When Karl talks about divorce I am terrified that I will not be able to change his mind, that nothing I say to him will make him stay, I have pushed him too far. So I cry, and plead, and say I will do anything, I will give up this other man, I will never talk to him again, I will change, I will repent, I will be a different person, a better person. I have no pride. I can only wrench out promise after promise until he finally relents and says he will postpone leaving, put me on probation, take it one day at a time, and for his part, he will try to fill the void so that I can live without the other man. It is a reprieve. My face is wet, my nose is running, I am sodden and shaking with the aftermath of disaster so narrowly avoided. I am hardly a human anymore, I am hollowed out with grief and fear.
One of the first things Karl does is talk to Carolyn and tell her what I have been up to. At the time, I practice law with her. We opened our firm when I left my old one in 1986 and she left her associate position and joined me. By the time ten years later when I discover the internet, we own an old Victorian house downtown, have two secretaries and a paralegal and a thriving practice. We complement each other. Carolyn concentrates on real estate and probate, areas of law that hold little interest for me. She is outgoing and likes to be on committees, joins Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce and is active in the church. People know her name.
I don’t join any organizations. I practice only litigation, personal injury and family law. From a business point of view, real estate, probate and family law provide reliable, steady income. You get paid by the hour or the job. If you work for five hours, you get paid for five hours, but there aren’t any windfalls. In personal injury work you can make enormous and disproportionate profits because your fee is a percentage of the amount you recover for the client. If you don’t get any money for your client, you don’t get anything either, but that is rare. Usually, depending on the kind of case it is, you can settle a personal injury claim for anywhere from $5,000 to $500,000.
Personal injury work is my specialty. Consequently, year after year I bring in much more money than Carolyn does. I never begrudge her fifty percent share of the income. I don’t work any harder than she does, and some of the clients that come to me are as a result of her public relations work in the community. But we both know our financial success is a direct result of my efforts.
Carolyn has always believed that Karl is too good for me and that I don’t treat him right. His confidences to her only confirm that belief. The two of them commiserate about my shortcomings, my lapses at work, my selfishness, my laziness, my arrogance. They agree that I need to be reined in and brought to my senses.
Karl, in consultation with Carolyn, creates a regimen for me with a written list of requirements for me to fulfill. I have to go into work at 8:00 a.m. and can’t leave until 4:00 p.m. I have to change my own light bulbs. I have to be good.
I am so bereft and in pain that I accept all his rules without question.
Carolyn proves she is no friend of mine. During my worst period, when Karl is threatening divorce and I am clinging desperately to the status quo, I go to her. I am in as bad shape as I have ever been. I need support from someone. I beg her to listen, and she turns her back. Literally turns away from me and refuses to talk. It was as if I had betrayed her, not only Karl. She is scornful, outraged, icy cold.
Once, after things settle down, Carolyn compliments me on having changed. She says patronizingly, “You know, I didn’t really believe that you could, but you convinced me.” I nod and smile gratefully, I am still too stupid to get mad. Anger only slowly creeps up on me. When our partnership is starting to break up, I finally tell Carolyn that I feel she abandoned me emotionally when the chips were down. Her response is “Oh, I thought I was the injured party!” She apologizes, but I still don’t think she understands what I am talking about.
Anyway, in response to Karl’s ultimatum I turn off the computer, knuckle down, follow Karl’s instructions to the letter. I finally realize that I am not going to find unconditional love in this lifetime, perhaps there is no such thing. It seems that there is always a condition. Also, I lose my need to have an opinion about everything. I don’t have to squelch my opinions, I just find that unless it is something that actually affects me, I don’t care.
I go back to work and start making money again. Karl pretends to be my master, and I pretend that I am happy. We both pretend that the kind of control Karl is exerting on my life is erotic. It is not. My model for a master is Volker, and Karl shares none of his sexual interests. Karl’s heart is not into what he is doing, and regardless of how he playacts, he can convince neither of us.
Eventually, Karl lets me go back onto the computer although he is in conflict about this decision. He is afraid I will get carried away again. On the other hand, he hates to see me unhappy, and feels more and more inadequate. On the spur of the moment, he recklessly promised to be my master, and it has become clear that he cannot succeed. He doesn’t want to and cannot meet my needs, certainly not when he is expected to fill the shoes of a phantom German sadist who doesn’t have to worry about anything but the erotic side of my life.
That’s what he blames it on.
I go back to D/s cybersex in a more restrained way. I take a new nickname, spend time in different rooms and with different masters. For a few months, I keep a journal about my experiences and thoughts online. We conceive of it as a way for Karl to monitor my activities and gain insight into my feelings. I think it gives a fairly accurate picture of my state of mind during this period, with all my conflicts about submission, my struggles with Karl’s domination or lack thereof, and the interweaving of cyber and real life.