I'm still having phone sex with Patrick just about every week. I feel depressed every time, but I just can't stop myself. Even worse, he's clearly treating it as an obligation, but the fact that he won't stop makes it impossible for me to quit calling him.
Then one Saturday afternoon, Mike tells me over the phone that he and Patrick are coming into the city to shop for club clothes, and he asks me to join them for lunch.
"Are you sure it's ok?" I ask. I haven't seen Patrick in person since the breakup.
"Yeah, why not?" Mike says, as if nothing had happened. As if Patrick hadn't broken my heart. As if I weren't still hoping we'd get back together, even now.
I take the bus to Queenstown and meet them at a taco place. Patrick looks the same. It kills me how much the same he looks, even when everything is different.
After a few minutes of awkwardness, though, all three of us relax and go back to joking around like normal. We eat lunch then go to a leather store where Patrick buys a pair of pants. As he's trying them on, I can't help flirting with him. His ass looks amazing in those tight leather pants.
I try on a pair myself, and they feel great, but there's no way I can afford them. I let them go reluctantly, but at least I got Patrick noticing me again in that way.
Patrick pays for his pants while I get changed. When I come out of the dressing room, I discover that Mike has left already. Only Patrick is there waiting for me by the door. He asks if I want to go for a ride on his motorcycle, and I say yes, grinning like an idiot.
We ride all around town, then eventually he takes me back to my house, pulling up in the parking spot in back next to my car. I hop off the back, my legs feeling stiff and bowed. We both yank off the heavy helmets, sweating slightly. The afternoon is unusually sunny and warm.
"So, um, do you want to come inside for a minute?" I ask. Patrick doesn't say anything, but just follows me up the steps.
The second we get inside, we're all over each other. I've barely shut the door before Patrick is pulling my shirt off.
"You looked so hot in those leather pants," he breathes heavily in my ear. I can hardly believe that what I wanted so much is actually happening.
Rather than the bed, he pulls me down onto the floor.
"The shades are open," I protest as he yanks open my jeans.
"You don't care," he declares roughly. For a moment, I'm surprised--he never talked to me that way when we were dating. I glance regretfully at the double windows, thinking of the Peeping Tom when Bob the amputee was visiting. But it's daytime, and with the sun shining in and the lights off inside, and us on the floor, I figure it's impossible for anyone walking by in the alley to see us. Because he said I don't care, I force myself not to care. We do it right there on the floor, our clothes only half off.
By the time we've finished, the Persian carpet is pushed up in a diagonal lump and I have rug burn on my back. Within seconds, Patrick has his clothes back on and is out the door, before I can even sit up. The door clicks shut behind him, and I start to cry.
It doesn't really hit home to me that the sex meant nothing to him until the next week. I'm perusing the personal ads in the Raser City Weekly as usual, scouring each one in hopes that a disabled guy will turn up. It never happens. Usually I read through M for F first, then F for F just in case someone sounds interesting, then Bi Seeking, then because putting the paper away would mean acknowledging defeat, I read through M for M just for entertainment purposes.
Anyway I'm reading M for F when I see the following ad:
Looking for the real thing. Me: Blond hair, blue eyes, gymnast body, and I'm a firefighter. Likes motorcycles and getting down at Lollygag. You: serious, ready to commit. Slightly kinky a plus.
I stare at it, feeling all the blood draining from my face. There's no question that it's Patrick. What the fuck? I want to shout, I'm ready to commit, dumbass! I know he was into me. We were so perfect together. Why is he doing this? What does he even mean by "slightly kinky"? Am I too extremely kinky for him? Is that it?
I read the ad over and over, torturing myself with it. I realize that by "gymnast body" he means "Don't be turned off by how short I am but at least I'm still totally ripped." I take some malicious pleasure in that bit of insecurity on his part.
I force myself not to call Patrick that week, but instead turn my attention back to Dev Girls, the awful site I helped create with a woman named Cindy whom I barely know. She adds a few more photos, but since I've already seen most of them on Hotlanta Dev's site, I don't look at them that closely. I tell her that I think reposting stolen photos is a bad idea, but she doesn't write back about that. She's totally focused on starting up a listserv through E-Groups. Once she's created the group, she links to it on the site with flashing letters, and spams the link around other dev listservs. Still, we only get about 10 members in the first few days, all guys. Of course, none of those guys live anywhere near me.
Inspired by Patrick's ad, I post my own in the Raser City Weekly. I haven't forgotten what happened last time with the con artist, so I don't mention anything about disability. But I figure there are enough guys out there looking to try out the kinky scene to make it worth a shot. My ad looks something like this:
Betty Page style cutie 27 seeks sub boy 25-35 for kinky fun times. Let me tie you up and give you the punishment you deserve.
