Their lunch breaks overlapping, as often happened, Ted was hovering around while Jenna and her friend Dina — these days heavily involved with the campus group that called itself “The Nonviolent Gender Alliance” — discussed whether Jenna might be persuaded to come along too, and if so, who she would bring.
This was in the lunch room at Empower, the power company in whose contact center the girls worked part-time while studying for their Arts degrees. Jenna helped herself to a pear from the table that bore a sign saying, “One piece of fruit only per employee!” bit into it, and made a face as she set it aside on the bench. “I just don’t know who I’d bring, Deen. And I don’t know, it feels kind of . . . Confronting.” she knew how important these workshops had become to her friend. It had to do with her unpleasant experience of the previous year, when she had been raped by some guy who had hung around one night after everyone else left a party at her place.
“Don’t know who you’d bring to what?” Ted grinned. “For you, I could always see what’s in my diary.” He looked from one of them to the other, then looked Jenna up and down for the umpteenth time that day, as usual not bothering to conceal his interest. Ted, both girls were well aware, belonged to that peculiar sub-species of dork who combined traits of social awkwardness with cheerful, gormless extroversion.
Much to her friend’ surprise, Dina Jumped in. “It’s a workshop aimed at eliminating violence against women. We do a little role-play and a little meditation.”
“Roleplay, huh?” Ted exclaimed with a wink, which Dina ignored.
“You’d be really welcome to come along.” She explained a little more about the group, how their approach was all about cultivating compassion and empathy, drawing inspiration from Eastern spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, as a way of “bringing women and men together.” Ted nodded along enthusiastically.
“Cool, cool. Yeah I’m down with women’s rights and all that,” Ted averred, “and Buddhism too. I ever tell you about the time I stayed in a Buddhist Ashram in India? Yeah, we really smoked it up in there. Fun times! Sounds like a good cause, too. I can’t stand guys who think it’s okay to hit women; I reckon they all need to be de-balled — that’s my opinion! Still, some chicks do seem to go for ’em. Like my mate’s sister. She dated this guy who was no good for her, started wearing heavy makeup all the time, you know, to hide the bruises? He called the cops but they wouldn’t do anything, so we went around there to talk it over with the guy, know what I mean?” Ted’s hand gestures were amusing in a grotesque way, whether he was smoking an imaginary joint or adopting a fighting stance. He couldn’t stand still; it was the same when he was on the phones. “Course, it was hard to get through to him because, you know, in Muslim culture they’ve got different ideas, so things did get a bit messy for a minute there!”
Jenna imagined that Dina would have a word or two to say about more than one of the inevitable faux pas contained in Ted’s brief speech; instead, though, she just smiled and waited until he was finished and said, “That’s excellent! We’d be so happy to have you along, Ted. Hey, I’ve got to get back on the floor now; I’ll email you the details.”
Jenna felt nonplussed as she stood listening to more of Ted’s self-aggrandizing talk (he was known as “Ted Talks” around the office). It seemed that his white-knight intervention had been a success without any need for violence, after all, so intimidating or morally authoritative had Ted’s intervention been. It was hard to imagine Ted actually fighting anyone, with his doughy, narrow-shouldered physique. Then he went on about the social causes he espoused, among which gay marriage and “the environment” figured prominently.
Parading his social conscience was a wasted effort in more ways than one; Jenna wasn’t into any of that stuff. It was a secret she guarded closely that she wasn’t really interested in much of anything, though to be sure she lived in the expectation of finding something, perhaps via the true love she would meet one day, in which she could believe and that would give ultimate meaning to her life. For now it was just — let’s see, the films of Godard, the novels of Kundera, and spending more than she could afford on clothes from local boutiques with names like “Missy La-la’s.” Meanwhile, the direction of his gaze told her clearly where Ted’s true interest lay, and she had no desire to encourage him. But Dina would have her way!
The workshop was held upstairs in the Student Union building in a big, empty space known as The Ballroom that was sometimes used for yoga classes, and sometimes for book and poster sales. It was held on a Sunday evening at seven PM, oddly enough. The campus was of course deserted, and Jenna reflected that there was some irony in a group whose objective was to make women safe holding their meetings at night in such a location. But for now it was still light, and later she and Dina could look after each other. And look, there was a security guard outside the building, who acknowledged her with a nod and a once-up-and-down.
