The push notifications came in steadily on the Feeld app: You’ve matched with Zeus, you’ve matched with Stryker, you’ve matched with John, almost aligning with the cadence of the news stories populating my iPhone, detailing the crushing effects of the Coronavirus on countries thousands of miles away. Things were teetering on the edge of normalcy on March 12, when E and I exchanged numbers to set up a date. He was handsome, left leaning, with tattoos. Casually inserted in the first line of his profile was his interest in exploring both vanilla and kink. Next to the word kink, there was a capital D, it was in parentheses.
Finding a capital D in parentheses wasn’t the plan when I joined Feeld, a dating site for alternative lifestyle relationships. I went there seeking partners who might be more open to polyamory, something I’d been exploring for a few years that felt more manageable and forgiving than monogamy. I thought I might meet one or two viable partners before the summer and coast effortlessly into the comforting rhythm of sex, take-out, and occasional day drinking at outside cafes filled with dogs and babies. The Brooklyn dream. I had it all figured out.
(March 14, 636 cases, 2 deaths)
We meet at a Mexican restaurant on Union Street in Brooklyn. He’s waiting outside, looking better than his photos. Damn it, I think, shifting into high alert. If he’d just been vanilla and hot, I wouldn’t have worried. But there was that D, the one in parentheses, which could send this whole thing into a tailspin. He asks if it’s okay to kiss my cheek, what with all this coronavirus business going on. I’m already angling my cheek toward him, anticipating his wants.
We’re the only two customers in the restaurant, so we have our pick of seating and choose a table by a large window facing Union Street. The serving staff gives us a warm welcome, but early signs of worry have settled into the creases of their smiles. I take a bottle of Purell out of my purse and put a small amount into my palm, offering E some too, then place it between us on the table. See, we’re being careful.
The tacos were good and the conversation was easy. Easy, in a way that’s hard to find by way of screens and algorithms. Still wanting more of him after our two-hour dinner, I ask him to join me for a drink at my favorite bar two blocks away. He pays the check and we’re on our way. Like the restaurant, the bar is empty, save for one lone bartender, who shares his worries with us over wine and Bourbon. This is his only job, he has nothing to fall back on.
We talk and play music on the jukebox, revealing bits and pieces about ourselves while playing songs from our individual life soundtracks. I like his hands and the tone of his voice. We lean into each other, coming closer until he finally breaks the touch barrier and rests his hand on my thigh.
Feeling bold after mixing wine and bourbon, I inch closer toward the question I’m dying to ask, about that D, the one in parentheses. I don’t ask it directly, for fear of what that might say about me. Instead, I approach it from a safe distance, hiding my real question behind another question.
“So, why did you choose Feeld for online dating?” He says all the right things about being less traditional and exploring what was out there, but mentions nothing about the D in parentheses. I take out my phone and read him his profile out loud.
“You listed kink as an interest, could you tell me more about that? Are you dominant?” I feel so obvious, asking this way, but I need confirmation. Is that D a curiosity or his nature?
E stiffens a little in his seat and his hand tightens on his drink. He takes a deep breath before answering, “I am interested in exploring, but we don’t have to do any of that if you don’t want to. I’m interested in vanilla stuff, too.” Inside, I’m screaming. Don’t tell me we don’t have to do that! I want to do that! “It’s ok,” I tell him, “I lean subby.” I watch him process that piece of information and notice how he’s looking at me, like a chess player who has my queen in his sights. That’s good, he says, that’s good for us.
We move closer to each other, my leg is resting on the inside of his. He’s touching me more freely now, stroking my thigh and my arm. Before walking me home, he puts his hands on me once more and maneuvers my body against a wall outside the bar and kisses me, well.
(March 15, 329 cases, 5 deaths)
I wake to four text messages from E. He’d walked me to my place the night before and took an Uber home. I can still smell him on me and feel the weight of his body pushing me against the wall. The news is on downstairs, none of it good. I receive another text. I want to see you again. I watch images of overflowing hospitals in Italy and text back. I want to see you too.
(March 17, 923 cases, 10 deaths)
The Uber to his house is a reasonable eleven dollars. Good news, he’s not just hot, he’s geographically desirable. Ain’t nobody got time for long train rides, no matter how good that (D) might be.
Our second date is only four days after the first, but within that short time, the world has changed drastically. Calls to shelter in place are being weighed out by the local government and the term “social distancing” feels like it’s playing on a loop.
His apartment is immaculate, everything in its place. There are three small trash receptacles in the kitchen, each carefully spaced from one another. He’d texted me a few times to get my ETA because he wanted to time the food arrival.
“The food should be here any minute, I thought you were the delivery guy when you rang the buzzer. He should have been here by now.” He says, sounding mildly annoyed as he hangs up my coat. He likes punctuality, I think to myself, already collecting information, starting a list in my head of his unique preferences. I can’t help myself, the desire to please is so deeply rooted in my psyche.
