A couple of weeks ago, a client I’ve known for at least 15 years wanted to talk.
For the past couple of years, he’s been very regular, much more so than in earlier years, and financially supportive. Polite and easy to work with.
A reformed Catholic, he’s one of the best type of clients if one’s in a business that allows one autonomy, with high social prices: he had closeted submissive fantasies, was respectful, smart, creative. We talked politics (“I was home sick from work during the Benghazi hearings, and I knew when I watched them that Hillary was the real deal, Presidential to the core.”) and spirituality and meditation and music.
He appreciated a smart woman, and wasn’t threatened by brains.
That morning, I received an email from him at 7:28 a.m:
“If you are up (Friday am) and can do a short T&D any time up until 9:00 am please call. Then hoping we can do a longer call some time 11:30 -1:30. xo”
I also received an email asking how much time he had left on his package.
“An hour. You have plenty of time,” I wrote back.
I called at 8:41 for sixteen minutes, or so my iPhone history tells me. This call was part of a long tease and denial thing we’d been doing for a few months. Fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there over the course of a couple of weeks. No release allowed. Heighten the experience. Draw out the tension. It’s a discipline of heightened pleasure, especially in an age devoted to instant gratification.
We talked about the intersection spirituality, sexuality, and delaying gratification as a “practice.”
He loved it, I enjoyed the control, and it was good business.
I called him again at 11:47, 11:52, then at 12:25, leaving a message with the last call.
One of the most conscientious clients I’ve ever had, this was unusual. In fact, he could be annoying. Because if we had a 1 p.m. appointment, he called at precisely the time scheduled. Always. I can never remember a time when he didn’t call on the dot, as a courtesy to me. Never early, never late. Not by a minute. Part of the submission thing, squared.
I note this, because I’ve found that part of male privilege is often calling when convenient, keeping me waiting for an appointment.
Some men are too professionally important for personal courtesy, which also tells me that they don’t have control over their lives or circumstances. I take note.
No such thing with him. On time. Every tine.
His absence was an aberration. We’d been doing the tease and denial for two weeks, and he was on the edge. Waking up nights, not sleeping as he should, feeling like an anxious seventeen year old, again.
He never wrote an email follow-up apologizing for the no-show.
He could be email needy, always with charm, but by his own admission, needy.
No follow-up to the cancelled appointment.
I thought perhaps he’d been caught by his wife — who he was entirely protective of. He never mentioned his reasons for doing calls, never talked about her, never said her name, and he was scrupulous about protecting her and leaving no evidence trails. I suspect that given my control over his pleasure, they weren’t physically intimate, and hadn’t been for sometime. Often this happens for health reasons, not just libido differences.
A friend suggested that he may have”dropped dead.”
Nah. Didn’t think it possible.
It took time for google to catch up, but I discovered his obituary yesterday.
In reality, he didn’t have “plenty of time.” It’s possible that our morning chat was the last conversation of a man not yet even middle age, with lots of life and adventures and success ahead of him. There were three hours between our 8:41 talk and my next call, when he didn’t pick up. He was working from home that day, squeezing in play time while his wife was at work. I suspect she came home from work that night, and found him dead, from whatever took him quickly and without warning.
There’s no judgement in the above. If I’ve learned nothing else, I know the split between personal and public is breathtaking, invisible, lost in hype and mythologies about family and popular culture. The people you least expect are often the ones who need a secret closet the most.
Unlike many for whom this split hides personal demons in sexual sublimation, this was a man who enjoyed making people feel good, who was kind and well liked, and who needed a safe space to deal with his sexual needs.
Now he’s dead.
With most of the world in existential crisis, I count everyday that 45 hasn’t played with the nuclear codes a gift.
Now this. The gift of death. The much-needed splash of cold water that says, “wake up. No time for playing.”
I was a part of his life that will forever be invisible, yet, as I have learned over and over during the years, I held an important part of his imaginative and emotional life, for whatever reasons.
I honor the space that many have entrusted to me, with its complexities and ambiguities, and I respect what those ambiguities and uncertainties have given to me.
Looking through his emails this morning, I see how much our conversations meant to him, because he cared about the people in his life.
To have given him safe pleasure, good conversation, and a spiritual perspective that helped him, for that I’m grateful.
May we be gentle and loving. Our days are short.