For days after Patrick dumps me, I can barely eat. Normally I'm hungry all the time, but now I barely nibble two crumbs all day long. The last of the extra weight I put on in Seoul disappears. Sharon calls it the heartbreak diet.
"I told you he was unstable," Rachel says helpfully. Every time a fire truck goes by I fee like crying.
As if I wasn't already feeling bad enough, Valentine's Day rolls around. Fuck. I never have a boyfriend on Valentine's. I'm planning a night of television and despair when I notice that Dan Savage is coming to Raser City for a special event at a club downtown. Valentine's Revenge Night, they're calling it. You can bring a memento of a failed relationship and Dan will destroy it onstage for you. Perfect.
I go with a lesbian friend who got dumped a few months ago. We sit right up in front on the folding chairs arranged on the dance floor. There's a good size crowd turned out, but the club is not that big, and the stage is just a platform raised about six inches, so it all feels very intimate. On the stage is a table covered with various instruments of destruction, mostly just power tools or kitchen appliances, whatever could be purchased at Home Depot or Sears. Dan Savage is right there in front of us, just a few feet away. I can hardly believe I'm so close to my hero. After all, if it weren't for him, I would never have had the courage to try SM, or even have found out about devotees. I'm a geeked out fangirl.
Dan comes on stage and does a short monolog about what a shitty holiday Valentine's Day is, how it makes everyone feel bad whether you have someone or not. Then he works up the crowd into a frenzy of bitterness and resentment about the assholes who dumped us, and asks for a volunteer.
My friend goes first, jumping up on stage brandishing an old t-shirt her ex gave her. Dan tries to rip it up with a hedge trimmer, but it just gets jammed. They settle for cutting the shirt to ribbons with scissors. The raucous crowd hoots and cheers as she tosses the shreds of cloth in the air.
Next a weepy gay guy goes up to the stage with a carton of cigarettes, a fancy all-natural brand. Apparently his lying closet case ex-lover was CEO of the company. He gets a deeply satisfied look on his face as the cigarettes go into the blender.
When it's my turn, I'm so geeked I can barely talk. Wordlessly, I produce the ring Patrick gave me, feeling like I'm taking part in a mystical ritual and Dan is the high priest who will absolve me of the pain. I'm so ready to destroy that ring and move on.
For a moment there's a horrified silence from the crowd, and Dan goes a little pale. I realize everyone thinks I'm brandishing a platinum wedding ring.
"We weren't married or engaged or anything," I mumble, blushing dark red. "It's not that kind of ring. I mean, I think it's just made of aluminum or something. But he's still an asshole."
"Ok, then let's destroy it!" Dan says, trying to get back in the swing of things. He glances uncertainly at the various tools on the table. The blender, the hedge trimmer, the scissors, none of those will work. Finally, after much input from the crowd, we shove the ring in a vise and I take a swing at it with a hammer. But since I'm such a klutz, I hit it once and the ring pops out of the vise and disappears.
"So long asshole!" Dan yells triumphantly as the ring goes flying. He turns to me and says "Great job!" then hustles me offstage to make room for the next person.
At the end of the night, as the crowd is clearing and we're getting ready to leave, there on the floor, amid the shredded love letters and flakes of tobacco, I spot Patrick's ring. I leave it there on the floor, but it doesn't matter. I might as well have picked it up and put it back on. Seeing it there, undestroyed, I know that this relationship is still with me, and will be for a long time.
It's not just the ring, though. Patrick and Mike are still very much in my life. Mike calls a few days after the breakup to check in on me, then calls again. And again. Pretty soon Patrick comes on the line too, and we're back to chatting on a regular basis. Well, not as regular as before, maybe every other week. It's still awkward and painful, but I just can't let go.
Just two weeks after the breakup, Mike informs me that Candy dumped Patrick a second time.
"What a fucking cunt," I say sympathetically, although the news fills me with malicious glee.
"Yeah, she's a bitch," Mike agrees. "It's so fucking obvious this would happen." He pauses. "I'm real sorry this all turned out so shitty. You're a way better girlfriend than Candy ever was. Joe's a retard for dumping you."
"Aw, thanks." Already I'm calculating how long I should wait before I talk to Patrick directly. Maybe it's not too late. Maybe now he will realize what a terrible mistake he made.
But when I talk to him again the next week, it's clear he has no intention of getting back together with me. I needle him about getting dumped by Candy a second time, which is only slightly satisfying. He sounds exhausted and sad.
"I'm done with relationships for a while," he says.
Ok, well fuck that shit. He can give up on his life but I'm not giving up on mine.
I keep going out to Lollygag, usually with Ewan and Cyril. Rachel and Sharon are not as keen on clubbing, so more often I just go with the guys, who are always up for drinking in any context. I dance and flirt with guys and sometimes women but nothing goes further than the dance floor.
