I never talked to the Surgeon about Jeff, but he knew something was going on because I was gradually withdrawing from him emotionally and I was out of touch for hours or days at a time. He knew.
He put his foot down.
“Whatever you have going on, you need to end it. Now,” he said. We were in a hotel suite in Midtown and he was sitting on the sofa next to me, dressed in his suit. He voice and tone and face were serious. Serious as a heart attack. He could be so intimidating.
For a few minutes I tried to deny it and feign ignorance, but it was no use. He knew me too well, and even if he didn’t, when he turned the full force of his scrutiny upon me (or anyone)…he could tell. The Surgeon had a surgeon’s eye. He sees everything, when he bothers to look.
I started to cry. And, readers, you know I never cry.
“It’s not fair! It’s not fair to me! You don’t want me to have anyone in my life but you!”
He paused, considering. Then: “You’re right, Margo. It’s not fair to you, and you put up with a lot. But that’s the way it is. I happened to your life, and that’s just the way it is.”
“Why don’t you want me to be happy? Surgeon, this can’t go on!” I was sobbing and so humiliated, to be crying in front of him.
If this man really loved me, this man who was old enough to be my father, who could never offer me a family or a normal future, he would say something along the lines of: This relationship has been very dear to me and I will cherish it forever, and I will always be your friend and be there for you, and I will miss you, but if you think you can find happiness with this man, you need to move on.
He said nothing of the sort, of course. What he said was: “I need you and we need each other. You are not going anywhere. The sooner you accept that, the easier it will be for you. I’m sorry that you’re crying, darling, but that’s life, and you brought this on yourself when you decided to get involved (with another relationship).”
Sobbing sobbing sobbing, just sobbing on the couch. He passed me a kleenex.
“Look, Margo, you are never going to better-deal me. Nobody else will give you what you need, or understand what you need like me.
Nobody else will ever love you like I do.”
At that, I felt a flash of rage cutting through the grief.
“I sure as hell hope not!” I screamed at him.
His face got tense and I wondered if he was going to punish me for that. By this point in our relationship, insubordination was a capital offense as far as he was concerned.
He said, in a low soft voice, “I know you’re in pain right now, so I’ll let you get away with that one.”
“It’s not fair!” I whispered, hitching in breath.
“I know. But that’s the way it is. Whatever you have going on, you end it now, or else I’ll end it for you.”
I understood this to be the truth. He would find Jeff, and confront him somehow, call him at home or even at his work. He would confront him, and God knows what he’d say…tell him about my history of sex work, working in the dungeon? Tell him where all those bruises really came from? Tell him the truth about the bracelet? Tell him that I was a masochist who craved, and accepted, awful violence?
I knew that the Surgeon would do it. He was absolutely unafraid of confrontation and he was not afraid to violate boundaries.
I went home and wrote Jeff an email. I don’t remember what I wrote word-for-word, but it was something like: I am so sorry, I think you are a wonderful man, but I have an ex-boyfriend who has been contacting me again and my feelings for him and that relationship are still unresolved. I am unable to give you the complete attention and devotion that you so richly deserve. From the bottom of my heart, I am sorry for the pain this may cause you, and I am sorry that I wasted your time. Jeff, I am grateful for how you treated me and our time together.
Yeah, it was not the real/whole truth. But how could I tell him the whole truth…?
He wrote back: Margo, my affection for you is well known, and I do not want to lose you. I want you in my life. But you need to be straight with me.
I did not respond. That was our final communication.
The Surgeon took me to Boston the next day and kept me there for a little while so that he could keep an eye on me and refresh my programming.
That’s all. I’m ashamed that when the Surgeon put pressure on me I folded like a cheap card table. I was a coward. I guess all I can say, in my defense, is that it is very difficult to defy or resist the man….and I would not be the only person in his orbit to say so. In my entire life, I have never met anyone with such a will to power.
Eventually, I started to date other men again, from time to time. The relationships were all strictly recreational–get dinner, hang out, maybe have sex. Friendly but superficial. I didn’t let any of them get close to me (and, if I may add, I never misled any of them. I was very careful about that, because, after Jeff, I felt very guilty)….
….until the Mathematician, when I decided to make a break for it. We all know how that turned out. I lost that “relationship,” but at least I got my freedom.
And now, to wrap this up, I’ll tell you the dream I had about Jeff:
I dreamed that I was at this restaurant we liked to go to, close to Tompkins Square Park, in my neighborhood. It was crowded in there, as it often was, and I was standing in the bar area.
I was looking around, and I saw Jeff seated at one of the tables in the dining area, across from a brunette woman who I immediately assumed was his new girlfriend.
I wanted to approach him and tell him how sorry I was, and that I hoped he was doing well, and was happy, but I felt self-conscious. So, instead, I waited until they were done with their meal, and then they parted ways and I followed him to the train station (just as I’d followed him OUT of the train station the first time I met him).
(Interesting note: in my dream, the car looked like an NJ Transit train car, and not like a PATH train car.)
He took a seat and started to read from his magazine. I approached him and told him that I was sorry.
He ignored me, like he couldn’t hear me. As if I was a ghost.
Maybe I was.