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I kept going back and forth on Jessie’s offer, trying to convince myself that it wasn’t worth it because I’d never end up doing it seriously, at least not the way she was doing it. The money wasn’t that good, the job was bound to be more than I could handle, and I couldn’t imagine working all-nighters the way Jessie did – but I also knew all too well the real reason I couldn’t bring myself to call her.  It had nothing to do with money or late nights. My reluctance came from being scared.  I was scared to push my emotional capabilities so close to the edge.  Halfway to the edge, sure, that was a surefire source of my beloved adrenaline.  This job, though—this job might take it too far.

But fear wasn’t a good enough reason not to go.  I had told myself when this whole ridiculous endeavor began that I would not turn down an opportunity because of fear alone. I wouldn’t allow myself to walk away unless I had a better excuse.  There’d be no lasting physical damage.  I wasn’t going to be whipped or beaten. 

So there might be a few hours of eye-opening emotional drama. So what?  Fear of putting myself out on the ledge was not a reason I could use to justify staying home.  If I had let myself give into fear and anxiety, I never would have gotten on stage that first night at Valentino’s.  I never would have called Jeff or knocked on Larry’s door or trekked out to the Bronx to meet Lionel.

I stared at myself in the mirror. I might have been crazy, but I thought I looked different. Maybe it was just post-college life, maybe it was from living in New York, or maybe it was from all the cracks I’d made in my shell. I couldn’t run away scared now. I’d come this far. I was finally on track. I was getting somewhere. I was pushing myself to a place I’d never been before.  I was learning about a part of myself I had yet to meet properly, and I wasn’t willing to put her back in her box before I’d gotten to know her.

I had to keep going.  I couldn’t stop.  I had to know how far I could take this.  I wasn’t finished yet.  I remembered how it felt each time before I went stripping—I’d be torn, part of me excited to prove I could do it, part of me scared shitless, wanting desperately to hide in my room, hating myself for being such a baby. 

In the end, after I was back home, showered and safe, with the money in my bank account, I was always glad I had gone, so I took a deep breath and figured the least I could do was plan my outfit.  Once dressed, maybe I’d find the nerve to call Jessie and confirm for tonight.  I spent the next hour getting dressed and trying not to think too much about where I might be going. 

I ended up with my black vinyl bustier, my short black vinyl miniskirt, a bondage belt, new heels I had bought the day before (they didn’t have a stiletto heel, but they were still pretty vicious), heavy black eyeliner, and dark red lipstick.  Messy, glamorous, and fierce.  I had to impress the manager, the other girls, the clients, and, of course, Jessie. The tougher I looked, the tougher I hoped I would also feel.

Looking at my dominatrix-self in the mirror, I felt ready to pick up the phone.  By looking like a different person, I could act like one, as well.

I was hoping to meet Jessie at a bar or something beforehand, but she told me just to meet her there, at the dungeon.  “It’s on the ninth floor.  Push the button, and they’ll let you in.”

“Okay.”  I wrote it all down.  If I was methodical and organized, maybe it would seem less scary, less surreal.

“12 o’clock sharp.  You got it?”  She sounded strictly professional.  There was no fear in her voice. She was all business.

“Yes.  See you there.”  I tried to keep the fear out of mine.

“Anything vinyl or PVC is best.  Leather can be okay.  Heels, of course, and dark lipstick.”

That, to me, was the easy part.  “I’m already dressed,” I told her.  “I’ve got it covered.  I’m wearing all vinyl.”

“Great.  See you later.”

I certainly wasn’t going to make it up to the address she had given me dressed the way I was. I didn’t feel like displaying myself before it was time, so the new heels went into my bag, a long sleeve shirt covered my vinyl bustier, and loose-fitting pants went over the skirt.

I took the subway, getting to the building at exactly 12 o’clock.  When I walked up to the entrance, there was a man standing outside, waiting to be buzzed in the main doorway. I wondered what he was doing, what floor he could be going to at midnight, with his khakis and innocuous rugby shirt. 

The speaker crackled, and a woman’s voice answered.

“Who is it?”

“John.”

“John, you’re late.”  She seemed cranky.

“I know,” he replied, sheepish. 

He didn’t have any bags, so he wasn’t a delivery boy.  Maybe he worked in the building?  The door opened.  I debated whether or not to go in and just take the elevator to the 12th floor or to wait outside and push the dungeon’s buzzer, alerting them that I was on my way up.  I didn’t know if it was a big deal to arrive unannounced.  I figured it might be, so I waited, letting the guy go in ahead.

Just then I heard someone call my name.  I turned.  Jessie was hurrying down the street.  Thank god I didn’t have to walk in alone.  I gave her a hug.  She looked ridiculously cute in a tight green t-shirt and tight black leather pants.  I could totally see her being a tough dominatrix, but she also looked like she’d be a lot of fun just to hang out with.  She offered me some CheezDoodles, hints of orange powder on her fingertips, and we entered the building.

