(content warning: rape)
Frank would be at my place at 11 PM on the dot every Friday without fail. He’d show up dressed immaculately in a debonair suit, like he was subliminally selling me dreams of a cushier life.
At 10:58 PM, I’d glance outside my apartment window and scan the streets for his familiar frame and walk. Lo and behold, there he would be strolling down my street.
I’d honed a routine for Frank, now being executed with Pavlovian efficiency.
First would come the hair straightening, followed by application of ruby-red lipstick and mascara. To top it all off, I’d apply copious amounts of my most high-end feminine scent.
Of course, these discretionary efforts were not really necessary because Frank was already into me, but maybe not in the way I’d hoped.
A knock on my front door and there’s Frank, grinning as though we’d just had sex. I open the door, revealing my body in full splendour.
“Hey, honey, you look divine.”
When Frank first ever uttered those words, it sounded contrived. Now, they make me blush.
“You know I’ve been waiting all week for you,” I reply, motioning with my index finger for him to enter my lair.
Frank always starts by leaning in with a slow, sensual kiss and tonight is no different.
Frank inspects himself in the hallway mirror for lipstick on his mouth, cheeks and neck. I think he gets pleasure from knowing he can kiss-and-tell with sound evidence of his exploits.
He breaks out into a smile as he anticipates things moving towards the bedroom. His top shirt button has magically been undone when he returns to me.
As I lead Frank down the hallway, I have an unnerving feeling of déjà vu.
Some months ago, a night like this with another man did not end as planned.
He told me he wanted to live out his sadomasochistic fantasies. At first it was quite vanilla, as I lay there staring blankly at the ceiling. Then things got serious.
I could feel the strength ebbing out of me as he inflicted injury and pain. At first I tried to tolerate it, then politely asked him to stop.
You could excuse him for being caught in the moment at first, but not when I was yelling at the top of my voice for him to let go of me. By the time he was through with me, I knew I’d been violated.
I was left shaken and mortified at the encounter.
Frank came through on Friday evening of that same week. He would talk about his cases at a law firm; he wouldn’t say which one, but provided enough details for me to believe it was his real job. I guess this was his way of venting.
That day I needed to vent too, in fact, I broke down in tears mid-conversation in front of him. An ordinary thrill-seeking man would have made excuses and fled, but not Frank.
“What happened, who hurt you?” he kept asking in a soft, concerned voice. I narrated the horrific incident.
He looked at me with a hint of sadness and put his arms around me, until my tears subsided. The first time I’d felt validated by a man since my father passed away. Someone breathed some humanity back into my soul.
Frank had found a way into my heart.
I’d never seen Frank in a romantic way till that incident.
In my lifetime I’d seen all types, from macho men with insatiable egos to gaunt figures with likely no hope of companionship beyond the time-bound euphoria I lavished upon them.
The mistake committed by ones suggesting we become lovers was to confuse my physical touch for requited love.
I now wonder if I’m in danger of making that same mistake with Frank.
I wouldn’t normally see people at this precious hour, but I made an exception for Frank.
I’d gotten used to fulfilling his every wish, but tonight I finally muster the courage to ask him for something.
Frank breaks out into a smile and extends his hand towards me.
I dim the lights and put on something jazzy. We hold hands and gaze into each other’s eyes.
Frank had always left by 1 AM, but tonight we make it till daybreak.
I can feel myself falling for him, but part of me feels like I’m falling into an abyss.
This rendezvous is full of casual fun and has the solemnity of a committed relationship.
I summon a huge breath as I realise these might be my last few moments with him.
Frank’s over time now but I don’t care. He traipses across the room and reaches into his jacket pocket searching for his wallet.
“No charge today, Frank.”
“Wow, my lucky day!”
“No, Frank. This is our last time together.”
I bid Frank farewell but I’m conflicted as he scuttles away. Surely, spending the night together means he loves me too. My mind is racing. I’m dismayed.
I can’t sleep. I hop out of bed and go for a breezy walk in the park. Déjà vu kicks in again. This time, his absence evokes the emptiness I felt when my father died.
My thoughts of him turn bittersweet as it dawns on me that the men in my life will never complete me. I can prove I don’t need a man to feel centred and whole.
My senses are revitalised by the morning sunshine.
I’m staring at the reflection in the pond water and smile when I notice someone needing my love and affection.
It’s the lady staring back at me.
Ali Raza writes from London in the United Kingdom. Ali enjoys a bowl of porridge and blueberries with his morning read.