Performer // Photographer // Educator // Rope Expert (Kinbaku//Shibari)

Bea (En)

Bea (En)

How do you crack a walnut?”

I ask him this question with sincerity as I’m eyeing up the bowl of walnuts that’s sat between us. I could’ve walked straight in and started talking immediately about rope, but I think that’s poor etiquette. Besides, I was genuinely curious to see how a walnut is cracked.

There’s no great science behind cracking a walnut – it’s also possible I may have intentionally asked him this so I could then enjoy watching him crack said walnut. He obliges. He picks up the nut cracker next to him (I’ve always thought nut crackers look like medieval torture devices. I’m sure someone somewhere at some point has used one in this way).

He cracks the walnut with ease, delicately picks the small pieces of shell from his hand and offers me the now fragmented nut from inside. I’m actually not so enamoured by walnuts or any kind of nut for that matter. As I’ve already said, I just wanted to watch him crack a walnut.

A thought pops into my head as I’m picking up each piece of walnut from his palm:

I would prefer he fed them to me.

I let the thought go as soon as it enters my mind. This is my second meet with Nicolas, it would be too bold to suggest such a thing. I don’t appreciate people who are too forward with their desires and I don’t wish to replicate that behaviour.

I politely eat the walnut myself.

I’m slightly nervous, but also pretty confident. The nervousness comes more from my English sensibilities and less so as a rope model. I have enough experience to know myself and my body well, hence the confidence. What concerns me more is whether or not I’m being a good guest. At some point, he mentions needing to do the dishes later and for some bizarre reason, I offer to do them, as if it’s completely normal for someone you’ve just met to come into your home and do the washing up. I feel embarrassed immediately after saying it, particularly when he mentions the dishwasher.

If you’ve read this far ahead, you might be wondering why I haven’t talked much about rope yet. I said it to Nicolas myself: I’m not really that interested in rope. Rope is a tool, a material, a thing. It holds no meaning for me on its own. What does resonate with me is the person who’s wielding it. They’re the one who provides the power and passion behind the binding, the restriction, the control. My focus is on Nicolas, not the bundles of rope sat across the other side of the room.

Maybe it sounds like I’m interrogating this man or obsessively observing his behaviour. I guess you could say that, but I think people tell you more about themselves through the way they behave, not just what choice of words they choose to string together. Of course I was interested in hearing the things he had to share, but I was also curious to see what he did.

He suggests me a choice of two herbal teas: one subtle, one fragrant. He offers me each one to smell first before choosing. I pick the subtle one and delight myself in knowing all of my senses are being stimulated. The only one that remains is touch, but I’m not in a hurry.

We share our thoughts on mutual interests: photography, contemporary dance, polyamory. The conversation flows naturally, which comes as a relief. I’m not the most socially gifted of people so it’s always a joy to exchange with someone where that’s not a concern. I feel giddy, but also at ease. It’s a pleasure to share our thoughts, opinions, feelings and life experiences.

Eventually I begin to notice one of my shoulders complaining from being sat on the floor for too long. I propose I warm up and stretch in preparation for tying. We both go our separate ways to prepare ourselves for the exchange we are about to share.

He’s knelt on the floor in the middle of the tatami waiting for me. Often times when I tie with someone, I place myself facing away from them, for the purposes of tying a gote. In this moment, I decide not to predict his movements and place myself directly facing him instead. I occasionally meet his gaze, but also switch between looking down at the floor and closing my eyes. I’m conscious of my body and its stiffness: it’s not easy for me to let go.

When a tie is good for me, the things I remember are the ways the rigger makes me feel. I could try to write about the specifics of how he placed his ropes on me, but again, what interests me is him and what he’s communicating to me. The only aspect of the rope itself that I am mindful of comes from a safety perspective, otherwise I let myself feel his silent words on my skin, spoken through his rope.

I feel myself being compressed, twisted and contorted, and allow myself to react naturally. There’s little gasps, whines and whimpers, but he also elicits growls and grunts from me too. I feel myself a helpless and frustrated wild creature, and it thrills me to feel someone touch on that side of me. Primality is a deeply hidden part of my soul that only few get to see. I’m thankful for his intuition to reach that depth within me.

Most of my rope experience comes from very traditional and static ways of tying. There’s paths and patterns to strictly follow, all in very specific ways. I am therefore able to predict almost everything that will happen when being tied. This for me isn’t inherently bad, it’s just one way of tying. Tying with Nicolas however was a drastically different experience from what I’m used to. Deconstructed and organic feel like the most appropriate words. I felt like I was experiencing rope bondage for the very first time, all over again.

At some point, I become a rag doll. I’m on my feet and he’s wildly tossing and turning my body around him, like some kind of experimental dance. I close my eyes and completely let myself go, giving over my entire self to him and following his lead. We moved together at such great speed, it overwhelmed me in every way. I was afraid, but thrilled. We spun together for what felt like eternity. I don’t know how else to describe the intensity of that moment, but it felt like a beautiful gift that I fully embraced. The best word to summarise this is “whirlwind”.

I remind myself throughout our tie not to keep my eyes closed the entire time. I don’t want to become entirely lost in myself and forget there’s another person here with me. It’s important for me that rope is a mutual exchange, that every person involved feels each others intensity. I mostly communicate this with my eyes so I try my best to pry my eyelids open to take a peek at him. Sometimes he catches my gaze, sometimes he doesn’t and I appreciate both, to witness him in his space, conscious of my presence or focused on the tie. Sometimes I receive a serious look in return or a sweet smile or something more light hearted. Occasionally I would also get a little tap on the nose, a grounding reminder that I’m still human. I would giggle in response and let some of my tension go.

He ties me whist I’m sitting, standing, bent forwards, backwards and laid on the floor. I feel my body being explored and framed in different ways. There’s a moment where I’m stood in the middle of the room with my legs bound together, my waist pulled slightly forwards and my hands free. I should feel vulnerable and possibly grotesque in that moment, but instead I feel beautiful. Normally having my hands free in rope is an unwelcome feeling for me, but in this specific moment, it felt right. I let myself simply exist for a while as I was being observed.

I’m a relatively tall model, but Nicolas is a tall man. It was therefore a rare indulgence for me to be able to bury my face into his shoulder as we embraced at the end of our tie. I felt myself small and fragile, surrounded by a warm and protective force. It felt like the calm after the storm.

Perhaps I should’ve placed more emphasis on this towards the beginning of this text, but I am not someone to let go. I like to be in control of my life and I don’t give that up easily. Rope however is my outlet, my chance to allow myself complete vulnerability, to let someone else decide for me, to give myself up. But in order for this to happen, I need to offer myself to the other person and similarly, they need to take it. This goes far beyond the simple act of placing rope on a body: it’s a mutual understanding and desire to give and take from one another. I am offering a rare gift in the hopes that it will be enthusiastically accepted, with care and respect. I am grateful to know that this is exactly what happened between me and Nicolas.

As I’m slowly coming back down from the clouds, we share some more closeness, some tea, some words. And then he picks up a walnut.

He opens it with the nut cracker.

Takes a small piece.

And feeds it to me.

Clearly Nicolas is a mind reader.