The Collector was in a foul mood and the best thing to say about it was that at least I had nothing to do with it: it was work-related. The subject of his rage was a certain Irish attorney practicing in Dublin, whose primary offense, as far as I could judge, was “being recalcitrant.”
(Now, call me crazy, as I don’t know jack about the law, but I thought “being recalcitrant” on behalf of one’s clients was part of the job description. I could be wrong.)
I cautiously tried to get him to talk about it, because most people like to talk about their problems and things that are making them upset, and I certainly didn’t want to come across as if I was oblivious (oblivious! to his bad mood! ha! ha!) to his unhappiness.
He kept scribbling notes in the margins of the document he was working on (like me, he prefers paper over screen-reading) and said, in all seriousness: “I am going to pan-fry this Mic’s balls on my stove and see if they turn green.”
“I see,” I squeaked, and beat a hasty retreat.
It’s probably a sign of an unhealthy relationship that when he gets into truly bad moods–whether they have to do with me or not–I become very fixated on figuring out what I can do to make him relaxed and happy again. The Surgeon was mercurial and moody, and when he got into one of his inexplicable bad moods, I’d try to reason with him for a few minutes and then hang up the phone and ignore him and check back in after a few days and viola! he was back to normal. With more normal (“healthier”) men, he wants to vent a little bit and then he wants space to be mad without someone picking at him, which is certainly easy enough to provide. As long as he’s not taking it out on you, what’s the problem? He comes to you for emotional support when he’s ready; you can’t force it upon him.
The reasons for my desire to “fix it” are pretty obvious: it’s no fun to be trapped in a house with a tense, dangerous animal whom you know from personal experience could turn on you. It sort of sucks the tranquility out of life.
So, after about 48 hours of this (during which I stayed out of the apartment as much as possible when he was there), I decided that I would try to do something special in order to get his mind off things. I felt a little bit guiltily about doing this, because I realized that his emotional well-being was not my responsibility, and if you wander into that role too often, it means your relationship has taken a turn into co-dependency or abuse. But I did it anyway.
(Incidentally, he’d displayed very little interest in me sexually during this time, which was unheard of. He’s a wolf; he’s on me all the time. I actually don’t understand how a man of his age has the stamina.)
I went to my closet and picked out a dress he’d given me months ago that I’d always declined to wear:
Now, he gives me clothing whenever the fancy takes me (I certainly never ask), and I usually enjoy it because the man has, let’s face it, truly exquisite taste. The only thing that I don’t like about the clothes he buys me is that they are clearly more expensive than what I can afford, which makes me feel self-conscious about wearing them–it’s not a self-esteem issue, it’s not that I feel I don’t “deserve” a few new expensive clothes, it’s that I feel like I’m somehow misrepresenting myself. Spend enough time in New York, and you get to meet a lot of money frauds and social climbers. I certainly don’t want to be one of those people.
This dress, though, was different.
Something about it rubbed me the wrong way, and it took me a while to figure it out–I mean, objectively, there was nothing wrong with it. It’s a beautiful dress, in fact. It has a ton of detail, the pleating is beautiful, I love the colors, and it’s unique. I also really like lacy dresses this year, and this dress has lacy sleeves and overlay. Cute, right? Perfect for Spring.
I still didn’t like it.
He suggested that I wear it out to lunch one day and I took it out of its box for about the tenth time and laid it on my bed and took a good, hard look at it, and it hit me:
It was the dress a 10-year-old would wear to Sunday Mass or some special occasion.
What the fuck? I mean, seriously, what the fuck?
I picked it up and walked out to him, holding it out.
“Where did you buy this?”
“A very nice boutique close to my office. I pass by it every day.”
I scowled. “Is this a dress for a kid?”
“Does that matter? Don’t you think it’s pretty? Does it not fit you?”
I turned it inside out and rummaged for the size tag/laundry instruction tab sewed into the lower seam.
