie was nearly through her second month at Wells Fargo, one of two temps hired in anticipation of an increase in foreclosures. She was good at what she did, but no better than that. She had yet to experience a work day without at least one contract package coming back, one work day without mistakes that were forgiven only because she wasn't a permanent hire. She placed the blame with a soft spot and a long leash.
How could she keep reveries at bay as a hired gun? Struck her as a hardly fair expectation. She just needed to keep a focused head, since the present would be the past soon enough.
Focus, she placed in the paramount position, ahead of patience, ahead of even passion.
She was determined to not screw it up, unlike all the names on all the papers she examined every Monday through Friday. Those people aimed too high, overlooked the obvious, and underestimated the improbable occurrence.
Conduction feeds contraction. Onward till outward till upward till downward. Same-old sensations, somehow fresh.
Carrie lifted her butt from the rolling chair to keep it awake.
Greetings. It would behoove you, in thirty seconds time, to visit the ladies restroom. Within, your co-worker Carrie will be jilling off with a bullwhip. BYO?
E-mailing asset managers should take no longer than ten minutes, but would take closer to twenty minutes.
Dear New York-based jackass, one of the most important documents needed to complete the transaction is missing from the package you sent over. How such an oversight is possible, when everyone involved in the process has a checklist for reference, kills me half dead. Time is of the essence, so if your client really wants to buy this craphole from the bank, get back to me before 5 PM EST.
The grumbles and growls of an empty stomach might prove a turn-off for a partner, but Carrie believed that unpleasant sounds were to expected and tolerated if not exactly enjoyed. The squelches, the expulsions, the clarifications of hungers and thirsts. Out of context, they could be interpreted as silly or deceptive. Perfectly understood, they stoked the fire.
Fingertips tapping against the keyboard pleased her ears, more insistent, more controlled. Speed was vital, but accuracy ruled. Carrie had both. Nothing ruined a chemical buzz and boil like fingers moving too wildly or pressing too forcefully. Hard-earned lesson, that.
She clicked on the Spreadsheet desktop icon and uncapped a cold bottle of water. A stack of four contract packages set to the left of the keyboard, waiting for her to finish up the Forrest bundle.
She was careful to keep the water to the right of the keyboard.
Why did she want to masturbate after stepping out of the shower, after scrubbing herself pristine? If she couldn't fight off the urge to make herself deliciously dirty, why not before stepping underneath the lukewarm spray? Or, kill two flies with one magazine?
At three different places, a line appeared for the signature of the prospective buyer, just above their typed name, to indicate acknowledgment of and agreement with the terms and conditions of the document. Ms. Forrest had a no-frills approach to signing her name, making for an exceptional legibility.
Carrie never diddled herself in the shower. Didn't trust her footing. Can't have a great time worrying about slipping and falling and breaking. Then she'd drown to death, probably.
The routine was just that until page ten of the REO Contract, the single most crucial part of the whole. The typed name underneath the line read "Karen Forest." As in, trees for miles. The error was not so egregious that a contract specialist would be remiss in failing to note its presence, but it captivated Carrie's imagination nonetheless. Clearly, Karen Forrest (or the attorney advising her) was such a stickler for accuracy (and/or so eager to complete the transaction) that she signed her own last name incorrectly so as to not contradict the misspelling.
Imagine if they made hand lotion that had the smell of vaginal secretions. It wouldn't sell like hotcakes, precisely, but it would sell. Like frozen breakfast burritos, perhaps.
The sentient Hummel figurine who was bestowed the name "Mrs. Sharp" and placed in charge of the Pre Closing Department was making her a.m. rounds. Carrie was sure to make eye contact and smile.
The second-worst thing about sex concerned the fact that it necessitated the presence of at least one other participant. Another set of needs, another set of wants. Some of which may not wind up playing copacetic with YOURS.
