I found it in the back corner of an antique shop on the Left Bank. I was in Paris for a week, backpacking around Europe while I staved off maturity and the perceived death of all my dreams.
It was leather, dusty, the color of faded deep chestnut; where it wasn’t covered with labels from exotic hotels and resorts. The lock was broken, but the brass hinges stubbornly held the old suitcase together.
I was not blind to the metaphor: baggage older than my parents when most days one meal was all I could afford. My wistful sigh must have carried through the shop, because the proprietor — all haughty élan as only a French woman can project — offered me a choice.
“La valise en échange pour une performance.” My stomach grumbled. “Et un repas.” Her smile was knowing on so many levels.
“What kind of performance?”
With a casual flick of her manicured finger, she flipped the sign from OUVRIR to FERMÉE, then beckoned me upstairs. The scent of food lured me as much as the twitching of her pert derrière in tight wool skirt. I expected sex of some kind; bodies were barter in the world of student travel.
I watched dusk fall behind the Eiffel Tower, the apartment balcony fit a small table and two chairs, in painted wrought iron of deep burgundy. I felt no compulsion to move as I digested, the sodium-yellow lamps created a playground out of hard stone and narrow streets.
She’d turned off all the lights, except for one spot, the straight-backed chair sinister in its singularity. In the dark reaches of the room I heard whispers and rustlings from an unseen audience. It was then I noticed what coiled innocently on the embroidered seat. A martinet.
She held out her hand, palm up, shimmering in elbow length black silk glove, the pearl and gold bracelet an iridescent gleam matched by her sparkling eyes. I clutched as if drowning.
“Tu ne vas pas être blessé.”
The nuance of hurt versus harm challenged me, but I nodded my acceptance. A unnamed frisson ran through the gathering. She presented me to whomever lurked in the shadows. Falling into my role, I curtsied. Whispers of appreciation in many languages. Obediently, I bent forward over the ornate gilt top rail of the chair, damp palms interlaced with the thongs of the whip. A red scarf — Hermès — folded and drawn gently over my eyes, my head bowed to allow the knot tied at my neck.
The martinet drawn away, soft leather strands caressed my cheeks, rested on my lips. I kissed. Another sigh moved like amber larches in autumn. The handle traced my spine, at the small of my back, it pressed down in unmistakable command. I dipped, presented my bottom.
Faint footsteps, muffled by the thick carpet. Hands, many hands slowly lifted my peasant skirt, carefully folding until I felt the cool evening air tease my bare thighs. Ashamed now of my plain white underwear, worn thin through repeated hand-washes in hostel sinks, I stepped out as they were drawn down over trembling calves.
The handle tapped my inner thighs. I widened my stance. Wider, wider urged the whip: straddle the chair and show everything. Humiliated, yet seized by a determination not to be weak, I displayed my parted buttocks and hairy pussy to the voyeurs.
Scratchy music filled the apartment. Caruso sang of love and loss, of hatred and fury. The whip dangled through my crack and teased my holes. I tensed. She rubbed. I sighed and relaxed.
My whipping started slowly and softly. Light flicks barely grazing the skin. As the lamento grew in scope and power, the leather bit deeper and faster. There was no pattern: she struck everywhere and yet it seemed always in an untouched spot. Moans escaped as I writhed. My bottom rising and falling with the operatic vocalizations of legends long deceased.
But, I was alive. In pain yes, but oh so alive. It was not unbearable; if anything, my first ever spanking was shattering inhibitions I never knew I possessed. I strained on tiptoe, with eyes blind, I begged for more. Loud ‘splats’ as she swung hard. I imagined her in pressed Lacoste tennis whites, coolly smashing a forehand winner down the line with genteel grace.
Minutes passed. Five, ten, thirty; I knew not how long the set lasted, but as Caruso reached for the climatic solo, she shifted her target. Up between my widely stretched legs sang the whip. The impact drove a shriek from my mouth. Again she followed through, the sound a wet ‘smack’. My lips stung. The burning heat in my bottom was now secondary to the sharp pinching on my pussy.
Softer, then harder, she varied the rhythm, urging me to give in, to concede the point, give way to her dominant will.
I surrendered. She flogged my throbbing clit. “Un.” A pause as I panted. “Deux.” My thighs clenched. “Vous serez orgasme sur trois.”
Through my tears, I begged, “S’il vous plaît!”
When I recovered my senses, and removed my blindfold, the room was brightly lit once more; and empty. My panties were neatly folded on top of the now polished suitcase. My fingers shook as I pulled the nylon over red flesh, I winced and cried out when I sat down. The suitcase was heavy. It required both hands to carry as I stumbled out into the night.
I realize now I was naive and very fortunate in my rash choice. But — as I tell my husband whenever he asks why I keep the battered chestnut leather stored in my closet — sometimes life is a suitcase: until you open it, you can never begin your journey.