Patrick the Fireman, part 3
I decide not to go back East to see my parents over the holidays. One of the few nice things about being a Jew at Christmas is lack of pressure to come home. My parents are equally happy to see me at any time of year, so I choose to avoid the horrible crowded plane ride and bad weather by staying in Raser City.
Cyril makes a plan for all of us to dress up in our fanciest Elizabethan costumes and go caroling around Outlook Hill, where all the rich people live in their tastefully restored Victorian mansions and Arts and Crafts bungalows. We spend several weeks digging up the oldest carols we can find and learning four part harmonies. I'm particularly fond of the ones that describe ancient pagan customs like "Please to See the King" and the ones in Latin like "Orientis Partibus" but Cyril insists we also rehearse some more well-known ones.
"But these ones are more authentic if we're supposed to be in Elizabethan times," I complain.
For once, Cyril is not a stickler for period detail. "We're doing the carols people know," he explains through gritted teeth, already losing patience with me. "The point is to convince people to hire us for events in the future, not to bore them to death."
The night of December 23rd is bitterly cold, unusual for Raser City. We get rigged up at Sharon's house. Rachel, Sharon and I all wear sweatpants under our enormous hoop skirts. Cyril and Ewan put on their heavy leather fencing jerkins.
I'm so excited because Patrick is joining us too. It's not the kind of thing he would ever do on his own, but he likes my friends and wants to join in whatever I'm doing. Also he likes dressing up. I told him he didn't have to wear anything special, but once he arrives at the house, Cyril gives him a few extra pieces. A velvet jacket and cap, and suddenly Patrick's looking just like he stepped out of an old oil painting, even with his little turned-up nose and those sexy mismatched eyes.
Since Patrick can't sing or play an instrument, we decide that his role for the evening will be "servant." We slip easily into our Mistress roleplay: me in an enormous black and gold gown with the Anne Boleyn headdress, swanning about and giving him orders, and him hovering off to the side, alternately grinning and looking attentive. It's so fucking sexy. I have never loved him more.
Once we're all dressed, we run a few practice carols, then head out to the car.
"Hey, what's that song about the Oriental Party Bus?" Patrick asks. Ewan makes up some new lines on the spot as Cyril helps us girls stuff our billowing skirts into the back seat of the car, muttering about how he needs a plunger to get us in. Then it's up to Outlook Hill.
The caroling is a huge success. Most people are excited to see us; we sing one or two carols and move on to the next house. In one mansion at the end of a cul-de-sac, the owner shows us his two antique harpsichords and plays while we sing. At a few houses, we encounter Christmas parties in full swing, where we get invited in to sing more songs. At the parties, they give us glasses of wine, then more wine, until we are reeling. We stagger home close to midnight, where Patrick and I fall into bed together, exhausted but happy. Caroling like that, it's the best fun, even better than clubbing. I'm so happy he came with us.
Christmas Day I spend with Rachel and her sprawling extended family in the suburbs. Patrick is working, collecting triple overtime. I still haven't met his parents, but it's no big deal. Christmas just doesn't have any emotional resonance for me beyond mild annoyance. I don't care that we're not spending it together. Besides, Rachel's family is fun. We do a Secret Santa gift exchange and gorge ourselves at the potluck buffet from noontime until late at night.
"So you and Patrick are pretty serious, huh?" Rachel asks me as she drives us back into the city. Beside her, Ewan, who was knocking back scotch since we arrived, falls asleep the minute he gets in the car. I loll in the back seat, stuffed with ham and woozy from champagne.
"Yeah," I reply, grinning like an idiot. "Isn't he awesome?"
"He was cute in that costume when we were caroling," she concedes. "But he seems kind of, I don't know, unstable to me."
I sit up indignantly. "What? What are you talking about? He's not mentally unstable!"
Rachel shakes her head, her eyes still on the road. The freeway is unusually deserted. "That's not what I mean. I guess he seems a little... immature." She says it reluctantly, knowing I'll be upset.
