Friday, November 21, 2014

Charles captures my hand

So, yes, at a bar in New Haven, in Fall 2000. I was with law school friends--at that point I was about as big a BWOC as I'd ever been or would ever be, and the fall of 2L is a time when the few Friday nights you can go out drinking with your 2L friends are like hours snatched from the jaws of death. I'm not a woman who has ever acted particularly wild at bars, but that fall was an exception because of the tension that gripped all of us as we headed towards the crucial 2L make or break summer-associateship. I may have had too much to drink that night.

Charles was with classics friends. Now classicists have been known to drink a lot, and you will often hear them say that classicists can drink with the best of them. Indeed it's clear that when they're drunk they lose the slightest suspicion (which, sober, they have) that no one other than a classicist could ever be interested in what they have to say about Vergil. When drunk, therefore, they are positive that shouting offensive things about Camilla in the eleventh book of the Aeneid makes them some sort of Dionysiac demi-gods. Charles had had too much to drink, as well, and was shouting said things.

Here was I, barely aware (if that) that he had decided to return to school for an MA; even less aware that he had decided to do that in New Haven (he confesses, the darling, that knowing I would be there provided a strong nudge for his choice of grad school, as he thought about me, and Pisistratus butt-fucking the daughter of Megacles).

As mentioned in that last post, I had been a classics major myself, and had even considered applying to grad school in classical philology. Obnoxious classics grad students shouting drunkenly about the Aeneid was for that reason something that caught my ear. I had eavesdropped, though, for some considerable period--at least five minutes; maybe as many as fifteen--before I realized that the loudest of them was Charles Smith, schoolmate of my Greenwich girlhood, interlocutor of that memorable conversation about sexy passages in classical literature.

My God, people are strange. And I am the strangest. If I had to choose a single moment when I fell in love with him, it would be that one. Obviously, it had nothing to do with him; it was completely a fleeting fantasy-impression (which turned out not to be entirely a mis-impression) that he had come to New Haven to take me--to own me. In the course of a few seconds an elaborate fantasy took shape in my imagination, and the reason that I have always remembered that moment as the beginning of my love for him is really just that what he did then, for reasons that were entirely his own, corresponded so fucking beautifully with my fantasy.

For at the same moment that I had realized it was him, he had realized it was me, and the next time I looked up from my drink, he was standing next to me, looking at me. "Emily," he said. It was a bar, and thus it was way too loud to carry on a conversation. I couldn't even really hear that he'd said my name, but I knew he couldn't have said anything else, from the way his lips moved, and the brevity of the utterance.

I just looked at him, thinking about Pisistratus and asses--my own ass in particular. He gave me a look that made me blush just as I had blushed more than a year before, when we were talking at the country club. And then he took my hand.

Really, it's the only thing you can do, in a bar, if you actually want to have a conversation with someone--take their hand and lead them somewhere where it's possible to talk. But my heart fluttered at his touch, and I thought "Oh, no." In his seizure, his capture (so it felt, but of course I was drunk), of my hand, was the realization of the hope that had begun to blossom in my chest when I had first read Story of O. He, Charles Smith, was my top, my master, my lord. How could anyone but some God of submissives be responsible for that dream coming true, I sometimes wonder.

I barely had time to shout "Everyone, this is Charles Smith," before he had led me outside into the already chilly fall night.

"It's really good to see you," he said. "Really."

I laughed, and hugged him. "It's really good to see you, too."

"I'm drunk," he said.

"Me too," I replied.

"So. . . will you have dinner with me tomorrow night?"

"Um." I couldn't seem to make anything make sense. I saw a disappointed look flash across his face, but I was just trying desperately to remember if I'd stupidly told anyone else I would study or something. Fuck it, I thought. "Yes," I said, and tried to give him my most winsome smile.

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