Being huge isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. People are always looking at you, for one thing. Staring. I can see their eyes tracking up and up, and then their lips sort of purse just a moment before they hide it, if they’re being polite. If I thought that would change when I came to university, I was wrong. Still, being locked in the ivory tower’s better than being out in the real world, where people aren’t even polite. That’s one reason I signed on for four more years of grad school.
I’m not pretty and I’m not cute. I’ve been called handsome, by my mum. Thanks, mum. What I am is solid. Six feet up and three across, I’m a beast in the boat, the power in your power ten. Yep, I’m a big dumb jock trapped in the body of a big dumb jock.
It feels that way sometimes, anyway. Boys are scared of me. Or disgusted. Girls want me to be the boy. The few that are my size look at me like I’m the competition. Which I appreciate, a bit of respect is all right.
I just wish I didn’t have to be such good friends with my vibrator. All this sport leaves me hornier than a dog in heat. I have to try not to stare too hard at all the fit girls in the changing room, or the boys when they’re out on the river in their onepieces.
There’s nothing quite so discouraging as spotting a lad getting hard in his lycra, and watching him wilt when he makes eye contact with you. If I was a different person maybe that would turn me on, but I’ve got enough power in my muscles, I don’t need to go around dominating people.
And I don’t want to give the girls the wrong idea by staring too hard either. I’ve ended up in bed with a couple of women who just lie there, waiting for me to take the lead.
At least a lack of romance in my life lets me commit 100% to rowing. First in, last to leave. The only other member of my crew who shows the same level of commitment is our cox, Sarah. A skinny northern lass, she probably could have gone out for the lightweights but she has mad coxing skills. I’d never heard her run out of things to say to us on the river. Sometimes it’s a little bit difficult to get a word in edgeways, to be honest. But I’m the strong, silent type, aren’t I? Hmmm? Nobody wants to hear what I have to say, and they probably know what I’m going to say anyway.
I’ll talk about rowing. It’s my life right now. I don’t have any other hobbies. Well, there’s work, but the less I have to think about my arse-faced PhD advisor, the fewer arse-faced PhD advisors are going to get punched.
Sarah’s probably the only one who understands. I mean, it sounds like she does, I’ve never actually asked. She’s all business and that’s fine by me. Training rotas, boat maintenance, analysing the reams of data that come off the cox-box, that’s her thing. She squeezes the best out of us and that more than makes up for carrying her weight in the boat.
I’m constantly astonished that you can pack all the bits a human needs into her leggy body. I must be twice her volume at least.
She must have felt me looking at her. “How’s it hanging, Anna? Off home?”
“Cheers, coxie,” I say. I like calling her that. She seems to like it too, because she’s never corrected me. Some of the other girls, usually the ones who were in the boat last year, before she showed up to school us, call her Sarah, but I don’t think that’s completely respectful. “Not just yet. Gonna work on my calves a bit.”
She looks down at my legs and tilts her head a little. “Come here a sec,” she says.
I stand in front of her, turned a bit to the side so she can check out my calves up close. That’s not what she’s after, though.
“Step into my office,” she says, sweeping her hand grandly at the corner of the boathouse she’s appropriated. “I’ve got something to show you.”
I plant myself on the bench next to her makeshift desk – a folding chair with a box on it – and turn my attention to her computer.
But she lifts her laptop off the box. “Here, grab that,” she says, nodding at the box.
I hold it in my lap. It’s not just an empty box but it isn’t very heavy. “What’s this?”
“Next generation training technology,” she enunciates crisply. “Build a better rower, or your money back.”
I grin at her. “Aces.”
“Want to try it out?”
I shrug. “Yeah, course.”
“Show a bit less enthusiasm, why don’t you.” Her frown is strictly in jest but I still feel a pang of guilt. She’s got us well trained not to disappoint her.
“Sorry, coxie. Please make me a better rower?” I ask in my most wheedling tone.
“That’s more like it. Open it up.”
The box contains several plastic bags. We open them one at a time and lay the contents out on the bench.
“Hmmm,” says Sarah. I am mostly stumped as to how all these things go together. I’m hoping she can figure it out. “‘Kay then, strip off.”
I shuck the long-sleeve training top and tights that I bum around the boathouse in.
“All of it, I reckon,” she says.
I barely hesitate. I may be conscious of my body, I may dislike it’s sheer bulk, but I’m not ashamed of it and besides, she’s seen it all before. My sports bra and pants hit the floor.
She hands me the bra from the box. “This first.”
I’m grateful that I have small tits for my height. Less baggage. They’re still good handfuls, though, and this bra looks serious enough. It fastens round the back and there’s a flexible flat cable emerging from the underwire that flops around behind me. Sarah makes sure it doesn’t get snagged. It’s tight but comfy.
The lycra suit is fancy. I love our team colours, but this one has some slick silver designs and next-gen fabrics built in. I feel a bit like an astronaut putting on a spacesuit. The arms and legs reach down a bit further than I’m used to, right to the joints. There’s an invisible zipper up the front which I pull right up. Once it’s on, it feels like I’m wearing nothing.
“Looking good. Um. Sit down and let me do this bit, it looks fiddly.”
I sit on the bench obediently. She comes around behind me and deftly loops a thick band around my neck. I’m not worried but I am curious. “What’s this?”
