Waterboarding

I’m already shaking and sniffling when he shows me upstairs to the tub. We agreed to this, I was intellectually aware of what I was getting myself into. Simply, I was to lie down, recline my head back past horizontal, and then he would cover my face with a towel and slowly pour water over the towel. How hard could it be? So far, this has already been the most intense scene I have ever done. My tormentors are brutal. Physically so, but far surpassing the physical toll is the emotional. They are closer to breaking me than anyone else has ever been.

She sits in the tub. I lower my quickly bruising body onto her lap. He instructs: how long can you hold your breath? I inhale and hold. He counts. As he reaches 30, I start to play a game with myself. I can hold my breath longer, I know I can. All I have to do is think of something else, and I can get up to a minute. But then, knowing what is coming up, will my stamina work in my favor? Will I be rewarded for fit lungs, or pushed further? I feign exhaustion and breathe out at 40secs. They haven’t beaten me. Not quite yet.

I am pushed down until I am reclining, my naked hips in the triangle of her folded legs. His hand firmly grips the back of my neck and pulls me down until my shoulders are on the bottom of the tub. My back arches over her thigh. They smile sweetly at me. They know what’s coming. I’m still fairly unaware.

Ready?
No safe words, right?
No safe words. We’ll agree on how long to hold each time, and then you endure for that amount of time. Ok?
Ok.

The smiling sadist from before has disappeared. Our exchange frightens me in it’s clinical seriousness. He is focused. I watch him with wariness: filling the water jug, reaching for a towel. Practiced, measured movements. She is still, patient, waiting. She watches him too, but with a glint in her eye. She’s excited. I start to wonder if I’m in over my head.

We’ll start with 10 seconds. You can hold your breath for 40 remember?
Ok.

My eloquence has left me, along with my previous confidence. I think: this is used as torture, right? Perhaps I had underestimated it. He covers my face with a towel. Then, his hand wraps around the front of my throat. Not enough to choke me, but strong enough to know that I can’t get up, and the towel is not coming off.

Ready?
Urgh.

I make some kind of sound in response. Speech is departing faster with growing panic. I take a deep breath, under the cotton. He starts pouring. And counting out loud.

1 one thousand
2 one thousand
3 one thousand

The water is cold. It quickly soaks the towel, tickling rivulets down my scalp, neck, cheeks, eyes, mouth.

7 one thousand

Luckily, an air pocket has formed, right at the base of my nose. No water enters my sinuses. I relax, a little. This isn’t too bad.

9 one thousand
10 one thousand

He releases his neck grip and pulls me up. I sit, shivering in her lap. Very still.

How was that?
Fine.

I’m cautious. I’m hopeful that perhaps this isn’t as scary as I thought it would be, but I don’t want to show bravado in case it’s punished.

How about we try 20 seconds? You can hold your breath for 40 remember?
Ok.

Down I go again. The tub is even colder and I’m lying in a centimeter of water. She looks down at me. Her eyes flash, she’s fascinated by this. Like a child burning an ant, she knows it’s going to be damaging, but she can’t stop, can’t turn the magnifying glass away. How will the ant react when it feels the heat of the light? Her interest is morbid. The towel, now cold and heavy, clamps over my face once more. His hand holds it in place, squeezing my throat down. I take a breath through my mouth, feel the towel suck in.

1 one thousand
2 one thousand

The water is pouring slowly. I wait, unmoving.

4 one thousand
5 one thousand

The airpocket below my nose breaks. Immediately, water starts seeping through. It’s cold, trickling down my sinuses. I can feel it behind my eyes, the back of my throat. All of a sudden I feel an overwhelming urge to breathe. I try to ignore it, but my body starts screaming at me: “Breathe! Breathe!” I’m yelling back, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t!”.

9 one thousand
10 one thousand

My body wins, and I open my mouth, to try and take a gasping, life saving breath. Water pours into my mouth, the towel sucks in, clinging to my lips. No air comes in at all, and I’m panicking now, really panicking. I’m going to die here in this fucking bathtub, and I can’t even hear the countdown because my brain is screaming louder than I’ve ever heard it: “BREATHE! BREATHE!” I’m aware I’m struggling, flailing with cold hands, fighting. I feel his hand grip my throat harder, I can’t beat him, I can’t win, I can’t breathe, water is in my nose and eyes and throat and mouth and hair and I’m totally helpless and I just need to FUCKING BREATHE!…

20 one thousand!

He shouts and this breaks though my crazed mind and then I’m pulled up. I’m choking and coughing and breathing, taking in huge gulps of air, so hard and fast. I’m bawling too, and instinctively move out of her lap, into the far corner of the tub. I crouch over the Dr Bronner’s Almond Soap, hugging my arms to myself, sobbing hard. The tears come from some place, deep inside me, and I can’t cry hard enough, my whole body moves with each sob and I’m gasping huge mouthfuls of air at the same time. I squeeze my hands to my chest so hard the pain from my already damaged nipples brings me back to reality, and I slowly look over my shoulder, viewing my captors through bloodshot, wet blue eyes. They look back at me calmly, impassively. This scares me even more. Wasn’t I just about to die in their arms? Why aren’t they more emotional?

Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god, holy crap, oh my god.

I hear this again and again, and then realize I’m saying it, babbling in-between sobs. It scares me, to hear how messed up I sound, to hear how much emotion I’m betraying. I try to claw back self-control: I run shaking hands over my hair, inelegantly wipe my nose on my arm, turn my body slightly out of the corner and towards her. He’s too scary to face.

I’m going to get a bigger jug.

He turns and leaves the bathroom, matter-of-factly. The significance of what he’s doing doesn’t even register, I’m focused on her. I’ve stopped babbling, but now what I’m saying barely makes sense to me. I’m not even sure if I’m conscious of it.