He said nothing as she walked through the sliding doors. These would normally have been closed at such an hour, but the Nonviolent Alliance had made arrangements, Dina said, so that Jenna was able to walk past the shops protected by roller-shutters, up the stairs from the food court up to the area that housed the office spaces of Union office holders. In the window of the Womyns’ Officer she noticed a motley of posters and placards so profuse it looked as though an effort had been made to barricade the door with them, while a wall-to-wall banner overhead proclaimed: “Stop Racism! Refugees Welcome!”
Outside the designated space Jenna hesitated, seeing no sign to confirm that she was in the right place. The door was closed, but voices could be heard coming from inside.
Self-consciously she pushed open the heavy, creaking door and peeked in. There was a ring of cushions, not chairs, on the floor, with a portable whiteboard in front, and a table had been set up with an urn and some tea and coffee things to one side. There were about a dozen people, equal numbers male and female, present. Ted was there already — of course he was. He was talking to a short, voluptuous woman in early middle age with a full-bodied head of dark curls. This would be Alanah (everyone called her by her first name). Her presence was large, and her voice loud and sonorous. There was no sign of Dina.
Jenna’s presence had been noticed immediately, Alanah registering it with a sideways glance. In a moment she excused herself from Ted, and approaching Jenna — striding so purposefully across the polished floorboards that she had to check herself from turning and running. Ted waved from where he remained standing.
“Hello there, can I help you?” the evening’s facilitator asked with an ambiguous smile.
“I’m Jenna, Dina McClusky’s friend.”
“Oh! That’s wonderful. I’ve wanted to meet you for so long, I’m sure Dina’s told you,” she exclaimed, taking her hand and squeezing, rather than shaking it. Her palm was incredibly warm.
“I’ve just been talking with your friend Ted,” she said in a knowing tone that made it unnecessary for Jenna to chafe at any possibility of her relationship with him being misunderstood. “He’s quite chatty, isn’t he?”
The small talk that followed put her at her ease. Jenna was afraid that she would have to prove her feminist bona fides, or her intelligence, but Alana just asked her a series of quite ordinary questions about her life. It was going to be okay, perhaps even a pleasant occasion.
The next greeting shook Jenna, however. It was Mark, a guy she’d dated a couple of months ago, just arrived with Dina, who stood there practically smirking at the little joke she was evidently playing on them both. Dina knew their history well. Jenna noticed that Mark was wearing the same leather jacket that had looked so good on him when he had worn it on their first date.
“Hey . . . She found herself trailing off as though unable to remember his name, what are you doing here . . . Mark?” He looked embarrassed. “I mean, sorry, I didn’t mean . . . It’s great to see you! Dina, you didn’t tell me . . .”
“Well, I was on campus yesterday. I’m teaching now, in the School of Architecture and Design.” She could see that he didn’t want to brag too obviously, but wanted to tell her that as well as being a high-flying young architect he was now also in demand as a university teacher, “you know, just a couple of days a week. It’s fun to be back on campus! Anyway, I ran into Dina in the quad today and we got talking, so here I am,” he threw his forearms out to either side in a restrainedly expansive gesture, “doing my bit on behalf of mankind, I guess!”
It was not as though he and Dina were friends, or knew each other more than to say hello. Jenna knew that her friend was always on the lookout for male workshop participants, to the point that now she had even begun asking guys she had met in bars, on public transport — anywhere. The rule was that there always had to be equal numbers of men and women at these things, and bringing the same guy along more than once was not done, apparently. False modesty aside, clearly Mark had an ulterior motive for being there, and Dina was happy to exploit it. Jenna glanced at her friend, who gave her a mischievous look that confirmed her suspicion.
Thankfully it wasn’t long before things got started. “You know,” Alana began, standing in the group’s midst after everyone had taken their seats on the firm, round cushions, “I’ve done these workshops in workplaces, schools and prisons, places where attendance is compulsory; but it never ceases to amaze me how many men there are like the ones here tonight who volunteer, week after week, to support and participate in what we’re doing, which is to make a better, safer, respectful and peaceful world for all of us. So first of all I need to say a big welcome and a big well-done just for being here. This was followed by enthusiastic female-led applause. “And well done all you women, too. I’m so impressed at the effort you make every week to spread the word and how seriously you take our work here.” There was another round of applause, and big smiles all round.
