The Surgeon and I were watching a televised boxing match in my living room. I like to watch men fight. It excites me. I downloaded twenty hours of MMA fights off the internet and watch it late at night sometimes. I can’t watch boxing in public. It feels too pornographic.
“I want to get punched in the stomach!” I declared.
The Surgeon did not look surprised. I had asked for much stranger things.
“That would hurt a lot,” he observed.
“Do you know how to do it?” I asked him.
“Well, I guess. It’s not hard.”
“When’s the last time you punched someone other than me?” I asked, happily. Storytime!
“Summer camp. No, wait–med school.”
“Really? So that was, like, 1950, huh?”
“Smartass. Keep it up.”
“Who’d you fight? Wow, muy macho! Did you win?”
“It wasn’t really a fight. I’ll tell you about it sometime. You know, you are really strange. A really strange girl.”
“You know you love it! I want to get punched in the stomach right now. I want to know what it feels like. I heard that if you get knocked in your solar plexus, it’ll make you fall down!”
“If you get knocked anywhere hard enough, it’ll make you fall down.”
“Do it to me now!”
He smiled and put his drink down on the coffee table. “Well, all right.”
We stood up.
“What do I do?” I asked. I was suddenly nervous.
“Close your eyes.”
I closed them. I remembered back to the beginning of our relationship, when I was beginning to open up to him about my sexual proclivities. He’d said: I would do those things to you, but I could never hit a woman.
I’d laughed in his face. Even then, I’d know that he could. He was only saying that he couldn’t because that was the socially correct answer. “Oh yes, you could.”
And I was right. My intuition about his capacity for violence was always right. If anything, I underestimated him. He was more intemperate and savage than I could ever believe. Sometimes I’d watch him presenting a lecture at a conference and be struck by an unnerving feeling of strangeness. He passes himself off as a normal person, I’d think.
I felt him moving around me, felt his weight shift on the wooden floor. I was suddenly scared. Sometimes it’s worse when you can’t see it coming. He knew it; he was using it. The Surgeon had a flair for showmanship. I’d started to sweat and clenched the muscles in my torso in anticipation of the punch. Wait for it. When I felt him move again, I flinched. He laughed.
The blow hit my diaphragm and caused me to exhale all my air in a violent whoop. My legs gave out immediately and I started to collapse backward.
He caught me in his arms, bent over me, and kissed me deeply.
He told me that he loved me.
For a while, I even believed it.