Carrie glanced over at the calendar that had already been placed in the cubicle before she arrived. (Bird silhouettes in a cloudless sky.) A red "X" marked the 14th, her seventh day on the job, the day she completed twenty-three contracts, an official record for the department. (She celebrated later that evening by coaxing out forty-seven orgasms in just over sixty minutes, an official record for her vagina.)
Mrs. Sharp had been so impressed she summoned Carrie to her cubicle the next workday to receive congratulations and encouragement. The hard-working temp hid her disappointment at not receiving a plague, trophy, certificate or box of donuts as well.
"You didn't have anyone that did more back in '06 or '07? The good old subprime mortgage crisis days? You must have been seeing five times the number of contracts you're seeing now."
"Close," Mrs. Sharp nodded. "But we also had three times the number of employees."
"In this space?"
"Two words: shared cubicles."
Ellie lived with her aunt, the only member of her family willing to help the young woman escape an abusive long-term relationship. She had taken a shine to Carrie, offering to keep the temporary hire company at lunch on her very first day, offering advice instead of gossip, and finding a nonjudgmental audience.
Carrie fidgeted a few seconds before pushing her chair back and acknowledging the coy woman leaning on her desk. She kept running her hands over her forearms. Carrie watched as much as she needed to before breaking the silence.
"His mother called me last night," Ellie whispered. Carrie could only roll her eyes and groan in commiseration.
"She tells me, 'He's very sensitive, Ellie. The world is a…perplexing place for someone who feels as deeply as he does."
Carrie shook her head. "Same old, huh? You should probably stop taking her calls. You know? I mean, that's what I would do. She doesn't deserve any more of your time."
"I know, I know, but I can't help but feel bad for her. I mean, he's her son. Of course she's going to fight for him. I just don't get my family. I think they don't take me seriously because whenever I talk about it, I'm always calm and rational."
"You can't move on from that part of your life without cutting it out completely. Like a nasty tumor. You don't just leave a little of it in your body as a warning to your cells."
Ellie's laughter hit the air in fragments. Carrie watched and waited, pen rolling between her fingers, tongue peeking between her lips.
"Yeah I know, it's just. It's just hard. He was such a big part of my life, almost five years. And she was always so nice to me. I don't know."
Carrie intercepted her smirk en route, and twisted it into a smile. She doubted anyone in the entire building was worthy of her hostility. "I wish you luck in finding out."
Good morning, team! Becky in the Post Closing Department had her first baby this weekend! To celebrate the arrival of Emma Rebekah, I'll be passing around a card for all of us to sign. This card, along with lovely flowers, will be delivered to her home after end-of-work today.
Carrie shivered. The fear of pregnancy surpassed even the fear of death in her mind. (After death, after all, was a mystery. After pregnancy, a baby.) How horrid a possibility that two squirming, messy, loud humans could so easily make (at least) one other squirming, messy, loud human.
Even just a brief visual of a newborn, covered in vernix and crying from oblivion, sent her guts into a somersault routine. This would not do. Seven and a half hours of work that could be perceived as much more or much less depending on how she managed her mind lay ahead.
Food--no. A fair amount of one dollar bills and loose change sat inside of Carrie's purse, and the vending machine was closer than the restrooms. Not to mention the four hundred calories worth of fruit-filled rectangles she'd just consumed.
That left--something that could respect the limits of the fantastical confines.
Not difficult whatsoever to maim five minutes just staring at the spreadsheet, the names and numbers and especially the colors. The turnaround time on an REO contract ranged from five to ten days depending on the state, and it was the personal responsibility of each pre closer to stay up to date. Entering the name of client, property address, and time since the contract was received was okay, but Carrie loved the color-coding. The highest priority contracts had to be shaded red. Then, in descending order, came orange, yellow, purple and light blue. A rainbow of responsibilities. When the hammer fell, she would miss the color-coding most of all.