It works--within a week I have 20 voice messages in my inbox. I call back the ones who are reasonably within the age range I specify and who don't sound too deranged. I go on a dozen first dates and zero second dates.
"That's how personal ads are," Tovia says when I complain to him.
I meet each guy at the same café down the street from my house. It's big and busy enough that I figure the baristas won't know what I am up to. And even if they do, I don't care. I know I'm not the only one screening potential dates there. Anyway to keep things safe, I don't give any of the guys my phone number. I call them but my number is caller ID blocked.
I try to keep each meeting under 45 minutes, since it's usually obvious from the first 30 seconds that there is no attraction. One guy, a fairly handsome chef, keeps me chatting for over an hour, asking me all kinds of questions about my kinks and bragging about his career. I keep my answers vague and don't mention anything about being a devotee. I can't put my finger on it, but something about him feels off. He reminds me of Angelo the con artist, something about the way he keeps flattering me while digging for personal information and bragging about himself. Eventually I escape the coffee shop and don't call him again, thankful he doesn't have my phone number.
I'm starting to get seriously discouraged when a guy named Doug leaves a message. Out of all the calls I got, he's the only one who sounds sincere, like a real person and not a con artist or poseur. Our coffee shop date goes great. He's short and wiry, like Patrick, although not nearly as handsome. He has light brown hair and dark brown eyes, very deep-set. He's just a little, well, weasely looking, but if I squint it's not too bad.
Anyway he's really nice. He's the first guy who doesn't ask me a million prying questions about my kinks. We just chat about normal things, like movies and TV shows. He's a big nerd like me, into Star Wars and The Simpsons and anime. Like Johnny, Doug was in the Army Reserves, but he just finished up his seven years.
"I'm so fucking glad to be out, you have no idea," he says. "I took the discharge letter and stuck it on my fridge."
He never saw any combat, but I don't press him for the details of why he hated it so much. From what I gather, it was mostly being around assholes all the time.
Things go so well with Doug that we meet again for dinner the next day. Already I feel totally relaxed around him. It's obvious that he likes me. Even when I'm clowning around at the table and accidentally spit water all over the place, he's still into me. Even when I do it a second time.
After dinner, we wander around the neighborhood near the restaurant. The weather is mild and I'm having too much fun to leave, but I'm not ready to invite him home with me yet. We haven't even talked about sex or the kinky stuff yet. It's like a real date, and I feel like taking things slow.
About half a mile from the restaurant we come to a cemetery. It's surrounded by a wrought iron fence and inside we can see trees and monuments, a few big sculptures. In the dark warm night under the street lights, it's eerie and gorgeous. The iron gate is locked, but I jump up and swing on it, rocking back and forth a few inches, as much as the chain will allow. It's the best fun I've had in ages. I feel like when I was a goth girl in college, going on long walks at night through the park with K. Even though we were still in the city, the park was huge and creepy and exhilarating. It was where K and I had our first kiss.
But I don't kiss Doug. Not yet, anyway.
For our third date, on a Friday night, we go to see a movie. By the time it's over, it's late and most of the restaurants are closed, but we're still really hungry. So we get some fast food burgers and take them back to my house.
I feel a little awkward inviting Doug over so soon, but he seems pretty relaxed about it. Actually, he's a big time stoner, so he's relaxed about pretty much everything. So there we are in my tiny apartment with the bed just opposite the front door and no sofa. I put our burgers on the kitchen table, which is squeezed into a corner with just one chair. I pull out the folding chair for Doug and set it as close to the table as possible.
The last person who sat in that chair was Patrick. I try not to think about it. Doug and I joke around and eat our burgers, but about halfway through mine, I start to feel really strange--burning up hot, like I'm suddenly running a high fever.
I put down my burger and try to ignore it, but the feeling gets worse.
"What's wrong?" Doug asks.
"I don't know. It's just, suddenly I feel really sick."
"You think you're coming down with something?"
"Maybe, I don't know. Normally I can tell when I'm starting to get sick, but this just hit me all of a sudden."
Doug looks at me with concern. "You look kind of pale." He wads up the burger wrappers. "I should go and let you get your rest."
"I'm sorry." I feel really bad. I know he was hoping to get lucky tonight, and I feel like I'm just blowing him off. But I honestly feel sick.
Doug puts a hand to my forehead. "Yeah, you're burning up," he says, still looking concerned. "Look, don't worry about me. We'll take a rain check, ok? You just rest and get better."
I walk him to the door, still apologizing and promising to see him again soon.
"Just get better," he says, giving me a kiss on the forehead. "Let me know if you need anything."
