Saturday, October 30, 2010

Devo Diary Chapter 7

Chapter Seven:

October 1999

I'm standing next to a wheelchair ramp when I see this guy roll down in a power wheelchair. I don't know what his disability is, but it's clearly congenital. His body is kind of small, which makes his head look huge, even more so because of his pouf of frizzy hair. His chair is tipped back like a lounger, and instead of bending at the knees, his short legs stick straight out in front of him. Just below the cuff of his pants, white thermoplastic braces are visible at his ankles. But it's his hands that really catch my attention. At the end of his thin, stick-like arms, his wrists are sharply contracted, his fingers curving inwards. He still has enough strength to use the joystick on his chair, though.
I have been staking out this particular ramp hoping to see this guy. I don't just hang around ramps randomly. Well, most of the time I don't. My excuse for being here is my friend Rachel.
Rachel works at the Raser City Museum of Science, which despite the stuffy name is a hands-on museum for kids. Now that I'm working at Sharon's office downtown, I'm pretty nearby, so I sometimes stop by for lunch or after work to say hello to Rachel. That's how I first noticed this guy coming out the employee entrance. Now I've been visiting a lot more often.
I stand there, staring at him shamelessly, but he doesn't notice me. Before I can say anything, he's gone. Those power chairs move really fast.
It takes a few more near-misses before I work up the courage to ask Rachel about him. She says his name is Tim, and he's a volunteer, but she doesn't know any more than that. "Forget it," she suggests. "I think he's really young."
But I can't forget it. The next time I see him by the employee entrance, I say hello.
"I'm looking for my friend," I say boldly. "Rachel? Have you seen her?"
"I think she's in a meeting," he says, then takes off, leaves blowing in his wake.
The next time, I get lucky. I come by early, when I know Rachel isn't off yet, and there he is, sitting by the employee entrance. Now he knows who I am, sort of, so I say hi and introduce myself. It turns out he's waiting for his brother, so I sit down on the concrete steps to chat. Lucky for me his brother is late.
I find out that Tim is twenty years old, which is kind of a gray zone to me. He's definitely a legal adult, not a teenager like Rachel thought. I'm six years older than he is, which doesn't sound like a lot, but there's a huge gap between twenty and twenty-six.
As we're waiting, another guy comes out of the employee entrance. "Hey Tim, you forgot your schedule," he says, waving some stapled copies at him.
Tim can't grasp the papers with his hands, so he just waves stiffly with one contracted arm, indicating that the guy should tuck them beside the armrest of his chair. And that's it, I am completely undone. I don't care how much younger he is. I have to make something happen between us.
I give him my thousand-watt smile and ask him to tell me more about himself.
As it turns out, Tim is a smart, outgoing kind of guy, so it's very easy to talk to him. He tells me all about his blog, and I promise to take a look. When his brother finally shows up, I wave and smile. I don't tell Rachel about all this.
Back at home, I look up Tim's blog. A lot of the entries are kind of trite and silly. There's some poetry he's written too, ugh. But on the whole his writing is not bad and a few of the entries are genuinely funny. And there, along the side of the page, is his email address. I send off a quick note and he replies. Suddenly we're chatting over email as if we're real friends.
We're talking about movies, and Tim mentions that he wants to see the new film adaptation of Titus Andronicus. I'm always down for some Shakespeare on film, even if it's a play I don't really know. So without reflecting at all or even looking up any reviews or trailers, I suggest we go see it together at a matinee the next weekend. He tells me his address and I arrange to pick him up. And that's it, suddenly I have a date with Tim.
Despite my resolution to be more open with Rachel, old habits die hard. I still can't bring myself to tell her, especially after she told me not to pursue him. Instead, I tell a devotee woman I've become friends with online. Her email is MsHotWheels, but I don't know her real name. Or if she really is a woman. Since Angelo, I've become suspicious of everyone. But we only talk online, so I figure it doesn't really matter. It's so fun to have someone to compare notes on our favorite fictional devo crushes (mine: Luke Skywalker and Matt Murdock).
In addition to being a devotee, MsHotWheels is also a pretender. On her frequent business trips, she likes to spend a few hours wheeling around in a city where no one knows her. She tells me about these expeditions in detail. I'm not sure how I feel about pretenders, but all she does is push around on the street or maybe go to a café. It doesn't seem like she's hurting anyone. Recently, though, she's bought a house and now all she talks about is interior decoration. It's seeming less likely that she's a dude in disguise.
I tell MsHotWheels all about Tim and our upcoming date. When I mention that his hands are curved like claws, she fixates on that one detail and wants to talk about it endlessly.
"I wish he would pinch my nipple with one of those claws," she writes, not just once, but every time I mention Tim. Ew, why did she have to make it sound so dirty? But I'm turned on despite myself. Those tiny, curved hands are freaking hot. For the thousandth time, I kick myself for being taken in by Angelo. This is the real thing--there's no faking that kind of severe deformity.
The day of our date, I drive over to Tim's apartment complex. I'm wondering how he is going to fit his monster power chair into my economy-size car, but he didn't mention anything about it, so I figure he has some plan in mind.
When I drive up, I see Tim standing by the curb, no wheelchair in sight. For a second, I'm thrown for a loop, but then I remember the thermoplastic braces. Obviously, he wears them for a reason. Even with the braces, he can't walk very well. It's more like swaying from foot to foot on stiff, unbending legs, gradually inching forward. But he doesn't need the chair, which is good because there's no way it would fit in my car.
I get out of the car and open the passenger side door for him, then stand there awkwardly wondering how he is going to get in.
"Just lift me up under my arms," he instructs me matter-of-factly. I do what he says and wedge him into the passenger seat, then fasten the seat belt for him. It's an oddly intimate way to start a first date, but I'm feeling more uncomfortable than turned on.
At the movie theater, I pick him up the same way again to take him out of the car, then follow behind him as he slowly, slowly sidles up the wheelchair ramp. Because his legs are braced and his arms are too weak for crutches, there's no way he can climb stairs.
Inside, I pay for the tickets and buy us a huge tub of popcorn. Even though we're the only ones there, we take the very last row of seats, again because of the stair problem. Once inside, instead of sitting down, Tim just leans his butt against the folded-up seat. It occurs to me that he can't sit properly--there isn't room for his legs to stick straight out in front of him.
"Do you want some popcorn?" I ask.
"Sure," he says. I feed him a few kernels, but he seems a little embarrassed. I wonder, does he need help eating all the time? I know he lives with his brother who helps him out with stuff. It sounds like they get along great. Does his brother feed him every meal? I don't ask, because it feels intrusive, and because the movie starts.
Oh my god, the movie.
Even though it's an impressive piece of cinema, Julie Taymore's Titus has got to be the worst date movie ever. I had no idea it would be so rape-y. And gory. There are severed limbs everywhere. So many characters getting hands cut off, but it's not even remotely sexy to me. And it's almost three hours long.
Despite the horrors onscreen, I'm distracted the whole time by Tim hovering over the folded-up seat next to me. Because he's basically standing and I'm sitting, the distance between us makes it impossible to casually lean over and touch his arm flirtatiously, as one usually does on a movie date. If I want to feed him more popcorn, I have to practically stand up myself, and he doesn't seem to want it anyway.
