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.

 

In My Handbag

Work Cell Phone (“Mistress Batphone”): Pay-as-you-go burner Tracfone from Target

Private Cell Phone: Samsung Galaxy S6

Tin of Altoid Smalls, peppermint flavor

Hairbrush

Chapstick, cherry flavored

Mascara, Cover Girl Lash Blast Volume in brownish-black

Miniature travel toothbrush with case

Ballpoint pens, 4 (four), all from different hotels

Hotel room key-cards, 3 (three), all from different hotels

Naltrexone, 3 (three) pills, in a zipper compartment

Visine

Compact mirror purchased at Mauritshuis in The Hague , depicting Girl With a Pearl Earring (c.1665)

Tampons, 2 (two)

Crumpled Used Kleenex, 2 (two)

Lipsticks, 3 (three): nude (Victoria’s Secret), cool fuscia (Sephora), cool red (Wet n’ Wild)

B1 complex with Folic Acid vitamins, 4 (four), because my last alcoholic relapse wrecked my health and I need these vitamins to get it back.  Doctor’s orders.  I eat them like pez.  If you are an alcoholic, you really need to get on B1 with folic acid as soon as possible.

Condoms, 8 (eight): 2 Skyn Polyisoprene (non-latex), 2 good-ole-Trojan, 2 Skyn Polyisoprene “large,” 2 Kimono brand  All for clients on outcalls, alas

A shit-ton of heavy change that needs to go in the change jar and be taken to CoinStar.

My wallet, which is printed with  van Gogh’s Almond Blossom (c. 1890).  

ATM receipts, four (4)

Ticket to the Legion of Honor

Bandages to keep my still-healing burn wounds concealed

Kohl eyeliner, one (1), brown “espresso”

Broken Rules and Broken Doors

Some Tops are big on Rules, and some have almost none at all.  The Surgeon, for instance, only had a few for me: I wasn’t allowed to swear in his presence, I couldn’t wear pants (shorts were okay in the summertime sometimes, though–he loved my legs), and I had to ask his permission before I changed my appearance in any significant way, which meant no radical hairdo changes.  Oh, and he made me quit smoking almost immediately, which was actually one of the better things he ever did for me.

This one–Mr. Toast-for-Dinner, Esq.– was a big Rules guy, which didn’t bother me at all.  I like rules and thrive in structured environments, which is one reason I generally loved academia so much.  I’m also, believe it or not, generally a people-pleaser and don’t have any problems with authority I find uncorrupt and legitimate.

Well, one of his rules was that I wasn’t allowed to wear clothing in the house unless we had company over, or a repair person or the cleaning service was visiting.  The first thing I’d do when I got back to his place (if he was home or coming home) would be to go to my room and undress and either hang my clothes back up or put them in the hamper to be laundered.

One day, he called me ahead to let me know that a few of his colleagues were coming back with him to discuss some of the cases they were working on.  I put on a nice conservative dress, refreshed my makeup and hairdo, and, when everyone arrived, I tried to play charming and unobtrusive hostess: keep a low-wattage smile on my face, get everyone refreshments, and otherwise remain attentive but as unobtrusive as possible.

I was clearing the coffee tables and loading up the dishwasher when they left three hours later.  I was also, I must admit, playing on my phone.

“Margo,” he looked up from the papers he was going over with a neon yellow highlighter.

“Hmmm?”

“Your dress.”

I looked down at myself, confused, and asked him if there was something wrong with it.  It was navy blue with a high neck and the hem was an inch above my knee.  Attractive, but not sexy–the sort of thing you could wear in a somewhat formal office environment.

“Why are you still wearing it?”  He put his papers down and rose to his feet suddenly.

I looked at the clock.  Yeah, company had been gone for almost 40 minutes.

“Sorry.  I’ll go to my room and take it off,” I said.

He started to walk towards me pretty aggressively, and, instinctively, I started to back up.

“Why did you forget?”  He didn’t scream, but his voice sounded angry.

“I was distracted!  I just forgot!  I’ll go take it off right now!”