“Collector! This says size 14/16! I’m not a 14/16 in Women’s or Junior’s! This is a kid’s dress!” I groaned.
“Well, it looked like it would fit you,” he said, all innocent-sounding.
“I’m not wearing it to lunch! It’s weird!”
“Wear whatever you like. I would hate for you to be uncomfortable,” he said, incredibly and completely without irony.
I put on something else and put the frilly dress back in its box in the back of the closet, just like I stored its implications in the back of my mind. Anyone who reads this blog will know that I am one of the most sexually open-minded people you could hope to meet, but I do have my preferences, and any sort of age-play where I’m in the minor/submissive role squicks me out. God knows I got a ton of cheesy spankings dressed in a schoolgirl outfit when I was still pro-Subbing, but that was professional, so it was mostly an eye-rolling embarrassment.
So, flash-forward to the present, when I’m asking myself exactly what I can do to knock this guy out of his bad mood because being in the house with him like this is making me grind my teeth with anxiety and Abe is not exactly enjoying it, either.
Now, unless he has a super-important deadline or a mandatory business call on Skype for some overseas client, he always makes time for dinner. Sometimes he has me pick up carry-out and eats at his desk, but usually dinner is a sit-down affair, and he cooks it himself.
With trepidation, I took the dress out of the box and tried it on for the first time.
Well, he was right: it fit…mostly. The bust was too snug, presumably because girls don’t have tits yet, and the hem was short because girls are usually not almost 5’10”. It covered my ass by a few inches and I could wear it in public without causing a scandal, but I’d have to remember to be careful about picking things up, but I have a few dresses like that and once you get used to it, it’s not a big deal. Just make a man do it for you.
I ran over to his office and rapped on the door, praying that this was not going to be a terrible decision.
He said I could come in, so I opened the door and and scampered inside, smiling widely.
“I just tried it on. Can I wear it for dinner?” (As you know, I’m usually not allowed to wear clothing in the house.)
He sat there at his desk, looking me up and down, bemused.
“You look very pretty. What, pray tell, has brought this on?”
I gave him what I hoped was my sunniest smile. I do have a pretty smile; my clients told me that all the time.
“I wanted to make you happy.”
“That, my dear, is always the right answer,” he said, and rolled back his chair, standing up.
* * *
For dinner that evening, he was eating a small steak and snails with greens. I got a grilled cheese sandwich with the crusts cut off and the sandwich itself was cut into cubes. And a salad.
It took me halfway through the meal to raise the crucial point: “Uhh, Collector, why do you get steak while I’m eating kid food?”
“It’s not kid food. If it was kid food, I would have made it with Velveeta or that awful American ‘cheese product’ you eat over here. That sandwich has Gruyère!”
If he ever reads this, I am going to be in deep trouble, but sometimes the things that come out of his mouth make me question his mental state.
He put down his silverware. “Margo, allow me to suggest something to you.”
“By all means.”
“Sometimes, in our past, when something bad or traumatic happens, it’s a bit like a train track that was executed incorrectly, made crooked, so that the train could not follow. It either stops moving or derails. Do you see?”
“I think the metaphor is strange, but I cautiously think I understand what you mean.”
“When we get older, and have control over our lives, we can re-create these experiences and do them correctly, in a healing way. We can make the train track straight.”
“It sounds to me like you’re just describing Repetition Compulsion.”
“Repetition Compulsion is futile and compounds our misery and we all do it, unfortunately, to some extent. What I am describing is something else.
Do it again. Do it correctly. Take nourishment from it, and confidence, and….healing.”
“But you can’t go back again. Nobody can go back. Childhood’s gone, and who the fuck wants to visit that swampy nightmare, anyway?”
He nodded. “People change, as, indeed, we must. But we still contain all variations of ourselves. That’s what I’ve been asking you to focus on in your therapy.”
“I’ll think about it. I’m still not sure I fully understand.”
“Just keep an open mind. We’ll revisit it later. How is the grilled cheese?”
In fact, it was delicious.