"How can you say that? He's got a job and everything! A better job than I do! He's got his shit way more together than any guy I've dated before him, believe me," I insist huffily.
Rachel just shrugs. Ewan snores loudly.
Sharon, Rachel, Ewan, Cyril and I have long-standing plans to spend New Year's Eve at Sharon's cabin on a tiny island far north of Raser City. I've only been a few times, but it's gorgeous up there. Besides, Sharon and I feel very strongly that we don't want to be in the middle of downtown for Y2K. Just in case. Maybe it's silly and excessively paranoid but when you work with a bunch of computer programmers who spent the autumn months stocking their survival shelters, it just seems like good sense. Besides, I'm really looking forward to spending the night up on the island.
When Patrick announces on December 29th that he was New Year's Eve off, I suddenly regret my plans.
"I could stay and go out with you," I suggest as we discuss it on the phone.
"Nah, don't change your plans. Go with your friends and have fun."
"Ok, but you and Mike are welcome to stay in my apartment. Then you can stay out as late as you want and you won't have to drive all the way back to Granite Harbor."
"That's sweet, but I don't want to bother you."
"It's no bother--I won't even be there. Please, just stay. I'd feel better knowing you're not driving. Better yet, take a taxi back from the club, then you can both drink."
That wins him over. He and Mike arrive in the afternoon on December 31st with all their overnight stuff. I tease them mercilessly about sharing the bed, even though Mike brought a sleeping bag and I'm sure he'll sleep on the floor. I leave them my extra key and take off for Sharon's place.
The five of us have a great time on the island. Rachel and Sharon build a bonfire on the beach while Ewan puts on a wetsuit and his scuba gear and walks straight into the ocean. Half an hour later he returns with three enormous crabs, which we boil and eat right there. I don't think I have ever had anything so delicious.
When it gets too cold on the beach even with the fire, we head back into the house where we play board games the rest of the evening. There's no TV or internet on at the house, and it feels so nice to be out in nature. Although Ewan ruins things for me slightly when he drunkenly insists on firing his shotgun off the balcony at midnight in lieu of fireworks.
Sharon gives Rachel a murderous glare, but it's clear Rachel doesn't want to start a fight. Eventually she persuades Ewan to go to bed.
Later, as I try to sleep on the lumpy sofa (there aren't enough extra beds), I wonder what Patrick and Mike are doing. It gives me a happy, warm feeling to think of them in my house.
By the time I get back the next afternoon, they've already gone. The apartment smells slightly of bacon and eggs, although they cleaned up after themselves and even left a thank you note.
So that's it, Y2K came and went, and somehow we all survived without jets crashing from the sky or traffic lights shooting lasers at hapless pedestrians. The only remnants now are the gallon jugs of water stashed under my sink, just in case. Eventually I dump them out.
The first date we have in the new year, Patrick shows up at my door holding two big plastic bags.
"I brought you a present," he says, grinning wickedly.
I look inside. One bag is filled with casting material: neat prepackaged rolls of plaster gauze--just wet and apply. He also included some rolls of cotton padding to put underneath so the plaster doesn't stick to the skin.
"Oh my god! Did you steal these from the ER for me?" He nods. I jump up and give him a big hug. "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for me," I sniff, shedding faux tears.
"I got you some of this too," he says, dumping out the other bag on the bed. Out tumbles a pile of gauze rolls in plastic wrap. I'm excited about the casting materials but skeptical about this other stuff. What's so special about gauze?
"Check it out," he explains, pulling open the package. "It's not just regular gauze. It's designed to stick to itself, so you don't need tape. And it's really strong. We use it on any patients who are getting a little out of hand." He shows me how to make a simple handcuff-like restraint that can be fastened with one hand. "Whenever someone gets too crazy, it's like, 'Come here, let me make you a nice bow,'" he says, slipping the loops over my wrists and tightening by yanking up on the ends.
"Wow, this stuff is great!" I rave, as I dangle from the restraints, with my arms up in the air. Strong, reusable, won't break the skin--it's better than rope. I'm so touched that he brought all this for me.
