Ever since Patrick insulted me by saying kinky people are garbage, I've finally been able to quit calling him. I can't believe I let him lose respect for me so thoroughly. I'm the Mistress, dammit! I shouldn't be hanging around begging for phone sex or guilting him into actual sex that is always unsatisfying.
To distract myself, I turn my attention to Doug, who is always up for whatever. We met because he responded to my personal ad looking for a sub boy, so I tell him it's time to break out the whips and chains. He agrees readily but has some trouble getting in the swing of things.
"Down on your knees, boy!" I order as he sits on my bed.
"Ok," he says, kneeling on the bed.
"Not 'ok.' 'Yes, Mistress!'" I bark at him.
"Um, ok Mistress," he says halfheartedly. He's sort of grinning and clearly not hating it, but he doesn't have that gleam in his eye like Patrick did. Patrick had the look of a true submissive, someone who gets truly, unbearably turned on by being ordered around. Doug's just doing this to please me, which is different.
I stifle my sense of disappointment and order Doug to pull down his pants, displaying his bare ass to me. I know most people do not have Patrick's superhuman pain tolerance, so I just sort of tap Doug gently with the flogger. I have a new one, a small latex cat o'nine tails that's easy to handle and delivers a reliable sting.
Doug doesn't respond, so I whack him a little harder. Just a little harder, nothing too extreme.
"Ow!" he wails. "What the fuck!" He rolls over and pulls his pants back up, glaring at me accusingly.
So that's it for that day. As I discover, Doug is not up for more than a little rough sex and some light bondage. I try not to be too judgmental. People like what they like--you can't force someone to enjoy pain. Despite what vanilla people think, it's only fun for me if the sub guy getting off on it too. The light bondage with Doug is fun, especially when he lets me blindfold him. But every so often I get carried away and give him a nip on the ear or something and he lets out a yelp and gives me an angry look, which kills the mood.
Meanwhile, my personal ad is still running and I'm still going out to the clubs whenever I can. After the first few weeks, I don't get so many replies to my ad, but I still check the voicemail about once a week and it yields a few more dates.
I meet a guy in his early twenties named AJ who works for the Raser City Weekly. I think that's got to be the coolest job ever, and he looks the part--full sleeve tattoos on his pale white skin, blond hair dyed black. He's hot. We spend an afternoon on the pebbly beach by the bay, talking soulfully about what we'd like to do with our lives, or rather, he mostly talks and I listen. But after we have sex at my place (vanilla, ugh) I never hear from him again.
Same with the rockabilly dude with the horrible acne scars all over his back.
I start to wonder why I'm wasting all this time on conversation when the guys just want to fuck then leave. I might as well just use them for sex before they have a chance to use me.
Back in high school, when I was still a virgin and scared of sex, my friends and I debated the merits of the one-night stand. We all agreed that we could never do that--we'd just feel too dirty afterward. Yeah, we thought we were all liberated but now I realize that was nothing but internalized sex negativity and slut shaming. If I want to sleep around like a guy, what's wrong with that? I haven't met anyone worth committing to. I thought I did with Patrick but I was wrong. Since we've broken up I've met lots of guys who are attracted to me but no one who actually wants to date anyway. So why not just take what I can get?
I meet another guy at a club, not Lollygag, but a more mainstream one I go to with Cyril and some of his friends. After seeing this same guy there for several weeks running, chatting him up a little and grinding on the dance floor, I let him take me home and invite him in. He's young and reasonably attractive, so I'm mildly surprised when he says he's a used car salesman. Ugh, already he seems a little slimier.
At the club he had said he wanted to try SM, so I give him a little spanking, but I can tell right away he's not into it, even less than Doug. We switch back to vanilla mode, but after nothing more than a little kissing, it's clear that neither of us is in the mood anymore. I had told him a bit about my recent adventures, and while on the dance floor he seemed excited by my tales, now lying in my bed he's clearly having second thoughts.
"You're a sexy, uninhibited woman," he intones woodenly. "Having multiple sex partners like a man. Awesome." He sounds like he's psyching himself up.
"You know what, never mind," I say. "It's late. I think I just need to go to bed." He doesn't seem that disappointed when I kick him out. I don't see him again.
A few days later, the rockabilly dude who I thought had disappeared forever calls me at 1 am.
"Wanna come over?" he asks.
