Note: I know I don’t come off very well in this story. I had no right to get so close to Jeff when the Surgeon was in my life. I feel awful about it and always have, though I know that does not absolve me of responsibility or ameliorate the confusion I caused this decent man, who treated me with nothing but respect and kindness.
* * *
Last night I had a dream about Jeff.
It was a complete surprise. I haven’t had a dream about Jeff in a long, long time. Several years.
I feel it’s time to talk about Jeff, and what happened to that relationship. I wrote a little about him when I started this blog, but I never wrote about what happened…its conclusion.
I picked up Jeff on the PATH train. The car was mostly empty, and I noticed him sitting there reading The New Yorker. I liked the way that he looked. I can’t tell you why, exactly…he wasn’t ugly by any means, but he was not a very conventionally handsome man. He was my height, lean and wirey, my favorite body type (the Surgeon’s body type). His face was angular and he had a slightly crooked nose and big eyes and glasses. His clothes weren’t flashy, but he was very neat and put-together and fastidious-looking. His hands were big for a man of his size, with long, spindly fingers, and downed with brown hair.
I thought he was cute. I was attracted to him. I hoped that he would look up, so that I could catch his eye, but he was absorbed in his reading.
Well, he stood up to leave at the 9th Street PATH station, and I decided “Fuck it! Approach him!” and I followed him out of the car and up the hall and onto the street.
I plucked at his sleeve and said something along the lines of: Excuse me, my name is Margo, I don’t mean to bother you but I was watching you on the train and I like your magazine and I thought you were really cute and if you’re not busy or married I was wondering if you’d like to get some coffee or lunch.
We exchanged numbers and went out for lunch the next day.
And we hit it off, right away. I liked the way he spoke, his mannerisms, his understated-yet-confident bearing. He was courteous. This is what I wrote about him on my blog, shortly after we’d met:
We shared a meal together and I liked him right away. I talked quite a bit, which is unusual for me on the first date—I usually encourage the other person to do most of the talking, so that I can learn about them. Jeff was very easy to talk to. I felt comfortable with him. Warmth came naturally. He was polite, unaffected, knowledgeable. He made sense to me. I felt like I understood his disposition, his temperament. I enjoyed watching him—his gestures, the way he ate his food, the way he carried himself. And I liked the way he treated me. Present and engaging, without radiating expectation. After we left the restaurant, I told him that I found him attractive and I would like to see him again (again, that look of pleased surprise!). I was confident that he would like to meet me again; I knew intuitively that I had charmed him.
And so began our relationship, which lasted about four or five months.
He had an ex-wife with whom he shared custody of their five-year-old daughter. He had an apartment in a nice part of Jersey City and a modest-but-comfortable middle-class job. He commuted into Manhattan every morning for work. He had a college degree, and he wasn’t a super-cerebral nerd like me, but he read, and was plenty intelligent, and when I was discussing something obscure he could totally keep up with me.
There were so many things I appreciated about him! He never said anything derogatory about his ex-wife. He didn’t try to have sex with me right away–he had healthy, mature boundaries. He didn’t introduce me to his kid (and, for that matter, he always prioritized his time with his daughter above spending time with me, which is EXACTLY AS IT SHOULD BE, and which I really respected. It meant that his priorities were right, and his daughter was more important than his fun date/sex with a new woman, and that he was vetting me before he let me around her. It meant that he placed his responsibilities to loved ones above his personal desires, which is wonderful and a very good sign!).
The sex was vanilla, but good. I really liked his body, and we had chemistry. He wasn’t a sadomasochist. His sexuality was robust but…I dunno….”normal”?
He was very cautious with me as the relationship progressed. Cautious, but not paranoid or neurotic. Letting me into his life, step by step, slowly sharing more intimate things about his family, his childhood, his successes and frustrations at work, his dreams for the future. His feelings. He was methodical. Boundaries, like I said. Even though he really, really liked me, he didn’t ask for instant intimacy.
He was kind and funny, but there was a (very slight) edge to him that turned me on: I understood, intuitively, that I could not walk all over this man. He did not let anyone take advantage of him. He was modest, but confident and secure.
At the time, I wasn’t working in a dungeon, though I’d worked in one for 6 months previous. I was in my PhD program and tutoring. I did not tell Jeff about my history of sex work, but that was the only secret that I had…
….except for the Surgeon.
I was seeing the Surgeon the entire time. I was never monogamous with the Surgeon, and he tolerated me seeing other men as long as I didn’t get too close to them, and my relationships with them did not impede, in any way, upon his relationship and intentions with me.
I told myself that I wasn’t being dishonest with Jeff because we were still getting-to-know-you dating, and we’d never asked each other if we were seeing other people, and we never discussed monogamy or had the DTR (the “Defining the Relationship” discussion, where you agree to be boyfriend and girlfriend, and make it formal). We weren’t at that stage of the relationship yet.
But, of course…things started to come up. I’d be at Jeff’s, and the Surgeon would text me and, when I didn’t respond, he’d blow up my phone, and I’d have to turn it off.
I was wearing a gold bracelet (a slave bracelet, I guess) that I could not take off, because it was soldered closed. The Surgeon did that.
I’d go away for the weekend a few times and essentially be out of touch while I was gone, some texts, but not available to talk.
Jeff was not an idiot. I felt that he was making mental notes about these things. He was not suspicious of me, he never confronted me about any of it, but I knew he was storing all this away.
(Sometimes I would also show up with bruises on my ass or my back, from the Surgeon’s beatings, and I’d have to make up excuses about where they came from. Those are the only lies I think Jeff accepted completely, in his heart…because who thinks the girl they are dating is a masochist willfully getting strapped?)
After four or five months, I was spending a lot of time with Jeff: weekends at his place in Jersey City when he didn’t have his daughter there, and at least one or two nights per week at my East Village apartment. We emailed. We Skyped. He met my mother when she flew to the City for my birthday.
The relationship was ready to…evolve. It was reaching the tipping point. Where you start to say, “I love you,” and commit, at least somewhat, to the other person and the relationship.
And that’s when the Surgeon landed on it. With both feet.
(will continue after my alcohol rehab support group meeting)