Three years later, and I’m back in a House. I didn’t anticipate this, but ultimately I am not surprised. Practically everything in my life has been precarious for years now—my employment is no exception. I’ve gone from solvency to flat broke in 60 days.
The Surgeon got me out of the House three years ago, when we started getting serious. I remember the day he convinced me to quit like it was yesterday. We’d argued in the morning over my unavailability and when I told him that I had to hang up the phone to go to work, he went ballistic.
“How can you choose to go back to that place?!” he shouted.
“How can you say that? You met me there! You were there too!” I was at a loss. “Listen, I have to support myself. I have to make a living. That’s a fact. I’m not working there because I like to shop for shoes.”
“You don’t understand,” he said. But I did understand, at least a somewhat. Sure, he was reproaching me because he was jealous and territorial, and my livelihood threatened his image of himself. But there was also a vein of truth in his argument, running like an ore through the solid narcissism of his character. The truth was this: the work was not something I would wish for my daughter, my sister, or my mother. Or my brother, for that matter. I do not make a moral judgment when I say this; I cautiously assume the same sentiment would be made by millions, if not billions, of the people on earth. Most of the jobs in the world are the equivalent of mental, emotional, and/or physical imprisonment. If I’m wrong about that, I’d love to be enlightened, because my understanding of the nature of labor in contemporary society is really a monstrous bummer. It rains on my proverbial fucking parade every day of my life. It’s enough to turn a person into a communist…(which it did)….
I cut off the conversation because I had to go to work, and the entire time I was there I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn’t stop thinking about what he’d said and the vein of truth in his argument. I felt ashamed to be there, and I’d never been ashamed before (as it turns out, he would successfully shame me many times over the next few years).
The Surgeon called me back at 6 PM.
“Where are you?” he demanded.
“I’m in Midtown. I’m heading to the train to go home.”
“Well?! How was work today?” His voice crackled with anger, hostility, emotion. It is important to note that I felt he was expressing concern for me.
“I didn’t turn a dime,” I told him, truthfully.
I reiterated that I had made no money.
“I almost came there!” He barked. “I almost came there to see you. I was going to fuck you in one of those rooms! You couldn’t stop me! What would you tell the management?”
My stomach turned over, my heart started to beat frantically in my chest. I could feel it behind my breastbone; in the pulse on my wrists. It was cool outside, but I was suddenly sweating. The intensity of his attention, his scrutiny, both withered and exhilarated me. Then he said the words that sealed my fate:
“Do you know why I didn’t do it? Because I thought it would be beneath me.”
Those two concepts hit me like a freight train: first, that he had seriously considered coming to the House so that he could confront (re: punish and fuck me)—and that somehow he instinctively knew that I would have allowed him to do it. Second, his sneering declaration of moral superiority. Aggression, arrogance, contempt, the casual flash of power as if that power (over me!) was nothing. Combined with the other things I found desirable about him—his education, his skill, the way that he carried himself, the perfect cut of his clothing—it was pitch-perfect for me.
I was wracked with raw longing. Arousal. Craven desire. I could not—and cannot—deny the urgent, vivid way my body and my mind responded to him. I felt a primitive, primordial urge to make myself more vulnerable, to bare my neck, to drop to the floor.
“I promise I won’t do it anymore. Please let me see you again,” I moaned, breathless.
“I don’t know…I have to tell you that I’m very concerned about this.”
I want, I want, I want…we met the next day in a hotel room in Midtown. The day after, I cleaned out my locker at the House.
Now I’m back. The Surgeon would have a brain hemorrhage if he knew I was here, but I’m torn between keeping him comfortable and keeping my independence (to say nothing of my solvency).