I sip my coffee, trying to stay cool. “Am I asking the impossible?”
He only smiles in response, leaning back in his chair with his hands clasped on the table. “Why?”
I hesitate for a second, feeling dizzy with the sudden depth that answering this question will require when I only met the man across from me less than five minutes ago.
“Are you one of those that read Fifty Shades and then…”
“No, no,” I jump in. “I haven’t read it.” What editor ever reads for fun? “I’ve just always found it really...hot.” Pathetic answer.
He continues, unruffled. “Was discipline ever a part of your past relationships?”
“No. I tried...sort of. He wasn’t into that at all.”
“And how about now?”
“What do you mean?”
He cocks his head. “Does this flavor suit your current partner?”
The waitress returns with our coffee. I stir in a long stream of sugar and top it off with milk while she arranges everything for a second time on the table and then drones, “Ya’ll let me know if ya need anything else.”
“Thanks,” he says after her, then turns back to me and raises an eyebrow.
I take a sip before answering. “No current partner.”
“Ok.” He kinda swallows the words while he nods. He’s thoughtful; like he’s re-evaluating his strategy, shifting his camp to a better vantage point. His voice drops to just above a whisper. “You’re right. Done right, dominance and submission - hot. It’s primal. It’s getting all the societal politeness out of the way, stripping naked emotionally, and letting each express their essence in a way that meets the deepest needs of the other. You following?”
“Yeah.” Oh, I’m following, all right. Anytime a rugged, muscular, conversationally-able man says words like dominance or submission - not to mention stripping naked - you can bet I’m following.
“Remember, I said ‘done right’. Submission probably isn’t a primal need of every woman, no more than dominance is a craving of every man. And if it’s not really coming from the deepest part, it’s just another silly role playing game. So, I said that I’d teach you how to be a submissive, but that’s not actually what I’d be doing.”
“It’s not?” I say, weakly.
“Nope. If you decide that this is what you want, then I’ll take you to my workshop and see if I can’t carve away the stuff that’s trapped the submissive that is already there, waiting to come out.”
I swallow. Then shrug. “Where do I sign?”
We’ve been meeting regularly for coffee -once a week for the past month. He’d sent me home from our first meeting with a bizarre list of sex activities and asked me to indicate yes/no/maybe. In subsequent meetups (always at a different coffee establishment hidden in some obscure corner in some obscure town within a forty-minute radius from me), we’d talked through details. Clinically, calculatingly, under-our-breath, discussing whippings and shackles and dildos of endless variety. He always manages to be discrete without looking shifty or diabolical.
I’m sure I just look paranoid. I live in dread of the day that one of the sweet middle aged ladies a few tables over will overhear “ball gag” or “nipple clamps” and shriek in horror.
I spend an embarrassing number of spare moments daydreaming about what it might be that he does in real life. I know I probably shouldn’t because it has no bearing on our strange arrangement.
His clothes are nice. Nothing flashy, but definitely not off-the-rack from Walmart. Always jeans that seem made for his body and a darkly colored V-neck t-shirt that fits him just right.
I don’t even know if Jake is his real name.
Maybe he’s a lawyer in the nearest big town (you know, the one’s bursting at the seams with a population of one hundred thousand) and he comes out here to blow off steam.
Maybe he is a Dallas banker risen from humble means.
Maybe he’s a doctor. Oh my gosh, I hope that’s not the case. I can only imagine how humiliating it would be to be sitting barely draped in that paper robe - surprise! - he is the doctor that comes in the door.
It could happen.
Of course, being in a paper robe in front of him would be far less revealing than the many things he’s proposed to do to me on the list that we are now negotiating. And speaking of which, the one thing that is obviously, glaringly missing from his list is actual sex. And now, several weeks into this, I think I’ve finally worked up the guts to ask him about it.
“So…” I down the rest of my coffee and lean across the table, “...I noticed that sex is not on the list.”
I wait for him to jump in, offer an explanation. But he just leans across the table, matching my pose, meeting my eyes evenly, a slightly maddening smile on his face.
“Are you…? Is this…?” Purse the lips, breathe deep, start over. “Is it...because it’s just a given?”
I was never that girl who showed up at a party and then disappeared into the back room with random guy after random guy. I’ve never even propositioned a man. Sam was my first boyfriend, my only partner. I don’t want to sound like a skank for bringing the question of sex up, but I don’t want to be caught by surprise either.
He chews on his lip, not breaking eye contact. “I was wondering if you were ever going to ask,” he finally says. “No, it’s not at all a given.” He scratches at something behind his head. “Listen, what we’ve been discussing is essentially transactional. Including sex as part of a contract between two non-committed parties...I don’t know, it just seems too much like it’s putting you in a call girl role. Call me strange, but I think sex should be more than that.”
“But, I’m confused. All this stuff is totally sexual.”
“You’re absolutely right. It is. And maybe in your mind it wouldn’t make any difference if sex is on the list or not, but it does make a difference to me. I don’t want to look at you that way; like sex is just another commodity to be negotiated, like you’re a hooker or something. I’ll ask a lot of you, but that is one thing that I won’t ask. Do you understand where I’m coming from?”
“I think so.” And I’m left speechless by it.
Another reason I haven’t rushed to jump back into the world of dating is because I thought that men like Sam - who had enough discipline to not try to wheedle me into bed after the first date - were a dying breed. I’m not turned on by guys who claim that listening, cuddling, caring are all justifications for getting in my pants. Sam was never like that. We’d been virgins at our wedding and I’d loved him for it.
Jake taps a finger on the table top, not breaking eye contact. “I think you’ve been sufficiently informed of my expectations. And I feel I have a sufficient understanding of your limitations…”
See, it’s talk like this that makes me think: Lawyer!
“...It’s time to put these theories into action. We’ll begin next week.”
I can’t hold back my smile. Oh yes, next week won’t come soon enough.