The Story of Ayal
I desperately needed money, so I had given up on quality control. Previously when people opened a conversation by issuing a computer generated demand to see me in my underwear, I ignored them. But there was rent, and student loan debt, and mandatory health insurance, and paying for my stuff back in Seattle, and phone, and eating was fun….
Plus I realized I had been lying to myself. I had originally envisioned the possibility of spending enjoyable time in the presence of someone with whom I had some kind of emotional bond and some sort of mutuality. I had naively dreamed of getting to be the mistress of someone with whom I had anything at all in common, whom I found remotely like-minded. But after many months of hunting I realized that people with whom I had anything at all in common were not people who took mistresses (although they might become gigolos themselves to pay the rent). So since this was now just a job, there was something more truthful about the new, unpleasant way: they wanted to see the bill of fare, I didn’t have any emotional energy to waste on investing in someone who was just going to suck me dry and leave me a lifeless shell…it was simpler to just let them see.
Ayal came across in text as a self-centered, grunting ape. But I reminded myself he was playing impaired: he was a man. And after hunting for years I had come to see that the men who were able to string together a sentence also generally fell for women who had nothing better to do with their time than applaud this incredible skill and fawn over this mindblowing talent.
He also came across as a mensch, and I liked that. I suspected him of being a solid provider and a down to earth practical fellow. And that sounded good.
He exhibited interest in me as a human being, and that was a nice change. He actually looked at my website, my videos, my interviews. He investigated me as a person, and that felt good.
To ice the cake he was capable of committing to actually meeting, a real time and a real place.
I had been offered a one off English teaching gig for that night but the economics didn’t make sense. If you included the time spent preparing lessons, I earned about 3€ an hour as an English teacher. Lior could mean thousands of euros. Better to take the job interview that could actually end up paying my rent.
I met him at Chicha and surprised myself by having a lovely time! I didn’t have to work. I mean ok I worked some, but it was the same amount of emotional labour society had raised me to associate with simply Being a Nice Person. He made me feel comfortable and at my ease. He listened. I could see him sitting there listening, and in addition to being very flattering, it was also very nourishing. I don’t like that word but there it was. He sat there, listening and smouldering, listening and smouldering, and making no sudden moves. (It’s hard for a bald man to smoulder but he managed; when you’re a dark-eyed Sabra, smouldering is still possible without hair.). He was charming, he was funny, he had a whole host of valuable life philosophies that harmonized or coincided with mine, he was another 9/11 survivor, he believed that it’s easy to dream but coming up with the focus and systematic grit to see the dream through is much harder and much more essential, he knew the sweetness and fragility of life, he was…lovely company!
I thought of Katya from the first moment he opened his mouth. Because even though he had no hair, he had something potentially more seductive: a soft, warm, low, tender dark voice with a thick thick thick Israeli accent. Sure, he sounded like my ex father in law, but that’s something to aspire to in men’s voice haberdashery! The music of his voice wooed me and I just wanted to listen to him make noises all night long.
I also thought of Nour…it was like after realizing that he and I had nothing in common and I was tired of his Ways, God had sent me a nearly identical replacement. Here, Jordana, this is the new actor assuming the role of “41 year old middle eastern man with a sexy musical voice and a cute accent and not enough hair and rather a tummy and a smouldering way of listening with dark soft eyes, who has a wife and family back in the Middle East he visits regularly, and doesn’t like his native country because he finds it harsh, hot, boorish, and provincial, and does the responsible family man stuff in the Middle East and has loads and loads of fun here in Germany.” It was like looking at a Xerox! Except Nour played the guitar and Ayal did not, and Nour worked for a company and Ayal had a company of people who worked for him. But otherwise it was exactly the same.
I had no idea if he wanted anything at all from me or not. I couldn’t tell if he liked me as a woman or not, although he seemed to like me as a human being. The conversation was kept light and impersonal.
We had white German wines, grilled octopus with almonds chorizo and greens, trout ceviche with seaweed, vegetable tempura with salsa and citrus foam, and another kind of ceviche with butternut squash or some such thing. He was a delightful conversationalist, not because of any verbal pyrotechnics, but because of his ability to set me at my ease, to balance between listening and talking, to make me feel like the onus was never on me to entertain him. Note to self.
