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. But...you 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 that....uh...it 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."
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.