Pirates

Past the swimming pool, there is a grove of trees.  If you walk it, more trees.  I was confused at first because I thought, Well, Europeans (exception of Russians) already chopped down all their big trees, and don’t have any wildlife left but deer and squirrels. It wasn’t like I was going to get eaten by a bear or a cougar.  Euro forests are just big tree parks.

There is a stretch of beach where nobody can go because endangered birds nest there.  There are signs in English and his language.  Behind that, the trees.

The trees were mostly Birches. I thought, for some reason, they would be coniferous; evergreens.

I went into the trees.  I tried to be very careful because I have an awful sense of direction. It’s honestly the worst of anyone I’ve ever met; it would be comical if it wasn’t so bad.  I’ve gotten lost on fucking hiking trails.  The GPS is a balm to my soul, like a safety blanket, but I didn’t have it then.  It doesn’t work over there.

I tried to pay attention to where I was going so that I could get my way back to the beach.  Also, the ocean has a smell and makes noise.

THEN the kid came up, the eldest son.  I heard him come up because he was crunching stuff underneath his shoes.  Guys are mostly loud.

Was it a hundred yards…?  I was only a hundred yards into the trees.

I was startled.  There was no reason for him to be there.

He said that he wanted to show me where he and his brother played “Pirates.”

There were five or six boulders, each the size of a car or a bed.  It looked very incongruous (is that redundant?).  I wondered how they got out there, piled together in the middle of nowhere.  Then I remembered my undergrad geology class: they were probably moved by a glacier thousands of years ago (geology, should anyone ask you, is basically the history of rocks).

“Let’s see if I can fit now!” he said, and climbed up the boulders like a billy goat.

There was a slim crevice between the stones.  He had to take off his jacket, but he dropped through it.

He popped up and extended his hand: “Let me show you!  There’s a space under here.”

I turned around and headed back to the beach.  All the hair on my arms was standing up.

Ten Things

His birthday was coming up, and I had no idea what to buy him.  What do you get for the man who has everything…?  He was harder to shop for than the Surgeon, which is saying something. For Father’s Day I’d given him a Waterman pen that I had inscribed and a piece of a meteor that crashed in the Soviet Union in the 1950s.  He loved them both, but now I needed some new ideas.

So, I went to him and asked him if there was a gift he thought he’d like to have.

He thought about it, and then came back to me later in the day.

“There are three things you can give to me.  One is list of ten things you think you can do to be a better submissive.  You can also make a list of things you think inhibit your progress.

The other two are fantasies you have that you haven’t told me about yet.  Something that I could do for you.  Things that tell me something about you.”

Over the next week, I sat down to work on my list.  This is what I came up with:

  • Stop resisting
  • Don’t hide things.  Try to be more transparent.
  • Try to keep an open mind about situations and activities you presume are going to be bad.
  • Finish getting your hair lasered.
  • Personally follow up on the grocery deliveries to make sure all of the ingredients are there before he starts cooking so that there is no dinner crisis.
  • Think about what you can do to ensure his comfort.
  • Be present without radiating expectation.
  • Express gratitude.
  • Make him feel like God.
  • Return library books on time so they don’t call the house.

I don’t know?  Usually I’m very good at stuff like homework, but this one was challenging.  Do you think it’s good?  Or good enough?  Maybe I should take the chores off….though, seriously, life would be much more sedate and harmonious if the man never ran out of  Parmesan cheese again.

On the back of the sheet of paper, I wrote: “I’m afraid of you sometimes and this makes it difficult to trust you and be vulnerable.  Also, I think you can be impulsive.”

Then I just sat there and stared at the paper.

No One Leaves the Table

Dinner started out fine.

He’d made lasagna and I’d helped with the salad and made the table. When dinner was served, he sat at the head of the table, and I was on his right.  The young one sat on my other side, and the elder one on the other side of the table.

The older one seemed tense, sitting stiffly in his chair, and picking at his food instead of eating it, which was not normal for him.  Those kids wolf down their food–I’d forgotten how much teenage boys can eat.

Dad was talking a little bit about his day, and didn’t seem to notice his son looked uncomfortable.  He was talking about his experience in court.  He thinks having to swear on a Bible is hilarious.

Then, the kid dropped the bomb.  And he said it in English.

Let’s just say that he’d gotten himself into a problem.  He’d committed a sexual impropriety that could get him into major, major trouble at school.