Oh my god, and I’m alive! And I thought I was going to die, I thought I was going to die lying there, I was going to die. That’s so fucking scary, that’s so scary, I didn’t think it would be that scary, I had no idea it would be like that, no idea at all. But I’m alive now and I can breathe and talk and breathe and I’m alive.

I start to calm, a little. I feel my heart, thumping in my chest so hard. I try to slow my breathing, imitating a woman in labour. Slow in, slow out. Then a voice pipes up in my head. I ask her:

That was 20 seconds, right?
Yes.

An idea starts to form, and before I know it, it’s grown in cognizance. I can beat this. I can beat waterboarding. I know about meditation and mental control. It’s only 20 seconds! I can hold my breath for 40 easily, and even longer if I’m really calm and focused. All I have to do is stay calm, hold my breath, think about something else. It might even be relaxing, think of it as a water cleanse, getting all my sinuses washed out with cold water, water gently trickling. I can beat this. I can fucking beat this! I can beat water boarding! I am fucking awesome! In the couple of seconds it took to formulate this plan, he was back.

Again?
Yes.
30 seconds?

This is too much. My heart starts to race again, and I can’t control the panic in my voice.

No! No, 20 please, just 20, just 20 please Sir. Please.
Ok, 20.
Promise? Just 20 again?
Yes, just 20. Promise.
Ok.

I hear myself doing ‘woman in labour’ breathing again. I focus on my crashing heart, try to slow it. I clench my fists to stop my hands shaking, and chant in my head: relax. You can do this. Think of something else. Count with him. 20 is easy. You’ve got this. You are fucking awesome. His hand clamps my neck, the cloth goes over. My whole body tenses. I’m still going over my mantra, but my mind is screaming it at me. RELAX! YOU’VE GOT THIS! 20 IS EASY! YOU’VE GOT THIS! STAY CALM!

Take a deep breath.
1 one thousand
2 one thousand
3 one thousand
4 one thousand

I lose it. There is no air bubble at all this time, and the water starts running into my sinuses straight away. By the time I feel like it’s at the back of my eyes, my ‘calming mantra’ has gone. I don’t want to be doing this again, I don’t want to be here. I think I’m crying already, panicked tears mixing with the cold water running down my neck and ears. My body is yelling at me once more: “BREATHE! FUCKING BREATHE!” I obey, and straight away my mouth fills with water, no air. I think I may be gurgling stop, red, anything, I can hear terrified animal sounds. I’m thrashing around, wishing wishing wishing he’d let his hand off my neck. My fingers connect with flesh and I dig my nails in, hoping to hurt someone so they’ll let me up, hoping they won’t let me die.

10 one thousand
11 one thousand

Fuck, we’re only half way! Amazingly, another voice suddenly bursts into my head and manages to drown out the survival instinct yelling at me to breathe: FREEZE! Don’t move anything! FREEZE! Wait it out! FREEZE! My mouth stops gaping helplessly at the suffocating cloth, I stop thrashing. I freeze. Inwardly, there’s a fucking war on. The voice ordering me to freeze is speaking from somewhere I’ve never heard before. Somewhere deep inside me. Somewhere incredibly strong and powerful, with my survival as it’s core interest. It’s fighting for me. It’s fighting against my frenzied, knee-jerk response for oxygen.

17 one thousand
18 one thousand

I cling to the sound of his voice. I feel like I’m seconds away from death.

20 one thousand

I burst up, my head silences in a second and all of a sudden I’m back with my body, back in the tub, gasping and bawling and panting and hiding in the corner. There’s no voice screaming at me any more, I’m gulping air and my body is shaking with silent sobs. I squeeze my arms into my chest, tuck my head into the corner of the tub, and something hits me…the silence. I’m not babbling. Neither of my captors is saying anything, I’m barely aware of them. But….and this is monu-fucking-mental…there is NOTHING in my head. The screaming voices are gone. The thoughts are gone. It’s totally, completely, silent and empty.

It bewilders me, I don’t know what to do with this sudden silence. I lift my head, and stare at the tiles, without seeing them. I feel totally blank. It’s white light, fingers tracing sounds on wineglasses, hazy blue sky, loss of gravity, infinite middle C. There is no past, no future, just total, absolute…present. And it’s void, tipping into emptiness, slowly spiraling forever in space. A noise behind me, perhaps one of my torturers, ripples into the ringing silence and my eyes dart, from the sterile tiles to my body, resting on my fingertips. The disturbed rhythm they are tapping on my chest seems totally at odds with the blank of my mind. This juxtaposition is enough to jump-start my brain, thoughts flood, colors into the white, sounds and noise and memories and photo flashes of what I’ve just survived.

I’m back. Very present, hyper-aware. I turn, and stare at my Dominants. I don’t even register how they look at me, but they’re touching me. A steady hand on my shoulder. A warm thumb brushing my cheek. Tears are still leaking out of my eyes, but I’m not racked with sobs as I was earlier. I hug my body, quivering with cold and relief. And in that second, euphoria rushes in. It feels hot, tickling my core, spreading like fire to my fingertips and toes, leaping up to my heart, neck, mouth, nose, eyes, top of my head. Holy fucking shit! I just did that! I just did THAT! I was water boarded! And I’m alive! And I even tried to beat it, what a CRAZY I am! I think a smile cracks from my lips, I feel incredibly high. Everything is wonderfully hazy and bright at the same time. I’m alive! I ask for a tissue and blow my nose, then dry my face on a towel. I’m helped out of the tub, but I barely notice the two people beside me.

I tried to beat water-boarding. It kicked my ass. And I’ve never felt so beaten, so broken-down. I am all emotion: elation. Survival. Fear. Strength. Presence. Exhaustion. Elation.

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