The Surgeon’s Parrot

It’s a blast from the past: I’m going to write a little something about the Surgeon.

I was thinking about him recently because when I work in San Francisco I board my parrot, Abe. The boarder keeps many parrots. Some of them are Amazons.  The Surgeon had a Yellow-napped Amazon.

People who are not bird people do not understand what intelligent and highly emotional beings parrots are. They are not mammals, obviously, but they feel love and fear and all the other basic emotions. They bond to you, fall in love with you.

The Surgeon’s Amazon was bonded to him.

The Surgeon neglected him because he was working all the time and he was basically a neglectful person in regard to his personal relationships. The parrot is a personal relationship.

He did not take him out of his cage or play with him on a regular basis.  All he said was, “He’s such a good-looking bird.”  Yes, he’s a good-looking bird, but do you KNOW him?

You buy an animal because you think it’s an ornament? It fits in with your house decor?

Well, one day he let it out, and the parrot flew across the room and bit him on his face.  He had to go to the emergency room and get stitches.  The bird did this not because it was cruel, but because its heart was broken.

After that, he did not let the Amazon out of his cage. Soon after, the Surgeon dropped him off at the dog pound. “Bird is history!” he texted me.

I said, “You left your exotic bird at a dog pound?”  This man is a multi-millionaire. There are parrot sanctuaries. Alternatively, he could have gone to a local avian vet to inquire about re-homing the bird.

“He cost thousands of dollars! I’m sure he’ll find a good new home!”

The Surgeon has daughters.

Of this much, I am sure: what happened to your parrot will happen to them. Your daughters will attack you the minute they have autonomy.

On Starving

In the annals of this deeply personal blog, there are two subjects I have resisted writing about: my relationship with my restraining-order Ex, John, and my eating disorder when it was at its worst.

Which of the two should I try to tackle now, while I feel the urge to write…?

Writing about John would require re-reading my files, both legal and personal, and I just don’t think I have the emotional fortitude to revisit that time of my life today.

So, let’s talk about the anorexia.  I believe that it is a tale which must be told.

(What I’ve written about it in the past, you can find under the tag category “How to Not Eat.”)

There is a reason I’ve avoided discussing this in depth: it was so painful, horrific, and sad that I don’t like to think about it.  The medical establishment classifies eating disorders as mental illnesses, and I believe that taxonomy is accurate.

I developed mine within a year of starting my PhD program, for completely predictable reasons: I was in an academic pressure cooker, I was isolated and without a support system or any meaningful personal relationships, deeply unhappy, and my constellation of personality traits practically dictated it: perfectionism, addictive personality, masochism, over-achievement, and a complete lack of sympathy for myself and an indifference to my personal suffering.  I’m a textbook case, with the exception of coming from a working-class background.

It started with wanting to lose 10 or 15 lbs…I was about 140 lbs at the time, which is normal for a girl who stands 5’10”, but I wanted to get my old body back.  The body I had before my breakup with John. I honestly believe that part of the disorder was a subconscious desire to return to a previous state–the state I was in before that trauma.

Well, dieting is difficult, and “healthy eating” just wasn’t producing the effects I wanted.  I’d never dieted in my life, so I had to learn how to become good at it.

Apt scholar that I am, I started to learn.

You have to sacrifice.  You have to change.  To master the art of deprivation.

I began to whittle away at my eating habits.  The first to go were snacks/candy and full-calorie beverages (except, of course, for the whiskey I was soaking my poor hapless brain in every night I wasn’t writing).  No juice, no smoothies.  No sugar in the tea–drink it dark and bitter…not unlike my heart.

Everything in the fridge becomes the diet version: fat free cheese, reduced-calorie bread, skim milk.

Then, breakfast.  Breakfast was easy to give up, because I’m never hungry in the morning.

I whittled.

The turkey sandwich packed for school doesn’t NEED that cheese.  That salad does not need dressing.

I don’t mind telling you that it was the hardest lesson I’ve ever learned in my life–to completely redefine my eating habits.  To give up common things, like the slice of pizza at a party or a pastry provided at a faculty meeting.  To give it up….and then learn to accept the loss.  To accept that these foods are not for me.

But I was finally getting results.

I bought a calorie handbook and started keeping records of everything that went into my mouth.  Not just the calories…the carbs, the grams of fat and protein.  I carried a notebook in my purse.

I stopped eating in public.

I also started over-exercising.  I bought a membership to New York Sports Club, so that I could go there when the university gym was closed.  I did weight training four days per week, and I started on the treadmill.  At first, it was three miles.  Then, I made it a minimum of five miles…every day.  And that doesn’t count all the walking I was doing around campus or New York.

I began to go to the gym twice a day.  To relieve anxiety, I told myself…but it was driven by anxiety.  By terror.