Everyone froze, and it was only by the skin of my teeth that I avoided bursting out in nervous panic-laughter “Wow! Better you than me, buddy!”  There is no way in hell I’d admit this to his father in person.  In fact, I wouldn’t even tell him this bad news when we were both on the same continent.  I’d tell him from someplace safely far away, like Antarctica.

You could have heard a pin drop.  The boys and I were frozen, heads down, staring at our plates.

He put his silverware down, not looking at his son, and said, “Tell me: is this a girl from school, or some random bar slut from the village?”

“School.”

I sneaked a glance at him across the table, and he looked so anxious and miserable that I felt sorry for him.  What he did was stupid, but it wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t predatory.  He was definitely in a fucked-up situation that needed to be diffused, but it wasn’t the worst thing ever.  People make mistakes, especially young people.  Frankly, if I was a parent, I’d be considerably more upset if he’d committed a horrible act of bullying or violence, or was caught cheating on his college applications.  I’d be more upset if I found out it was drugs, or he drove drunk and killed someone.

I tried to be supportive, because he seemed scared (can’t say that I blame him.  I was scared just being there).  I said, “Well, that’s bad news, but I don’t think it’s anything that can’t be dealt with. It’s not the end of the world.  I’m sure your family can help–“.

“Be quiet, Margo,” said Dad.

I shut up and returned my eyes to my dinner plate.

“Why are you such a disappointment, (Older boy)?  I’m glad your mother is not here.”

Well, that’s just plain cold, I thought.

“Uh, this is a family matter, so I think I’ll give you some privacy and go to my room,” I said, my voice a little high and screechy.

(It did not occur to me until later that the reason the older boy chose to break the bad news at the dinner table, with his brother and me there, in English, instead of behind closed doors with his father, was that he was hoping our presence–mine, specifically–might help keep his father on his best behavior.  I could be wrong about that, though.)

I pushed out my chair, stood up, and started walking out of the room.

Behind me, he brought his hand down on the table so hard it made all the plates and silverware jump.

“No one leaves the table!” he yelled.  And this is not a man who raises his voice often.

I jumped, immediately turned around and returned to my seat.

You could cut the tension with a knife.  It was terrible.

The young one on my left reached out and grabbed my hand.  His palm was cold and sweating.  I carefully avoid any touching after the incident where he picked me up after my stupid decision to play thumb wars, but I did not take my hand away now.

“Well?  Answer my question,” said Dad.

I looked up.  Dad was tense but otherwise unruffled.  The son was twitching…probably a mixture of fear and rage.

Incredibly, he picked up his dinner plate, and, I swear, was about to chuck it right at his father’s head.  It would have hit, too, because he was sitting only a few feet away.

At the last second, he changed his direction and threw it against the wall behind him.  The food went everywhere.  I actually screamed.

“I hate you!” The kid yelled, getting out of his chair.

Oh boy I really don’t want to be here right now, I thought.

“Sit down right now,” said the father, and his voice was serious as a heart attack.

Or what? I wondered. He’s bigger than you now!  How can you force a teenager to do anything?

He stood there, red-faced and panting…and then sat back down.

“Margo,” said Dad, softly: “Get a new plate from the kitchen and pick up the food off the floor.”

I immediately got up to do it.  I washed my hands and got out a spatula and some big serving spoons.  The lasagna was not in one piece, but its remains were in one location. T salad had scattered all over the floor.  There was tomato sauce on the wall and on the floor.  The plate was broken.  If it’d made contact with Dad’s head, it probably would have knocked out a tooth or split his cheek open.

Nobody was talking at the table behind me.

He’s going to make the kid eat it, I thought.

I stood up and stared at the floor and asked if I should throw it in the garbage or down the disposal.

“Bring it to the table.”

“Uh, where?  What?”

“It’s yours now, Margo.  (Older boy) has given it to you.  Have a seat.”

I sat down stiffly and pushed my first meal, barely touched, out of the way to make room for the second plate.

Bon Appétit,” said the father, who then had a drink of wine, picked up his silverware, and resumed eating his meal as if nothing had happened.

So did I.  Thanking God that the wooden floors were clean, aside from whatever polishes the cleaning crew used.

“How is (Older Boy’s) meal, Margo?  Does it taste good?”

I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel.  I just didn’t want the situation to get any worse.

“It’s fine,” I said, mechanically shoveling food into my mouth.  But nothing was fine.

“You know, (Older Boy),” he said, conversationally, “I am not the one who is doing this to her.  You did this to her.  You caused this.”

