He woke me up at 6 PM after I’d been sleeping for approximately 16 hours. He brought me some more hot chocolate (I don’t drink coffee and only sometimes drink tea) and a glass of ice water.
“Dinner is in two hours! Can I get you anything else? Would you like a Valium?”
The Collector doesn’t abuse substances–not that I’ve ever been able to tell, anyway–but he has Ambien and Valium for when he travels. Sometimes he needs to sleep after God knows how many hours on the airplane.
“What’s for dinner?” I inquired.
“Never ask. It spoils the surprise. Some of your favorite foods, though. Elk steaks to start off with, though.” It was was going to be delicious .
“May I pick out something for you to wear…?” he asked me.
“Do whatever you want,” I said, knowing it was a dangerous thing to say. I wass too fucking exhausted and I knew for a fact, that this could blow up in my face. He went to my closet and selected a short cocktail dress he’d bought me for Christmas (or “Yule,” as he usually calls it) a few years ago. His boys were visiting and I distinctly remember being being humiliated when he asked me to try it on. It was shimmery blue with a low front front and is practically backless. Unless you’re wearing a shrug or some sort of cover-up jacket (he recommended a sheared white fur coat he’d given me), it is only fit for a latenight bar or to go “clubbin” in. I am not a “clubbin” type of girl and only wore it once outside the house, when we had to go to the nightclub to entertain one of his Russian clients for political reasons.
“I think we’re both too old to get into this club,” I told him, getting dressed. It was true. Unless you’re a celebrity or a major music producer, we were both too fookin old. “I don’t think we’ll make it past face control.”
“You’re gorgeous and I have plenty of cash. We’ll get in. (Russian client) will come get us if he needs to. Which he won’t need to,” the Collector told me. “I can get in anywhere, and so can you, with that beautiful fucking face and body.” He came over and kissed me.
Anyway, that was the only time I ever wore the dress out of the house, and now I’m supposed to wear it to dinner? And did I mention that when he gave it to me, he wanted me to try it on WHEN HIS TWO SONS WERE THERE? I had to put my foot down for that one. I fucking hated it when he’d try to show me off in front on them, or get competitive with them (namely the elder one, with whom he has an adversarial relationship) over who had the prettier girlfriend.
Now I asked him–not even a full day in the house–if I could wear something more conservative.
“Well, if you insist. But you look so beautiful in this.”
“FINE!” I snatched it out of his hand. “I need to shower and get ready. May I have some privacy, please?”
“You know, Margo, this is no need to be so touchy. We are going to have a lovely dinner, I promise.” He left.
I took a shower and shaved my legs (didn’t tidy up my muff, because if he thought he was getting laid tonight, he was sadly mistaken). I considered putting on some nice hosiery–God knows the man had bought me enough Wolford, La Perla, and StockinGirl to last 20 years–but I didn’t want to give him any ideas. I didn’t even put on heels, or any shoes for that matter. Then I did my hair and makeup. In retrospect, I should have just showed up looking like a complete slob, but in the Collector’s house there is a tremendous sense of pressure to look perfect, and BE perfect. Everything in the house is beautiful and perfect.
Then it was time for dinner.
I padded out to the dining room, and it was only once I started walking (the shower has a shelf seat you can sit down on) that I realized how uncoordinated I was. Can’t prove it and he’d never admit to it, but there was something in that hot chocolate besides peppermint schnapps. My money’s on Valium, which he uses occassionally to sleep after he’s been on an airplane for 12+ hours and needs to sleep after the jet lag, before he starts a grueling day of business negotiations. He doesn’t abuse it–I know, or at least think I do, because he’d offer me one occassionally and I’d count the pills and note the Rx dispenary date. But he’s drugged me before, usually after something incredibly stressful had happened: the horrific fateful weekend where everything went to shit and the Collector’s family imploded and I left; the handful of times over the years where one of our BDSM sessions went too far and I became very upset. I never complained. Why would I? If I can’t have alcohol, I am perfectly grateful for a few benzos a couple times per year. God knows no doctor will give me a Rx for benzos or anything fun unless it’s under direct medical supervision in a hospital.
In any event, I had to touch the wall to keep equilibrium on my way to the dining room. Once I got seated into a chair with arms, I was perfectly okay.
He always sets an immaculate, beauteous table. One of the first things he taught me to do to help was how to set it myself. Unless we were scarfing down delivery sushi or Indian food on the sofa while watching the news or a movie, we ate at the table every night. Candles, linen placemats, the whole bit. As I’ve mentioned before, ritual and routine are very important to the man.
He peeked his head out of the kitchen door. “I hope you are hungry!”