All screens blank--better still, black. Pull the blinds tight; the voyeuristic rays of light must seek gratification elsewhere. She eschewed music as a fatal distraction. No matter how well the taco was sauced, her attentions could be stolen with relative ease.
Life tended to stick. Words clung to her earlobes for dear life, images swam in the aqueous humor to keep fit, and mostly, the young woman appreciated the company.
The floor is for when time is of the essence. Otherwise, opt for the bed or the couch. Besides the obvious comfort, both places encourage exploration. Flat on back, hands free to roam over skin changing from apricot to strawberry with each caress. Access to the clitoris must be unobstructed. Carrie could deliver herself to the crisis point via vaginal stimulation, but nothing held a candelabra to the intensity of mashing the button like a Street Fighter novice.
I wish I could make lunch today, but I'm going to be pretty much stuck at my cubicle. I have three contracts that need documents ASAP or they get cancelled before 5. Rain check?
"I wish, genie…." Carrie knew exactly what she would ask for. First wish: perfect skin forever. No blackheads, no bumps, no rashes. Next up: eat whenever whatever without any deleterious effects externally OR internally. Finally: a home of her own, four walls bought and paid for, in a nice neighborhood, near public transit.
Knees up for toy play. Lust and lucidity, slick hand in slick hand.
Even without the cubicle walls, who'd suspect anything? She wasn't even breathing heavy.
New e-mail. NY-based jackass is sorry, please see attached files. Carrie snorted and inadvertently elbowed her pen onto the floor. She sucked in a breath as her thighs smashed together.
"Hello, you've reached the voicemail of Carrie Unser, contract specialist at Wells Fargo. I'm sorry that I am unavailable to take your call presently" no no again "I'm sorry that I'm presently unavailable to take your call. Please leave your name, number, and a brief message and I will return your call as soon as possible."
A woman's lust is a reliable narrator. How could so many men misinterpret--or just flat-out miss? How could so many of them be ignorant of the bodily basics? Anyway, it wasn't her duty to teach Carrie's Body 101, unless she actually wanted to, which she figured would happen on the same day a pig took a crap on her head.
I live here…it's mine…I answer to me.
"Who wouldn't want to have sex with me?" is the most unfortunate rhetorical question, do not ask it, under any circumstances.
Three-story, brick…screened-in front porch…those bushes would have to go, but otherwise…damn the things money can do for a person.
Flat on the back, redolent of ho-hum go-to, but Carrie appreciated the classics like few of her peers. What's wrong with just pepperoni on the pizza? What's so bad about a plain glazed donut? What's so funny 'bout Salt-n-Pepa?
Face down-ass up had the potential to be counterproductive. Sometimes, Carrie wished she was actually having doggy-style sex, the force and power that she associated with that position, the slight pain that gave way to mild discomfort before at last transforming into fierce bliss.
But then--she would no longer be alone. Carrie didn't hate people, but whenever there was an opportunity to avoid them, she took that opportunity.
Countless times Carrie had acquiesced to sex when she really would have rather been doing a dozen other things. At no time had Carrie wanked without wanting it more than anything else at that moment.
Voicemail for both agents. Carrie made certain to speak evenly, ego still bruised from the mild chastisement she'd received from an agent in California, an older-sounding gentleman who accused her of "hurrying" through a message.
Toy-play while lying on one's side was…Carrie figured she just lacked the flexibility required.
Every third session or so, she'd perform a thorough breast examination. What better reason to masturbate than in celebration of being tumor-free?
"Do you have some extra paper clips I can borrow? Thanks."
Sure, they were gossipy twits who kept rom-coms viable at the box office, but damned if those other women didn't have their shit together. Job security, drivers licenses, husbands with connections.
The pink cotton quilt normally draped over the couch found its way over her nudity. The additional layer brought not only increased warmth, but trapped sound. No carefully-crafted piece of music she'd heard--not Abbey Road, not "Rites of Spring"--could help but fade and crack against the improvised noises that escaped her throat in the throes of life divine.
