It's past midnight, in the late seventies. I'm sitting around the kitchen table with my boyfriend J. and my housemate M. We're all extremely stoned, a not-uncommon state back in those days, and we're descending into a labyrinthine discussion of life, death, probability, fate and time. It feels as though we're getting somewhere, untangling these eternal issues. It always feels that way when we're stoned.
J. is talking about how, in some future, he'll be master of the universe. All he has to do is open the right doors. I'm listening in admiration, thrilled by the notion, ready to believe.
"But what do you mean by right?" I ask. "How will you know? Every instant you make choices, and every choice creates a new universe." I struggle to wrap my pot-laced mind around the notion of infinite parallel universes, ramifying endlessly. Then I have a vision.
Choices give rise to new strands of reality. Maybe, though, the divergent paths rejoin. After a while, parallel universes collide and collapse into a single reality. Different decisions might ultimately lead you to the same place. It's like chicken wire, I see clearly, a mesh of realities that split and merge, a web of possible futures - all existing simultaneously. There's always a route, though perhaps a long one, from any decision point that spawns a new world to any other. There's no such thing as an irrevocable choice.
It's a revelation. I try to explain it to J. and M., who nod sagely. It makes sense to them. Wild notions often do when you're stoned.
***Fast forward to a few years later. My master is crying. Early in our relationship he made me promise that if I met someone else, someone serious, I'd come see him first. He brashly vowed he'd convince me otherwise. I was pretty sure the guy I'd fallen for was my soul mate. (As it turned out, I was very wrong.) Still, I wanted to keep my end of the bargain. I'd shelled out for a plane ticket and flown 500 miles to give my master the chance to change my mind.
I'd expected him to bind me, to whip me, to fuck me until I screamed - until I realized and admitted that I would always belong to him and no one else. Instead he huddles on his couch, tears in his eyes, and barely speaks to me for two days. I'm angry he makes no effort to get me back. I suffer because of the pain I'm obviously causing him. I'm relieved that I am apparently free to go back to my new lover.
I'm very confused.
In later years, I've always identified that weekend as one of those inflection points that give rise to parallel worlds. If he had claimed me then, the way he promised... if he had come right out and told me he didn't just want me, but also loved me ... if he'd brought up the question of marriage or cohabitation... I might well be with him now, instead of half a world away and married to someone else. And maybe in some other strand of reality, I am his wife and lover, perhaps even mother to his children, as I wrote a few weeks ago.
On the other hand, if I were in that reality, what would I have missed? Would I have traveled? My husband has had travel fever since his teens. My master doesn't even have a passport. Would I be living overseas now, every day an adventure? Speaking of adventures, would I have had the chance to explore the delights of ménage and polyamory, the way I have in my present universe? My master's both possessive and surprisingly shy, for a sex maniac Dom. My husband and I share so many delights beyond the realm of sex: work, music, felines. Would the intersection between my master's sphere of concerns and my own have been as rich and full?
Still - I dream about a life of complementary fantasies, where my desire to submit perfectly matches his need to command. It's been decades since anyone tied me up or spanked me. I remember the intensity of those times, the overwhelming sense of being in the now, the glow of devotion and the sweet knowledge that I'm cherished for my surrender. I miss those feelings. I miss him, with an ache that's mellowed a bit over time but has never disappeared.
It occurs to me, though, that Lisabet Sarai, spinner of lascivious tales, would never have been born if he'd grabbed me that weekend, thrown me onto the couch, flipped up my skirt and buried himself in my ass, the way I imagined he might. If I were living the life of a submissive, I might never have been moved to write about it. It was my frustrated longing for him and his magical mind that led me to pen my first erotic tales and send them to him - to bridge the gap between our bifurcated lives. Raw Silk was a compendium of all my favorite D/s fantasies. It was a thought-experiment, a tentative stroll into that alternative world where he voiced his true feelings (as he has since, but perhaps too late) and changed our fates.
I sit here at my computer, stone-cold sober, a woman a few years short of sixty, remembering the crossroads in my life and trying to recapture my dope-induced image of the universe. Could it be true that all possibilities continue to exist, beyond the point of decision? Or is the universe like Schrödinger's cat, multiple potential outcomes collapsing into a single state as soon as one chooses to open the box? I'd like to believe that there's some way to get back to that point in time where my master and I took separate emotional paths, and strike off in a different direction, together. I'm not sure that I'd actually choose to return and walk that road not taken. Still, I'd like there to be, somehow, a chance.