I wander around his living room, studying the photographs and art on his walls. There are pictures of his daughter and her things are neatly organized on one side of the living room. E explains that she stays with him every other week.
I learn his last name from a Fulbright certificate hanging over the television. The rest of the apartment carries the same theme of hyper order found in the kitchen. I like men like this. Men who need things to be “just so.” Men who crave control, and will exercise that control over me in the bedroom. Dominants—those D’s, in parentheses—have always been my weakness.
We move to the bedroom after polishing off a second bottle of red wine. His king-sized bed is neatly made, crisp sheets with tightly pulled creases. There’s a mirror opposite the bed. He likes to watch.
I’d mentioned to him earlier that I had my period so he strips off my top and leaves my bottoms on. I help him off with his shirt and run my hands over his chest, following the outline of his tattoos with my finger. I wonder when he got them and what they mean, if anything. I see a vein pulsing in his strong neck and kiss it. A new body is like exploring new country, you have to learn its bends and curves, its secret places, its rules and customs.
My hands trail down to his pants and linger on his belt. I brush my palm gently over a swelling bulge that looks promising. It feels thick through his jeans. He moves from kissing my mouth to my breasts and places his hand between my legs, rubbing my pussy over my pants. I soak through my panties.
I take his pants off and touch his cock over his underwear, wanting to extend this moment for myself. I kiss the length of it through his underwear before pulling them off. My suspicions are confirmed—the dick is beautiful. Without being asked, perhaps seeking the comfort of submission, I kneel before him, look into his eyes, and take him into my mouth. E takes hold of my hair and seeks out the back of my throat, over and over, giving me a few seconds to gasp and catch my breath before doing it again. At one point I put both hands on the floor, coughing and struggling to catch my breath. He looks down at me and waits patiently, then wraps my hair around his fist and pushes further down my throat, whispering words of encouragement while bands of drool run down my tits.
“I see a vein pulsing in his strong neck and kiss it. A new body is like exploring new country, you have to learn its bends and curves, its secret places, its rules and customs.”
(March 24, 14,776 cases, 131 deaths)
Since we’d last seen each other, a number of executive orders and measures had been put in place to keep New York City’s eight million-plus residents six feet away from each other: ride sharing was banned; night clubs, movie theaters, theater houses and concert venues were closed; restaurants, bars, and cafes could offer take-out only. All our preferred means of congregating were closed off to us, for our own good.
Unable to go out to dinner, we decide to cook at his place. I’m nervous, because I know we’re going to have sex tonight. I don’t have my period, the world is ending, he’s sexy and hung—there’s no good reason not to do it. Over a dinner of ravioli in Porcini mushroom sauce, we go over a BDSM checklist to review our preferences and limits. I continue adding things to my own mental checklist, what acts make him pause or measure his words, what he responds to enthusiastically, like mouth gags, anal and bondage. I tuck them away in my submissive arsenal. He may be the dominant, but it’s profoundly powerful to know what someone wants and be able to give it to them.
Armed with the knowledge of what makes me tick sexually and my safe words, E takes me back into his bedroom. Once our clothes are off he positions me on all fours on the bed with my ass facing the mirror and watches himself as he pumps his cock into my mouth, more forcefully than the first time, smacking me lightly on the face and pulling me off his cock to spit in my mouth. My eyes glaze over and I forget. I forget to tell him that I haven’t had sex in five months and when he fucks me, with the roughness I specifically asked for on the checklist, I bleed on his sheets. For some reason, it pleases me.
(March 26, 23,112 cases, 365 deaths)
My housemates say they don’t think it’s a good idea to have visitors come to the house anymore. I’m a grown-ass woman and I feel like my parents just told me my boyfriend can’t come over. They’re right, though. The virus is growing exponentially, with pockets of widespread infection in Brooklyn and Queens.
E tells me to pack a bag and spend a few days with him. To minimize the chance of exposure, I plan on taking an Uber instead of the subway. In the end, I back out, feeling that the risk to the both of us, and those around us, outweighs the reward. Coronavirus is a fucking cock-blocker.
(April 3, 56,289 cases, 1,867 deaths)
We transition to FaceTime dinners and virtual bra and panty happy hours that I host from my bedroom. I never envisioned being a cam-girl in my 40’s but here I am, watching instructional YouTube videos about on-camera make-up tips, lighting and finding my good side. The journey from physical to virtual reality takes some getting used to. E does his best but I know this is hard for him. Being dominant, he thrives on controlling situations. The virus is calling the shots now and dominating all of us.
(Random day, more cases, more death)
I feel around for my phone, it’s buried under a pillow with my glasses. My blurry vision makes out several new messages on my screen. I go to E’s text, sent early in the morning. My dick is throbbing, it reads. I scan my mind for the few memories I have of his cock, recalling its size, its girth, the taste. You should touch yourself for me, he says. Yes Sir, I text back and reach into my panties. I eagerly follow the stream of dirty texts he’s sending me and cum in minutes. It’s the closest thing to morning sex we’ve ever had. The sun is streaming through the corners of the blackout curtains and I don’t know what day it is. I fall back asleep with the phone clutched in my hand.