The preliminaries were shortly over, Alanah stating that they had “a lot to get through.” The first item on the agenda was a sentence-completion exercise. The men had to finish the sentence, “I like being a man because . . .” with the women afterwards doing the same with reference to their own gender. Jenna was terrified as they went around the circle, not knowing what to say. When the moment came she just said something tautological about being free to be herself, and blushed.
Next the sexes were asked to separate and stand in concentric circles, taking turns to say what they thought about rape in the space of five minutes — yes, a whole five minutes. Jenna wanted to hide. There was no requirement to pair up with their ostensible dates for the evening, so, no doubt much to Ted’s disappointment, it was Dina rather than Jenna who took up a position opposite him, while Jenna’s eyes met Mark’s, who had taken the initiative.
He took a deep breath and exhaled demonstratively. “Well, what do you say about a topic like rape? The only time I think about it is when there’s something in the paper, like that poor woman recently who . . . what was her name . . . ?” He clicked his fingers. “Isn’t that terrible? I can’t remember anything about it really, except some woman was violently raped in the city in a laneway that could have been mine. I know what you’re thinking, and the answer’s no!” he blushed, “Sorry, I shouldn’t joke. You know the case I mean? She had red hair, on the front page . . . and the guy they arrested the other day was probably a serial offender. Anyway, as a man I walk around the city at night all the time. Often I work late, you know, and I don’t think anything about it. So I guess I feel sorry — sorry if that sounds patronizing, but you know what I mean — for women because I guess you have to always ask, ‘Is it safe?’ But I know, I know. It’s not always ‘stranger danger.’ I know there are other kind of rape — even though, I get it, rape is rape — I’m not trying to make a distinction or anything. What is it they say, that statistic you always hear? One in three women? I don’t know if it’s right or not, but . . . Well, I guess the hard thing about a figure like that is it puts you on the defensive as a man, and you feel like you have to distance yourself from all this sexual violence that’s going on, but without, uh, protesting too much, if you know what I mean. So it’s a very awkward topic that’s hard to confront and I guess I should know more about it . . .” Here he petered out and looked at his watch.
“It’s okay, Mark, you don’t have to keep going. It’s fine.” Jenna finally intervened, flash-back images of the two of them in bed, of his worshipful lovemaking, that look in his eyes that was there this very moment, peeping out; then of how those eyes had filled with tears . . . Ah, how different was this stumbling, cowed individual striving to present the most obsequious front humanly possible, from the suave persona she incredulously half-remembered from the early days of their relationship. He had not been able to keep it up for long. Before speaking out just now she had looked around and noticed that Alanah was standing aloof — or rather sitting, in full lotus position with eyes closed, some distance outside the circle. Her dark, juicy lips were moving.
“Sorry Mark. I appreciate what you’re trying to say, but you don’t need to beat yourself up for my sake. I’m just here to support Dina, to be honest with you. I know you’re a caring person, and I don’t think all men are rapists or anything like that; I don’t even think I’m a feminist, really. Sure I believe in equality and stuff . . . God, I don’t know if I can do this sober!”
“You’re a good friend to her, I can tell,” he said, venturing to touch her forearm. She didn’t flinch. They spent the next few minutes just talking about Dina, her hardship and the way she had dealt with it, how much more confident and happy she was now. Then Jenna steered the conversation to Mark’s career, which as always he was only too pleased to talk about.
“Okay everyone, I overheard some great discussions there, some really open exchanges.” Overheard? What that glance in her direction? Jenna shuddered. “Now if everyone could please face this way for the next exercise.”
A brainstorm on the causes of rape came next, with the general consensus being that the answer was “patriarchy,” “toxic masculinity,” and various other buzzwords that came down to the same thing. Jenna contributed nothing, but spent the time watching the clock, praying that she would not be called upon to contribute. It was irksome to hear the men repeating after the women the things they had already said, and looking to them for approval. But then she was called upon. All the acceptable answers were already on the board. In her confusion, the best she could do was to say, “I guess sometimes men feel . . . confusion when they think women are, I don’t know, giving off signals . . .” There were some quizzical looks, but thankfully no overt hostility.
A truly awful moment came shortly afterward, however, when Ted started talking about Muslims and how some cultures don’t respect women but engage in practices as barbaric as female genital mutilation. He was shut down by a several women and men working in concert, one of whom practically shouted that “Western civilization is rape!” Jenna didn’t like the look on Dina’s face while it was happening, nor the way Professor Goldberg allowed it up to that point, at which she simply raised an open-palm in a gesture reminiscent of a Buddha statue, bringing the discussion to a sudden close. Jenna didn’t necessarily agree with Ted, but she didn’t like to hear people being shouted down.