I bought Slim-Fast shakes and started to drink those in place of solid food.

The food logs I was keeping in notebooks were replaced by Excel spreadsheets.  I know how to manage data.  It was part of my formal training.

I lost 30 lbs in approximately four months…

…and when I was officially starving, I lost my mind.

I started to read cookbooks for recreation.  I bought Gourmet and Cook’s magazines and pour over the recipes in bed, or at my desk late at night.

I would eat whole jars of pickles, because pickles have no calories, and I craved something salty.

I passed out in public a few times–once, on the quad.  Another time in Penn Station, right after I got off the escalator.

I would buy food and pretend to eat it.  Then I would pour bleach on it to make sure it was inedible and I wouldn’t try to dig it out of the garbage can.

When I was in Manhattan for work, I would buy food from stores and then almost immediately throw it into garbage cans.  (Once, I bought an ice cream cone and at it in a bathroom stall in the train station, sobbing the entire time.  That was definitely a low point.)

I stopped menstruating.

I would dream of food.  I would steal crackers from my roommate in the dead of night.

I took photos of myself in the bathroom mirror at night, when I was finished with my work.  I was fascinated by my bones.  None of my rings would stay on my fingers anymore.

I got down to 108 lbs.  I took a million photos of the scale.

I started to throw up when I had dinner dates–either professionally, or with a guy I was seeing for fun.  I’ll have you know that I’ve puked in the bathrooms in all of the very best restaurants in Manhattan!  I’ve puked in Masa and Per Se!  Take that, bitches!

I carried Rolaids to chew in order to neutralize the acid and bile and save my teeth.  I hated to throw up, and didn’t do it often (because I seldom ate meals), but I knew it was murder on tooth enamel because I researched it online.

But, I looked like a teenager again.  What an appropriate and telling allegory.  Been starving all my life.

The Surgeon loved it, and became critical as soon as I started to gain weight again….but that’s another story.

And while all of this was going on…nobody said a word.  I mean, my pants were falling off because they were suddenly too big, and nobody said a thing.

That was the hardest lesson of all.

What Happened with Jeff: Part II

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.


What Happened with Jeff (part I)

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)

(5) A Map of the Pain Revisited

Read More

         I hate to have my picture taken, which strikes some people who know me as odd, since I’m actually quite photogenic.  When I was working as a prodomme I had to get my professional photos redone every year to keep them current, but otherwise I avoid having my picture taken.  I don’t like looking at myself.

        The exception are injuries photos.  From beatings.

En Route

      I’ve documented most of my more significant or interesting beatings over the years.  I know the photos by heart.  If you showed me a random photograph of bruises on my back, I’d be able to tell you where and when it happened: “Surgeon, San Diego 2012.  I was wearing my red dress.”  

         Sometimes I’d take photos of the marks as they worsened and then gradually healed, trying to capture the colors over time, from blood red to hematoma black to gray to green to yellow, and then finally to pale Margo skin.  

        I’d take photos from as many different angles as I could, usually in front of a mirror, or mirrors.  Bathroom mirrors, most often.  

         Sometimes the Surgeon would take them for me.  He was the only person I really talked to about these photos.  Well, I didn’t really talk to him about them…but I shared them with him.  He was very indulgent in this matter.  This was, in fact, one of his rare true moments of grace: he never judged my masochism, my craving for violence.  He accepted that part of me completely, and he did what he could to meet my needs.

          I’d show him pictures on my computer screen: “See that one you left last time?  See, look now!  The chain left that!”

         He’d smile and nod.  That was something else: the marks never revolted or disturbed him.  It must have been all the medical training.  He wasn’t squeamish at all.

          I remember him touching my shoulder one time: “Margo, be careful who you show these to.  I know that they make you happy, but people won’t understand.  Don’t keep them on your PC in case you have computer problems.  Promise me.”

         He was right, of course.  I’ve seen the way people react to my marks.  Even people who ought to know better, like other mistresses in the Studio.  I was photographing my ass after a heavy caning session with a visiting Englishman when I saw Maria looking at me.  Her expression was fear and revulsion.  Sometimes other people can understand how I could do it for money, or do it as a gesture of love for the man who inflicts it.  Almost nobody understands my feelings of excitement or fascination, the curiosity.  Or, strangest of all: my complete disregard for my own physical integrity.  I have fears.  Pain is not one of them. 

        I can get caught up in re-examining these old photos, studying them, reliving the experiences and what happened afterward.  Why? It never gets old.  I look at them as if there will be something new.  An answer, perhaps.  

         That’s all for tonight.  There’s nothing else.  


Heinrich Meets the Surgeon: “Everything They Say About You Is True.”

       Heinrich met my Ex, the Surgeon, exactly one time.    