He went to the loo for a long enough time for me to assume he was on the phone with his wife back in Israel or some other woman here. During that time I took stock. I had been suffering for the last month, for the last four months, ok for the last long time, feeling so incredibly emotionally depleted, drained, and exhausted, I felt like I needed to be wheeled to the vampire emergency room STAT and hooked up to an emotional energy IV drip. I had been wandering through life feeling absolutely numb and frozen, I couldn’t even tell if I was dead inside because it was all just completely whited out. And I had no idea if this was the new normal, a new forever feeling, or if it would ever go away.
How was I feeling now? — My answers surprised myself! I was feeling good, for the first time in a long time! I was feeling nourished. Even though I hate that word. I was feeling fed, emotionally and physically provided for, safe, and secure. I was feeling my little battery finally starting to climb out of the totally-empty zone and its percentage inching up through the red zone. 1%, 2%, 3%, hey it was a great start.
We went for a walk along my Kanal, which was in fine Disneyesque form, moonlight and street lanterns and sleeping swans with their heads tucked underneath their necks, and soft drooping weeping willows. And yet it was not a romantic walk. He did not try to touch me, he did not get romantickish, he just talked about real estate.
I had him drop me off at my door.
He kissed me lightly, almost impersonally, like our lips were physically touching but really we were just shaking hands.
But then he kissed me for real.
And within like five seconds his hands were right there on my arse, in full view of everyone walking by on the sidewalk and sitting outside Chicha. They figured out that they could slide my dress up enough so the slit would expose some of my bare ass (oh thongs), so they did. And while part of me was like “oh my goodness, how embarrassing, and so sudden,” another, louder part of me was thinking, “I love how clear that is! I know exactly what you want! There is no mystery! I love how not confusing you’re being! This makes it so possible for me to figure out what I want out of this situation!”
Still I really was going to send him home, and I told him so.
But he was very, very persuasive.
Then I was just going to give him a kiss in my courtyard (if we’re calling them courtyards these days) and send him on his way.
But he was very, very persuasive.
Ok now he was persuasive like a caveman with a club, and at one point did pick me up and drag me in the direction of my cave, but I struggled and put myself back down. ….I kept thinking, “so Israeli! People like this are why there is still an Israel!”
For all the times I had turned him down on the sidewalk, I turned him down double that in the foyer. But eventually….
I know, you’re cringing. “How the fuck could you ever be such a self sabotaging worthless business woman,” you’re yelling from the peanut gallery. “You had rent in your hands and you threw it away! Do you literally have a death wish, you stupid, stupid fool? Why are your genes even still in print?” So perhaps I should slow down the moment before I said yes. Matrix style.
“You overthink things too much!” he said. “Be spontaneous!” I ignored this for what it was: an attempt to get me into bed. But in my mind I answered him, “oh, you have no idea…but the advantage of all that overthinking is that I get to see and consider many sides of the issue at once.”
Here’s what was going on in my head (because yes, Gentle Reader, it was my choice. I am the one who decided to accept his propuesta sehr indecente).
If you let him fuck you without talking about money first you will never see a dime.
But you’re never going to see him again either way. If you ask for money and don’t let him fuck you right away he will ghost you, and if you don’t ask for money and let him fuck you he will ghost you. Either way, this is the last time you’re ever going to see this man. And he’s never going to give you any money. If he had been planning on doing so he would have talked about something, anything, even slightly more personal than real estate. So with that in mind, do you want to have sex or not?
But he was not truthfully advertising himself. He was not seeking an arrangement at all, he as seeking a one night stand with no money involved at all.
Well, so far none of these men had been any good at truth in advertising. So he was fishing in the wrong pool, oh well.
If I let him fuck me without sending him home first to think about money, I was throwing away one of the only chances I had at having money to pay my bills. How could I do this to myself? Did I not want the things I said I wanted?
But I couldn’t silence the little voice that whined, “I don’t want sex to become work.”
I didn’t want to sell my body.
So even though I was bitterly hating the women out there giving it away for free, I found myself joining their ranks for the evening. I didn’t want sex to have to be a job. I just wanted to be able to enjoy myself. More pitifully still, I heard myself saying:
I want to have sex like a normal person.