The elevator doors were just closing.  We slipped inside and joined the man that I had seen at the front door.

“Are you going up to the ninth floor?” she asked, crunching away.

“Yeah, I am.  Are you working tonight?”

“Yup,” she said, wiping some crumbs off her lips.

This was followed by an awkward silence.  The elevator still wasn’t moving.  Jessie had definitely pressed the button for the ninth floor.

“The elevator’s not going up,” I said, confused.

“It doesn’t go up by itself.  They have to come and call it.”

“Why’s that?”

“We get some weirdos around here.”

I nodded.  I should have known.

More silence.  And then the elevator finally began to move.

The doors opened at the ninth floor.  We were greeted by a tall Latina woman in a corset and heels who escorted our elevator companion away. 

“You’re late,” she said angrily.  “You’ve really got to get here on time.”

He bent his head, scurrying off behind her.

Jessie and I were in a dark hallway lit with dim orange bulbs shaped like candles.  It looked like a very ornate haunted house.  A large gold mirror faced the elevator.  Some antique-looking wooden chairs were up against the wall.  She took me first to the office to meet Rick, the night manager. The office had a long black leather couch, a very fake looking plant in the corner, a computer, a small stereo, and some filing cabinets.  The walls were green and the ceiling kind of low.   Rick wasn’t there, so she took me to the girls’ lounge.

In marked contrast to the dim orange lighting and ornate décor of the hallway, the “lounge” had overwhelmingly bright fluorescent lights, some worn-looking couches, a lot of white narrow closets that looked like they were probably lockers, a miniscule television set, and a soda machine. 

One girl was just leaving as we got there—a daytime shift worker, I guessed—while another girl was putting the finishing touches on her makeup.  Her name was Isabella.  She was gorgeous.  Thick black hair, blue eyes, heavy eyeliner, and pale pink lipstick.  She was wearing a black vinyl sleeveless bodysuit with matching elbow length lace-up vinyl gloves and black vinyl boots.  The guy that had just arrived with us was her client.  She worked the day shift but was staying late for him because she’d only had one other session. Isabella had only been working at this dungeon for a few weeks. 

Jessie asked her how it was going.

“It’s going pretty well,” she said, “even though today was slow.  It’s usually really good money.”

This started a discussion between Jessie and Isabella as to whether or not the night shift was more lucrative to work than the day shift, and apparently it was.

Jessie asked Isabella how she was feeling about doing the job itself. 

“It’s pretty easy.  It’s like acting.  You just have to figure out what they want.”

“It’s like being a therapist,” Jessie added, for my benefit.  “You give them what they need.  You’ve got to get inside their head.  It can get a little intense.”  She paused for a second.  “You have dreams at first, but then you get used to it.”

I didn’t really know what to say to that, so I just nodded.  Dreams?  This was going to get into my head in a way I couldn’t control?

Isabella went to do her session, and Jessie and I went to get dressed in the dressing room.

The dressing room was also one of the “session rooms.”  It was used as an informal dressing room because it was really brightly lit and had huge mirrors.  It also had an oversize crib, some baby toys, several shelves of wigs, a counter covered with makeup, and a rack full of dresses. I found out afterwards that, not only was the crib obviously for the sessions, but the wigs and the makeup were also for the clients to use during their sessions, and that the dresses are used by both the girls and their clients.

I took my baggy street clothes off as Jessie put her dominatrix clothes on.  We were also accompanied by other “After Hours,” aka “Night Shift,” girls, Lady and Kira.  I had no idea if those were their real names or their work names.

The girls were all really comfortable with each other, talking and laughing.  I was ready first, so I helped Kira lace up her corset and buckled up Jessie’s boots.  Kira exclaimed at how nice Jessie’s leather pants were.

“Oh, but I’m not wearing these for the session!”  Jessie laughed, surprised.

“You’re not?” Kira seemed startled.

“No way.  You think I should?”

“They look pretty hot.  You could probably get away with it.”  Kira looked pretty serious about the pants.

“I don’t know!” Jessie scrutinized herself in the mirror.  “I’m not sure I’d want to.”  She paused.  “K-Y jelly.  It would make the leather pants freak out!”

The girls laughed.  It felt like we were all getting dressed for a party or something.  I felt the same sense of female camaraderie I’d felt at Valentino’s. 

One of Kira’s regulars was waiting for her, so she was in a bit of a hurry.  She complained that this one was really demanding and always took a lot of energy. Lady also had a client waiting, so she quickly finished with her hair and makeup and rushed off, joking that she was going to use a really big dildo to get even with him for not giving her time to finish her salad.

[to be continued…]

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