I gave him a questioning look.
“The Next Generation.”
“You mean like Star Trek?”
It was Friday, 5:15pm again. This time when I stepped up to his door there was no pensive waiting, no pacing. I simply gave a quiet knock.
Mr. Ebon beckoned my entrance, and I sat on top of the desk as before. My knitting stayed in my blazer pocket. He leaned against his desk, arms crossed, ready to speak.
“You need to meet people, interact with other people in the lifestyle.”
“Yes Ms. Ivory. Dominance and Submission, if so chosen, can be part of an alternative lifestyle. There are entire communities of people, friend groups and chosen families, who have similar desires as yours. You need to meet your own kind.”
“But I thought you were going to teach me.”
I didn’t want my voice to sound petulant, but it did.
“I am teaching you, Ms. Ivory. And this lesson is about community. There is a TNG Munch…”
“A meetup where there is no alcohol.”
“Oh. There are meetings with alcohol involved?”
“Happy hours at bars. But since you are just starting in your journey, I think a munch should be your first step. Often they are held at a restaurant in a private room. There is a munch at an eatery near the community college every Sunday at 2pm. You will go there this weekend. Talk. Meet people. Learn what you can and report back to me on Monday.”
“Yes Mr. Ebon. Is that the lesson for today?”
“Yes Ms. Ivory.”
I hopped down from my desk and began to walk out. I was a little disappointed, but I hoped it did not show on my face.
“Ms. Ivory, before you go…”
“Yes!” As soon as the word left my lips, I wished it hadn’t. My eagerness dripped from the syllable.
Mr. Ebon did not seem to notice.
“A word of caution. Before you walk into the meeting, decide how much of yourself you want to share with the world. You are young and don’t yet know what turns your life will take. Consider using a nickname.”
Disappointed again, I simply said, “Thank you Mr. Ebon,” and walked out of the room.
“So, Ms. Ivory, how was your first munch?”
“It was okay.”
It was Monday afternoon, 5:15pm, and I again sat on top of my desk conversing with Mr. Ebon.
“At first I was nervous. Very nervous. Everyone was older than me.”
“That was to be expected, but go on.”
“Since I was nervous, my stomach a ball of knotted twine, I didn’t buy any food. I found the room in the back, knocked on the door, and heard a chorus of come-ins. As soon as I stepped inside, there were a lot of smiling faces. That was nice.
“I introduced myself. There were five people there, two guys and three girls, who went around saying their names. I can only remember one of them, though. He…”
I wasn’t sure, but there seemed to be a note of jealousy in Mr. Ebon’s voice.
“Yes. He was one of the leaders of the group. His name was Alex. Since it was my first time, he welcomed me and talked to me about the rules.
“One, no play at the munch. Two, everyone buys something so the restaurant stays happy. And three, any and all disagreements are dealt with outside of the munch; no fighting in the restaurant.”
Mr. Ebon’s face turned grim.
“Mr. Ebon, is something wrong?”
“Ms. Ivory, rules are made for a reason.”
My face gave an implied “and…?”
“If there is a rule about fighting, there must have been an incident in the past. Be careful.”
“I was careful. I used my middle name, and no one there knew me. It was fine.”
Out of habit I’d already been twirling a shoe lace, trying to ask what seemed like a dumb question. Mr. Ebon picked up on my unease.
“Ms. Ivory, is there something else you need to say?”
“Actually… this seems like a silly question, but what is play?”
His face stayed grim.
“Excuse me, Ms. Ivory?”
“That first rule: no play at the munch. What is play?”
“You didn’t ask anyone there?”
“But Ms. Ivory, you were at a munch. And you had a legitimate question.”
“I was nervous. And we didn’t talk at all about anything that wasn’t SciFi related, which was rather comforting actually. Aside from introductions, a discussion of Star Trek versus Battlestar Galactica took up the entire two hours.”
Mr. Ebon gave a great sigh, dropping his head into his chest.
“Well, at least you made a few friends,” he said more to his shoes than to me.
“Yes, and I’ll be back next Sunday. But Mr. Ebon, play?”
He raised his head, his eyes meeting mine, his intense stare now boring through me.
“Each time I have pulled out my ruler, each time I have reprimanded you, that was play. Play is how we define what we do.”
“Yes, Ms. Ivory.” I saw a small glint in his eyes, and the beginning of a grin on his lips. He liked it when I called him Sir.
I wanted to ask another question, not sure I had the nerve, but in a mood to be bold, I just said it.
“Are we going to play today?” A smile crept across his face.
“Yes, Ms. Ivory.”
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