I called him after I checked into my hotel room.
“The eagle has landed! I repeat, the eagle has landed!” I said, sotto voce.
He laughed. “That’s great! Want to meet me in my room in half an hour?”
“Which hotel are you at?”
“Wait, aren’t you at my hotel?”
“Nope. I’m at (vastly inferior hotel).”
“What the hell are you doing there?”
“I was trying to save money.”
I was true. I’d planned the trip as cheaply as possible so that I’d have a few hundred dollars left over out of the $1200 he’d given me.
“I want you to check out of that place and come over here. It’ll be more convenient for us.”
“But I booked the entire package through Expedia. It’s pre-paid. If I check out of here, I’ll have to pay for it anyway.”
“No you won’t. I’ll tell you what to say to them. And in the meantime, I’ll cover you on a room over here. Get over here.”
“It’s your dime,” I said. That made him laugh (that’s one thing that he always liked about me: I made him laugh. The Surgeon doesn’t laugh much. He’s too uptight).
I didn’t understand how he could be spending so much money on this. I had a lot to learn. The Surgeon was one of the first rich people I met in my life.
The hotel was beautiful and I ran around taking photos of it like the rube tourist that I was. I even took photos of the flower arrangements at the front desk. I remember them. They were orchids, and I didn’t know the name for them at the time. I also did something that I have, thankfully, learned to suppress: I’d run up to the flower displays and touch them with my hand in order to see if they were real or silk. The Surgeon thought this was very endearing.
His hotel suite was friggin huge. I’d never seen anything like it (and I have a confession to make: when he went downstairs to buy mouthwash at the gift shop, I stole most of his hotel-furnished toiletries and a water glass).
The first thing that he did–and I’ve never forgotten this–is put a drink in my hand. A vodka cranberry. It was in a Starbucks coffee cup with a lid on it, so you could drink it in public without people knowing. It’d never occurred to me to do that before. The Surgeon is the one who taught me that trick.
“How do I know that you haven’t put something in this?” I asked.
“Why would I do that?”
“The type of person who would do that would do it because they wanted to. And you work in a hospital. You have access to drugs.”
“I don’t need to drug you. You’re already here.”
A pause, please, to consider the implications of that statement. He didn’t say that he wouldn’t drug me. He said that he didn’t need to.
True enough. And in case you’re wondering: I knew that I was going to have sex with him on the trip, unless he exhibited some strange mannerisms that threatened or disturbed me (keep in mind that I’d only known him for about three hours, almost the entire time in the dungeon setting).
I drank my drink.
“Let’s go get dinner! Do you like seafood? You look very sexy, by the way.”
I was wearing my backless black cocktail dress, of which, at that time in my life, I owned exactly one.
Off we went to dinner. The Surgeon got the name of a good seafood place from the concierge and we ordered the food on the phone while the driver gave us a tour of Baltimore’s scenic neighhorhood, whose name I cannot recall, but it was very charming.
“What do you want?” he asked me, holding the phone.
“What can I have?”
“What? You can get whatever you want! What sort of men have you been dating?”
“What’s a scallop?”
“Are you serious?”
“I come from a landlocked state! Nobody in my family eats fish! I don’t think we even have a seafood restaurant in town, just sushi.”
He looked at me like I was from Mars.
“This is going to be fun,” he said, and ordered at least ten different entrees of all different types of fish and shellfish.
We picked it up inside and took it back to the hotel. The Surgeon said that he wanted to be alone with me. I was also to learn that he hated eating in restaurants. In retrospect, I am almost positive that his Enemy was dining there, which would have made it impossible for the Surgeon to relax.
I ate lobster for the first time. It was delicious. While we ate, we had an excellent conversation. He was in a very, very good mood, and when he’s in a good mood, he’s a charmer (he turns it on for journalists, and they love him. I think he’s shagged half of the female news anchors and talk show hosts in New York). The seafood also gave him a chance to show off, and, like most men, he loved to show off.
“Did you know,” I said, snarfing my lobster, “that a lobster is related to scorpions and spiders? A lobster is basically a big sea insect.”
“Did you know that I have eaten lobster with a hundred dates, and nobody has ever told me that? You’re adorable!”
This date was also the first time I saw a hint of how pushy he could be. We needed more ice and I was going to go look for the ice machine (which he thought was hysterical. “This is not the sort of place that has an ice machine,” he laughed). He ordered a bucket of ice from room service. When it wasn’t delivered two minutes later–and keep in mind that the hotel was filled to capacity, and this was dinnertime–he called downstairs and put the heat on them: “What’s the problem? Are you waiting for the ice to freeze, or what?”
We talked for a long, long time, and got pleasantly drunk (I am very glad that I didn’t get too drunk, because I remember everything). I found myself telling him all sorts of things about myself. No identifying information (remember, I was “under cover”), but very personal things, like how I almost died when I was a baby and an ambulance had to take me over the mountains to a special pediatric unit at a famous university. When I took off my dress, he went over my body and asked me how I got each scar.
The sex was great. I think I’ll keep the details of that to myself.
He didn’t rush me out the door afterwards, either. He wasn’t treating me like it was a session and I was a sex worker. He was treating me like a date. What’s more, he was treating me like a date he wanted to make a good impression on. I was having a blast. Everything was new and exciting. I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to be there with him. I felt like I’d won a free vacation.
At the end, when I got dressed and went to leave at the door, I said, “Look, if I never see you again, I want you to know that I had a wonderful time tonight. Thank you so much for your hospitality.”
“Oh, you’ll see me again.”
But honestly? I didn’t believe him. I thought this was a busy guy who wanted to have some fun while he was out of town, and this was going to just be a one-off. I didn’t expect anything to come of it.
The next day, on the train ride home, I called him and left a voice message saying that I was almost home safe and sound (he asked me to call him and tell him that) and I thanked him again for a lovely time.
He called me back: “I like you. You’re completely unaffected and you’re appreciative. Best of all, nothing about you annoys me.
Margo, you’re hired.”
Then he called back again, and my new boss gave me my first two rules. He was excited. I could tell that his mind was racing.
“Quit smoking. And stop swearing in my presence. I hate to hear women swear. It’s not feminine.”
I did, and I did (and for the record, unless he’s teaching or in some formal environment, the guy swears like a mobster in a Martin Scorsese flick).
And that is how it all began, for better or for worse.
Happy Anniversary, Aaron.