        Most of my friends never met the Surgeon because our differences in age and stations in life made it impossible for me to integrate him into my social life.   He would have been impossible to explain, because the dungeon was literally the only place we ever could have met in New York, outside of a chance encounter on the street around his neighborhood on the Upper East Side.  For his part, when I went with him to his conferences, he usually passed me off as a pharmaceutical representative or a colleague of the professional statistician he hired to edit his academic publications. 

       So, most of my friends never met him (in fact, most of them didn’t know that he even existed).  I protected him very well.  My Canadian friend, who was my roommate for a few years when we lived in that shitty neighborhood close to campus (God, it was awful), admitted to me later that he periodically overheard both the phone sex and the rare argument.  Aside from my therapist (and, of course, the readers of this blog), that roommate was the only person with front-row tickets to the Surgeon and Margo show.  Everyone else just got bits and pieces.

        Among those who knew of his existence, he won no popularity contests.  Even my Canadian friend, who found constant amusement in the Surgeon’s sexual antics, egotism, and obsessive womanizing, didn’t think he was good for me.  

        Heinrich didn’t like him at all.  I was freer to talk about him with Heinrich than I was with my other friends, because Heinrich knew about my secret job and about my sadomasochism.   Heinrich nicknamed him “Jaws” because of his aggressive personality and his predilection for biting (I’d show up from time to time with bite marks, actual tooth imprints, on my neck or the undersides of my arms).  

         Heinrich is also one of my only friends to have actually met him.  In the flesh.

         It was an accident.  Heinrich was in the East Village and stopped by my apartment to retrieve a book he’d lent me.  We were sitting on my couch, having a chat, when I heard a knock at the door.

          The Surgeon, the Surgeon.  The Surgeon and his house calls.  I was startled when I opened the door, because I wasn’t expecting him.  

         The Surgeon, always suspicious, took my surprise for dismay…and, following that, guilt.

          He was right about the dismay.  I knew that I was going to be in trouble the minute he found a man in my apartment who wasn’t one of my students or hideously ugly. 

        Heinrich was neither. 

        The Surgeon looked over my shoulder and saw the German sitting on my couch.  

          “Well hello, darling.  Who’s this?” he asked, while keeping his eyes locked on Heinrich.  The Surgeon smiled.  That smile made my stomach clench up.  It was his fake, scary smile.  The Surgeon’s real smile is absolutely winning and adorable, but his scary smile is not.  He often smiles the scary smile right before he does something terrible.     
        Then, as he is wont to do (as he did three years later, the final time I saw the man, when he made his final house call to me), he stepped over the threshold, inviting himself inside. As if the place was his.

         Heinrich stood up.  Because my living room was so narrow and the couch was opposite the door, there was not much space between the two men.  A small coffee table.

         “This is my friend Heinrich.  I told you about him!” I said, already sounding scared and defensive, even though I had nothing to hide regarding my relationship with Heinrich.  I’d never dated him, never had sex with him.  

          “I see,” smiled the Surgeon.  Neither man offered to shake hands.   Heinrich had put his hands in his pockets.  The room was filling up with tension.  I noticed that my birds had stopped chirping.  Parrot had stopped playing on top of her cage and was standing, frozen, on the edge, watching us.  Only the fish were oblivious, swimming back and forth in their great lush aquarium.  

            “He came by to pick up a book!” I offered, by way of explanation.  My voice sounded high and reedy to my own ears.  I snatched the book up from the top of the coffee table and shook it.  Evidence!   

             “How nice,” smiled the Surgeon, not taking his eyes off Heinrich’s face.  Heinrich did not smile back.  He had his Easter Island Statue face going on, but he wasn’t blinking.  

              “I had no idea you were coming over,” I said, not realizing how bad that sounded until the words were out of my mouth.

              They just stood there, staring at each other.  I’ve seen enough spaghetti Westerns to know what I was looking at.  I was scared to death.

              “Get lost,” said the Surgeon.  “I want to be alone with my girlfriend.”  

             “Margo has not asked me to leave,” said Heinrich.  He didn’t take his eyes off the Surgeon’s face.

             “I told you to leave,” said the Surgeon.  He actually said that. He can be so rude.  He has no shame, no qualms, about rudeness or confrontation whatsoever.  

          I had to get Heinrich out of there. 

          I held out the book at shoulder level and said,  “Thanks for lending it to me.”

            He turned his head and looked at me, finally.  He didn’t move to take the book.  He left it there, dangling in mid-air, as if he didn’t see it. 

            “Margo, are you going to be okay?”

             “Pardon me?” I asked, as if I had no idea what he was talking about.   But I knew.  Of course I knew.  Later, when I thought of it, I would feel humiliated, but now I could only think of getting Heinrich out of there before I made it worse for myself.  Or for him.  