This, thankfully the final talking activity, was followed by a “deepening of approach,” as Alana put it. What really differentiated the program from other anti-rape workshops, she explained, recapitulating what Jenna already knew, was how she used various meditation techniques derived from yoga and Buddhism that were designed to “expand consciousness and enable us to identify with others, and ultimately with all sentient beings.” She told the group that it was unnecessary for them to hold any religious or metaphysical presuppositions; she herself was a secular Jew, and if one followed another religion or was an atheist, no matter: the practices they were about to engage in were compatible with any belief system that valued peace, love, compassion and above all empathy.
“I can promise you I’ve never had any complaints, but of course, if anything makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, you’re perfectly free to exit yourself from the activity, and I’m more than happy to discuss any concerns you may have afterwards.”
They were now sitting on their cushions, facing towards their leader who stood dimply lit from above, as well as behind by the fainter lights of the campus behind a row of windows, her split ends and flyaway curls glowing like sparks. Someone had just gone and turned off some of the overhead lights. Leaves of plane trees shook gently, casting shadows into the room. Mood-lighting, Jenna thought.
The exercise began with a breathing meditation guided by Alana’s sonorous voice. It was hard not to be affected by its mellowness, the reassuring warmth of those drawn-out, sing-song syllables. She stopped listening to the actual words after a while, as deep relaxation took hold.
Then at some point the meditation developed into a visualization. Afterwards, Jenna had a sense of having seen things very vividly which it was hard to believe that she had only imagined, despite how disjointed and surreal it all appeared in memory. There had been strange shapes and colors that coalesced into semi-anthropomorphic forms before dissipating suddenly: things that Alana’s commentary made clear were personifications of states of mind, some peaceful and others incredibly violent, though the violence remained lucid and poised. She couldn’t remember, either, if she had felt disturbed by any of it — the many sets of waving arms, the huge demonic faces with mouths like savage animals and the lesser beings they trod down or devoured with their many mouths, and the many other things of which she would catch a mental glimpse now and again for days afterwards, and that came back to her in dreams. There was a sense of awe, certainly, and fascination; and throughout, the sound of Alanah’s voice which Jenna began to feel was her own, emanating from the deep place within her from whence these fantastic apparitions also came.
Now the participants were gently recalled to their physical bodies, though not entirely to mundane reality. They were instructed to form male-female pairs, and Jenna found herself with Mark again, surprising herself by taking his hand. On sitting down facing one another and closing their eyes, they were supposed to visualize the scenarios to be narrated by Alana. This time they were back on planet earth, on the physical plane, and the situations were things like being whistled at in the street, being pestered for dates or sex, etc., right up to actually being raped. Jenna found it emotionally intense, though in a strange way. Having Mark there, close enough to feel the heat emanating from his body, helped; it was him she saw in these visions that were constructed in detail by Alanah’s narration. With a degree of self—awareness she had not known in the previous exercise, she marveled at how vivid it all was. Jenna thought she had a pretty good imagination, but normally were she to close her eyes what she saw would look blurry and shifting; whereas this was more like watching a movie — even if, from next day’s point of view, it was more like some movie that she had seen years ago, the plot half-forgotten, or one of Godard’s later films that she couldn’t quite appreciate.
And it was paired up with a breathing exercise that she would have imagined it difficult for a beginner to execute, even with undivided attention — but as it turned out, nothing at that moment could have felt more natural than to alternate between it and the visualized scenarios.
After spending some time building up an intense emotion, she and, and presumably the other women, would be instructed to open their eyes and look at their partner. To Jenna, though, it was as if she alone was being spoken to. She had no thought of anyone else except Mark who, of course, was sitting right in front of her, cross-legged on his cushion. Jenna would be instructed to take a deep breath of pure, cleansing light — and this she could actually see as if it were part of the physical reality surrounding her, illuminating her immediate environs in the twilit room. (Afterwards she could not remember if her eyes had been open for this, or if it had all been part of the visualization.) Then she would breathe out coal-black smoke, which Alana said represented all that horror and fear and loathing that she had generated via the scenario of violation she had just visualized. At the same time Mark, called into action, would open up and inhale all that darkness, convert it to white light inside him, and restart the cycle of exchange.
