It happened by accident; she went to remove her collar for a visit with her family, and the tiny key broke off in the lock. Luckily, she hasn’t been asked to remove it since then, like being somewhere that gets hinky about giant hunks of metal. But there is it, stuck, unbreakable and yet in its own way broken; her collar stuck on her with no easy way of removal unless she unweaves the links that holds it in place, keeps its form.
It’s not all that dissimilar from our relationship, especially these days; we went from being in a dynamic that although always in place, only really became active in my presence. She went home to another place for long stretches of time and I didn’t really control much of what happened there. She came and went as she pleased, conducted a social life outside of her relationship with me, made her own decisions when it came to what to buy and where to store the spoons. But then one night, when my life was the on the verge of its own radical upheaval, I called her to me and informed her that she and I were going to live together.
Now, it sounds like she had no choice but to obey, but it was more of a negotiation than that. She had been living with an ex-lover she did not care for or enjoy living with; she also lived pretty far away from me and therefore when I needed her she had to drive quite a distance to help. It started with me living in a friend’s spare room while she alternated crashing on their couch and going back “home”. But even then, she knew the day was coming, sooner rather than later, that we would be living together.
Things moved very quickly. They found the abscesses in my abdomen and I needed her by my side; I needed rides to all of the appointments in quick succession and then I was in the hospital and needed a partner to stand in for the spouse I had just lost to infidelity and dereliction of duty. When I was released, she had already started setting up our first experiment in co-living, a friend’s house we were basically borrowing until we could find a more permanent place.
It took a while for us to find our stride; we both wanted there to be a deepening of our commitment to the other, without a radical change to either of our day to day existences. I was and will continue to be chronically ill, with the addition of the acute issue, so it wasn’t like I was in a position to take more reponsibility over her day to day choices. But at the same time, she became my PCA, my cook, my housemaid, my caretaker, my companion, my advocate, my chaffeur from time to time, my social scheduler, and sometimes even my representative at events and places I couldn’t go myself. And this all happened almost literally overnight – we had been doing this full time thing for less than a month when it went into overdrive.
I’d love to say it all went smoothly, and parts of it did. However, there were also times where I could see all the stress in her eyes, and her hair – I joke with her that I can gauge the level of her stress by the frizzyness of her hair – and my inner Master voice told me I had to give more rewards. More structure. More recognition for successes, and gentle reprimands for failures. I’ve always had to be gentle with her to some degree – although I can rough her up with my hands and toys, her emotions have been much more of an intricate mindfield where the wrong step could put her out of commission for days. It’s something she’s been working on for a long time, and she continues to take it very seriously, but we’re not at the end of the road with that yet.
She started noticing her own strengths and weaknesses, and started reaching out to others for help in making her a better, more suitable slave for me. She knows she needs to work on her time management, to make judicious decisions about when to multitask and when to focus on a single thing, and on being respectful and polite to me even when I’m an annoying and messy roommate. She went from either being cooked for (by her ex) or just zapping something convienent in the microwave to preparing nutritious and tasteful meals that take all of my odd dietary needs and desires into consideration (which was sadly complicated by my chronic nausea and lack of appetite – she had to find ways to make foods that encouraged me to eat even when it was the last thing I wanted to do, without spending ridiculous amounts of money neither of us had on expensive gluten-free alternatives to all of my old comfort foods like macaroni and cheese).
On top of that, things got much hairer with my health. The surgeon declares that this upcoming surgery is dangerous, could possibly kill me, and all of a sudden in the midst of trying to adjust to having me around her all the time, she also has to come to terms with not having me at all. She has to balance her grief and worry with keeping things positive around me, so I don’t get dragged into her turmoil and lose my own sense of zen about whether or not I’m about to die.