I can hardly believe how nice Doug is being to me. K had this theory that everyone gets sick for a reason. If you come down with something, like a cold or the flu, it's because you're avoiding something you don't want to do. The last few months K and I were together, he got really sick with the flu for a long time. I accused him of pushing me away on purpose. He got mad. It wasn't one of our finer moments.
After Doug goes home, I get in bed early, hoping to shake off whatever this is, but I wake up feeling a thousand times worse. By Sunday, I've got a cough that comes from deep in my chest. I take the day off work on Monday to go to the doctor, and she confirms what I already know--it's bronchitis.
I had a bad case of bronchitis when I was living in Seoul, so I know what I'm in for. Sure enough, I spend the whole week coughing convulsively until I throw up. The coughing keeps me from sleeping, even from carrying on a normal conversation. My back is killing me, but still the coughing won't stop.
I end up taking the entire week off work. Doug calls every day to see how I'm doing, and brings me canned soup, crackers and cough drops. I can hardly believe how nice he's being, when we hardly know each other. When I was sick in Seoul, Bjørn and I had been dating for almost a year, but he didn't take care of me at all. He hardly even came to visit.
"I can't talk to you when you're coughing like this," he said over the phone. "Call my when you're feeling better."
By the middle of the second week, Sharon's starting to lose patience with how much work I've missed. She calls to tell me that all my vacation days are used up, and if I don't come back soon, she'll start docking my pay.
"I'll be back tomorrow," I promise. But the next morning I wake up feeling even worse. My whole head feels swollen up, and I've completely lost my voice.
"I'm really sorry," I whisper to her over the phone.
"Look, this can't go on forever," she snaps at me. "If you're not back by next week, I'm going to have to find a replacement."
I can't believe she's doing this to me. Aren't we friends?
I drag my sorry ass back to the doctor, who diagnoses me with a secondary sinus infection and loads me up with antibiotics.
"When am I going to get better?" I moan.
"Probably another week or so," she says, filling out the prescription form.
"I can't wait that long!" I wail in my horrible congested voice. "I've already missed too much work and if I don't go back next week I'm going to be f-f-fired!" I dissolved into panicked, hiccupy tears.
The doctor looks alarmed. "What! How dare they! Tell me who you work for and I'll write a letter for you."
I'm not ready to take that step yet but it's nice to know at least someone is on my side. I thank her and tell her I'll be in touch if it comes to that.
Later that day, Doug brings me more canned soup and stays while I vent about my so-called friend and my shitty-ass job. Even though I still feel like crap, I'm starting to go stir crazy. It's so nice to have someone to talk to. Doug ends up staying over night.
"I'm still to sick to have sex," I warn him, but he says he doesn't mind. We sleep cuddled together like puppies.
While I'm home sick, when I'm not passed out from the drugs or in the bathroom hacking my lungs out, I spend most of my time online. More people joined the Dev Girls E-Group, so now there are actual conversations going on. I log in one morning to find the following message:
"Hello there! DAE amputee man here, age 36. I live outside Raser City. Looking to meet any devotee ladies."
Fuck! It's Bob! In case there was any doubt, he posted a photo of himself in the files section. He's lying in a cheesecake pose on a bed with his prosthetics off. What the hell? After he acted like it was a huge violation that I saw him that way, now he's spamming this photo around like a teenage girl showing off a cleavage shot. I close the window in disgust. Sometimes the internet is just too small, you know?
By the Monday of the third week, I'm finally recovered enough to drag my carcass in to work. Sharon doesn't fire me. Actually in the end she doesn't even dock my pay, although I have to endure a lecture on how she can't treat me differently than any other employee or it will undermine her authority. Even though like half the people in that office are friends of hers to some degree. Whatever. I feel like I've seen her true self now.
Eventually life gets back to normal. Doug keeps coming around, and we finally have sex, in the normal, vanilla way. I'm still not up to being the Mistress yet, and he doesn't have any experience with SM so we keep it simple to start. He's easy to please.
I make it clear to him though that he's not my boyfriend. As soon as I'm well enough, I'm going out to the clubs again. And of course there's still Patrick.
One sunny afternoon, Patrick calls to say he's coming into Raser City to run some errands. I invite him over, and he shows up on his motorcycle. He grins like he's genuinely happy to see me. God, he's so handsome--those straight white teeth and mismatched eyes get me every time.
"Hey, feeling better?" he asks.
"Yeah, finally. How're you?"
"Ok," he shrugs.
Because I'm a bitch and can't help needling him, I say, "So I saw your ad. 'Gymnast body'--that was you, right?" He turns red but doesn't say anything. "It was! I knew it," I laugh. "So how many calls did you get?"
He turns even redder. "None." I laugh even more.
"I saw your ad too," he shoots back. "'Betty Page style cutie'? Seriously?"