Off-duty sex. I had never even yet exchanged sex for money and yet in my mind, after months and months and months of hard work hunting for patrons, humouring them, sweet talking them, cajoling them, putting up with them, and allowing unpaid emotional labor to drip from my veins in the hopes of catching someone who would pay, I already definitely felt like a courtesan. I was numb and frozen and blank on the inside like a courtesan, I actively disliked men like a courtesan, I didn’t ever want to be in a relationship again like a courtesan, and I saw men as employers, not as people, just like a courtesan.
But something inside me that had been dead woke up.
I also knew that I did not want to be with someone like him, who started the conversation by demanding underwear photos, who had no intention of helping provide for me, and with whom I had absolutely nothing in common other than some useful life philosophies. He was, yes, delightful company, enjoyable and attentive, relaxed and charming and authentic and real and true, and I loved that. But I did not have anything real to say to him. I had made the whole conversation up, because I’m good like that. I was not interested in his life, either. I had the sketch, that was enough. We had spent a severality of happy hours together this evening, but I had used up all my conversation fodder. The well had been drawn dry and there was no more left over for a second evening.
Meanwhile the prospect of having off duty unpaid free civilian sex (so far the only kind I’ve ever had, sigh) was sounding…idiotically, moronically, stupidly…like just how I wanted to finish the evening.
But I must have turned him down twenty times, to send him home. That was the rules! You meet on the first date, then they think about how much they’re willing to pay you, then you meet again and agree and then they fuck you and give you money.
I had made this stupid mistake before, once, in California,the first time I was hunting for a rich lover. At the time I couldn’t believe it was happening, and that first time, I was more of a hapless idiot, allowing life to happen and assuming he would leave money on my pillow or discuss money afterward, which of course didn’t happen. This time around, I knew from the impersonality of his conversation and the very fact that he was now trying very hard to get into my pants that he had no intention of ever seeing me again, no matter what, so…I knew the choice was mine, and why not.
Plus by Berlin standards (and tango standards) this was already an unbelievably long term relationship. My God…we had met at 20:00h and it was already 23:00h and we were still in each other’s company! Absolutely incredible! Who knew they made humans with that kind of staying power!
I used to whine about how in tango an average relationship lasts for ten minutes. Then I came to Berlin where an average relationship lasts for ten seconds. You love exchanging exciting looks on the street? Enjoy, because that’s the whole relationship.
I knew I would absolutely hate myself the next day and beat the shit out of myself for not getting money.
But…Ayal had already served his purpose. He had told me if I consulted with a lawyer that it would be possible to ask my landlord nicely for a new fresh one year contract after this year was over, and that was useful information. He had given me a nice dinner of my own choosing. He had listened to me, even though I was not a Pigeon. He had made me feel not numb and dead inside. He had awoken within me hunger that had been so despairing and so ignored for so long I couldn’t even hear it any longer. And he had shown me that it was possible to be around human beings without feeling like I was severing a shrivelled artery and pouring the remaining dregs of my heart’s blood directly into their viper mouths. He had put some welcome fuel into my tank.
That was enough. And now I wanted to get laid.
He had a lot in common with Diego.
I was surprised that a successful and well educated businessman in a fine tailored white shirt who smelled so good would fuck like an Argentine guttersnipe but that’s the way it was. I assume he kept the more mannerly lovemaking for his wife back in Israel.
Remember what la Mome always says: you never really know a man until you have sex with him.
Which is a problem with the entire setup of choosing a mistress (or a mistress choosing a patron): you’re kind of buying a pig in a poke. You can have a general idea, but you can’t really know.
I do feel like I dodged a bullet. When he did the classic so-not-sexy thing of trying to force my head and mouth onto his bare penis, I said “not without a condom,” and he was extremely surprised, and then in the process of us trying to put the condom on him (it was a German condom, extremely stout and sturdy and well made, in a nearly indestructible package), he announced that HE had not worn a condom in twenty-five years! He had been married for ten but had already cheated on his wife in the past and had said in conversation that he went to the Kit Kat Klub.
See, this is where I got shocked. You’ll run around having casual sex, you didn’t even ask me about STDs, you were about to shove your dick into my mouth when for all you know I could have a whole host of anything that could be orally-genitally contracted, you go to sex clubs and have sex with total strangers, and then you bring that same penis home to your wife? I mean you could be sharing anything with her, man!
A century ago, chaste and virtuous (and bored) housewives contracted syphilis from their philandering husbands. These days they could catch HIV (and about a zillion other things).