I think it over. Yes, it's late, and I'm not really a spur of the moment kind of person. On the other hand, he is kinda hot, despite the acne scars on his back. And I'm feeling pretty horny.
"Sure, why not?" Feeling like a sexier, more daring version of myself, I drive over to his place. We have vanilla sex, but it's still pretty good. I debate sleeping over because it's so late, but he starts snoring really loudly and his bed is really uncomfortable, so I leave.
"I can't believe I did that," I say to Cyril the next day over the phone. He's pretty much the only person I could tell about this kind of thing. Except maybe Tovia, but I haven't seen him in ages.
Cyril makes the "boom chicka wow wow" porn noises at his end of the phone. "Good for you!" he crows.
"Are you sure?" I ask. "I dunno, it seems kinda sketchy to go over to a guy's house late at night like that, without even telling anyone where I was."
"Eh, whatever. You went over intending to have sex with him, right?"
"So you were fine. It's when he wants to have sex and you don't that there's a problem."
"I guess so."
"You enjoyed it, right? Stop over-thinking everything," he says, already sounding bored with the conversation.
But the more I think about it, the more I think maybe Cyril isn't giving me the best advice. Going to see Rockabilly Dude was a bad idea, not because it was slutty, but because it was dangerous. Just as one example, he wanted to have butt sex and I said no. What if he didn't take no for an answer? I feel like I dodged a bullet. A sweaty, throbbing bullet.
Having a lot of sex is one thing, but I decide, no more late night booty calls. A week later, Rockabilly Dude calls again at 1 am. He sounds drunk. I tell him no. When he whines and begs, I hang up the phone.
For the rest of the month, it's the same thing--dude calling in the middle of the night, hoping to get lucky again. I turn off the ringer and stop answering. Eventually he gets the message.
Patrick calls to tell me that he landed a job in Florida and he's leaving in a week. I've finally broken the habit of calling him for phone sex, and I haven't even seen him since that one time a few months back. But Mike and I are still friends, and I've sort of kept in touch through him. Anyway it's nice of Patrick to contact me before he goes.
Patrick and I meet up downtown for one last time at a nice restaurant right on the water. It's a warm sunny day, so we sit on the back balcony, overlooking the bay.
"So what's the job?" I ask.
"It's with A*** Services, as an EMT."
"What?" I haven't forgotten all the horror stories he told me about private ambulance companies, that one in particular. I can't believe he'd give up fire fighting to go work for those corrupt assholes. "Seriously?" I prod him.
He just shrugs. "It's a job."
I give him a disbelieving look, and he looks away. I can't believe he's abandoning his career like that, but whatever, it's his decision.
There's some more awkward small talk as we catch up on each other's lives.
"You seeing anyone?" he asks me.
"No, not really," I say, not wanting to share any of the sordid details with him. "So how about you?" I ask. "Did you ever get any replies to your personal ad?"
He gives me a funny look. "Just one. And man, it was dirty! You would not believe the things this guy said he wanted to do to me!"
"So it was from a dude?"
"Yeah! And he just went on and on. Filthy like you wouldn't believe."
I stare down at my bowtie pasta with chicken and concentrate on picking out the sundried tomatoes, trying not to give anything away on my face.
"Wow, that's terrible," I mutter, trying to look at him surreptitiously. He's kind of half laughing, half disgusted. I can't gauge his response. Has he figured out it was me? Did he shake it off as a joke? Was he traumatized? I really can't tell. As a form of revenge, my prank seems fairly ineffectual. I feel deflated and petty for even trying.
After lunch, Patrick takes me on a motorcycle ride around the city. He winds far to the south then gets back on the freeway that skirts the edge of downtown. As we round the bend, all the skyscrapers slide into view with the bay behind them and green hills far in the distance. Shining in the afternoon sunlight, the city looks so beautiful. How could anyone leave this?
We ride around for over an hour, but eventually we pull up at the back of my house. He gets off the bike and takes off his helmet to give me a proper goodbye. I hug him tightly and give him a kiss on the cheek.
"I'm really sorry about all this," he says sadly, searching my face with his mismatched eyes.
"I know." I hug him again. "You're right, it's better this way. Go, get a fresh start. We'll both be ok."
I hug him one last time, and then I let him go.
For my 28th birthday, I decide to get a tattoo. I know, it's hardly original of me; in fact it's pretty clichéd. But there's a big part of me that wants to show I can be tough. After all the crap I've gone through lately, I want to do something meaningful, take some positive action. Besides, I think it'll look cool.
