Tantra

Leon needs a proper line, not just a fingerful. He heads to the restroom, already fumbling the baggie and a card and a dollar bill from his pockets. Along the way he passes one of the kitchen staff – Howard, he thinks – kneeling before a leather daddy in the pantry. The former is frantically undoing the latter’s belt.

Unperturbed, Leon nods at them. “Gentlemen.” They ignore him.

When he’s finished he heads back to the cabin proper. The dinner crowd is gone, but Chain, Abner, and Jerrod are sitting at one of the tables chatting. Leon joins them.

“Hello again Leon,” Abner says. “Jerrod has just been encouraging us to attend this Tantra workshop that Joani is teaching.”

Leon looks at the faces of the other two. “And you’re… thinking of going?”

“I heard,” Chain says, “that you can have sex for hours.”

“I can already have sex for hours,” Leon says with a waggle of his eyebrows, and Abner high-fives him.

“No, you can have sex for hours with one person without coming.”

Skeptical looks are exchanged all around. “That doesn’t sound especially appealing, to be honest.”

Jerrod waves a hand. “No, no… it’s more like you can have an orgasm for hours.”

There’s a long moment of silence. Then all four men stand up.

The workshop is taking place in a cabin at the furthest end of the camp, near where the Saratoga Pact people had held their ritual – or whatever it had been – earlier in the evening. Leon has heard it referred to as the Pillow Room, a bizarre juxtaposition with the neighboring cabin, the Dark Room, where the Cruisers Club has set up bondage gear and bottles of lube and porn videos, projected onto the wall with an impressive 35mm system provided by Mr. T’s generosity.

The Pillow Room, by contrast, is piled ankle-deep with its eponymous pillows, with beaded curtains tinkling gently in each doorway. Smoke from a smoldering incense stick wafts and slowly swirls near the ceiling, picking up and diffusing the soft red glow of lava lamps. Leon is immediately and deeply uncomfortable.

“Welcome,” Joani calls. “Please remove your shoes and join us.”

This is a task unto itself. Leon’s shoes are fabulous four-inch platforms with a fuzzy zebra-striped pattern, and removing them is not so simple as merely slipping them off.

“Uh, okay. Just a minute.” He bends and tugs and eventually prizes each foot loose of its shoe.

When he pushes his way through the curtain, he sees the room is nearly spilling over with attendees. There are even participants sitting on the top bunks of the camp beds.

“Yes, we are very full,” Joan says, seeing his expression. “But I believe your partner has found a space for you.”

Leon’s eyebrows shoot up. He glances around and finds Chain tucked into a small corner between the end of a bunk and the wall. Partner?

“Please have a seat,” Joani continues, “and we’ll get started. The hour has already begun, and we will need all of it.”

For a moment he considers bolting. But there are dozens of eyes on him, and his shoes are already off, so he slowly settles down cross-legged in front of Chain. His skintight gold pants creak in protest and tug at his leg hair.

“Welcome, all,” Joani says. “If everyone would please close your eyes, we’ll begin. We’re going to start by establishing our microcosmic orbit.”

The workshop quickly gets away from Leon. Joani talks about taking breaths from the perineum and pulling them out through the nose, establishing energy flows around their bodies and with their partners. He has one hand above one of Chain’s and the other below, and is trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to imagine the energy circuits Joani describes.

“Let’s focus on our root chakra,” she’s saying. “This is what connects our genitals with our partner’s.”

Noises from nervous giggles to grunts of appreciation circulate the room.

“Feel the connection to your partner, through your hands and through your orbs. Open yourself to exchanging your energies. Feel your partner’s sexual energy flowing into you, and yours into them.”

Leon slits his eyes open and looks at Chain. The other man also has his eyes open, and they exchange a dubious look.

Joani continues walking through the chakras, from the abdomen to the solar plexus to the heart, the throat, the third eye, and the crown. As each is introduced, Chain and Leon trade another look.

The hour passes slowly in this manner. Finally Joani asks them to open their eyes again. Leon and Chain smirk at each other.

“We’re going to do a final exercise,” Joani says. Her voice is still as smooth and serene as when Leon first encountered her. “We are going to perform soul gazing. This is where we gaze into our partner’s eyes for five full minutes.”

Thoughts of Rain’s eyes rise immediately to Leon’s mind. He pushes them away and tries to focus.

Brief confusion ensues as Joani guides them through determining which eye to look at. “Gaze into your partner’s soul,” she says as they begin. “What do you see there? Do you see past lives? Do you see their future?”

I see an eye, Leon thinks. Five minutes feels interminable.

More questions flow over them. Leon’s thoughts begin to wander. It is way past time for this party to start including sex.

“How does it feel to really see your partner?” Joani’s voice cuts through his thoughts. And then: “How does it feel to really be seen?”

The question slips under Leon’s skin and seems to settle in his belly like a rock. A chill washes over him. Distantly, he feels his body recoil.

How does it feel to really be seen?

His mouth is suddenly dry. The room feels too hot, too close, too constricting. His palms are sweating. He tries to wipe them on his pants, only to find that they leave wet slicks on the gold lamé. He wonders if Chain has noticed his rising panic, but the other man seems to be spaced out.

How does it feel to really be seen?

He takes a shuddering breath. A bead of sweat rolls down his cheek, and he hears his answer inside his own head.

How does it feel to really be seen?

Terrifying.

It’s completely fucking terrifying.

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