One night I even go out to the club with Mike, although strictly as friends. Mike is a decent guy, if a little too much of a jock for me. It's adorable how he and Patrick look out for each other, but in my mind Mike is clearly the sidekick--not as hot or charismatic, usually happy just to follow Patrick's lead. He's also not that smart. I mean, his email sig file is a quote from Buzz Lightyear: "To infinity and beyond!" but I don't think Mike gets the joke. Also he spells it "infinetey."
We ride Mike's motorcycle to the club and when I put my arms around him, I realize for the first time that he's really cut under those baggy shirts he always wears. He would look a lot less goofy if he got a better haircut and wore better fitting clothes. For a moment, I start to seriously consider him. But no, he would never be more to me than a replacement for Patrick and he's far too honorable to suggest anything to me himself. Nothing happens between us, although I do suggest he show off that six-pack if he wants to pick up chicks.
Another week goes by, and I'm talking to Patrick again on the phone. It's almost like nothing happened, the way we chat and share what's going on in our daily lives. Only instead of making plans for the weekend, there's just this huge, heavy sadness hanging over me, like a rock lying on my chest.
We talk some more about nothing even though it's getting later and later at night.
"So how was Lollygag? You went with Mike, right?" he asks.
"Eh, it was ok. Kinda boring." I twiddle with one of the pens on my desk as we talk.
"Yeah? Are you sure you didn't have shirtless slave boys following you around?"
"Oh please. Nothing but a bunch of pasty, pathologically shy nerds there."
"So no one worth paddling?"
"Not even close. Believe me, if there had been, I would've given him such a whack."
"Why do you ask? You miss having the cruel Mistress spank your ass?" He doesn't answer, so I continue in a lower voice, "Well, I miss that fine little gymnast body you have. And that great big tongue. You weren't kidding when you said you know how to use it." I know I shouldn't be talking dirty to him, but I can't help myself. "I wish you were here right now."
I expect him to shut it down, but to my surprise, he responds, "I'd throw you on the bed and pull your pants off with my teeth."
Without meaning to, suddenly we're having phone sex again.
In the moment it feels so good that I don't try to stop myself, but afterwards I feel even worse than before. We're not getting back together. He made that clear. So what the hell am I doing?
To distract myself from the dismal state of my real life, I spend more and more time online. I've discovered a bunch of devotee websites, but they all kind of drive me crazy. The excitement of finding a new one is inevitably replaced by disgust at the undisguised creepiness, then boredom at the shitty content.
I waste hours of my life combing through the archives of a photo site run by a gay guy who calls himself Hotlanta Dev. There are a few nice photos in there of DAK amputee guys with bulging biceps, but each time I go back the impact is a little less, and there are rarely any new photos. Also I feel extremely guilty for even looking, because I suspect some of those photos were posted or maybe even taken without consent. Maybe all of them, who knows. It's pretty clear that Hotlanta Dev just considers these dudes sex objects on wheels.
Other sites that are even worse, especially the ones including what they call ES, or Electronic Surgery. Basically that means photos of able-bodied models clumsily Photoshopped to remove limbs or make it look like they are sitting in wheelchairs. It seems for most of the ES creators (and presumably their audience) the Photoshopping skills matter a lot less than the hotness of the male model in the original photo. It's so stupid and creepy as hell but I find myself looking at these ES photos anyway, a tiny seed of arousal spurring me on despite the obvious fakeness.
Then there are the sites selling photo sets on CD-ROM. Most of those are photos of women, although there are one or two sets with men. I stay away from those sites. I refuse to pay money for ordinary snapshots of random men, most of which were probably stolen. I cling to that one shred of self-respect anyway.
There are a bunch of listservs too, but most of them are unmoderated and quickly become choked with spam. Only one listserv has a large and active membership. I post on there often, but almost all the participants are devotee men, so I have the same conversations over and over: Yes, there are devotee women. We do exist. No, it's not ok for you to be stalking disabled women and posting their photos online without their knowledge.
But I do meet another female dev through that group, and we strike up a friendship over email. Her name is Cindy. Unlike MsHotWheels (whom I haven't heard from in ages), Cindy doesn't tell me much about her personal life, or at least not her dating life right now. Mostly we compare notes on our fictional dev obsessions and complain about the assholes over on that listserv.
"I hate having to constantly justify my existence," I write to Cindy over email. "It's like you have to wade through a sea of crap just to find anything the slightest bit interesting. I really wish we devo women had our own website."
Cindy responds a few days later.
"Yeah! That would be great. We women need our own space!"
Once I start thinking about it, the idea is so exciting I can hardly sit still in my desk chair. Why not make our own site? It doesn't have to be fancy. We could talk about our own ideas of what it means to be a devotee, share our favorite books and movies, and post media alerts whenever some new movie or TV show with a disabled character comes out. No stalking, no asshole justifications, no stolen photos and no ES. Seriously, that ES shit is fucking creepy.