Then I turned my back on him and started running down the hallway, to my room.

It could have ended there…but something happened.  He overreacted.  All of a sudden, I heard him start running after me.

I guess I overreacted too, because I freaked out.  I mean, I’m not used to men chasing me down, at least in the literal sense.   I got scared.  I panicked.

I ran straight past my bedroom to the end of the hall, ran into the bedroom there, closed the door, and locked it behind me.

I’d picked the worst possible room in the house to run to (but of course, I wasn’t thinking).  Every other bedroom had a heavy steelwood door with a deadbolt lock.  As it turned out, I’d just locked myself inside the bedroom that was used for guests who visited with children: it had two twin beds for kids, a crib…and the door was a light, cheap piece of shit you could buy at Home Depot.  The lock was one of those twist ones in the doorknob.

He was at the door not two seconds behind me, and I saw him rattling the doorknob.

“Margo, unlock the door,” he said.

“No!  Why the hell are you chasing me?  I said I’d take the dress off!”

The doorknob rattled, more violently this time.

“Open the door!”

“No!  You’re scaring me!”

He hit it.  Hard.  I jumped.

“I won’t allow you to hide from me,” he said.

(In retrospect, that is what really set him off: the fact that I tried to lock him out.  If I hadn’t done that, he probably would have just ripped my clothes off and given me a spanking and forgotten about it once I was demonstrably contrite.)

“Go away!” I yelled, backing away from the door.

There was a long pause…

….and then a huge thud against the door.  HUGE.

Another pause.  Then, the thud.

I recognized what it was almost immediately: he was backing up, getting in a few running steps, and launching himself shoulder-first into the door.

He was banging the door down.

I almost had a complete panic attack, because I’ve had men bang down doors to get to me twice in my life, and both times resulted in hideous experiences once they got in.

He hit it again.  And again.  And again.

How am I going to handle this…?

When he hit it again, he broke the flimsy lock and the door burst open.  He stepped inside and stood there, looking at me.  His hair was disheveled and half of his shirt had come untucked.

“What the hell are you doing?”  I asked, crossing my arms over my chest.  I tried to sound as composed as possible, which was difficult with all the adrenaline pumping through me.

“Why did you lock the door?” he yelled.  It was–is–the only time I’d heard him scream.

“Because you’re acting like a crazy person!”

He stood there, blinking, like that hadn’t occurred to him.

I pointed at the broken door.  “You just broke down the door in your own home chasing after a terrified girl half your age!  You broke your own property!”

It was true: he’d completely lost control of the situation, which was what I was trying to impress on him, because he was a control-freak.

“You look ridiculous!”  I reiterated.

He looked at me, turned at the waist and looked back at the door, and then came back to me.

Then he turned around and walked out without a word.  He went to his bedroom and closed the door.

I ran back to my room (no long on the door), got my guns and my purse, bolted for another bedroom and locked myself inside.  I slept there overnight and didn’t leave until I heard him go to work in the morning.

We completely ignored each other for two days.  When I was in the house, I stayed in that bedroom with a deadbolt lock and didn’t come out.  It had a private bathroom and when he was at work I stocked up on snacks and water, so I didn’t have to leave when he was home.

After two days, he slipped a card underneath my door.  It was a polite request that I join him for dinner.  I sent him a text message saying that I would attend.

He cooked dinner and rapped gently on my door to let me know it was ready.  I’d deliberately worn the same dress I was wearing when he threw his temper tantrum.

“I apologize.  My behavior was very impulsive and out of character for me.  It won’t happen again.  I’m ashamed of myself,” he said at the table.

I don’t think that last part is true–I don’t think this man has any use for shame–but he kept his word about the rest of it: no doors have been broken down since.

Part II: Bath Time

I heard him running the bath in the second bathroom down the hall.  We’d spent a lot of time there, after dinner and before bed.   He liked to wash my hair and soap me down with a fluffy sponge and sometimes even shave my legs for me, which was kind of sexy because it was nerve-wracking (I was always worried he was going to nick me, though he seldom did).

And we would talk.