And in fact, I realized that I was ravenous. Besides pineapple-and-vodkas on the airplane, the Chicago layover, and whatever the fuck I was drinking in the hotel room before I got on the plane (I think it was cranberry cocktails. I like to tell myself that at least the juice has potassium and vitamin C), and the hot chocolate, I hadn’t eaten in three days.
Fun fact about late-stage alkies: when you drink, you don’t eat. It’s why so many are skinny and malnourished. When I was middle-stage, working at my last dungeon, I gained 25 fucking pounds because in addition to the booze, I was scarfing down tacos and chinese food from restaurants down the street. Middle-stage alcoholics get fat in a hurry. Once I moved back to my home state and dryed out, I lost it in a hurry, but even still…for someone who makes a living partially by my looks,and who used to have a pretty severe eating disorder, that weight gain was a devestating experience.
Anyway, getting back to the Collector’s little dinner party for two: the food smelled fucking GREAT. He even baked bread, which he knows how to do but almost never does because baking bread is a pain in the ass, not fun at all unless you’re a huge baking fan, and he’s got a great bakery on speed-dial. I know because once he taught me how to recognize very high-quality food, I went shopping for the dinner menu almost every single day. He’d leave me a shopping list. Dorian’s, Randazzo’s, Harlem Shambles, Amato for venison, you name it. Not to mention that fucking swan he orders for Yule dinner every year (don’t ask).
Dinner was elk steaks with white truffle butter (my favorite meat) and white asparagus. Scalloped potatoes and a big spinach salad with avocado on the side (“I thought you would need some potassium,” he said, and he was undoubtedly right). The last thing you want if you’re malnourished and go into withdrawal are severe muscle cramps. Worst pain I’ve experienced in my life, and I’ve suffered scarring second-degree burns on my arm from a kitchen grease fire.
Frankly, I was worried he’d lay a shit ton of heavy questions about our breakup on me, but he didn’t. He’s not a compulsive womanizer or a natural -born salesman like the Surgeon, but he can be charming and even seductive (he sure seduced my mother in meeting her one weekend and then in their telephone conversations after our breakup). He can leave a very positive impression on people. Boy, did he turn up the charm over our dinner, from the food to everything else. It reminded me a bit of our first several dates, when he hired me as a professional submissive. Even after that, he could be the perfect boyfriend when he wasn’t pulling one of his crazy stunts.
“Thank you for wearing that dress. I know you’re not fond of it, sadly. I love what the candlelight is doing for your decolletage. You are such a beautiful woman.” We were dining exclusively by candlelight. His country has a long history of dining by fire and candlelight, especially when the seasons change and the hours of daylight start to get very short. They still do it today, even with electricity. Some restaurants and bars–especially old-fashioned ones–still offer it. Generally I don’t like sitting in the dark, but for a few hours, it does create a lovely ambiance.
He reached out and touched my hand. I was mostly done with my meal. I could feel his sexual desire for me radiating off of him; it was palpable. To tell you the truth, it was making me a little fucking nervous. Back when we were still dating, one thing I always enjoyed is that he remained very attracted to me, even after over four years. And I was always attracted to him. But I know that after two years–or, shit, with some men, after one year–the sexual attraction starts to wane. The Collector’s attraction to me never decreased. If anything, it increased as my boundaries deteriorated and our relationship became more perverse, and we planned on marriage and a baby. He was ready to be a father again, and he very much wanted a daughter.
Now, tonight, my first night back, all this just made me anxious.
“I would really like some wine,” I said.
His brow furrowed. “I do not know if that’s a wise idea, Margo.”
I laughed. “That’s never stopped you before. Do you think I don’t know what was in that hot chocolate? What, do you think I’m going to get out of control in your house? You know I don’t act out even when I’m smashed.” It’s true. I don’t get aggressive or morose or histrionic. And getting remotely out of control is impossible, unless I ran out and got some booze while he was at work. At my request, he’d shut down his small bar for guests and moved all the liquor to a locked mini-cooler and put a double lock on the wine closet. I couldn’t get into either without a crowbar. Believe me, I’d tried a time or two in the past.
“Very well then. Not very much.” He poured a glass for me. I think it was pinot noir. He was keeping it in an ice bucket on the table with just a layer of ice on the bottom.
“Do you miss (Younger Son)? He misses you very much.”
“Of course I missed him and I was so very sorry that I hurt him.”
“We can discuss this later, when you are ready. You put him through hell when you left, Margo. Thank God he was already accepted to university because he became depressed and his grades went to hell.”
I started to tear up. I knew all about Younger One’s problems when I left the family. The Collector had elaborated upon them at length during one of our last conversations. “You have an OBLIGATION to Younger One!” he’d ranted. “He is crushed!”
What about YOUR obligation to your own son? What happened to that? What about your obligation to your Elder son, Praying Mantis, whom you cut off when everything turned to shit, and now you won’t help him again until he come groveling back with his hat in his hand? This is what I thought, but I never said it to the Collector. I did say it to my shrink.
