Well, can I?
Is it okay for me to grieve openly my loss, attend your bedside, and offer my condolences to your family? May I sign the guest register, and send flowers with a note of remembrance attached, signed ‘Love, Dana’?
(If you haven’t yet guessed, this is not a lighthearted note; and if you’re feeling like avoiding seriousness and emotion today, please turn back now.)
I’ve spent many hours trying to decide which words, statements, and feelings to use to express the events which have occurred, and even more trying to decide whether or not to share them here, with you. Yes, we talk about a lot of personal things here, and we have gotten to know one another pretty well over the years (for those of you who’re among my friends and playmates, those talks have been even deeper still), but I rarely talk openly with you all about my personal life unless it’s related to this thing we do. Otherwise, I’ve found that I prefer not to overshare anecdotes and occurrences for the most part – we all have parts of ourselves and our lives which we prefer to keep to ourselves, and that’s fine.
This time, however, I’ve decided that the subject is too important, too critical and painful, to avoid, regardless of how personal it is. So I’m going to talk to you all about it. Keep in mind that the following are my experiences, feelings, and actions. I don’t want any advice and am not asking for agreement or even support – I just want you to know.
My paul died a while ago. He’d been sick for a few months and we knew from the outset that there was little that could be done to intervene medically. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t pretty, as these things rarely are.
Hold on.. I should back up several years and tell you a bit more about paul so that you understand why I’m taking the time and emotional energy to share..
I met paul less than a year after I arrived in Los Angeles, around 2009. He’d originally found me the same way most of you do – online – and emailed to request an appointment. His initial email was clear and respectful; he was not into spanking at all – in fact, far from it – he was a foot fetishist also interested in masochism and humiliation. This was back in the early years when I still occasionally considered playmates outside my main sphere of interest, and paul seemed like a nice enough guy, even though his thing wasn’t necessarily my thing. I agreed to meet him for a foot worship/sm playtime after making it abundantly clear that I would, in no uncertain terms, never ever humiliate anyone intentionally. This was agreeable to him and we planned our first meeting.
We got along splendidly; while I admit enjoying the hitting and stomping more than the foot worship (it takes a little getting used to), we had a great conversation after our playtime and he seemed to have a million really cool and interesting stories to tell. He asked whether he could see me again, I said I’d be delighted, and we planned another playtime for the following month.
As our second meeting approached, paul emailed to say that he was sorry to say that he would be unable to keep our appointment because he was on a fixed income and was, essentially, broke. (I should mention here that paul was 65 or 66 when we met.) I replied telling him that I expected him to report for our previously scheduled meeting, on time and ready to submit, regardless of how much money he had, and that he’d be punished for even attempting to get out of it again. After a little back and forth, he agreed. I told him after that, our second lovely playtime, that he’d never need to worry about budgeting for my time again. Using terms he was comfortable with, I told him that from now on he was my ‘personal slave’ – my foot puppy – and there would be no further discussion of finance, period, ever. That was the first of several times that I saw paul cry.
He’d been in the closet fully his entire life, having had fantasies of his fetish since his earliest memories of a particularly pretty yet stern schoolteacher who always wore shiny high-heeled shoes. He fantasized that she would step on his hands with those lovely shoes while telling him how very bad he was. It was a preoccupation which followed him fully into his adult life, and which he continued to keep secret for decades. It wasn’t until his late fifties that he even began to consider seeking out some sort of professional to help him make his fantasies reality, and even then, as he told me all those years later, it was a constant source of inner angst, guilt, and self-loathing. Why, he wanted to know, was he so fucked up? Why was he obsessed with women’s feet, of all things, instead of boobs and butts like everyone else? Why couldn’t he stop thinking about it? He was certain that no woman would ever love him enough to understand.
Eventually, he must’ve squared himself with these feelings enough to seek out a dominatrix. He told me about a few experiences he’d had with a handful of professional dommes before we met, and for the most part those stories were happy, if conflicted, memories for him – the earliest explorations of his lifelong wanting.
Then he found me, by some weird ‘that’s how things work’ combination of events, and we became fast friends almost immediately. He’d make a two hour drive each way to see me once a month, and we’d play, talk, eat, and laugh. I never treated paul like a slave (although I still, in respect of his wishes, never capitalize the first letter of his name), but did buy him a leather collar with my initials on, and even had him personalized ‘puppy tags’ made for our anniversary last year. During our playtimes, he was required to call me Mistress, and I was just as stern as you all know me capable. And paul was capable of taking quite a lot of physical discomfort (even though he barely tolerated the occasional spanking I insisted on foisting upon his unwilling backside)…we had fun. I got to wear lots of really sky-high heels and lead him around on a leash – it was absolutely silly and serious at the same time, in all the best ways.
After I moved to Las Vegas, paul’s drive became five-plus hours, each way, so his visits became less frequent. He’d drive here once every three months or so and stay with us a night or two before making the drive back home. We all – paul, Michael, and I – enjoyed these visits immensely. paul didn’t have much family to speak of, no wife, kids, or living close relatives – so we quickly became his family, and he ours. paul housesat for us when we took the rare but needed vacation, taking perfect care of the home and animals anytime we went away, and I’m still convinced that he hand fed the cats raw steak every time because when he was here they paid him more attention than me.
He also did a lot of little fix-it projects around the house for me. He took an old bumper sticker off my newly-bought used car, gouging a deep scratch in the bumper in the process – but still, thoroughly removing all signs of said bumper sticker; he spent several hours repairing a drippy faucet in my master bathtub only for the drip to return less than 24hours after he’d left to go home, and at a much more annoying rate of drip. Once, I almost missed the only bus leaving L.A. back to Las Vegas for the day (on a rare return visit of mine) because he got us lost in god-knows-where in the process of chauffeuring me to the terminal. paul had the best of intentions, but he rarely managed to ‘fix’ anything. I cannot stress enough how much I loved that about him – his constant enthusiasm and willingness to help even in the face of glaring inability to execute the task at hand. That’s tenacity, folks.
