On Monday night (May 31), Mischief returned from San Francisco and had dinner with the Once and Future King. The purpose of dinner was negotiating the terms of the marriage. In my mind’s eye, I like to picture it as 17th century Burghers negotiating a nuptial contract.

“Yes, zee bride vill perform oral sex upon rekvest. Her dowry, howefer, vill haf to be kompensated zignificantly!”

Allison would get marriage, but agreed to sacrifice the Mischiefettes. Metaphorically speaking, you understand. Unless you’re Abraham, there’s little point in having them just to sacrifice them. In exchange for little Zamboni and Peripatetica remaining theoretical ovum, Gríos would support Mischief (apparently, he has money… not, y’know, Money, but more than, say, any of us reading this) in a fairly lush style, send her back to school full-time to finish her Masters, and let her work on her book.

Gríos would agree to compromise on monogamy, working out a sort-of closed swinging contract that he and Mischief would only fool around together, and with both having veto authority over potential partners.

The first red flag went up for me when I learned that Gríos thought it would be a “great” idea for Mischief to keep me in her life, and even for us to continue exploring a D/s relationship (minus actual sex). I’ve encountered this kind of thing before, and it amounts to a man who isn’t interested in the work and effort needed to properly foster a BDSM dynamic farming it out to someone else. Like kinky globalization.

It’s one thing if you’re discussing a couple who’ve been together for ten years, and the wife just wants to eat at a fancy restaurant once in a while rather than cook at home. But making this play when you haven’t even, oh, say, figured out your vows? That’s pure disinterest.

Trying to convince herself that everything was working, Allison took Gríos to meet her parents, which threatened to be awkward since he was three when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and she was three when the Challenger exploded.

Everything went smoothly, and the first weekend (Mischief works a normal schedule, so weekends actually matter) as reunited soonlyweds loomed. Their first real time alone in months.

To mark the occasion, Gríos took her to a nice dinner, after which they spent the evening alone at home, getting reacquainted BDSM play party at a house in Hollywood. A really shitty party attended by drunken, unconcerned doms taking things too far with submissives too heavily altered or emotionally damaged to say “Red.” I’ve been to parties like this, and it’s bad juju. You feel like you need a shower afterwards.

Mischief started texting me, playfully at first, and then more distressed as the anxiety built. Finally she called, needing an ear to absorb her discomfort and growing frustration as she perceived that Gríos was testing her. Auditioning her to see how she would handle his fantasy world of the swing club he owns and the constant sport-fucking. Even if that were acceptable behavior, once you’ve signed the contract, you’ve agreed to the sale. What’s left to test?

They left the party, stopped at Mel’s Diner for food, and when dinner was over, so was the engagement. Mischief had once again stood her ground, which is how she ended up here. We stayed up into the wee small hours, just her, me and the left half of my face, and I did my best to give genuine, thoughtful responses rather than simple platitudes.

Mostly, I think she just needed someone to be a sounding board while she worked it out. And it was convenient to have a man who valued her and found her attractive doing it, even if that man was Quasimodo. It was still good for her ego.

Since then, she’s slept here every night except Tuesday. I think, in a way, the loft has come to represent a place of safety and security for her as it used to for me. A funhouse-mirror version of the life she’s walked away from, complete with the distorted reflection of a man.

Also, she’s poking and testing to see if it’s only her trust in Gríos that’s been shattered, or if it’s trust in general.  I have a slew of my own opinions about Gríos’ underlying motivations, but I wasn’t there and I don’t know the man, so I’ll leave my conjecture unspoken.

As for what we’re doing, we don’t know, and right now isn’t the time to try and work it out. She primarily needs someone to be constant, honest and capable of displaying affection. Whatever this is, though, it’s easy. Effortless, like we’ve known each other for years. If I were prone to rebounding, I’d think I were, but it isn’t that. I’ve already turned down advances from other girls I would have jumped at on the rebound.

It’s just… a really good synergy. Even with the offspring question kind of tabled, we’ve still got bridges to cross. And we will. But right now, we’re just kinda happy running around on this side of the river.

P.S. The face is now fine.

So where was I? Ah, yes. The face.

Antibiotics and hot soaks aside, the swelling continued. I woke Saturday morning with half of my face looking like Brando in The Godfather. If I’ve learned nothing else from this experience, it’s that I need to set aside money for a face-lift in my 60s because I do not look attractive with jowls. How Winston Churchill could muddle through all those bulldoggy mornings during the blitz I’ll never know.

My doctor had asked me to call him with a status report, and when I reached him his advice was “Probably going to have to be drained. Emergency Room.”