Three hours later, we stumble out of the theater. I'm a bit shell-shocked, but Tim's going on and on about what a genius film it is and how Anthony Hopkins is the man. This date isn't going anything like I envisioned, but I'm still determined. Even though the movie was so long, because we saw a matinee, it's only late afternoon when we get out. I ask Tim if he wants to come over to my place for a little while. He says yes.
Back at my apartment, I park the car in front on the street, rather than in my spot at the back like usual, to avoid the stairs. Even so, there is a single step down on the walkway in front of my entrance, and I have to lift him again. If I had read about it in a novel, all this lifting might have seemed sexy, but in real life, it's too reminiscent of how parents handle small children. It doesn't help that Tim's much shorter than I am. Just to be clear, I'm not the kind of girl who gets hung up on tall guys. I'm only five foot three, so like 95% of guys are taller than I am. But it does feel a little strange when I'm with a guy who is significantly smaller.
Once inside, the first thing Tim does is ask to use the bathroom. I gesture down the hall and he slowly sidles in, then comes out again a moment later.
"Can you lift the seat for me?" he asks, his face bright red.
I smile and say, "Sure, no problem," trying not to make a big deal out of it. He still avoids looking me in the eye during this exchange.
As soon as he finishes, I have to go too. I notice that he hasn't flushed, which makes sense, if he lacks the dexterity to lift the seat. But how, I wonder, did he get his fly down? He's wearing regular jeans. His bent arms barely extend to his waist and it's hard to imagine he could open a button or pull a zipper. It's a mystery, but I am glad for his sake he didn't have to ask for help with that.
I wash my hands and return to find Tim perched on the edge of the bed, because it's a studio and there's nowhere else to sit. I sit down next to him, close, finally.
"Thanks for coming out with me," I say, looking into his eyes.
"You're welcome," he says blandly. "My brother is totally jealous, you know. He says you're hot."
"Oh, ah...thanks," I stammer, surprised. There's a moment of silence, but I keep staring at him.
"So what do you think of the 'fro?" he asks, shaking his head, his huge mop of frizzy hair bouncing around, making his huge head look even huger, atop his tiny body.
"It, um, looks good," I lie. It doesn't look good. It looks unkempt and ridiculous. As I stare into his face, I realize he also has a big, oddly-shaped nose and quite a bit of acne. Wait, what am I doing?
He takes my compliment at face value. "Ha! See! Everyone's trying to get me to cut it, but I think it looks cool."
I'm starting to lose my nerve, but because this is the moment I have been waiting so impatiently for, I move a little closer and take his hand in mine. It's tiny and the palm is sort of folded in half, with the outside edges facing each other. His fingers are all curved inward, not just at the joint, but the bones too. His hand lays in mine like a little bird. I insert my thumb under his fingers and gently rub his palm. The skin is amazingly smooth.
"It's so soft!" I blurt out. Tim just kind of looks at me uncomfortably.
"So, um, why..." I can't find a polite way to say it, but Tim anticipates me.
"I have arthrogryposis," he says, then spells it out spelling bee style. "Ever heard of it?" I shake my head, even though it sounds vaguely familiar. Perusing medical texts and websites is a favorite pastime of mine. "No one has," he continues. "But it's cool. My brother helps me out. I do ok."
As he's talking, I'm still holding his hand, stroking his palm with my thumb. I really wish MsHotWheels had never said that thing about wanting him to pinch her nipple with his claw, because now I can't get it out of my head and it's making me feel even creepier than I would have anyway.
But my dev senses are in high gear and all my misgivings are just so much background noise. I desperately want to kiss him but I can't quite bring myself to do it, because he's not giving me an opening. He just keeps chattering until eventually I let go of his hand. After about half an hour of random small talk, he says it's getting late and I offer to drive him home.
When we get to Tim's apartment, I pull into the parking lot and help him out of the car. I stand there uncertainly by the back door of the apartment building for a minute, but at least there's no chance of an awkward hug or handshake.
"I had a great time today," I say.
"Yeah, me too. The movie was incredible. Thanks for seeing it with me."
"Sure. If you want to get together again, just let me know."
"Ok, yeah, I will," he says, but makes no move to go inside. Finally he says, "Can I ask you to help me with the door?"
"Of course!" I smile gamely.
"The keys are in my pocket. If you could just pull them out..."
Again feeling like I'm being inappropriately intimate, I reach into his jeans pocket and pull out a key ring. For some reason I'm reminded of the keys scene in There's Something About Mary (totally hot by the way, even if the guy was faking). I dangle the keychain in front of him, but realize suddenly that there's no way he can grab them.
He tells me which key to use and I unlock the door, then prop it open with my butt while he sways from foot to foot, slowly making his way inside. Once he's past the threshold, he pauses and I drop the keys back in his front pocket.
"Thanks again!" I call out as he sidles down the hallway. "Call me!"
"I will," he promises.
But he doesn't call. Not that I was expecting another date right away or anything, but I was hoping we could at least hang out again. He said he wanted to, right?
I try to talk about it with Tovia over dinner at my favorite Thai restaurant, but he's obsessed with this new girl named Elisa right now. And get this, she's a paraplegic.
"We were at a dinner with a bunch of other people and everyone was going around the table and saying one thing they regret in their lives. She said she wishes she had been wearing her seat belt, haha!"
"Wow, that's intense," I say, even though it seems like an inadequate response. But he just laughs, clearly enjoying that quote from her.
"Yeah. She said she wants to keep things casual between us, but I told her she doesn't have a casual bone in her body." He likes that quote even more, so much so that he repeats it two or three times over the course of our conversation. On the third repetition, the penny finally drops.
"Wait, did you sleep with her?" I ask. He looks evasive. "Shit! You totally did! What the hell! You told her you didn't want to be serious, then admitted she can't do casual, and you had sex with her anyway?"
"Yeah. So?" He takes a big sip of his Thai iced tea.
"So now what?"
He shrugs. "I dunno. We'll see."
"Yeah, right." I roll my eyes at him.
Since Tovia won't give me any advice about Tim, I finally bite the bullet and tell Rachel. She has a typically chill response. There's always some drama going on between her and Ewan, but when it comes to other people's lives, Rachel's very laid back.
"Oh yeah?" she says when I tell her I went to a movie with Tim. "That's nice."
"Has he said anything about me at work?" I prod her.
Ok, so our date was kind of awkward and we clearly didn't have an instant connection, but I just can't stop thinking about him. It's those freaking hands, dammit.
I actually see Tim a few times again at the museum, but he's always in a big hurry, so I don't have a chance to say more than hello. I check his blog too. For a week or so he doesn't post anything, then suddenly he posts a whole bunch of poems at once. They're pretty dark. One is about a girl pushing him down the stairs and laughing at him.
When I see that poem, I have to call him.
"Are you like psychic or something?" he asks. "My brother was just saying that every time I turn around, there you are. The minute he said that, you call. It's creepy!"
Great, he thinks I'm creepy. But since we have already started down this path, there's one thing I have to ask him.
"So I saw the new poems on your blog," I say. Even though I know it's a stupid, narcissistic thing to ask, I still force myself to say, "That one about the stairs--that's not, uh, that's not about me, is it?"
"What? No!"
"Whew, I mean, I figured it wasn't, but I just had to make sure..." Now I'm feeling like a moron in addition to a creep.
"That was some girl I knew at school," he clarifies. "It's kind of an in-joke."
Of course. He has a life and I'm definitely not part of it.
"Sorry. I won't bother you any more," I say and hang up the phone.
I erase his email, his blog address, his phone number, and I stop hanging around the Science Museum. Within a month, Rachel quits her job to go to homeopathy school. I don't see Tim again.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Devo Diary Chapter 8