There were only brief moments where we actually got a chance to talk about our dynamic and how it had changed; ways to make it more obvious to both of us and recognition for all the work she’s taken on. But those moments were stolen; little conversations on the porch of the Squat, or wormed into discussion as we re-read The Marketplace series. We crafted a “greeting ritual”, something that brings us deeply into our dynamic as soon as she gets home from work (and allowed for daily training exercises that I thought were important).
There are times that I am worried that I forced her into this – she had already given me her consent, her submission, and so when I basically informed her that we were moving in together because I knew I couldn’t live by myself (and this was before the surgery was imminent; now that’s twice true) and I knew she was unhappy and looking to leave her current living situation (she didn’t like where she lived, the apartment she lived in, or the person she was sharing it with – it’s not that she hated her ex, but she just wanted to move on both romantically and life-wise) and so I “solved” her problem by announcing we were moving, together.
But then there are days that make it clear to me, if not both of us, that this was perfect timing for our relationship. It has given us ample opportunity to connect deeper as Master and slave, as well as Shaman and initiate (not that I really see her that way, but I do assist her in her own spiritual meanderings), as well as just two people looking to rebirth themselves into a new incarnation. She smiles at me, or does something nice without being asked, or she stops to send me a short email telling me how much she loves me and is happy to be in service to me. Even in the deepest stress of facing the surgery, she never forgot her role as she helped my friends and family with their travel arrangements and making sure they had all the information they needed. She’s stated in several situations that her service gives her something to focus on when her emotions make her feel unfocused. She feels like she’s doing something with her life, rather than just working a thankless job and eating food and watching movies. Even though sometimes that’s exactly what her life looks like, there’s always that moment when I call her into my room to ask to do something for me, even as trivial as making me a cup of tea so I can continue to write uninterrupted, and it all comes surging back.
When we didn’t know what the future held, she decided she wanted to take on a new symbol of our transition from what we were to what we are; we found ourselves in my friend Captain’s tattoo shop with her at my feet kissing my boots before two needles penetrated her in a long legacy of kinky queers; getting your nipples pierced used to be reserved for those who wanted to signal they were an owned submissive before they went mainstream. And in that moment, laying on the table with her slave blindfold on (it actually has the word “slave” on it), she trusted me enough that when she realized the jewelry was bigger than she had imagined, she knew I had asked him to use 10g jewelry (most nipples are pierced at a 14, which is smaller) as just another mindfuck in a series of mindfucks we’ve played with over the years.
Sometimes I worry about the day that she’ll have to take that collar off – not so much because our relationship comes to an end, but more if she decides to travel by air and some TSA agent refuses to understand that it is a “religious item” that never comes off (I’ve heard stories on both sides of experience as to whether or not collared submissives are forced to remove their metal collars during air travel), and the only option is to unweave some of the links so it will fall from her neck. But now, we can both look down underneath her clothes and know there is a mark she always wears; not her nipple rings, although they’re a symbol of it, but the mark of courage that she was able to take this leap of faith with me, continues to choose to bow her neck to our combined future, to the twists and turns that affect both of us.
In a way, the most wonderful side effect of the terrible, heart-rending tragedy that was the end of my marriage, is replayed each night when she comes home from work, removes her clothes, comes into my room, and sits at my feet. Even if the neighbors think we’re just two aging lesbians cohabiting together (because I don’t pass, even as transgender, to most eyes), in those moments we both know the truth; that collar, wrought by her own hands (twice, as the first time she forgot to ask me what colors to use and she had chosen colors that had specific meaning to me – and not a good one), is only a sign, a token, a easy shorthand when we pass through kink spaces, and what really matters lies underneath.
To Rave, my property, my girlslave, my assistant, my PCA, my amateur masseuse, my cook, my social scheduler, my available demo bottom, my play partner, my little girl, my roommate, my medical proxy, my advocate, my representative, my companion, my friend. I love you very much, and I am continually awed and filled with gratitude at the choices you have made, the consent you have given, the power you relinquish, and the changes you accept with grace and dignity.