I looked at the younger one on my left, who was not eating and looked like he was going to cry.  I felt terrible for him.

“Don’t worry.  It’s okay,” I said, which was a lie, but I didn’t know what else to say.

The meal continued in silence.  Dad finished his portion and leaned back in his chair with his wine, master of his domain.

“The meal is over when Margo finishes her plate.  How do you feel about that, (Older boy)?”

“I’m sorry.”

So, now we have another problem: I do not eat as much as a growing teenage boy.  His portion was probably twice as large as mine.

It took the better part of an hour, and by the end I hoped I’d never see another bite of lasagna in my life…but I choked it down.

He told the older boy to clean the floor and wall and to clear the table: “I’d make Margo do it, but I think she might need to throw up.”

I did.  I did indeed.

Maybe the kid is onto something, I thought.  Maybe this guy needs to be killed in his sleep.

With that, he rapped his knuckles on the table and got up from his chair.

Class dismissed.

I went straight to the bathroom.  When I got out a few minutes later, after heaving and brushing my teeth, I saw the older boy still sitting alone at the table, staring straight ahead.

I went to his father’s bedroom.

When I got up in the morning, the floor, and the wall, were clean.

Meet the Boys II

So, the next evening started as a scene of domestic tranquility, until it got weird and sexualized.  It was actually so normal that it struck me as bizarre, because readers will know that normal is not my thing and it was not exactly typical in my childhood homes.

Dad was in the kitchen making dinner–a pork loin–and he’d baked bread, too, so the house already smelled good.  I was in the big room playing chess with the young one. I was losing, as usual, because I’m the world’s worst chess player (I’m not so bad at the logic part, but the game involves spatial reasoning, and I can’t reason my way spatially out of a wet paper bag), but we were enjoying ourselves.

After he mopped me up with ease in about a dozen moves, I asked him if he wanted to play again.

“Yes!” he said.  “It is fun!  When I play with Father, I always lose.  Everyone always loses with him.”

Oh, believe me, I know, I thought, but of course I did not say that.

Then, I suggested that we switch colors because maybe I would get his good luck if I played black.

He said that he always played black, and so I did the next reasonable thing and challenged him to a thumb war.

It was the first time I ever touched the boy, other than when I shook his hand when I met him.  As I said in my last blog post, I’d been trying very hard to avoid even the slightest suggestion of impropriety.

Well, for whatever reason, we both found it hilarious and started laughing.  He was making these kung-fu noises before he smashed my thumb down.  We were both laughing really hard and telling each other not to cheat.

Then I said we should arm wrestle, and that was even funnier because it was even more ridiculous.  He is only 14, but he is still bigger than me and I have skinny little bird arms that have gotten even skinnier because I haven’t been able to lift weights since the grease fire (couldn’t risk opening the wounds), so the “competition” was a joke and we were both laughing our heads off like it was the funniest thing in the world.  You know how sometimes something is so funny that you can’t stop laughing…?  It was like that.  The tears were coming out and I was probably running my makeup.  I don’t know why it was so funny.

Then he suddenly stood up from the table, ran over to me, and picked me up.  He started spinning me around, making helicopter noises, until I had vertigo.  I was screaming and laughing, but I didn’t seriously tell him to put me down, so I guess it’s my fault…?

He ran with me into the kitchen to show his Dad.

“Look!  See what I’ve got!” he said.

Dad looked up from the oven, with a big smile on his face: “I see you take after me!”

The kid started laughing again and reversed himself, making car motor noises, and started to run off down the hallway.

“Hupp!  Don’t run too far with my prize, boy!” His father shouted after us, laughing.

He carried me into the reading room just off the hallway, which is essentially a minor library.  It has windows in it, and the orange sunset light was coming in, but it was a bit dark.  New York doesn’t have the amazing, world-renowned sunsets of my homeland, but sometimes the colors still come through.

Then the elder son came in.  The one who’d looked at me in my bath the night before.

I don’t think that I can convey the change of atmosphere in the room.  We both stopped laughing immediately.  You could have heard a pin drop.  It was as if the temperature dropped 20 degrees.

He strode right up to us and extended his arms…and then said, incredibly:  “It’s my turn.  Give her to me.”

What THE FUCK?!  I thought.

The young one gripped me tighter and started to back away.

