Face Beneath The Mask


His voice was very near and very far away.

How much longer do you think you will find it interesting to cast yourself in that role?

He pulled me, jerked me, really, to him by the leash that was attached to the collar I was wearing.

I nearly stumbled, but with an exercise of foot work independent of thought, I managed to keep my balance and return to the rigid posture of attention I kept during these sessions.

Don't you ever get tired of it?

I was ashamed to say I didn't.

No. sir, I said, my eyes cast down.

But I do, he said, and I do not want to go on this way, and I won't.

I stood entirely still, not moving a muscle.

It's not enough for me, he said. I want a partner, not a slave. A slave, he repeated. That's actually funny. Your absolute submission is a burden. You are using me, and I want it to stop, but you don't. Not only you don't, but you can't.

I still remained unmoving, my eyes cast down. But I understood this was not the usual routine we'd go through of verbal abuse and humiliation.

I'm not playing, he said. Don't pretend I'm saying this to gratify your kinks. It's over. I want you out of here. And you don't need to keep your eyes lowered. It might do you good to look straight at me for once and see if you can see who I really am. Look at what you never even noticed, me. My body, my face, that's what you noticed; you noticed my looks and they fit, perfectly, into your fantasy. You turned me into an actor in your fantasy. I know; I let you. But no more. It seems I prefer reality. I want you out by Friday. You like orders. That's my final order. Your stuff, too.

There was nothing I could say. I was numb. I knew this was not in the script. He was not going to finish his admonition with a frightening whipping and soothing caresses when I finished crying.

I absorbed his dismissal with the capitulation to inevitability that had become my second nature.

I sat at my desk Monday, neglecting my work, checking the real estate section with a sense of unreality.

Mandy walked in with a coffee for me and one for him.

Looking for a job? he joked, alluding to the company shake-up we both had recently survived, when he saw the newspaper on my desk, squashed up against the computer, open to the classified section.

A place to live, I said.

Whew! he said. You ok?

Yeah, I'm alright. Nervous, but it'll be ok.

Stay at my place.

What?

No, I mean it. Stay at my place.

That's very nice of you.

There's an empty bedroom.

I know. How are you coping?

I'm ok.

I looked doubtful.

No, really. I'm tougher than you in general, emotionally. I really am ok, he said.

It's funny, he continued after we had both been silent. It's funny how things should, he hesitated, searching for the words, converge like this.

You sure it's ok? I said.

Yeah, he said quietly, it is.

It was not difficult to live with Mandy. Unlike at the office, he was quiet and never expected anything of me more than the household agreements we drew up including what my share of expenses would be and which night I cooked and whose week was it to keep the bathroom clean, stuff like that.

Otherwise I felt like I had my own place.

You can't let yourself go, Mandy said after it was noticeable that I had gained a few pounds.

I sighed, ashamed.

I know, I said.

What happened? he asked, as if he didn't know.

I lack discipline without him.

Discipline I don't know about, Mandy said. But I can provide structure.

He did.

We set up a space in the basement, got some weights and a chinning bar and did at least an hour a day, during the week, in the evening after we got home. We'd take some high protein shakes and vitamins and nuts and berries, have a shower, and then spend an hour on a work-out. We showered again afterwards. On weekends we sometimes spent hours on end working out, salting a few household tasks, like shopping for the week's food, in between.

We were good together. But all that time we were so bodily present to each other and naked together in the shower where we even washed each other's backs and complimented each other's hardons, we never did anything. There was no embarrassment. We'd come, I don't know how, to an agreement that we would not go there, even though I had no doubt he found me attractive, and I knew he knew I found him wonderfully alluring.

It was part of the discipline. It gave substance to the structure.

You look great, I said, soaping his arms as well as his back.

So do you, he said turning around, tousling my wet hair.

We wrestled in the shower a little, soapy skin sliding over soapy skin, but we left it at that, dried each other off, slipped on identical silky black mini-boxers and prepared tea in the kitchen and sat at the counter on stools facing each other and sipping it hot excited by our hard, cold, locked-up arousal.

You talk too much.

It was not hostile. Sam was like that.

He approached me at a filmmakers' party in TriBeCa that Mandy took me to. That's how I met him.

It was early June and we were standing on the roof with champagne flutes filled with Bollinger and looking at the Empire State Building.

It won't be there much longer. You'll see. If the terrorists don't get it, the real estate developers will.

