I vividly remember the patch of sidewalk that I was looking at when my dad said, “I’m afraid it’s bad news, honey.” I clutched my cell phone to my ear as he explained that a CT scan of my mom’s lungs had revealed a tumor wrapped around her esophagus and metastasis in her bones. I can still see the small dots in the cement—shades of gray in this decidedly black-and-white situation—as he explained that her prognosis was bleak: She had six months to a year. I also recall the green chain-link fence that I thought I might have to grab onto as a sense of vertigo took over, as though I might pass out from this too-sudden shift in reality.
Everything else in the moments and even months after that is a blur—everything except for the sex.
It started with "Sam," a 38-year-old waiter with leprechaunish looks. I wasn’t attracted to him, exactly, but he had an intriguingly dangerous, if corny, edge—what with his conspicuous flash of chest hair and wolf-tooth necklace. Already a few drinks deep, I met him in a local bar, and it took two more beers before I was straddling him in a shadowy pleather booth and he was shoving his hands down my pants.
At my place, he took the lead, gripping my face, wrists, or hair with his hands—I somehow just knew this was how he’d be. The harder he squeezed, pressed, or pulled, the louder I moaned. He got the message. Before long, Sam was flipping me over, repositioning my limbs, and dragging me across the carpet, as if I were a RealDoll. He seemed awed by my enthusiasm for being manhandled: “Are you kidding me? You’ve got to be kidding me,” he said breathlessly, as though he’d just won the kinky lottery.
I was in awe too: While I’d certainly seen far more extreme porn, and even had reported on BDSM as a journalist covering sex for an online magazine, I’d never so much as used fuzzy handcuffs before. My fantasies were sometimes off-color, but the most aggression I’d encountered in real life was a couple of de rigueur slaps on the rear. I...