The more I talk about it with Doug, the more he encourages me to get one. He even offers to go with me. There's a shop down the street, just a few blocks from my house, and it looks nice--well-lit and sanitary, not creepy. Feeling very much like a poseur, I walk in to make an appointment. The guy behind the counter is super nice, not at all condescending. I tell him what I want and he makes a sketch, a good one, just what I had in mind.
When I come back a few days later for the appointment, I bring Doug with me for moral support. As I'm getting set up, one of the other guys working there asks Doug if he has any tattoos, so he pulls up his sleeve and shows them the small Chinese character on his bicep.
"It means 'strong'" Doug says, showing it off.
The tattoo guys shoot each other a meaningful look. The guy who asked the question is Asian.
"Uh, I hate to tell you this, bro, but that's not what it says," he tells him.
"Oh yeah? So what does it say?" Doug doesn't seem that concerned.
The Asian guy squints at Doug's tattoo. "It doesn't really say anything the way it's written but it's kind of similar to the character for 'old.' Maybe it was meant to be 'good' but there's a stroke missing."
The Asian dude is insistent though. "Look, I could fix it for you. It would be easy to change to 'good.' Or I could probably even cover it with something else and give you the character for 'strong' under it."
Doug pulls his sleeve down. "Nah, I got it with my buddies in the Army. There were ten of us who all got the same tattoo. I can't change it now, then it wouldn't be the same."
We all sort of goggle at him, trying not to laugh. The idea of ten guys going around with the same wrong tattoo is just funny.
"Well, even if you don't want to change it, at least let me touch it up for you. I can sharpen up the edges, make it look like a real character."
"Yeah, why not get it touched up?" I say.
Doug glances at me, then at his blobby, misshapen tattoo. "Um, sure. Ok."
So we both end up going under the needle at the same time. Mine takes longer though; when he's done, Doug comes over to watch.
"How does it look?" I ask.
I get a small butterfly on my left shoulder blade. Yeah, I know, totally clichéd. Getting it done hurts like hell but I don't complain, not even when the vibrations of the needle make my teeth rattle. But it's beautiful and I love it.
Rachel and Ewan help me organize a birthday party barbeque in the park. We reserve one of the pits and invite everyone we know. I invite Doug too, even though every time I mention his name, Ewan just shakes his head in disbelief and tells me I could do better. But Doug just got a job in a print shop after months of looking, and he can't get off work even though it's a Saturday. So in the end he doesn't come.
It's a beautiful afternoon, and I have a great time joking around with my friends and eating good food. Late in the afternoon, as the party is winding down, I cross the picnic area to toss a bag of trash in the bin and on my way back I see someone I know at one of the other barbeque pits. It's Anastasia, one of the former housemates of my blind boyfriend K.
Even though K and I dated for two years, we never lived together. The whole time we were both living in big, run down rental houses with a bunch of other people. It was pretty much the way everyone lived in College Town. I also worked with Anastasia in the book store, so I had gotten to know her pretty well. She always seemed so much cooler than me, with her long black hair and no-nonsense attitude.
But after the whole blowout with K, I didn't keep in touch with anyone from college, except Kara and Nam. I was just too ashamed.
Anastasia and I greet each other with surprise.
"I had no idea you were living in Raser City!" I exclaim.
"I'm not," she says. "I'm just visiting some friends for the week. It's one friend's birthday, so we're having a little party."
"No way! It's my birthday too! Too strange," I marvel.
"So you moved here for grad school, right?" she asks me.
"Yeah, actually I'm going back to Lester State again this fall for a different degree."
There's an awkward silence, then finally she asks if I've been in touch with K.
"Uh, not really," I say. "Have you?"
"Yeah, he got fired from his job at the Y." I actually did sort of know that. When I first moved to Raser City, I lived with this girl Julie, and her best friend's sister worked at the YMCA as a massage therapist with K. That was an even weirder small-world coincidence. Anyway I heard through them that K was having trouble getting to work on time. But that wasn't his fault. Because he had to rely on the crappy little taxi service in College Town, he was always late for everything. We spent so many nights sitting around my house waiting for the taxi to come pick him up, an hour-plus wait for a ten minute ride. It sucked, and it seems unfair he would be fired from his first massage gig just because of that.