Cut the shit, a bullet headed bald fellow wearing a Hawaiian shirt, cargo shorts, and flip flops said to his obviously drunk, what? friend, boyfriend, object of unsatisfied longing?

I felt a strong and gentle hand take me by the shoulder and I turned to see a real beauty. Sam was, is, exquisite, high cheekbones, very dark blue eyes, thick brown hair, rich cupid's bow lips, grace, and a lithe muscular build that just comes with the body.

You don't mind, Mandy?

Of course not, Sam, but maybe I should introduce you first.

Don't bother, Sam said touching the air with his palm and smiling. I think I know how to introduce myself.

He shepherded me off the terrace into a library with an old inlaid, mahogany writing desk, several brown leather easy chairs, a matching sofa, and gilt-framed pictures on the walls, or at least on the walls that were not covered with shelves of books. Several brass candelabras wired for low watt amber bulbs were placed glowing around the room.

He closed the door behind us and took me with a kiss.

Right now we were sauntering along paths in Central Park.

You talk too much, Sam said.

It was not hostile. I'd learned that Sam was like that.

I looked at him and smiled in exasperation.

You miss having someone tell you what to do, he said.

What?

Don't be vulgar. You heard me.

I don't know what to say, I said.

That's what I mean, he said, nodding his head at the confirmation of his analysis.

I'll tell you what to say. Say what it is you want. You send out very confusing signals.

I shrugged. I don't want anything, I said.

Right, he said. What else?

But I was entirely stymied.

There's nothing else, I said.

I like empty-headed boys, he said taking me gently and firmly by the back of my neck. It's so easy to make them do what I want, he said gazing at me with the most bedroom eyes I have ever seen.

Do you want to do what I want? he said, but only with his eyes, and I nodded agreement only with mine as his lips touched mine, and his breath enveloped mine, and everything became his.

I'd been, as it were, tossed out the window, but cat-like, I'd landed on all fours. Everything was different and nothing had changed.

When I told Mandy I was going to move in with Sam, he said he wished I'd give it a second thought, but I told him there really was nothing to think about, that I felt drawn to Sam in a way I had never felt drawn to anyone before.

Are you sure of that?

What are you suggesting? I answered.

I'm not suggesting anything except that you be cautious before you do anything you are going to wish you had not done.

This is too complicated for me, I said smiling.

He smiled too and extended his hand.

I'll miss the work-outs, he said.

We'll still get to do them sometimes, I said.

No, he said. You'll see.

I'm not complaining, he said, just stating what I know. I'm always here.

You can imagine what I was imagining it would be like to live with Sam. The erotic resonance of being shaped to perfection through compliance to such a Master's discipline, the frisson of obedience, the statuesque periods of frozen posing during which my whole body throbbed with the vibrancy of an erection, all that and more.

But there was none of that.

It began promisingly enough when he ordered me to strip.

But nothing happened after I complied.

I already knew what my daily routine was. It entailed performing menial household tasks, washing dishes, doing his laundry, running errands, dusting and vacuuming.

But he did not eroticize it in the least the days to come came to show.

Right now he led me naked to my room.

He held the door for me and I entered, but when I stepped aside once I was inside, to let him in, instead he closed the door from outside without saying a word and I was locked in by myself not knowing what was going to happen next.

When nothing happened, apprehension gave way to boredom and annoyance.

Sam was nowhere to be seen in the morning when I was brought coffee by the cook/housekeeper, a tight-lipped man in his sixties who sat with me while I drank, as if aware of my impotent fury.

I went about the day's tasks and did not see Sam that evening either, nor for another two weeks, and then only fleetingly. I was ordered to put on jeans and a t-shirt and pick up his dinner jacket at the dry cleaners.

It was not Sam who sent me. Mr. Horely, the cook did, but I caught a glimpse of Sam as I lingered in the hall outside his dressing room. I saw his magnificent physique, a snowy, white towel hitched below his waist, reflected through the doorway from inside the room onto one of the grand mirrors in the hall.

Then the door closed and I went back to my room, stripped, and since I had nothing to do and nothing, as far as I was beginning to be able to tell, to look forward to, I lay down on the narrow bed that was in my cell.

I was waiting, but no longer waiting for him. I was just waiting for this to end, for something to change, even if it was only for the change that happens when you fall asleep.

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