"At least I got responses."
"Can't have been that great if you still invited me over," he says.
Now I'm the one with nothing to say. I try starting over. "Look, I don't want to fight with you. We're friends, right?"
"Yeah, sorry. So how have you been? I mean, apart from the bronchitis."
"Good, actually. Guess what--I got into the graduate program at Lester State."
"What? I thought you already got your degree?"
I roll my eyes at him. "Duh, this is a different one. A whole different department."
"Well, um, congratulations?" he offers uncertainly. "Hey, I got news too--I'm moving to Florida."
I'm shocked. "But why Florida, of all places?"
He gives me a crooked grin. "I looked on a map and it was the furthest away place I could find from here. Too much bullshit. I gotta get away."
"Yeah. Well that and my aunt and uncle and cousins are there."
"So when are you leaving?"
"I dunno, I still gotta find a job there. But my uncle is helping me. Probably in a month or two."
My heart sinks. I know from talking to Mike that Patrick wants to get away from Candy, his mom, all his old friends here caught up in that stupid drama, but probably he means me too as part of all that bullshit.
We have sex again anyway. Again with the curtains open. Again on the floor next to the bed. Just as he's finishing, I start to cry.
"I don't think we should do this any more," he says as he's pulling his clothes back on.
I try to stop but the tears keep spilling down my face. "It's not you. It's just, I don't know. Everything's been so shitty. You know, Sharon threatened to fire me because I was sick. And I try to go out and have fun but I still feel like shit. Even going to Lollygag, it's not the same."
He stands over me and sneers, "Yeah, well if you lie down with garbage, you're going to stink." Then he leaves.
What the fuck? I lie there on the floor, really crying hard now. I'm deeply shocked that he would say something like that. Not just the cruelty of it. But what does he mean by "garbage"? Does he mean kinky people who practice SM? Is that what this is all about? He ditched me because of a complex over the kinky stuff?
The next day, I have lunch with Cyril and pour out my heart to him. He listens sympathetically and together we hatch a plot for a bit of petty revenge. Patrick's ad is still running in the Raser City Weekly, so Cyril calls it and, disguising his voice, leaves a long, filthy message about all the things he'd like to do to that hot little gymnast body. The phrase "ass pounding" comes up a lot.
I feel slightly guilty about inducing homo panic but hey, Cyril is bi. He talks about sex with dudes all the time, not in an "ew gross" way but in a "check out that fine ass" way. He won't even watch Xena: Warrior Princess with me and Rachel (we're big fans) because he thinks it's bullshit that Xena can be (implied) gay with Gabrielle but Hercules can't be gay with Iolaus. I figure if Cyril is ok with our prank call then it's not homophobic. And man it feels so good, if only for a minute. Whatever it takes to get me to stop calling Patrick, I guess.
The next week, Ewan has a party at his house and I bring Doug along, the first time I'm introducing him to my friends. I warn him in advance about their fancy dress and eccentric ways, and he rises to the occasion by wearing a kilt to the party. This goes over very well, because Ewan is very attached to his Scottish ancestry and wears a kilt whenever he can.
It's a warm evening, and we're hanging out in Ewan's large, overgrown backyard. Doug seems to get along just fine, and I'm having a great time. But then as I drift to one side of the yard and Doug drifts to the other, Ewan takes me aside.
"I dig the kilt and all," he says, "But what the hell are you doing with that loser?" He shakes his head in disbelief.
"Hey, he's a nice guy!" I say, more surprised than hurt.
Rachel rolls her eyes. "He's a big pothead," she says. Ewan nods understandingly, as if that explains everything.
"What do you mean by that?" I demand.
"Look, I know you're still broken up about Patrick," Rachel says soothingly. "But come on--that guy? He's got no personality. There's nothing to him."
"Yeah, you deserve someone who can keep up with you," Ewan advises.
I want to ask them what they mean, but just then Doug wanders back over and that ends the conversation.
Whatever. Ewan has no idea what I want. Doug is nice. Ok, so he is a little boring and he does smoke pot pretty much every day. And since he got out of the Army, he hasn't been able to find a job. But he is always around. I can call him whenever, and he shows up.
After the party, we go back to my place and have sex. I tell Doug that I'm tired of this vanilla BS; it's time for something kinkier. He seems happy to go along with whatever I want.
I take out a bunch of the cling gauze rolls that Patrick gave me and use them to bind up Doug's arms and legs as he lies on the bed. As we start going at it, the bandages loosen a bit but I order him not to move, not to put his arms around me no matter how much he wants to. I straddle him, kissing him all over, and as we have sex with me on top, I imagine him as a quad amputee. It's fucking hot. But I don't tell him that's what I'm thinking.