At first I thought it was just going to be an occasional romantic gesture, but when I saw that he was making a ritual out of it, I was slightly concerned.  The reasons for my concern are entirely my own baggage: bathtime with Dad was one of my (only) happy early-childhood memories of the man.  For some reason, he got a big kick out of it.  I had lots of bath toys and we always used Mr. Bubble:

mr-bubble

He’d sit on the toilet lid or get a chair and we’d make statues out of the bubbles and bubble hats  and throw foam Nerf balls back and forth and splash around, fun stuff like that.  Sadly–but necessarily–that had to end when I got older.  I don’t remember how old, but I was still pretty little.  Dad said that he was sorry, but I was getting too old and it wasn’t appropriate anymore and I would have to bathe myself from now on.  I was sad and disappointed, but, on some level, I understood what he was saying.

So, this nightly after-dinner bath ritual struck me, at first, as kinda paternalistic (honestly, though, I do have to wonder if that was his entire motivation, but I never had the balls to ask if he was trying to deliberately do the boogie-woogie all over my Daddy Issues), and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be comfortable with it.  Additionally, my bathtime is my alone-time, and when I’m with him, I didn’t get much privacy.

Well, it turned out to be fine.  It was easy for me to get over my minor hangup, and he really seemed to enjoy doing it, and we’d have fun. It made me feel cared about.  I even let him take some photos of me in the water, as long as I was in poses that concealed everything, which I would normally never let a man do (one of them turned out so well that he blew it up, had it professionally matted and framed, and hung it in the hallway close to his bedroom).

Plus, it would put me in a nice relaxed mood for when he beat the snot out of me during the sex later.

Tonight, bath time was no going to be so much fun.

I worried that he was up to something when he told me he’d draw the bath himself–I was the one who did that.  He had a huge copper tub and it took forever to fill.

Finally, I heard the water turn off.  He walked back into the dining room and told me it was almost ready, go wait in the bathroom.

I stood up stiffly from the table and walked nervously to the bathroom.

The tub was full of water, all right.  As usual.

But there was something different.  Something…off.

I looked in the mirror above the sinks.

There was no condensation on the glass.  No steam in the room.

The water was not hot.

He strode into the bathroom carrying an enormous bag of cubed party ice from the freezer.  In front of my unbelieving, horrified eyes, he tore open the bag and dumped the contents into the water.  Then he balled up the bag and put it into the waste container.

“Bath time!” he announced happily.

I’d been through icewater torture once before: Heinrich & Co. made me sit in a steel vat of it while they interrogated me the first day of Abduction Weekend.  Believe me, that shit’s no joke.  It was horrible, and I was not eager to re-create the experience, especially for no fucking reason (Abduction Weekend had a point).

“Nope,” I said.

“Get in.”

“I don’t want to.  This is cruel and unnecessary.”

“It’s my prerogative.”

“It’s not safe.”

He reached into his pocket and took out a mechanical egg timer he’d brought from the kitchen.  “You can do ten minutes.  That won’t hurt you.”

“Don’t make me do this,” I said.

“Margo,” he said, lowering his voice, “Do you really wish to turn this into a more serious confrontation?  We can put all of this behind us in ten minutes.”

What this boiled down to, for me, was: Do you want this punishment, or what’s behind door #3?  Because it’s not this, it’s going to be something else, sooner or later.  He wasn’t going to force me to get in the water.  He wasn’t going to pick me up and dump me in, though he was certainly strong enough to do that.  I could tell him to fuck off, get my purse, and go hole up in one of the spare bedrooms that had a deadbolt on the door.  He (probably) wouldn’t try to stop me.

But then…then I’d have to wait.  For the other shoe to drop.  And, almost certainly, unless he had a change of heart after sleeping on it…he’d be plotting.

Because it’s not over…until it’s over.

Be as stoical as possible, no matter how much it hurts.  Don’t break down, don’t beg, and don’t panic.  Don’t give him the satisfaction.

“This is a stupid thing to do for a man who needs my trust,” I said, and started to undress with my back to him.  “Later, you’ll feel like an idiot.”