“Put me down, please,” I said.  My voice was calm, not breathless or screetchy. I was suddenly scared and I wanted to re-exert control. I also noticed that in all the roughhousing, my skirt had ridden up.  I was wearing bike boyshorts underneath for modesty, so nobody was getting a show, but, when your skirt goes up, well, it’s a thing.

He did not put me down!  WHAT?

I started to try to help myself out of his arms.  I wasn’t making a huge fuss because I didn’t want to be dramatic, but I wasn’t going to just sit there and take it.  The situation had suddenly gotten weird. Also, even though I’m skinnier now, I’m not a small woman–I’m quite tall and I’m not going to let some teenager hold me after I told him to put me down.

THEN it occurred to me that he did not put me down because he was scared of his brother.  I don’t think he was ignoring me; I think he was off in his head.

Something is going on here that I don’t understand, I thought to myself. I felt I was looking at two boys that had a secret together.

The older one approached again, still holding out his arms.  Like I was a book or an inanimate object.

“Put me down NOW!” I repeated, and rolled out of his arms and onto my feet.

Then came the voice from behind us, in the doorway.  It was in his language, so I couldn’t tell what he said, but it sounded a lot like What is this?

It was Dad.  The Calvary had arrived.

He extended his hand to me and I immediately ran over to him.  I know that made me look weak, but I was scared. At the same time, I didn’t want to get the young one in trouble, because he hadn’t done anything wrong.

“(Young one) and I were just horsing around,” I said.

Dad stood there, appraising the situation.  I understood, instinctively, that the boys were afraid of him.  There was a lot of tension in the room.

He told the younger one to keep an eye on the pork loin in the oven, and then took me by the hand and pulled me down the hallway to his bedroom, where he fucked me, quickly and violently, on the carpet.  The competition–if that’s what it was–had apparently excited him.  I tried hard not to make noise, but, you know, it had to have been obvious to the boys what was happening.

Then we all ate dinner at the table.  I guess you can imagine the ambiance for that one. Dad was the only one with any appetite, but we all ate, all right.  The wit here, on the scenic Western slope, is: If he’s treatin, you best be eatin.

Secrets run in families like streams of water, down through generations.

Welcome home.

Meet the Boys

I’ll probably have to take this one down quickly.

He had two teenage sons, and I was nervous about meeting them.  I don’t have much experience with young people aside from my years teaching undergrads, and my students were, technically, adults.

I rehearsed it beforehand: be friendly and unobtrusive.  Convey the impression that you’re not trying to move in on the family unit in any way.  Nonthreatening.  Avoid PDAs with Dad.  Let the boys decide how much (or how little) interaction they want to have with you.

One thing that I was worried about was the age difference.  I’m not remotely attracted to younger men, and even if I was, I’d never so much as flirt with the children of a man who allowed me into his household.  That’s unspeakably disrespectful.

However, I’m in a weird Twilight-Zone age bracket right now: I’ve lost weight again and gotten really skinny, and I get gray hairs and botox on my forehead, but (I think) look younger than I am…?  My point being that I was concerned that the boys could be sexually attracted to me.  I didn’t want to send them that message.

I picked out the dress I was going to wear when I met them.  It was conservative, navy blue, and had a high neck and a collar.  It was an attractive dress, but it wasn’t sexy.  It was a dress that I could teach in, or that I could wear to a formal corporate office.

He went through my closet and picked out my favorite yellow sundress, and said, “Here, wear this.”

This is a beautiful dress, but it’s revealing.  It shows my back because it has spaghetti straps and it’s a little bit low-cut in front.  I couldn’t call it SEXY–it’s not something I would wear to a bar or nightclub–but it’s not conservative.  You can see a lot of skin.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Of course I am sure,” he said.  He’s always sure.

I met them and could see them taking glances of me during dinner.  I had to ask myself: what was the point of putting me in that dress?  Was he being competitive with his own children?  Was he showing off?

For my part, I was as demure as possible and mostly just looked at the table.

The next day, he told me to take out the younger one because he needed some “time alone to talk” with the elder one.

I took out the younger one and I am happy to report that it was a success!  I had a successful interaction with an adolescent!  I wish I could write a lot more about it, but I have to respect his privacy.  We spent all day together!  He really liked me!  We played chess and lots of stuff.  I like him a lot.  He is a good kid; still sweet.

We came back to the apartment and I saw something that did not auger well: I saw the elder brother walking out of my room.

There was no reason for him to be in my room.

He didn’t see me, so I just hid and pretended like it didn’t happen.  Then I rushed in there and checked my stuff and my drawers.  Nothing looked rifled through.  But, he was in there.