I've been nurturing an elaborate fantasy of putting one or both of Patrick's legs in a cast for an entire weekend. And not just for play around the house--we could even go out to a restaurant with him like that. The thought of everyone staring at us is so hot. But that's a long-term project, not a spur of the moment thing. I need Patrick to show me how to wrap the plaster neatly, so the cast comes out even and strong. But I'm hesitant to even start practicing before I have a way to remove the finished cast. According to the internet, the best thing is a dremel tool, whatever that is. I have not yet gotten up the courage to shop for one in a hardware store. How do I explain what I need it for? And I should also probably get a tarp to protect the carpet. So I reluctantly set aside the casting stuff; instead we spend the evening playing with the cling gauze. I master the gauze handcuff technique and tie him up in different positions.
Once we've amused ourselves with bondage and a little light flogging, we have sex in the normal way. Patrick rolls his eyes back in his head as we doing it, and goddamn but that gets me every time.
There still are not a lot of days when Patrick and I can match up our schedules for a visit. He comes over just after or just before a shift, which means he comes and goes at odd hours. We still have fun, though. I've gotten a lot better at my Mistress skills, so we play without my causing him serious injury. On the nights where we can't get together, we talk on the phone for hours.
"Hey babe," he says, calling me close to midnight on a weekday. I have to work the next morning, but I don't care.
"Hey! So how was your shift?"
"Ugh, fucking boring!"
"What, no one crashed their cars today?"
"No." He puts on an exaggeratedly petulant tone, like a kid denied a treat.
"Haha, yeah." We chat for a while, sharing the details of daily life. Then his voice gets lower and he says, "I wish you were here."
"Yeah, me too."
"You know what I'd do to you? I'd start with your toes, and kiss you all the way up your legs..." I move from the desk to the bed as he talks.
Yeah, we've been having phone sex on a regular basis.
I never would have thought it would be satisfying to masturbate while talking to someone on the phone, but he just started talking dirty one night and I went with it. It was surprisingly fun and once we started, it has been tempting to do it more often.
This time it's a marathon session. Eventually, after I pull my jeans back up, I just kind of blurt out, "God, I love you so much."
"I love you too." It's not the first time we've said it, but it's still nice to hear.
"It's just, sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am." I'm half asleep and rambling, but I still don't want to hang up.
"What are you talking about? You're the catch. I'm just some dumb loser."
"No way man, you're so hot. I don't get what you see in me. I'm a bitch." I say it in a joking way, but this is one of my biggest fears. After so many bitter arguments in past relationships (ahem, K and Buttboy), it just makes sense. Guys don't stick around because I am a bitch.
"What?" Patrick sounds genuinely surprised. "Naw, you're not a bitch. Believe me, I know some bitches. You just get cranky sometimes."
We sign off with some more jokes but inside I'm practically crying tears of gratitude.
Patrick and I make plans for me to come visit again. It's hard to believe this is only my second time visiting him at his place, but it's just been easier for him to come to me. In the evening, I take my car on the ferry over to Granite Harbor, then drive to his house.
As soon as I get out of the car, Patrick comes out of the house to greet me and I leap into his arms. The dog barks and jumps around us but I don't even care. I'm just so happy to see him again.
Mike is there too, and I greet him with a hug when I get inside. The first thing I notice is that the two of them have rigged up some crazy hammock type thing over the entire living room, like an immense spider web made of rope. They are very proud of themselves.
We climb and roll around in it like children, and it's crazy fun. Why not convert your living room into a makeshift rope jungle gym? Patrick and I get hot and sweaty tumbling around together.
Patrick rolls expertly off the edge of the hammock, like he's dismounting the parallel bars. I climb on his back and he gives me a piggyback ride around the house, both of us laughing like little kids.
Then he carries me into the bedroom. The renovation project on the closet is still a mess, but I don't notice it. The first thing I see is a huge framed photo portrait of a girl with fluffy sprayed-up hair on the night table. That definitely was not there last time. The self-help books are gone.
I slide slowly off his back.
"Who is that?"
