The next day backstage at the theater, when Marty asks me how my date was with Paul the Pornographer, I just shrug.
"We don't really have anything in common."
Marty doesn't have anything invested in us being together, so he doesn't question me any further. Instead, he tries to set me up with someone else.
"I know another guy in Sub Rosa who's really into being a sub. His name is Warren. You should meet him."
"Really?" I'm a bit more skeptical this time.
"Yeah, he's a great guy! Super smart, very intellectual. You two will get along great."
"I don't know, maybe."
Marty promises to introduce me at another Sub Rosa event, so the weekend after the opera closes, I meet him and Lulu at Lollygag. I'm wearing my crumbling old black vinyl pants.
This guy Warren never shows up, but Skip is there. The Boy Genius himself, and on his own, although I know (because Lulu told me) that he's still seeing that lame chick he dumped me for.
"Wow," he says, "You look great."
"I mean it! You lost some weight, right? You look super hot in those pants." He pauses from eyeing me in order to engage in some self-pity. "Why does every woman I'm with get super hot as soon as the relationship is over?"
I know he's talking about his ex-wife. "You mean after you dump us? It's called the heartbreak diet," I reply sarcastically.
"Look, I know you're mad, and I'm sorry. I should never have dragged things out that way. We want different things in a relationship, but I still really like you. Can we at least be friends?"
What can I say? I still like him, with his spiky blond hair and his bulldog underbite. Who else is going to geek out over comics with me? We start hanging out again as friends.
As one of the conditions for forgiving Skip for dumping me and agreeing to be friends again, I insist that he go with me to see the new Daredevil movie, just the two of us.
Daredevil is one of my oldest and longest dev obsessions, and Skip is one of the only people in the world who really gets what this movie means for me. He is the one who got me reading Daredevil comics again, after years away, and kicked my devvy fixation into high gear. We've been anticipating the movie for months, since back when we were dating, poring over publicity shots and speculating about whether it will be good or not. He's skeptical because he doesn't like Ben Affleck and it bothers him the way live action superhero movies always have the characters take their masks off for most scenes.
I don't care about any of that. True, Ben Affleck is not my ideal pick either. In the comics, Matt Murdock is drawn to look like young Robert Redford. I wish they could have cast someone a little more like that. But from the publicity shots, I noticed that they have him wearing the opaque blue contacts, and literally nothing else matters to me.
Too often when sighted actors play blind characters, they fake it in the laziest way possible by just looking off to the side a little. It's so frustrating and stupid. But the opaque contacts make it look real. The shocking appearance of the flat, bright blue hits my dev sweet spot. It's the way K looked--unmistakable, heart-stopping. Also because the contacts are opaque, the actor really can't see anything with them in, and it changes the way he holds his head and moves through space. I don't even care if the movie is good or not. I just want to watch him on the big screen wearing those contacts for two hours.
Ok, maybe that's not entirely true. I love the comics so much, and I really want the movie to do right by them. I first discovered Daredevil by accident when I was around fourteen. My younger brother had become a big fan of Marvel comics and left tons of them lying around the house, but in my snobby older sister way, I thought I was too good for them. I even flipped through a few pages scornfully, but I didn't get it. Then one evening, out of boredom I found myself reading through volumes of Marvel Universe, which was like an encyclopedia with a page or two for each character, explaining their powers and back stories. When I read the entry for Daredevil, I was astounded to learn that he's blind. How did I not know about this? As a dev kid, I wasted hours scanning the TV guide in the newspaper, looking for a show that might have disabled characters. There almost never was, but if there were, it was always in some weepy drama or soap opera. It had never occurred to me that there could be a blind superhero. And here I had access to stacks of issues just lying around the house.
I read every issue I could find, and when I had read them all, I went to the comic book store to buy more. Eventually I started reading other titles too, like X-Men, and a lot of indie titles. It wasn't just about my dev interests. I came to love superheroes--the huge, sprawling Marvel Universe, and lots of other indie comics too. I made friends with the guys who ran the comic book store, and all through high school, I would hang out there. That's how I got to be such good friends with Tovia too. I bought the Daredevil: Born Again story arc when it was reprinted as a graphic novel, and it blew my mind.
What makes Daredevil so amazing as a character is that he really is disabled. Sure, he has superpowers, but it adds dramatic tension to the story when his powers fail or are insufficient, so the best writers are always putting him in situations where his blindness is a major part of the story. Aside from the fights, his story is full of angst and human drama, as much as any soap opera. Also he's the biggest player in the Marvel Universe. The ladies all know he is damn sexy. In terms of making his blindness the center of the story, but not making him asexual or inspiration porn, there has never been anything else like it. There still isn't.
So hell yeah, I am beyond excited for this movie, and I want to see it with someone who loves the character as much as I do, and who knows I am a devotee. Skip and I get tickets for the first screening at midnight. The theater is packed. He teases me for how worked up I am, but I don't care.
In one of the first scenes, we see Ben Affleck in those sexy blue contacts getting dressed in the morning: feeling for his clothes, folding the bills in his wallet the way real blind people do, putting on the red sunglasses. This is exactly what I am here for. Honestly, it's better than porn.
Skip elbows me in the ribs. "Knock it off!"
"You're breathing hard," he hisses at me.
I just laugh. I had no idea I was even doing that, but I don't care.
