Emily sat with Padma in their regular booth at Chong’s China Bistro. She stirred her fork slowly into her bowl of shrimp chow mein. Her phone lay next to the bowl.
“Oh my god, would you just call him already?” Padma said, brandishing a pair of chopsticks.
“I don’t want to screw this up by being too needy,” Emily explained.
“Who are you?” Padma asked, “The Em I know always used to say she wasn’t interested in ‘the game’. Have you decided to become a ‘playa’ now?”
Emily rolled her eyes, “No, it’s not about that. I’m not just trying to build anticipation or anything. It’s just that… I mean I don’t have any problem asking him out.”
“Well?” Padma asked.
“I know I’m over thinking,” Emily said, palming her forehead.
“Right. I guess I do know who you are,” Padma chuckled. Emily smiled.
Brad and Scott sat at the bar at Jake’s Steak Escape for burgers and beers. Brad sat with one hand around a glass of beer and stared at his phone.
“Look, we both know you’re going to call her,” Scott said. “It’s really pointless for me to remind you of how not to look so desperate and needy and smother-y and all that. Right?”
“Good, so I can go back to eating my burger then,” Scott said, picking up his sandwich and taking a big bite.
“The thing is…” Brad said, “There’s something about her. She’s special.”
Scott put his burger back down. “Oh, okay. Here we go. Did you not say the same thing not that long ago… two weeks?”
“It was over a month ago,” Brad corrected.
“Okay a month ago you said the same thing about Brenda,” Scott continued. “And last Fall there was … what’s her name…”
“Lilly,” Brad responded. “You’re right of course. I do fall in too deeply too easily. This time there’s another… a different dimension to it.”
“Okay, so good,” Scott said. “Don’t let me stop you. Explore that new dimension. I just would hate to see you hurt again.”
Brad nodded. “I appreciate that, man.”
Brad’s phone chimed out a text message alert. He looked down to see the message and a jolt of excitement ran through him.
EMILY–> “It was great talking to you Sat night. Could we talk again?”
“Would love to talk again. Tonight? 8:00?” <–BRAD
EMILY–> “Skype me 🙂 ( emee_izawake )”
“Will do 🙂 ( brad_notpitt )” <–BRAD
“Okay then,” said Scott, peering over to look at Brad’s phone, “Problem solved.”
Emily hoped her conversation with Brad would lead naturally into the topic of spanking again, because she couldn’t be sure that he was actually into it. It could have been that the topic simply was not uncomfortable for him to talk about. In her experience, black people in general seemed to be okay with the idea of talking about their spanking experience, if they’d had any. But of course, Emily didn’t want to perpetuate a stereotype, if even just in her own mind. Still, she had to admit she was intrigued by Brad’s perceived comfort level on the topic.
She thought for a moment about whether to make the Skype call while sitting at her desk or to just go for it and bring the conversation to her bed. Her experience with men told her that he would probably be just fine with seeing her relaxing casually in bed while talking with her. She just didn’t want to send the wrong message about what she was pursuing. Right before it was time to call, Emily decided her concern was a bit old fashioned and that she should just be comfortable. She wanted to employ the wisdom that it was best to be oneself. So she changed into jeans and a tee.
Brad opened up his laptop and placed it on the coffee table in front of him as he sat on his sofa. Once Skype opened up, he looked up Emily’s handle and sent an add request. He had thought briefly about putting on a nicer shirt and wearing a tie, but decided against it in favor of realness. Previous experience had taught him that the impressions one made in the beginning of a relationship created a pressure to maintain that impression going forward. He really wanted to be authentic this time around.
The hard part was going to be how to approach the topic of corporal punishment again. Emily had never actually said she was into spanking. It could have been that she was just being empathetic and/or just conversationally open-minded. His spank-dar had been wrong before and that was never a pleasant experience.
The name “emee_izawake” popped up on his screen and he added it as a contact. He grabbed his headset, put it on, and hit the call button. He was happy to see Emily’s smiling face pop in and he could see the bed bolster and headboard in the background. ‘Nice,’ he thought. ‘She’s comfortable enough to take the call in bed.’
“Hi Brad,” she said, “Great to see you again.”
“Hi Emily,” he said, “You too. How was your day?” he asked, smiling warmly.
“Pretty good actually,” Emily replied. “I went to lunch with my friend, Padma. You remember her from the party?”
“Yes,” he said, “I sure do. She seemed like a fun friend to have.”
“She’s a wonderful friend to have,” Emily elaborated. “We’ve known each other since college and we’ve been a great team ever since.”
“That’s wonderful,” Brad said, “I’m a big fan of friendship. A true friend is so hard to find out there.”
“That’s so true,” Emily said. “And yes, I am grateful indeed… Speaking of grateful, I wanted to let you know that I appreciate your opening up with me and trusting me in talking about your experiences growing up. I’m hoping you didn’t find my questions to invasive or personal.”