Hands over curves sent her head over heels. Certain expanses reacted more sharply to the touch of a relative stranger. The legs, the stomach, no novelty there, but familiarity wielded expertly could conjure a sensational glow.
She dove. Once underneath, she wasted no time with an establishing shot. She swam, she splashed, she stayed imperfectly still. Advice read long ago on how to endure a panic attack, it turned out, could also be applied to more delightful stresses as well.
The world pulsed and pounded, hurtling her towards the narrowing inevitable.
"It's five o'clock, are you coming?"
Mind over body.
Weightless and worry-free, she lay still. Agape and agog. The intermingled scents made her want to bite at the air. Made her want to hop up, run outside, and moon the whole neighborhood. Made her want to suppresses a sneeze.
She fulfilled only one of those desires.
She let the wand fall to the wayside. She could have clicked the switch and extended the ecstasy. Perhaps she would regret her restraint later.
She blew out a long, hot breath against the cover, wondering if she could possibly have enough wind to lift the cotton even half an inch upward. She fancied herself a dragon, sated after battle, resting atop the pile of spun sugar gifted by her grateful owner.
If you don't feel as if you've chewed a live wire just like it was a licorice lace, you didn't really have an orgasm.
Repeated internal insistences to arise and refresh were ignored, until she sold herself on the purgative properties of H20. Gradually, she sat up, post-peak optimism flooding her senses. She leaned over to arouse her phone. 6:43.
Eighteen minutes. Not bad. Finger painting the Mona Lisa took time.
The walls of the kitchen were as bare as the walls of her cubicle; a calendar and nothing more. She was halfway through her lease, likely to renew, even if Wells Fargo didn't keep her on. A woman with her skill set never had to worry about protracted unemployment.
The temptations of sugar were easier to resist when obscured, so the water bottles were always placed at the front in the refrigerator. Uncapping one, she took a long swig, wishing she had a banana or two hanging around. Wishing bananas didn't ripen so quickly. Wishing that the ice cream truck that stopped outside of the condo offered something other than cones and popsicles.
(A friend once told Carrie sugar was even easier to shun when it wasn't even an option. Carrie smirked and explained: "Self-discipline is like a muscle. If you don't exercise it, it will atrophy.")
"I wanna be a paperback writer/Paperback writer!"
She rushed to the end table and bent over. MOM, warned the screen.
The corny chitter-chatter of flaky mother-mouth tended to leave Carrie depressed rather than irritated. This was a recent development, one that she connected to the imminent death of her twenties. Certain aspects of life were becoming less worthy of her time and tolerance. Including the woman who gave her that life.
She figured it wasn't really her fault. Everyone had limits, and the days of biting tongues and rolling eyes for an average of half an hour for an average of four days a week were done (or damn near).
The nadir of this incurable garrulousness, the absolute breaking point, came just the week before. Carrie knew instantly that her mother had been drinking (the higher pitch of her voice, the careful enunciation of words of more than two syllables, the sudden proclamation "This Scotch is really good!") but chose not to invent a knock at the door. She would regret this lack of deception. Talk about plans for her upcoming anniversary turned into an unabashed confession from the older woman that she reached orgasm only a handful of times with her husband during twenty-one years of marriage; it came when she revealed that once she met Carrie's eventual stepfather, climaxes went from precious and few to virtually uncountable.
Carrie stared down into the water bottle, remembering (but not reliving) the feeling that spread throughout her insides as she listened to her fifty-something mother marvel over her sexual awakening. It was beyond basic mortification. Carrie was eager to bash herself in the head with the phone until either it or her skull fractured, to run outside and bury herself into the ground. Or, barring all that drama, just disappear from shame on the spot.
Instead, she decided to make her mother disappear. They hadn't spoken in four days. Carrie couldn't wait to experience feelings one way or another about it all.
She ran her hands over her hair, determined to enter the shower feeling as though she had truly earned the right to all that hot water.