I once saw an old man put his hand through the bars of a cage to rub his cigarette out on the haunch of a snow leopard that lay slumped, sick. The leopard made no movement and the man, dissatisfied, spat, and walked on.

Years later, I lowered my cigarette butt and moved across a crowded floor, grazing the skin beneath the high slit of a skirt. She yelped. I graciously apologized to the woman, walked on, elated, aroused, then saddened that we had not fought, pitched ourselves into a delicious fury that, when followed by the tenderness of apology, could create a rapid wave of intimacy; buoyed up by that elation, I would make love to her, entering her through the hole I had burned in her hip.

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