"Well, it wasn't really his fault, with the taxis and everything," I mumble. It feels weird to be taking his side, especially against Anastasia. I thought for sure she would defend him, but instead she goes on a tear.
"No, he got fired because he's a goddamn flake," she rants.
"So what's he doing for work?" I ask, because I can't help myself. K struggled so hard just to find that job. "Eh, he's still living at the apartment his mom owns. She's paying him to act as building manager."
"Jeez!" I start to come around to Anastasia's point of view. "He swore he would never do that, like it was giving up. I can't believe he gave in like that."
"You know M dumped his ass too?" Anastasia asks with an evil grin. Now that I didn't know. It does feel kinda good to hear the bitch he dumped me for dumped him back. "That was a while ago," Anastasia continues. "Yeah, she finally realized she was too good for him. Just like every other woman he's been with. Like you did."
I did nothing of the kind, but I just smile and nod emphatically. We gossip a little more about some other mutual friends from College Town, until Rachel comes over to tell me everyone is waiting for me. I give Anastasia a hug and say goodbye.
The whole way home, I can't stop thinking about K. Vivid memories of him bubble up in my mind, as if they just happened yesterday. When we met, he was 27 and a college dropout. I was 20, just starting my senior year. The age difference didn't seem like that big a deal; after all, Kara and Nam were in the same situation. None of us knew what we wanted to do with our lives; we were all just drifting.
But it was especially hard for K because he was blind. He was really smart and could have gone to an Ivy League school, but he stayed in College Town where he had grown up because he was nervous about being in a new place on his own. He majored in computer science for a while, but he found it boring and it was hard getting all his class materials, so eventually he just stopped going. When we met, he was starting to feel anxious about having no direction in life, so I pushed him to get certified as a massage therapist. Thinking back, it was probably more my dev fantasy of the proper career for a blind man that made me suggest it. But K went along with it anyway, embraced it, even.
On the other hand, he had nothing but contempt for my decision to go to grad school. "You're just doing it to please your parents," he said. Of all the nasty, undermining things he said to me as we were breaking up, that one stuck with me the longest. For years, I questioned myself. Even now that I've made the decision to go back to grad school, I still question myself. Is it for me or my parents? Am I doing the right thing?
K always seemed so much older and wiser than I was. Mainly because he was always telling me so.
"You'll understand when you're my age," he would say. "When you get to be my age, you figure out how to have a more mature relationship with your parents," he advised me after a particularly bad argument with my own parents.
Now that I've just turned 28, I can see this for the condescending bullshit that it was. I don't feel that much older and wiser. I still feel like a kid. And we're all still just drifting along in our jobs, no real career in sight.
I keep coming back to what Anastasia said about all K's exes realizing they were too good for him. Nothing could have been further from my mind. As far as I was concerned, he was perfect, the most handsome, brilliant, clever, talented, kind and sexy man I had ever met. Even now, no one has even come close. But hearing Anastasia's contempt for him makes me reevaluate what was actually going on.
The truth is, K always had a monumental ego, and he never pretended otherwise. It was how he dealt with his disability, so I just accepted it as part of the package. But maybe I shouldn't have. How dare he tell me that I was just going to grad school to please my parents? He's the one who's still basically living at home, doing the job his mother gave to him. Even after he swore he needed to get away. He could have gone away, gone to Raser City with me. But no, he stayed home like a coward and dumped me for some chick who wasn't even that into him. Maybe that crack about my parents was him projecting his own issues with his mom.
For the first time, I start to think that maybe K wasn't my perfect fairy tale prince. Maybe, even if all the other crap hadn't happened, we might not have lived happily ever after.
But then, late at night as I'm lying in bed, I can see his face, with his beautiful, horrible opaque eyes, an impossible shade of blue. I can hear his voice, recall the way he moved, the way he touched me. The way his eyes twitched and rolled all the time. The way he cocked an ear and tilted his head when he was listening intently to something. The feel of his hand in the crook of my arm as I guided him. It was like flying a kite. Our first date, when we went to lunch at a vegetarian restaurant, how he laughed when I grabbed the front of his parka to pull him out of the way of the other customers. The look on his face when he said he wanted to see me again, his eyes all bloodshot and searching, but his voice full of love and desire.
Even though I can't stop thinking about him, even though it would be so easy to look up his phone number and call him, I don't. I promised myself ten years of silence, no contact. He broke up with me in 1995, so I'm only halfway there. It seems like forever, but I don't look him up. I don't even try.