(April 6, 68,776 cases, 2,738 deaths)
E and I knock back shots of whiskey together over FaceTime and log into a kink class hosted out of some stranger’s living room in the Bay Area. The topic of the class is choking. First, the instructor makes a general PSA explaining that choking isn’t safe. We all nod emphatically in agreement into our Zoom screens and then we watch him get to it. He demonstrates various methods of choking using a scarf, a belt, and his bare hands. At one point he straddles his submissive—who’s dressed up in a super-cute schoolgirl outfit—and holds a pillow over her head for quite some time. E and I texted back and forth with commentary:
E: How long do you think she can hold her breath?
Me: I dunno, should we call the cops?
E: Look, he stopped, she’s smiling.
Me: Thank god. I was nervous.
E: Me too.
Me: This is hot, can we try this?
April 11, 98,715 cases, 5,742 deaths
“If we each walk about two miles we can meet at the 15th-Street entrance at Prospect Park.” I examine the map that E sends to my phone and we agree to meet the following day at 1 PM. I’m excited to see him. It’s been over two weeks since we last spent time in person.
I pick up a sandwich from Esposito’s and rainbow cookies from Monteleone’s and take Union Street through Gowanus into Park Slope. On Third Avenue I have to walk into the bike lane to avoid a busy loading area outside of the South Brooklyn Casket Company. Endless rows of empty caskets are being loaded onto flatbeds and into trucks parked along the avenue.
We eat together on a bench, keeping a safe distance, he on one end, me on the other. I’m both happy and sad to see him. Not touching feels unnatural and awkward. He tells me he wants to kiss me. I want to kiss him too or at least hold his hand. This sucks, he says. Yeah, I answer, it does.
“E and I knock back shots of whiskey together over FaceTime and log into a kink class hosted out of some stranger’s living room in the Bay Area. The topic of the class is choking.”
(April 13, 106,813, cases, 6,182 deaths)
The UPS delivery takes a week to arrive; we’ve been tracking this package since it left the fulfillment house. E ordered me a LoveSense remote control vibrator that he could control from his apartment. His determination to get me off is noble. We sync up our profiles on the LoveSense vibrator app and connect on FaceTime so he can watch me squirm on screen as he controls the intensity of the vibrator, which is so fucking loud I have to pile pillows over my crotch to muffle the sound so my flatmates don’t hear it. I close my eyes for a moment, enjoying the odd feeling of this gadget inside me. Don’t stop looking at me, he says. He likes eye contact, I remember. His order brings me closer to the edge and he knows it. He turns the intensity down, then back up. My pussy feels like a video game, I imagine the number of orgasms lighting up on my forehead like a game of Donkey Kong.
(April 19, 132,467 cases, 9,101 deaths)
A little over a month after our first date, I find myself looking at a sick and miserable E on the other side my FaceTime screen. He’s been ill for almost a week now with coronavirus symptoms: a dry cough, shortness of breath, a diminished sense of smell, body aches and fever. Deep lines are etched under his eyes, from lack of sleep and he looks pale. I’m frustrated that I can’t do anything for him except watch him deteriorate on video—like the premise of some fucked-up Stephen King book.
(April 24, 146,139 cases, 10,746 deaths)
Each day we monitor E’s symptoms. Our years of combined medical experience add up to zero and we just do our best at a diagnosis. Do you think you should get tested? I ask. Yeah, but where? He answers. It’s easier to get Hamilton tickets than a COVID test in New York City.
E still tries to keep me company while sick. He chats with me while I cook dinner and watches Netflix shows with me over Zoom. I see him grow more despondent and frustrated with the situation. It all feels fragile and unsustainable. “I want to take you to dinner again,” he texts randomly. “It just dawned on me that we’ve only done that once.”
A few days later, on my way home from a walk to Park Slope I see a line a block long outside an urgent-care facility on Fifth Avenue. Lines are the new normal, for the grocery store, the post office, the liquor store. I approach cautiously, trying to decipher how sick these people look. They don’t look terrible, no one’s coughing, so I get closer and ask, “Do they have tests?” A row of masked people nod in confirmation.
(May 5, 171,723 cases, 13,724 deaths)
E tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies. We make plans to meet at his place two weeks later; one day after New York’s pause order is supposed to be lifted. I order celebratory underwear online and a crotchless body stocking, which is ridiculously uncomfortable, but it’s what he likes. The man survived a plague, let’s give him what he wants. He’s been ordering restraints and toys from Amazon Prime to welcome me back to his apartment.
“Bring lots of supplies,” he says, “I may lock you down here for a while. “
“I will,” I answer.
He asks what I want for dinner and what I want for desert. He tells me to bring my favorite collar and I’m instructed not to cum until I see him.
He likes to be in charge. He’s a D, in parentheses.