November 1999

I'm feeling so burned out on this whole devotee thing. True, I still spend hours every evening looking at the same photos of hot amputee dudes online, and I fall asleep with those images in my mind. But meeting a guy in real life is just too hard. I hate myself for acting all stalkerish, and for throwing myself at guys who don't like me, or who I only like for that one reason. I've decided to take a break from the craziness. Rachel always says that relationship drama is a choice. Well, I'm choosing to put it behind me.
Besides, the devotee thing is not my only fetish. Ever since Buttboy freed me from my inhibitions about BDSM, I've been wanting to try it more. Also because Sharon's boyfriend Cyril and Rachel's boyfriend Ewan are both way into it, and they talk about it a lot.
I've been spending a lot of time with all four of them. In addition to rapier academy, I've joined their singing group. We get dressed up in Elizabethan costumes and perform madrigals and folk songs for school groups, then go out to a pub and sing dirty ballads, of which Cyril has a never-ending supply. Between rehearsals and costume fittings, I spend just about every weekend either at Sharon's house in West Raser City or at Ewan's house in Ashwood. And the talk is almost always about sex.
One evening, we're at Sharon's place, standing around the kitchen, drinking port wine after dinner. Ewan initiates a game of "Never Have I Ever" like we're in high school or something, but somehow playing as adults just makes it more funny.
I suck at coming up with clever statements. All I can think to say is "Never have I ever smoked a cigarette." Cyril rolls his eyes and sighs as he drinks along with everyone else.
We go a few more rounds, then Ewan gets a wicked gleam in his eye and says, "Never have I ever had sex with an animal."
With an elaborate flourish, Cyril takes a huge swig. Everyone breaks out laughing.
"Whaaaaat?" I shriek. "You have got to be kidding!"
But he isn't. Evidently I'm the only one who hasn't heard this story. Now that I know this much, I have to hear him tell the whole thing.
"I was in high school," he says. "My friend had this dog that was horny all the time. Whenever I went to his house, this dog would follow me around and hump my leg." He does a little pelvic thrust in demonstration. "So this one time I go over to his house, and I have to use the bathroom. The dog follows me in! I'm in the bathroom with this dog and I see it's got a hard-on. So I give the dog what it wants. don't think it's actually going to go in..."
"Oh my god, that is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard," I say, but I also can't stop laughing. I can hardly believe he's telling the truth.
I sleep over that night in the extra bedroom, because I'm too drunk to drive home. The next morning I hang around, chatting with Sharon in her bedroom while she gets dressed. I'm sitting on her bed, surrounded by a ton of stuffed animals.
"Was that story about Cyril and the dog really true?" I ask.
"Yes, I thought you knew. Do you think I bought all those for myself?" She gestures to the stuffed animals on the bed. I quickly drop the plush rabbit I had been playing with. "Yeah, I wouldn't touch those," she advises.
"Ugh! I can't believe you're dating a dogfucker!" I exclaim.
"Well, technically the dog fucked him," she says, totally deadpan.
My closest friends, everyone.
The other story that Cyril likes to tell all the time is the one about the Blue People. Years ago, long before he met Sharon, before he even moved to Raser City, one night, when he was out at a club, he met an attractive young couple, a man and a woman, wearing almost nothing, covered in blue body paint. Now this doesn't sound the slightest bit sexy to me, but apparently there was something uninhibited and adventurous about them that had Cyril utterly captivated. But when they invited him to go home with them, he chickened out. This is his life's greatest regret.
"I should have gone home with the Blue People!" he wails. The moral of the story, according to Cyril, is always say yes. If it's something you want to do, don't be afraid to go for it. Between that and Tovia always saying "No one ever taught me to be ashamed of sex," I'm feeling like it's time to be more adventurous.
I get my hair cut in a Betty Page style with blunt-cut bangs, and dye it flat black. Since my natural color is dark brown, hardly anyone notices. I also take a trip to the sex-positive lesbian-owned sex toy shop and invest in a riding crop. Ewan once tried to show me how to use a bullwhip, but those things are dangerous, and besides I am too uncoordinated to make it crack. The riding crop seems more foolproof. In addition, Ewan bequeaths me a set of real cop handcuffs--god knows where he got them--with strict instructions never to lock them unless I have the key in my hand.
When we're not creating our own roving Ren Faire, the five of us also like to go to Lollygag, which is a goth club in downtown Raser City. Somehow it always seems more exciting when we're getting ready to go out than once we're actually there. Most of the people there are pasty, slightly pudgy and pathologically shy. They spend the night lined up against the outer edges of the club like it's a junior high school dance. This drives me crazy--you paid to come here! Why do you refuse to talk to anyone? You could have stayed home and been a recluse for free.
The few who are out on the dance floor usually do one of two moves: the "kicking around an invisible hockey puck" dance or the "clearing away low-hanging cobwebs in slow motion" dance. I try, but I can never manage to pick up anyone there.
Instead, I turn to my old standby, the Raser City Weekly personal ads. This time, I don't post my own ad, but instead make a careful study of the M Seeking F section. I find a sub guy about my age who's looking for a domme to top him. Bingo.
His name is Ray, and he's a tall Italian-American guy with light hair and dark eyes. A little nerdy, but pretty good looking, and normal-seeming. After the requisite meeting in a public place (Starbucks) to establish that we are both on the level, we make a real date for lunch, to get to know each other better. He reveals to me some of his fantasies, which are pretty standard: light spanking, maybe a little role-play humiliation, some bondage.
"I have real cop handcuffs," I say hopefully.
"Uh, maybe not right away," he demurs, looking uncomfortable.
I'm down for any of this, but even though it sounds like SM 101, I kind of have to drag it out of him. Ray is really reluctant to talk about any of this. But if I have learned anything from reading about BDSM online, it's that you have to plan everything in advance, to make it really clear what each person wants and expects.
Thinking that maybe he's just shy about discussing his fantasies in a restaurant, I accept his offer to go back to his apartment after lunch. But that turns out to be even more awkward. This is the part of the date when normally we would maybe kiss for the first time, but neither of us makes a move in that direction. Instead, he shows me his secret SM stash, which he keeps in a combination safe in his bedroom. This seems so weird to me.
"Wow, seriously? A safe?" I blurt out, before I realize it might be rude.
Ray blushes. "I have a roommate," he says by way of explanation. I assume the safe is more an expression of his own embarrassment than any real possibility of roommate snooping. I doubt his roommate has the slightest interest in two bondage-themed spank mags, a coil of nylon rope, and a hairbrush. Between the two of us, we must have the lamest collection of bondage gear ever.
"Maybe we should go shopping first," I suggest.
So that becomes our second date. I meet Ray at a shop in Queenstown, which is the big gay neighborhood in Raser City. It's the kind of shop that sells club clothes and costumes, as well as leather goods and a few restraints and floggers. Actually, it's primarily a supply store for drag queens, but I don't get that right away.
"Why are the sizes all so huge?" I marvel, looking at the high-heel shoes. Ray grunts, looking kind of queasy.
"Hey, these are cool!" I continue, ignoring him. I find a pair of extra-tall platform high heels in black patent leather, the kind with a sling back and peek-a-boo toes.
"What do you think?" I ask Ray. He just nods, white-faced.
I ask one of the twinks working there if they have my size and he brings them out for me. He's been laughing at the exchange between me and Ray and when he puts the shoes on me, he gets into the swing of things by calling me Mistress. I stride around as much as possible in the tiny, crowded store, showing off, but when I look around for Ray, he's disappeared somewhere.
The shoes are not at all comfortable, but I figure I'm not going to be walking around in them much, so I buy them anyway. I can see Ray waiting for me just outside the door. I guess this is all we're going to buy.
We drive straight back to my apartment, where I put the shoes on and prance around on the Persian carpet, while Ray sits on the bed and watches.
"Call me Mistress," I demand.
"Yes Mistress," he repeats tonelessly.
"Why didn't you watch me try the shoes on in the store?" I ask, sitting down next to him on the bed because my feet are already killing me.
"The way you were strutting around like was just too much..." I'm not sure if he means that I was embarrassing him or that he was too turned on.
I consider just ordering him to lick my shoes, but I'm still too uncertain of how I should act and what he wants. Instead, I start talking about what I might do to him, in what I hope is a sexy voice.
"You've been a naughty boy," I start out. "I'm going to give you such a spanking." His eyes glaze over a little--he seems turned on. "A spanking with a hairbrush," I continue. He nods, entranced. "Is that what your Mommy used to do?" I ask.
Ray's eyes snap fully open, all traces of arousal gone from his face. "Well, yeah," he says. "Why do you think I'm so into it?"
Oh shit. That's not what I was expecting at all. His mother--ugh! I really didn't want to know that.
Since I've broken the mood and freaked myself out too far to go back to wannabe dominatrix mode, I switch to what I know, which is vanilla making out.
We start kissing and I wrap my legs around him, pressing up against him. All of a sudden, he yelps and pulls away.
"What?" I have no idea what the problem is.
"You stabbed me in the back of the leg with your heel," he snaps. "Jesus! It fucking hurts." He rubs his leg while giving me an angry look.
"Sorry!" I honestly didn't realize. I pull off the shoes and toss them in the closet, but it's too late.
"I think I should go," he mumbles.
And that's it for Ray. We don't call each other again.

