Dear Lord, there is a man at the bar with a black hood over his face, a gimp straight out of a grainy fetish flick. He’s just sitting there, occasionally lifting his drink so he can slip the straw into the unzipped mouth of the leather mask. And I can’t stop staring.
“Did I show up on the wrong night?” I ask Stu, the bartender.
“That’s Jimmy,” he says. So Jimmy, Stu’s boyfriend of about a million years, must be the man behind the mask, but it’s hard for me to believe.
“Jimmy?” I ask.
“It’s me,” says the mask.
“You better watch out with that thing,” I say, waggling a finger his way. “Stu could be pretending he’s fucking someone else.”
“It’s not about that,” Stu says, looking down at me from behind the bar, speaking to me like I’m some kindergartner. “It’s all about him. Right, Jimmy,” he says, rubbing a hand over Jimmy’s hooded scalp. “It’s a sensory deprivation tool.”
“Oh. Yeah,” I say, as if I get it.
“With the hood on, he can’t see, and he can’t really hear because everything is muffled, and he can’t smell. And when you cut off your senses,” he says, using one of his hands to cover his eyes, then an ear, then his nose, “you can feel things much stronger because the touch sense is heightened.”
“Okay. Sure. I get that.” But I can tell I’ve insulted him, so I’m grasping for something, something I can say to open myself up and make the situation cool. “I have a fantasy,” I say.
“Who doesn’t?” Stu says, turning away from me.
“It’s about hockey.”
He swivels back and perks up a little. “Do tell.”
“I want to see a hockey game where all the players aren’t wearing pants.”
“Naked hockey?” Stu says, lifting one finger to his lips. “That’s hot.”
“Well, not fully naked. I don’t care about the jerseys. They can wear those,” I say. “But no pants. See, hockey is a rough game, and they fall on the ice all the time, so their butts would be red from the cold, and maybe even bruised and a little bloody.”
“Yeah. I just want to see their red, bruised, bloody butts. I don’t know what it is.”
“Of course,” I say. I dig through my bag for cigarettes, distracting myself. I root around some more for a lighter. I curse at my gigantic purse when I pull out another tube of lip gloss. Dominant?
I stumble over a crack in the sidewalk---some old tree root breaking through to the surface---and almost fall. Steady, I think, stopping for a moment to get sturdy, spotting a bum, and moving on. I hate that damn mask; they shouldn’t let people wear those in a bar. They’re scary. They’re sick. They should come with warning labels, ratings; they are X-rated, completely inappropriate. It’s not like I went out to some crazy bondage bar. That hood made him look like a goddamn executioner.
I try to masturbate before bed, but it’s not happening. Pantless hockey doesn’t seem to do it for me anymore. Or maybe I just had too much to drink.
I dream I am a little girl creeping down the hall toward my parents’ bedroom. I’m supposed to sleep in my big girl bed, but I need to see my mom; it’s thundering, and I’m scared, and she’s the only one who can make it all better.
When I open the door, I catch them having sex. Dad is on top, and mom’s hands are tied to the bedposts. And there’s a gag wrapped around her face, some black rubber ball between her teeth.
“Mommy?” I say.
“Shit,” my dad says, yanking the blanket over their bodies.
“Mommy?” I say again.
Dad pulls the gag up, so the black ball sits on her forehead.
“Don’t worry, daddy isn’t hurting mommy,” she says. “Now go back to bed.” She points a finger from the bedpost.
I wake up thinking I just had the craziest dream. I tried to sneak into my parents’ bedroom a million times when I was little, but their door was always locked. I was a terrible sleeper who was terribly attached to my mother. She talked to me through the locked door, told me to go back to bed, but I learned that if I knocked on the door enough times, she’d eventually come out and make me some tea with booze in it, what she called a “hot toddy.” I didn’t have the taste for it then, though.
But by the time I’ve finished my first cup of coffee, I’m thinking, maybe they forgot to lock the door once, just once, and the dream was some flashback to a suppressed memory. Out of all those years, surely they must have forgotten to lock up at least once. I can see that rubber ball on my mother’s forehead. It’s so close, it’s like I can touch it without even reaching out.
I look around my parents’ walk-in closet, pulling stacks of clothes and boxes off of shelves. They’re at church, but I’m nervous, stealing glances over my shoulder whenever I think I hear a car out on the street. I don’t know what I’m doing here, what I’m looking for. It was probably just a dream, and even if it wasn’t, I can’t imagine there’s any proof left from way back then. It’s not like they’re into S&M in their sixties. I dig through a box of old photographs, distracting myself.
I try to put everything back exactly like I found it. I really can’t believe I did this. Here, my parents are in church---the up, down, on your knees type; I go with them on major holidays---and I’m rooting through their things for whips and chains. It’s not even like my mom is the submissive type. She worked all the time and made more money than my dad did. That’s why I wanted to see her so bad, why I tried to sneak into her room. I missed her growing up.
Still, before I leave, I open her top dresser drawer, pushing the underwear and pantyhose aside to get to the bottom. And I lift the pillows on the bed. And I get down on my knees to check under the bed, where I find a big, plastic, lidded box. I slide the box out, and pull off the lid. Wrapping paper. Of course. Rolls and rolls of snowmen and jingle bells and birthday cake paper. I grab an unopened roll, still shrink wrapped, with Christmas trees, and hold it up so I can see the detail of the ornaments, but they’re just balls. When I set the roll back in the box, I see a bit of leather buried beneath the rolls. It’s a suit. With a hood. Hidden with the wrapping paper.
I start with a whip. “Wear this,” I say, handing a naked man a hockey jersey.
I devise ways for my mother to catch me in the act, considering a man in a mask on the sofa in the den, a riding crop in my hand, and she just happens to get back from the beauty parlor. Problem is, I don’t visit that often, and I never bring a man with me unless he is my boyfriend, and I don’t make the effort to have boyfriends anymore. Problem is, I don’t want my father to see me. Because that would be so wrong. It would be like two fishermen taking their catch home to keep in a bowl instead of eat.