We're domestic, these days. I'm tightening his the contrasting black bow ties to the only thing in the entire house that's still real white. Everything else is stained with blood, with sweat, with deodorant, shit, vomit, semen stains. Whatever you can think of, it's gotten onto our clothes. Our shoes. Our walls. Our porno mags.
My porno mags.
When you don't even have the static of the pay-per-view porn you think you're too good to buy, you revert back to what our fathers, and what their fathers before us used. There was a stack of them in the house when I moved in. Cliches aside, the pages really were stuck together. Sometimes, when I'm washing my hands after I've jerked myself clean and added another addition to the inevitable UV light realization, I wonder just how much semen it takes to physically every page of a magazine together. How many times did whoever owned this godforsaken shithole open the same page to the same coy, shy, half-covered girl we're secretly convincing ourselves is virginal and pubescent? Twenty? Thirty?
I wouldn't know.
I try not to spend too long thinking about it.
Tyler tells me one day, while I'm tightening his bowtie, he tells me that there's this tribe in Brazil of people the US hasn't messed with. White people haven't touched them, he says, staining the suit with the smell of cigarettes and unprocessed soap with every second he's still standing here. Inside of the shithole.
He says they have these specially made mittens.
Except he doesn't say mittens, he says gloves.
These mittens hold the Paraponera clavata, he says.
The bullet ants.
They're the worst ants on the planet, according to Tyler, and men put the gloves on to prove they're really men-that they've really got the balls to do it.
I say, that's pretty brave.
He doesn't say anything. He just scoffs and leans over the last batch of soap. We made it this morning, with the rest of Marla's mom that was in the freezer. It's setting up nicely. Pale lavender, crusty at the outer edges with cold process veins.
When you make soap, you can make it two ways. The lye in soap stays active until you either let it dissipate or you burn it out. Cold process is the former. Hot process is the latter. Cold process makes a nicer looking bar, Tyler says, even if it takes six weeks to cure. When you make hot process soap you can use it once it sets up, but it smells like a rotting animal in your house for days, and days, and days.
Tyler says, the first time they do it is just a test.
I think about the scar on my hand while he keeps talking.
They do it more times, he says, until the elders of the village are satisfied with his physical sacrifice. Like the guy that crucifies himself every year and god.
How many times, I ask.
He shrugs his shoulders.
When we get home from work, I'm thinking about the bullet ants.
I'm undoing his bowtie and setting it aside in my laundry basket. Sometimes, I wonder if he knows how to do anything but crumple it up after he pulls it off. He's checking at the edges of the soap, poking the silicone mold to see if it's set up. He lets me take his shoes, so they don't get scuffs in them. Or lye. Or blood. Sweat. Shit. Vomit. Semen. The thing about the bullet ants, he says, is that they don't just make you hurt for a minute or an hour or a day. If you have them biting you for ten minutes, you'll shake for a week. But they still do it.
Twenty times. Thirty times.
I listen, standing there, holding his bowtie, holding his shoes, waiting for the grand point.
He doesn't say anything.
I set his shoes by the door.