          Heinrich finally reached out and took his book.  The Surgeon moved to one side to clear a path to the door, which was still open. 

        Heinrich brushed past me and out, and the Surgeon slammed the door behind him.

          Then we were alone together.

          Most of the scary smile disappeared, but he still had a smirk, a half-smile.  It is difficult for me to describe what he’s like when he’s in this mode, but I can recall it vividly, even now, years later.  He had all this energy…but he always had energy, he was indefatigable, like a humming bird or a bee.  It felt like being close to a hot oven.  He neglected me so much, so often, in the course of our relationship…but when he turned the full force of his attention to me, it was…well, it was an experience.  The Surgeon has a surgeon’s eye.  He sees everything.  Fucking everything. 

        He shucked his suit coat and hung it on the coat rack by the door.  Then he loosened his necktie.  

        “Who the fuck was that, Darling?” he asked.  To an outsider, his voice would have sounded friendly, but I knew it wasn’t.  He was taking off his cufflinks.  

       “That’s my friend, Heinrich,” I repeated, my mouth going dry.

       “Heinrich?  What sort of name is that?  He has an accent.” The cufflinks went into the pocket of his trousers.

         “He’s German.”  

         “I never liked them,” said the Surgeon. (To be fair, I never liked them was exactly the same thing he said about the nationality, profession, or religious affiliation of whomever he was presently at odds with).                
          He walked straight to my bedroom, passing by the birds, who were still quiet.  Not eating, not drinking, not playing.  Frozen.  Looking.  They are prey animals, sensitive, and they know when a threat is in the vicinity.  

          “Margo?  Let’s talk,” his voice, from my bedroom.  I heard the sound of the suitcase being slid out from underneath the bed.  The special green suitcase.  With all the special tools.  And then the sound of the drawer on the nightstand.  Which contained a bottle with something he liked to take.  

           I stood, frozen, rooted to the spot, right by the front door.  

           “Make me a drink, honey.  My girl looks so pretty today.  Who did you dress up for, pretty?”

          I went to the fridge, and took the vodka out of the freezer.  I made him a drink.  My hands were shaking.

          And then, I carried it to my bedroom, to meet my fate. 

                             *                               *                             * 

           Two hours later, Heinrich texted my cell phone. 

            I couldn’t answer it, because I was tied up on my bed.  I heard it beep and light up, though, and when it did, the Surgeon went to fetch it from the top of my dresser.  He always went through my phone whenever he felt like it. 

            “Who’s this?” he asked.  The glowing screen illuminated his face.  “Oh, look.  It’s your little German boyfriend.  Margo, he asks, ARE YOU OKAY?”

             (note: “little” is interesting, given that Heinrich was significantly taller than the Surgeon.  But, to the Surgeon, almost everyone else is “little.”) 

            Then, get this: the Surgeon fucking called Heinrich back, ON MY PHONE!

           “Surgeon, don’t!” I immediately started begging, from the bed.  I was fuckin mortified.  “Please don’t call him!  Don’t!  Surgeon, please don’t embarrass me in front of my friend!”

          The Surgeon pushed the CALL button.  He really did it.

         I heard Heinrich pick up: “Ja?  Margo?”

         “Fritz?  Hi, Fritz!” said the Surgeon.  I remember him very clearly.  He was standing at my bedroom window, by my desk.  He was naked save his underpants.  It was dark outside and the traffic lights from the street below reflected off the glass and onto his torso, which was moist with sweat.  

        The Surgeon knew Heinrich’s name.  Unlike me, he is excellent with names, and never needs reminding.  He was calling Heinrich by the wrong name to antagonize him and trivialize him.  

        “Fritz, we got your text message.  Margo is okay.  She’s just fine! Okay?  She can’t talk right now, though, because she’s busy sucking my dick.  I thought I would respond, instead.”

          I wanted to die. 

          There was a pause, and then the Surgeon put the phone down on my desk.

          “He hung up on me,” he said.

         “I can’t believe you did that,” I said, although I actually could believe it, very well.  I was so ashamed and embarrassed.  I felt hot angry tears spring up.  Angry tears are a very rare phenomenon for me.  

          “He said to me, ‘Everything they say about you is true,’ and then he hung up on me.”              
        He came to sit on the edge of the bed.  My wrists were cuffed to either side of the wrought-iron bed frame.   My feet were immobilized.  The fine pale skin of my breasts and thighs  and abdomen was covered with bite marks and hickies and bruises.   He was very deliberate about marking his territory when he was feeling possessive.  

        ” ‘Everything they say about you is true?’  What have you been telling him about me, Margo?” he asked.
         “Very little, and certainly nothing personal, or anything that would invade your privacy or threaten your practice,” I said.

           He accepted that, because he knew it was true.  It was always true.  I protected him better than I protected myself.  I know how to keep secrets for men. 