A few days later, Tovia takes me out to dinner to help me recuperate from this latest disaster. It seems that things between him and Elisa have gotten more serious, because he picks me up in her truck. Apparently his car is in the shop, so she's letting him borrow hers while she's out of town for a few days. It's a tiny, aged pickup (don't ask me what model) but when I get in I can tell why she chose it--this has to be the easiest car to get in I have ever seen. The seat is exactly at butt level for a not very tall female. It must make transfers easy.
"It's actually illegal for me to drive this thing," Tovia remarks as I get in.
"Why?" I didn't think able-bodied people were forbidden from driving cars modified for disabled people.
"Because of this," he explains, pointing to the knob attached to the steering wheel. "If I get in an accident, this is going straight through my ribcage."
"So it's ok for Elisa to drive with that but not you? What if she gets in an accident? I mean, another accident?" He shrugs. This seems like a very strange law to me. If such a law even exists.
"Why is the steering wheel all chewed up?" I ask. "Does she have a dog?"
"It's from pulling her wheelchair over it when she gets in," he says, miming how she drags it over herself and tosses it beside her. I try to picture it, but it's not totally clear in my mind.
Although Tovia and I are close, our circles of friends don't overlap at all. When we hang out, it's always just the two of us, almost never in a bigger group. Tovia has been dating her for a while now, but I still haven't met Elisa.
Tovia shows me how the hand controls work, although he still uses the pedals, then we take off. The truck has handicapped plates, but because he is a decent guy, he parks in a regular spot.
After dinner, we go back to his apartment. Even though Tovia's apartment, like mine, is a small studio, he has a couch and I don't. We usually hang out as his place rather than mine for this reason.
When we arrive, I see there's bondage gear strewn all over the floor.
"I feel like such a poseur," I sigh, kicking a leather-wrapped spreader bar and leather cuffs out of the way before flopping onto the couch. "In my imagination, the whole dominatrix thing is hot, but in reality I can't do it. It just feels so silly and fake."
"Of course it's fake, that's the point."
"Yeah, but how do you get started with the role-playing without feeling stupid?"
Tovia snorts. "Who cares? Even vanilla sex is stupid and weird. SM even more so. You just have to ignore that and keep going. It's role-playing, right? Just play a role. You're pretending to be more demanding or controlling than you actually are. Remember, a sadist is just someone who is really nice to masochists." This last bit is one of his favorite lines, which he repeats all the time.
I know he's right about all this, but it's still surprisingly hard to put into practice in the heat of the moment.
"So Elisa's really your girlfriend now," I say, changing the subject. "I thought you just wanted to be casual?"
"Yes, she's my girlfriend," he says defensively.
I stare at the bondage gear again, suddenly recalling the steep flight of stairs we just climbed. "Wait, how does she even get in your apartment?" Tovia lives on the second floor, no elevator.
"I carry her," he says simply.
"I carry her up the stairs and put her on the bed, then I go back and get her wheelchair," he elaborates.
"You're lucky you're the guy and she's the girl," I remark, thinking of that long staircase. "There's no way I could carry paraplegic guy up the stairs, no matter how hot he was."
Tovia laughs.
The conversation continues on the topic of dating and sex, and for some reason we end up talking about birth control. I ask Tovia what he is using with Elisa, because I am curious.
"Uh, nothing," he says, like it's not a big deal.
"What! Is she on the pill?"
"I don't know."
"Could she get pregnant even though she's paralyzed?"
"I don't know."
"Well, you better find out, because I'm pretty sure she can," I scold him.
He doesn't like me harassing him about this, so he changes the subject to his latest graphic design project. The topic meanders on to comic books, until it's time for me to get home. As we're walking out the front door of his apartment, he kicks at the doorframe with his toe.
"I hate it when my girlfriend leaves scratches all over the place with her wheelchair," he complains. I look around and realize there are little dings down near the floor on the doorframe, on the book case, on the table legs. But Tovia doesn't sound like he hates it. He sounds like he loves it.
Suddenly, the pieces all start to fall into place. Tovia talks about Elisa all the time. I thought he was just humoring me because he knows I'm curious and I've never met a paraplegic myself. But he really goes out of his way to mention her disability.
I flash back to another story he told me recently. Tovia and Elisa were at dinner with a group of friends, including another woman who had once been in a major car accident. She and Elisa started comparing lung intubation scars, and Tovia said to the other girl's boyfriend, "Our women are damaged." Even in the retelling, his voice was filled with pride and a sort of twisted glee.
"You're a devotee like me!" I exclaim.
"No, I'm not," he says huffily. "I just happen to be dating a girl in a wheelchair. There's a difference."
"Oh come on, just admit it! If anyone is going to understand, it's me." But he continues to deny it.
I try to talk this over with MsHotWheels, my online devotee friend. But she recently met the paraplegic guy of her dreams, some hottie who was partially paralyzed in a scuba diving decompression accident. All her messages to me are filled with descriptions of him crawling up the stairs to get to her second floor bedroom. While I enjoy reading her salacious emails, part of me is still wondering if this is real or if she's just making it up. Regardless, she's uninterested in speculating about the possible devotee status of some person she's never met.
Despite my resolution to be more open with my friends, it's still hard to talk about this stuff with them. Especially now that Rachel and Sharon, my two closest female friends, have live-in boyfriends. And Kara, oh man, forget it. Every time I talk to her about my dating woes, she says loftily, "Wow, I'm so glad I met Nam when we were in college." It makes me want to reach through the phone line and smack her.
Feeling the need to expand my social circle, I go out for drinks with a group of friends from grad school. Among these friends is a guy named Phil. I've had this tiny little crush on him for years. Nothing major, just a passive infatuation that I've never acted on. Partly because he lives with his girlfriend, and partly because he's never given any indication that he feels anything for me.
The reason for this crush dates to a brief period a few years back when he sprained his ankle playing Ultimate Frisbee and was on crutches for a few weeks. And I wasn't the only one who discovered a latent attraction to Phil while he was hobbling around. Another girl in our class also started following him around, carrying his books and holding open doors. Once we got into a comically pathetic tussle over who would hold the elevator open for him.
Even though the crutches are long gone, I still kind of like him. As I'm out with these friends, to make myself seem cool and sexy, I drop hints about BDSM. Despite my relative lack of experience, I still know more about it than the average vanilla person, and I talk a big game. The guys totally eat it up, and as I have more to drink, I talk more. Not about things that I've done personally, really just relaying what I've read, or what other friends of mine have done. I tell them Tovia's story of tying up a former girlfriend in his car while they were taking the ferry across the bay. He had her elaborately lashed to the grab bars, the seat, everything, but they vastly overestimated how long the trip would be, and before they knew it, all the other passengers walking all around them, going back to their own cars. There was no time to untie her and let her get dressed, so he just threw a blanket over her and drove off with her still tied up.
Phil is particularly interested in these stories, but I'm still not getting a flirty vibe from him. As the evening winds down, he offers to walk me home, because he lives nearby. When we get to my apartment, we stand chatting in the open doorway for a few minutes. There's a tiny garden next to the house where I grow tomatoes. All the gardening equipment is stacked up just inside my front door.
As we're chatting, Phil eyes the shovel. "Is that what you use to hit guys with?" he asks.
"Yeah, then I bury their lifeless corpses in the garden," I snap back sarcastically.
Phil just stares at me. "Really?"
"No! Of course not! On what planet is whacking someone in the back of the head with a shovel considered erotic foreplay?"
Phil laughs and admits he hadn't thought it through. I laugh along with him as we say goodnight, but inside I'm not sure whether to cry or scream.
Growing up with this weird, obsessive attraction to disabilities always made me feel different from everyone else. But it's only now that I'm realizing how far from the norm my sexuality is, and just how far my experiences are taking me from what most people understand.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Devo Diary Chapter 9