I looked over my shoulder to check his reaction.  One thing that most of the men I get involved with have in common is that they think they are the pinnacles of human perfection in this world.  They are not used to being called idiots.  Rebukes to their judgement really throw them for a loop.

His mouth was open–I’d bet anything he was going to add more time to the timer as a penalty–but he seemed to think better of it and didn’t say anything.

I approached the tub and looked down at the water.  It was deep, with a layer of ice cubes bobbing merrily on the surface.

“Start the timer,” I said, and stepped into the bath.

It was freezing, but not so painful on my legs.  It was when I lowered myself into the water that the shock of the cold hit.  I yelped and hissed in breath.  Couldn’t be helped.

My skin broke out in gooseflesh all over and started to flush red almost immediately.

He pulled up a chair and sat, crossing his legs.  Front-row tickets to the show.

How can I describe it for you…?  Ten minutes in icewater feels like a very long time.  Long enough to suffer, but not long enough to go numb.  I started to shiver violently and when he handed me a bar of soap I had difficulty holding it; it kept squirting out of my shaking hand and I’d have to rummage around on the bottom of the tub to find it.  The ice cubes clinked against the copper walls.  My nose ran and my teeth chattered.

He watched me intensely but didn’t speak.  He didn’t need to.  I knew him well enough to know what he was experiencing: he was aroused by my distress and playing it cool for the time being because he needed to be in control of the immediate situation.  The sexual overtures would come later, when this was over.

He didn’t tell me to wash me hair, which was a small mercy.  Most of my hair got wet anyway, but I would not have wanted to drop my head into that water.

The bell on the egg timer chimed.

Very carefully–because I was shaking all over–I grabbed the edges of the tub for support, stood up, and stepped gingerly over the side.  I didn’t let go of the tub because I was having trouble straightening my legs and I was concerned about whether I’d fall down.

He watched me get out and then finally stood up and fetched a big fluffy towel from the rack.  He started to rub me dry with it.  I wanted to snatch the towel out of his hands and tell him that I’d do it myself, but, like I said, I was still unsteady and I also didn’t want him to hear my voice while I was still shivering.

“Brave girl,” he said.  His voice was gentle now.  “Can you walk?”

I shook my head.  Snot was still running out of my nose.  I wouldn’t look at him.

“Here,” he said, and wrapped the towel around my torso.  He bent, put his arm under my knees, and scooped me up.  “Let’s put you under the blankets.”

I hadn’t wanted to go to his bedroom, but I’d already capitulated on so much, and was in such a sorry state, that insisting on going to my own room seemed like a lost cause.

He carried me down the hallway and put me into “my” side of his bed, covering my damp, shivering body with the white down comforter.  When he covered me, I turned on my side away from him, looking the other way.

He left and came back with hot tea and a big bottle of water for me, laying them on the nightstand table.   Then he lowered the lights with dimmer switches and sat on the edge of the bed by my body and stroked the top of my head, which was peeking out from under the blanket.

“Where I was born, we heard stories about trolls who kept treasures of gold underneath the ground.  They guarded their treasure very jealously.  You are like a rare treasure, kept beneath the earth.  There are not very many like you.”

And, like myself, reader, you may make of that what you will.

Don’t Keep Him Waiting

(The blog’s been quiet because I burned the hell out of my hand and upper arm in the kitchen fire.  The injuries hurt like hell and also prevented me from typing.  I still can’t make a fist with my right hand and I had to take last week off from work because I look like a leper.  The wounds are improving daily, however, and they shouldn’t scar.)

 

It was 12:45 PM and I was in a cab going from his place near the Flatiron Building to the Upper East Side to meet him for lunch.  He’d made a reservation at a special place and wanted me to meet two of  his friends for the first time, who would be dining with us.

Well, I’d been in the cab for almost an hour and we’d just managed to pass Times Square.  Traffic was an absolute nightmare; the street might as well have been a parking lot.  I was freaking out because the reservation was at 1 PM and kicking myself for not taking the subway–I’d decided on a cab because it was hot and sticky outside and I knew that if I took the train I’d sweat all my makeup off and ruin my hairdo by the time I arrived.