                  *                                 *                           * 

           Heinrich waited two weeks to contact me.  He sent me a text announcing his intention to call and rang exactly fifteen minutes later.


         “Margo.  I….I want to say to you, that I am yet your friend.  This is the same, between us.”

        “I would not care if you did.  He has force on you.  I understand.  He is not a question for me.  I see, very clear, who he is.  I was afraid for you.  That he would harm you when alone.” 

“Because I’ve Abused You”

     We were in my bedroom, on the bed.  

      The Surgeon was on top of me, drilling into me.  He’d placed a pillow over my head, presumably because he wouldn’t have to look at my face, but possibly because he fantasized about smothering me to death with it.  In the future, whenever I thought about going back to him, I’d tell myself: remember the pillows.

      He was having difficulty achieving orgasm.

      “When I leave, I’m going to turn off the lights, and you’re going to stay in bed.  You’re going to stay in bed and cry.  Do you know why?”

        “Why?” I asked, from under the pillow.

         “Because I’ve abused you,” he said.

         And with the vision of that event in his head, he was finally able to come.

          How do you think that made me feel?

         When he left, he turned off the lights.

         And me…?

         I stayed.  I stayed for two more years.

Postmortem of a House Call (Or, Christmas with the Surgeon)

    It’s been almost eight months since the Surgeon made his House Call.  At first, I didn’t think that it had affected me that much emotionally.  It wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened to me.  It wasn’t even the worst thing he’d ever done to me.  I was a little shocked, of course, and then very pissed off, and also worried that he might come back and try again.  I think the baby card offended me more than anything. 

      It did seem to provide him with some closure.  He won, he got a little revenge, he could sleep at night feeling that he was the one on top.  And I’m sure the lawyer’s letter and the threat of a restraining order didn’t hurt either.  He is very protective of his practice, and the only thing that he loves more than philandering and fucking people up is making money. 

      So it was finally over. I had to deal with loneliness, but I’m used to that, and I had to grieve the loss of the relationship, which was the most significant one of my adult life.  The House Call, though, I did’t think affected me much.

      I was wrong.

      It sneaked up on me over a period of months, and I’d find myself laying in bed or sitting at my desk in a state of high agitation, outraged at the fact that he really did that to me.  He really did it! 

       And on the heels of that: pain.  Quite a bit of hurt, actually, which is strange, because I really ought to know better.  Nothing about his behavior should surprise me anymore. The Surgeon has some very, shall we say, interesting neuroses and some very interesting sexual proclivities, all of which I am too decent (or, perhaps, too cowardly) to share on this blog, but he is also a man of habit and thoroughly predictable.  He’s an asshole.  He acts like an asshole.  Why should I be hurt that he acted like an asshole towards me?  Because he said that he loved me? 

      Well, yes.  Because he said that he loved me.  I’ve had a lot of emotional labor to do in order to work through that in the last few months.

      Let’s move on.  He made the House Call in September.  Then I got a letter from him in late December, which was right about the time I’d left him for the Mathematician a year earlier (thankfully, I have no feelz for him except for contempt and, I admit, a lingering fascination with his cockatoo-borrowing. That has to be a new low in Things Men Will Do To Impress Girls.  A cockatoo!  Fucker.).

     This is the Surgeon’s letter.  It’s not actually what he wrote–think of it as the Executive Summary.  It’s all over the map.  I think he might have been drunk when he wrote it.  He’s always impulsive and when he drinks, forget about it. 

Dear Miss Margo, 

I feel a little badly about my House Call and what I did.  I hope you realize that I did it because the way that you treated me is unconscionable.  I also wanted to give you a baby.  Our relationship never should have ended.  I have never had this much emotion for anyone in my life.  You need to come back to me and be my girlfriend again.  I think of you every day.  What you have done is not right. I will make a financial commitment and not abandon you.  Even your own mother did not help you, but I did.  Have you ever asked yourself why?  I love you and we are met to be together.

     Who’s the guy you left me for?  Sorry it didn’t work out but I have no idea how you thought you could better-deal me.  Want me to hurt him?  Tell me who he is.

      The Surgeon

     Unconscionable.  He really used that word.  To describe my behavior. 

      I read it to my friend, Drug Monkey, who said, and I quote: “Wow, what a loser.” 

      Professor T-Rex found it sort of pitiful and told me to give it to my lawyer, which I did.

     But since we’re on the subject of unconscionable behavior, let’s revisit the scene of the crime: Christmas, five years previous.

     I was in my Ph.D. program and my relationship with the Surgeon was just over the two-year mark.  It was as serious as it was ever going to get.  He almost destroyed it.

      It was the week leading up to Christmas, which was a very busy time at my University because that school scheduled finals right up until Christmas Eve, which was a nightmare.  I can’t tell you how many times I dropped off a hard copy of my final research assignment or essay en route to the airport for an all-day flight back home.  So, a stressful week. 