Then, later, Dad had to go back to his office for a little while–this was after dinner.  I followed the schedule and went to take my nightly bath.

I did not close the door all the way.  I guess, for that, I have only myself to blame.  But it wasn’t very open.  The crack in the door was 2 inches at most.  And I would like to say that there was no reason for the kid to be in that hallway.  His bedroom is on the opposite side of the apartment!

So, I was laying in the water, and then I looked up into the mirror, and saw him looking at me through the crack in the door.

I was startled, of course, but I didn’t freak out.  I mean, I’m an adult, and it’s not like I don’t understand male sexuality. Furthermore: when you live with people, sometimes awkward things happen. I had platonic male roommates in grad school.  I saw them getting dressed once or twice and one of them told me he heard me having phone sex with the Surgeon. So–the awkwardness, it can happen…?!

But this kid (I guess he’s not a kid, he’s in his late teens) just hovered outside the door.  The correct, appropriate response if you spy someone bathing is to retreat and pretend like it never happened. He wasn’t doing that.

I thought, maybe he doesn’t know that I know he’s there. 

I carefully, slowly reversed my body in the tub so that I could look him in the eyes.  Now, there was no question.

He didn’t move.  I couldn’t see his entire face, because the crack in the door was so small, so I couldn’t read his expression.  He didn’t seem to be jerking off–I couldn’t see any movement.  But who knows.  He was definitely looking.

Well, I’m in this hugely vulnerable situation.  I know most of my readers are guys and probably won’t appreciate it.  I am naked in a bathtub and there is a boy who is spying on me and KNOWS that I know it and he’s not getting lost, which is VERY scary and hostile.

I wanted to stand up and walk over and slam the door in his face!  But I couldn’t, because if I got up from the water, then he would see me naked!

Well, I was still FURIOUS and I’m not going to be pushed around by a damn teenager! Sorry, guy, you don’t get to jump the social hierarchy!  I didn’t want to say “Wait till your father gets home!” because that would make me sound weak.

“Hey! John (not his real name)!  I see you!”  I made a gesture at my eyeballs and pointed at him.  “FUCK OFF!”

He retreated.

I didn’t tell on him because I didn’t want to provoke him.  Live and let live, and you know teenagers are impulsive anyway…

But then there was the following night…

Abe’s Night Terrors

Every now and again my parrot, Abe, gets a night terror.  This is why I am confident that he must dream of things.  I’m not sure what he dreams of–probably that something is coming to eat him.  He is a prey animal, after all.  Dogs dream (presumably) of chasing squirrels.  The parrot must dream of being snatched by a raptor.

He falls off his perch, to the bottom of the cage, and shrieks at the top of his lungs.  He wakes me up and I run to him in the night, terrified that he’s hurt himself somehow.

I pull him out of the cage to inspect his body.  Sometimes he’s wet because he fell into his shallow birdbath.  When he’s wet in the middle of the night like that, it scares me because he doesn’t carry his wings right when his feathers are saturated, and I worry that I need to take him to the hospital.

I hold him on the sofa until he is sleepy again.  I sing to him and keep the lamp on.

I worry about what he has nightmares about.  He’s not stupid.  He’s smart, just in a different way from mammals.  He’s curious and he can figure out puzzles. In his eyes, you see something, it’s not mammalian but it’s there. I love him so much.  I also feel badly that he has to live indoors with me, many thousands of miles from where nature intended him to be.

This Autumn, he will finish going through puberty. I will need to buy a girlfriend for him because it is unnatural for him to live all alone, the only one of his kind.  He will not love me as much when he has a female of his species, and that makes me sad…but I tell myself that what is important is what is important for ABE.

He has been such a joy to my life that I am happy to have another parrot in the house.  It will take a while to find the right one, because Meyer’s parrots are rare.  I am going to name her ABIGAIL (get it? Abe and Abigail?) or SWEETLING.  I won’t let them have babies or give them a nesting box…but you can prevent parrots (at least the ones I have experience with) from having babies if you prevent them from nesting.

I’m just going to go cry now.

Chromebook of Doom II

I managed to calm down before he got home…at least somewhat.  I took Abe out of his cage and put him on my shoulder, because his birdie warmth is always a comfort to me.