On top of that, I couldn’t text him and let him know what was going on because my phone was dead. 

Now it didn’t matter whether that the cab had AC: I was sweating it out anyway.

After half an hour, we’d gotten to the East Side, but were still only halfway there.  I was panicking and knew that I needed to contact him and explain–there was no way I could just stand him up in front of his friends.  He’d kill me.

I asked the driver if I could use his phone.

“Sorry, no,” he said, which I felt was pretty fucking rude, given the fare I was running up.

Ten more minutes.

I saw a Radio Shack, told the driver I’d get out, and bolted for it.

Inside, I bought an overpriced phone charger and begged the staff to let me use an electrical outlet.  They could tell I wasn’t lying when I said that it was important.

Once I had power, I sent him a text explaining the situation.  By this time, I was about 40 minutes late for lunch.

He wrote back: Forget it.  Just go back to the apartment.  I’ll meet you there. 

(I would later learn that his friends had to cancel last-minute because of an emergency at work, which meant he’d been sitting at a table alone 40 minutes.)

I apologized profusely and took the subway back to his place.  I changed out of my dress and went to the kitchen to make a sandwich, because I still hadn’t eaten.

I was two bites into it when he walked in the door.

“I am so sorry about this afternoon.  The traffic was horrendous and I was stupid not to make sure my phone–”

He walked right up to me, snatched the sandwich right out of my hand, and threw it in the garbage can.

“If you won’t eat with me, you must not be hungry,” he said.

I stood there, blinking in surprise, letting it all sink in.

Finally, I sighed and nodded.  I understood: he was pissed and punishing me for it.  Okay, fine.  Personally, I didn’t think it was fair–the traffic wasn’t my fault, and I’d left in plenty of time–but, well, that’s life.

I guess I’ll have to wait till dinner, I thought.

I picked up a glass and went to the fridge to use the water filter.  I’d been in all that heat and I was very thirsty.

“No,” he said when I put my hand on it.

“No water?” I asked.

He shook his head.

I put the glass away and checked the clock.   Only about five and a half hours until dinner–unless he was working late or coming back to town completely jetlagged, he was a pretty consistent dinner-at-8 guy.  And when I was there, we always ate together.

Five and a half hours of thirst.  Not fun, but I’ve had worse.

“Stay in the library,” he said, and walked out.

I thought of dashing to the fridge for a bottle of water and immediately decided against it.  Better to wait.

I got my laptop and played on the internet for a few hours.  He came in to check on me every now and then.

Thirst isn’t fun.  I can ignore being hungry.  It’s much harder to ignore being thirsty.  My mouth was dry and it felt like my tongue was swelling.

Then I got a “bright” idea: the next time he poked his head in the door, I asked him if I could take a shower because I’d sweated on the subway all the way home (he’d taken one; I’d heard the water running).

“Why?  So that you can drink from the faucet?  No.”

Foiled.

I kept waiting, and at about 7 PM, he came back, and this time he was happy.

Oh thank God it’s over, I thought.

“I’m making shrimp scampi for dinner!” he announced, smiling.

“Great!  Do you want me to help you in the kitchen?  Set the table?”  About half the time, he wants me to help him make dinner.  He’s a good cook, and he teaches me things.  Other nights, he prefers to do it alone–besides torturing women, I think it’s how he relaxes after work.

“No, I’ll do it myself.”

Soon, I could smell the cooking and started envisioning a plate of shrimp and a few big glasses of ice water.  With condensation dew on the glass.  And a wedge of lemon.

“Dinner is ready, Margo!” he called from the kitchen.

I practically ran to the dining room.

It looked how it always looked, unless he was in a big hurry to get back to some work project: tablecloth, cloth napkins, two candles.  He was already seated.  Beautiful, aromatic plate of scampi, rice, glass of white wine, and water.

I pulled up to my place.

There, in the middle of the plate, was…a single piece of toast.

You son of a bitch, I thought.