      The Surgeon was in a weird mood, too.  He was having staffing problems (he always had staffing problems.  Wonder why?), and then he had to do holiday family shit.  The Surgeon would rather be eaten alive by rabid wolverines than spend time with his family, but he forces himself to do it.  If I hated my family that much, I would just dump them.

     Well, the Surgeon called me and I knew that I was in trouble because I could hear the tension in his voice.  He had a very specific tone of voice that he used when he was dangerous.  I identified it as the “I am under pressure and I am going to fuck you up” tone of voice. He can smile when he talks this way, and even laugh, but I’m telling you, it’s spooky.  Usually when I heard that tone of voice, I just made myself scarce for a few days until it blew over, because that tone of voice meant that someone was going to get it. I just went out for that proverbial pack of cigarettes and stayed gone. 

          The Surgeon had Christmas day off because his practice was closed, and he told me that he wanted to see me.

          “But, Surgeon, I’m flying home on Christmas Eve.”

          “Change the flight.  Leave on the 26th.”

           “Surgeon, I only see my family twice a year now, and you know that my mother is a Christmas fanatic.  My family is expecting me.”

          “But I was planning to see you on the 25th.”

           I knew this was bullshit.  He’d never mentioned any such thing!

          “Surgeon, you’re being unreasonable.  What am I supposed to tell my family?”

         “Tell her that you need to see your boyfriend and you’ll be there on the 26th.”

           “You want me to ruin my mother’s Christmas?  She’s sentimental!”

            “Make it happen,” he said, and hung up the phone.

            I was fucked.  The double bind, the Surgeon’s favorite form of torture.  There was absolutely no way to win in that situation.  My only choice was to pick who I was going to hurt and piss off: my family, or the Surgeon. 

           I was miserable.

           The Surgeon gave me an hour in which to stew in my anxiety and misery, and then called me back.  I didn’t want to take the call, but I had to.

           “Tell me something good,” he said.  Yup, the voice was intense. I felt it with the same foreboding a Kansan ranchwoman feels when tornado clouds assemble on the horizon. 

            “Surgeon, I can’t cancel Christmas!  Come on!  I wouldn’t ask you to do this for me!”

             “Why not?  This is a tremendous disappointment to me.  You are ruining my plans.  Just call your Mom and tell her that you’ll be there on the 26th.”

             He kept at me all…fucking…day.   I do sadism for a living, but I have to tell you, I do not think that I am capable of pressuring someone the way that he was pressuring me.  I was so upset that I was sick to my stomach.  I was trying to finish a final exam, too–so much for that.

           All he wanted was a validation of his power over me.  He just wanted to make me do something that he knew I really didn’t want to do.  He just wanted to see me jump.  It’s no different, really, than the asshole boss who calls you out of the blue on a Saturday night at 10 PM asking for a project status report…only much, much crueler.

        It took most of the day, as well as a panic attack and some hysterical begging on my part not to make me go through with it, but eventually I caved.  I was outgunned.  It was like being at the Alamo.

        I called my Mom and told her that I had a job interview on the morning of the 27th and it was for a last-minute teaching job, and would she mind if I flew in immediately afterward?  I really needed the money from the teaching job, I said.

        (I should have just said, Mom, my fucking awful boyfriend is forcing me to do this, see you on Friday, but I didn’t.  I was ashamed of myself.)

          The disappointment in her voice was palpable, but she said that she understood.

        I called the Surgeon back to tell him what I’d done.

       “That’s great!” he said, and his own demeanor changed.  He was happy and smiling again.  But there was something else I detected in his voice: gloating.

           Then he let me go and said that he’d call me back after his meeting.

         I felt fucking miserable, but at least it was OVER.  At least it got him off my back.

         Or so I thought.

         I still cried a lot that night.  I felt really badly and guilty about the whole thing.

         So, what does he do?  What does the Surgeon do?

         It wasn’t enough.  He needed more

         He fucking called me back the next morning, cheerful and happy.

         “Hi, Baby!  How’s my girl?  Hey, I’m sorry if I was a little tense yesterday.  All that shit at the office, you know.  But, hey, I wanted to tell you…I forgot that I have to pick up my dogs from the dog-sitter on Christmas so that they aren’t here when her family comes over.  I’m going to have to run them out to Long Island, it’s a long drive.  Can we get together on the 26th instead?  That’d be great.”

         I just sat there.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

        “You want me to spend Christmas alone, after I cancelled my family plans, so that you can pick up your dogs from the dog-sitter?”
       “I forgot!” he said.  He didn’t fucking forget.  I could hear it in his voice.  He just wanted to hurt me and humiliate me that much more.  He was enjoying himself.  Like I said, the man is a sadist for real.  Besides, the excuse was proposterous on its face.  He could have paid someone to pick up his dogs.  He could have gotten them the day before.  It made no sense.