Patrick the Fireman, part 1
November 1999

I walk into Lollygag with my friends and the hottest guy I have ever seen there is sitting at the bar. He has short blond hair and a square chiseled jaw and he's wearing black eyeliner and black nail polish. Sitting next to him is a bigger guy with dark hair gelled up in spikes, also with eyeliner and nail polish. They must be friends because they are dressed in identical leather pants and white t-shirts. They are also both wearing dog collars and the shorter guy has left the chain dangling down his back. As we walk by them, I have the strongest urge to yank on that chain.
But I don't.
I'm not really feeling on my game tonight. I've spent the day at Sharon and Cyril's house, practicing music and just hanging out. The decision to come to Lollygag was a spur of the moment thing--Cyril talked us all into it after dinner. I didn't have time to change before we left, so I'm dressed in what I like to think of as my Ren Faire lite outfit: a flowy white cotton tunic with an ankle-length tartan skirt and a black leather bodice. Which is fine for hanging around with friends who always dress like extras in a Shakespeare play, not so good for looking hot at a club, even a goth club.
"I look like Snow White," I complain to Cyril as we sit down at one of the tables by the dance floor.
"You look fine," he reassures me irritably for the tenth time since I agreed to come along.
We nurse our drinks for a little while, waiting for the club to fill up a bit more. Eventually all five of us head out to the dance floor, even though it's still pretty empty. I try to forget the fact that I look totally dorky as I do the hockey puck and cobwebs dance along with everyone else.
But then dog collar guy from the bar comes up to me and starts dancing with me. I can hardly believe my luck. It has to be the first time ever a guy that hot has picked me out at a club.
And there's no mistaking that he's interested. We grind on each other and he is all over me. I put my arms around him and finger the chain hanging from the dog collar. His eyes glimmer and he gets this wide grin on his face that sets off little sparks in me.
This time, I don't hesitate--I yank right on that chain, forcing him to his knees, and he is loving it. I put my heel against his shoulder and give a little push. He staggers back but doesn't break eye contact. It's incredibly hot.
I'm feeling so confident, I decide to toy with him. Just as he is getting back to his feet, I turn around and march off the dance floor and back over to the bar. He follows me.
"Buy me a drink," I order and he does. I grab onto his chain and don't let go. For the rest of the evening, I pull him around behind me. He's totally into it. Before the night is over, I've gotten his phone number, scrawled on the inside of a matchbook, and his name: Joe.
"See, I told you, you look fine," Cyril says as we drive home.
I want to call Joe immediately, but I force myself to wait a few days, to be cool. My heart is in my mouth as I dial the phone, nervously fingering the matchbook from Lollygag, but Joe sounds happy to hear from me. We make a date to meet for dinner at a chic bistro in Queenstown, the kind of place with a polished concrete floor and the menu written on a big chalkboard.
It's early in the evening on a weeknight, so we mostly have the restaurant to ourselves. Joe shows up dressed normally this time--jeans and a button-down shirt, no eyeliner or nail polish. If anything, he looks even more hot. He has blue eyes that crinkle up when he smiles, a turned-up nose and a broad grin with white, even teeth. He's pretty short, just a few inches taller than I am, but he's got this boyish look I find irresistible.
As we look over the menu, we make small talk. It feels like this is the first time we're meeting--the music was so loud at the club, we hardly talked at all.
"I don't even know your last name," I say.
"Yes, you do," he says. "It's Joe."
"Huh? So what's your first name?"
"Patrick. But everyone calls me Joe."
"I like Patrick better. So Patrick, what do you do?"
"I'm a firefighter/EMT."
"No way! You don't look like a fireman."
"Why not? Because I'm too short? Lemme tell ya, every time there's something stuck in a storm drain, it's 'Hey Joe, get down there!' I'm, like, the most valuable member of the squad."
I laugh. "No, I was going to say because you don't have a mustache."
He rolls his eyes, looking a little embarrassed. "Actually that's true. You should see the other guys at the firehouse."
I still don't quite believe him so I quiz him some more but he's happy to tell me all about his work. He has an endless supply of horror stories, like the hit-and-run driver who was caught because his car's paint was found on the victims front teeth. I can tell he really enjoys the EMT part of his job too, because he goes into a lot of detail about it, medical details that I can't fully follow but like hearing about. Sometimes he helps out in the ER too if they are understaffed.
I find out that he is twenty-four, so two years younger than I am. The other guy who was with him at the club is Mike, also a firefighter/EMT, and his roommate. They've been best friends since they were kids. They live in a little town across the bay from Raser City called Granite Harbor though, which is a bummer. Why is it that every guy I meet lives so far away?
I fill him in on me, how I finished my useless MA but I'm planning on going back to get another degree that will hopefully make me more employable. Patrick seems overly impressed with this bit of information.
"Wow, so you're, like, super smart!"
"No, anyone can get a degree if they stay in school long enough," I say, repeating something a friend in College Town once told me before I started grad school.
He laughs, but still seems amazed in a way that makes me a little uncomfortable. An MA is nothing. I've spent enough time around other grad students to know it definitely doesn't mean you're smarter than anyone else.
As we make our way through dessert, he says suddenly, "I think you should go out with me. Know why?"
"Because I've got a great big tongue and I know how to use it."
If anyone else said this, it would come off as creepy and gross, but he says it with such boyish earnestness, I find it really sexy. And he's got the goods to back it up. He opens his mouth and unfurls what is the widest, flattest tongue I have ever seen. It covers his whole lower jaw. I'm impressed.
"You're on," I say. "You know, when I first saw you sitting at the bar, I so totally wanted to yank on your chain right when I walked in."
His eyes get big. "Oh man, I wish you had done that!" Now I really wish I had too.
We talk more about sex--despite the nail polish and the dog collar, he's still kind of a novice at the SM and goth scene. He and Mike only recently worked up the nerve to check out clubs in Raser City.
I can't bring myself to tell him that I'm a devotee--who knows that word anyway? But I do tell him I have a medical fetish, which is also true. We talk about casting websites I've been looking at recently. I was really into casts when I was a kid, but I've recently discovered it's also a pretty common fetish. Related to being a devotee, but not exactly the same.
"Oh hey, there's tons of casting supplies at work," he says. My eyes light up.
"Could you teach me how to wrap a cast?" I ask. He agrees enthusiastically.
Oh my god, I think I'm in love.
I don't want to mess things up with Patrick by moving too fast. This could be a real relationship, not just a kinkster friends with benefits deal. So despite how hot I am for him, I don't invite him back to my place after dinner. We make plans to meet again, but the night ends with a quick kiss after he drops me off at home.
I've never been the kind of girl who fantasizes about firemen. Or cops or any other alpha male types. Mainly because most of my fantasies involve guys with various disabilities. But suddenly I start to get the appeal.
"All firefighters are insane," Cyril states flatly when I tell him about my date with Patrick.
"What? I thought they were heroes! How can you say that?" I'm a little hurt. Patrick is the most normal guy I've met in years. Maybe ever.
"Think about it. They run into a fire. Normal people run away," he explains like I'm a child.
"But that's just their job!" I protest.
"No, they choose that job for a reason. I've met some firefighters and they all have serious issues," he warns me.
Whatever. That sounds like rank prejudice to me. Besides, Cyril is a fine one to talk about mental issues.