I kept reminding myself that I hadn’t done anything wrong and that, if anything, I ought to be angry that he’d violated my privacy, but the truth was that I felt anxious and defensive (which was his intention, I’m sure: leaving the Chromebook out like that, instead of asking me about it immediately in a gentle and non-confrontational way, was his way of maximizing the suspense.  He knew he wouldn’t have to torture me while he was working all afternoon–he set it up so that I’d do it to myself).

How was I going to behave when he walked in the door?  What did I do?  He hadn’t given me anything to work with, so I had no idea what he was feeling.  I jumped out of my skin every time my phone beeped, but he wasn’t sending me any text messages.  I was just twisting in the wind.

Well, I’m not proud to admit it, readers, but, since I was afraid and, irrationally, felt guilty, I folded like a cheap card table before he even got home and decided the safest thing to do would be to acknowledge my supposed “crime,” explain myself–if he was interested in hearing it–and offer to do whatever I needed to do to diffuse the situation.  I surrendered at the first whiff of gunpowder.

It’s embarrassing, really.  Other people in my life would be taken aback by this passivity.

When he returned, I’d dutifully returned Abe to his cage and taken off my clothes and was working on one of these watercolor paint-by-numbers books he bought for me last time we went to the Met.  My “paintings” all turn out horrible because I can’t paint for shit, but he finds them charming and sometimes hangs them on the fridge like I was a little kid or something.

The elevator stopped at his door and my stomach flipped over.  I asked myself which was better: to look like a guilty Golden Retriever who’d scattered the trash all over the house, or to try to look “normal.”

I heard his shoes rapping on the wooden floor as he walked into the room, a little past the doorway.

“Welcome back.  Can I get you anything?  I put a bottle of wine in the fridge to chill,” I said.  Sometimes he likes to have a beer or a glass of wine when he comes home from work.

He stared at me, expressionless, and then turned and walked out without a word.

I heard him walk down the long hall to his bedroom.  Then, the sound of running water.  He was taking a shower–it was a hot, sticky day outside.

I suddenly felt exposed, alone in that big room without any clothes, and I put my painting away and retired to my doorless bedroom.  He’d come and get me when he felt like it.  I lay down on the bed, curled up on my side, and stared guiltily at the big book that held the chromebook.

I heard him making a few work calls from inside his office, and that was it: no music, no TV news, no invitation to conversation.  It was silent in the house, and it was making me a nervous wreck, because it wasn’t normal–he wasn’t a noisy guy, he never played anything at a high volume, but he typically kept to a routine: relax after getting home (or work), dinner, bathtime with me (or go back to work), etc.  Even Abe was silent, and usually he sent me the occasional contact call when I was out of sight for too long.

Finally: cooking noises.  If possible, my heart sank a little more.  Dinnertime was usually a delight, part of our quality time, but since the toast, I never trusted it completely again.

He appeared suddenly in my bedroom doorway and I jumped, startled.  This time, I hadn’t heard him come up–he’d taken off his socks and leather-soled shoes and was in his bare feet.

I couldn’t stand it anymore, and blurted: “How long have you known?”

He cocked his head to the side and calmly laid out a trap: “Known what, Margo?”

“About the book!” I pointed at it.

“Oh, Margo,” he said, softly. “I’ve always known.  Do you think I don’t know what goes on in my own house?”

Oh, the horror, the horror.  It reminded me exactly of growing up in my mother’s house, when she would give me no privacy and go through my rucksack and all my stuff even though I wasn’t acting out or disobeying any rules or having any behavioral or academic problems.  It gave me a neurosis about privacy that’s endured all my life, and it made me paranoid as hell.  It’s not fun, being paranoid and unable to trust people.

Well, I couldn’t take it.  I burst into tears.

Now, I don’t know about you, but usually when someone I care about starts crying, I feel compassion and try to comfort them, even if I’m angry with them.  It’s alarming to me, because nobody in my family ever cries and when I see someone else do it, I think they must be dying or something.

So, I don’t know, I was hoping this would be sufficient evidence of contrition and how miserable I was and maybe he would come over to the bed and give me a hug.

Instead, he just said, softly, “Dinner is ready.  Come to the table.”

I shook my head.  “I don’t think I can eat.”

“You will eat.  Come to the table.  We’re having ravioli.”

(In retrospect: telling your sobbing houseguest/girlfriend “We’re having ravioli!” strikes me as distinctly bizarre.)

I nodded, got up from the bed, and said I’d be out as soon as I blew my nose and got myself together in the bathroom.

I did that, smoothed my hair, and walked to the dining table.  The table was set and he was dishing out the pasta.

