The next evening, Fang Chi stood waiting before his desk. The sky, colored earlier than usual by the afterglow, was wreathed in mists tinted purple and red. He glanced at his watch: it was five thirty. Right on the dot, someone began knocking on the door behind him. Knock, knock, knock. Fang Chi knew it. In spite of all the hurt and rejection, Gao Zhun could not leave him - could not do without him.
The door opened. Gao Zhun stood outside in a refined suit, his black hair combed back impeccably from his face. He held himself upright before Fang Chi, and looked up with the red, puffy eyes of a broken-hearted girl. "You knew for sure that I'd come, didn't you?" he began abruptly. "That's why you were waiting for me. It's all you need to do. You know that you've got me in your palms, and there's nowhere else for me to run…" He gritted his teeth, bitter and resentful. "Is it so fun to toy with me like this?"
Gao Zhun's questions were direct and blunt to the point of aggression, but Fang Chi remained unfazed and unafraid. He did not need to explain himself, nor did he need to apologize for his actions. He merely closed the distance between them, step by step. Secretary Li had already left for the day; they were the only ones in the clinic now. Without any reservation, Fang Chi hugged Gao Zhun by the door and touched his swollen eyelids with tender, loving fingers. "You've been crying?"
Like a spooked puppy, Gao Zhun tried to shrink from his hand - but no puppy could ever resist the caress of its master. Even the wildest of pups would submit readily to its owner's doting touch. Thus, Gao Zhun gave in. Trembling, he endured the feel of Fang Chi's fingers on his skin while tremor after tremor racked through his body. In the gentlest of tones, Fang Chi asked, "Were you thinking of me?"
Gao Zhun remained stubborn, refusing to utter a single word. Fang Chi tried again, "Do you dislike me now, hm?"
At this, Gao Zhun's lips began to quiver as he glared up at Fang Chi with eyes full of hurt. Fang Chi slid his hands around the face before him, cupping it with care as he continued, "Still refusing to talk to me? How cruel…"
Gao Zhun caved at last. Burying himself against Fang Chi's chest, he sobbed into the body before him, "Stop playing with me, please. Stop pulling me close just to push me away. I can't bear it…"
Fang Chi coaxed as he thumbed away Gao Zhun's tears, "How could I ever push you away? It's just that… sometimes, I'm so scared that I don't know what to do."
"You're lying." Gao Zhun grabbed one of Fang Chi's hands and pressed it to his lips. "You're never lost, never afraid…" The more he thought about it, the more resentful he felt. Without any warning, he bit hard into the soft flesh of Fang Chi's palm. Unprepared for such an attack, Fang Chi cried out at the pain, staring at Gao Zhun in shock.
Gao Zhun, however, remained undaunted. He stared back at Fang Chi, a taunting and provocative glint in his widened eyes even as their depths swirled with sorrow and affection. Fang Chi watched on, mesmerized by the vitality in his face. Before his eyes, Gao Zhun's beauty took on an edge of dazzling sharpness, its charm as fatal as the finest razor blade. An impulse welled up at once within Fang Chi - a burning desire to tear apart Gao Zhun's collar, grab his throat in a stranglehold, and crush that body with sheer primal brutality.
Gao Zhun sensed the impulse within Fang Chi. It hit him like some sort of chemical signal, telling him to wait like a good boy - and so he did, pouting slightly, as if he had gone into heat. Fang Chi, too, picked up on the sexual need raging through Gao Zhun. They had come to the final threshold, he realized, beyond which there was no turning back. He had to rein in his horses now, or be mired forever in the mess between them. "Let's begin the session," he said all of a sudden, "take off your jacket and lie down on the couch."
Gao Zhun could not comprehend what Fang Chi had just said. He remained frozen for several seconds. When Fang Chi released him and began heading for the couch, he finally realized that the other man had gotten cold feet again. "I was trying to seduce you… wasn't I?"
"Nonsense," Fang Chi replied, laughing it off. "You were just feeling unstable. You didn't know what you were doing."
"No. I did know," Gao Zhun refuted him with certainty. "That was exactly what I was doing - seducing you."
"You're straight, and so am I. There's no such thing as seduction between us." Fang Chi finished setting up and patted the crimson couch. "Come. C'mon over."
Without any expression on his face, Gao Zhun removed his jacket and flung it onto the desk. Then he yanked off his tie with a swish and tossed it on the floor. "As you wish."
He lay down before Fang Chi with a somewhat sacrificial air. Tilting his neck a little to the side, he was the very image of a martyr in a classical oil painting. "Abdominal breathing again, is it?" he asked, unbuttoning his shirt without any fuss. As he reached down to undo his belt, however, Fang Chi's hands clamped over his, stopping him in his movements.
"No, we'll be trying out another exercise today. It's called EMDR: eye movement desensitization and reprocessing." Fang Chi was still holding on to Gao Zhun's hands, showing no signs of letting go. "I need you to relax and entrust yourself to me completely." Fang Chi's hands were very hot and wet with sweat. "During the rape," he continued, "what were you most terrified of?"
Every muscle in Gao Zhun's body tensed and tightened at the sound of the word 'rape'. Suspecting that Fang Chi was tormenting him on purpose, Gao Zhun glared at the other man with bitter hate. "Is this the reason why you act the way you do? You think I'm too filthy for you?"