“Blood pressure and sensory feedback monitor, so it says.” It stretches a little as she pulls it tight. The flat cable from my bra plugs into it at the nape of my neck. There’s a loom of cable that trails down from the necklace too. “You all right with this, Anna?” she asks me.
I shrug my shoulders. “Yeah, sure. Why?”
She sits down next to me, puts her hand on my shoulder, and turns my chin so I’m looking at her. She doesn’t seem to know what to say. She talks quietly when she does. “I, uh, think I’ve just put a collar on you. And a leash. Doesn’t that make you feel a bit… weird?”
I snort a little. “Fifty shades weird?”
She nods at me, lip caught in her teeth. Her hand is at the small of my back now. She’s blushing, and now so am I. “Um…”
“Are you not curious what all this stuff does?” I blurt. Ruining the moment.
Sarah withdraws. She nods. “Yep. Let’s head over to your erg.”
We always use the same erg, each of us. I get comfy on mine, strapping my feet in and picking up the handle, ready position.
“Wait, there’s more,” says Sarah. It’s a little fiddly, but she swaps out the handle for the handle-shaped thing that came out of the box. This one is bright stainless steel, and trails yet another cable that she loops out of the way. It’s cold but it warms up quickly as I hold it. Not metal all the way through, then.
I’m ready again but there’s yet another element to install. I lift my butt in the air while Sarah slips the foam pad onto the seat. It’s fairly firm and apparently also instrumented. “Is that it?” I ask.
“Think so,” she replies. “Take a slow pull and I’ll find the best place for my computer.”
I work through a few strokes like a martial artist doing his kata, all form. Sarah guides the cables to where they won’t get in the way of the slide and bundles them together. She sets her laptop on the folding chair and everything plugs in to one master connector.
She plugs a USB stick into her computer. “Let’s see what kind of software this thing comes with.”
The way she has it set up, I can’t see the screen. But her eyes are focused, flickering back and forth. I speed up a little. The cables don’t drag appreciably but I am quite aware of the collar. It doesn’t affect my breathing but it is snug. I suppose it has to be if it measures blood pressure. The flat cable running down between my shoulder blades makes me just a little bit stiffer on the catch, so I try to compensate.
“OK,” she says. “Let’s give this thing a whirl.” She plonks her finger down on the enter button.
It’s an hour later. I’m stretched out on my back on the floor, moaning. My exhausted thighs twitch and my arms flop weakly.
Sarah’s head is down between my legs and her mouth is clamped over the slick lycra fabric that covers my crotch. It’s torture, it’s so nearly enough, and suddenly my stomach muscles clench hard and I’m coming. I let out a stifled scream like a steam whistle. I try to push her head away but I have no strength left in my arms.
She doesn’t stop. My legs spasm and jerk around her, she keeps them apart with her shoulders. I can’t get rid of her. She’s driving me insane. But she’s taken all my muscles and replaced them with bags of jelly.
I come again, and a third time, before she lets up.
The suit, the tech, the collar and the leash. She turned that erg into a torture device. I’m pretty sure she knew exactly what she was doing, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. Because it seems like I’ve impressed her, and she’s said some things, and I’ve said some things, opened my heart up, really, and she hasn’t rejected me because I’m big and ugly.
The first ten minutes or so, I just pulled steadily, increasing my rate gradually. She seemed happy with that. Then the weirdness started. Sarah announced what the program was telling her, or at least that’s what she told me. Maybe she had more control over it than she let on, I don’t know.
I had to keep the stroke rate above a certain level, or the collar would give me a shock. It would get worse the more I missed the target. The first time it happened I yelped and swore, and she explained what had happened, and asked me if I wanted to stop. I said no, I’d give it a go, it wasn’t the nuttiest thing I’d ever heard of. Electric shocks to the neck aren’t particularly nice, your throat seizes up. I didn’t honestly think that kind of motivation would improve my erg performance, it was more likely to disrupt my form than anything else.
The next level kicked in with shocks to my tits as well. That was another level of kinky, but again I rowed through it with gritted teeth. I was getting to think that I’d rather break the machine before it broke me.
Once I’d pushed through that, I was introduced to the flip side. The pad on the seat provided a positive kind of feedback, but I was concentrating so thoroughly by that point that I barely even noticed. If anything the vibrations helped get a bit more blood flowing to my numb arse, and I got bit of relief that way.
Sarah stopped asking if I was OK with each new feature after a while. “Now you can’t move your hands,” she told me, in defiance of the facts. I was moving them just fine. But just for the sake of argument, I tried to uncurl my fingers at the end of my stroke, and I couldn’t. Well, that happens sometimes when you’re erging and aren’t properly relaxed. It wasn’t necessarily the current in the metal handle. I didn’t think a laptop could provide that much juice anyway.
Eventually, I could see Sarah shaking her head at me. I glanced over at her and smiled. Clearly she took that as a challenge, because she tapped at the keyboard and then walked away. Everything came on at once, the shocks and the buzzing, my hands had a death grip on the handle. I didn’t dare slow down. It was me or the machine. I pushed through the pain. It was all just distraction.
Sarah was back, gaping at me open-mouthed. She came to her senses, and tapped one final sequence on the keyboard. My whole body felt like it was on fire from my crotch to my neck. Finally I jammed up and screamed, and I think I lost consciousness there for a minute. When I came to, I was on the floor, and she was going at me like a woman dying of thirst.
Sarah found out something about herself at the same time as she was testing my limits. She liked hurting me. She got off on it.
That was OK. I did too.