“Have a seat,” he said, nodding at my chair.

I sat down.  Again.

The pasta was fresh from the Italian deli up the street and so was the marinara sauce and I had no appetite whatsoever.  Quite the contrary: I felt like I was going to throw up.

What is up with this guy’s weird desire to control the food? I thought.

“The cheese filling gets hard as it cools,” he reminded me.

I started to eat, mechanically.

“How do you feel?” he asked, as if it was not obvious.  I sneaked a look up at him from my pasta.  The expression was one part condescending smirk and one part devouring eyes.

“It’s not fair,” I said, slowly chewing and forcing myself to swallow.  It wasn’t easy.

“What’s not fair?”

“It’s just a computer!  You can’t go through my stuff!”

He cocked his head again.  “I can do whatever I want.  The computer is not the issue.  I’d be happy to buy you ten computers.  The issue is that you tried to hide it.”

“You make me paranoid!  The stalker app on my phone!”

He ate another ravioli.  He was enjoying this, I could tell.  Savoring it.

“Is there anything else you want tell me, Margo?  If so, now is the time.”

It was too much pressure.  I started crying again.  At the dinner table.  My mind was swirling with all of these little trivial things that I had no idea whether he knew about or not.

Sometimes, when I get really upset, I throw up.  Involuntarily.  Or at least heave for a minute.  It happens.  I’ve always been that way.

“Can I go to the bathroom?  I’m going to be sick.”

“You can throw up on the floor and clean it up later.  We’re not done here yet.”

I gagged.  My mouth was suddenly full of spit, which is always a good gonna-vomit indicator.  I pulled my chair out a little way and bent over at the waist with my head between my knees.

“Don’t leave the table,” he said.  His voice was firm now.

I nodded and waited for the nausea to pass.  When it did, I sat back up and pulled in my chair.

Yeah, it went on like that for about an hour.  It occurred to me, in retrospect, that I make the same mistake every time with these guys: when they’re legit torturing you, you can make the mistake of thinking that an apology and display of pain will eventually provoke compassion in them, but that doesn’t happen.  The only thing it does is compel them to twist the knife.

Well, dinner ended at last, and I was feeling pretty traumatized, and I thought it was finally over.

I asked him if I should get ready for the nightly bath.

“Bathe yourself tonight,” he said curtly.

Ahhh, rejection.  Although, after the ice-water bath, maybe this wasn’t so bad.

So I went to take a bath, feeling utterly emotionally exhausted.  I just lay there and stared at the ceiling.  The sad this is that I really missed him now, and just wanted him to not be angry with me anymore.

Time for bed.

TO BE CONTINUED

Chromebook of Doom

He found the Chromebook.

The secret Chromebook.

I’d bought the secret Chromebook a few weeks previous because I was becoming very paranoid that he’d installed a keyboard logger and/or some of that software that records all the internet sites visited by the user on my regular laptop.

It’s not that I had anything to hide.  I wasn’t sneaking around or lying to him about anything.  But you don’t have to be hiding anything to not want someone monitoring your private email accounts without permission.  Nor did I want him reading this blog.  Because it’s…well, nobody in my private life knows about it, and that’s just how I like it.

So, I went to BestBuy and bought a little Chromebook and paid for it in cash.

Then I went to The Strand bookshop and shopped until I found a hugeass hardcover book that was the right size for my purposes…and that book wasn’t cheap.  Cost me $125.

I hollowed out the book with an X-Acto Knife and put the Chromebook inside, and then put the book in the bookshelf in my bedroom…and that is the computer I would use to check my private stuff on the internet when he was away, or to maintain my dream journal, or drafts of blog posts.

Well, I came back to his apartment and walked into my room…

…and found the book open on top of my bed, with the computer inside.  There was no note, no nothing.  Just the open book.

You can imagine my reaction: I froze in terror and felt all the strength draining from my legs.  It was all I could do not to collapse on the floor.  My face went numb.

I closed the book and put it back in the bookcase where I stored it.  I couldn’t think of anything else to do with it.  My hands were shaking.

Then I walked stiffly out of the room and sat down on the couch, trying to calm down…but calming down was impossible, because now I had to look forward to the inevitable confrontation when he got home from work…four long, long hours from now.

It was uglier than anything I could have anticipated.

To Be Continued….

The Crate

When I came back to his house (I could come in by myself by then; all the security guards and front doormen recognized me), I found him in the living room.  He’d changed out of his suit and into gym shorts and a t-shirt.

