The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.
- Deuteronomy 28:27
Her left knee itched. She thought it might be rude to interrupt his grunting efforts or to cease her approving yelping or even to readjust so the weight of him no longer rested on the offending knee; she felt it was her obligation to appear at all times consumed by a pleasure so intense it bordered on pain, a pleasure inhabiting her so completely that it dispelled internal narratives and minor sensations of thirst or hunger or itchiness, dispelled even the narrative of consciously dispelling narrative and even the narrative dispelling this. She felt that even now the distant thrusting above her should incite in her the wildest throes of primordial rapture. But her left knee itched. She could not think her way around the itch. All tactile feeling was concentrated in concentric circles of prickling, set into rippling motion by the impact of this initial itch, ringing the central and original point of irritation. The knee in question grew enlarged, engorged. It swelled to enormous proportions and cast shadows over the rest of her body. It expanded to fill the space of her consciousness. The itching welled up in her ears. The itching rose up in her throat. She could barely guide her steady moans of imitated pleasure around its obtrusive presence and towards the place where she estimated his ears might be, ears she imagined were eagerly opened like gaping mouths, awaiting her vocal commentary and favorable judgment so that they might consume it. But the itch drowned all this out, diluted all other concentrated thoughts with the strength of itself, and outsung the highest, loudest peaks of her frantic gasping. The itch commandeered her musings on the itch, enveloping them, colonizing them, taking them into its own substance. She itched. She itched and itched and itched. She convulsed with itch. Her skin crawled with itch. She was only itch.
She heard a distant utterance above her and realized absently that he was addressing a direct statement to her, to which propriety necessitated she respond (propriety reigning supreme even here, amidst facial contortions and inhuman groaning and one-leg-trapped beneath-another and sticky wet sounds of unknown origin issuing from some crevice presumably hot and damp and private, and how far this was, much to her now jaded disappointment, from the liaisons she’d dreamt and hoped, where she’d moved inevitably, with the certainty of instinct and need. Her counterpart was to have known, but how she could not have said, not only her every want and thought and wish but also her physical intentions, and he was to have waited ahead for her at some future moment of pleasure and needing, and here at this crossroads of desire they were to have met and intersected and dissolved into each other somewhat like sugar and water).
“What?” she said.
“I said, do you like it,” he said.
“Yes,” she said.
“Tell me you like it,” he said.
“I like it,” she said.
“Tell me how much,” he said.
“It itches,” she wailed.
“It’s del-itch-ous. Delicious.”
“Good,” he said.
“I need to scratch it.”
“No one can…match it.”
(And how different this was and continued to be from those immemorial dreams, dreams almost without origin, preceding her even as she dreamt them, dreams that had wrinkled the paper of her youthful pillow and quickened the slowly sleeping rhythms of her adolescent breath, urging her towards awakening, parting her lips with words she could not name, could not even pronounce, words that left charcoal stains on the white walls of her throat’s interior when she strove to swallow them).
Meanwhile, the itch. Always the itch. The itch extended in a web of connected tingling across her thigh. The itch engaged in expansionary endeavors, intent on securing the area between buttocks and mid-leg. The itch like some imperial army making its maddening way along uncharted limbs.
She involuntarily raised her arm to scratch it, but corrected herself and directed the rogue hand instead to his back, where she dug her nails into the mass of him in an act of fury or maybe an attempt to enter into him and detect his itches and unvoiced discomforts so as to relieve them. This tactic yielding nothing, nothing but endless itch. She struggled to remain considerate. She clutched at him and delivered the customary avowals and entreaties in convincingly breathless tones.
Strange, then, that she was disappointed by his inability to recognize her artifice, to perceive the itch, despite her every effort to conceal it. Even after the last high-pitched squeal of her feigned climax had died away, when he lay beside her with his hand in her hair, telling her he loved her, and she gazed at him adoringly and whimpered weakly for additional theatrical effect, she felt no pride in her performance.
“Do you love me?” she asked.
“Of course,” he said.
“Do you promise?” she said.
“I promise,” he said.
“I have to pee,” she said.
In the bathroom, she rubbed a rough towel over her itchy knee until it was smeared with watery blood. She put it back folded so as to conceal the stains. Then she went to bed and tried to sleep but it was too hot and his arm was angled under her uncomfortably and she didn’t want to wake him, more out of a deep-seated fear of awkwardness than out of actual consideration for his well-being, so she watched the dim glow of the digital clock changing hourly forms and resumed intermittently scratching.