Fast forward back to more recent history:
One week, I didn’t receive an email from paul for nearly 48 hours. This was highly unusual as paul had a tendency to email three to five times a day, every day, and never less than once. He was constantly writing to tell me of his day, his thoughts, how much he loved me…and to send me his doodling; sketching out his fetish fantasies as quickly as they came. Over the years I received hundreds if not thousands of little pieces of art via email, and I always asked that he bring me the originals when he visited next. He always did, and I now have possession of what is quite possibly the most interesting and diverse collection of tiny foot fetish art ever compiled. I plan to build a dedication page from which to share many of these wonderful, quirky, excellent little treasures with the world at large. He deserves that much.
But I’m digressing.
Turned out paul had gotten short of breath while out with his guy pals one afternoon and ended up in ER. The assessed him lightning-fast, and eighteen or twenty hours later (note the sarcasm) gave him the verdict : inoperable cancer which was unlikely to respond to chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Did he want to go ahead with treatment anyway, they asked him? He said yes and began what was to be his final fight.
When I received an out-of-the-ordinary text message from him saying he was in hospital, I immediately picked up the phone to call him. He said that he’d be discharged in a day or two, then he’d have to have a bunch of follow-up appointments with various specialists in order to come up with a game plan for fighting the cancer. I asked if he wanted me to come and be with him in the hospital and he said no, he’d not be there long and that his pals were checking in on him periodically. Grudgingly, I agreed to stay home.
After having been released from the hospital, he did indeed follow up with all those doctors, precious weeks sliding by while everyone decided who was going to pay for what and sending him for blood work what seemed like about a million times. After a few weeks he finally started a round of chemotherapy, requiring him to drive or be driven to the treatment facility each time for several hours, then home again for several days of hardcore sickness. paul had lived alone for years, which is never a problem when you’re healthy and spry, but gets troublesome really quickly when you’re too weak to walk to the bathroom. Refusing my offer to come and stay with him at home, paul set about trying to go through the chemotherapy process by himself, with the occasional visit from previously-mentioned friends.
It was awful but not at all surprising when, after another somewhat long period of quiet, I received another text from him – back in the hospital. He’d gotten weak and short of breath at home and called the ambulance himself. He spent another few days in hospital, getting stabilized, only to be sent back home alone again.
I’m not trying to make a long story short, but it suffices that this was the basic routine for the next few weeks – hospital, home, hospital, home – interspersed with the completion of the first round of chemo and beginning of some kind of chemical radiation treatment. We were in touch as much as he could be, and I checked in on him often daily, always offering to hop on a plane and come take care of his old sick ass. He always said no, he was doing good. We both knew he was lying, but who was I to call him on it at such a time? Maybe his house was really messy and he was embarrassed or maybe he was in denial about how sick he really was – it certainly wasn’t, couldn’t possibly be, surely couldn’t be…
…that he was ashamed. Could it?
Then paul was told that the cancer had spread to his brain and would require it’s own, separate round of chemotherapy. Once more he said okay. And once more they set in motion the routine of home, hospital, home, hospital, which inevitably occurs when someone who is already dying is wracked with poison. This time, his stay in the hospital was longer, and the prospect of his release even more forbidding – how could he possibly care for himself? This time I did the pushy thing – I told paul that I was coming, was going to take care of him, cook for him, and make him comfortable.
He flat out refused. Wouldn’t explain, but flat out refused. That’s when I realized that my initial fears were correct; paul was ashamed. He was ashamed of himself, and thereby, me. He didn’t want to explain to the possible visitor who I was, or how he knew me. He didn’t want me to come to the hospital because he was afraid – terrified – that I’d run into one of his buddies, or the rare distant relative who’d come out of the blue since his illness had progressed so dramatically. If I looked back at his behavior, what he’d told me and – more importantly – what he hadn’t (he’d never shared with me which hospital he was in, which rehabilitation facility, or, in the end, which hospice), paul had decided that, even at the end of his life, he could not be himself. On top of the already near-paralyzing pain of impending loss, I now felt absolutely abandoned in my grief, and by the very person for whom I was grieving. I was a little pissed at him for that.
Selfish, yes. I’m human. Moving along.
I’m sure that by now you see where this is going. Because of his own fears and shame, paul took from all of us the ability to say goodbye. Neither I nor Michael were given the chance to hug him or properly express our love and immense gratitude for our time with him, and paul was sadly and sorely without the people who absolutely loved him most in this world at the end of his life.
His choice. A terrible one in my opinion, and having to live with it, I think, gives me the right to disagree with him. I would’ve never shown up uninvited, never ‘blown his cover’, so to speak; I’d never have disrespected his wishes in that way, no matter how much I wanted to shake the living hell out of him for it. I loved paul, so I let him be alone. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, and continues to be today. I still can’t figure out how to put a period at the end of this sentence – it’s dangling, like a season ending cliffhanger or half-told secret.
I can’t tell you how I’ll deal with it, because I have zero precedent. All the events in our lives are processes, and this is now one of mine.
I wish paul had given himself permission to be wantonly honest in his last days, but I know that’s unrealistic. Most people take their secrets to the grave, and my paul was no exception.
I promise to try not to begrudge his memory and his love, in spite of the glaring reality – I probably can’t come to your funeral, either.
Rest in peace, puppy. -M