For our second date (although to me it feels like the third), Patrick picks me up at my apartment and takes me out to dinner at an Italian place downtown. I know nothing about cars, but he's got some sporty little number with a stick shift. As he's zipping across lanes on the way downtown, he tells me that his father is a retired NASCAR driver. Actually, he qualifies that--adopted father.
"They said my biological parents were students at Lester State," he says, as I watch the campus whizzing by. "They adopted me right after I was born."
"Um, that's good, right?" I'm not really sure what to say to something so personal.
"Yeah, I guess. They gave me a better life," he says tonelessly.
There's an awkward silence for a few minutes, until he goes back to talking about his work. Suddenly he's animated and excited again.
Patrick explains to me that there are two kinds of ambulances: the ones funded by the city and run out of firehouses (like where he works), and ones run by private companies. Patrick has nothing but contempt for the private ambulances, which are staffed by poorly trained EMTS. Over dinner, he tells me a long story about a particularly horrific case. A guy fell at home and broke his leg--a compound fracture, with the bone actually protruding. Rather than taking him straight to the ER, one of the EMTs tried to set the fracture himself, but screwed up and severed a vein. Now the guy's in danger of bleeding out. Realizing they're in big trouble, the EMTs finally loaded him into the ambulance and took off, but on the way to the hospital, the driver hit a tree.
"Oh my god," I say, setting down a forkful of spaghetti. These stories make me a little dizzy--I have always hated gore. But they also inspire a kind of morbid curiosity. "So what happened to the guy?"
"He died! Can you believe that shit?"
"Jesus! That's horrible! He died because of a broken leg? Man, that's messed up."
"No kidding. Don't ever get in an ambulance run by A*** Services."
I consider this bit of useful advice, but really, if you're lying bleeding in the road, what are you going to say? No, go get me a real ambulance?
"So what's the fastest you've ever driven?" I ask, changing the subject slightly.
"Oh man, this one time, we had a three year old in cardiac arrest. I didn't even look at the speedometer. I just floored it, and we were like zoooom!" He gestures with his hands, sliding one against the other as if he were taking off.
"So what happened?"
He smiles, his eyes crinkling up and deep creases appearing around his wide mouth. "She's fine now. I still see her around." Granite Harbor is a small town, the kind of place where everyone knows everyone else, and he's lived there his whole life, so that's not surprising. Watching him talk with pride about his work, seeing his blue eyes shine as he tells the good stories, the ones with happy endings, it's easy to see him as a kind of civic hero. How could what Cyril said be true?
But because I have a bad habit of blurting out whatever's on my mind, I ask him anyway.
"So my friend Cyril said all firemen have issues," I say, expecting him to refute it, but instead he just shrugs.
"Firefighters have the highest divorce rate of any career," he says seriously, like he's warning me. But instead all I can think is, oh my god, he's thinking of a relationship with me!
"Then it's true that all firemen are really pyromaniacs?"
He laughs in a kind of embarrassed way. "Well, duh. Some guys out of a different station house in Granite Harbor went to jail last year for setting a fire. They got bored of having nothing to do so they set fire to an abandoned house then came back with the truck to put it out."
"No way!"
"Yeah, they were really dumb to think they wouldn't get caught. Like, the first thing we're taught is how to recognize arson. But really, fires don't happen that often. Most of what we do is sit around the station."
After dinner, Patrick drives me home. Because it's dark, and because he's a gentleman, he walks me right to the door of my apartment at the back of the house. I know I should play hard to get, string him along for more sexless dates before inviting him in. But god, I'm so turned on and I want him so bad. And the whole game-playing, wait x number of dates thing seems so pointless. If he doesn't respect me already, how many days do I have to wait before he does? What is the proper amount of time to wait? If we both want to do it, what are we waiting for anyway?
He gives me a kiss that gets hotter and hotter the longer it goes on. Finally I come up for air.
"Would you like to come in?" I ask. He grins.
"Oh wow, this place is so cool!" he says, standing in the middle of the room, taking in my tiny one room apartment--the deep blue entry, the chocolate brown walls with the gold leaf pattern, the Pre-Raphaelite posters on the walls.
"Thanks. I like it," I say.
Because there is no sofa, only a bed and a desk with a single chair, we sit kind of awkwardly on the floor. But then he grabs me and we start kissing again, more roughly this time. I push him down and kiss him hard, and he responds by flipping me over, so now he's leaning over me as I lie on my back. For a moment, he just stays like that, looking into my face, that deep, long gaze you only do with someone you're about to have sex with. I stare right back at him the same way.
Suddenly, I realize that he doesn't have two blue eyes as I had assumed. The left one is blue, but the right is green, and the pupil isn't round--it's shaped like a keyhole.
"Hey, you noticed," he says, laughing and sits back on his heels.
I sit up too. "What happened to your eye?"
"When I was eight, I was trying to hang a poster on my bedroom wall, but when I went to hammer in the tack, it flipped back and went right in my eye."
"Oh my god!"
"Yeah, the doctor managed to save my vision, but because of that I wasn't allowed to play any sport where there was a chance I could get hit in the face with a ball or anything. It might've messed up my eye. That's why I did gymnastics and skiing."
"Cool! Show me some flips!" I insist. He had already mentioned the gymnastics over dinner, now I want proof.
"Ok, move out of the way." I scramble up on the bed. Patrick kicks off his shoes, then positions himself in one corner of the Persian carpet as if it were a gymnastics mat. He does two forward flips, one after another, lands neatly in the opposite corner, then does a few more tumbling passes, never moving off the carpet.
It's impressive, but I can't stop thinking about his eye. He could have been blind in one eye, maybe even in both. Without proper treatment, a puncture wound to one eye can spread to the other eye too; it's called sympathetic blindness.
In reality, I know Patrick's vision is better than mine--he doesn't even need glasses. I usually wear contacts. Without them I'm so nearsighted I can barely see the biggest letter on the eye chart. But something about that story and the look of his mismatched eyes hits my dev sweet spot. Now that I know, I can see it clearly even across the room. I can't believe I didn't notice it sooner.
His tumbling routine finished, Patrick joins me on the bed. He's breathing hard, his cheeks flushed. I tackle him and we wrestle like puppies, rolling around and around in the bed. I love that he's not much bigger than I am; it makes me feel like our bodies fit together perfectly. But he's much stronger than I am--wiry, with hard, lean muscles. After a few minutes of letting me have the upper hand, he tosses me down and yanks open the button fly on my jeans with his teeth.
He was not kidding about knowing how to use that giant dog tongue. I let myself go, and it feels incredible. I do my best for him in return, even though I don't think I'm that great at giving head. But he seems satisfied.
So much for waiting.
But maybe Patrick is taking this seriously anyway, because he doesn't make excuses and run out the minute he gets off. No, he sleeps over the whole night. In the morning we go out for breakfast before he drives back to Granite Harbor. I get pancakes with strawberry syrup. I swear nothing has ever tasted so good.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Devo Diary Chapter 10

Patrick the Fireman, part 2
November 1999

So that's it, Patrick and I are a couple. We talk on the phone every day, sometimes for hours and hours late into the night. It's not easy finding time to be together, though. Why is it that I am once again dating a guy who lives far away?
Granite Harbor is across the bay and to the south of Raser City. As the crow flies, it's quite close, but in terms of normal human transportation, it's a pain in the ass to get there. You can either take the ferry from downtown then drive for about half an hour, or drive way south and go over a very scary suspension bridge--steep, narrow, only two lanes of traffic and no divider. As you drive you can feel the bridge shaking in the wind. Because I live alone, and because Raser City is cool and fun while Granite Harbor is suburban and boring, most of the time Patrick comes to me.
It's also tricky to line up our work schedules. I'm still working a little less than full time at Sharon's company, but I can shift my hours around. Patrick has three days on when he has to be at the firehouse including over night, then two days off, but he seems to cycle through those shifts randomly. He also picks up extra hours at the ER whenever he can. But if he's not working, he'll come spend the night with me.
If they're both off at the same time on a weekend, Patrick brings Mike with him and we all go out to Lollygag together. They come into town on their motorcycles, so Mike can go back home after, while Patrick sleeps over at my place.
The first time they do this, they both show up already in their club clothes--both in leather pants, Patrick wearing a tight mesh top and Mike in a loose-fitting button down shirt. The dog collars are back, paired with spiked wrist cuffs. They both have on black nail polish and black eyeliner. Knowing how straight they normally dress, I find there's something adorably earnest about their getup.
They arrive at my place slightly freaked out--apparently as they stopped to get gas on their way out of Granite Harbor, they spotted their chief at one of the other pumps. They ducked down behind their bikes, hoping he wouldn't see them all dressed up and with makeup on. They would never hear the end of it. They manage to get away unseen, but vow in the future to change when they arrive.
I get dressed up too, with my hair in pigtails and lots of black and silver eyeliner. My go-to club outfit is a pair of tight vinyl pants, a black velvet bra and a mesh t-shirt. It has the advantage of being both sexy and comfortable--no teetering around in high heels or freezing my ass off in a miniskirt. Also I have pockets for my keys, ID and cash. Take that, fashion.
I hop on the back of Patrick's motorcycle and we head downtown. It's late, and the streets in the business district are deserted. Patrick is wearing a ring with the Chinese character for "demon," which he claims gives him luck. As we pull up to a stop light, he shoots out his fist, brandishing the ring at the lights. Just as he does this, every light all down the street turns green at the same time and he takes off, the wind whipping my hair back and carrying away my shrieks of delight.
Ok, technically I know the lights downtown are synchronized, but it's still slightly magical. Riding down the streets at night, all dressed up, it's like we're extras in a sci fi movie or something. I feel super cool, charged up and sexy. I've always been such a nerd. It's hard to believe this is me, riding on the back of a motorcycle, strutting into a club with a hot fireman. At the club, he lets me lead him around on the chain again, and I know I'm with the hottest guy there.