“Please, sit down,” he said, gesturing with his hand.

I stiffly took my seat.

“You know, I think I lost my appetite,” I said.

“But I cooked for you!” He laughed at his own joke (it was true–he had, after all, toasted the bread).  “It would be rude not to eat.  So eat.”

Get it over with, I thought.

I picked up my toast and took a bite.  It was unbuttered, dry, and crunchy, and chewing it took forever in my desert of a mouth.  I couldn’t produce any saliva.  It scratched going down.

He sat there and ate his meal, happy as the proverbial clam, no doubt getting lost in self-congratulation at what a witty and clever fellow he was.

“This wine really matches the dish perfectly,” he said.

If I’d had cutlery, I just might have stabbed him in the hand with my fork.

I got about halfway through the slice of toast when I couldn’t take it anymore and  meekly asked if I could have some water.

“Of course!” he said, rising from his chair.  He went to the cabinet and selected a wide, shallow soup bowl, which he filled with water from the sink and carefully carried to me.  Then he took his chair.

I stared at it.  What the hell was I supposed to do with it?

I looked at him.  No feedback.  He just watched me and ate his food, smirking.

I reached out to grab the bowl in both hands–I guess I was supposed to tip the water out to drink, and hope it didn’t spill out the sides of my mouth and down my chest.

“Don’t use your hands,” he said, sharply.

“Well, hell, can I at least have a straw?

“No,” he said.

The bowl was shallow and had a flared rim.  There was no way to drink the water without literally putting my face in it.

Should I have been stubborn?  Refused?  My dignity was already gone, and I was thirsty.

I bent my head to the water and slurped at it.  It took a few slurps to get a mouthful of liquid, and they were loud.  The human face is not designed to drink that way.

When I sat back up, I felt water running down my chin.  He hadn’t given me a napkin, so I wiped it with the back of my arm.

“Better?” he asked.

I didn’t respond.

“Well, wetter, at least,” he said, and chuckled.

I finished my bread, took a few more noisy slurps of water, and asked to be excused from the table.

“No,” he said.

So I had to wait for him to finish his food and clear the table.   He blew out the candles, came up behind me, and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Ready for bath time now?”  He always gave me a bath after dinner unless he had really important work to do.  It was part of our nightly ritual when we were together.

Was it over?  Finally?  Was he done; satisfied?  I was angry but I was more than willing to let bygones be bygones if it meant he was finally going to forgive me and relax and I wouldn’t have to be stuck in this house with an unpredictable sadist anymore.  If he was happy with me again, well, hell, what’s a little Humiliation by Toast?  I’ve had a fuck of a lot worse, believe me.  In fact, I’ve done a fuck of a lot worse.

I pulled back my chair to stand up to go draw the bath, as usual.

He gently pushed me back down into the chair.

“I’ll do it tonight,” he said.

Uh-oh, I thought.

TO BE CONTINUED (it’s not pretty)

 

 

 

Update on the Grease Fire

Well, my landlord called me back, and I had the good sense not to apologize, which is my nature.  I mean, I cooked these corn dogs (even if I only pretended to eat them, because of my eating disorder), on med-low heat.  I turned my back for 2 minutes.

The handyman (landlord’s in another state) came and said, concerning the oven: “This is a cheap piece of shit made in China.  It overheated because it’s not wired professionally.”

(I immediately made a note of that, and the time, in the VERY UNFORTUNATE case I have to take my landlord to Small Claims Court.)

I still have blisters on my right arm and my right upper arm.  They have started to drain.  During session, I will cover them with non-stick gauze and neosporin.  I will also wear gloves and TRY to wear a shirt with sleeves unless a client requests something more risque, like a corset.

If he asks, well, it’s just a little white gauze on my upper arm, and I’ll tell him the truth and rip out my cell phone: it was a common grease fire.

I’m worried that jerks are going to assume I burned myself making crystal meth (HAHAHA!!!!! WRONG ADDICTION, MORONS!) but I really don’t care.  Half of landlords have souls made of coal dust and assume the worst, anyway)

Wish me luck.