Patrick doesn't turn around to face me. "Oh, um. That--that's Candy. She, ah, called me last week."
"So? You said it was over between you."
"That's what I thought, but she said she wanted to get back together again. I can't just...I mean, I have to try... I've known her since high school. I've only known you a few months."
The room starts to spin and I feel like my throat is closing. I have to get out of here, but there's nowhere to go. I stumble back out into the living room, but because of the stupid rope thing, I can't even sit on the sofa. I collapse onto an office chair in front of the computer desk wedged in between the living room and the kitchen. Mike takes one look at my face and backs away into a corner of the kitchen.
Patrick kneels on the carpet in front of me and we try to talk, but there's not much to say. He's decided to end things with me, and that's that. He feels bad, but not bad enough not to break up with me. It's the same bull K said at the end. I turn away and stare at the blank computer screen, numb. I can't believe it's over, just like that.
"Why didn't you say anything? Why did you let me drive all the way out here?" I mutter, not looking at him.
"Jeez, what kind of asshole breaks up over the phone," he says. "I had to tell you in person."
I don't answer. For years I was so angry at K for breaking up with me over email. But somehow this conversation feels just as bad.
Patrick paces around for a while, giving me space. Finally he asks, "So, um, you can still stay over if you want..."
I keep staring at the screen, my mind running in circles. The next car ferry isn't until tomorrow morning. I don't want to stay in this house. But I really don't want to drive over the suspension bridge at night. Especially not now, when I feel like I can barely even breathe. I want to leave, but once I go, it will really all be over. I don't know what to do.
After a long, long time, finally I say, "I'll wait for the ferry tomorrow morning."
"Ok." Now he's treating me extra nicely, like I might fall apart or explode at any moment. "Do you want some dinner?"
"Yeah," I say, even though I'm not hungry.
While Patrick goes out to get some pizzas, Mike fills me in on the details. It was Patrick's mother who talked to Candy and told her he was seeing someone new, someone who was all wrong for him. That someone being me.
"Joe's mom and Candy have always been real close," Mike explains sadly. "Candy was like a daughter to her. She said she always wanted to see Joe and Candy get married."
Now it all makes sense. Patrick's mom never liked me because she thinks that I think I'm higher class than her. Even though we never met. Even though I don't think that. But anyway, she talked to Candy, pushing her in the right direction, knowing what would happen. The thought that Patrick was no longer pining for her but with someone else was enough to make Candy jealous, enough to make her want to yank his chain again. And for all he said that he was over her, that he loved me, all she had to do was snap her fingers.
Once I start to cry, I can't stop. I sob and sob until my throat is raw and my face swells up. Patrick comes back again, but I can't talk to him. He and Mike eat pizza quietly in the kitchen. I'm still rooted to the chair. The thought of food turns my stomach.
What am I doing here, I think. I should have just gone home. But by now it's past midnight.
"Come on, let's go to sleep," Patrick says gently, leading me from the chair to the bedroom. Why does he have to be so goddamn nice?
I like awake next to him in the dark for hours, not touching, listening to the dog roaming around in the yard outside. The minutes pass like hours. It's hell.
How did this happen? As I lie there, our relationship replays over and over in my head. It all seemed so perfect--where did I go wrong? I think back to the moment we first met in the club. What if I had really yanked on that chain he was wearing the minute I saw him? Maybe then he wouldn't have been able to toss me aside so easily.
The next morning I throw my backpack in the car and leave. The sky is still gray--the sun isn't even fully up yet. Patrick and Mike both look pale and unhappy. I can't bring myself to talk to either of them. I just slam the car door and go.
It takes a few days for the shock to wear off and the full weight of sadness to register. I'm standing in the shower one morning when it occurs to me that this is the first time since K that someone has broken my heart. Sure, there were others after K who upset me, but nothing like this.
It's been five years since K. I was finally doing ok. And now this, all over again. I stand under the shower head, tears running down my face, wishing the hot water could just wash everything away and leave me empty. I was doing ok until he came along. Fuck you, Patrick, for doing this to me.