There was packing material all over the floor–cardboard, foam–and he had a tool kit out and was…

…assembling something?

I’d seen this man assemble shit a few times before, and beyond replacing lightbulbs it always had something to do with ME, so I froze and took notice.

(The first time, it was removing the door from my bedroom.  The second, drilling a hole through his kitchen table to install an screw-eye so that I could be chained through it during dinnertime, like a prisoner in an institution. “What are you doing?  Are you really drilling a hole in your beautiful tortoiseshell furniture?!” I asked, incredulous.  I mean, this table is probably 100 years old, the material priceless and endangered, and here he is with his shirtsleeves rolled up, drilling away.  Not to mention: “How are you going to explain the hole to dinner guests?”  “Take out the hardware and cover the hole with a vase of flowers,” he said.)

“Hello, Darling,” he said, still working.  He was using manual tools and not the power screwdriver–consulting the manual.

“What is this you’re working on?”

“I bought something for you!  Ordered it online.  It just arrived today!”

I stepped closer and took a closer look at the pieces that were spread out on the floor.

It was wooden and had bars.  It looked like…

…a crib?!  For a baby?!  

For a moment, I didn’t know whether to be elated or completely horrified.  I’m going through some complex emotional issues right now concerning whether or not I’ll ever have a family, as I am rapidly approaching the later part of my child-bearing years, and I know my mother went into early menopause.  I never wanted children before, I was always against it and assumed I’d be happily childfree, but recently I guess there is something to that “biological clock” trope and I’m starting to think that if I decide that I DO want a family, I need to step on the gas.  This is completely new to me, and it’s stressful.  I know several women in their 40s who have happily born healthy babies and I still have time left to decide what I want to do, but it is stressful.

I can’t tell anyone about this anxiety.  I don’t have a shrink right now and I’m isolated.  I can only tell you, my 8 readers.

So, getting back to our narrative: I took a closer look at the packaging and what he was assembling.

It was not a crib.  It was a dog crate.  A fancy wooden dog crate.  Looks a lot like this:

 

dog crate

The first time he put me into it, we were having movie night.  He sat on the couch with the crate close by.  He gave me popcorn and a diet Pepsi I could drink through the bars with a bendy-straw.

It was not comfortable being in the cage because I’m tall and have long legs, so I couldn’t really relax, but, you know, for a few hours it’s tolerable if you don’t have joint problems and aren’t a crybaby. I did have a matress pad and a blanket.

As it ended up, he became too excited knowing that I was in the cage, and he could not focus on the movie.

He stopped it and let me out.

You can guess what happened after that.

 

Deprived of the Warmth

I forgot the rule about clothes again.  I can’t explain it, really.  I know Freud says that there are no accidents, but, it’s just…wearing clothes is just default human behavior.  I never SLEEP in clothes, unless I’m menstruating or sharing a house with others (roommates or guests), but, usually, even if I’m being a total slob eating frozen yogurt out of the carton with Abe on my shoulder and reading the paper, I’m wearing a pair of underpants.

Last time, after the nightly sexual experience, he said: “I hate to deprive myself of your warmth and comfort, but if I didn’t enforce the rules, you wouldn’t respect me in the morning.”

Then he took out a rubber yoga mat and laid it by the bed.  He gave me a pillow and a blanket.  That’s where I slept.

He said, “Next time, you’ll sleep in the kitchen like Oliver Twist.  Do you want to be mine, or a wretched foundling like him?”

I forgot, again, and so I slept–or tried to sleep–in the kitchen, by the table.

When the sun started to come up, the rosy-fingered dawn, I got up.  I got up before my bird, and Abe’s an early riser (an early bird! Ha! Ha! lame joke).  I was going to feed him, but I left him alone to rest.  The travel is stressful to him.

(As an aside…I love Abe SO MUCH that I feel guilty about it.  This little bird is such an innocent and joyful creature.  I know I sound like a crazy parrot lady…but every day, he gives me love.  If I don’t double-lock his cage, he opens it, walks to me at night, and wakes me up grooming my hair and staring at me.)

I rinsed off in the shower and shaved my legs and armpits and slathered on the lotion.  Time to go back to entertaining.

He was up already, as usual.  Probably since 4:30 AM.  Lifting weights in the gym.  Almost all of the men I attract do this.  Superficially, they seem different…but they’re still the same, just reiterations.

Meet the New Wolf.  He’s like the last one.

Only more deadly.