This kind of thing fills me with dread because, of course, I don’t have insurance.

“How can this be, Bryn? A professional man in his 40s, no insurance?”

Well, ya see, I’m hypothyroid. The $26-per-month prescription constitutes a pre-existing condition, so the only way I can get insurance is through Cal-COBRA, at the low, low cost of $1,471 a month. That’s with a 50% co-pay and $3,000 deductible.

So yeah, no.

I got to spend a few hours in the gentle embrace of St. Vincent’s ER. No draining, but IV antibiotics and two new prescriptions. If you’re ever in the same boat of paying cash price for meds, let me give you a hint; call around before you fill your script. Prices… uh… vary. For the more expensive of the two antibiotics, Horton & Converse had it for $84, Rite Aid for $49 and CVS for $305.

When I got home, I called my doctor again, trying to figure out if I should add these to the drug he gave me (more, more, more!) or supplant it. When I told him the hospital had given me x and y, he said, “Oh, good. Those are for that type of infection.”

That reaction you’re having? That one, right now… yeah, that was my reaction. But I resisted the urge to scream it into the phone. There was no point. I just said goodbye and hung up. Then I turned into Les Grossman.

“Then why didn’t you give me this shit in the first place, MOTHERFUCKER?!

Cats scattered. I resisted the urge to fling my phone across the room.

The new antibiotics are strong. Kicked my ass for about three hours. As I flopped around on my office couch in a cold sweat, feeling like I’d taken a few too many sleeping pills, I was vaguely aware of cats coming and going. My phone ringing. The Ex-Box and The Souvenir making dinner below.

When I finally woke up, I was dreaming I had fallen out of a helicopter. Onto rocks.

I have felt at various times massively unattractive, but how I felt Saturday was pegged on the red side of grisly. I smelled bad from sweating, the drugs were making my face oily and my scalp dry, I hadn’t groomed my fuzz or fur in days… oh, and I had a giant, swollen, glowing, pus-filled radioactive blister where the left half of my face used to be.

Naturally, this was the night I would have a visitation from what Ray Stantz might have called “A full-body, free-roaming vapor.” In short, my phone rang at midnight-thirty, and one look told me it was an ROF – Randomly Occurring Female – calling for moral support, and most likely, an actual, physical shoulder to cry on.

Luckily, since I felt like Quasimodo, I had shoulder in ample supply.

to be continued

I woke up at 2 a.m. feeling like I’d been in a fight. A specific fight, actually; the one from 1998 when the guy tried to break my nose and failed when I moved, causing him to clip me hard on the cheekbone. My face was so swollen and bruised for a few days I thought I might have a zygomatic fracture.

So I woke up feeling like that. I’d been fighting an ugly pimple inside my left nostril (C’mon, ladies, honesty is sexy, right? Hello?) for a few days and figured it was finally time for a come-to-Jesus moment with a #11 X-Acto blade. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the light and discovered the left side of my face looked like I was wearing Maurice Evans’ Dr. Zaius makeup from Planet of the Apes.

I followed my usual course of rational action and cried like an 11-year-old girl for 20 minutes before settling down to make an actual plan. It takes a lot to get me to the doctor. Suddenly having a face like an accident victim is one of those things.

Tossed and turned for the next six hours until I could get up and call the doctor. They got me in at 11:45, and a mere three hours and four pharmacies later (another time for that story), I had my diagnosis of cellulitis (“let’s try to catch it before it gets into your brain.” Thanks, doc.) and my course of Augmentin to hopefully kill it.

In the meantime… well, I’m fairly stoic but I’m a whiny bitch when comes to my face, and that half of my head feels like someone battered it. And fried it.

I relayed the short version to Mischief (yes, she’s getting married, yes, we’re still friends. Did you really expect anything else?) who promptly, upon learning that my face is twice it’s normal size, dubbed me Two-Face.

She’ll pay. Just wait.

Mischief said something that struck a chord in an e-mail she sent earlier in the week. “I’m glad you’re the last man I dated before I got married.”

I thought about it, and realized how often that precise event has happened in my life. Short story: a lot. There’s a smart-assed bit of pop-psychology I like to remind people of from time to time… The one consistent element in all of your failed relationships is you.

I guess at some point I’m going to have to face that reality. But not right now. Not tonight.

“The Last Man You’ll Date Before Marrying Someone Else.”

I’m gonna get that tattooed across my chest in the most ghetto, 160-point faux-calligraphy script I can find. It’s much better in Latin: “permaneo vir vos mos balanus pro vos matrimonium alius”

Everything’s classy in Latin, right? Even my past..?

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