It was a phenomenologically unique experience in which Jenna played the role of a crucible filled with emotions that were like white hot metal: rage, hatred, humiliation, despair, and so on. But for the time being at least, she was made of a substance with a far higher melting point. She was like one of those one of those by turns ferocious and peaceful deities that she had visualized earlier with their many eyes, their various animal heads, not excluding lobster or spider, adorned with human bones — and who, the next moment, would smile beatifically in graceful human form.
As best she could remember, the commentary and instructions had all been in the third person, referring to some sort of archetypes: “Dasanara stares at Prabhutinari, his eyes seeking out and lingering on the sacred zones of her body . . . “Prabhutinari exhales the black smoke of her pain; Dasanara inhales and accepts it into himself . . .” and so on. Those names, or something like them, stood out among the many strange syllables Jenna half-remembered as they progressively resubmerged in her subconscious over the days that followed.
Meanwhile something else happened, besides what Jenna was strictly being told to imagine, feel and do. In those long moments when she was looking into Mark’s eyes while he gazed back into hers, she saw clearly that he loved her profoundly; that his whole purpose in life, in fact, was to love her — a horrifying thought. Jenna didn’t feel guilty or sympathetic about it at all, the way she had in real life, both with Mark and with the various other guys she had had to let down since high school; and as with the other emotions she had generated, there was a certain excess of clarity and detachment that somehow detracted nothing from their intensity.
She didn’t flinch, but kept looking into Mark’s eyes, as fascinated in her own way as he was with her, now cultivating actual hatred for the stupid, besotted look on his face, and especially in those creepily importunate, tear-glistening eyes. It was as though she were staring at a giant slug, its eyes reaching out for her on quivering stalks.
And then, quite shortly, it was over. Alana was telling her to return to her body — ironic since Mark’s gaze had already performed that role — to feel the sensation in this part and that, to stretch and open her eyes. She looked at the clock. It had been three straight hours, and no-one had complained! She must have said her goodbyes and pleased-to-meet-yous before leaving with Dina, both of them silent, finding no need for speech until they parted ways at the tram stop in front of the campus.
Ted was less loud than usual, Jenna noticed. He hadn’t tried to talk to her, and she hadn’t caught him staring at her from his nearby workstation, either; his gaze darted everywhere like someone in a panic. Nor had he said anything about the workshop, or anything to her at all. He was acting strangely, pulling funny faces while talking on the phone, and doing accents that made Jenna and others cringe and exchange looks. And the things he said! At least once he had been tapped on the shoulder by Teamleader Tahnee and probably called to account for the accents, the comments criticizing the company, the inappropriate language . . . His tone had changed, too: formerly erring on the side of brashness, it now modulated wildly, though the default seemed to be a conciliatory whine. More than once Jenna saw tears in his eyes, though fortunately she had not yet been positioned to have to be the one to comfort him.
On Friday Ted burnt his hand removing a super-heated bowl of soup from the microwave. He always ate the same brand of ready-made microwave soup for lunch; his cupboards at home must have been full of it. Jenna overheard a conversation he had with someone who had brought homemade soup for lunch one day, in which Ted was arguing the point about whose soup was best, and insisting that his pea and ham be tasted.
Embarrassed, he assured everyone present that he was alright and set to work cleaning up the mess. It wasn’t until about an hour later, when they were back on the floor, that Jenna noticed a huge blister in Ted’s palm, literally the size of a kiwi fruit, while he was standing up gesticulating.
“Excuse me, Quan. I think Ted’s hurt,” she explained to a Subject Matter Expert who happened to be passing nearby. “Look at his hand.”
Quan glanced at Ted, who was advising someone complaining about their bill, “Oh, I know, bills are just astronomical at this time of year, it’s terrible! Our pensioners’ discount really should be higher . . .”
The SME walked around to Ted’s side of the divider and in a moment looked back up at Jenna with the same expression she could feel forming on her own face. She let him finish his call, then said, “Ted, I want you to go in not ready.” He looked alarmed, reflecting back her emotion as he stood up to face her, free of the misguided self-assurance of former times.
“What’s wrong with your hand?”
He held up the uninjured one, stared at it uncomprehendingly.
“No, the other one! Oh my God, that looks terrible! I think you’d better get yourself to the doctor, Ted.”