So, back at the dinner table: I teared up when he was talking about younger one. The Collector stood up to embrace me and I drew back and said that I was sorry, but not ready.
Again, he had the good grace not to be offended. I could tell how much he wanted to touch me. He sat back down and just reached out and held my hand. “Everything will be all right, Margo. You’ll see. I think we should spend some time alone together. When the time is right, we’ll tell him you’re back. He will be so happy.”
Then he asked if he could give me a bath. No, I wasn’t ready for bathtime either, and I said I wanted to sleep in my room until I felt comfortable.
I thanked him for dinner and then helped clear the table. Then I went to my room and changed into gym shorts and a tank top. I locked the door. After a little while he knocked and I asked through the door what he wanted. He told me that he had hot chocolate for me and he’d just leave it on the floor outside. I waited until I heard him walk down the hall. Then I opened the door and took the chocolate and went to bed.
To my knowledge, he didn’t try to get into my room that night.
In the morning, he was completely respectful. He proposed fun things to do.
For the next week, he was the perfect boyfriend. He took me to do all of the things he knew I love to do.
We went to the Butterfly Conservatory. He got a few butterflies on him, but I got lots of them. You have to stay super still so you don’t scare them or crush them. He said, “Oh, they like you!” He knows animals love me. He took lots of pictures.
We went the NY Aquarium. We both loved that. They have a special shark exhibit, and the Collector loves sharks. They are probably his favorite animal. He loves Hammerheads the best, and has a beautiful poster-sized photo of a Hammerhead in his home office. The photo was taken from below, close to the surface, so all you can see is the outline of its body as it’s executing a turn, so the body is almost a circle. He had it hanging in his work office for a while before he decided it might give visitors and clients a bad impression. I think sharks look scary as shit–the dead black eyes, ugh! But we also saw lots of amazing fish and a huge sea turtle. And penguins! And a beautiful jellyfish tank.
We went to the Cloisters. I’ve been there before and wrote about it here. He knows A TON about history and art. I know a lot–definitely more than most people–but He knows almost everything, so he was a great tour guide.
We went book shopping. He even bought me a dress. I have lots of dresses in my closet at his house–most of which he bought me–but he loves to buy me dresses and he can afford it; it’s not as if he’s racking up debt. So I let him. He wanted to buy me lingerie too, but I wasn’t ready for that.
We went to a few great restaurants, including Del Posto, which is one of my very favorite restaurants.
We were having a great time. Unless he’s acting crazy, I really do love his company. I fell in love with him for several reasons, one of which is that I truly enjoy his conversation and I admire him. Or I did, until everything turned to shit one weekend. That week just reminded me of why I fell in love with him in the first place. He can be so much fun, and he genuinely enjoyed introducing me to new experiences. New foods, new places to go, new travel experiences, new shopping experiences. He taught me a lot about cooking and he was always very patient with me, even when I ruined the food sometimes.
(Unlike with his Eldest Son. One time we were at his house in Europe and Eldest was told to cook scallops. Now, scallops are surprisingly hard to cook. One minute too soon and they’re raw. One minute too long, and they’re tough. Well, Eldest cooked em a minute too long, and the Collector yelled at him, which shocked me because this man never raises his voice.
“We’re trying to eat them! Not play hockey with them!” Like chill the fuck out, we have more scallops in the fridge. Supervise him so that he can learn. Later that night, in the bedroom, I rebuked him, which I seldom have the courage to do where his children are concerned. I guess my inner educator came out. I have taught a LOT of young people the age of Elder Son, starting when I was 25 years old.
“You can’t teach anyone anything by yelling at them! You’re not a drill sergeant in the Army! We had 20 more fresh scallops in the fridge! Maybe he’s mad at you all the time because you hurt his feelings. And you yelled at him in front of me, which is humiliating for a young man! Was that the point?!” I’ve seen the Collector dominate people, most especially myself. I know what he’s like when he’s in that mindset.
He was sitting on the bed taking off his socks and paused to consider. Then he said, “Well, you have a point.”
“I think you owe him an apology.”
Well, I don’t think the Collector gave it to him, because the next day I said, “I can teach you how to cook the scallops. It helps to have an egg timer or the timer on your phone.”
Praying Mantis said, “He can cook his own fucking scallops from now on.”
ANYWAY, back to the time I went back: at the end of the week, we watched a movie, “American Factory.” It was really good. We were sitting on the sofa, and I let him snuggle with me. He hugged me under the blanket with his head on my shoulder. Then me laid down with his head on my lap. It was nice and I felt comfortable. He looked so cute and emotionally needy, and he’d been so respectful, I started stroking his hair.
That was the last good day. Then everything got ugly. In a hurry.