Fang Chi replied with a sigh, "Mr. Gao, we're in the middle of your treatment…"
"You call this 'treatment'?" Gao Zhun fired back at him, defiant and aggressive. "You, holding my hands - this is part of your treatment? Holding my hands like a lover… and everything you've done before…" His eyes reddened as tears welled up once more. "Now, I can't do without you anymore. I think of you all the time, every waking minute of my life. You must feel real proud of your accomplishments right now!"
Fang Chi chose to run away. "I need you to recall an image," he pressed on with his instructions, "one that is representative of the traumatic experience…"
"Does the concept of virginity apply to men as well?" Gao Zhun cut him off harshly. "Would you have been willing if I wasn't raped - if I was still clean and whole?"
"We wouldn't even have met if you weren't raped," Fang Chi replied, rational and logical. He looked at Gao Zhun with cold, unfeeling eyes. "If you weren't raped, you wouldn't have spared me even a single glance. You'd still be the peacock you'd always been, proudly living your life of superiority above the clouds."
Stunned by Fang Chi's response, Gao Zhun was speechless. It was clear that Fang Chi had gone too far with his self-revelation; by the professional standards for therapists, he had failed in the management of his emotions. "Alright, let's continue." He released Gao Zhun's hands and dried his own on a piece of tissue. "Recall your traumatic experience. Out of all the images that terrify you, pick out the one that you most want to be free of."
Gao Zhun's heart was in turmoil. This was the first time that Fang Chi had ever spoken about his own feelings. Despite Fang Chi's restraint, the obsessive undercurrents in those words made Gao Zhun almost certain that he, too, had feelings towards himself. "They're all… all terrifying. They keep replaying in my head in slow motion. I want to get rid of them all."
"Which is the most terrifying, then?" Fang Chi asked with deliberate indifference. Yet, the harder he tried to conceal his jealousy, the more obvious it became. "Is it when he pins you down with his weight like an animal, for example? Or when he hits you and tears off your trousers?" After a brief pause, he added, "Perhaps it is the moment when he enters you? Or maybe the moment when you reach your climax with fear and unease?"
The onslaught of questions overwhelmed Gao Zhun. Every single utterance was a cruel slap to his face, filling him with terror, rage, and humiliation. "It's probably… the moment when he inserted himself in me."
Inserted - Fang Chi was stung by the word choice. "Okay, I need you to recall that image now," he said, holding his hand about forty centimeters before Gao Zhun's face. Closing his middle and index fingers, he began moving them from side to side. "Think of that image - keep it in your mind - and track my fingers with your eyes. Do your best to keep it up, and tell me when it gets too overwhelming for you."
His nails were neatly trimmed. His fingers were long and straight, their pads tinted with a light shade of red. As Gao Zhun stared up at these fingertips, his mind suddenly associated the sight with something perverse and much dirtier. As he berated himself in silence for his lewdness, his lips became bloodshot from the sense of shame within him. Under the light, their crimson hue took on a tempting brilliance.
"Focus." Fang Chi moved his fingers rhythmically. He started by moving them from left to right. Then he moved them in a vertical direction, from top to bottom. Lastly, he moved them in slow circles before Gao Zhun's eyes. "Think of the image from your trauma."
As instructed, Gao Zhun forced himself to recall it in his mind, detail by detail: the put down seat and the stifling smell of sweat; the weight of the man, the strain between his legs as the cheeks of his ass were pulled apart, and the unspeakable pain as he was penetrated by the burning rod… He should have been petrified by now, but as he watched Fang Chi's fingers hover before him, he was consumed by a rush of helpless excitement instead. His cheeks reddened. His limbs trembled. Overcome with desire, he pursued those nimble tips in earnest, his smitten eyes filled with unabashed longing.
Standing over Gao Zhun, Fang Chi noticed the change in the other man. His heart began racing out of control. Little by little, he lost himself to the thrall of Gao Zhun's influence - a force not quite seductive, but more than enough to stoke the lust within him. He sped up the movement of his fingers, swiftly manipulating Gao Zhun's vision just so that he could feast his eyes to his heart's content on those lips right before him. He yearned to lean in at once and claim them with his own. Yet, even as his desire racked his body with chills over and over again, he was hit with a far more terrible realization: as if he were hypnotized by his own fingers, he had absolutely no intentions of stopping himself.
He leaned closer and closer to Gao Zhun, casting the shadow of his nose bridge onto the side of Gao Zhun's face. Then, he watched as his own shadow flitted across Gao Zhun's cheek and touched the corner of his lips. If there were indeed two sides to every human soul, he figured that the shadow must be the manifestation of his evil self. It must have gotten tired of waiting and fled the burden of his earthly body to steal a taste of that forbidden sweetness.
You've fallen deep, Fang Chi - he could not help but tell himself - you're truly done for this time.
Firstly, a big thank-you to all DITA readers! Thank you for your support so far (I really appreciate all the comments and ko-fi donations from you!).
More importantly, I would like to share some thoughts about the future developments in DITA. As we near the mid-way mark of the novel, more conflicts arise between the characters, and the novel reveals more of its underlying darkness. Some of you have shown concern and distress over the problematic relationships in DITA. Without giving the plot away, I hope to warn you that many of these problems will continue to intensify / escalate, and I completely understand if any of you find it difficult to keep reading DITA.
At the end of the day, however, DITA is a novel about obsessions and desires. No character in the novel is perfect; we as readers simply bear witness to the fumblings and failings of every one of them. As the characters continue to change and reveal their true selves, I hope that you'll also find ways to continue enjoying the novel.