“You’re not squeamish, are you, Brigit?”

This was not the sentence I wanted to hear. I lifted the coffee cup to my lips to gain a few moments thinking time, noticing with dismay that the cup was shaking slightly. I placed it back down on the saucer and drew a deep breath.

“Not at all.” I hoped I sounded breezy. “Why, what did you have in mind?”

The man in front of me smiled. It was a smile devoid of clues, devoid of any indication of either compassion or malevolence, clues that could light my way and help me make the right decision. I could read nothing in his face. I’d only met him an hour ago, and his sunglasses denied me the possibility of gleaning anything at all from his eyes. I found myself distracted by the reflection of the traffic flashing by on this sunny Saturday morning, vaguely aware that one of the cars held my man, protectively driving laps of Brunswick Street in an effort to keep an eye on the proceedings and thus keep me safe.

From what, I was only beginning to discern, and I leaned into the conversation with equal parts trepidation and fascination. Well, perhaps the former overshadowed the latter, but with a margin growing smaller and smaller.

“Well, Brigit, I thought we’d begin with some flogging.”

Flogging. That sounded acceptable. I could do that.

“Followed by needle play.”

My breath whistled through my throat, but I managed to keep smiling.

“Then we’ll finish with some mummification.”

Oh jesus, oh fuck…..did he just say mummification? Do people DO that?! How? WHY?! Though my shock meant that I wouldn’t attempt to pick up my coffee cup again for quite some time, I knew without doubt that I needed that last question answered. And while I was at it, what the fuck was I doing, pretending my name was Brigit, acting as though chatting about submission and cat o’ nine tails were all part of a normal Saturday morning for me? Around me I could hear snippets of conversation from nearby tables, reassuring in their banality; friends catching up on gossip, planning their weekends, bitching about partners and bosses. And there were we, a twenty year veteran of the fetish scene, and a somewhat startled potential dominatrix, trying not to spill her coffee as she gingerly nudged the door open on a whole new world.

His response to my first email had been friendly, if not particularly warm. “Forgive me my caution,” he’d written, “but you can never be too careful in this scene.” I couldn’t argue there; I was the one with a fake name and a partner keeping watch. “We’ll email for a while, and then, if I find your reasons and your attitude appropriate, I’ll arrange a meeting. If that goes well, we can begin. Does that sound fair?”

It did. It sounded fair, and exciting, and not a little thrilling, and though I could think of ten reasons not to, my fingers moved of their own accord and hit send, send, send. After a month, I became aware that these words weren’t entirely written by me anymore; I knew that Brigit was guiding my hand, spilling my thoughts onto the screen and spiriting them away to a stranger, the hesitation diminishing with each email. To delve into my reasons for this journey was to lay bare my desire, an incredibly intimate dance that I’d never felt able to embrace. Now, in signing my letters with a pseudonym, a name of fire and force, I felt the cloak of her assumed identity wrap around me. The anonymity this provided liberated me with an intensity I found intoxicating. I wrote and wrote.

“You passed the first test,” he’d answered. “You know this journey isn’t about sex…’s about power. And yes, about love, strength, honesty. It’s such a pure way to learn about people,” he wrote, “to learn about yourself. I can see you already know that.” Yes, I’d done my research well, grateful to have that recognised.

I rewarded him by unfolding hidden aspects of myself, presenting them to him carefully, yet with increasing candour. I told this man, unknown and unseen, of my time spent inside. How three years spent locked in my own house, bound by invisible and inexplicable fear, had removed me from people to the extent that I stumbled over sentences, felt the words stick in my throat, choked on the now unfamiliar sounds. How three years spent indoors had robbed me of interaction, of connection, of trust. How I was now ready, I thought, to learn about people again, about what they were capable of, desirous of. I didn’t say that I was also ready to learn the same things about myself. I didn’t need to.

I laughed at my lover’s reaction. “You do realise’, he cocked an eyebrow, “that domination is not the typical cure for agoraphobia?”

I understood. Of course, I understood. I even shared some of his concern, but Brigit had helped write a way out of that dark life, and although he thought the darkness it led to might be even more of a concern, he knew better than to interfere.

More coffee. I wished he’d take off his sunglasses. Damn it, why hadn’t I worn mine? I wondered what he was able to read from my eyes, from my demeanour, from my responses. He was testing me just as surely as I was testing him, and I wondered how we were both measuring up. The waitress swivelled up to our table just then, and as she set down my third cup of coffee, she narrowed her blue rimmed eyes and quickly, unexpectedly, winked at me. She was gone before I could react, but it set forth a flurry of questions in my mind. Did she know what I was doing here? Maybe she knew him – he said he liked to do his interviews in this café. Maybe she worked with him….did she look like a dominatrix? Did I?! God, maybe I looked like someone for whom flogging, needle play and mummification was an average afternoon……He didn’t look like that, and he was the acclaimed Master of twenty years standing. He was in his early forties, his sandy hair still damp from his shower, the slim gold ring tapping against his tea cup his only jewellery. He was dressed in requisite black, but his freshly ironed shirt tucked neatly into his jeans seemed almost earnest to me, and the fact he was wearing Converse puzzled me somewhat. I didn’t know what I was expecting – snakeskin boots and a pitchfork? – but what he lacked in physical presence he more than made up for in the words that came out of his mouth.

“If you were to undertake the apprenticeship, you’d need substantial First Aid training. You do realise that?”

I nodded, not liking where this was going at all. I didn’t trust myself to speak.

“Yes,” he murmured gravely, “it’s not unheard of for an inexperienced dominatrix to make a serious mistake.” He took a sip of his tea, and I realised I was leaning forward in my seat, bent towards him. “Let me tell you, there are stories you don’t want to hear”. Did I? I wasn’t sure anymore. He shook his head ruefully, lost in a memory, and I didn’t disturb him. Part of me was still snagged on a word he’d used twenty minutes ago, unable to unhook myself: predators. “There are a lot of predators in this scene; a woman can never be too careful.”

Well, that was why I was here, wasn’t it? To be initiated into this tantalising world by a respected veteran, someone well known, someone…..I wanted to believe the word trustworthy, but it just didn’t taste right. This was as safe as it got, and I knew it.

But I also knew that I wasn’t alone. Brigit smiled at him, and this time I knew it was breezy. She wrote the appointment in her diary, snapped the cover shut, threw it in her bag with a flourish. And when she strutted out of the café, she caught the eye of the waitress.

I don’t know if it was me or Brigit who winked.

© bellmusker 2007



Melbourne, Australia

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Artist's Description

This is the first piece I ever put on Red Bubble, almost three years ago. I was so afraid of showing others my writing that I deleted it twice in the first 24 hours…yet something compelled me to post it again, and a hugely influential part of my writing journey began.

I came back to polish it, make it shine. But this is the writer I was back then and although I wouldn’t do it quite the same now, I’m not going to change it.

This pulled me out of hibernation, & I’ll always read it with a smile.

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