That’s just not someone I can respect. Someone who would take the life of a loved one so casually, happy to throw away someone else’s life for the whim of a moment…that’s not a man who’s worth my time, or indeed anyone’s.
Plus he did the thing and then the other thing and then the first thing again and it was very hard not to snap at him, “hey! Didn’t your mother ever tell you you can give a woman a UTI that way? Have you ever had a UTI? They’re a bitch!”
….On the plus side he was very good in bed, in an earthy, simple, vigorous way. He also fucked the way he conversed: he really listened, and he smouldered, but he also skipped fast from one thing to the next thing to something else to something else to another thing and now it was another thing…he had told me over dinner that he had ADHD and had had to learn how to live with it, but it was extremely apparent in bed. He was not sensual, but he was very clear.
And after the toxic confusion of milonga men, I loved the joy of not being confused. My inner Spice Girl did not have to wonder, “so tell me what you want!” because he was whole-heartedly in the process of getting it for himself!
He did not finish. “He got tired,” he said. But after the degree of vigor and zeal demonstrated by a rather portly middle aged man who was not a professional athlete, I was not surprised. “It was the condom,” he said. He couldn’t manage with a condom.
In which case he’d just have to go fuck someone else….
After lying down as relaxed as a live wire for about two seconds, he jumped up and darted to the farthest end of the apartment: the front door, where he had shucked most of his clothes.
Not all of his clothes. He had left his little black business socks on.
Gentlemen in the Audience…how many times do we have to tell you….
Anyway. He threw on his clothes as fast as he could, not looking at me. He threw the words “youknowhowtogetaholdofme” over his shoulder, still not looking at me, and then ran out the door.
And that’s the story of Ayal!
Or at least so I thought
I got up and went to go get ready for the milonga and noticed something disgusting on the floor. I had assumed when Ayal had gone to the loo it was to take his condom off, but no…it was a discarded condom lying rudely on my bedroom floor.
But this condom had something special about it.
It was shaped like a sleeve, not like a mitten.
An enormous hole had been torn in the business end.
I remembered something he had absentmindedly said: “I didn’t use the condom.” ….I frantically reconstructed events in my mind. There had been a pause toward the end, I remembered lying there waiting with him sitting behind me, apart, wondering what he was doing, then a couple drops of something warm and wet splashing on my back, then the sounds of someone rubbing themselves with real determination, then a pause, then a squeaky balloon latexy sound. Then when he was in front of me again, because of the warm wet whatever I had a look at his weenie. It was wearing a condom.
But I didn’t think to look for a huge hole in the front of the condom because why would one think to look for one of those? In my mind’s memory, it was intact. But can I trust my memory?
I assume the hole came from him ripping it off afterward in frustration and throwing it on the ground like a spoilt toddler.
But still…it was one of those times when, after completely freaking out and wondering how human beings could be such cruel monsters to one another, I thought, “thank you, Nanny State, for forcing me to have health insurance! I’ll just go use some of that now and go to the doctor….”
That was a dark, dark, dark, dark day, the day after. Because I still had to pay the rent!
I was arranging to teach a Tango workshop with Gokce and Dilara.
Dilara had invited me to give massages at her milonga she was throwing on the 3rd. I did not mention to her that I had thrown thousands of dollars and years of my life into that exact business model and nobody had ever bought a single one.
I would email Dolly her pictures and find myself one more unemployed hooker (other than myself) to photograph and then post on Craigslist offering to shoot unhappy old women for money.
Potentially even with a camera…sorry, bad joke…..
Thing was I had real doubts that anyone was ever going to pay for naked pictures of themselves. People used to pay for naked pictures of other people but that business model was gone now. And nobody ever likes photos of themselves, even clothed. You can’t please people in portraiture, ever, so why would naked be any different?
Where could I maybe get guinea pigs for hypnotherapy? Where would that clientele come from?
Because Ayal had taught me something important. If you give it away for free, you’re still a human being. But the minute you put a price tag on it, men stop seeing you as human. You’re not a person, you’re a thing, with no rights, for them to abuse however they want. Why should he care if he gives me HIV? In his mind I’m just a toy for his amusement, to be used and discarded. And this was in a giving it away for free situation. Just think — if I really were a whore it would be like that all the time, with everyone.
So I suppose it was a good thing after all that I was too old and fat to pass the age and weight restrictions of all the advertisements I had answered.
But how was I going to pay the rent?