          “I’m going home!” I screamed into the phone.  Then I hung up and changed my flights back to Christmas Eve.  It cost me a pretty penny and I had to take the red-eye, too.

          Then I cried a lot.  It really hurt.

           He was furious that I left, but he also knew that he’d gone too far, and he gave me space.  I cut him off for about five months. He never did admit what a cruel and fucked-up thing he did, he only apologized for “being selfish” and he acknowledged that I “saw the situation differently” than he did.

           He knew what he did.  He never fucked with my relationship with my family again. He went too far in other areas, at other times, but he was on his best behavior around Christmas after that.

           For my part, I never saw him the same way after that.  I withdrew emotionally and always treated him with caution after that, like a dangerous dog.  I acknowledged to myself that he was sick and that he would hurt me if I left him.  I also acknowledged to myself that he did not really love me, because he would not have done that if he did.  I started dating other men. 

          Calling me the next morning was premature.  I don’t think that he thought that through.  If he hadn’t been doing his victory-lap jerkoff sadism-fest, he would have figured out that the truly  awful thing to do would be to just abandon me and leave me hanging on Christmas day, when it was too late for me to go home.

           Or come over on Christmas (without so much as a card), fuck me, and leave after twenty minutes.  I think that I’m really lucky that that did not happen to me.  If he thought about it more, that’s what he would have done.

          I am sure that he has done this to another woman–made her compromise her holiday or travel plans, and then leave her hanging.  Probably more than one woman.

         And then he calls me leaving him “unconscionable.”

        And he makes his house call, banging down the door, and I wonder to myself, I can’t believe he did it!  

         Yeah, I can believe it.  I can believe it.

         It still would have been sort of fun, though, to watch him eat the Mathematician for lunch.

The Blowjob Wars

  Note: I almost didn’t post this, because it’s sexually explicit and it’s also, well, pretty fucking emotionally intimate.  I feel conflicted about sharing such a personal memory with the whole internet, but what the hell…look at my blog, that train has left the station.

      If you get triggered (or whatever it’s called) by reading about quasi-sexual abuse, you might find this upsetting, so proceed with caution.  This thing started out as a good-natured romp about blowjobs and got really heavy in a hurry.  

       Sorry I’ve been AWOL.  I had some personal stuff to take care of and I’ve been working overtime to make money for Christmas, and it’s the end of the semester.  If you wrote to me, thanks for your patience.

                             *                             *                          *      

    After work, I went out with a few girlfriends for margaritas and chips-and-salsa at a Mexican restaurant a few blocks away from the Studio (well, they had margaritas.  I had Diet Coke). 

      The conversation turned, as it invariably does, to the topics of men and sex.

      Stevie gave us an update on the spousal conflict in her household: The Great Blowjob Wars of 2013

      “We were having a great morning on Sunday, cuddling and drinking coffee in bed!  And then we started to hug and get a little frisky, you know, and we kicked the cat off the bed, and my kid was at her father’s house for the weekend, so we finally had some privacy…

      I’m finally looking forward to getting some action with my man–it’d been over a week!–and then…then he has to go and ruin it begging for a blowjob!”

       The Blowjob Wars, they wageth on.  

        “He knows that I hate to do it!  So why does he keep asking me?  He’s obsessed with it!  But I’m not going to suck your dick, dude!”  Stevie wailed, and ordered another margarita.

         “He’s probably obsessed with it because it’s become such a big deal in your relationship.  That, or he told his friends that you don’t like to do it, and now they’re giving him shit about it.  Guys put a lot of pressure on each other about their sex lives.  Even grown men who ought to know better,” I said.

         “I’m sick of fighting about this,” said Stevie.  

          “Can I ask you something?  And please don’t take this as a reproach; I don’t think you should have to do any sex act that you hate.  But I’m curious: why don’t you like it?”

          “It feels degrading.”

           “Really?  You think so?”


           “That honestly never occurred to me,” I said.  I felt mystified.

           “How do you feel about it?”

            “I like it.  It makes me feel powerful.”

            It’s true.  It does.

            The Blowjob Wars wageth on…but they do not wageth on in Margo Manor.  

             I have spent some of the happiest time of my adult life sucking cock.  In fact, I’d be dissatisfied in a relationship where I couldn’t do it.  One of my Exes could never reach completion that way, and it was a constant source of disappointment for me (I never told him that, of course.  Saying that would be insensitive.).  