“Oh . . . yes,” he agreed. “Should I . . . Should I just finish these call notes first?” In fact, Quan decided that he should do so — then go directly to seek medical help.
Jenna had asked Dina what the idea was, bringing Mark, and she had disclaimed any hidden agenda. They just happened to bump into each other beforehand, nothing more. Jenna felt herself returning progressively to mundanity, to her inner mediocrity. Much as she would have like to believe otherwise, deep down she knew that she was no one special. She understood that if it were not for her above-average looks, a guy like Mark, so brilliantly accomplished that by rights he should have been out of her league — would never have looked at her like she was a goddess come to earth.
Her feelings for Mark, she knew, had never made any sense. Objectively he was a good catch, as her incredulous friends had all pointed out without being able to make her waver in her decision. Jenna knew that some of her friends, in her place, would have strung him along to take advantage of his great apartment, free meals and swish restaurants, etc.; maybe even used him to get introduced to other guys in his upwardly-mobile circle. But Jenna wasn’t like that. She supposed that she was just flighty, like a lot of girls, and that experience and the right man would someday overcome that. It was a pattern with her: at a certain point she would just lose interest in a guy she was dating without being able to explain why.
How could Mark really think she was worth looking at like that? Could he really be that stupid; or was he playing a joke on her, making fun of her insignificance by putting her on a pedestal? She felt a lot of emotions about that, none as clearly focused or outward-directed as the ones she had channeled in the workshop. Jenna could understand why those sessions had grown so important to Dina’s sense of self; on the other hand, she was afraid to go back.
Jenna was not sure exactly why she went to see Mark in the end, given that she would have done almost anything to avoid seeing that look in his eyes again. But after what had happened with Ted, she felt compelled to investigate.
The key to his flat was still in her dresser drawer. If it hadn’t been for his luxurious and well-situated apartment, Jenna might have discounted the stories Mark told, in elliptical and self-deprecating style, of his professional triumphs. It was on the third floor in a laneway in the middle of the city, looking out over an alleyway that housed a couple of bars and a Japanese restaurant. A drumbeat was already pounding out of one of the bars. She had gone there with him on their first date when he had gloated a little upon belatedly mentioning where he lived, and more so when, a few bottles of sake to the good, Jenna had agreed to come up with him.
She now punched in the code that was written on the key-ring, and the reinforced door clicked open. “We’re here!” Mark had said with a cocky look over his shoulder that night. She could hear his voice now, and it made her sad. He had seemed like such a cool guy back then.
There was a little spasm in her belly when the elevator doors opened on the ground floor. No, Mark wasn’t inside. She reached the fourth floor. No, once again the face she dreaded yet felt compelled to see again wasn’t there when the doors opened. Jenna walked down the hall and pressed the intercom, nervous because she knew that he would be able to see her grainy image from inside the flat. Perhaps he would weep for joy. She shuddered.
Jenna still wasn’t sure exactly what she wanted to say, or what she hoped to gain; something told her that words would be beside the point, anyway. Her explicitly formulated plan was just politely to return his key, a gesture he could hardly misconstrue. Even that was going to be completely awkward — just imagine the poor guy’s disappointment, the hurt look in his — ughh, no!
The smell of freshly polished floorboards in the corridor brought back a memory of that blurry night, and the subsequent ones. Mark’s aftershave and the leather smell and feel of the jacket he always wore. An unexpected flower of nostalgia bloomed suddenly under her diaphragm. Jenna understood that she was still somehow enamored of the guy she had imagined Mark to be. She heard him now, saying with a kind of ironic smugness, “Welcome to my pad. Make yourself at home.”
She put the key in the lock, turned and pushed.
The door opened and there he was standing at the far end of the living room, beside the drawing table over by the big window that looked out over the city and its grey sky. He was shifting his weight from one foot to the other listlessly. Did he know she was there? She felt a dread that prevented her from calling to him or approaching. The room was dimly lit, with one of one of the standard lamps casting most of its light upwards on the ceiling. He was wearing his ever-present leather jacket, despite the warmth, and underneath it the tails of the pink shirt she remembered from the other night were hanging out messily. The place was stuffy and smelled rank.
After a few moments she succeeded in taking a couple of steps and calling his name. Mark turned to face her. On his blood-streaked face there were two dark, clotted pits where his eyes should have been.