When the movie is over, we pick it apart endlessly, geeking out over every detail and pointing out what was faithful to the comic and what should have been different. I go to see it again with Sarah a few days later, then again on my own. Eventually I have to admit the movie is not great. It could have been so much better! If they had just made some changes... I start to play out in my mind a better movie, and for a minute consider writing a fan script, but give it up immediately. Even I have my limits of fan wankery.
Despite its flaws, I ride a dev high from that movie for weeks. I finally feel like I'm getting my groove back. The next weekend, I fly to Baltimore for a conference. It's not my first time attending a career-type thing, but I'm new enough at it that I still feel nervous about making a good impression, coming off as a professional adult and not the scruffy grad student I am. And yet the panels are all soooo boring. I couldn't help but notice as I arrived that there is a BDSM supply and costume shop just down the street from the hotel. I duck out of the conference to do some shopping, crossing my fingers that no one will see me. I buy a red vinyl outfit, a sharp jacket with matching pants in sparkly deep red. It makes me feel like Betty DeLuxe, a super spy on a sexy mission. I fold it up into my suitcase along with my boring professional clothes.
Now that I have this awesome new outfit, I start going out to the fetish clubs again a lot more with Lulu and Marty.
Marty tells us about an oshibari class, and Lulu and I go together to improve our rope tying skills. The class is on a Saturday afternoon at a community center on the south side of town. We wear matching Lohengrin t-shirts that the Raser City Lyric Opera made as promotional items. We're the only females in the class, and also the only ones under the age of fifty. But the instructor is nice and manages to make the class relaxed and not creepy. By the end of the two hours, we've learned some basic methods to wrap up the lower legs and wrists in a way that is secure but won't cause bruising or nerve damage. Also the neat coils of rope look really cool.
After the class we go straight to the hardware store in the gay neighborhood. Although it has the name of a big hardware chain, it's more of a crafts and fetish supply shop. I get some lengths of white nylon rope, soft as silk but thick and heavy. The bear behind the counter winks at us, and we laugh, half self-conscious, half proud. We go back to my apartment and spend the rest of the afternoon practicing our technique on each other over and over, so we won't forget.
Marty was right, it is really nice to have a female friend in the scene to share notes and compare experiences. Lulu is such a fun, happy-go-lucky kind of girl. It's so easy to talk to her about the stupid drama with Skip and about my dev obsessions. In return, she tells me that she's having doubts about her relationship with Marty. The kinky sex is still great but she is starting to want something more serious, also her overbearing stereotype of a Jewish mother hates that she is with someone so much older, even if he is a member of the tribe. Her mother would plotz if she knew what Lulu and Marty were really up to, but it's not just that. Marty has been encouraging Lulu to play with other couples--some of the more famous and skilled doms in the scene have been asking her to join them but she's not sure she wants to. I find myself giving her the advice the online advice column gave me: only do it if it's something you really want yourself, not because someone else is telling you how much you will love it if you would only try it.
"Maybe," she says, looking doubtful. Sometimes I forget she's eight years younger than I am.
"It's ok to say no to him," I assure her.
"He can be so insistent."
"I know, it's his dom personality, but don't let him push you around."
I'm coming around to the idea of being nothing more than friends with Skip again. We start spending a lot more time together.
One evening, we go out for a sushi dinner together, then he invites me back to his shared hippie pad in Outer Reach Beach. He just bought a new mask he wants to show me. It's a kind of dual layer black latex mask. The inner layer is a normal sort of mask to cover the face, but the outer layer is designed to be inflated into a sphere, so it's like encasing your head inside a giant rubber ball.
I've never seen anything like it. Skip is really excited about it, but he's doing that thing he always does when he's embarrassed by how turned on he is, where he talks around it like it's someone else's fetish. I know one of his kinks is inflation. It's basically the same thing as the mascot costume. Instead of being immobilized in a big foam costume, you're immobilized in an inflated latex suit.
Even though he's being coy about it, I can tell how much he wants to try out this new mask, but he can't inflate it himself. I tell him I'll do it.
Pulling the mask over his face is tricky, and inflating it with a basketball pump is even more awkward. But once he's got it on, I suddenly get it. With his head encased in that thick black ball, his senses are blocked far more than with a regular scarf or anything. It's as if he were blind and deaf. He can't even kiss me, even if he wanted to.
The moment I realize this, I get a huge dev rush. I unbutton his shirt and run my hands all over his chest. He responds immediately. I thought I was just going to help him try on the mask, but suddenly we're going at it. He's running his hands up under my clothes and the thought of him feeling me because he can't see me is driving me wild. In a minute we're both naked. Luckily he's wearing a button down shirt. I go down on him, holding his chest down with one hand as he writhes under me.
Before he's done though, he stops me and pulls the mask off, because it's hard to breathe in it and he's starting to feel lightheaded. It's not easy to take off and there's a scary moment where I think it might be stuck. We eventually ease the thick rubber off his face, and I worry the moment might be lost but even with his face all red and sweaty he gives me a lustful look. I give him a little nudge and that's all the encouragement he needs. He goes down on me for a good long time, then we switch and I finish him off.
The sex is fucking amazing, but as soon as it's over and we're just lying there in his cramped, claustrophobic room, I immediately start to feel some regret. It doesn't matter how good the sex is; this doesn't change anything. He's still together with What's-her-name, my doppelganger, or rather, the less challenging version of me. Skippy Boy Genius will never be the sidekick to Betty DeLuxe.
When I get home, I polish up my Nerve.com dating profile. It's time to see who else is out there.