          I have no idea why I like it, but I do.  When I am around a man I find sexually attractive, I invariably start musing about what it would be like to suck his cock.  I think this on the subway at least once a day.  I think it when I see actors I like in movies.  I never, ever fooled around with professors in my Department–that I a boundary I have always strictly observed–but I have given some of them about a million imaginary blowjobs.  I swear to God, if I knew that I could do it without getting myself in some very dangerous situations, I would run around dispensing blowjobs all day, like some little demented Blowjob Fairy.  

         I don’t get bored of it in a relationship, either:  my boyfriends get blown practically every day unless I’m sick or we’re having a fight (and the Surgeon got it even if we were having a fight).  I was sucking the Surgeon’s cock on a regular basis, right up till the bitter end (ha! lame joke!). 

         I can’t begin to tell you how many times I sucked that man off.  When I try to make a guesstimate, my mind quails.  My brain doesn’t have the computing power.  I spent a goodish (and, for the most part, very happy) portion of our relationship crouched on the floor, in between his legs.  In cars.  In stairwells.  Behind restaurants, at night.  By my bed.  By his bed.  In bathrooms.  At the desk.  In front of the television.  In a million hotel rooms, from New York to San Diego.  

        He would give it to me as a gift when he was happy with me.  He would use it to punish me when he was angry with me.  He would use it to correct me when he thought I required discipline.  He would lecture me while I sucked his cock (and, often, when he fucked me).  A little reprogramming session.  It’s actually sort of amazing, you know, how effective that was as a pedagogical technique.  You’d think I wouldn’t have been able to think about anything else when I had a dick in my mouth, but, actually, I was able to focus on his words quite well.  Perhaps it was the arousal that such proximity to his penis would invariably provoke within me.  It was like a spell.  

        The mouth is not for speaking.  It is not for eating.  It is for sucking my dick.  You were put on this earth to make my cock feel good.  The most important job in your life is to keep me happy.
       The only time I ever resented it were the times I was angry with him–usually with significant justification, as the man was pretty much selfishness personified–and I would be expressing my grievance, and he would stop, turn around, and open up his pants.  And then just stand there.  Waiting expectantly. 

        Because we both knew what that meant: Argument is over.  Shut up.  Come here.  Suck my cock. 

        Isn’t that what men say to each other when they’re angry?  ‘Suck my dick?’  Well, that’s what he was saying to me, figuratively and literally, and there were times when it felt like a slap in the face.  It would infuriate me (as, I’m sure, it was intended to).

        But, more often than not, I would do it.

        Because of the mandate to obey.  

        It’s a complicated feeling, to take an insult like that, and deny your own righteous rage, and participate in your own oppression by cooperating and humiliating yourself.  And it is.  Humiliating.  Because you know, while you’re doing it, that a dignified person with healthy self-regard would say something along the lines of: How dare you trivialize my feelings and my complaint by interrupting me with a blowjob request?  Who the hell do you think you are? 

        Yup.  It hurts, to suck cock under those circumstances.  Which was the point.  It was supposed to hurt.  Pain is crucial to the sadist’s enjoyment.  And you know what sort of man the Surgeon was.

        I would stop talking, and drop to my knees, and crawl across the room.  Asking myself, at every step, if I was really going to do this to myself.  If I was really going to reward his insult by giving him what he wanted

         With every step I crawled, the room was filling up with tension.  I couldn’t look him in the eye.  It was too fucking humiliating.  I couldn’t raise my eyes above the open fly of his trousers.  His hands were in his pockets, and I wondered if they were clenched in anticipation, as he waited to see if I was actually going to go through with it.  The rage and shame were breathtaking.  And they were increasing, second by second.  My blood was rushing in my ears.  

         I reached up and unbuckled his trousers.  I saw, out of the corner of my vision, that he was staring at my face intently, but I didn’t look up.  I couldn’t handle eye contact.  I recognized his belt.  It was a gift he’s brought for me at Bloomingdale’s.  He’d beaten me with it many, many times.  My chest was so tight I could hardly breath.

         I reached into his pants and freed his cock.  He was hard.  Hard as a rock.  He always was on these occasions.  It’s quite a power rush, to make someone do something you know they don’t want to do.  I know.  

        It was the final second.  Time for the moment of truth.

        I went to work.

        It didn’t take long.  The situation was too tense.  He came so hard that he screamed and bend over double, crushing my small skull in between his hands, the fingers twisted in my hair.

        Did I swallow it…?  Do you really have to ask?

        “That was incredible,” he said.  Yes, yes it was, for all kinds of reasons.

           “I love you.  Go make me a drink.  I’ll take care of you when I can manage again in an hour,” he said. 

           I did.  

            He was happy again, in a good mood.  Smiling.  Order had been restored.  Margo was back in her place.  

          Everything was right with the world again.

         And that is my blowjob blog post, which turned out to be a hell of a lot more complicated than I thought it would be when I sat down to compose it.

Margo Gets the Job

      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.