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Jumping Jacks

by Debbie Ann Wertheim

We go to a playparty, in a space we've been to many times before. I take off all my clothes, just like I usually do and we go downstairs.

ok, he says, do ten jumping jacks.

And I can't, won't don't. He sits in a chair, looks at me and says, I'm waiting.

I squirm. I want to please. I want to obey and I can't do this, don't make me do this, I'll feel so stupid. Nobody else is doing jumping jacks. Nobody else ever does jumping jacks here. My breasts will bounce, people will look at me. I can't.

And he's still waiting. After your jumping jacks, you'll get a spanking, but until you do them, I'm just going to sit here.

I try kneeling and begging and pleading. He pushes me away.

Go on. Stand up. You can't even do this simple thing? I'm going to make you do push ups next.

nonono. I can't. I squirm. It's still early, but people are here and the space we're in is pretty visible. I'm miserable. I can't disobey so much as to actually walk away, but neither can I do them. I feel stuck and trapped and unhappy. I want out. I don't want to be seen or watched. I don't want to see anyone else. I want the ground to open up and swallow me whole. I think I'd rather die, but I know that's not true. I could never do gym stuff couldn't kick balls, or catch them or hit them. I hated gym.

I feel so uncoordinated.

I'll look so stupid. I struggle with that. Why do I care, but it's not just that I'll look stupid to other people, but that I'll look awful and dumb in front of him, but why should that matter, but it does, and maybe it is the other people, too and how out of place it'll look and they can all do this and I can't. I stand there, but my own internal anxiety over it won't allow me to stand still for long.

I'd rather be cut, pierced, whipped, tortured, flogged. I can do any of that, and I can't do this simple stupid thing. I'm terrified out of my mind. The more time that goes by, the worse it gets. It's my own fear-and my own mind preventing me- I hate fighting myself.

I think about it. It makes me cry. Kids making fun of me in school, people choosing sides and not being chosen. It's everything that hurt.

I stare. I stomp my feet. I pout.
I hate this.
I don't know how to find a way through it.
It should be the simplest thing in the world but it's not, it's everything, it's my father making me exercise.

I can't. It takes too much coordination. I can't do it. It's not possible. I put my hands over my eyes, stuff my fingers in my mouth and feel like I've never had to do anything harder in my whole life.

I can't tell if five hours or twenty minutes have gone by. We seem to exist in this bubble, the party a blur around us. I can't see or hear or focus. I want out. I briefly think well I could just safeword. Not that we've even remotely negotiated a safeword. Right. But I can't. Now I know I'll be miserable if I do this, but more miserable if I don't. If all the rest was uphill, this is the top of the hill. It is a matter of pride. It is such a stupid little thing and that only makes it worse-tis noble perhaps to agonize over a branding, a cutting, a whipping, but jumping fucking jacks? Right.

I try bargaining. I try denial. I try any of the other stages of grief that I can remember.

It's wearing us both out. Well, more accurately, it's wearing me out. I'm emotionally and physically exhausted from anger to crying to pleading to trying to disappear. The other people in the room have stopped mattering to me. This is personal. This is just between us. This is mine to get through. Nobody else really exists.

and then I do them. In a haze. and then just crumple into a heap and cry.

And he walks over to me, gently puts me face down, rearranges my limbs, which are completely limp, and sits on my back and starts to spank me and I sob harder and then softer, sniffling, ragged breathing, and I know I'm safe and cared for and not stupid and awful and it's going to be ok. And I love being spanked, like nothing else, it's the sweetest reward in the world, it's the only thing that makes me feel loved and cherished.

And when the spanking is over, I curl up under a blanket and fall into a half sleep of emotional exhaustion. I made it through this. It wouldn't make sense to anyone in the world but me/us-it was just my own personal terror, dredged up into the open, and it can't ever be so terrifying again. It can only ever be the second time.


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