Whenever I'm around Patrick, I can't help staring at his mismatched eyes. If I had read about it in a novel or seen it in a movie, something that minor would have not nothing for me. But in person, it's damn sexy.
I very briefly dated another guy with a minor eye disorder, way back in my first semester of college. Like with Patrick, I didn't even notice it at all until we had been dating for about a week or two. One day as we were kissing, I realized his eyes were looking in different directions.
He explained that he had nystagmus, I think, or maybe it was something else and I've forgotten the name. His eyes would shake in the way that's typical of nystagmus, but he could control that, and it wasn't what I had noticed. He couldn't control the muscles to make his eyes move normally--it was like they were fixed in the center point. He could move from the center in, but  not from the center out. So whenever he looked to the side, one eye would track and the other would stay fixed. It didn't seem to affect his vision much, but it did look unusual. Once I noticed it, I couldn't stop staring.
Our relationship was a disaster, for reasons I didn't understand at the time. In high school, I had been a social outcast. Even my prom date was a pity date, arranged by my friends. I arrived at college with a head full of romantic ideas, secret weird kinks, and zero dating experience. Anyway, after a month of blissful happiness on my part, suddenly, out of the blue, nystagmus guy dumped me and I didn't even know why.
Looking back, though, I'm pretty sure it was because of the devotee thing. I never told him, of course. I didn't even know the word back then. But I have a very clear memory of him yelling at me, seemingly out of nowhere, accusing me of having said something he found patronizing and offensive. I was so shocked and confused at the time, I didn't ask for any explanation. I have no idea what I said, no memory of what I said that made him so upset. But what else could it have been? I was obsessed with his wonky eyes, and he was sensitive about it. I could have easily said something about it that pissed him off and not even realized it.
Then, when I was a senior in college, I met K and that just cranked my dev eye fixation up to eleven. K had congenital glaucoma, so his eyes were that distinctive opaque blue. But they were also mismatched, because he'd had surgery as a teenager, a failed corneal transplant in the right eye. The one with the transplant was flat, while the other eye bulged out slightly, cone-shaped from the pressure. So yeah, anything unusual about the eyes is high on my list of dev turn-ons, with K right up at the top.
Anyway, I'd like to think I've developed better social skills since that fiasco with nystagmus guy, so I try not to dwell on it with Patrick. But he really likes that I'm so kinky. I don't mention his mismatched eyes, though. I'm sure he hardly even thinks about it himself.

Despite all our dressing up and posturing at the club, in reality the first few times we have sex, it's just vanilla. I really want to do more kinky stuff with him, but I'm not sure where to start.
"Oh for god's sake, just do it," Cyril tells me when I turn to him for advice. Tovia has been spending all his time with Elisa--I have hardly seen him at all lately, so Cyril becomes my go-to for SM tips.
"But do what?" I complain. "That's the problem! I have this vague idea that I want to top him but I can't think of anything specific to do."
"Do whatever you want! Remember you're in charge. So take charge!" Cyril mimes grabbing someone by the back of the neck and forcing him down to his knees, then walks in a circle around this imaginary person, swaggering in a menacing but sexy way. "Just let him know he's yours and you can do to him whatever you want," he drawls theatrically, his voice dripping with honey.
The light goes on in my head: this is all about acting. Cyril is an actor. I used to be in school plays all the time when I was a kid.  Ok, I think I can do this.
But first I need some better equipment. I still have the riding crop, but I'm beginning to realize it's not the best tool for the job. I practice on a pillow, trying to hit the exact same spot over and over, but I'm so uncoordinated, I can't get much power behind my swings. I also have a suede cat-o'-nine-tails I bought at a Ren Faire. The proper way to use it is to get all the "tails" to land in the same spot at the same time. I'm even worse at that. It's time to go shopping again.
At one of the leather shops in Queenstown I find the perfect flogger. About fifteen inches long and an inch or two wide, it's kind of like a leather paddle, rigid at the base but with the two sides separated at the top, so they slap against each other when you hit something. It makes a loud crack, a sound and sensation kind of like hitting with a leather belt. It seems foolproof.
I tell Patrick about my purchase as we're talking on the phone that night, and he's excited too. He has even less experience with SM than I do, but he's eager to try.
"We should have a safe word," I say. "It's supposed to be something stupid that you would never say otherwise."
"Ok, if you want. But I don't think we need it."
"It's for your safety," I point out.
"Whatever. I have a really high pain tolerance," he brags. "This one time I dropped the fire hose on my foot and it broke my little toe. At the ER, the doctor just jammed a metal pin right in there--no anesthetic or nothing."
"You're kidding!"
"Nope. That hurt like hell, but anything less than that I don't even notice."
Well, ok then.
When Patrick comes over then next time, I am ready. I'm dressed up in my vinyl pants and the platform heels I bought with Ray, and I've got the leather paddle in my hand. Patrick breaks into the biggest grin when I open the door, and it's all I can do not to smile back and kiss him.
"What took you so long? You're late!" I bark at him.
For a second he looks confused. "Uh, sorry?" he mumbles.
"Sorry, Mistress!" I correct him and he starts smiling again.
"Sorry, Mistress!" he repeats, getting in the mood.
"Get in here!" I grab the front of his shirt and yank him through the door, making him stumble on the threshold. He's blushing and grinning from ear to ear.
I strut around on the Persian carpet, making him grovel and apologize some more. Then I sit on the bed and make him kiss my feet. The feeling of his tongue on my toes at the open top of the patent leather shoes is incredible. Every once in a while, he glances up at me, making sure he's doing it right. That look on his upturned face, half nervous, half confident, is so sexy.
After he worships my feet for a while, he starts getting bolder, running his hands up my thighs, lunging forward like he's going to kiss me. I can see this turning vanilla quickly.
"Did I say you could do that?" I demand, kicking him lightly on the shoulder.
"No Mistress," he says, looking down. "I'm sorry, Mistress."
"That's right you're sorry!" I rant. "You need to be punished! Drop your pants!"
Patrick always wears a thong, even under the full firefighter suit. I make him pull it down, and he kneels with his bare ass in the air, thong and jeans around his knees.
I haul off and whack him one right across the cheeks with the paddle. It makes a satisfyingly loud crack. Patrick gives a little sigh. Pleased with myself, I start walloping him faster, but then on the fifth whack, the paddle slips in my hand and strikes him with the edge. Remembering what Cyril taught me about acting, I try not to break character by apologizing or anything, so I just take a firmer grip and keep going.
But after another two or three more whacks, I notice that Patrick doesn't seem to be enjoying it so much anymore. In fact, he's gripping his hands together in front of him so hard his knuckles are turning white and he's trembling a little all over.
"What's wrong?" I ask, walking around in front of him and finally dropping the Mistress act.
Patrick leans back with a little moan. "When you hit me with the thing sideways, you nailed me right on the nuts," he groans.
"Oh my god! I'm so sorry! Are you ok?" I help him pull his pants back up and climb onto the bed. He assures me that he's fine, but I still feel terrible. I apologize over and over.
We're done for that night, but after that, amazingly, he still trusts me, and we do it more and more. I insist we use a safe word from then on, though.
We roleplay and he lets me flog him and tie him up. One night, I handcuff him to the chair in the kitchen and feed him dinner. It's so hot I want to tear his clothes off right there. We play around with blindfolds too and he can tell that gets me going more than anything else. So I tell him in more detail about my thing for blind guys, and he seems to really get it, without freaking out or judging me.
From then on, whenever we have sex in the regular way, just as he's about to come, he rolls his eyes back in his head so only the whites are showing--it's seriously the sexiest thing. I come instantly every time. It's like a switch in me he can just flip at will.
He's not kidding about the high pain threshold. I'm more careful about the flogging, but soon we realize the leather paddle is not enough. It makes a nice noise, but because it's so wide, it's more of a thud than a sting. I cast around for something thinner, faster. Leaning up by the front door with my gardening equipment is a packet of bamboo stakes, each one about a quarter of an inch thick.
I give him a proper caning with the bamboo and he loves it. But I don't realize until after I've finished that I've broken the skin. After five minutes, he has huge welts in a striped pattern all over his ass. After ten minutes, bruises show up under the welts.
"I'm so sorry!" I say as he gets ready to leave. "I know you have a shift tomorrow."
"Nah, don't worry," he shrugs as he pulls on his thong, then his jeans. "No one at the station is going to be looking at my ass, believe me."
Two days later, I get a phone call. "You are not going to believe what happened!" Patrick bursts out as soon as I pick up. "We were transporting some dude to the hospital like normal, right? But then when we got back to the station, the captain told us we'd been exposed to meningitis. He said we had to be vaccinated right there and then."
"So it's a shot in the ass! Our captain was like, 'Ok boys, drop 'em,' right there in the middle of the station! I go, 'Nah, 's ok, I'll just do it myself,' and I tried to sneak away but he caught me."
"No way! So what happened?"
"What do you think happened? I dropped my pants, and everyone was like, 'What the hell happened to you?'"
I'm dying laughing by this point. "What did you tell them?"
"I said I fell on a grate," he declares, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