For the next day or two I think of what I want to write. I'm so excited about the idea I can hardly concentrate on my work. There's just one problem, though--I have no idea how to create a website. I know there is this thing called HTML but nothing about how it works. I use a Mac, and changing the desktop image is about the limit of my computing skills.
With no other outlet for my overflowing ideas, I bombard Cindy with emails full of rambling thoughts on possible website contents. She mentions that she knows how to program HTML a little, and it doesn't take much more to convince her that we should set up our own website. Within a week, she sends me a link. Thrilled that she got it done so quickly, I open the link.
Oh my god.
This site is shit. This is not what I had in mind at all.
There's a really tacky looking cartoon door, and when you click on it, you're taken to a mostly blank, sickly green page. Jaunty letters up near the top spell out "Welcome to Wheels4Women! the website for women devotees of wheelchair men." On another page there are a few photos of guys in chairs.
I try to let Cindy know tactfully that this was not really what I had in mind. "You know, it's not just about wheelchairs. I like other disabilities too," I point out to her over email, but she doesn't respond.
Thinking I need to be more proactive about this whole project, I proofread and resend some of my earlier email ramblings about being a devotee. She posts those, which I figure is better than nothing. It might be a shitty site, but at least now we have a presence online. I advertise the link around various other devotee websites and groups.
I keep going out to Lollygag with Ewan and Cyril, to prevent myself from living my whole life online, and hoping that I might get lucky. Hey, I look hot in my black vinyl pants and black velvet bra. My Mistressing skills are honed, and I'm not letting it all go to waste. Patrick can kiss my shiny vinyl ass.
One night, I start flirting with a giant, a muscley young guy who's easily 6'7" or more, wearing white angel wings. We grind on the dance floor for a while, but it's really too loud to talk. As we're getting ready to leave, I ask for his phone number. Over the music, he shouts that he lives on the Navy base so it's complicated to call, but he gives me the number and extension anyway.
I wait two days then call. There's a lot of yelling and hooting in the background from his buddies teasing him, so we don't talk much, just enough to make a date for the following weekend.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Angel shows up on my doorstep looking scrubbed and fresh-faced. With his dark, slightly curly hair and square jaw, he looks like Superman, only more tan. He could be like a male model or something. I can hardly believe a guy that objectively hot is even interested in a nerd like me.
I show him in and he sits on the edge of the bed. He seemed into the whole Mistress thing at the club, so I'm determined not to let me nervousness show. Must stay in character. Right away we start making out, but I shouldn't even have worried. He's all boyish eagerness, totally unaware of his own hotness.
"So what made you talk to me?" he asks. "Was it the angel wings?"
"Mm hmm," I murmur, massaging his enormous shoulders.
"It's kinda my thing," he says, half bragging and half bashful. "Wanna see?"
He pulls off his shirt to reveal a huge tattoo of an angel on his back, just in black outline, with wings spreading out over his shoulder blades.
"Thanks. It's not done yet. I'll probably have to wait until after my cruise to get it finished."
His cruise, as it turns out, is six months on a nuclear submarine, his first deployment. I find it hilarious that the Navy would place a giant like him in a tiny submarine, but he doesn't question his orders. We talk some more, and he tells me that he's a farm boy from Wisconsin, in the big city for the first time. He also reveals that he got into the club with a fake ID--he's only nineteen.
That throws me for a minute. I really had no idea he was so much younger. But I get over it quickly. After all, he's a legal adult, and seems like a pretty happy, well-adjusted person. He's leaving in just a few weeks, and it's clear neither of us wants more than just a little no-strings fun before he goes. It's the perfect distraction from the morbid self-pity I've been wallowing in for weeks.
So I take out the leather flogger and whack him a few times on the ass, but not too hard. He may look like Superman, but he doesn't have Patrick's superhuman pain tolerance. No one does.
Angel loves my very light Mistressing. We mess around for a few hours, then when it gets late, we go out to Lollygag again. I get dressed up in my vinyl pants and platform heels. But they are so painful I can barely walk more than two steps in them. I make Angel carry me from the car into the club.
Now I'm not the kind of girl to swoon over tall men who make me feel child-size in comparison, unlike many of my female friends. Actually I prefer a guy who's not more than a few inches taller than I am, and big muscles are definitely not a requirement. But I have to say, there's something fun about being swept up as if I weigh nothing at all. Probably because I'm the one who ordered him to do it.
I see the Angel a few more times before he leaves, and it's all pure fun, no stupid drama or tears. We say goodbye over the phone, and that's that.
Then I call Patrick again for more phone sex because I am still not over him. Not even close.