“No no, not at all,” he said. “I mean if I’m being honest, I’m generally interested in the topic anyway, but I find that most people I’ve met either don’t care about it or find it uncomfortable to talk about.”
Both of them felt a growing sense of excitement and comfort, beginning to feel it was not a random coincidence that they had had that conversation about spanking, despite the fact that neither could be sure they were both talking about it from the same perspective.
“I’m so relieved to hear you say that, Brad,” Emily said. “I feel the same way about it.”
“Excellent,” Brad said. “Seems like we’re on the same wavelength.”
“Yeah,” Emily smiled.
“It seems like you were about to ask me something when we got interrupted the other night?” Brad asked.
“Oh yes,” Emily said and tapped her forehead, trying to remember. “I think you mentioned it would have been possible for you to have gotten the belt, if you deserved it, as a teenager.”
“Yeah, right,” Brad said, nodding. “I was saying it would have been possible because that’s how they punished me up till age eleven or twelve,” he said.
“What do you suppose would have happened?” she asked. Brad looked quizzical. “I mean how would they… go about it?”
“Sure,” he said. “Well, I can easily imagine the duty going to my father after my growth spurt. Knowing him, he would have taken me to bend over the desk in his office and did it there.”
“Do you have an idea how many licks you would have had to take?” she asked.
“That’s hard to say. It was always at least thirty or forty, so it probably would have gone to at least eighty or so.”
“Oh, that would be painful,” she commented and whistled in rueful empathy.
“Yeah it would,” he replied.
“Would you have had to pull your pants down?” she asked.
“Probably so,” Brad said, nodding his head a bit from side to side, “but not my underwear. That would have been too weird.”
“Of course,” Emily nodded.
“Do you think you would have cried?” she asked.
Brad chuckled uncomfortably. “As a young man I would have tried real hard not to cry,” he said, “but there’s only so much pain a guy can handle.”
“True,” she said. “I’m sure I would have cried too. Eighty strokes with a belt, pants down. Whew.”
Brad’s Skype view of her was jostled as she lay down on her side on the bed to get more comfortable. Seeing her face now sideways, Brad thought she looked a little flush and almost asked if she were okay, but she seemed to be really enjoying their conversation.
Brad lay back on his sofa and placed the laptop on his stomach.
“How about you?” he asked. “I recall your saying there was a paddle used on you?”
Emily’s eyes widened somewhat and she took in a deep breath as she cast her mind back to those days. She shook her head almost imperceptibly.
“Yes, there was,” she said, “a paddle involved. My mom used it on me. I would have to bend over the side of the bed to get it. And I knew exactly how many swats I was going to get because she would have announced it to me.”
“Woah, really?” Brad asked.
Emily said, “Yeah, she’d say, ‘You’re getting 20 swats with the paddle. Go to your room and get ready.’ ”
“Wow,” Brad said. “That’s deep. I mean, I don’t know if it’s better to know or not.”
“I think it is better,” Emily confirmed, “but only slightly. It was pretty intimidating. But I mean it was just the way things were in our house.”
“I see,” Brad said. “Did she have you pull down your pants.”
“No,” Emily said. “The paddle was hard enough that she didn’t have any trouble making it hurt, even over my pants, even with jeans. And yes, I did cry. I recall getting to about number seven or eight and my eyes would water. After that there was no turning back. Couldn’t stop the tears.”
The next thing Brad wanted to ask about was about the pacing of the paddling, but stopped himself. He realized he was starting to get aroused, and he still didn’t really know if she was into spanking. And the last thing he wanted was for her to think of him as some creepy guy who asked a lot personal questions about how she got spanked.
Emily wanted to ask Brad to speculate about the highest number of belt strokes he might have gotten during a spanking. But she was getting more and more aroused by the conversation and felt it would be unethical to keep pursuing it without knowing whether he was actually into corporal punishment in a sexual sense.
“Listen,” Brad said, simultaneously as Emily said, “Brad, there’s something…”
Realizing they were interrupting one another, they paused to listen.
“I’m sorry,” Brad said. “You go ahead.”
“Oh, okay, thank you,” she said. Emily paused and thought better of coming out to Brad over cyberspace. “Say, if you’re not busy later tonight, do you think we could get coffee together? I’d like to talk to you in person.”
“Yeah,” Brad said, “that sounds great. I’d love to see you in person again. What about that place downtown? Have you been to Jumpin’ Java?”
“Sure, yeah,” she said. “Padma and I used to hang out there when we went to the university. They are open 24 hours I think. You can always get your caffeine buzz on there.”
Brad laughed, “Let’s do it, then. Can you give me a couple hours to get a work thing done first? Is 11:00 too late?”
“No, that’s fine,” Emily said. “11:00 it is. Whoever gets there first find us a table.”
They closed the call, each immediately beginning to think in terms of how to come out to the other.