The first time I go to his house in Granite Harbor, Patrick accedes to my fear of driving and picks me up. As he speeds over the suspension bridge, I am so glad he is the one behind the wheel and not me. I love how safe he makes me feel. Despite our Mistress/slave role play, I don't want to be like that 24/7. It's way more sexy to only do it sometimes, as a game. In real life, I love how confident and capable he is. I feel like I can trust him completely. I almost wish there were some minor disaster so he could swoop in and save me.
On the way to his house, we stop at a tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant at a strip mall and get tacos for lunch, then he takes me to the station house. It's a small concrete box on a mostly empty road. Inside, guys in blue jumpsuits lounge in their socks in front of a huge TV, right next to the fire truck. I'm a little disappointed there isn't a pole, but I guess that's too 19th century.
Patrick introduces me and the guys all tease him, repeating various embarrassing stories. As far as I can tell, the firehouse is basically a frat that occasionally does some work. Most of their time is spent pranking each other, the more elaborate the prank, the better. They tell me some long story about how they rigged up IV tubes under the table to squirt soda in the lap of anyone who sat in a certain spot. Another story is about someone's kid who stuck a potato in the tailpipe of the fire truck. To get revenge, they drove up in the truck behind the kid as he was riding his bike and laid on the siren.
"He was like aaaaahhhh, right into the ditch," Patrick laughs, miming the kid falling off his bike.
This is all very entertaining but I am still slightly dreading getting to his house. Patrick mentioned that he has a dog. I don't like dogs. Actually that is kind of an understatement. I don't want any dog anywhere remotely near me. I'm less afraid that the dog might do something to me than that I might do something to embarrass myself and Patrick will lose respect for me. Like I might jump or scream or something, making him realize I'm not as cool and sexy as he thought, but actually kind of a loser.
"You promise you'll keep the dog outside?" I ask nervously as Patrick drives us down broad, sidewalk-less roads dotted with a few small houses at the end of long dusty driveways.
"Sure. I hate that fucking dog anyway. It isn't really mine. Candy is the one who bought it."
Candy is his ex, who dumped him about six months ago. Candy really is her name, it's not even short for Candace or anything. Who names their child Candy? Someone who doesn't mind seeing their daughter on a stripper pole, that's who. He has only mentioned her a few times but I already have a bad opinion of her.
Patrick pulls up in a gravel driveway beside a small one storey house. I can see Mike's truck and their motorcycles in the drive. As soon as we pull up, this huge black and brown mutt comes charging out of the house, barking and jumping. I stay in the car until Patrick subdues it and banishes it to the backyard.
We go in through the kitchen, where Mike is eating canned chili and getting ready to leave for his shift. Together they show me around the tiny ranch house--after the kitchen, a big open living room and two small bedrooms, all one storey. In Patrick's bedroom, the big walk-in closet has a second door cut into the drywall but they haven't gotten as far as putting in a door frame or even cleaning up the bits of plaster from the shag carpet. Next to the closet, two shotguns lean up against the wall. On the bedside table, incongruously, is a copy of the Rubaiyyat and a self help book on getting over a broken heart. I tease Patrick about this mercilessly, until Mike admits that he's the one who bought it for Patrick.
"I had to do something," Mike confides, taking me aside while Patrick phones for pizza. "That bitch Candy messed him up so bad. You have no idea."
I nod sympathetically. "I've had my heart broken too. It just takes some time to get past it."
Mike shakes his head. "I never seen nothing like this. They were together since high school. He was getting ready to ask her to marry him."
Now that he mentions it, I see traces of her all over the house. One wall of the living room is covered with photos of Patrick and Mike, but here and there are big holes where there were obviously photos removed. A big box of photos on the desk is labeled "Candy n me." And there is the dog, which Mike keeps letting back in the house. Mike seems to have taken over as the main caretaker for the dog. Luckily for me the dog pretty well behaved, so there is no unfortunate incident. We mostly avoid each other.
I find it adorable how close Mike and Patrick are, like brothers. They really look out for each other in a way that few guys do, and they're not afraid to show it. When so many people our age try to play it cool and aspire to ironic hipsterish distance from everything, even their closest friends, it's so refreshing to see genuine, sincere friendship.
Just before departing for his shift, Mike asks Patrick if he'll be taking me by his parents' house to meet them. They live just up the road.
"Nah, not after what Mom said," Patrick mumbles. After Mike leaves, I grill Patrick on what he meant by this. He doesn't want to answer.
"They're not my real parents," he says. I'm shocked he can say this so casually.
"Uh, I think they'd be hurt if you said that to them." He just shrugs.
"What did your mother say about me?" I insist.
"Aw, it's nothing. She just, I dunno, she thinks you're snobby."
"What! How can she think that when she hasn't even met me? What did you say to her?"
"Nothing! It's just, you know, you have that degree and you're so smart and everything. What would you be doing with a dumb firefighter like me?"
"Seriously?" I can't believe I'm hearing this. "You know it's not like that, right?"
"Yeah, I'm sorry. I tried to explain it to her, to tell her how awesome you are. She'll get over it. Don't worry."
I try to take his advice and relax. We make out a little now that we have the house to ourselves but neither of us is in the mood for SM games. We spend the evening lying on the couch eating pizza and watching bad movies on TV.
Later on we have sex in the ordinary way then go to sleep, or rather, he goes to sleep while I lie awake in bed, staring at the half-finished closet and wondering where I fit in to his life.

December 1999

I go out to dinner with Tovia for the first time in many weeks. He still won't admit he is a devotee, and I gave up pestering him about it. Actually, we've been drifting further apart. We don't see each other as often as we used to, and the times we do talk, we often bicker over stupid shit.   
Over dinner, we compare notes on our relationships. It sounds like he and Elisa have gotten really serious. I can tell by the way he talks about her that he's gone from starry-eyed infatuation to seriously planning an actual future with her. I still haven't met her, by the way, but it doesn't occur to me to insist. I don't want to pry.
"So how's it going with Patrick?" he asks.
"Oh my god, I think I'm really falling for him!" I gush, clutching my chest melodramatically. "Last week he came over late, as soon as his shift ended. He brought me a box of chocolates! No guy has ever done that for me before. Then as we were laying in bed watching TV, he took a piece of chocolate in his mouth and kissed me, so we both bit off half."
Tovia wrinkles up his nose. "Gross."
"Oh come on, it was not gross. It was sexy and romantic."
"Well good, I'm glad," he says, conceding the point. "You deserve to be with someone decent for a change."
I smile, then sigh. "Yeah, well there's still time for it all to go horribly wrong."
"Wow." He gives me a pitying look. "I'm glad I don't live in your brain."
I just laugh.
I don't mention to Tovia that during that same visit, Patrick also gave me a ring. Not an engagement ring. Just a plain steel ring that probably cost a dollar. He pulled it out of his pocket and handed it to me with a half scared, half eager look on his face.
"Look, I know it's like way too early...." he said, not meeting my gaze. "This isn't really anything....I just, I, um, wanted you to, ah, have it...."
I kissed him hard without saying anything and slid the ring on my finger. He's right, it is way too early. But despite my kinky, adventurous ways, what I really want is to get married, to commit to one person forever. Before Patrick, I've never met a guy who wanted that too, at least not with me. I keep telling myself he can't really mean it yet, but just the fact that he's thinking about it is intoxicating. I'm seriously in love. What I said to Tovia was a bit of preemptive magic. If I say we're totally in love and things are going great, that might jinx it. Like how I still haven't copied down Patrick's phone number into my address book, but still pull out that same matchbook every time I call. Part of me does feel like it's all too good to be true.